The denouement of World War One could be seen as a tactical error by the German commanders. The Spring Offensive, or ‘ Kaiserschlacht’ simply came to a halt from the exhaustion of men and of supplies. In their advance they had passed through Allied held territory in order to establish the best possible bargaining position in the event of any peace initiative but without having established a safe corridor through which the basic essentials of an advancing army could be conveyed.
President Wilson of the USA had responded to the diplomatic feeler from Germany with his now famous ’14-Points’, which set out the American Government’s criteria for persuading their allies and enemy alike to consider a cessation of hostilities.
Back on the ground in Picardy, The Somme and Flanders the Allies grasped the opportunity to counter-attack and once again recent gains were reclaimed as they forced the Germans back to their fortified Hindenburg Line with political and diplomatic efforts being redoubled. Germany refused to surrender, considering themselves still in an advanced position though realising that their logistics were failing just as men and supplies from America were growing daily. The game was up and Kaiser Wilhelm abdicated. The two sides agreed on a cease-fire and met to discuss an armistice.
At 5 am on November 11th, it was agreed that the armistice would come into effect at 11 am that day. There was one dissenting voice: that of General Pershing commanding the US contingent. His strongly expressed view was that the enemy was almost spent, should be harried back to Berlin for a total and unconditional surrender. Failing this, he said, “you will have to do this all over again in twenty years’ time”. The others should have listened. He was only a few months out in his prediction.
The American leadership decided to continue the fight until the appointed time. In those last six hours it is estimated that a further 11,000 casualties were incurred on all sides, almost 3,000 of them killed.
Duly, at the 11th hour of the 11th day in the 11th month of 1918 the guns fell silent, four and a quarter years after this pointless culling of Europe’s manhood had been allowed to happen. Could it have been prevented?
The world order had already changed. Britain had been bled white by years of unrelenting battle and its resources were just about spent. New on the scene with almost limitless manpower and enormous natural wealth, United States industry had caught up with Britain’s and passed it with new technologies. The fledgling USSR stayed behind its borders until provoked into revealing its own inherent strength, which would set the scene for intensive power politics for the remainder of that contentious century.
I wonder whether anyone has read There was a Time since these blogs started five months ago and if so, whether that person or those persons would oblige by making a comment on it? As stated from the outset it does not set out to dig deeper into what is already known and recorded but seeks to inform, between two covers, the essentials of British history, mainly its interaction with other countries in the 300 years of its establishment. Nobody has reviewed it so far in this medium; a feedback on its reception would (or might) be a useful guide on what to post about the inter-war years, World War 2 and the dismantling of The Empire through to the end of the Cold War as its conclusion.
Good wishes to all.