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Old 08-02-2014, 05:14 AM   #321
Anders
 
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Default Re: New Reality Seeds

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There will probably be one within a decade. The organisation of armies of the time, with large pools of reservists who take time to mobilise, and the need for pre-planning of the railway movements that get them to the right place make it advantageous to be the side starting a war, if it looks likely to happen anyway.

The alliance systems that drag in more parties to any dispute that gets serious, and the lack of wisdom of several of the governments of the time ("a big hand for Kaiser Wilhelm II!") mean that wars always look plausible.
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WWI would be fantastically difficult to stop. Yes, you could delay it a bit, but I really don't see it being stopped, and I don't see delaying it or even hurrying it along a few years measurably changing the outcome. The military technology won't do anything useful until the war actually happens, and any one of British tanks, American manpower, and Austrian collapse were enough to finish the war for Germany (all of them showed up in force at once).
What can I say? Everyone thought a war between the USSR and the USA was inevitable. Everyone thought a conflict between Britain and France in the 1850-1900 (when they colonized the world) was inevitable. Doubtless there are other cases of such things. Wars aren't inevitable, in fact there's data to suggest they follow a Poisson distribution, meaning they start more or less at random.
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Old 08-02-2014, 05:31 PM   #322
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The lines would be more fluid, but indirect fire artillery (with and without forward observers) was the big killer.

A more interesting variant would have some of those lessons driven home earlier, with time to assimilate them before the fighting starts. African history is not my forte, but (for example) let Krupp back the Boers against the British, as a way of testing artillery under field conditions (a la the Spanish Civil War for WWII).
And the artillery would be more accurate with the aid of the gunnery tables generated by the difference engine (funded by the British admiralty). Would tanks have made it past the trial stages with better artillery to compete with?
I can see aircraft having an earlier advantage without the machine gun to shoot them down.
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Old 08-02-2014, 09:05 PM   #323
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And the artillery would be more accurate with the aid of the gunnery tables generated by the difference engine...
Doesn't matter as much as you might think. IRL, tactical doctrine for the employment of artillery in WWI never quite caught up with what was technically possible. Increasing accuracy without improving doctrine would just be a waste.

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Would tanks have made it past the trial stages with better artillery to compete with?
I expect so: reliably killing tanks with artillery takes guided warheads or multiple submunitions, neither of which were technically feasible. Without that threat, the factors favoring the development of tanks remain much the same.

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I can see aircraft having an earlier advantage without the machine gun to shoot them down.
Advantage for what, though? Bombers would still be vulnerable to lighter, faster aircraft dropping (e.g.) grenades on them. Those pursuit aircraft are still vulnerable to sniper fire or free-flight rockets. You might not have dog-fighting, but an arms race in the air would still occur and limit the application of air power.
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Old 08-02-2014, 10:25 PM   #324
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What if the right guy was a observer during the Civil War. Someone who had the ear of senior officers and could convince them that modern weapons meant that tactics had to change. You wouldn't get the full change to what they were late in WW I but if one of the armies had even made some changes to tactics and were predisposed to changing them because they expected to need to. Any good candidates? For which country?
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Old 08-03-2014, 07:42 AM   #325
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What if the right guy was a observer during the Civil War. Someone who had the ear of senior officers and could convince them that modern weapons meant that tactics had to change. You wouldn't get the full change to what they were late in WW I but if one of the armies had even made some changes to tactics and were predisposed to changing them because they expected to need to. Any good candidates? For which country?
Why wouldn't they have the tactics used at the end of WWI? While the Bolsheviks and the White Movement weren't particularly involved in that conflict (being busy actually fighting the Civil War), they could see what was going on there.

Hmmmmm... Aiding the Bolsheviks would lead to what happened in our timeline, so let's assist the White Movement. Even with the edge in tactics, logistics, and strategy, they'd have a long fight ahead of them. And some of the White Movement were tsarist; they might not let Poland, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia declare independence. But at least there wouldn't be a huge Communist "Red Menace" in the 1950s - and that would change politics halfway around the world, in the USA.

(Or are you thinking of a different Civil War, not the one in Russia in 1917?)
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Old 08-03-2014, 08:26 AM   #326
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I think he means the U.S. Civil War.

What if there had been a North-South split in 1783? From what I understand, the states weren't always a big happy family but more of a regular family.
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Old 08-04-2014, 06:21 AM   #327
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I can see aircraft having an earlier advantage without the machine gun to shoot them down.
I don't think that the lack of machineguns offers much of an advantage (or at least as much of an advantage as you suppose) to early aircraft.

The conditions specified still permit quick firing artillery on high angle mountings firing case shot i.e. early anti-aircraft guns and this is before we consider the potential for fighter craft.

Counter attacking with smaller armed aircraft remains perfectly viable. Even without machineguns there are a wide range of possible strategies for interception. Thrash has already mentioned a selection including attacks with grenades or darts, rockets and conventional rifle fire.

If anything the lack of machine guns will be felt more acutely upon the defending side. Aircraft are not ideal gunnery platforms for handheld weapons (or those on flexible mountings), particularly when you are firing at fast moving and fairly agile targets. Even with machineguns defensive fire from bombers was less effective than the offensive fire from the fixed guns on fighters. The same should hold true for rifles, bunches of rockets or small cannon (assuming that the aircraft can support a flexible mount for one at all).

On top of this faced with the threat from aircraft there is nothing to stop somebody from going back to weapons using a simple conical bullet trading off long range accuracy for ease of handling and employing some sort of fast cycling repeater mechanism.
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Old 08-04-2014, 09:09 AM   #328
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Counter attacking with smaller armed aircraft remains perfectly viable. Even without machineguns there are a wide range of possible strategies for interception. Thrash has already mentioned a selection including attacks with grenades or darts, rockets and conventional rifle fire.
Grenades, darts and rifle fire were all tried early in WWI, and were replaced by machine guns, because they hardly ever hit the target. Rockets might do you some good, but are fairly heavy, and firing them from a wood-and-cloth aircraft without setting it on fire is challenging.
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Old 08-04-2014, 10:12 AM   #329
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Without machine guns Zeppelins and other airships, may become more viable. It was the MG with incendiary bullets that ended the Zeppelin threat, but some other weapon may prove as effective.
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Old 08-04-2014, 11:26 AM   #330
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However when Hiram Maxim went to develop the machine gun the higher fouling and added technical difficulty of a hexagonal bullet stumped him and he choose to work on steam powered flight instead.
What happens when WW1 is fought without the aid of the machine gun.
Looking at Whitworth's design, I don't think hexagonal bores would have survived the introduction of smokeless powder. The higher velocities that made possible caused solid lead bullets to come apart in conventional rifled barrels, and that's going to happen at least as badly in hexagonal bores.

The answer to that was stronger bullets: the FMJ bullet was invented in Switzerland shortly before smokeless powder. FMJ bullet envelopes are made by drawing, and doing that for hexagonal shapes is going to be harder than round ones.

So a success for Whitworth may create a diversion from a straightforward technological trajectory - rather like the way the British Royal Navy used rifled muzzle-loading artillery from 1860 to 1880 - but it seems unlikely to last. Maxim may not invent machine guns on schedule, but someone else will.
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