In 1914, Hindenburg had retired and was brought out of retirement to head the Operations in the East, with Ludendorff transferred from the General Staff. An installment from the Central Powers Victorious thread.
Central Powers Victorious Part 3 Recalled Hindenburg heads EastHindenburg heads East, when the general in East Prussia wanted to retreat to the Vistula.
The victory of Tannenburg followed, but it was Col. Max Hoffman's, his chief of staff's, plan. Ludendorff on his arrival in Berlin in 1916 after Falkenhayn is sacked, gets the job of organising the German war economy for Total War, Hindenburg continues as the figurehead while Max Hoffman, who has come with them is made responsible for military planning.
Hoffman quickly closes down the battle of Verdun, thus avoiding the capture of a large number of German prisoner in the counter-offensive. He arranges a bombardment of the areas the Germans withdraw from when the French advance into them. Meanwhile it appears they are now massing on each side of the neck of the Verdun salient and are preparing to cut it off. Joffre and Mangin react by withdrawing men from Verdun. Hoffman orders, in as far as it can be done in time, the "Combined Arms" storm-trooper infiltration tactics to be used in counter-offensives on the Somme.
This disconcerts Haig and the French. Predicting the attack at Messines Ridge and Passchendaele, Hoffman uses the same tactics of bombardment of an area evacuated and Combined Arms tactics are used, with even more disasterous results for Haig.
Ludendorff is quite good at organising war production, which he did in the occupied areas in the East, as he was a bureaucrat and had always worked in military organisation and transport. The rise in German production is noted by Lloyd-George in intelligence reports, as he is the former Minister of Munitions, whilst worrying even more about casualties in view of the worse military situation to OTL. Hoffman insists on tanks, including lighter fast ones for the pursuit and not just to break through the front line. He devises Cavalry Brigades, similar to those used by the Reds in the Russian Wars of Intervention, and infantry divisions coming along behind. These combine whatever tanks are available with cavalry, mounted infantry and mobile artillery, with supply transport in one unit. He devised new tactics similar to our own - deception and great attention to concealing where the attack will actually come with diversions and noise and use of aircraft to make attacks on troop formations and supplies behind the lines.
This was the origin of the Panzer Division in OTL. Haig is convinced the attack will come in Flanders, the French believe it will come in Lorraine and Champagne or there will be another attempt to take Verdun. The result is Hoffman's offensive in 1918 goes straight through the centre, with 100,000 cavalry creating disruption behind the lines. The French fall back on Paris, as the always said they would do, and have difficulty coping with the Cavalry Brigade tactics, as do the British cavalry Haig hastily sends south. Our mounted infantry are in the Middle East. The French government prepare yet again to flee to Bordeaux, Paris is put under martial law as a siege is feared. French troops race back to defend Paris.
Joffre and Mangin are unable to deal with the panic of the French politicians and reluctantly recommend a cease-fire. Lloyd-George receives an equally panic-stricken dispatch from Haig at British GHQ. This means the new German cavalry brigades can threaten the Channel Ports. Also the Germans have tanks, which is a total surprise.They appear to be using our own tactics devised as new by the British General Staff.
This triggers the greatest fears of the British cabinet, as the Conservative members have discussed and feared, the dangers of us having 1 -3 million hostages in France.
What happened to the German offensive in Flanders? Unfortunately the intelligence reports appear to have been mistaken. It is at this point the Kaiser's Peace Offer arrives, clearly devised by Wilhelm's uncle and co-ordinated with Hoffman. Landsdowne, the veteran foreign secretary and himself arguing for a negotiated peace, is sent by Le Havre and Paris to Basel to receive it from the German Minister Plenipotentary, the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, aka Alfred Duke of Clarence and Edward VII's brother. Lloyd-George telegrams Landsdowne to sign an armistice.
He sees advantages in positioning himself as a leading member of the peace conference and appears before the press at the front door of No. 10 to announce "Peace with Honour".
He particularly fears further casualties and does not want the intended offensive of 1919, particularly as they will have to rely on the Americans for it. Haig and the General Staff have already advised they believe the war will go on till 1920, at the best May, but probably October, and that was before the German break-through. Lloyd-George believed we were going to lose and had been assembling a collection of documents which exonerated him.
Poincaire spends some time pounding his desk in Paris and shouting "Albion La Perfide!", but he had his generals sign the original cease-fire. On his return, Landsdowne is greeted at Victoria Station by a huge crowd, wild cheering, and off-duty soldiers on leave carry him on their shoulders to his waiting official car.