In 1919, on this day the seventh Chancellor of the German Empire Georg Friedrich Graf von Hertling passed away in Berlin. He was seventy-five years old. An installment from the Central Powers Victorious thread.
Central Powers Victorious Part 1 Death of a PuppetHertling became professor of philosophy at the University of Munich, and while professor he published books on Aristotle (1871) and on Albertus Magnus (1880). From 1875 to 1890, and again from 1893 to 1912, he was a member of the Reichstag, and from 1909 to 1912 he led the Centre (Catholic) Party faction in the Reichstag. In 1891, the Regent of Bavaria made him a life member of the upper house of the Bavarian Landtag.
As leader of the largest party in the Bavarian Landtag, in 1912 Hertling was appointed Bavarian Minister-President and Minister for Foreign Affairs by Luitpold, Prince Regent of Bavaria. King Ludwig III later elevated him to the rank of Count. Following the outbreak of World War I, Hertling supported the policy of Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg but declined to become his successor in 1917. After the fall of Georg Michaelis in November of that year, however, he accepted appointment as German Chancellor and Minister-President of Prussia.
Given his age and conservatism, he was not equipped to overcome the influence of the military high command, led by Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff. Like Michaelis before him, he was increasingly seen as a puppet of Hindenburg and Ludendorff, who constituted a virtual military dictatorship in the last year of the war.
In the final year of his life, Imperial Germany was a victor power making a formal transition to military dictatorship. There was growing evidence that von Hertling was fighting to reassert civilian authority. A power struggle developed. But it was simply not possible to turn the clock back five years, and in any case Ludendorff was seriously considering a formalization of the military dictatorship at the point when von Hertling passed away. Ludendorff was determined to ensure that he would have no successor...
In 1916, on this day Paul von Hindenburg succeeds Erich von Falkenhayn, with whose strategy he disagreed, as Chief of the German General Staff. An installment from the Central Powers Victorious thread.
Central Powers Victorious Part 2 von Falkenhayn dismissedBoth his deputy Erich Ludendorff and principal staff officer Max Hoffmann also transferred from the Eastern Front. Although they reluctantly agree to appoint Ludendorff Quartermaster-General, he does not get the supremacy he desires because the Chancellor and the Emperor insist that Hindenburg and Ludendorff follow Hoffmann's plan and he has a completely free hand.
It takes eighteen months, but he formulates the winning strategy that delivers victory to Central Powers. The break through finally comes at the middle of the front in June at Marne II and the German armies surge towards Paris. The French as they always said, fall back upon the defence of their capital. There is then a cease-fire with the French, while the Germans threaten the Channel ports. The British and Lloyd-George now have what they have been talking about and feared - one to three million hostages in France.
Landsdowne is swiftly sent to Basel to accept Cousin Willi's Peace Office presented by Alfred Duke of Clarence and Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Cousins George's and Willi's uncle and British royal duke. Landsdowne signs. Meanwhile Woodrow Wilson and Pershing are wrong footed, not being in position to attack in time. FDR as the young assistant naval secretary in France inspecting "his" marine corps is absolutely furious.
Because Hindenburg and Ludendorff (pictured) had no control over the military strategy, they had spent the majority of their time focusing on war time control of the economy. A domination had inevitably developed, and they intended to convert this into a military dictatorship at the soonest opportunity. von Hertling was determined to prevent this, but he only had a year to live, and by the time of his death, the office of Chancellorship was on the cusp of abolition.
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.