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"Was Britain's Participation in WWI Justified?" Topic

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP18 Jan 2023 7:42 p.m. PST

"In the summer of 1914 Europe plunged into war. Isolated by the English Channel and protected by the much vaunted Royal Navy, Britain, as always, had the chance to decide whether or not to participate in the struggle. After the German invasion of Belgium, Britain decided to come to the aid of Belgium and France and subsequently declared war on Germany. During the next four years Britain would suffer horrendous casualties, lose much of her vast wealth, and surrender her paramount position as the leading power of the world. But does this mean it was a mistake for Britain to participate in the First World War? It is likely that without British intervention the Germans would have won the war and dominated the continent of Europe. England also had legal and moral obligations to her allies. Finally, while the Germans' conduct during the war never reached the brutal excesses of the Second World War, it can be argued that they were fighting an unjust war, both in their conduct, and in their aims. For strategic, legal and moral reasons, Britain's participation in the First World War was justified.

Britain's main weakness is her reliance on imports from across the seas. To protect her trade and defend herself from invasion, England has historically built and maintained a vast and powerful navy. To maintain supremacy, the small island nation has traditionally made sure her navy was at least superior to the next two dominant naval powers. However, even though Britain in 1914 was still the foremost naval power in the world, her level of dominance had been decreasing. The second most powerful navy at the time was the German High Seas Fleet. While Britain still had a comfortable lead over the Germans, the Royal Navy could not destroy the German fleet outright. Just by having the second strongest fleet, Germany was England's greatest potential threat…"

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Robert Burke18 Jan 2023 7:57 p.m. PST

This article repeats the age old myth (lie?) that Germany was the first country to use poison gas during WWI. In actually, France was the first country to use gas in August 1914.

The following year, Germany used a deadlier gas in larger quantities. But who knows if they would have done it if the French had not done it first?

I'm neither excusing nor defending Germany's use of gas. I'm merely pointing out that they were not the first ones to use it.

Robert Burke18 Jan 2023 7:59 p.m. PST

See the following article link

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian18 Jan 2023 9:16 p.m. PST

The official explanation focused on protecting Belgium as a neutral country; the main reason, however, was to prevent a French defeat that would have left Germany in control of Western Europe.

Wikipedia: link

Toaster18 Jan 2023 9:56 p.m. PST

I think it's a bit of a stretch to conflate the French use of tear gas as a means of non-lethal warfare with the German use of poison gas

Personal logo The Virtual Armchair General Sponsoring Member of TMP19 Jan 2023 10:47 a.m. PST

Two uninvited observations.

1) If an enemy slaps you, you don't "slap" back--you tend to punch. So, yes, it's at least arguable that the French let the genie out of the bottle with that first use of CS gas.

2) "Protecting" Belgium was an old and well established part of Britain's self defense. Letting Super Rival Germany sit on the Belgian Coast was understandably something Britain could hardly be expected to accept.

That said, would the Kaiser, after a presumed victory over France, actually have remained in Belgium after the war? Was there any real reason to believe that Kaiser Bill wanted to invade Britain in the aftermath of a French victory?

Of course, I don't know, but the previous French defeat ended with Germany grabbing some borderlands and imposing punishing expenses on them, but still withdrawing. Would that have been the model they would have followed again?

But, it's still a persuasive argument that, Belgium be damned, Britain was not going to sit idly by and let Germany dominate all of Europe. From that perspective, there was no way Britain would have RSVP'd a polite refusal to join the cataclysm to come.


Grattan54 Supporting Member of TMP19 Jan 2023 10:53 a.m. PST

Likely that Great Britain should have gotten involved. But, the United States should have stayed truly neutral and never entered the war.

Bunkermeister Supporting Member of TMP19 Jan 2023 2:00 p.m. PST

Britain should never have gotten involved.
Give France and Belgium back to Germany as reparations.

Mike Bunkermeister Creek

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP In the TMP Dawghouse19 Jan 2023 2:33 p.m. PST

Britain was involved by treaty, as, in fact, were France & Germany, to honour the neutrality of Belgium.

Germany took a calculated risk invading Belgium and it only partly paid off.

Militia Mike19 Jan 2023 2:37 p.m. PST

It reminds me of the time I was playing Avalon Hill's 1914 with a kid who saw my ad in the General.
He had a Perfect Plan.
I pointed out how he either crossed the Meuse or violated Holland. He blinked and said he violated Holland. Gave me 50 Victory Points before the first die roll.

Robert Burke19 Jan 2023 3:59 p.m. PST

TVAG, exactly my point. If the French has not used gas first, who knows if the Germans would have done so? But once the French crossed that line, the Germans, being Germans, upped the ante and did it much better (or perhaps more lethally is more appropriate).

It's just a shame that a certain Bavarian corporal didn't die from his exposure to British mustard gas. It would have saved the world a lot of suffering.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP19 Jan 2023 7:42 p.m. PST



Nine pound round20 Jan 2023 3:12 p.m. PST

Britain had made a legal commitment to Belgium and a moral commitment to France. It's arguably the case that the latter had no legal force because Parliament had not approved it,but I suspect that the advice Admiral Leach gave Mrs Thatcher after the invasion of the Falklands would have been just as applicable: "if we do not… another few months we shall be living in a different country whose word counts for little."

Germany's war aims for Belgium have been pretty comprehensively documented, and they did not include restoration of prewar frontiers and government or complete compensation for the damage done.

dave8365 Supporting Member of TMP20 Jan 2023 9:39 p.m. PST

Remember that the war started in the Balkans, and that Germany declared war on both Russia and France. Had Germany not invaded Belgium, it would have been much more difficult for Britain to obtain the public support necessary to enter the war – although the government appeared to have a very pro-war attitude.

Germany's (arguable) mistake of invading Belgium gave the pro-war politicians – and the general public – the cassus belli the needed to enter the war.

As far as how Belgium would have been treated in a German victory – one only need look at Brest-Litovsk, and how Germany treated Russia, to see how brutal the Germans would have been.

Personal logo Dal Gavan Supporting Member of TMP21 Jan 2023 1:23 p.m. PST

dave8365 +1

Why was it "wrong" or "not fair" for the UK to observe their treaty obligations to Belgium, yet not wrong for Germany to cite treaty obligations as their reason for attacking Belgium, France and Russia?

The British Empire had as good, if not better, reasons for entering the war than Germany had for turning a local war into a global one.

Personal logo piper909 Supporting Member of TMP21 Jan 2023 8:59 p.m. PST

The tragedy is that all the European Great Powers felt so helpless as to be dragged along by events into such a conflagration -- begun in smaller Balkan squabbles. A generation of young men were consumed -- who knows what a loss that was for the world. One hopes we are not facing a repeat of this in Ukraine today, letting mission creep lead to a general war between NATO and Russia. This would in all probability lead to a nuclear exchange that would benefit no one.

Personal logo Dal Gavan Supporting Member of TMP22 Jan 2023 3:16 a.m. PST

Agreed, piper909. Big egos and ambitions coupled with low ethical thresholds and access to armed force is always a dangerous mix.

steve dubgworth22 Jan 2023 5:49 a.m. PST

surely the austro-hungarian empire had some input in its desire to control the balkans and they collided with russia germany being dragged in by its treaty with austro-hungary.

france was dragged in by its treaty with russia (although france was still suffering some anger about the events of 1870)

the germans invaded belgium to attack france as they only had one plan ajp taylor did outline this in his ideas about war by timetable where the ability of germans railways governed the military plan. with an enemy on two fronts one had to be knocked out quickly before the other could fully mobilise.

as regards gas the french use of tear gas (if that what it was) is surely no reason to escalate to poison gas?

the idea of giving germany france and belgium as" reparations "is odd in that germany never had any claims on those countries

Germany in the form of prussia guaranteed belgian neutrality at the end of the napoleonic wars when belgium and holland were its invasion in 1914 was a breach of a treaty they had signed. in fact they were cynical about the borders as the german war plan designed in 1905 always intended to attack france through belgium.

the british seemed inclined to honour the treaty thus became involved, at the expense of so much blood, treasure and influence.

re us involvement there was no real reason – the sinking of the
Lusitania was in 1915 so it took 2 years to build up a head of steam to join in. the telegram promising mexico bits of the southwest of the usa could have been serious but was it really?
was the us so military weak the it could not defeat mexico, and how much of a threat to germany at that time? by all means declare war on mexico but why germany?

a cynic could say the us came in to be on the winning side and get some benefits but in 1917 things were by no means cut and dried about allied victory but it is true that the us was the only country coming out of the war stronger than it went into the war but did not take world leadership as show by their attitude to the league of nations – president wilsons idea originally.

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