The Strategy of the Lloyd George Coalition, 1916-1918

By David French | Go to book overview

11
'Victory is Essential to Sound Peace': The Armistice Negotiations, September-November 1918

IN 1914 British policy-makers had entered the war determined to strengthen their post-war security against both their enemies and their allies. They remained committed to those goals throughout the war. At the end of 1917 the War Cabinet had decided to postpone Britain's supreme effort against Germany until 1919 to ensure that, when the fighting stopped, Britain would still retain sufficient military and economic strength to be the dominant power at the peace conference. It would then be able to impose its terms on all the other belligerents. The sudden collapse of the Central Powers in the autumn of 1918 therefore caught British policymakers off balance. It happened a year before they had expected it. On 13 August Hankey had noted that, despite recent Entente successes in France, Lloyd George 'does not take a very sanguine view of our military prospects'.1 But the private deliberations of British policy-makers between late September and November 1918 demonstrated the underlying consistency of their policy. They were not so surprised by the unexpected turn of events that they forgot that their fundamental goal was to secure the benefits due to Britain and its empire following the collapse of the Central Powers by maximizing their post-war security against both their friends and their enemies.

The alliance of the Central Powers began to unravel on 15 September when the allied commander at Salonika, General d'Esperey, mounted an offensive designed to draw German forces away from the western front and to produce 'a revolution in Bulgaria . . .'.2

____________________
The quotation in the chapter title is taken from The Times, 13 Sept. 1918.
1
CCC, Hankey MSS HNKY 1/5: Hankey diary, 13 Aug. 1918.
2
PRO CAB 25/26: Bellin to Sackville-West, 30 June 1918; PRO FO 800/385/Gre/ 18/2: Drummond to Balfour and Lloyd George, 3 July 1918.

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