The Barbary Coast Opening

By Dorian Love

There are occasions on which a strong Anglo-German-French alliance is desired. Clearly then the aim of the allies will be to push forces into a forward position as quickly as possible. There are of course only two theatres in which this is possible, a push through Scandinavia and into Russia, and a rapid deployment to the Mediterranean. This article will deal with the latter.

England and France will use their opening moves to send fleets steaming into the Mediterranean Sea and threatening Italian lines as early as the Fall of 1902. The aim is to get three French fleets and one English fleet into position so quickly that the Eastern powers will be less likely to be able to either prop up the Italian position, or to exploit her fall. So early in the game thoughts of forming stalemate lines will be far from the mind.

A quick look at the French Opening moves annotated in the Interactive Opening Library on the Pouch, suggests that The Vineyard Opening (F Bre-MAO, A Mar-Gas, A Par-Bur) offers the quickest route to the Med. However, the very strength of this opening, the fact that the Fleet in MAO and the army in Gascony provide proof against an English stab on Brest, creates a less than forceful entry into the Med.

While Portugal or Spain can be captured from Gascony, via convoy in the case of the former, directly in the case of the latter, and an army in Burgundy can cover Marseilles or help influence the fate of Belgium, only one build is possible if MAO is to remain in French hands ready for an assault on the Med in 1902. This build can be made in Marseilles, putting two fleets in the Med by 1902, but this hardly represents a lightening blitzkrieg against Italy.

The Barbary Coast Opening seeks to move an English and a French fleet towards the Mediterranean by the quickest route, and to exploit French builds to move a further two fleets into the Mediterranean theatre by Fall 1902. Crucially the English will occupy North Africa, hence the name of the opening, for which suggestion Edi Birsan needs to be acknowledged.

The Opening assumes the existence of an alliance between France, Germany and England, but it can still be pursued in the event of a hostile German, but then all English efforts will be concentrated on containing Germany, while the French in Burgundy will need to assist in seeking Germany's downfall.

The very fact that France is attacking Italy with such single-minded purpose should help create a situation where England will greet an alliance with France with less suspicion than is normal, and if a Triple Alliance with Germany is possible, so much the better. A single army in Burgundy will be used to influence the fate of Belgium and to secure peace with Germany, or its downfall.

All Diplomatic efforts must be expended in isolating Italy, the military target of the alliance in this Opening.

The Barbary Coast Opening uses a traditional Atlantic Burgundy Opening in the Spring, combined with an English move to the Channel.

Spring 1901
F Bre - MAO
A Par - Bur
A Mar - Spa

(English F Lon - Eng)

The English move to the Channel may allay suspicions of an EFG and can be exploited diplomatically. These moves should not alarm Italy particularly, and since Marseilles is deserted, indeed it should give comfort to the Italian that no move on Piedmont is intended.

The army in Burgundy can be used to cover Marseilles, influence the fate of Belgium or even occupy her.

Fall 1901
F MAO - Spa(SC)
A Spa - Por
A Bur (influences Belgium or defends against an Italian move on Marseilles)

(English F Eng - MAO)

With two Iberian centres captured, two builds are guaranteed, and one fleet has already entered the Mediterranean theatre. At this stage, all surprise against Italy is lost. This is unavoidable, or almost impossible to argue convincingly, although it may be worth a try. "I'm sure I wrote North Coast!" Blitzkrieg is not meant to deceive, it is meant to defeat by force majeur.

The English fleet movement puts an English fleet within reach of the Mediterranean and may also be used to throw a diplomatic smokescreen over the proceedings, casting doubt over Anglo-French co-operation. Germany's role in the alliance can yet be masked.

Winter 1901
Build F Mar
Build F Bre

The 1901 Builds put a second fleet in the Mediterranean and the third French fleet in Brest is ready to move to the Mid Atlantic, gateway to the Med.

Spring 1902
F Bre - MAO
F Mar - Lyo
F Spa(SC) - Wes
A Por - Spa
A Bur - Mar

(English Fleet MAO - NAf)

(German A Mun - Tyr)

A fourth fleet is now ready to enter the Med, and an army is in Marseilles ready to attack Piedmont, which the Italians have probably now occupied. The Italians will in all likelihood have built a fleet in Naples which can enter the Tyrrhenean Sea, and may have used their Fleet in the Ionian to convoy an army back from Tunis if they opened with the Lepanto, or back from Albania or Greece ready to defend the mainland. Alternatively the Ionian Fleet may have occupied Tunis, putting two Italian fleets in the Med to hold the line.

This makes the appearance of the English fleet on the Barbary Coast so vital as with three fleets facing a possible two, the use of a cut support must succeed, and Italy will lose the Tyrrhenean Sea.

At this stage a German army may enter Tyrolia, even under pretence of supporting the Italian, putting the entire Italian line under threat.

The Barbary Coast Opening after Fall 1902
Fall 1902
F Lyo c A Spa - Pie
A Mar s A Sa - Pie
F Wes s English F Naf - Tun
A Spa - Pie

(English F NAf - Tun)

(German A Tyr - Ven)

If all has gone well, an army has entered Piedmont, the German allies have entered Venice, and Tunis has fallen to the English, but even with only one or two of these results, the Italian position will be untenable.

However, for France, no build has been made in Fall 1902. The urgency of gaining tempo must take precedence over any thought of securing a build in 1902. Should the allies wish it, France might be given Tunis instead of England, or perhaps Belgium in 1901.

Dorian Love

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