Part of the Endless War
- Occupation of parts of the Republic
by Kontinental Volksarmee
- Armistice of 1924
by the Red Fatherland
Frankish Union Movement
North Sea Empire
Sir Arthur Hughes
Military Wounded: 600,000
Military MIA: 123,450
Civilian Dead: Over 310,000
Military Wounded: 1.2 mil.
Military MIA: 450,000
Civilian Dead: 276,000
Total: Over 2.7 mil.
The Rhineland War was a major European war that officially lasted from July 3 1921 to February 22 1924. It is considered an early part of the broader European conflict known as the Endless War. The major combatants, the Red Fatherland and the Frankish Republic, engaged in one of the earliest forms of large-scale highly industrialized conflict, mobilizing millions of men and resulting in high casualty numbers, often blurring between civilian and military targets.
The conflict officially began on July 3, 1921, when the Republican government broadcast an official condemnation of the Red Fatherland's actions in Northern Europe and Republican troops crossed the border into the Fatherland-owned Rhineland. The Republican army saw initial success, destroying large parts of the Kontinental Volksarmee along the border and occupying much of the Rhineland during the first two months of the war. The advance had begun to slow by September, when the Fatherland organized a competent defense along the riverbank. Republican armies faced even greater resistance in the low countries, and by the turn of the year the front evolved into a static war of attrition characterized by use of trenches, indiscriminate artillery bombardment, and very poor frontline living conditions in a doctrine known as "trench warfare."
Tides turned during the Battle of Coblenz in late 1922, when the Republican army made a series of strategic blunders, giving the Kontinental Volksarmee the initiative to push the frontline back to the antebellum state over the next half year. In the chaotic retreat from the Rhine, the Republican army lost a large amount of manpower and heavy equipment. The Republican army would be unable to organize a serious defense for the remainder of the war and spent the rest of 1923 slowly losing ground to the advancing Volksarmee.
Plagued by defeatism and communist agitation at home, the Republican government officially proposed an armistice following the success of the Fatherland's New Year's Campaign in 1924, which saw the Frankish border regions overrun by the Kontinental Volksarmee. Developments on other parts of the continent led the Fatherland to accept the agreement, and the armistice went into effect on February 22, officially ending the nearly 3-year long conflict.
The war saw rapid advancement in military science, with new developments in technology such as panzers and artillery, as well as evolution of new doctrines on war in the 20th century on a large, industrialized scale. The Fatherland's surprising victory against a much larger army despite fighting in another war at the time changed the balance of power in Europe drastically, setting it as the foremost military and industrial power in the region. The political outcome of the war resulted in the formation of the Outer European Coalition by major powers such as the defeated Republic, the Roman Federation, and the Empire of the Rus' to counter the Fatherland's influence and set the stage for the continued conflict in Europe known as the Endless War.
The revolutions in central Europe which culminated in the formation of the Red Fatherland caused a seismic shift in geopolitics on the continent. Prior to the unification of the Fatherlands, the Frankish Republic stood as the foremost power in Europe - it was able to project power not only into the central Germanic lands and the low countries, but also into Northern Europe and across the channel. During the Batavian war in 1892, the Republic's intervention in these scattered Germanic states resulted in a series of nationalistic, popular upheavals that established several proletarian states, or 'red nations,' which formed a united front against the Republic. In a shock to most European powers of the time, these red nations repulsed the Franks and nearly captured their capital, forcing the Frankish influence out of the Rhine valley and beyond in this victory.
The humiliating peace that the Republic signed shook global perception of the status quo. The wave of revolutions which founded the red nations, however, did not stop after the defeat of the Republic - and with no risk of intervention from the first world power, they managed to conquer and unify most of central Europe into a Red Fatherland by 1905. This new "worker's republic" posed a serious threat to most of the contemporary European powers, which began to grow wary of the rising, highly industrialized central European behemoth. Despite attempts to foster coalitions between 1906 and 1912, European powers were too preoccupied with their own rivalries to make a serious attempt to counter the Fatherland's growing influence. By 1914, the Red Fatherland stretched from the low countries to the alps and the Vistula, and possessed one of the biggest populations of Europe, as well as a massive industrial base.
In 1919, the Red Fatherland sent troops across their border with the North Sea Empire to support a growing workers' uprising in a disputed area. This border violation sparked the beginning of the Jutland War between the two nations. The North Sea Empire made pleas for aid from various European powers. At the same time, the Frankish Republic was experiencing an increase in militant labour organization along its border regions. Investigations by the Republican Internal Bureau found connections, including funding, to the Red Fatherland in at least 243 labour organizations in those regions. Public disdain and fear of the communists was at an all-time high, as well as nationalistic pride to regain the prestige lost in the Batavian war. In 1920, the new Republican president Jean Pettier approved the special MORT act, making many high profile unions illegal for their connections to the Fatherland. A secret directive of the act also approved the mobilization of the nation's wartime economy, while members of Republican military high command were notified that an invasion in support of the North Sea Empire's efforts was to begin by 1922.
Republican High Command had previously made plans for an invasion of the Red Fatherland in 1914. However, the plans were outdated and did not account for the vast industrial and territorial growth that the central European power had experienced in the following 6 years. Plans relied on rapid operations to seize the Rhineland and the low countries, where the greatest industrial power of the Red Fatherland lay, and from there a concentrated attack to the northern Elbe which would in essence put the nation on its knees. Republican chief of staff Jean-Luc Bellevent understood that the plans were not updated in a long time, but assessed that the Kontinental Volksarmee was busy fighting their war in the north and that an attack to link up with Imperial allies in the north, similar to the plans proposed in 1914, would still see success. Reconnaissance confirmed much of the High Command's positions - the Fatherland's forces along the border were inferior on all accounts to a mobilized Republican Army, which would have about 3 field armies ready for invasion by 1921.
The cursory glance that the Franks had at the situation in the Rhineland did not even give the full scope of their superiority. The Kontinental Volksarmee officially had 14 divisions deployed in the region, stretching Zeeland to the alps. However, 5 of these divisions were recently mobilized and still in the process of receiving a large amount of their equipment, and their soldiers had not seen any fighting yet. Another 2 divisions were deployed far to the rear - they were being used as a labour force to accelerate the construction of new factories in the Ruhr valley. Most of the other divisions were deployed too far forward to be able to provide a competent defense of an invasion. In fact, the only units that could really be considered combat-ready at the outbreak of the war were the five divisions of Heerführer Martin Zondervan's 7th Army in the low countries, which were deployed to protect the coasts. The western army group enjoyed a very large reserve force, however, it was mostly stationed on the other side of the Rhine and would not be able to provide rapid support to the frontline.
Vaterländisch intelligence falsely estimated the Republican army capability, which may have been a reason for the serious imbalance in army quantity and quality. The Rotes Oberkommando believed that the Republican force on the border numbered only about 200,000 - less than a quarter of the force that would actually participate in the invasion in July. Additionally, though some politically-minded generals entertained the idea that the Republic may attack while the Fatherland was busy in the north, the general consensus was that the Republic was still too weak and plagued by internal strife with labour movements to be dragged into a war.
The loss of union informants in the Republic allowed for a buildup of forces that was unnoticed by the Red Fatherland. By summer of 1921, the Republic had fielded about 950,000 troops near the border, with further reserves deployed just behind. The troops were organized into three field armies: The 1st Army under Xander Engel, totaling about 200,000 men, made up the Republic's right flank. It was deployed along the Rhine with its headquarters in Strasbourg, and was tasked with seizing Baden. The 2nd Army under Conrad Suisse numbered 350,000 and held the center. The 2nd Army's primary objective was to drive towards Frankfurt and then turn north-west to seize the industrial heartland of the Fatherland. Finally, the 3rd Army of 400,000 under Horatio Kilien was deployed in Frankish Wallonia on the Republic's left, and was tasked with a northern drive to capture the low countries.
At 11:00 p.m. on July 2nd, elements of Republic's 165th Light Infantry regiment made a night-time crossing of the Rhine, just south of Strasbourg, where the Volksarmee had a small gap in their defenses. Two battalions took positions just outside the town of Rust. Border guards noticed the violation only at 3:30 a.m. the next day, at which point they attempted to arrest the perpetrators by force. A border skirmish ensued for the next six hours, during which another Republican battalion crossed two kilometres north of Rust. The scrambled response brigade of the Volksarmee brought in several field artillery pieces and began to shell Republican positions west of the town, as well as firing across the Rhine valley without prior authorization. Local Volksarmee command failed to report the action to superior officers, though a general evacuation of the township was ordered by the authorities, adding to the rapidly increasing confusion of local security forces.
At 9:00 a.m. on July 3, a military parade was held in the Republic's capital, lasting an hour, after which President Jean Pettier issued a formal declaration of war on the Red Fatherland. A general order for the 1st Army to advance and occupy the Black Forest had already been given a few hours before, but in accordance with the concept of a "gentleman's war," Republican troops (with the exception of the 165th Light Infantry regiment) refrained from crossing the border until the Fatherland was properly informed. Immediately following the declaration of war, however, the 1st Army began an intense artillery barrage across the Rhine, dispersing the token defense forces that were scrambled at the border before advancing to Breisgau. The 2nd army crossed into the Saarland, surrounding most of the unsuspecting Saar Red Guards infantry division from the west and south, as they were deployed far forward and had still not received any reports of military action taking place. The Republican 3rd army also advanced and captured most depots and garrisons on their border.
At 11:20 p.m., the ROK issued commands to organize the border military districts and informed regional commanders that a state of war now existed. A total mobilization order also went out within the hour. Heerführer Sean Eisenbach was placed in command of the Württemberg Military District, though it would take another 6 hours for him to arrive to the field, during which the Republican 1st Army was able to advance 10 kilometres across the Rhine with no resistance. Zondervan was placed in command of the Lowlands Military District and reacted much faster - his 7th army was sent to reinforce the garrisons at Brussels and Antwerp, though he opted not to meet the advancing Republicans in battle immediately and instead organize a stronger defense in Flanders.
The first large-scale organized military action of the war took place on July 7th, at Saarbrücken. The Saar Red Guards infantry division, still unaware they had been encircled, attacked elements Republican 2nd Army, which was holding position south of the city. Several divisions of the army had already made it nearly 25 kilometres into the Fatherland's rear, and began flanking attacks on the city. All organization in the Red Guards division disintegrated, and the remains of the unit retreated into the city, which was put under a 4-day siege before being captured on the 11th.
On the 7th, the Republican 1st Army also reached the outskirts of Breisgau after securing their flanks. The slight Republican delay caused by the logistics of crossing the Rhine allowed Eisenbach to organize part of Württemberg Military District into an organized but rushed fighting force, numbering at least 120,000 at the front, with more reserves mobilizing. This new "Army of Baden" was deployed along the Black Forest, preventing further Republican advance and offering a good staging post for a counterattack - with this deployment, Eisenbach hoped to coax the Republicans into a costly pitched battle before their forces arrived in force across the river, and thus threaten to destroy the invasion before it gained momentum. On the other side, General Xander Engel planned to unhinge the defense of the rather disorganized Army of Baden by taking Breisgau without being forced into a siege. On the 9th, a column of Republican troops advanced towards the Black Forest 24 kilometers north of Breisgau, at the village of Tutschfelden. The Army of Baden easily spotted the bright blue uniforms of soldiers marching in a clumped formation and began an indiscriminate bombardment of the column with field artillery, causing heavy casualties among the unit. Eisenbach saw an opportunity to escalate the fighting and ordered a counter-attack on the Republican line from Breisgau. Intense fighting began in several places along the front, and though the Army of Baden was able to push the Republicans away from the outskirts of Breisgau by inflicting heavy casualties with massed artillery, the battles of Offenburg and Baden-Baden on the 11th and 12th saw the army's right flank severely crippled as more of the Republic's forces arrived to support the invasion. The Army of Baden was forced to retreat deeper into the Black Forest, though Eisenbach ordered the left flank to dig in and prepare for a siege at Breisgau. The city fell on the 18th, but the delay allowed the Army of Baden several days to reorganize a defense with fresh troops.
In the low countries, Horatio Kilien faced stiff resistance from Zondervan's 7th Army. Though most of the forward border garrisons were abandoned, the 7th army inflicted a heavy defeat on advancing Republican forces during the battle of Brussels on the 16th, resulting in the loss of nearly 30 thousand men for Kilien's army, who attempted to take the fortified city by storm. Zondervan abandoned the city, however, when the garrison of Ghent defected and Liege was captured on the 21st. August saw Zondervan again defeat Kilien's advancing army at the Battle of Antwerp on the 8th with similar results. However, a naval landing in Zeeland threatened to surround the city and the bulk of Zondervan's army, and he once again opted to abandon the defenses. Disappointed by the continued retreat, ROK warned Zondervan that if Rotterdam fell, he would be replaced with a 'more competent' officer. However, Zondervan was convinced that the Republican 3rd Army was exhausted and, unable to flank along the coast this time, would be vulnerable to counterattack. Concentrating nearly half of his 250,000 strong army in Breda and Tilburg, Zondervan risked having his army trapped between the Republicans and the Meuse river, but at the same time he forced Kilien to attack if he wished to secure his side of the low countries. Kilien chose to attack, and the resulting 5-Day Blitz saw Zondervan's forces repel attacks on Breda, Tilburg, and Eidhoven with nearly 90,000 Republican casualties between August 15-18, before swinging 4 divisions from the left flank across the Meuse on the 19th and threatening to destroy the Republican rear. With a third of his army in ruins, Kilien was forced to retreat back Vlaanderen to a defensive line nearly 60 kilometres south between Antwerp and Liege. Though Zondervan's 7th army pursued, most of the frontline troops were just as exhausted as their Republican enemy, and by September 5th, when they reached the Republican defensive line, they began to dig in to form their own fortifications. Zondervan's successful defense of the low countries prevented the Republican 3rd Army from crossing the Rhine and defended the western industrial regions of the Fatherland.
Conrad Suisse's Republican 2nd Army saw much greater success than his counterparts on the flanks. The vanguard experienced next to no resistance from the Volksarmee, apart from in Saarbrucken, for a stretch of nearly 40 kilometres into the Fatherland. Trier was captured on the 17th of July, after a 2 day siege against disorganized and confused defenders in the city. The commander of the Palatinate Military District, Albert Regensdorf, organized several of his corps operating independently in the rear into the 8th Army, and ordered an immediate counter-attack on Trier. The battle initially threw the Republicans off-balance, but the fall of Liege in the north on the 21st and Suisse's continued advance from the Saarland seriously threatened Regensdorf's attack. In addition, a general disagreements with commanders in the Rurh Military Districts resulted in delayed reaction to the gap that formed from the capture of Liege, and Regensdorf failed to secure support for his right flank. Suisse outmaneuvered the disorganized 8th Army and surrounded much of it within Trier. The resulting battle in the region from the 25th of July to the 1st of August ended in disaster for the Fatherland. The Kontinental Volksarmee saw nearly 120,000 in total casualties, with nearly 70,000 captured in the city. Regensdorf himself was killed in the fighting, and the 8th Army was in shambles - leaving much of the road open for further Republican advance to either Frankfurt as planned, or to turn further north to support Kilien's advance into the low countries.
Following the disaster in the battle of Trier, the ROK reorganized command in their center. The remnants of the 8th Army were incorporated into the Rhineland Military District, which, after a brief power struggle, was placed under command of Ludwig Klauberg - a veteran of several unification wars and one of the five marshals of the Volksarmee. Klauberg's appointment was respected, but his position as one of the "old guard" of the ROK was disliked by many younger and more reform-minded officers - in particular, Martin Zondervan. Mistrust between the two commanders, and Klauberg's fear that Zondervan's army would keep retreating into the lowlands, led to him deploying most of his two armies to secure his left, anticipating that the Republican attack would be concentrated on taking over the Ruhr.
On the other side of the frontlines, Conrad Suisse's 2nd Army continued to defeat in detail the few remaining disorganized units of the ill-fated 8th Army. Suisse saw that several avenues of advance lay open - seeing, however, that Kilien's 3rd Army was still experiencing success in the low countries while Engel's advance in the south had already been stalled by the Army of Baden, Suisse made the decision to drive and capture Mainz and Frankfurt. If successful, this would secure for his army a bridgehead across the Rhine, take over a major railway hub connecting the Fatherland's center and left flank, and make it easier to support Engel's army. Having experienced few losses in the previous month, and in fact having grown by at least 100,000 more men, Suisse's army began their confident 70 kilometer march to Mainz.
When Klauberg noticed the movements towards Mainz, he immediately redirected some of the recently-mobilized reserves south. His current armies were still not strong or organized enough to be able to attack the advancing enemy's flank - in fact, some of the divisions were still being used as labour forces to transport key industry across the Rhine and out of the enemy's artillery range.
Battle of Coblenz
New Year's Campaign and end of the war