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Thread: Against all Odds: The British Empire in World War Two

  1. #4221
    British Unionist trekaddict's Avatar
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    Chapter 220


    A few days after The City of Limerick was sunk, on the 23rd the British Prime Minister met some of his closest advisers, constituting 'Winston's talk shop'. As of last week Sir John Dill was present in place of Gort who had taken the hint and resigned before being officially sacked. In spite of his illness Dill was fast proving to be the right man for the job, because the post of CIGS required as much diplomacy as military skill, and thanks to eating Canadian and British-made antibiotics like others their breakfast, he was in good enough shape to do the job. Churchill respected Dill in spite of earlier clashes, and he was glad that the man had accepted the post. Field Marshal Alexander had not been very annoyed that Dill had been promoted over his head, but had instead been glad that his plan had been approved after some delay. Dill's first act after receiving the shoulderboards of a Marshall of the British Empire had been to tell the Prime Minister that he expected three things from both his men and the Government: first he did not like interference. 'Suggestions' would be accepted gladly, but would be subject to examination and approval of the IGS, he would expect the Ministry of Defence to allow his field commanders leeway and had pointed to the disaster of Jubilee as proof of what meddling did saying that he would back his men to the hilt, and thirdly he had assured Churchill of both his personal loyalty and intention to win the war as fast and as cheaply as possible. That he had been ADC to the King and was therefore backed by palace didn't hurt.

    And yet now he had to brief the PM about how the war was likely to widen even further which barely seemed possible. The IGS had met yesterday, and now he was meeting with the PM aboard HMS Warspite as she was in Scapa Flow, due to go into the dock for a major refit before deploying to the Far East. The PM was officially here to supervise how his favourite Battleship was laid up for the refit where she would receive increased anti-air armament and some upgrades in her electronics and other equipment, but Marshal Dill had flown up here and intercepted him before he boarded the plane to Belfast and then back home. The PM was always up to date on this matter anyway, but he could not possibly have heard all of it, because Dill had gotten off the telephone less than twenty minutes before boarding the plane up north. Dill was not to take over Officially from Gort until the end of the month, but he was already pretty much running things while Gort came to grips with the fact that he had been the one to fall on his sword for the recent costly failures. Dill had been a surprise choice, and it was unclear just who and what had convinced the PM to jump over his shadow and even offer the post to Dill, rumours had it though that Eden had pointed out that a Diplomat was needed on the post more than anything else, because not only would he have to be able to juggle the needs, wants and personal failings of three major front commanders and several more Naval Commands, but also keep good relations with the rest of the Allied nations, for their Armies were essential to victory.

    So very grudingly Churchill had bowed to the inevitable and had appointed the new Marshal, only to discover that the conditions said man connected to acceptance were such that his own influence on the running of the war was diminished even more. Inside the Army 'Winston's daft little schemes' were not particularly well liked, and now even the CIGS was even less open than them than Gort had been. Alas, such was the way of things in politics, at least he could be sure that the IGS was going to competently led.

    The Marshal, the Prime Minister and CinC Home Fleet, Admiral Tovey were sitting in the Captain's Quarters of the Battleship and almost informally discussed the Irish situation. Churchill was not a great admirer of the Irish, having been the one tasked with surpressing the Irish revolt that in the end convinced the Government of the time to propose Home Rule. And yet he understood the situation the Irish found themselves in and lisstend attentively when Dill talked.


    “I have been talking with our man over there before I flew up here, and they say that the Irish are leaning more and more towards joining the war. From what I've been told, most of the civilians in Ireland are torn between being scared, uncertanity about what will happen an a type of fury about what has happened like only the Irish can have.” Dill paused to collect his words. “I believe if they continue to be pushed, they will fight, no matter their relation with us.”

    “As you know their trade deals with us are about to go public, and then we can't re-negotiate them, not even through the poles. We will be stuck with them.”

    “Do I detect a hint of disapproval, Marshal?” Churchill asked seemingly innocent and Dill replied equally innocent with “Not at all, Prime Minister. It is just a statement of fact and also a question if we can afford to part with a large number of military equipment and technology at this point and with the upcoming operations.” After a short pause he added. “After all, Sir, I am not fully aware of just what we are selling them, I haven't been able to pull the files from the MoD before coming here.”

    That wasn't exactly true, but Dill hated to admit it that Churchill was right. He did indeed disapprove of large-scale arms sales to a neutral nation this short of a major operation, but he also realized that the Irish needed to be supported, so the little white lie represented the middle way for him. After all, there were 20 Allied Divisions waiting in North Africa for the front to widen so that they could be deployed, 12 British, chiefly the 1st King's African Rifle Division, another South-African Infantry Division, two more Canadian Divisions, the Quebec recruited 11ème Division Blindée du Canada (11th Canadian Armoured Division) and the 22nd Canadian Infantry Division, together with five French-Algerian Divisions. And that was not all, because now the Divisions that had been formed in the African parts of the Empire on outbreak of the war began to become operational in mass, giving the British an unprecedented manpower reserve that was beyond expectations, even allowing the IGS to keep the remainder of the Indian Army in the Far East. The Allied forces would still be horribly outnumbered, but less so than it had been expected before the war.


    The new Chief of the Imperial General Staff, picture taken in 1941

    Churchill knew none of the Marshal's thoughts even though he suspected.

    “I am sure we can spare some of next month's production of Spits for the Irish? Besides, since the Canadians have decided to send only one additional Armoured Division instead of two we have some vehicles to spare.”

    That these were all meant for either additional African units was besides the point, after all Britain, Canada, India and increasingly the Australians were churning out plenty of war machines, if not as much as it would have been liked.

    “Of course, Prime Minister.” Dill said smoothly.

    “Coming back to the matter at hand, my people tell me that most of the Irish see us as...the lesser of two evils as it were, and most think that the Communists and their friends are clearly the bigger evil.”

    Churchill nodded in agreement and took a sip from his drink.

    “The Irish aren't stupid in that regard but god help me if I know what De Valera expected when he asked the Ivans to apologize.”

    The other men in the room made sounds of agreement but the only politician in the room knew as well as the military men that politics more than anything had convinced De Valera to demand one more than anything.

    “So what do they want exactly?” Tovey asked.

    The Marshal went over the list he had been given by the PM and Tovey suppressed the urge to whistle.

    “That should boost them a bit I should think.”

    “Considering that this is about 500% the number of tanks they ever had combined, then yes.”

    “Can they support this?” Tovey asked.

    Dill knew the answer and explained that RLC and RAC were already and very very quietly assisting the Irish Army in preparing for the arrival and expected training tasks. He also went on to describe the state of the Irish Army.

    The round was however interrupted when the Captain of Warspite knocked on the door and asked for entrance. CinC Home accepted the message, excused the Captain and then read it silently.

    The other two men waited patiently and when Tovey looked up again they knew that it was something big.

    “It seems that we might have to rethink our strategy, Gentlemen. The Axies have begun mining Irish waters.”

    That got their attention, and Tovey could see that the highest-ranking Soldier of the British Empire was itching to make use of the ship's luckily already installed new and expensive comms equipment.



    “How can we know that?” asked the Prime Minister even though he had his suspicions.


    “Well, according to the Irish, so far we have seven atlantic-bound freighters sunk, and according to this an Argentine freighter full with iron ore was sunk off Dublin by a mine six hours ago.”


    “And we only hear of this now because......” Dill asked.

    “Well actually it was originally thought to be sunk by a U-Boat, and it wasn't until one read an eye-whitness report in the Times that it was realized that area was too narrow for that, so it had to be a mine.”

    “And the message is saying that?”

    “Words to that effect, yes.”

    “Christ.....”

    The PM hadn't said anything during that exchange. Inwardly he mused that he would have to quietly make direct contact with De Valera, because if he hadn't lost his touch, then the Emeral Isle was about to boil over, because the Communists were the only ones the Irish hated more than the British.


    “Marshal Dill, what can we do to help them right now if it were so desired by them?”

    “Western Approaches Command has several minesweepers standing by at my orders. I took the liberty of alerting them yesterday.”

    “Good, I should think that the Irish will want them sooner rather than later.” the PM said. “What about the Air Force?”

    “We already have Sunderlands in the Western Approaches, without bases in Ireland itself it's difficult to do more. I think that Coastal Command is keen on them, because it would allow us to close the last gaps on the North Atlantic routes to Canada.”

    The gaps the Marshal was talking about were not long, and could be avoided if one took a northern route that took them within range of aircraft flying from Iceland and northern Scotland, but bases in Ireland would allow the convoys to take the central Atlantic Route and cut much off their transit time. Britain was depending on the booming electrical and medical industries that had sprung up in Canada before the war, for example 80% of the antibiotics that kept the troops at the front alive came from Canadian sources, and only because the industrial Capacity for production in the UK was hampered by a lack of energy more than anything else – seeing that most was needed for the production of tanks, while in Canada a great many former US companies had set up shop. Johnson & Johnson was producing anti-biotics near Ottawa, Raytheon Canada was producing RDF, Wireless and ASDIC sets that were fitted to half the ships in the Royal Navy. Many of these companies had barley survived, and even more had died or been swallowed by existing ones, but now they proved to be extremely valuable for the war effort. In due time, the PM knew, they would also begin producing an Air-to-Air RDF set that would have Cunningham and his Carriers dance rings around the Japanese.


    “So what are we to do now?” Tovey asked.

    Churchill tuned out when CIGS began to brief Tovey on upcoming operations and instead put his mind to other matters. The First Sea Lord was due to retire soon, and would need replacing, and Admiral Tovey was wasted on a job like CinC Home which was, to be perfectly honest now the backwater of the RN, a sideshow since the surface fleets of the Axis powers had been destroyed for all intents and purposes. As First Sea Lord he would not have a combat command, but being the senior Officer of the Royal Navy entailed lots of work, since he would not only battle the U-boats but also the Treasury and Parliament, he had to give Cunningham as CinC Naval Forces South-Pacific Command the ships he needed. The forces of history were moving, and Churchill sensed that the next few weeks would have a big influence on how the world developed for years to come. He hoped that the Allied Armies proved up to the task, because if they did not then god help the Allied cause.
    Last edited by trekaddict; 01-04-2010 at 16:03.
    "That's right, Adolf. The British are coming." - The Eleventh Doctor
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  2. #4222
    Lord of Slower-than-real-time El Pip's Avatar
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    Seems my PM reached you a bit late.

    Anyway interesting to see Dill taking such a front seat in RN and RAF matters, surely the Admiralty would fight to the death to stop a mere soldier directing their mine sweepers?
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  3. #4223
    British Unionist trekaddict's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by El Pip View Post
    Seems my PM reached you a bit late.

    Anyway interesting to see Dill taking such a front seat in RN and RAF matters, surely the Admiralty would fight to the death to stop a mere soldier directing their mine sweepers?
    PM has been answered.

    In an effort to secure something approaching inter-service cooperation, the IGS was turned into something like the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Yankeestan, thus when Dill says "I did such and such" it means that the IGS agreed on these measures, since all the service Chiefs are sitting on the Imperial General Staff. The Admiralty is still very much independent, unlike the Air Ministry which has been folded into the MoD, even though they did have to give up some of their independence in operational planning, and were made to do this in exchange for the shiny new toys ABC is currently using in Darwin as CinC Allied Naval Forces, South Pacific Command (sort of like ABDACOM, only with more Carriers and without the Yanks.)
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  4. #4224
    Monarchist Griffin.Gen's Avatar
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    Hmm, Canada seems to be prospering with the old US Companies and the war.

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  5. #4225
    British Unionist trekaddict's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Griffin.Gen View Post
    Hmm, Canada seems to be prospering with the old US Companies and the war.
    Indeed. Of course only some made it out or wanted to go in the first place, i.e. for example in the case of Raytheon it were merely the execs with most of their know-how and the Company's money, and they would have gone bust had the war not broken out and the need for RDF/Wireless stuff gone through the roof.
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  6. #4226
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    Great series of stories on the Oirish (). Of course Dill, the classic Anglo-Irish British officer (with Brooke, Alexander and a few others) probably understands the mentality of Dublin better than most. I know many critics have attacked just how 'Irish' such officers were, but in Dill's case there was a love of his Armagh roots (although he, like Churchill, was half-American) that appears often in his writing. Whatever his attitude, he grew up there and it must be informing his judgement. But as ever Trek, a great story.
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  7. #4227
    British Unionist trekaddict's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Le Jones View Post
    Great series of stories on the Oirish (). Of course Dill, the classic Anglo-Irish British officer (with Brooke, Alexander and a few others) probably understands the mentality of Dublin better than most. I know many critics have attacked just how 'Irish' such officers were, but in Dill's case there was a love of his Armagh roots (although he, like Churchill, was half-American) that appears often in his writing. Whatever his attitude, he grew up there and it must be informing his judgement. But as ever Trek, a great story.
    Thank you. Wellington's Army on the Penninsula was supposedly half Irish, so I am not that much surprised to know that many of my most important Officers are so too.
    "That's right, Adolf. The British are coming." - The Eleventh Doctor
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    British Unionist trekaddict's Avatar
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    *drumroll*

    Now this piece as not been written by me, but rather by the esteemed Le Jones, since he happens to be better at speeches than me. Enjoy everyone!
    "That's right, Adolf. The British are coming." - The Eleventh Doctor
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  9. #4229
    British Unionist trekaddict's Avatar
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    Chapter 221



    The Englishman (for his manners, deferent air and accent marked him as such) dropped a few coins on the bar and the landlord, a barrel-chested man with an impenetrable muttered intonation, carelessly gave him a tankard of dusty beer. The Englishman caught the look in the Irishman’s eye; there was something there that he had seen all over this attractive, intriguing city over the few days of his visit. It was uncertainty, the realisation amongst big men accustomed to being the masters of their own destinies that now they were pawns in a far greater game.

    The Englishman was called Bill Farr. In a city of curiousities and openness there was the obvious question of why he wasn’t in Italy with Alexander, or manning one of the massive Royal Navy warships in the North Sea, or sitting behind some entrenched position in Singapore or Burma. But then the Englishman’s struggling gait and his uneven posture gave the game away. For Bill Farr’s back was as crooked as a politician. Sipping on his beer (much to landlord’s disgust) he rued the events that had led to this tense afternoon in Dublin. Eager to see fighting, more out of a bored, lower middle class interest in something different than a ‘bloodlust’, he had been turned away by every recruiting officer and had instead drifted into journalism. Kemp, his editor back in London, had spotted Farr’s talent for sniffing out a story and Farr had seen much of the world. And now he was in Dublin, not altogether unsure that he was actually pursuing a red herring.

    The door creaked open and the landlord squinted into the light to see a well-dressed man striding in with confidence. After requesting rum (and receiving a contemptuous look in reply) the man sat down next to the Englishman.

    “Why is it that you bloody English always want to meet in pubs,” the man spoke with a soft, educated Irish accent, the brogue of his native Kerry having been ‘smoothed over’. He had a thin, angular face and glossy, well-groomed black hair. In a city of bright, educated people he seemed at ease, able to more than hold his own in intellectual debate. He also looked far younger than his thirty-five years.

    “And why is it that you always seem happy to piss as many people off as you can?” Farr nodded towards the landlord, who handed the educated man his rum with obvious disliking.

    The Irishman, a civil servant for the Dail Eireann, the lower chamber of the Oireachtas, the Irish Parliament, chuckled. “I might be about to make your dreams of a scoop come true, hunchback.”

    Farr winced at the offensive term, suddenly feeling twelve again. In truth he wasn’t a hunchback but the clerk, O’Hallissy, had seen Farr’s reaction to the insult and had revelled in its use. “Today?”

    O’Hallissy nodded. “This afternoon. Soon enough for us to finish this drink and wander over to Leinster House. I’ll smuggle you in so you can hear the speech.”

    Farr immediately started scribbling in his notebook. “And is it...” he looked at O’Hallissy, who gave the smallest of nods. “Anything official yet?”

    O’Hallissy, the complex man of humble origins who maintained an air metropolitan sophistication, this apparent Irish patriot who nevertheless was a committed Anglophile, smirked at Farr’s eagerness for more information. He decided to make the Englishman beg a bit more.

    “Now why oh why, William, would I allow a British Imperialist like yourself to know what most of Ireland does not?”

    “Because you know that this could be your ticket to whichever embassy you decide you want. It’ll have to be something bohemian, something suitably perverse for your entertainment.”

    O’Hallissy’s sharp, intellectual exterior was only slightly punctured. “A telegram may have been sent to London, yes, but you know I rarely deal with foreigners in my job. We’d best be leaving, anyway.”

    As they walked over to the Irish Parliament, Farr took in the importance of what had been revealed. Farr, like every other Briton, had fumed at Eamon de Valera’s prententious neutrality and had felt a ‘serves you right’ feeling of justice when the Soviets had accidentally bombed the outskirts of Dublin a few weeks ago. His editor had immediately sent him over to cover the reaction from the Irish, which had turned out to be a mixture of disbelief and a genuine feeling that the Soviets could not have been lost and had intended the dozens of dead Irish whose names had been emblazoned across the front pages of the newspapers. It had been a pinprick raid, with a few houses and a printing factory being destroyed, but it had unsettled the Irish public and given them the uncertainty that Farr had seen in the eyes of the landlord at the Ha’penny Bridge Inn. This was Dublin, capital of the genial and neutral Irish Republic, not a frontline wartime city like London, or Paris. De Valera had ridden the swell of rage and incredulity and had was rumoured to be scheming for a demonstrable increase in the Irish defences. Publicly he was attempting to maintain a policy of stubborn indifference, gently telling his people that there was nothing to worry about. But things had only gotten worse.

    As Farr looked with envy at the elegant gait of O’Hallissy he realised how bitterly unhappy the Irishman was with the horrors now being visited on his country. De Valera and the British representative to Ireland, John Maffey, had met and agreed that Irish ports would be open for Allied military vessels. A flurry of trade deals, largely Irish agricultural produce in exchange for Commonwealth technology had been reported to a surprised British press by a Farr fed everything by his Irish friend. Farr had written, on little more than a hunch, that the Germans and Soviets would react harshly, but could not have guessed how correct he would be. De Valera, still seemingly clinging to neutrality, had misread the German-Soviet alliance completely; his bullish expectation for an apology had been met with stony refusal as their actions had spoken for them. O’Halllissy’s Kerry had been spared the worst but nearby Shannon and Tralee had seen their Atlantic-bound ships being sunk within sight of the coast. Soviet submarines were suspected and a wave of anti-Communism, encouraged by the powerful Catholic lobby, had swept through rural Western Ireland. And the noose had tightened still further: the waters off Cork, Bantry Bay and Dublin had been mined and Farr and O’Hallisy had watched helplessly as a South-American merchant vessel had blundered into the mine infested waters of Dublin Bay. The explosion had silenced the city more effectively than a De Valera pronouncement ever would, and Farr, watching it all with this odd acquaintance, had been the first British journalist to convey to the Allied cause the sense of tension, of being on the precipice, that was felt in Ireland. They had read, through his words, of the fury of these proud, religious, contented people, but now that fury had brought German and Soviet submarines to their waters and death off her coastline the fury was displaced by concern over home, family, the future. Now, despite the presence of correspondents from all the major papers, O’Hallissy, ambitious and pro-British, would give him another scoop.



    “It’s grand, but welcoming,” Farr muttered as he was led into Leinster House, former town house of the Duke of Leinster and now the home of Ireland’s Parliament. O’Hallissy looked with interest at a smartly dressed figure who passed them as they ascended the smart staircase. To Farr the building looked very grand: smart, imposing, but accessible, lacking the gothic arrogance of Westminster or the Metropolitan snootiness of Paris. He nodded in approval.

    O’Hallissy led Farr to an office tucked away at the rear of the building. “Wait here, and get you and drag you into a hiding place in the Chamber soon. Did you recognise that man we saw on the stairs?”

    Farr shook his head. “Should I?”

    “Jesus you’re a bad journalist,” O’Hallissy said with a grin. “That was the Polish Ambassador. So the stories are true,” he said the last sentence wistfully.

    “What’s true?”

    “Not now, I might tell you later.” O’Hallissy vanished, leaving Farr alone for a few minutes.

    When he returned it was with a fearsome looking man who carried himself with almost military bearing. He escorted Farr to an adjoining building, an old lecture theatre that the Irish had bought in 1922 as a temporary chamber and which they had been using ever since.

    Farr was led into a fine, semi circular room, complete with dark wood panelling. O’Hallissy dragged him to a small bench where two other men sat. “Take notes, by all means, but keep your head down. Everyone will assume you’re a civil servant. I have to go, I have to work to do.”

    “Am I the only British journalist here?”

    “Jesus yes.”

    O’Hallissy walked away quickly. As the Chamber began to fill up Farr started to craft his report for London. He noticed the worried look on many of the Irish faces; presumably they knew what was coming. Finally, Farr saw De Valera, the Taoiseach, rise to the podium. The Chamber fell into silence.

    “I have called you here,” the Premier began in his stilted, blunt voice, with a gentle, but occasionally sharp Irish accent, “to relate the dangerous situation we are in.”

    “I have always argued for peace for Ireland. Here in Dublin, we have in combination all the dangers which war can inflict. We are a very important point. Our military and marine defences cannot be too carefully organised nor too fully manned. We are a populous city. Our A.R.P., plans for evacuation, for shelters, for black-out, for fire-watching must be fully worked out and the personnel for our A.R.P. services, etc., recruited to the strength necessary and thoroughly trained and practiced. If war comes upon us, it will come as a thief in the night. Preparations to meet the danger will not bring it nearer. It may help to avert it. And if the attack should: come, our preparations made in advance will mean the saving of thousands of valuable lives. If the attack struck us unprepared it would mean confusion, unnecessary loss and perhaps defeat. Since this war began our sympathy has gone out to all the suffering people who have been dragged into it. Further hundreds of millions have become involved since I spoke at Castlebar a month ago. Its extension to the Pacific. brings a source of anxiety and sorrow to every part of this land.”
    “People who did not understand our conditions have asked how Britain's entry into a war would affect our position. From the moment this war began, there was, for this state, only one policy possible, neutrality. Our circumstances, our history, the incompleteness of our national freedom through the partition of our country, made any other policy impossible. Any other policy would have divided our people and for a divided nation to fling itself into this war would have been to commit suicide. When we adopted the policy of neutrality, we had no illusions about it. We knew the difficulties and dangers. We are fully aware that, in a world at war, each set of belligerents is over ready to regard those who are not with them as against them; but the course we have followed is a just course. God has been pleased to save us during the years of war that have already passed. But now, we have seen that the wolf is at our door, and that we are being strangled, throttled” in his Irish lilt this sounded like ‘trottled’, and was said with a surprising passion from the soft spoken De Valera.

    “Ireland is under attack. Cork, Bantry, Dublin, and other ports are blockaded. Irish ships are being sunk within sight of their homes and families. The economic and social problems would tend to become, like the military situation, more and more difficult as time went on and we became more and more isolated. We must become more and more united as a people. We cannot sit back and allow an atheist evil to overwhelm Europe.” He cleared his throat and, a final bitter sting that he was being forced to make this announcement, plunged on.

    “We are now at war with Germany and the Soviet Union. We will enter into an alliance with Great Britain and will pledge Irish support to defeating the forces of evil.” He looked at the younger men in the Chamber. “It is the duty of our men to enrol themselves in the national services. We need all our manpower for defence. For the military and ... we need a quarter of a million men.”
    “It is of primary importance to make sure of the nation's food. I would ask the Parish Councils and the other parish organizations to make it a special concern of theirs to look after stores of food and emergency feeding. With the new turn in the war and the blockade of our home, we may not be able to get enough supplies from abroad. All our efforts should be bent toward securing the quantity required. A great national effort will also be necessary to provide the fuel we shall need. We cannot afford idleness, waste or inefficiency.
    “When we have done our best, we can, as a united people, take whatever may befall with calm courage and confidence that this old nation will survive and if death should come to many of us, death is not the end. “

    [Notes: Bizarrely, this is based on his neutrality speech!]
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    I wonder about how many bottles of whiskey will have been needed by the Taoiseach to swallow the idea of figthing side by side the Brits...
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    The Irish fighting alongside the Brits? Oh dear...
    Very nice job, Le Jones. Keep it up.

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    I recognised a few LeJones trademarks in that one and it was none the worse for it, an excellent cameo.

    250,000 men out of a total Irish population of barely 3 million is significant. Say half men of which 2/3rds are between 16 and 65 there's only 1 million men you could even consider for military service (and frankly you should top cut that even more to knock out the older men).

    I can see why the line goes "For the military and ... we need a quarter of a million men." That '...' section must include all government and related men along with a good chunk of the war industry. Because it just cannot be 250,000 for the military alone, unless de Valera is planning a war economy with complete mobilisation of the nation!
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    Kurt_Steiner What's Ireland's monthly production again?

    Griffin.Gen Italian bars/Pubs better start stocking up on booze and replacement furniture, because by a strange coincidence the Irish Units in the British Army might find themselves alongside the Irish Army.

    El Pip My idea was that at maximum the Irish can send two Infantry Divisions with an attached Tank Battalion and two Fighter Squadrons.
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    Chapter 222



    The teller of the joke was yelling in order to be heard over the roar of the landing craft speeding towards the coast of Italy in the early hours of the 25th April, 1942.

    ““Now what was it ye said ye had become?” says dad.

    Girl, crying again, “Sniff, sniff….a prostitute dad! Sniff, sniff.”

    “Oh! Be Jesus! Ye scared me half to death, girl! I thought ye said a Protestant. Come here and give yer old man a hug.”

    The laughter of his fellow Royal Marines was hearty, even though they were protestant almost to a man, but they knew that the man came from Northern Ireland and was not. The point was that it all helped them put their fears aside and forget that within minutes they might all be dead. The 1st RM Division had never seen action before, but they were well trained and had their share of combat veterans among their ranks, and thus knew of the dangers. Theirs was the largest gathering of British Naval Infantry in recent history, and they had taken a lot of crap from the Army for sitting around, doing nothing and generally looking ridiculous when they walked out in their Marine blues in the middle of the desert which in itself went against their nature as seaborne creatures. The resulting fights between them and the Army had always been satisfactory. Now they about to go to fight against the real enemy and anxiety was gripping all of them. They knew that it couldn't be long now, and sure enough they began to be fired upon from the beach by low-calibre mortars. The terrain at this part of the coast was ill-suited to amphibious landings, but no one would dare risk the fleet hemmed in between Italy itself and occupied Yugoslavia, so instead the Marines were thrown ashore in an area where the sides of the mountains almost everywhere ended directly in the sea. There were only few spots where a landing could be affected and even so it would be difficult. But the Royal Marines had to prove themselves to the Army and the rest of the country and as soldiers they would have done what was ordered even if they hadn't. The section leader glanced over the edge of the Landing craft and he could see that the mountains were towering over the bay, but at least they were heading for the right landing beach. Off to the south-east the Poles were also racing towards the shore even as the bombardment force consisting of Nelson, Anson and five Heavy Cruisers. Overhead and well out of the flying arcs of the shells hurled at the coast the Seafires from the Carriers and the Spitfires from the airfields in southern Italy provided top cover. So far only a group of unlucky Soviet Il-2s coming back from a strike had run into the SAP over the landing zone. The landing craft came under increasing fire, but it was less than many had expected, because the German reserve Division that defended this stretch of the coast had been caught unawares and only their observation posts opened fire at first. Now and then they heard bullets or mortar fragments ding off the hull of their Landing Craft Infantry and they thanked god that they were not sitting in the smaller ones made of plywood. Just when the troops began to wonder about when they would reach the beach towers of water began to rise among the landing craft, telling everyone that the Germans had pulled themselves together. They had at least partially, because the 17 cm Kanone 18 was less than perfect for this sort of work, being meant as a counter-battery gun at Corps level, but they were what the Divisional commander could train on the beaches the fastest, because his own Divisonal Arty had been borrowed by Army Command to reinforce the Divisions down south, and the guns had just been 'passing through' when the British had appeared and while talking about how the British were in love with surprise attacks in the morning the guns had been set up in one of the few pieces of flat ground to be had. It were only twelve guns and the Luftwaffe was still nowhere to be seen in spite of requests put in with OB Süd, so it was all he had.



    The Royal Marines in the boats meanwhile were close to the point where they would have to get out and fight, their landing area stretched from a bit west of the town of Recco to just about south of Camogli where the 12th Independent Polish Infantry Brigade would land. A Division and a Brigade were a small force to be thrown against a Division in a defensive position, but with the Gurkhas, the Donkey Wallopers[1] and the Kars[2] landing right behind them the Marines knew that they were not alone, and anyway their job was not to drive on Berlin, their job was to threaten the rear areas of the Gothic Line, giving the rest of the Army the chance to smash their right flank and initiate a general attack north. That the plan was eerily similar to Jubilee was no concern of theirs, after all the Royal Marines weren't glorified Light Infantry like 'the bleedin' Paras' which weren't liked among the RM.

    When the LCIs touched the shoreline the thoughts of Cavalry, Mountaineers and enemy artillery were forgotten, because now they were going to fight. The metal steps that allowed them to walk down over the edge of the craft were lowered even as accurate and intense rifle and machine gun fire began to seek them out. This was the heaviest on the left flank where the town had stopped and given way to the countryside, ironically those landing amongst the houses themselves experienced the least initial resistance.


    Troops of 3 Company, 2nd Battalion, Bermuda Marine Regiment, 116th Marine Brigade, 1st Royal Marines Division landing in Italy


    Marine Patrick Henderson grabbed his Lee-Enfield No. 4 Mk I* tighter as he marines in front of him went over the edge. He was just eighteen and the comparison to the Western Front in the last war had escaped him. He was far too scared to think about it anyway as he began to climb up the ladder. The view that presented itself to him was unlike what he had expected. Much of the town near the beach was in ruins after the shelling by the Navy and he could see at least four or five fires that sent heavy smoke up into the air, and here and there some of his fellow Marines were shooting at something. The men behind him pushed him forward so had not long to take it all on. As he made his way down the stairs bullets kept zinging off the steps and the boat itself, and Henderson moved as fast as he could towards a small seawall. The attack had been planned for months and the area had been thoroughly reconnoitred so the hut at the end of the pier, or rather the remnants of the same had been selected as the rally point for the Company, so this was where Henderson was headed. He kept his head down, but was still spotted by his section leader. The Corporal in command of this rifle Section had seen Henderson making his way to the RP and was now yelling at him.

    “Get over here, damn you!”

    Henderson obliged and ran down to the others that had assembled under what remained of the pier.

    “Glad you made it, Patrick.”

    Henderson just so pulled himself together and made the appropriate words in return. After a few more seconds the Corporal led them through a hole in the sea wall. In the town the sound of fighting was picking up as the scattered German Field Police and normal troops began to organize themselves. Down along the narrow beach the Marines had mostly neutralized the machine gun posts and were moving landwards. The German Division defending this stretch of the beach was strung out over almost twice the distance the other Coast Defence Divisions especially in Northern France had to cover and, unlike them it, although technically a normal mobile Infantry Division, it lacked even the most basic forms of motorized transport, so it would take some time to concentrate it's forces anywhere. The town had been discounted as a landing zone because of it being relatively urban and the beach being very narrow, so only a single battalion and several troops of Field Police covered the entire landing zone of the RM, with about half of another one that of the Polish Brigade. But again Henderson thought of other things, because as soon as he crawled through the hole in the sea wall the section came under rifle fire from what looked like a fishery supply store. The man to the left of Henderson was hit square in the face and the 7.92x57mm bullet did not leave much of his face. Henderson tried not to think about what it was that was running down his own face as he raised his rifle and fired two quick and barely aimed rounds in the general direction of the enemy. While he did that, the Corporal and the rest of the section had taken hand grenades from their belts and were now throwing them through the open windows. They were rewarded with several explosions and the screams of the enemy wounded. Henderson joined the rest of the section outside as two of his mates went inside and finished off the screaming Germans with Bayonets.

    At the land-end of the pier the Captain was assembling what of his company had made it to the RV so far. The task for the Marines was easy in theory. They were to push into the town and the Germans back so that the Gurkhas could be landed and reinforce them. Once the town was cleared the Marines and the Gurkhas were to take up defensive positions to the North and North-East, holding in place while the Cavalry, Poles and the 1st KAR were to move south and link up with the Army that had broken through by then or attack the Gothic Line in the rear if they had not. The long-term idea was that with the right flank of the Gothic Line shattered or in full retreat, the tanks would then advance out of the bulge and race north towards the Swiss border, thus cutting the remainder of Italy in half or, if not, then at least force the Germans to divide their troops and prevent them from sealing the Allied attack off again.

    The Section with Henderson in it therefore made it's way deeper into the assembly of low houses and narrow roads. Henderson's section was got tasked with reinforcing the assault on a nearby police station where an estimated 'f*ckload of Gerries' were holed up and fired at anything that moved on the main road north. Since the Gurkhas were due to come ashore in less than an hour, Division obviously wanted them gone. The station was a two-storey building that obviously overlooked the road and also commanded a nearby square. This square had a large-ish fountain in the centre, behind which the remnants of the first assault had taken cover. The rest of the small square was littered with dead and dying soldiers, Germans and Marines alike, and Henderson could see that the Germans were not shooting at anything lest they could actually see it. At the moment he was thankful for that 'cowardice', he was not yet experienced enough to realize that they were merely saving ammunition. Chaos reigned in the town and the area around the police station was no exception, as was made clear when Henderson and his section found themselves in what had been a local pub of some sort where the Corporal and some more NCOs were standing around and tried not to listen to a Captain and a Lieutenant tried to formulate some sort of plan with which they could take out the police station without getting them all killed.

    Henderson soon was bored of this and excused himself to answer a call of nature, to that end he walked out of the back door into the backyard. Once there and sure that he was alone, he almost instantly doubled over relieved himself of the eggs and bacon they had been fed with on the ship. When he had recovered enough, he climbed back up to his feet, looked up at the sky and said to himself:

    “If you can't take it... shouldn't have joined the bloody marines then.”

    With that he took hold of his rifle and walked back inside. He was still scared stiff, but his breakdown in the backyard had at least cleared his stomach, so now he could concentrate on the job at hand.

    The Germans inside the station couldn't see much, the British had for the moment withdrawn into the houses around the square and silence had fallen except for the constant noise of fighting elsewhere in the town. Suddenly however the line of houses and windows opposing them erupted with muzzle flashes as the British began to lay down covering fire. Their chances of hitting any of the defenders were minimal, but it was more to keep their heads down than anything, and so none of them saw that two British soldiers rushed forward and took cover behind the fountain and neither that one of them carried a long tube-like device. The two PIAT Gunners were only spotted when one of the more experienced line soldiers took a peek and saw them aiming at the upper row of windows. His yell of “PIA..” was interrupted when the explosion of 3.38 pounds of explosives against the window shutters of the window three spaces down. The shutters gave way and the explosion and splinters raced through the single-room upper floor and gave each of the men there at least slight wounds, three were killed outright. Luckily for them the munitions and grenade boxes did not catch fire or exploded, but it did rattle them up and dampen their spirits, and before they could do anything a second explosion rocked the station as a second PIAT projectile exploded against one of the supporting walls of the lower level. The wall held, but here too splinters did more damage than the explosion itself and so the deaf, wounded and sometimes also dead defenders could do nothing when the British Marines charged.

    Henderson was the fourth through the hole where the main entrance had been and he followed his comrades as they raced through the rooms, killing most of those that were inside. By the time he reached the second floor, it was almost over. As he turned around in an attempt to find something to do, he saw that a heavily wounded German soldier fumbling with an MP40. Henderson pointed his rifle at the man and then...his mind went blank. To pull the trigger never occurred to him, and neither did to simply lunge forward and to finish the job with the steel on the tip of his rifle. He was sure he was going to die, but then someone else shot the German instead.

    “Bugger me sideways, why didn't you shoot?”

    'Because I was scared.' Henderson thought but did not say.



    On the whole the first day of Operation Chronometer went off as planned. While the Marines pushed inland and so allowed the 3rd Gurkhas to begin landing less than an hour behind schedule, the Poles farther south also went in, facing even less resistance than the Royal Marines. Here the Germans didn't have a town to disappear into and fight in, and even the unexpected presence of a reserve company of Soviet Armoured Cars did not hinter this Infantry. As per the plan, the bulk of the two Polish Regiments held in place along the perimeter of the beachead once it was a mile deep, while a single battalion went north-west to make contact with the Marines. While this was going on, 1st Cavalry Division the entirety of 1st Brigade, along with most of 2nd Brigade (1st King's African Rifles) which instantly went to work and smashed through the German Infantry Regiment that had been massing for a counter-attack into the right flank of the Polish forces. Over the remainder of the day the rest of the follow on forces came ashore. The perimeter of the Marines and the Gurkhas was probed all over the rest of the day and the day after that, but no attack materialized. The Cavalry and the KAR however were already aggressively probing southwards along the coast, meeting only scattered resistance at first.

    However after they had stopped for the day they faced a furious attack by two of the three Infantry Regiments of the Division they had landed against. The 1st Mounted found itself outnumbered and duly fell back onto the position of the Peshawar and 17th/2st Lancers. For almost two hours a fierce battle raged, but the presence of British Armour won the day and the Germans withdrew. The Cavalry had fought it's first battle and had braved the fire with minimal losses and good performance. The Peshawar Lancers stood guard as the Mk.VIII Honeys[3] of the 17th/21st moved forward towards the rear areas of the Gustav Line.


    Mk.VIII 'Honey' of 2nd Battalion, 17th/21st Lancers advancing south


    The 1st King's African Rifle Division followed behind and secured the supply lines of the Cavalry against stragglers and flank attacks, but that was not meant to last. For the moment however Operation Chronometer had succeded almost beyond expectations thanks to indifference by the OKW, distraction of OB Süd and audacity on the part of the Allied troops.



    [Notes: This operation is correctly seen by both sides as the last throw of the dice. If the Allies do not manage to decisively break through in the spring of 1942, then we have trench warfare and the numerical superiority will eventually force the allies back. So yes, Alexander is desperate enough to try something this stupid.]


    [1] The term Donkey Walloper is British Army slang for a member of the Cavalry, or the Royal Horse Artillery if you're in the RA. It's reasonable to assume that the RM has adopted this too.

    [2] Slang for the two King's African Rifle Divisions.


    [3] Now the model of tanks the Light Regiments would use did give me a bit of a problem until I realized that very early on in the AAR when I was still slaving myself to the techtree of the game, I had the British copy the M3 Stuart after an example defected from the UAPR to Canada. It is taken apart, studied in detail, improved and bang, problem solved. Changes include: a larger turret to accommodate the 75mm gun (a version of the one that went into the Cromwell in OTL) and a third man, along with a different engine to ensure greater commonality with the rest of the RAC. Picture the above M3A3 with a larger gun.

    Once again the structure of 1st Cavalry Division for your enjoyment:

    1st Cavalry Brigade
    Peshawar Lancers (Armoured Cars)
    17th/21st Lancers (Light Tanks
    1st Mounted Infantry Regiment

    2nd Cavalry Brigade
    11th Hussars (Prince Albert's Own) (Armoured Cars)
    1st King's Dragoon Guards (Light Tanks)
    2nd Mounted Infantry Regiment

    3rd Cavalry Brigade
    12th Royal Lancers (Armoured Cars)
    13th/18th Royal Hussars (Light Tanks)
    3rd Mounted Infantry Regiment
    Last edited by trekaddict; 07-04-2010 at 11:40.
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    Upgunned M3s? Hmmm... you're still looking for that razor edge of balance that an MBT needs, don't you?
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    Lovely update Trek, full of action and with some great maps/images.

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    I'm glad to see that we know the same jokes.
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    Finally caught up. You have a superb style trekaddict

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    Nice Anzio-style landing. You gotta love the RMs.

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    Ciryandor Not really. The Light Tanks are just that, a lighter and more easily transportable component of the Cavalry that can move faster and over rougher terrain than it's full-size brethren. The upgunning is so that they have something that can at least theoretically kill German Armour should it be encountered, even though the Cavalry isn't meant to fight Panzer Divisions. The MBT Concept will most likely come later with the Comet or the Centurion.

    Le Jones Thank you.

    The Bermuda Marines were a rather sudden invention when I needed a name for the Regiment. They are named after the Marine Force that helped guarding the conference that eventually led to the New Empire.

    Kurt_Steiner I am listed as protestant myself, even though I haven't been inside a church on sunday in years.

    MidEvil Thanks!

    Griffin.Gen Without General Lucas *spit* it even works so far. You have to remember though that both sides have fewer forces in the theatre at the moment.
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