Alternate History

Dutch-German War (Das Große Vaterland)

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Dutch-German War
German-soldiers German soldiers in trenches along the front

June 28, 1888


December 18, 1888




Anglo-Dutch victory


German Empire

Kingdom of the Netherlands
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland


Friedrich III
Leo von Caprivi
Alfred von Waldersee

William III of the Netherlands
George White




Casualties and Losses

44,000 Killed, wounded, or captured

50,000 Killed, wounded, or captured

German Invasion

The German Army under Friedrich III geared up for a new war in Europe, although they knew they would not be fighting any major enemy in the outbreak of war, they would soon come to regret it. The first assault came on June 30, when 6 German divisions, around 72,000 men, crossed the border to begin the invasion with the objective of pushing through central Netherlands in order to capture Arnhem and begin an offensive toward Amsterdam. The force managed to easily breakthrough Dutch land defences, and continued its push on into the Netherlands. Within three days, the German soldiers had reached the banks of the Nederrijn River, and had begun to seize multiple landing sights to cross the River and take Arnhem. But Dutch soldiers were not ones to give up, even though they knew that soon it would be ten times this number that would be crossing their borders.

Soon German soldiers were crossing the river and 36,000 German soldiers crossed the river on July 30, and encircled the city of Arnhelm. The city is only defended by 8500 men, around three or so Dutch regiments, but was supported by the city's thousands of residents. They joined the first units of the town's Burger Led or citizens army, a new national militia that 12,000 Dutch citizens in Arnhem joined before the battle. But despite the best efforts of the Dutch residents of Arnhem. the German Army captured the city after a wide-scale assault on August 7, ending the battle, and putting the Nederrijn River into German hands. The capture of the river opened up much of the area to German reinforcement, and on August 10, 20,000 reinforcements German reinforcements entered the area.

So with Arnhem captured, the Germans mounted a second assault into the central Netherlands, splitting the nation effectively in half, and leaving the Dutch in a tough spot. From there three more German divisions entered into the Netherlands, attacking across the Mass River, which the Germans captured on August 20, and then proceeded to cross the river. From there German soldiers attacked south toward the Dutch city of Maastricht, and cutting off the city from the main body of the Netherlands. The German Army, having control of the central Netherlands, attacked south from their central positions and sent three more divisions south from there to launch a pincer movement into the southern Netherlands. Within the massive, fast-paced German assault the German Army trapped several hundred-thousand Dutch citizens, and also within it, around twenty-thousand Dutch soldiers. Without even realizing it, a large arm of the Dutch Army had been cut off, and was effectively surrounded.

The German Capture of Breda on September 1 effectively ended the massive German sweep into the Netherlands. But it was at that point an unexpected turn for the worse occurred for the Germans, the British had agreed to send an armed force across the North Sea, and to fight the Germans with Dutch help. The Germans had not accounted for this, and it was their inability to prepare for it that would determine the fate of the war.

The British Arrive

With the British arrival to the war on September 5, the British under the command of Major-General Sir George White landed at Rotterdam, the Hague, and Amsterdam with an initial force of 15,000 men. While the landings at the Hague and Amsterdam were relatively peaceful, the German Army's artillery was within firing distance of Rotterdam, and began to barrage the city upon the British arrival. However, the 5,000 men of the British landing force at Rotterdam did manage to establish a bridgehead and beat off the 2,000 German infantrymen who tried to attack into the city. From that point, 12,000 British soldiers reinforced the initial landing forces on September 12, and the British prepared for a counterattack.

The British based in Amsterdam are moved to buff up the 8,000 Dutch soldiers in the area, but General White prefers to wait for a decisive victory against the Germans before counterattacking, while the sense of urgency in the Dutch government is far more moved toward action. His chance comes two days later when 15,000 German soldiers launch a second assault on Rotterdam, where 7000 British and Dutch soldiers are stationed and prepare for battle. With the German's surrounding the city, White leaves the city of Amsterdam in a huge gamble to relieve the city of Rotterdam, and by some apparent miracle, the Germans, overstretched by their advance, fail to seize the initiative and capture Amsterdam.

With White attacking the German besiegers, the German hold on Rotterdam folds and the Germans retreat to the nearby countryside. With the initiative in his hands, he presses the attack and manages to push the Germans back to the banks of the Waak River in the West, and captures, kills, or wounds, 3000 Germans in the process. From there George White proceeds to copy the Germans and launches a massive strike deep into the enemy's lines, moving from the banks of the Waak River to push the Germans back to their border in the center of their lines. Although the initial attack is tumultuous, the British manage to press the Germans back enough, and use the German's over exhaustion to their advantage. The Germans are pushed back to their border positions near where the Waak and Nederrijn Rivers meet, putting the morale back to the Anglo-Dutch side.

Dutch Counterattack

From this enhanced position, the Dutch Army, buffered up to 30,000 soldiers in the North alone, counterattacked south into the German salient. Dutch soldiers in Lelystad crossed the water into the mainland, and from there launched a surprise attack into the German lines, from where they then launched their own counterattack. On September 30, Dutch soldiers based in Meppel and Coevorden began the counterattack on the German's north flank, from there the Dutch soldiers that had crossed from Lelystad pushed northward, smashing the German lines. German reinforcements arrived two weeks later in mid-October and buffered up the numbers of the German defenses.

However, the Anglo-Dutch forces in the central Netherlands then pushed further south along the Maas River, while British forces landed in the West and attacked eastward. Royal Navy steel cruisers fired their guns on German defenses to soften them up, giving the advantage to the British landing forces. They pushed ahead onto land on October 20, and from there they pushed eastward toward Breda, which they secured on November 1. A combined Anglo-Dutch counterattack pushed the press their advances and trapped the Germans into two areas in the South and in the East. The German lines continued to crumble as morale dropped and the Dutch were continuously reinforced. In an attempt to defeat the Royal Navy, the German Emperor, Friedrich III, sent a squadron of German cruisers engaged a British squadron of cruisers and a single battleship. In the battle, which the Germans lost decisively, Crown Prince Wilhelm was serving in the Navy, and witnessed the battle on one of the two cruisers to survive the battle. It was there he developed a great passion for naval warfare, which he would put to full effect during his reign.

Even after their defeat at sea, the Germans continued to fight against the Anglo-Dutch onslaught, but their time in the Netherlands was waning. Rather than continue to fight a losing war, the German General Staff sought peace on the terms of uti possidetis, but were utterly rejected by the Dutch Army.

Road to Ceasefire

From there, the Dutch and their British allies knew that they had put the Germans into an unwinnable position, and pushed their soldiers' advance further. British forces, based in allied Belgium, attack northward to liberate the city of Maastricht, which had fallen several months earlier to the Germans original offensive. 12,000 British soldiers moved northward and besieged the city, trapping 8,500 German soldiers into the city. The German Army, still folding from the counterattack in the north, was unable to help them, and the slim area of land connecting Masstricht with the rest of the Netherlands was cut off by the British soon after they attacked the city. Without any other options, the German defenders were forced to surrender, which they did on November 12.

At that point, the British and Dutch offensive pushed deeper and deeper into the German lines, and began to overwhelm them in morale, which dipped in November to an all-time low in the German lines. Then the British began to send scouting parties into Germany itself, and this brought fears of an invasion of the Rhineland, and possible the drawing of France into the war. At that point, the Germans sued for peace once more, and asked offered to withdraw completely from the Netherlands as soon as militarily possible. The Dutch government received this as the final sign that the Germans had lost, and so agreed to the ceasefire, which officially stopped the fighting on November 20.

Treaty of Hague

The British, Dutch, and Germans all met in the Hague to sign a peace agreement, which officially ended the war on December 18. The Germans withdrew from the Netherlands, and were forced to pay the Netherlands back for the damage done to their land, and to pay for the thousands of Dutch soldiers they had killed in battle. The Germans were also forced to concede that the damage done to their trading ship in the Dutch East Indies, was of no consequence or fault to the Dutch government or its military. The Germans, without any other choices, were forced to accept these conditions, and did so quite reluctantly. They paid the Dutch their reparations in full by 1891, and it took them only two weeks to vacate their army from Dutch land.

But despite the façade of peace, a rivalry was born between two nations, although the Dutch were obviously seen still as pushovers by themselves, the British and Germans formed a harsh rivalry that would come to define European politics for the next century or so. Soon after the war ended, Friedrich III died from complications with a surgery to heal his larynx cancer, and his naval-minded son, Wilhelm II, was prepared to make his mark on history. This began the Great Naval Race between Britain and Germany, and would ultimately reach its peak in 1914, with the beginning of World War I.

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