Paris Peace Conf. 180.03401/75
Notes of a Meeting Held in the Ministry of War, Paris, on Friday, June 20, at 5 p.m.
- America, United States of
- President Wilson.
- General T. H. Bliss.
- British Empire
- Rt. Hon. A. J. Balfour, M. P.
- Gen. Sir Henry Wilson, G. C. B., D. S. O
- Gen. Sir William Robertson
- M. Clemenceau
- Marshal Foch
- Marshal Petain
- General Weygand
- M. Sonnino
- General U. Cavallero
- America, United States of
|Sir Maurice Hankey, K. C. B.||}||Secretaries.|
|M. di Martino (accompanied by an Italian Officer)|
|Professor P. J. Mantoux.—Interpreter.|
M. Clemenceau said that the Heads of Government had invited their Commanders-in-Chief and Military Advisers to hear Marshal Military Foch’s plans in the event of a refusal on the part of the Germans to sign the Treaty of Peace. Marshal Part Foch had already laid his views before the Council of Heads of Government and had subsequently given them a Memorandum of his views. He called on Marshal Foch to explain his plans. Military Action in the Event of a Refusal on the Part of the Germans To Sign the Peace Treaty
Marshal Foch said that the plan was prepared in conformity with the general scheme he had drawn up with the Heads of the various Allied Armies and which had been explained to and approved by the Heads of Governments. The plan was ready to be put in force immediately, this very evening if necessary. Starting from points on the Rhine including Cologne, Coblentz and Mayence and points further south the Army was to advance in the direction of Weimar and Berlin. The object was to compel the German Government, if necessary, to sign the Treaty of Peace. Everything was prepared and the troops were ready. The only question was as to how far the offensive could proceed. Berlin was 400 kilometres from the Rhine. The capacity of the Armies to advance depended on the difficulties encountered from the resistance of the enemy and the attitude of the civilian population which included a large number of men trained to [Page 544] arms who might be organised to interfere with the communications either by cutting them or simply by means of strikes. To prevent this it was unavoidable that the Armies should be weakened as they advanced by the detachment of troops on lines of communications. Considering that the advancing Army would gradually be enfeebled from the necessity of detaching men on the communications this would eventually lead to a cessation of hostilities. If, however, the population could be disarmed it would bring the war to an end so much the earlier. In that line of thought it must be remembered that the Army would have to pass through the Duchy of Baden, the Kingdom of Wurttemberg and the Kingdom of Bavaria. If, by a series of armistices imposed on Baden, Wurttemberg and Bavaria, hostilities could be brought to an end, it would facilitate the march on Berlin. The manoeuvre along the valley of the River Main was favourable to a complete separation of Southern Germany. Further, this was the most direct route in order to secure a junction with the Czecho-Slovak forces and for reestablishing communication with the Poles. Were this accomplished, a concentric movement of the Allied Armies in conjunction with the Poles and Czechs might eventually be carried out for the reduction of Berlin. Hence, Germany could be reduced very rapidly if he had the right to secure the separation of Southern Germany from North Germany by the valley of the Main. To secure this, it was necessary to envisage inflicting successive and detailed armistices on Baden, Wurttemberg and Bavaria, and he must be in a position to deal successively with each. If, instead of thus dealing with Germany in detail, he was compelled to face Southern Germany as well as to advance in North Germany he had not sufficient forces to reach his ultimate objective. His forces would be so depleted and weakened that he would be obliged to stop half way without reaching Berlin. In that case, in order to disarm Germany, the Governments would have to be in a position to reinforce the Armies in proportions that at present could not be foreseen. If he was to undertake an offensive against Bavaria, it was most important that Italy should co-operate thereby advancing from the flank of the enemy on Munich. This was how the problem of the Western Front, that is to say the march from the Rhine to Berlin, must be considered. Later, he would explain how the junction with the Czecho-Slovak and Polish forces must be brought about. They had received their instructions and could at the right moment co-operate in common action against Berlin.
As to the time table of the march from the Rhine, this must be taken in two bounds of 100 kilometres apiece, making a total advance of 200 kilometres which would bring the Armies to the line of the River Weser where they might have to stop for a time. This [Page 545] advance combined with the march along the Main would take from twelve to fourteen days. Hence, in a fortnight the Armies ought to be on the Weser and the question of Southern Germany ought to be settled. The Armies should then be free of their preoccupation of the southern flank and should resume their march on Berlin.
M. Clemenceau asked whether Bavaria would be separated by means of the armistices or whether Marshal Foch would send troops.
Marshal Foch said he would send troops. The first question that he put to the Governments was “will the Commander-in-Chief be allowed to envisage a special treatment for the different Governments encountered in the advance, namely the Grand-Duchy of Baden, the Kingdom of Württemberg and the Kingdom of Bavaria?” In reply to M. Clemenceau he said that what he wanted to know was whether in the event of an application from the Governments of Baden, Wurttemberg and Bavaria to make a separate armistice, he was to be allowed to grant it.
Up to this point, he had spoken only of the offensive starting from the Rhine, but there was also an offensive contemplated from Prague and from Posen which were much nearer to Berlin than the Rhine. If, however, these were to be feasible it was necessary that he should know what action the Allied and Associated Governments intended to take in Czecho-Slovakia. At present, Hungary was attacking Czecho-Slovakia on the south and all the Czecho-Slovak troops were retained in that region. Until the Hungarians had been disarmed, either by a political action or if necessary by a counter-offensive, the Czecho-Slovaks could give him no assistance. In Poland no such problem arose because the whole of the Polish Army was available. In reply to President Wilson he said that there were 21 Polish Divisions, 12 of which were opposite the Germans in Poland and Upper Silesia. In reply to M. Clemenceau he said they had sufficient munitions not perhaps for fighting on the Western scale but when General Haller left, they had 2000 rounds a gun, which was enough for several days’ heavy fighting and more than France had had at the beginning of the War (700 rounds a gun). There was the possibility of action at the right moment but he must ask that the Governments would do everything they could to stop the Hungarian advance against the Czechs. In reply to President Wilson he said that General Haller’s Polish Division had a strength of 15000 men but the other Divisions varied in size and in importance.
M. Clemenceau said that before answering Marshal Foch’s question the Heads of Governments would like to hear the other Generals.
General Robertson said that Marshal Foch had sent him his instructions for an advance to the River Weser in two bounds. He understood his instructions and had no remarks to offer. How far he [Page 546] could go depended upon the attitude of the inhabitants and the resistance offered by the enemy whether by soldiers or by the civilians who included many soldiers. This consideration would affect the railways, telegraphs and telephones, all of which in his own zone were worked by German Personnel. So far as he could see there was nothing to stop an advance as far as the Weser. Beyond that point, the advance depended upon considerations of high strategy on which he had but little information and which it would not be proper for him to offer his remarks as it was the affair of Marshal Foch. He, however, was responsible for the British Army and there were one or two points he would like to mention. He would suggest that it was necessary for the Ministers to foresee and consider whether the advance to the Weser would bring about Peace. So far as his own Army was concerned, if this operation continued on his present front, he would have practically no Divisions—perhaps one or two at the most—with which to advance after he reached the Weser, unless either the population were by some means made friendly or additional troops were provided. The whole of his ten Divisions except for the one or two mentioned would be required to maintain his communications. It was therefore for the Governments to consider what action would be required after the Armies had reached the line of the Weser, in the event of the Germans refusing to sign and the Governments wishing to insist that they must sign. Either a bigger force would have to be put in the field or the terms of Peace would have to be reconsidered. When the Armies reached the line of the Weser, they would be 200 miles inside the frontiers of Germany. Berlin would still be 200 miles distant. They would have no spare men with which to advance. Now therefore was the time to think out how the war was to be conducted then in order to achieve a certain result. He could not tell whether when the Armies had reached the Weser, the Germans would be ready to sign. It was not safe to assume that if Germany declined to sign she would not put up a formidable opposition. Germany had great numbers of trained men and tens of thousands of these were in the zones already occupied. If the German Government chose to organise these it might cause great trouble. In reply to President Wilson he said that Germany still had a good deal of material, he believed, as much as 2000 heavy and 7000 field guns. The question that the Governments had to consider was not so much that of advancing to the Weser, but what to do there if Germany refused to sign.
General Bliss said he had not much to add to what Marshal Foch and General Robertson had said. He thought General Robertson had put his finger on the core of the problem, and what he had said was reconcilable with the general plan of Marshal Foch. If the Germans [Page 547] refused to sign the Treaty, something must clearly be done. He could see nothing else but military action in the form of an advance. If the line of the Weser was reached the Allied and Associated Armies would control railway systems that would put the greater part of 20,000,000 Germans from whom they could otherwise draw men trained for war, under control. If Marshal Foch’s plan of armistices was carried out a further large number of men in South Germany would be cut off from the German Government. In his view it was impossible at present to make a plan for going beyond the Weser but it should be studied from day to day. The armistice plan would be very favourable from a military point of view. The question arose as to whether the Allies had anything worth while to offer those States to induce them to separate armistices. This was a political question. If they refused South Germany might indulge in passive resistance. By the time the Armies reached the Weser, the military and political situation might have developed. It was impossible to tell how far this advance might revive spirits in the East. There would undoubtedly be propaganda to the effect that the occupation of Berlin was only a step towards the occupation of Moscow nor could we now judge what its effect would be on the Czechs and Poles nor what would be the effect of military pressure on Germany. We did not know whether the forces were sufficient: or whether or how great additions might have to be called for: or whether the forces might not get through to Berlin with very little resistance; nor whether when Berlin was reached, the signature of Peace would be any nearer. Something however must be done. Without knowing Marshal Foch’s plan, he had studied the matter with the officers of his own staff, and had come to very much the same conclusions.
General Cavallero said that the question of the co-operation of the Italian Army had only been put to him yesterday by Marshal Foch in a letter which he had immediately telegraphed to General Diaz. He hoped, by to-morrow, to have a reply as to what the Italian Government and Army could do. He thought, however, that the available forces could only be very modest owing to the necessity of maintaining forces in the interior of Italy and the uncertain situation on the Eastern frontier of Italy. As soon as he received General Diaz’s reply, he would hasten to tell Marshal Foch.
Marshal Petain said that he had nothing to object to in Marshal Foch’s initial plan. This was to start from the Rhine and to advance towards Weimar and Berlin. The mass of the forces would be in the valley of the Main, thus separating North Germany from South Germany. He agreed that the advance in two bounds to the line of the Weser should be feasible unless something unexpected happened. He agreed with General Robertson and General Bliss in thinking [Page 548] that a new war would begin after the passage of the Weser. Of the effectives at their disposal so many men would be required on the lines of communication and for the control of the population that very few forces would be left for battle. As regards the French Army, the Armies of General Langain [Mangin?] and General Gerard under the command of General Fayolle were completely equipped with motors and aviation for a long distance campaign. The same could not be said however of the fourth Army further to the south. It was an illusion to suppose that this Army could penetrate into Bavaria. It would not have enough depth or the means for a long line of communications. Consequently, while the forces advancing on the Main would be very powerful the right flank consisting of the fourth Army would be weak. On the left the Army on the Lippe would not be very strongly covered and consequently, if it advanced too far to the east, the position on the left wing would be rather risky. As regards the further plan he had little information as to how far it was possible to use the Poles and Czechs. It seemed to him, however, rather late to consider this now. If they were to be used the preparations ought to have been made some time ago. The same applied to the Poles as to the Czechs.
M. Clemenceau pointed out that now Marshal Foch was Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Army.
Marshal Foch said that the orders to the Poles were to maintain the offensive. They were systematically and consistently to hold on by all possible means and to dig themselves in for this purpose and sustain attacks without giving way.
President Wilson asked whether there was any knowledge of organised German forces in Baden, Württemberg and Bavaria.
Marshal Petain said that very important information had been received that very morning, not only as regards their resources, but as regards the German plan for defence.
President Wilson asked if the plan included a movement from the South.
Marshal Petain said that it did not. He then gave on the map an explanation of the defensive organisation. Resistance was to be made by three principal groups. The total number of men was about 200,000, west of Berlin. These three groups were controlled by a unified and organised command under a single chief.
General Weygand explained that the total forces at the disposal of the Germans were 550,000 men, of whom 350,000 were east, and 200,000 west of Berlin.
Marshal Petain said this was exactly his estimate, but that 200,000 armed police must be added, making a grand total of 750,000 men.
President Wilson asked why, if Marshal Foch’s hopes in regard [Page 549] to the successive armistices were realised, there should be any necessity for diverting forces into Bavaria.
Marshal Foch said he had only contemplated diversions of forces into Bavaria in order to obtain the armistice.
M. Clemenceau said that what he understood was that the march on Berlin was conditioned by the achievement of successive armistices in the south. He did not complain of that modification of the original plan as he had understood it. He thought it was prudent. At all costs anything in the nature of a setback or a check must be avoided. He had been forcibly struck by the fact that all the Allied and Associated Generals were in agreement that a march as far as the Weser was feasible, and that thereafter supplementary troops would be required for the further advance. He hoped and understood, however, that if the Allies were favoured by chance, no further forces would be required. In the other eventuality, however, an increase of force must be considered. He would therefore ask the Allied Commander-in-Chief to consider the development of subsequent operations and let the Council know gradually what was needed. Marshal Foch knew perfectly well that nothing could be got from the Governments without warning them in time. As he understood the plan, the Armies would advance from the Rhine and then forces would be detached towards Bavaria. Possibly the Italians would co-operate in this, but General Cavallero had said that their co-operation would be modest in its extent. Unless by this means the Armistice could be brought about, he understood it was generally agreed that the Weser could not be crossed without the addition of further forces. Hence, he would ask Marshal Foch to consider the further march and the effectives he would require for it.
Marshal Foch undertook to consider this.
Mr. Balfour said he would like to agree with M. Clemenceau, since all the soldiers were agreed that a march direct on Berlin was a military operation that ought not to be adopted, and would only be safe if Southern Germany could be separated from Northern Germany. Since, however, it was agreed that the Armies could only get beyond the Weser if they were either increased in force or if these Armistices were brought about, he hoped that no announcement would be made which would give the impression that the Armies could go further than this. No provisions should be made that we could go beyond the Weser. Some formula might be devised to the effect that the coal fields were to be seized, or some other such object secured.
M. Clemenceau said that the less was said in the press about the advance, the better.
President Wilson suggested there was no need to announce the extent of the advance contemplated, in the press.[Page 550]
M. Clemenceau said this would not prevent the Germans from announcing that the Allies were marching on Berlin.
M. Sonnino agreed.
2. M. Clemenceau said that as the result of the preceding discussion there were two questions he had to submit to the Heads of Governments. The Military Situation in Hungary
First, there was the question of the Hungarian and Czecho-Slovak Armies. In this connection the Council had before them a report prepared at their request by General Bliss (Appendix).
(After some discussion, the Council approved General Bliss’ report, and agreed on the following action:—
- That Marshal Foch should give the orders to General Pellé, Commander-in-Chief of the Czecho-Slovak forces, and take the other action assigned to him in the first part of paragraph 8 of the report.
- That the Secretary-General of the Peace Conference should make the communications to the Governments of Czecho-Slovakia and Hungary proposed in the second part of paragraph 8 and in paragraph 9 of the report.)
3. M. Clemenceau said that there remained now only the question of Armistice. Marshal Foch wanted to know what he should say if the Governments of Baden, Württemberg or Bavaria came to him and said they wanted a special Armistice. The Question of the Armistice
His own suggestion, which he had made in the morning to President Wilson and Mr. Balfour was that Marshal Foch should tell them to send three delegates to Versailles within three days to negotiate Peace on the basis of the Peace Germany had refused to sign.
Mr. Balfour raised the question as to whether the Treaty of Peace was capable of being cut up in this manner. He thought there were many provisions that necessarily applied to the whole of Germany. He suggested that the Drafting Committee should be asked to consider this aspect of the question.
M. Sonnino said that some inducement ought to be considered to persuade these Governments to enter into a separate Armistice. Without it he could not see what benefit they would gain by making a separate peace.
Marshal Foch suggested that they should be made to sign the peace, and obliged to accept their part of reparation according to population. If these States asked for separate Armistices, he would propose to make a reply in the sense that they should send their representatives to Versailles to make a peace on the basis of the Treaty which Germany had refused to sign, taking their share of reparation, according to their population.[Page 551]
In reply to M. Sonnino’s criticism, he suggested that if they considered the inducement was not sufficient, an immediate tax should be imposed on the recalcitrant State.
General Weygand said that M. Sonnino had made a good point. Bavaria, for example, would have no object in signing a separate peace. Hence, he suggested that the Military command should be given authority to adopt a firm administration in order to encourage the people to escape from it by making a separate peace.
After some further discussion, M. Clemenceau told Marshal Foch that he would be sent a formula within three days, and in the meanwhile he suggested that President Wilson, with his experts should consider the draft of such a formula.
(This was agreed to.)
4. Marshal Foch asked for authority to commence the advance immediately on the expiration of the Armistice, that is, at 7 p.m. on Monday next, June 23rd, if, before that time, the Military Germans had not intimated their intention of signing.
He considered it very important from a military point of view to have no delay in starting operations, and to show that we were fully prepared. He felt bound to say that it was the desire of the whole French Army that no further delay should be given to the Germans, as the Army had been concentrated and was in a temporary and uncomfortable situation. Date of the Military Offensive
President Wilson said he had no objection to the advance starting on the date Marshal Foch proposed.
Mr. Balfour said he had no objection.
M. Clemenceau said that there was no objection.
(Marshal Foch was accordingly authorised to commence his advance immediately on the expiration of the Armistice.)
5. Mr. Balfour said that similar instructions ought to be given to the Naval Authorities to commence hostilities on of Naval Action the expiration of the Armistice. Commencement of Naval Action
(This was agreed to.)
6. (The Council approved Joint Note No. 45. by the Military representatives of the Supreme War Council in regard to supplies for the local National contingents of the of the Baltic States. The recommendations of this report are as follows:— Supplies for the Local National Contingents of the Baltic State
- That General Gough alone being on the spot, is in a position to estimate exactly the nature and quantity of the supplies of all kinds to be given to the local National contingents, and therefore that all information concerning such supplies should be obtained from him.
- That it is impossible to arrange the sharing of the necessary supplies between the different Powers until their nature and quantity are known.
It was left to the British Chief of the Imperial General Staff to take the necessary action to give effect to this report.)