How would Britain have intervened in the Second Schleswig War?

stevev

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Apr 2017
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Fighting began on Feb 1, 1864 and the Austro-Prussian forces quickly overran Holstein but the offensive slowed in Schleswig which had a mixed population but mostly Danish. The fighting took place in severe winter conditions with frozen rivers and coastal seashore ice. British PM Palmerston wanted to intervene supported by British public opinion but opposed by some in the Cabinet and the Queen. Britain had a naval advantage and 30,000 Royal Marines. Austro-Prussian forces were at least 50,000 and the Danes about 38,000.
 
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Edric Streona

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Feb 2016
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30 000 Royal Marines but they are scattered around, unlikely to get more than 5-6 000 in one place.

Britain if it did get involve would first require an alliance with another power, France being most likely as they were close geographically and it’s easier to combine forces. possibly Hanover could be convinced to send a contingent.... but France most likely.

If that was done an Expeditionary Force could have been dispatched, this is unlikely to have been more than a single Corps. During the Trent crisis Britain had planned an initial Expeditionary force of around 65 000, though we should consider the stakes in that situation were much higher. I doubt Denmark would receive that level of commitment. I wouldn’t see more than a single corps of 2-3 Divisions. But I’d stress this would be dependent on at least one major ally. That’s if she went direct intervention which would be the only meaningful way to do it.

She could engange in less risky policy of naval support, blockading and bombarding coastal areas combined with Royal Marine raids.... but these would be of almost meaningless strategical value and 0 help to Denmark itself.

Finally she could opt for a officially neutral position but allow a “legion” of volunteers from the army/society to uniform up and go over not as official British help, in the manner of the British legion in the Carlist War. I’m not sure how big/popular this Force would be... could be as minimal as a battalion- maybe a brigade - possibly a division....
 
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Larrey

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Sep 2011
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Bismarck factored in this possibility in his plans, but concluded there Britain would be unable to raise enough troops fast enough to matter, and so blithely (and correctly) ignored British threats of intervention.
 
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Edric Streona

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True enough. For direct intervention to be possible Britain needs to begin preparations 2-3 months earlier...
 

stevev

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Apr 2017
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Somehow that got posted by mistake. I was starting to write: I wonder if Britain's intervention could have made a difference in the outcome and would France be willing to help. However I wanted to do some research because the war was fought in two parts with a truce in between.
 

pikeshot1600

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Jul 2009
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With Britain keeping a wary eye on the balance of power in Europe in the mid 19th century, any intervention in Schleswig-Holstein was highly unlikely. Frankly, with the Indian Mutiny not very long in the past (1857), Britain's military concentration was on the Indian Army and the Brit domination of it. Unless it was something that could emphasize Britain's naval strength, intervention was neither likely nor reasonable.
 
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stevev

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Apr 2017
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True enough. For direct intervention to be possible Britain needs to begin preparations 2-3 months earlier...
Palmerston, whose power largely depended on public support had stated in late 1863 that if Denmark were attacked by Prussia and Austria "Denmark would not be alone." In 1862 The Prince of Wales had married Princess Alexandra of Denmark and she quickly became very popular in Britain. The of idea of two great powers ganging up on "little Denmark" was repugnant to the British population (or at least the press universally said so). So Palmerston was under pressure to do something. However preparations were halfhearted and the Admiralty was making excuses like the ice in the Baltic Sea, etc. When finally pressed to do something Palmerston said "The Queen won't let me".

However suppose Britain did make make serious preparations which included help from France and Sweden so that the force numbers were about equal.
 
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Edric Streona

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Feb 2016
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Would Sweden help Denmark? They were local rivals and seeing Denmark weakens might help Sweden.

If British/Franco-British help was involved we might also consider that either the Prussians would not bother at all or send a stronger force.

While popular sentiment may have backed Denmark, I’m not certain this translates into supporting a war.