Published On: Sun, Dec 23rd, 2018

Britain and France’s secret World War I alliance: a guarantor for Russian aggression

Continuing the series where post-9/11 criticism is applied to the events leading to the start of the First World War (see list at foot of page), this piece looks at the de facto military alliance that existed, in secret, between France and Britain in 1914. France and Russia had an explicit anti-German mutual-aid pact whereby one would come to the assistance of the other, offensively or defensively. Sean McMeekin, whose book, July 1914: Countdown to War†, has served as the sole source for this series (demonstrating that any popular orthodox history can’t help but suggest the real events that have been disguised or obliterated by official narratives), relates that a condition of the alliance was that France or Russia should clear their mobilisation against Germany with the other prior to its activation – unless it was in reaction to German mobilisation, which would trigger the appropriate escalation to war by both powers without consultation. It is this “defensive” clause that actually seals the Franco-Russian alliance as a device whereby France and Russia could wage an aggressive war on Germany. In her self-defence, and in her precarious position between these two powers, Germany would have had operations to perform that could be construed as being aggressive (mobilisation through Luxembourg, for instance) – but crucially, it meant that both parties to the treaty would find themselves at war with Germany if she felt threatened by one of them. In the meantime, the idea that neither France or Russia could mobilise without agreement tends to give a false impression that Germany wouldn’t have ever found herself in a position of needing to react to one of the parties to the alliance because of how they could never act independently. Of course, in actual fact, this is exactly what happened when Russia readied for war in an irreversible fashion without France knowing about it – supposedly.

Although Britain’s alliance with France was unofficial, it appears that it was in fact an even tighter arrangement than the Franco-Russian one, because it would constitute direct British contributions to France’s war-waging capability: with war against Germany specifically in mind. It involved the integration of war planning, and material British contributions (not just advice) to be factored in to schemes regarding the distribution of French resources. In an FBEL piece planned for later publication, we are going to discuss how Russia would only go to war with prior knowledge of British support – and the secret Anglo-French de facto alliance was how it was guaranteed. In the end, then, we’re going to see that British co-operation in war alongside France against Germany was the key factor in enabling Russian aggression; to wit, its secret mobilisation.

Of course, crucial to British designs was the necessity to keep the arrangement with France secret from Germany, and also secret from† British public opinion; the former might avoid war if she knew about it, and the latter might demand that a war must not be fought – an unthinkable prospect that would have been as problematic as the British public voting to leave the EU. The British Government’s problem regarding the maintenance of pretence that it is subject to a republican constitution (of sorts) is an older one than people may give it credit.

Dissembling to the Prince Karl Max Lichnowsky, the German ambassador to London who had lodged a complaint after the German press had uncovered rumours of a possible British and Russian naval pact, the British Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, explained that the British Government “did from time to time talk as intimately as allies” with France, and presumably Russia (from the way McMeekin puts things in his book), but these talks, said Grey, were “not used for aggression against Germany”. This was patently not true:

British naval and army officers had begun cooperating ever more closely with the their French counterparts in joint war-planning against Germany, without their superiors ever publically owning up to this. (p72)

As much as this very narrative-busting fact is glossed over in McMeekin’s book, as undoubtedly as it is elsewhere in official history, it is highly significant. The French could have been under no other impression that Britain would not field army units in a real fight with Germany, because the planning would specify and call for it. Indeed:

Secret talks between the French and British armies had, by June 1914, reached the point where a top-secret liason agreement specified that a British Expeditionary Force (BEF) of six divisions would be dispatched across the Channel if German armies violated Belgian territory in a European war”. (p73)

McMeekin’s claim that the French “therefore has a rough idea what to expect from the BEF” is highly disingenuous:

Sir Henry Wilson, the… general in charge of joint planning with the French,… had done his work so thoroughly that the BEF deployment plan to France was now “complete to the last billet of every battalion, even to the places where they were to drink their coffee” (p73) (sourced by McMeekin from The Guns of August, by B W Tuchman, 1962).

Planning at such a precise level of detail had to be done with the assistance, and therefore knowledge and approval of the French because it would surely entail site assessments, meaning visits to France by British planners. Be that as it may, the claim that official history appears to make in apology for British Government is that the British military kept the civilian government ignorant of this joint planning – even while we discover that it was Grey himself who hammered out a secret naval convention with the French (about which more momentarily).

In 1912 it was agreed that while the French Navy would focus on projecting power in the Mediterranean, the Royal Navy would protect the French channel and western coastlines as part of its wider role of answering a German threat to the waters around the British Isles. McMeekin tells of the realisation that eventually occurred to an anti-war component in British government, which previously somehow was otherwise deluded, that these arrangements had always been based on cooperation in a war against Germany. Of course they had. The British and French naval arrangement effectively defined two areas of operations across two combined fleets acting as a single force. And the French and British division of maritime responsibility was another example of the wider integrated planning happening between the two nations.

Of course, there could be no admitting to the fact when Grey made his famous (or infamous) address to the House of Commons on 3rd August (the day before day one of the war). Instead, Grey would argue in the context of the big lie whereby Britain and France were victims of accident. France may well be drawn into a war that was not Britain’s business, but if Britain did not defend France’s coastlines, the French would be forced to withdraw its fleet from the Mediterranean to leave Britain’s weaker squadron there exposed to attack from Italy. McMeekin does not tell if Grey admitted that the French were concentrated in the Mediterranean because of a compact with the British. In any case, the whole scenario was conditional and dependent on Italy entering a war on Germany’s side, and from Lichnowsky we know that “British diplomats were certain that Italy would never fight alongside Austria and Germany” (p 275). Indeed, given that Italy had territorial claims on Austria, one wouldn’t have needed to be a diplomat to be certain of Italy’s alignment. Grey’s was a completely bogus argument.

Grey would make other weak excuses, framed by a web of lying, to a public that did not know that Britain was committed through planning to defend France: “If a foreign fleet”, he said, “engaged in a war which France had not sought, and in which she had not been the aggressor, came down the English Channel and bombarded and battered the undefended coasts of France, we could not stand aside”. (p 367)

Firstly, note how it was crucial, for the sake of appearances to justify British support for France in reaction to events, that Germany be seen to be the aggressor. Germany was not the aggressor that started World War I. The aggressors were France and Russia, and leading from behind was Britain. So, the British Government would need to pretend France was a victim so as to portray, as mere neighbourly goodwill, the military cooperation that had in fact been clinically pre-arranged. The strategy was apparent in Grey’s speech to the Commons when he revealed the existence and content of a letter that he had written to the French ambassador in London, Paul Cambon, in November 1912, regarding the disposition of the French and British fleets, maintaining that it did not constitute “an engagement to co-operate in war”. In other words, the unusual disposition of the French and British fleets was an accident. Compounding this lie was the fact of the matter of an offer by Germany to restrict her naval operations so that Britain would not have to feel obliged to defend French waters. The Germans wanted to buy British neutrality, not understanding that it never had been for sale.

Looking back on events, and seeing how it appeared that Britain entered a war without approval from the electorate, one actually loses sight of how crucial British public opinion was. In fact, British public opinion was absolutely central to whether or not a war could commence, and many parties to the conflict were aware of this. In an interchange between George Buchanan, the British ambassador to Moscow, and Maurice Paleologue, his French counterpart, after the former had met with Sergei Sazonov, the Russian Foreign Minister, Buchanan said:

I have just been begging Sazonov not to consent to any military measure which Germany could call provocative. The German Government must be saddled with all the responsibility and all the initiative. English opinion will accept the idea of intervening in the present war only if Germany is indisputably the aggressor. (p 248)

If Buchanan looks like a protagonist and a schemer – which he certainly does – McMeekin does the job of official historian, and appeals to the obviously carefully constructed layers of plausible deniability that always disguise British Government operatives in the execution of their crimes:

It does not seem to have occurred to Buchanan, either then or later, that Paleologue and Sazonov were deliberately deceiving him about Russia’s “provocative” military measures, precisely in order to manipulate “English opinion” into supporting the Franco-Russian side in the European war that now seemed imminent. (p 248)

We might question why, if British public opinion had to be so subtly manipulated, how it was that Grey could stand up in the Commons and announce that a commitment was due to France because she should be pitied (implying the British were incredibly gullible). The truth is that things have not changed in 100 years – at least not in the practice of the State. The British Government invents a state of public opinion, and then through mass media tells the public that this is the way it feels. 100 years later, of course, there is the internet which shatters the isolation of the public in the face of corporate-media gaslighting, but in 1914 there was no such hope. However, the propaganda still needed a plausible foundation; the same that Buchanan was anxious to engineer in Moscow: Germany was an unmitigated aggressor. On the other hand, if arrangements between France and Britain were public knowledge so that it was obvious that Germany was being drawn into a trap, then there would be no material to work with in order to build consensus for war. Post-9/11, with the scheme of things laid open to anyone who cares to look, we can surely say that close military cooperation between the French and the British was an enabler of war that would have needed to have been kept from common knowledge.

Those who would object by saying that any such compact to bring about war should not be seriously contemplated because planning is always merely run of the mill military practice, and, moreover, the military does not decide British policy are apologists for the great fantasy that Britons have inflicted upon them to suffer. Britain’s “Spartan” ruling class – what we may call the British Government – people the armed forces and military intelligence by rote so that these apparatus are merely an aspect of their power. Ultimately pledging allegiance to the City of London (the Crown), the British military is at the same time a policy maker and a policy executor, and the will of the British people is irrelevant when it can be so ably controlled through ancillary components of Government (i.e. the same class of people populating the media). The British people, as dangerous as they could be, are merely to be convinced by propaganda, and they will fall into line with whatever agenda the British Government wants to pursue. It was the same at the time of the First World War as it is now, one hundred years later.

At this point in British history, when the British Government is scheming to keep Britons subject to the EU, it is a good time to look back and understand the conduct of the British ruling class as it connived to engineer a war in which hundreds of thousands of Britons would be killed. The question must be begged: what crime is it not capable of if it can murder so many of its “own people”? For the British Government has not changed its nature in one hundred years, although it may have altered its appearance through the illusion of a political spectrum, elections, and changes of political parties in office. Trusting it is a deadly mistake. Given its murderous nature, to even tolerate British Government is to sow the seeds of one’s own destruction. This is the lesson that needs to be learnt by the passing of 100 years since the end of the First World War.

This series will continue


† 2014, Icon Books

The First World War and the March of Socialism (link)

The case for Britain as engineer and instigator of World War I; an introduction (link)

“Post-911 criticism” applied to the events leading to World War I – and the Café Croissant false flag (link)

It's important to donate to FBEL - please see here to find out why
A PayPal account not required.
T-shirts to protest compulsory face coverings - click image