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Thread: The Butterfly Effect: A British AAR

  1. #1901
    Lord of Slower-than-real-time El Pip's Avatar
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    Chapter LXX: Drawing the Battle Lines


    The opening weeks of the Spanish Civil War were more about political positioning than military operations, the people and regions of the country occupied with aligning themselves to the two sides and drawing the battle lines. Though priorities would change as the various factions waxed and waned the two sides established their core values early on; The Republicans espousing a looser, more federal Spain with a strong anti-clerical streak while the Monarchist would reunite Church and State under the King in strong centralised state working against the 'twin enemies of socialism and secessionists'. For many, both in Spain and abroad, there was no right side, only one that was least bad, a problem keenly felt by the conservative Basque and Catalan parties. While the Republicans offered autonomy, perhaps even eventual independence, they were also fiercely anti-church to the point that their programs would constitute one of the most intense persecutions the Catholic Church would ever experience. Conversely the Monarchist would return the Catholic religion to the heart of the state but at the cost of repressing all autonomy for the regions, power being centralised in Madrid as the nation would be remade as 'One Spain'. The choice therefore was between independence or faith, a far from simple decision for many and one that occupied many as the nation descended into Civil War.


    A firing squad of Republican militia 'executing' the Monument to the Sacred Heart. One of the most well known images from the beginning of the Civil War it's iconoclastic and slightly surreal nature made it far more memorable than photos of Nationalists boarding up trade union chapters. Sadly for Spain the firing squads of both sides did not limit themselves to statues or symbols; tens of thousands of ordinary Spaniards found themselves on the wrong side of the rapidly evolving front lines as grudges and vendettas were settled in the most permanent manner.


    As the people chose sides the leaders of both sides plotted their opening moves and tried to balance the need to wait while forces were built up and militias trained with the need to strike before the other side did. This fear of losing the initiative would lead both sides to strike before they were truly ready, with predictably poor consequences. These opening offensives were perhaps the only truly 'Spanish' campaigns of the war, coming before the flood of foreign 'volunteers' and 'advisers' gave outside party's considerable leverage on both sides' strategic thinking. Certainly it is interesting to note that the two sides, despite all their differences, experienced similar problems and came up with similarly compromised solutions.

    We begin with the Republicans who's preparations had faced a fundamental problem; there was a clear need for a unified command structure to organise the disparate troops, yet they were politically and dogmatically committed to less central control. The solution was an unfortunate fudge and typical of the problems that dogged the Republicans military efforts; a command centre was set up in Valencia for the new Ejército Magnífico de la República (Grand Army of the Republic) but none of it's constituent parts were required to pay it much attention. Thus while the well trained paramilitary Guardia de Asalto (Assault Guards) retained their loyalty to the government the hastily formed anarchist militia columns acted as their locally elected delegates felt they should. Military planning therefore consisted of finding out what everyone was going to do then trying to stitch the many local acts together into one grand plan, perhaps one of the worst ways to produce a coherent strategy imaginable.

    The Republican 'plan', such as it was, boiled down to an attack north to re-take the French border and link up with the 'Northern Pocket' around Bilbao and, in parallel, an attack towards Madrid in an attempt to retake the capital. While either would have been acceptable military options, the northern offensive better for a 'long war' strategy while Madrid was the 'knock out' blow choice, the pursuit of both was a dangerous dilution of strength that left both attacks short of the manpower they needed. However to concentrate on one would mean cancelling the other, or at best making it a diversion, an act that would take more political capital than the embattled President Azaña possessed. That is not to say Azaña was without influence, he did possess an excellent trump card in the shape of the Assault Guards who he kept out of both offensives to act as central strategic reserve, intending to commit them to the most successful attack to claim as much of the spoils at minimal cost. While the other factions were less than pleased with this plan they did recognise the need for a reserve force and could hardly complain about 'not working for the greater good' when they themselves were hardly paragons of that virtue.

    The Monarchist's problems were similar and, despite being less complex due to the lack of factions, no less intractable; General Franco's faction along with the national-syndicalist Falange Española (Spanish Phalanx) wanted an immediate march on Valencia, a mirror of the Republican attack on Madrid, while the Mola faction wanted to attack through Badajoz to connect up Monarchist territory. As with the Republicans the difference was between a knock out blow strategy and a more cautious long war strategy, either being acceptable but not both. Unfortunately for the Monarchists the two factions could not agree and, despite being mostly military men who should have known better, both offensives went ahead with only the barest of co-ordination or co-operation.


    The Madrid offensive was mainly manned by the militias of the hard left as they kept their promise to Moscow that Madrid was the top priority. The Border offensives was far less homogeneous consisting of the many separatist militias (Basque, Catalan and so on) along with the massed ranks of the CNT-FAI (Confederación Nacional del Trabajo, National Confederation of Labour - Federación Anarquista Ibérica, Iberian Anarchist Federation) Militias. On the Monarchist side the Southern offensive was conducted by the Army of Africa and the Falangist militias while the 'Link-up' troops were drawn from the rebel regular army and the Carlist militias that had rallied to the Ejército del Rey (Army of the King).


    Game Notes:
    The war begins and the world is reminded of the difference between a war in the desert and a war in a populated country. While I initially wondered if taking the ideological heat out of the war might make it less bloody there was, sadly, a great deal more to it than that. The 'Red' and 'White' terrors I fear are inevitable, perhaps a bit more subtle to protect British/French sensibilities but still there.

    As to the two sides, the Republicans are fairly divided and will take a while to actually pull together. Expect fun and games as they try and co-operate while pursuing different goals. Equally the Monarchists are not exactly united, as Franco's 'Military Council' knocks heads with Mola's faction, if anything it's less excusable as they all (should) know how bad such infighting is. That said conceding control of the military effort probably means giving up post-war political control so it's not quite that simple.

    On the lack of foreign involvement, I would imagine that all sides would be trying to avoid their 'backers' (from whatever nation) having much influence, after all any wartime favours will be asked back with interest. So while I see a great deal of observers and other shady characters knocking around the place I think all sides would designate grand strategy as 'off limits' in all but the vaguest terms. At this stage at least.

    Next update will cover the actual fighting in Spain, then onto the Conference of Imperial Defence (where we shall see the disposition of the Royal Navy and many other Royal prefixed forces ) before finally onto the Amsterdam Conference.
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  2. #1902
    Man Of Many Wiles Demi Moderator Lord Strange's Avatar
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    HuzaaH! an UPDATE!!!!! Well, its an interesting alternate civil war....
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  3. #1903
    Sexy Punk Rocker Pwn*Star's Avatar
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    My goodness, an update! What has this world come to

    Good to see you back El Pip
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  4. #1904
    British Unionist trekaddict's Avatar
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    Blast. No I have to finish my own update too. Anyway, I'd really like to hear what you think of the developments.
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  5. #1905
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    One day, someone will have an AAR that doesn't have an alternate civil war. Or even a non-alternate one.

    Anyway, here's hoping the forces of liberty and democracy triumph in spain, if only 40 years after the war actually ends.
    I am therefore officially rooting for a Franco-German strike on Russia, prompting the Soviets to strike back with their hitherto secret nukes. This will serve as a salutary lesson to all involved and leave everyone suitably chastened.-El Pip

    Great War: The American Front: Can the United States defeat Britain and its Confederate Lackeys? Or will the CSA defend its freedom against the Yankee Menace?

  6. #1906
    Lord of Slower-than-real-time El Pip's Avatar
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    Lord Strange - I'm back, this time with slightly shorter updates. But a mere 1,000 words. I might even manage to be more frequent...

    Pwn*Star - After moving house, nightshifts, fighting landlords and negotiating with Gurkha guards writing was actually something of a relief.

    trekaddict - No don't do that! I'm 20 pages behind Against All Odds as it is. And I've got half a dozen other AARs to catch up on (Crossfires, Last Mission, Le Jone's epic and a very ropey one by an American communist often seen round these parts. )

    Faeelin - Well you could have the coup succeed or be crushed (not really likely, neither side was that competent) and even then the underlying tensions remain. Your best bet is a PoD sometime in the 1920s, get de Rivera's dictatorship over earlier and have the Second Republic be less manically anti-Catholic. With the church on side (or at least not actively working against the government) the Nationalists would never get enough support for a popular rebellion, thus job done Civil War avoided.

    However from a early/mid 1930s PoD the 1931 Constitution is so violently anti-church (and the leftist parties so vigorous in enforcing it) that something was going to happen and, given the tempers on both sides, it was going to be violent.
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  7. #1907
    British Unionist trekaddict's Avatar
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  8. #1908
    Field Marshal Faeelin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by El Pip View Post
    However from a early/mid 1930s PoD the 1931 Constitution is so violently anti-church (and the leftist parties so vigorous in enforcing it) that something was going to happen and, given the tempers on both sides, it was going to be violent.
    Aye, it's a real problem; how do you break the Church's power in Spain without getting them to leap in bed with the right?

    Anyway, you haven't missed much in Stresemann. The Royal Navy was sunk by the Japanese, before Gandhi's moral superiority forced them to withdraw from Bengal through shows of nonviolence that shamed Hirohito.

    Oh, and the Bismech was unveiled, the culmination of Stresemann's work, and used to subdue Europe. Fun times all around.
    I am therefore officially rooting for a Franco-German strike on Russia, prompting the Soviets to strike back with their hitherto secret nukes. This will serve as a salutary lesson to all involved and leave everyone suitably chastened.-El Pip

    Great War: The American Front: Can the United States defeat Britain and its Confederate Lackeys? Or will the CSA defend its freedom against the Yankee Menace?

  9. #1909
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    And the sadness that is Spain in the 1930s continues...things don't look good for the Republicans already, will Franco consolidate power as efficiently as in OTL? That is the question, if so, he already holds Madrid, and once Badajoz is subdued...the Republicans will have a hard time establishing their legitimacy in a world that feared socialism/communism.

    I remain interested to see what the British involvement in the war will be, and how far into the morass the government will meddle before the morally ambiguous becomes threateningly real and practical...

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  10. #1910
    Fat Cat Public Servant Sir Humphrey's Avatar
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    Another top update. Spain is always interesting with so many different things happening!
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  11. #1911
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    Welcome back - great update with some great action in Spain to look forward to.
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  12. #1912
    saw what you did there Davout's Avatar
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    We sacrifice the page and the update comes. Its just like summoning Cthulu, except without the risk of maddening death at the hands of an ancient cephalopod.

    Thanks for the update, although the Spanish are really facing a no win situation. If both sides are successful, the country will become a giant revolving door as they take each other's starting positions.

    Also, be grateful for the leprechauns, they will keep you in work through the recession. I must say the picture immediately reminded me of the builder, O'Reilly, from Faulty Towers. Now you just need someone from Barcelona.
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  13. #1913
    Lord of Slower-than-real-time El Pip's Avatar
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    trekaddict - You'll probably beat me to completion then.

    Faeelin - Well not writing an explicitly anti-church constitution is normally a good start. Don't set out to separate church and state then write a document that allows the government to meddle in church affairs to it's hearts content. If nothing else you will be accused of gross hypocrisy. Still when has that ever bothered lefties?

    TheExecuter - Well the Republicans do have France on side and they can probably use that to say "We're not communist, we're republican social democrats!" More importantly I think France will have a lot tied up in ensuring a Republican win, though I leave the reasons till later.

    The British position is.. complex. While the government like selling things at a vast profit and protecting British interests they are worried by the morass and getting dragged in. The problem is much of the political damage has been done (the French alliances is definitely dead and pretty much everyone knows Britain is involved in Spain somehow) so there's not much to lose by getting sucked in. As long as it doesn't involve spending money (as opposed to making it) or losing lives, I don't think HMG or indeed the electorate care that much about Spain.

    Sir Humphrey - Spain is indeed very busy at the time, but don't let that blind us to machinations elsewhere....

    Le Jones - Monarchists in Vickers Mark Es facing Republicans in French AMR 35s while overhead ex-RAF Gloster Gladiators clash with I-15s. Truly it will be confusing when all the foreign kit flows into Spain.

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    Thanks for the work boys!
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  14. #1914
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    It remains to be seen how the Basques and Catalans will tilt the balance of this conflict. Interesting setup, all in all.
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  15. #1915
    Welcome back Pip--and with a bang too, excellent update!

    One would tend to think that the Nationalists by nature would be able to pull it all together quicker...

    But the idea of Russia AND France actively assisting the Republicans v. Germany & Italy aiding the Nats... could see the Spanish Civil War running in parallel with WWII for years?
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  16. #1916
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    Quote Originally Posted by Davout View Post
    We sacrifice the page and the update comes. Its just like summoning Cthulu, except without the risk of maddening death at the hands of an ancient cephalopod.
    Funny, i just got my leatherbound edition of the Necronomicon: Best Weird Tales by H.P. Lovecraft from amazon today Too bad the man was a raging racist, he had a great imagination.

    El Pip, have you read The Battle for Spain by Anthony Beevor? And if you have, what did you think of it? I own it, but i never really got through it. Mainly because i found some more interesting books on the WW1 Eastern Front and about Okinawa 1945.
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  17. #1917
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    Great update! It looks like there is plenty of incompetence to share amongst both sides! The good news is that one side will at some point be able to demonstratively prove it has a far greater proficiency at losing... My bet lies with the Republicans
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  18. #1918
    Great to see you back in action, El Pip!
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  19. #1919
    VC, MC and bar Duritz's Avatar
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    Hmm, it looks like one of those scenes from a comedy movie when the hero and the villain push through the secret revolving wall at once and miss each other...
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  20. #1920
    saw what you did there Davout's Avatar
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    Pwn*Star, you should definitely read Beevor's book. He is a very good historian in that the tells a compelling story whilst not dumming it down. In essence, he writes a very good case for the Republicans being essentially doomed from the moment Franco landed in Spain with his Moroccans. Although who knows who will win the sh*tfight in this timeline given France & USSR v Germany, Italy and UK. This could do some real damage to the West's coherence in resisting a resurgent Germany.
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