If the British had employed Winston Churchill’s ideas 99 years ago this month, the Germans could have been pushed back at the start of World War I, possibly curtailing what would be four prolonged, trench-filled years of battles, the Daily Telegraph reports.
In 1911 when Churchill was 36 and serving in the Cabinet as Home Secretary — sort of a stew of the Department of Homeland Security and Justice Department with a dash of the State Department — he submitted a plan that foresaw how the war would begin in 1914, with the kaiser’s troops invading Belgium, argues Allan Mallinson, a former army officer, in 1914: Fight the Good Fight: Britain, the Army and the Coming of the First World War.
Today, we would consider Churchill’s strategy to be simple and logical:
- The French would have no chance of stopping the Germans on the border, Churchill said, and should prepare to defeat them inside France.
- British forces should not immediately join the fray. Instead, the British should bring additional troops home from overseas garrisons, building up their numbers to 300,000 so that they could hit the Germans hard and force them to retreat.
“The French would have been able to manage without (British troops) in the first two months” of the war, Mallinson tells BBC Radio 4.
If the British Expeditionary Force “had been held back at Amiens, where Churchill had suggested, and its numbers built up to 300,000, which was perfectly doable, in October it should have been able to launch a counter-stroke into the German’s open flank between Abbeville (in northern France) and the North Sea.”
Such a move might have been decisive, Mallinson says, because “the German flank might have been turned and pushed back to the Meuse,” a river in Belgium.
Churchill’s ideas were ill-received, dismissed as “ridiculous and fantastic.”
An estimated 37 million were killed or wounded in World War I.
By the way, if the situation in Syria is reminding you of the Balkans, you’re not the only one.