"The nation demands a movement which has written upon its banner the internal and external national freedom that it will act as if it were the spiritual, social and political conscience of the nation."
-Franz von Papen, in the Von Papen trials."To contrast national solidarity and international cooperation as two opposites seems foolish to me."
-Gustav Stresemann, in the Von Papen trials.
August 1924: and the Admiralität deploys the Valkyries from the Mediterranean to the Far East, to put pressure on the French holdings in the region. The old Schlachtkreuzer
are deemed obsolete, by now, and there is little for them to do in the Mediterranean: in the South China Sea, on the other hand, they will reign supreme. The Bismarck
and her sisters are sent to take over in the Med, operating off of Rhodes and Gibraltar.
The Valkyries prove the Admiralität's
estimates to be correct when the Von der Tann
encounters the enemy raider Troude
in the Indian Ocean; the French light cruiser barely makes good her escape, under a hail of 11-inch shells.Freya
, in the North Sea, encounters the French raider Chanzy
and manages to thwart her attack on merchant shipping, but fails to sink the Frenchman.
Before the end of the month, the French ask for peace. They have lain their hopes on a Russian intervention; but the Russians have been kept from declaring war thanks to Stresemann's tireless efforts. The German Foreign Minister is a shade of his old self, regularly running twenty-plus-hour workdays; but after six months of war the French are still alone in this and now there is a chance to end the conflict.
Hindenburg, Galster, His Majesty and Stresemann all agree: the war needs to end now and the French proposal has merit. Germany can push for more favourable terms, of course, but if good faith exists on both sides...
Von Papen dynamites the peace talks, by adopting a harsh stance that runs completely against what the Kaiser and Stresemann are pushing for. Once again, the Reichskanzler
shows his utter inability to face reality. Despite Stresemann's and Hindenburg's warnings that the Russian army is weeks
away from mobilising, the negotiations fail to reach a satisfactory agreement. The land war resumes, after a brief interlude.
At this point, the Kaiser has had more than enough. He has appointed von Papen under pressure from several major noble houses; but von Papen has proven to be a major liability for the Reich. His Majesty begins to meet in secret with officials he deems trustworthy. He can strip Von Papen of his position as Reichskanzler
at will, but that will cause major internal friction among the nobility, who have found in him an easily manipulated ally. What the Kaiser wants is to utterly decapitate the unruly faction among the nobility and reclaim control over his own government; he looks to his Heer
, his Marine
and his Auswärtiges Amt
to do so.
He also dips back into his old Spionspiel
hobby. With the cooperation of Stresemann, select agents of the Amt
and Military Intelligence personnel are given the task to investigate the Reichskanzler
- and his suspected clandestine activities.
Meanwhile, R & D provides the Admiralität
with brand spanking new stereoscopic rangefinders (a surprise development, with final blueprints being handed in long before the anticipated date of completion of the project) and new torpedo engines. A maximum range of 12k yards for German torpedoes? Yes, please!
The German fleet, meanwhile, continues with its blockade of French ports. Lack of medicines and food has had its impact on the French population; there are rumours of protests in Paris, that remind the savvy Germans of the London riots. His Majesty takes these rumours in with serious concern and accellerates his plans.
The submarines on both sides reap their bloody toll. German U-Boote
bring home a meager catch: just a single merchantman and two coastal patrol vessels. Meanwhile, the French sous-marins
score fifteen merchant kills, sink a minesweeper-
-and, in a blow that has Galster pulling out what little hair he has left in his old age, send the heavy cruiser Hansa
to the bottom.
This is a major success for the French. However, it also serves to cement the Kaiserliche Marine's
determination to support the Kaiser against Von Papen. From a crew of 830, only 140 men survive the freezing waters of the North Sea; and there is not a single sailor who does not know that their mates would have been alive, had the Reichskanzler
made peace a month ago.
It is a meagre consolation when old Hela
encounters an unescorted French convoy in the Med and sinks it with extreme prejudice.
September; and Galster pours some money into the Tanga and Kamerun harbours, bringing them up to spec. No major works have taken place here since before the construction of the Zähringens
and this is as good a chance as any (especially now that the wartime Navy budget can support it).
The first G9
of the second batch leave their slipways-
R & D presents the Admiralität
with their very satisfying progress reports on their current projects (none of which is yet ready)-
And submarines and raiders on both sides carve yet another chunk off their enemy. Interestingly, we have here a reversal of the Anglo-German war. The German fleet is blockading the French harbours - but the French submarines are savaging the German merchant marine. Hindenburg and Galster know where this is liable to lead. In a few weeks, the German population will begin feeling the results of the French raiding strategy - what happens after that is anyone's guess.
The Valkyries, having now arrived in the Far East, deploy to shell enemy coastal fortifications in Tonkin. The French do not sortie to stop them; the German ships drop a few hundred tons of heavy ordnance on the enemy positions and retreat.
And then, the French try to sneak a small raiding force into the Bight again. This time, no battlecruisers, or capitals: only light forces. It's a smash-and-run raid, one that might have had a chance of succeeding-
, the Graf
hadn't been on-station to intercept.Bremen
was the first to engage the enemy, alerted to their presence by the frantically retreating G8
, an older, second-rate Zerstörer
, that had found herself charged down...
...by an enemy D' Assas
-class light cruiser and her destroyer escort. Unfortunately for the French, the Bremen
hugely outgunned their destroyer-leader.
Not to mention the Schlachtkreuzer
, that were coming up from the south.
As they close the range, the Graf
torpedobeats like a baws and dodges two enemy fish; the Zähringen
slips between two more but gets clipped by a third near her Y turret. Flooding is minimal and her speed is barely affected; her captain sacrifices a watertight compartment to keep up the chase.
It doesn't take long. Bremen
and the Graf
score more than thirty hits between them on lightly armored targets; the 6-inch and 12-inch German shells rip through their targets with ease. Three hours after first contact the last French destroyer slips under the waves. The French have lost four more tincans and the light cruiser D' Entrecasteaux.
It's nothing to brag about, but it'll do.This
on the other hand, is interesting. Very happy with the performance of the Elsass
-class superdreads, Galster lays down two Hannover
-class successors. In many respects, they are essentially copies of the older ships; but their engines are considerably more powerful, to lug their upgraded torpedo defense systems around. These are ships that will not sink,
with a 17-inch thick belt and turret front and a 3-inch turtleback All-or-Nothing armour scheme. They are armed with 12 of their predecessors' 15-inch rifles, more than enough to bloody anyone's nose.
Ten million Reichsmark
as a downpayment is a massive sum, but it'll hopefully be a long-term investment. Galster is anticipating that these ships will outlive him: he sees them as his legacy to his successor.
November. The first improved compressed air tanks are fitted to German subs; furthermore, spies in France confirm that the food shortages are now affecting the majority of the population.
Unfortunately, the German population is not better off. For the first time since the Anglo-German war, the Germans know hunger. Say what you like about the French, but their submarine captains are putting up a desperate fight.
Dissent against Von Papen's handling of the war is now prevalent in the population. The Kaiser faction wastes no time in capitalising on this. Hindenburg and Ludendorff, in particular, push the Dolchstoss
narrative in the Army for all its worth!
The French surface raiders join in the fight!
Thankfully, the French lose the Pascal
to lack of fuel. That's a relief for the Admiralität
13 November 1924, 10:20 in the morning. An 8-ship German convoy has just left Alexandria, with a cargo of grain and nitrates. It is escorted by three G9
, the G9
herself, and her sister-ships, the G10
10:27: lookouts spot an enemy cruiser, closing in from the north-west. The Zerstörer
batten down the hatches and prepare to defend the convoy against whatever skilled raider the French have deployed against them...
...and then the identification comes in, and the Germans laugh
The enemy ship is a Jean Bart
: she mounts a grand total of ten
4-inch guns. The German destroyers, put together, have eighteen
6-inch rifles and
their torpedoes to fire back at her.
And they do
It takes one smashed and one jammed gun mount for the Jean Bart
to WUSS OUT LIKE A LITTLE *****.
let her go. Their job is to safeguard the convoy, and if she comes back, there's more of that waiting for her.
Run home, little Frenchie.
What a glorious baptism of fire for the G9s!
Even better, it's late November, and there's a huge
batch of the little murderballs about to leave the slipways.
...just in time for the Bismarck
to be moved in, with a faulty condenser. Ah well, it happens. She's been on active duty without a major refurbishment for years.
At this point, the French once more propose peace.
Von Papen launches into his usual polemics, proclaiming to the world that the Germans will only accept peace if it is dictated in Versailles. In this, he betrays his ambition: he sees himself as a new Bismarck and seeks to emulate his accomplishment.
His Majesty has dealt with Bismarck
in the past. He knows how to deal with this overambitious scarecrow. And his Intelligence personnel have just delivered him a jewel of a find.
In the morning of the 2nd of December, and under the direction of Hindenburg, several companies of Imperial troops mobilise throughout Germany, seizing crucial facilities and placing nobles that the Kaiser suspects are supporters of von Papen under house arrest. Simultaneously, von Papen himself is arrested, on charges of high treason and premeditated murder.
The intelligence operatives have shown that the attack on the Frauenlob
, the attack that precipitated the first war, was orchestrated by von Papen. Unlike the masterfully executed Ems Telegram affair, however, von Papen had precipitated two senseless wars and dealt a critical blow to the Kerneuropa
dream of Mecklenburg. The Kaiser was irate
; and so were the Army and Navy, who could now see the Dolchstoss
Parliament was dissolved and the Government disbanded; new elections were set for just after Christmas, with an interim emergency government led by Stresemann. Stresemann would win by a landslide, officially and permanently assuming the post of Reichskanzler
on the 9th of January.
His first task was to negotiate a treaty with France. Without von Papen's interference, Stresemann succeeded in achieving an excellent deal. With Russia bullied into silence by a Schlachtkreuzer
squadron (and with the Valkyries standing by to blockade the Kamtchatka regions, if necessary), Stresemann concluded a peace that would set the stage for a new Kerneuropa.
As part of this treaty, Germany bought
exclusive basing rights on the island of Corsica, with a series of very favourable biannual payments (which extended up until the 1930s). The Germans presented this as a great victory, that forever cemented their control over the Mediterranean; the French, on the other hand focused primarily on the payments, which could, under a favourable light, be interpreted as war reparations, and which would provide the French economy the necessary boost to cover lost ground.
Stresemann also collaborated with his French counterpart, Aristide Briand, to conclude an international treaty that would prevent such senseless loss of life in the future. The General Treaty for Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy, or Pariser Vertrag
was signed in Paris, in September of 1925; it effectively made aggressive war illegal and established the concept of the 'crime against peace'.
And so, with the Kaiser once again establishing his control over his own country, with a new capable Reichskanzler
at the helm, and with Europe slowly dragging herself out of three years of senseless violence, we come to the end of the Von Papen wars.