Friday 25th January

Bismarck orders the bombing of Paris, 1871 Meanwhile, in Alternate History....the birth of Jacky Fisher, 1841
The French capital city had been directly threatened by the Prussian Army since the previous summer, but it was the catastrophic defeat at the Battle of Sedan that finally opened the door to Paris.

In the highest echelons of the Prussian Government, there was sharp disagreement about how to capture the city.

The High Command wanted to prevent a resumption of hostilities, proposing to annihilate the French Armies and starve Parisians into surrender. Whereas Prime Minister Bismark preferred a quick resolution through bombing.

King Wilhelm Hohenzollern had already been proclaimed German Emperor at the Palace of Versailles and inevitably favoured the expedient option, ordering Chief of Staff von Moltke to follow Bismarck's direction. The city fell three days later.

"Chatfield, there seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today", Admiral Beatty said to his flag captain when one of his battlecruisers after the other blew up under the fire of Hipper’s Schlachtkreuzer during the Battle of Jutland. On Jacky Fisher’s 172th birthday the question might suggest itself – what if Fisher did not pursue his concept of “Battlecruisers” in the early 1900s.

Whatever made Sir John "Jacky" Fisher reconsider his plan of fast and heavy armed, but weak-armoured warships with speed as their best protection, it seemed to leave Great Britain in a decisively weak position at the outbreak of the Great War in August 1914.

Not only had the Royal Navy to rely on large armoured cruisers to protect the long trade lines of the Empire and the German Admiral von Spee’s squadron’s consisting of the two battlecruisers “Moltke” and “Goeben” that broke through into the Pacific and later the Indian Ocean gave them quite a headache until they were finally brought to bay by the Imperial Japanese Navy.

However, Fisher had an ace up his sleeve with his “New Model Fleet”. Following up from the design of HMS Dreadnought in 1906, he pursued the design of the liquid (i.e. oil) fuelled “Fast Battleship” type with a vengeance. But even though Fisher predicted the outbreak of the war with Germany for August 1914, his chef d'oeuvre and swan song, the “Nelson”-class were not ready for action at that time. Mid-1915, HMS “Nelson”, the type ship, and her sisters “St Vincent”, “Collingwood” and “Howe” were ready for sea, the other four followed in spring 1916. Their superior design, speed, armour and armament paid off on May 31st when Jellicoe’s “Grand Fleet” and the German “Hochseeflotte” met off Jutland.

Commanded by David Beatty, the “New Model Fleet” squadron matched Admiral Hipper’s battlecruisers in speed, while their 6’’ deck and 14’’ midships’ armour protected them from critical hits by German 12’’ shells, while their new 16’’ guns quickly broke their enemy’s resistance. Joining Jellicoe’s main battle afterwards, Beatty and his new fast battleships played a decisive role in making the Battle of Jutland an overwhelming Royal Navy victory. 

What followed was that the remains of the German Hochseeflotte remained bottled up in their harbours until the end of the war, January 25th 1918, that was brought about (among other reasons) by the tight British naval blockade that could not even been broken by the German U-boat offensive.

Today's dual post follows the structure of our weekly collaboration: Alternate Historian writes about a real event in German History, whilst Dirk writes about a fictionalized event in English Alternate History.

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