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

  1. #4281
    British Unionist trekaddict's Avatar
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    Just as Germany consists of Würtemberg and those other useless bits of territory that we somehow picked up over the years. *nods*


    I see what you mean though, hence why I used the Confederational approach.
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    I was thinking more along the lines of OTL Iraq today is what would happen, as every individual state would probably have people that would chafe under going back to a more federal system; not to mention such a system being forcibly implemented on them by foreigners, how much more Redcoats.
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  3. #4283
    British Unionist trekaddict's Avatar
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    Chapter 225




    The wounding of Field Marshal Rommel in the car crash had done the Axis no good, but even if he had not been lying in the field hospital unable to move due to a leg broken in two places and a cracked rib, hating every moment of it the situation would have been dire at best. Estimates had it that the British forward tank units were less than fifty miles from the swiss border, and Milano was reporting regular air attacks. The Allies were apparently trying to soften up the city. But unknown to them the city was undefended and crammed full with refugees. Berlin and Moscow alike had pressed von Thoma to defend it anyway and at all costs. However von Thoma had pointed out that even if he managed to move units fast enough over the shattered transportation network would be hard enough even if it wouldn't be bombed daily, also given that co-ordination between the forces to the west and east of the Allied breakthrough was next to impossible given the conditions any attack made by either side would most likely be repulsed. In the west the French 7th Army had joined up with the northern covering force and relieved the Marines (who were supposed to go to the Far East) and only the need to resupply and consolidate the position (especially for the tanks) prevented the Allies from driving straight for the French border. In the west what remained of the Gustav Line was buckling under the weight even as the Soviets and to a lesser extent the Germans threw in reinforcements from Austria and occupied Yugoslavia. That this only exacerbated the insurgency in the mountains of the balkans would have consequences many years down the line, but for the moment it provided OB Süd with an additional reserve of forces. Ironically even though they had the greater numbers the Axis forces were unable to send more at the moment. Hitler insisted on not cancelling Weserübung and in the Far East Operation Thunderstroke was about to be launched which in itself would have made reinforcements impossible at the time even without the distances involved. Operation Thunderstroke will be examined later, at the moment it suffices to assume that the Red Army was in the rather uncharacteristic position of finding itself short on Operational units. This however did not mean that the Allies just rolled through Italy without meeting resistance in this first week of May. Von Thoma consulted with Rommel before the Field Marshal flew back to his native Heidenheim to recuperate among his family, and decided that the remaining line units would conduct a fighting withdrawal to a rough and arbitrarily drawn line that ran from some dozen miles west if Tirana near the Swiss border from where it followed the valley of the Oglio river, ran along the shore of Lake Iseo to where the mountains and began to turn back into hills, then south-east north of Brescia along the edge of the higher mountain ranges until it met with the shore of Lake Garda near the old Headquarters of OB Süd at Salo. On the eastern bank it ran from roughly two to three miles north of the settlement that had given the lake it's name, ran west, crossing the Adige valley, running towards the coast past Lonigo and Monselice, reaching the sea near where the modern-day E55 bridge crosses the bay of Venice.


    German Anti-Tank troops retreating after the breakthrough



    Canadian soldier belonging to the 42nd Highlanders of Canada



    Hitler was less than pleased with Venice, the biggest prize remaining in Italy thus placed almost within Artillery range, but upon being questioned in regards to this von Thoma pointed out that his forces were not only split between two fronts about to become separated in the long term, but also that this was the line where the terrain was most advantageous to the defenders. He also begged the Führer to release 20th Mountain Army under General der Gebirgstruppen[1] Dietl (2nd, 3rd, 6th German Mountain Divisions, to be joined eventually by three Soviet Mountain Rifle Divisions which would also bring a promotion to Generaloberst) for use in either the Alps in the east or to shore up the critically short forces in the west. Hitler of course refused over the objections of the OKW. Another problem was where to employ these elite Mountaineers. In the west, where the French were obviously gearing up to drive into their homeland and thus prevent France from falling and having Germany with her back against the wall, or in the east where the rest of the allies were forcing the Axis forces to retreat. Von Thoma was ordered to Berlin to consult with the Führer, but cited the unclear situation in the air as the reason why he could not fly and the unacceptably long time away from the front as why he couldn't take the train. Coerced by his staff and a surprisingly far-sighted Goebbels convinced him that the interim General should have time to at least try and get the front stable again. This also opened up the question of what to do with Rommel. Hitler was displeased about the loss of Italy and would have liked to send the Field Marshal to some backwater posting, but for the moment the man was still too popular within the general populace and the Army itself.


    In the end though it were the Allies that presented the solution when late on the 12th a forward patrol of Infantry was met with the Italian voices of several Swiss border guards. The fact that the Allies had cut Italy in half didn't matter much for events playing out in the Pacific at the same time, but they did persuade Hitler to cancel Weserübung and generally all further offensive operation in the German area of Command until the Allies in Italy had been dealt with. It wasn't until after the war that Denmark, Sweden and Norway would know how close they had come to be dragged into the war at this point in time. Field Marshals Halder, von Rundstedt, the Soviet Military Representative and a few key members of the Abwehr and OKW planning group met with the Führer on the 13th to determine the command situation, because it was clear that OB Süd couldn't cover the front anymore with the old brief from when the Allies had first invaded. The older two Field Marshals argued that Rommel, whom they considered an upstart and far too reckless Officer to be trusted with anything more than a Corps, be relieved and sent somewhere where he couldn't do much damage, while the planning staff and the Soviet representative argued that he had shown considerable skill in defensive operations, having held the Allies for as long as he had and with the forces available and thus should be retained as OB Süd or at least be given a similar command. It was then pointed out by a Paratroop Colonel on the group that while the Field Marshal might have displeased the Führer, in the eyes of the German people Rommel was the Hero who had helped smash France and held the Allies for a long time.

    The Problem was that while Hitler favoured keeping both battlefronts under the auspices of OB Süd, the OKW argued for a split command (but just how the split was to be done was something else entirely) and the Soviet was still wondering if Stalin would ever allow so much opposition by his top Generals. Hitler was about to dismiss the Officers when he apparently had come to a decision after all. He decreed that the command was to be split thus, Army Group Southern France under OB West, using the follow on forces earmarked for the cancelled Invasion and some additional Mountain Forces currently undergoing final training, along with forces currently part of the general strategic Reserve in France, and that Rommel would eventually take over this command once he was able to work again. OB Süd would move it's Headquarters to Vienna and there conduct the defence of the Alpine regions until a general counter-attack could be arranged. To this end 10th Mountain Army would be allocated to OB Süd, after all the defence of the Fatherland was of prime importance, and Rommel was more than competent enough as an Army Group Commander.


    On the Allied side the news of the cutting up of Italy was met with muted elation. The news from the Far East was exceptionally bad, considering that a Convoy was currently at sea carrying critical supplies that were needed at Singapore, above all replacement Aircraft, and had been forced to turn back.




    The Japanese plan was weeks behind schedule at least the parts in Burma. Singapore still held, but unfortunately so did the line in central Burma. Fortunately for them the Burma front required little in shipping, so the attack on the DEI could go in as planned, even somewhat earlier since the initial Naval Battles against the Americans had gone better than expected.[2]

    However the unexpected resistance of Singapore and the presence of considerable air-power there forced the Japanese to try and neutralize them at least to the degree that they were unable to interfere with any Japanese landing operations near Sumatra and Java. The landings in northern Borneo were outside of Fighter Range and could be covered by Japanese Air-Power from Carriers operating south of the Phillipines where the last remnants of the local Army were holed up in the old American Fortress of Corregidor, besieged behind their last defensive line and expected to surrender any day now.

    To facilitate at least temporary Air superiority in the south the Japanese hoarded an (for the time) impressively large number of Aircraft there, stripping the Kwantung Army and the Central China Army almost completely bare of fighters and bombers, and launched a sustained air campaign against Singapore during the last weeks of April and almost immediately the fighters protecting Singapore were fighting for their lives. During three weeks of brutal air combat RAF Malaya Command was effectively knocked out. Pilot losses were heavy, with fourteen killed and seven wounded, among the latter also Wing Commander Dashwood. However, aircraft losses were much more severe and strangeling to the defence. Replacements were hoarded in underground shelters, but they needed to be assembled and the attacks that had knocked out two of the three main airfields and heavily damaged the third had also killed a lot of the support personnel so that even if the pilots had not been dead, there would have been no one to assemble and maintain their aircraft. The wireless transmitters and the telegraph cable were still active, and replacements were requested – to be sent aboard the abortive convoy from reserves and the Royal Australian Air Force. What also worked again after the repairs to the above-ground parts was the main RDF station on the Island, and as soon as it detected the Japanese Invasion forces on the 12th the news went to India and then Australia and Batavia as unconfirmed since AM Browning was unwilling to risk even one aircraft on that day. British Borneo was attacked on the 12th and virtually overrun within less than two weeks, against resistance only by militias that melted away into the jungle as soon as the Japanese threatened to overwhelm them. Borneo would not be a happy place for occupier and occupied alike. On Sumatra the Japanese would meet more resistance. The Dutch had one Regular Brigade on Sumatra, the main force was stationed on Java where three Divisions had been formed with another two stretched out over the rest of the Dutch East Indies. The weakness of the defence of Sumatra would be the source of discontent between the Dutch and their allies, because the Japanese Naval Infantry Division took the undefended islands off the coast of Sumatra, Bangka Island most prominent, within hours on the 14th, while the remaining men landed and quickly established a beachhead against minimal Dutch resistance. For no less than four days the Japanese landed men and equipment without so much as a small patrol being conducted by the Dutch. Letting the Japanese land unopposed was probably the correct course of action but what happened next was a sign of the inexperience of the KNIL as it was in the Dutch East Indies at the time. The Allied effort was 'Europe First' and after much and long haggling and arguments the Dutch had agreed that it might be fortunate to liberate the homeland first, and to that end some of the most experienced officers and men had been bled away to Italy. Pulling them out like the Australians were doing (having reduced the AIFE to a single Infantry Division and in independent Tank Brigade) wasn't an option, because the Government had decided that this was to be the main effort. Attempts to recruit the Native population even more like the British had done it proved to provide less than satisfactory numbers, so the defences of the Dutch East Indies were less than strong.

    The next two or three days were a lull and allowed the Japanese to land the rest of the Division without hindrance and capture most of the coastal low-lands in this potentially very agricultural area. The only form of combat were several ill-faited formations of Dutch Bombers that tried to attack the landing beaches, only to run into massive ackack and fighters from the three carriers that cruised in the Karimata Strait and would also provide air cover for the landings on Java.

    When the Japanese moved out from their Bridgehead they found that amazingly the Dutch Commander had not, like it would have been proper and like in fact the British had done it in Malaya set up a flexible position to whittle them down but were instead strung out along a huge part of the Japanese perimeter, stringing themselves out needlessly and allowing the Japanese to outflank the Dutch position.

    This was what then happened when the Japanese Division advanced. The Dutch main line of resistance was well chosen as a location, but they had far from enough men to defend it properly. The Japanese were using tactics that the Marines, many of them veterans from China, had used for years and soon began to infiltrate inbetween the Dutch strongpoints that were too distant from each other for mutual support. Soon the Japanese began to attack the Dutch strongpoints from behind and one by one they were taken out. Over the next two days the Japanese were contending themselves with chopping up the Dutch Brigade. Some of the Allied Soldiers made it out of the combat area alive, but most were killed or taken prisoner, a fate some times even worse. By the time the second Japanese landing on Java was made, Sumatra had effectively fallen, organized resistance by military formations had ceased for the moment. While there would be some guerrilla fighting, it was nothing like it was in the occupied British and French colonies – the Dutch hadn't fully gained control over much of the DEI until the turn of the century, and had, for example never fully pacified Ace in spite of the end of the war there in the early 1900s. Unlike in Malaya and Burma the locals were thus not as inclined to form the ubiquitous militias that made life so hard for the Asiatic Pact in these countries, instead most of them met the Japanese with indifference, not seeing them as more than yet another Imperial power that came to their land. As the Japanese began to occupy the Island without much interference from the Allies, they just tried to adapt to the new situation like they had done since the first Europeans had landed here.

    On Java the situation was different. Here the defence was far stronger, and the first Australian units had arrived. The defence was commanded by a Dutch veteran who had fought in the defence of the Netherlands in 1940 and later been in Italy as the Commander of the Dutch Land Forces. Lieutenant General Gerardus Johannes Berenschot[3] had been less than pleased when called back in 1938 to take over I Corps, but what he had seen there had been very instructive and when returning to the Dutch East Indies a few months before the Japanese entry into the War he had done his best to 'weed out the dead wood' to use a British ideom. He had been partially successful, but the needs of the front in Europe still left him short of men. He was a cautious commander and now he regretted to send a single Brigade under a Commander old enough to be his father to Sumatra, but there was nothing to be done. If the rumours were right, the Japanese and Chinese could together field almost seven more or less Naval Infantry divisions, and he was to defend the most important Island of the Dutch East Indies against them with less than three. He had begged the Government to grant the locals similar concessions as the British had in order to increase the recruitment figures, but no such luck had been forthcoming so far. His deployments reflected both military and political constraints. He had refused to place all of his forces in a static defensive line west of Batavia as the Governor-General had ordered. Berenschot had been forced to remind the man that he wasn't in the Army nor more than the political head of state of the Colonies, which gave him no more than an advisory capacity. Something else that was running for the Allies here was the greater density of Dutch settlement and the generally closer Australia, which not only allowed them to raise greater stay-behind forces but also to get at least some support from Australia, the first few Battalions of which had already landed, but there wouldn't be much more coming until the Australian Forces were back from Europe. He didn't see his prospects as very good, but he was determined to defend what remained of his homeland to the best he could anyway.

    The Japanese however were determined not to give the Allies the chance to put in the reinforcements that were coming to the theatre. They knew as well as the Dutch and the Commonwealth that time favoured the Allies, even though they had managed to fight the Americans to a draw for the moment and thus forced them onto the defensive. The Japanese Navy knew that the British were assembling their Carriers in preparation for a large-scale Naval Battle to be fought in the area between the coast of Indochina and Borneo. By the time they had decided to push forward with the landings on Java, Combined Fleet Headquarters estimated that they had at most four days left before the British forced the Flores and Java Seas. It was (correctly) estimated that Admiral Cunningham could at best send four to five of his Carriers without compromising the defence of Australian Waters, and so it was said that the Japanese would have an advantage if land-based aircraft were factored in. And so, on the 16th the second landing was made on Java near the western edge of the Island, in a wide bay to the north of Serang, fifty miles west of the centre of Batavia.


    Soldiers of the Japanese 5th Infantry Division crossing a creek


    Immediately upon landing the Japanese knew that it would be different here. The fleet rushed the first three Divisions ashore, but even so the Carriers left before the landings were completed, all the while the bridgehead was under sporadic mortar and light Artillery fire and the forward patrols fought a series of vicious small unit actions with the Dutch. Berenschot was aware that with his forces the defence of Batavia would be a close run thing at best and would most likely do more to destroy what forces he had than the Japanese. Even so he would not give up the city without a fight and had thus deployed one of his Divisions to cover the city, which it would defend until the Japanese were thrown back into the sea. At least officially, because the Dutch knew from Intelligence reports passed on by the British that the Japanese 5th Infantry Division had been sent to reinforce this Army group, so by now the Dutch were outnumbered three to one if rumours were true. Unlike on Sumatra the Japanese hadn't been able to land without hindrance, and the troops here knew that they would really have to fight for it, and this was hammered home when over the next two days it became clear that a strong Dutch rear guard force was in the area. It was 2nd Brigade of the 3rd KNIL Infantry Division and contained some of the best and most experienced Allied troops. Their orders were clear even to the Japanese, they were to slow them down to give the rest of 3rd Division along with the 21st and 114th Australian Infantry Regiments a chance to dig defensive positions west of Batavia.

    The Japanese 5th Infantry Division had indeed been sent to the theatre and was now cautiously moving out towards the capital of the Dutch Colony. The men were motivated. It wasn't because their Officers had told them that they were there to liberate the local tribes from European Colonial oppression, they were because they no longer had to charge into British Machine guns and Artillery near Singapore. The Division was still considerably understrength as the result, but they were experienced in fighting an enemy more challenging that the rabble the Chinese Army had been and also the only Army Division that could be transferred quickly enough. So instead of going to the Philippines for garrison duty they had boarded the assault transports near Saigon and then spent a few very uncomfortable days on the ships. Here the Japanese were also boosted by the presence of the 3rd Tank Regiment, a unit freshly pulled out of Manchuria for the express purpose of this landing.





    [Notes: To raise quality, I have decided to write slower. I hope it'll show in the future. ]

    [1] General of Mountain Troops

    [2] Honestly I am surprised that it took the AI this long to make a move. Mind you, normally they are at Imphal by this time too...

    [3] Obviously his plane didn't crash into a suburb of Batavia in October 1941. TBH, I didn't know that he was seen as a rather gifted General (according to Wikipedia at least) until I was searching for a proper picture. All I knew was that he had commanded the KNIL earlier on.
    "That's right, Adolf. The British are coming." - The Eleventh Doctor
    "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right." - Carl Schurz
    Against all Odds: The British Empire in World War Two (ongoing) Last updated 08/24/14 Index - Index 2 - Index 3 - Knowledgebase -
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  4. #4284
    Lt. General Raaritsgozilla's Avatar
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    Man its looking very grim for the Dutch. How long till that sea battle?
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    Let's hope that the accident causes Rommel's brain to think: "why not shooting Adolf?".
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  6. #4286
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    Hm, what were the Troops in the East Indies when the Japs landed?
    Methinks Uncle Adolf is going a bit crazy, if he isn't already.

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  7. #4287
    British Unionist trekaddict's Avatar
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    Raaritsgozilla The situation for the Dutch is actually better than OTL. In Europe they are already on the continent again, and here in the Far East they have a far readier Australia to help them, reinforcements coming in the form of the Royal Marines and also a Royal Navy that has the Carriers to do more than be target practice in Darwin. Mind you, it's not as if they knew that....

    As for the Battle, Cunningham probably wouldn't want to risk his Carriers in the South China Sea at the moment, and the most we can look forward to is a Coral Sea type battle in the next week or so. Were Force Z not too far out east, they would be there too.

    Kurt_Steiner Funny you should say that, because...well, you will find out eventually.

    Griffin.Gen Ingame they have three Divisions. In-AAR they have the ammount of forces described.

    OTL Hitler was relatively sane up intil 1943 when a combination of the quackery by his personal "doctor" and the reverses on the Eastern Front did him in.
    "That's right, Adolf. The British are coming." - The Eleventh Doctor
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  8. #4288
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    Chapter 226


    Author's note: In 1979, I was approached by the Army to interview one of their Officers and do a comprehensive history of one of their units. Without knowing what it was, I accepted and was very much surprised when I was loaded into a car and driven up to Hereford. Even then anyone with contacts to the army knew that this was where THEY had their base camp, and I was even more surprised when I was then told that none other than Major General (ret) Stirling was to be the interviewee. However a death in the family cut the procedure short and it was never continued. Parts of this has been used in this book, and this is their story of the original 112 men of 22 and 24 Regiment Special Air Service, the Originals.


    Just as with the rest of the Regiment's story the period of it's founding in the late 1930s is even today, in 1996, shrouded in secrecy and myth. Up until the 1970s much of it was covered under the same act that kept ULTRA from our knowledge, and if one were to ask the ordinary person on the street anywhere in the Empire, the most common answer would be the winged dagger and the Motto. What put the Regiment into the public eye was not their part during the Indonesian Embassy siege in 1981, and neither the events during the Libyan civil war, it rather was when after the high-jacking and safe rescue of British Airways Flight BA-257 in 1986 a great many of the people thanked the 'Men in black' for their lives and the public, often for the first time, heard of the men in the 'Jungle' or 'Commando' green berets and their reclusive unit. Even though he was very ill at the time, David Stirling stepped up out of retirement and obscurity and became the public face of the Regiment very much against his will. He called me in Africa where I was doing a piece about RAF Space Command and asked me personally to come as soon as possible and do the 'publicity' for him and the other originals. Honoured, I wrapped up my work as fast as I could and flew back to the United Kingdom. I was collected at Heathrow by a tall man who clearly carried himself as ex military and while driving to Hereford for the second time in my life, I was introduced to yet another legendary figure of the Regiment, one of the surviving original members of 12 Patrol. He and David Stirling had been good friends ever since their time in the Regiment and of course to the informed the man was known as the man who had served in 24 Regiment Special Air Service during the siege of Singapore and taken part in the raids that had given the SAS it's distinct beret colour. He didn't say
    too much about himself, and later I learned that one of his relatives had been aboard BA-257 and owed his life to the Regiment he had served in during the War. When we drove into the parking lot of the same hotel where I had met Stirling seven years earlier, he just looked at me and said: “Do good, or we'll screw you.” I hope I have done good.



    British Airways 257 shortly before take-off



    It is hard to separate the legend from reality when it comes to the Special Air Service, and the problem worsens the farther back you go towards the foundation of the first Regiment. So one again I asked the man himself.

    In 1938, just before Winston Churchill came to power, Stirling had been seconded to the experimental Parachute Force from his Mother unit, the Scots Guards. As a freshly commissioned and therefore expendable young Lieutenant the Old Guard at his home Regiment did not realize that they had given Stirling exactly what he wanted. Always an admirer of wide, open spaces (as evidenced by his time in Canada). He made about a dozen jumps with the Paras. He was issued with the maroon beret and the wings shortly before the force became the nucleus of 6 Para Brigade in November 1938, only to break both of his legs in four places at once and suffer nerve damage during the last jump of the year. Once in hospital, he was told that he would most likely loose part of his mobility. During his time in hospital he started to fiddle around with some ideas. While canoeing in Canada, he had met a small group of expatriate American veterans that had fought the Communists from the first day to the last, and had spent several weeks with them, listening to the stories of the small unit actions they had fought all across the former United States. Impressed by this and recalling the stories during his stay at the hospital for lack of anything better to do, Stirling began to develop the concept of a specially trained force that would go behind enemy lines, strike at whatever targets there were and then exfiltrate wherever possible. Unlike the other Commando groups that would spring up later and during the war, the unit Stirling envisioned would not use two-hundred or so men to raid a big target, but would rather consist of between sixty and a hundred men. However these were to be broken down in four man patrols, so it wasn't two-hundred, and neither sixty, but four. When then writing the paper on the hospital's letter paper, he theorized that a smaller number of men would be able to move faster and find it easier to evade the enemy, thus maintaining surprise. After leaving the hospital, Stirling had not only learned to walk again and gained back the full use of his legs, but he also carried a hand written memo that would become the foundation of 22 Regiment SAS and helped shape and define the modern Commando Community. Knowing that the IGS at the time was filled with 'Layer upon layer of fossilized sh*t' as he liked to say, he decided that if he was to make himself heard, he had to circumvent the Army bureaucracy. Luckily for him Winston Churchill moved into No.10 shortly right about this time.

    When Stirling was released in May 1939, he had the paper under his arm, and from his family background the connections he needed. He first talked to (then-) Rear Admiral Edwards, not knowing that the Admiral was at that time running involved with the NID, coincidentally being the direct superior of Sir Ian Fleming while the latter was involved with security work before the war.


    Stirling shortly after being released


    Edwards had at the time worked closely with the PM, and even though he wasn't totally convinced of the concept, he borrowed the paper and showed it to the Prime Minister. Churchill was instantly sold and demanded to speak to the Officer who had written this paper. Much to his surprise he was presented with a Second Lieutenant. Stirling on the other hand clearly lacked the sense of awe that other junior Officers had when confronted with this sort of authority, and simply went on to explain his idea in detail, cleverly using the known exploits of the PM during the Boer War and other scraps he had taken part in. Saying that he needed nothing but 'official backing when push comes to shove', he agreed against better judgement and Stirling was allowed to begin forming the unit which was at that time still unnamed. Sterling was bumped to Lieutenant and officially 'seconded to the War Office for special duties', in practice this meant that he was sitting in an Office at Horse Guards and going through a mental list of contacts and acquaintances he had made over the years. Many had to be discarded outright for one reason or another, ranging from them being either dead, in Canada or suspect due to the general distrust of American Exiles that ran through much of the British Armed Forces at the time. He never told me if he thought that the War was inevitable at this point, given that the Germans and the Soviets were clearly on the warpath even then. He probably followed his own instincts when he decided to begin with a core of Officers that would then go on to train the men once they where recruited. Administratively the unit was to be part of the Parachute Corps; a stroke of genius that allowed the men to use the facilities without attracting undue attention. This required to tell (then-) Brigadier Browning, the Commander of 6th Airborne Brigade. At this time Stirling believed that Parachute was the best means of insertion, so creating the unit as an appendix to the Paras was the best way to make sure that it was not only hidden from the Germans and the Soviets, but also from the entity that was in Stirling's opinion the real enemy of the British Army, HM Treasury.

    If Churchill had been wondering why Stirling only wanted official backing, he eventually found out when all over western England and Wales Military camps began to report that equipment had been stolen, everything from tents over a field kitchen and even including a piano from the base of a New Zealand Squadron that went through the Empire Test Pilot School at RAF Boscombe Down, even though it was later returned, apparently to 'buy silence', which failed since the Station Commander had gotten wind of it. Much of it had turned up at a disused site in Wales near where the 6th Airborne Brigade was based at the time.

    Indeed the first order Stirling had given after again being promoted was to steal a camp, and since the military was virtually exploding in size at the time this was easy since all over Britain equipment came out of warehouses and new out of factories. For some reason Churchill decided to continue to back Stirling, but quietly ordered Stirling to cease stealing equipment if he needed it, and also gave use of the site where the Special Air Service Headquarters are today to the group which strangely enough was still not called Special Air Service but L Detachment, 6th Airborne Brigade. It consisted only of Stirling, Second Lieutenant Richard Saywer and the famous 'three Sergeants; […]

    Officially they were a logistics unit that was experimenting to find the best way of delivering supplies by parachute or glider to the troops in the field, which gave them an excuse to operate a Dakota flown by BAMTAC Lieutenant Heatherton. Right about this time it was that the Regiment was named and acquired the winged dagger insignia, officially the result of a competition held between the men, unofficially the result of a trip to the pub right after the group had moved to Hereford. Stirling and any of the Originals that might know refused to comment on this when I asked them, so that mystery won't be solved. The motto of the group was initially 'Death from above' in a reference to the contempt with which the newly formed RLC was seen at the time, but Stirling thought it sounded too 'American' and arbitrarily changed it to 'Who dares, wins' to showcase what he had in mind for the unit once it was in operation.

    Right about this time, in June 1939, the Regiment was threatened. Churchill backed Stirling, but the Imperial General Staff was anti-Commando at the time (and would in essence be so until Sir John Dill took over) as they did not see the reason for a unit with less than twenty actual members; and even though Prime Ministerial Fiat could have saved the Regiment, Stirling decided that he would have to prove the viability of his concept. Sailsbury Plain was then going to be the site of the Annual Army Readiness Exercise, and Stirling convinced a friend at the IGS to put the Regiment on the list of units shipped. On the third day of exercise CIGS Gort was touring the units involved was surprised when suddenly, during his stay at the 1st Infantry Division Command post four men dressed in Parachute field dress and wearing band showing them to be part of Red Force busted in the door and took the entire staff prisoner, thus preventing Blue Force from launching a counter-attack and giving Red Force victory. This was enough to convince Gort to at least let Stirling continue recruitment. Over the next few months Stirling developed the selection process after revisiting his notes from his conversations with the Americans,[1] and three weeks before war broke out, the Officers began to go through records looking for suitable candidates. Among those were some of the members of 12 Patrol.

    The actual selection process is still somewhat shrouded in secrecy to the general public, but suffice it to say that it hasn't changed much, and of three hundred candidates that were shuffled through the course between September 1939 and April 1940 a mere eighty-five passed, and of these twenty were relegated to support ops, meaning that no more than sixty-five were actually serving in the Commando Wings. It was originally planned to send the Regiment to France, but the fast collapse of the Dutch, Belgian and French Armies once the attack was under way prevented this, and only the evacuation of the Dutch Royal Family by 12 Patrol was conducted during this period. Instead the Regiment was shipped out to Egypt once Italy entered the war and there the legend of the Special Air Service began. Stirling had been promoted to Major by then and introduced to CinC Middle East and began to plan to send the Regiment into action.

    When Operation Battleaxe kicked off, no one noticed the three Dakotas that went on to drop their cargo behind enemy lines in advance of the attack by the Western Desert Force. What was noticed though was when seven Italian Air Bases were attacked by small strike forces, thirty-six planes were destroyed, several supply convoys were attacked and the Italian Commander barely escaped a burst of .303 bullets fired at his convoy. Even though only forty SAS men returned, the attack had disrupted the Italian Air Force heavily and allowed the Desert Air Force to fight its part on even terms. It was here than men like Malcom Drake, Richard Saywer and Stirling himself made a name for themselves.




    The Special Air Service also played a similar and equally critical role during Operation Market Garden and the first Allied troops to jump into Sicily were the members of 22 SAS, conducting sabotage operations as they had in Africa, and Stirling said that back then he was surprised that it was, at least on Sicily, even easier than it had been in Africa, a result of how Mussolini had bled the best Italian troops away to either the mainland or Africa. The landings on the mainland had also been backed up by a small number of SAS troops, but most of the work there was done by the Special Boat Service. Promoted to Colonel, Stirling retired from field service and instead began to retrain the Special Air Service for the type of missions he had originally envisaged it for, and Operation Jubilee was launched and had failed, the SAS was conducting raids into occupied Italy and Yugoslavia. Right about the time the advance was stopped cold by the weather and the Gustav Line north of Rome, Stirling was unexpectedly recalled to London. Once there he was not given a dressing down for his unorthodox methods, but instead asked on how the Special Air Service was to be expanded to cover not only the rest of Europe but also Asia by the way of creating at least one additional SAS Regiment, as part of the general expansion of all the branches of the Special Operations Executive at the time.[2]

    To say that Stirling was surprised upon hearing this would be an understatement. True, the SAS had long since been put under the direct command of the SOE, but what he had been told then was clearly beyond anything that he could have realistically expected, because this meant any number of things.

    Firstly he would loose No.6 Commando Wing and Major Drake to the Far East, and secondly it would take a long time to train up the Gurkhas that Stirling had in mind for the 24th. Even so 24 SAS was ready and forward deployed to Singapore only to run straight into the first Japanese attack, and were bottled up in the fortress for the remainder of 1942. Since they were only forty men all in all, they could be pulled out with the remnants of the current Singapore Express Convoy.

    What the SAS did beyond Singapore and the fall of the remainder of Italy is a whole other story, but suffice it to say, the Regiment, eventually forming the core of The Special Air Service Brigade went on to greater glory and deeds for the remainder of the war. What they did after the war, when they were again and again threatened with disbandment up until the Philippine Incursion and the Indonesian Emergency/War, or what led to the incident with British Airways 257 in Guangzhou is also a whole story of itself. Suffice it to say the SAS and David Stirling can be seen as the fathers of modern Allied Bloc Special Forces, and the Regimental Partnerships the 22nd has with similar units all over the word is evidence of this.









    [Notes: An homage to the real SAS. I have probably done Stirling and the others a terrible disservice with the SAS being formed earlier and many of them never being a part of it, so I felt that I had to give them a salute in this form. *salutes* There might be Timeline inconsistencies, but as mentioned a few times already, I lost a lot of my notes a while back. Consider this the official history of the SAS for TTL. Much of what has been described has happened like this or similarly in OTL.]



    [1] TTL the need for the selection process is made clear earlier on through this.

    [2] In TTL the SOE has evolved into the equivalent of OTL's SOCOM.
    Last edited by trekaddict; 28-04-2010 at 20:14.
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    Trekaddict

    Interesting background piece. Must admit, probably because it makes a big difference from OTL, the bit that took my interests was the reference to a British Space Command.

    Also interesting the reference to "Allied Bloc Special Forces" that makes me intrigued about later developments.

    Steve

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    Good update!

    No idea if you can still get a copy - mine is decades old - but a great read about the early SAS and its wartime exploits is Major Roy Farran's war memoir "Winged Dagger" (1948).


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    My interest perked up at the Philippine Incursion. Wonder what that could be...
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    stevep Let's say that I have given a lot of thought to the space race.

    Considering the likely sides in the Cold War, "The West" and "The East" doesn't really work, now does it?

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    Ciryandor I haven't really defined it yet, at the moment it's an undefined conflict in the mid-50s.
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    Quote Originally Posted by trekaddict View Post
    Ciryandor I haven't really defined it yet, at the moment it's an undefined conflict in the mid-50s.
    I could give you some ideas for it based off OTL Philippine history, if you need to. Depends on what kind of info you'll need and who you want to be fighting.
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    This is OY putting in a hunt order on Oky's replacement, who is none other than OY.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ciryandor View Post
    I could give you some ideas for it based off OTL Philippine history, if you need to. Depends on what kind of info you'll need and who you want to be fighting.
    Duly noted. When it's needed I will come to you.
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    Yay SAS. Are we going East again next?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raaritsgozilla View Post
    Yay SAS. Are we going East again next?
    Yup.
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    This one was two-thirds written when I started the SAS update out of sheer boredom.... It's far from the best I have ever done though.


    Chapter 227



    The night of the 19th to the 20th was so dark that, had the soldiers of the Japanese 5th Division been aware of western literature, would have made the perfect setting for all the detective stories that the Britons were currently so fond of. But instead of hunting German or Soviet spies, the Japanese were slowly infiltrating their enemy's positions. The last two days had been spent with vicious small unit combat as Japanese and dutch patrols fought each other, the Japanese to discover just where the main Dutch positon was, and the Dutch to deny this information to the Japanese. Superior night fighting tactics and general experience at this sort of combat decided the day for the Japanese, and by the previous evening they had swathed the Dutch forward patrols like flies. The Dutch main defensive line had been probed throughout the evening, and by midnight the Japanese General in command had to concede that he wouldn't have it as easy as his colleague on Sumatra, because clearly this couldn't be the Dutch main force, it was at best a Brigade, and one that was for a change well dug in. They had faced well dug in Allied Infantry before, and had the tactics to deal with this sort of situation, and now it was time to move. Three Companies from the 45th Infantry Regiment were selected for the Infiltration. And so Lance Corporal Saigo followed the Sergeant who silently led the silent group of Japanese soldiers towards the Dutch defences. When they started shooting the men didn't even flinch, as they knew that the Dutch were shooting at their comrades trying frontal attacks. On open ground such as in front of the defences of Singapore this would have been suicide, but here what remained of the jungle and the darkness of the hour gave them the edge. They were armed with the usual Rifles and grenades, but Saigo was carrying one of the new and extremely rare Type 100 Machine Carbines. He had picked it up in Saigon when a crate full with the new weapons had somehow and totally on it's own fallen of a truck standing outside their barracks and walked up the stairs into the rooms where the Company was housed. As the highest-ranking NCO in the room at the time he had called dibs on the first one before the other Company Sergeants and Corporals came. The bullet was a bit on the weak side, but if you fired 800 rounds a minute, that didn't matter much, especially in the sort of close combat that characterized the Pacific War.

    To his left Saigo could hear the distinctive bang of rifle fire, and to his right a machine gun was hammering away. Luckily for him no sudden bullet came their way. After almost an hour's worth of crawling through the mud and the jungle of Java, the infiltrators were finally in position and glad that the Dutch had apparently forgotten to connect their hedgehogs with slit trenches. Grenades flew into the position and then the twelve Japanese of this group rushed forward. Saigo was frantically looking for the Dutch. The Dutch soldiers manning the rear were dead, and those in front... turned around and rushed against the Japanese. He pressed the trigger as hard as he could and sprayed the rushing Dutch soldiers until he could hear nothing but the click of an empty magazine.

    As he looked, he saw that he and his comrades had killed at least six or seven of the Dutch soldiers, and also noticed that these weren't Europeans to begin with. The Japanese cleared the rest of this position, killing almost fifteen additional dutchmen while doing so and then marked the breach with flares. After this the Dutch line began to crumble and a fierce defensive action turned into a desperate night melee where some of the Dutch tried to retreat and some fought to the death. In the confusion most managed to escape as those that didn't kept the Japanese in front of them pinned and those that flooded through the breach were not strong enough to keep the Dutch from doing so, and in the utter and total chaos of the night the Allied Soldiers that made it out slipped away, those that didn't were never seen again, shot on the spot by the enraged Japanese troops.

    When the news was carried to Batavia by the retreating survivors, panic began to grip the city as the European ruling class began to try and leave in the expectation that the Japanese would be there any minute. The Military on the other hand remained calm, and continued to dig defensive positions. Berenschot used the panic as the Colonial Government began to fall apart to impose martial law. This gave him direct control of the Police and also allowed him to recruit them into the Army, and with a mixture of coercing and polite asking he placed what passed for the local construction industry at his disposal and used the machines and men to help improve the defences of the city. He knew that the Japanese, when they arrived would be low on everything but men. Even the Japanese would be bleeding men and resources in the Jungle, if less than European forces. Whenever he looked at the map that showed the current deployments, he wished he had more men, because then he would have been able to conduct a much more layered defence of Batavia and Java in General, and the predicament he was in was that he couldn't defend half of his territory with the units at his disposal. Batavia might be the grand prize, but what was stopping the Japanese from bringing in more forces and simply going around his defences, leaving the city in an untenable position? With less than three Divisions he could not hope to hold the Japanese.


    Lt. General Berenschot, photograph taken pre-war

    He of course had a plan to deal with this, but the Governor had vetoed it time and again, and he feared that now it was too late to do much. But now, now that the wretched man was on his way to Surabaya, he had a free hand. Thus he sent the few Australian troops already on the Island east, where the rest of the Australian Division was landing. Quietly, and circumventing most of the command structure on both sides he instructed the Australian Brigadier in command of the Division until the HQ arrived, to begin digging and digging hard. He hated politics, because it was politics and nothing else that forced him to waste men and equipment on defending the essentially indefensible Batavia. Yes, the rivers and creeks and the remnants of Jungle surrounding it favoured the defence, but there was no way to feed either men or civilians without the fields and sources of western Java. No, he would evacuate as many civilians as were able and willing to go, and sacrifice a token force to the defence. True would probably loose the better part of a Division, but there was nothing to be done. He had only very recently been able to implement this plan, and thus he wasn't terribly confident about it, but it gave him the best chances he could see. At least Mount Slamet would make an excellent observation post for the Artillery, even though his greatest fear, a landing farther west was something he feared more than anything else.


    This was the plan the Japanese had, but once again the men in the ships with the flat tops that sailed under the White Ensign were about to do something about that. The Invasion force for central Java was commanded by Admiral Kondo (since it was escorted by the Battleships Hiei, Kirishima, cruisers Atago, Nagara, Sendai, and Takao and most importantly the Flagship, the Battleship Yamato. The Super-Heavy was normally part of the Combined Fleet and acted as flagship for Admiral Yamamoto, but since the Combined Fleet was currently in Japan, and his fleet had been short a Battleship after one of his had struck a mine during the taking of Corregidor, so she had been sent out with him for this operation.


    Japanese Infantry after the surrender of the last Philippine troops


    She was of course acting as his flagship and had already taken part in the shelling of the landing beaches in Sumatra and Java, and now was steaming ahead of the rest of the formation. He had left the only Carrier, the light Carrier Soho and a Cruiser behind so that she could properly operate her aircraft and was now leading the Battleships and two of his Cruisers (the rest were close escort to the Transports) east. One of his scouting planes had reported a group of Allied ships, identified as two Southampton-Class Light Cruisers. Kondo knew that the British had a substantial Carrier Force in the Far East, but Naval Intelligence reported them as either around Darwin, defending the coast of Australia against the Combined Fleet's Carriers or in the Indian Ocean. Since the landings were not due to go in until tomorrow afternoon, so taking out a pair of cruisers was suitable employment for his ships. For him the use of these penny-packet was not unusual in his eyes, since the Philippine Navy had used the remnants of the old US Asiatic Fleet in a similar manner. That his scout had neither returned or teed in again didn't faze him either, since it was more than possible that it had run into a Dutch Boomerang or Hurricane. At this point none of the Japanese ships had been fitted with RDF (Yamato was to be fitted when back in port) so the first report of something being wrong came from one of the picket destroyers when it reported to have been overflown by a large formation of aircraft. The ships went to Battlestations and waited. Even at this point Kondo believed that it was a formation of Dutch bombers, and he was sure that the heavy anti-air armament of his vessels would be enough to deal with the small penny-packet attacks the Dutch were still using. Lookouts were searching for the enemy on the bearing they were supposedly coming from.

    “There they are, Sir!” a rating yelled and pointed out the direction. Kondo looked and saw a group of twenty or more monoplanes up aloft in the sky. Some peeled off, obviously being escorting fighters. These were definitely not Dutch bombers. Then a second group was pointed out to him and his heart fell into his pants, because them being bi-planes and their low altitude marked them as most likely British Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers. Carriers, at least one. He cursed himself and even as the massive Battleship began to turn, he ordered the Soho to launch all of her fighters and prepare to launch an airstrike. What the small Light Carrier would do against an attack like this was anyone's guess, but there was little else he could do. He watched as the dive bombers circled overhead and the torpedo bombers broke up into several groups. The timing of the attack and the formation of the Japanese didn't allow the British to make a hammer and anvil attack, but also instead of one or two plane groups, the three groups (six apiece, all from the same Squadron) concentrated on Yamato since she was clearly the biggest target around. The starboard guns began to fire, and Kondo considered using beehive shells, but it appeared that the British were flying so low that the big main turrets couldn't depress their guns enough to make the fire effective, because the British were now almost close enough to launch. He silently cursed the Imperial Japanese Navy for the failure to deploy RDF on it's ships, an oversight which now came back to avenge itself.

    The Swordfishes released and eighteen torpedoes raced towards the massive Dreadnought which was far too large and slow to evade them all. That did not stop the Japanese from trying though and in the end of all the ones launched, only four hit. One was a dud and shattered against the anti-torpedo bulge, but the others exploded. The one right in the centre hit the thickest part of the bulge and made for little damage except some cracks and minor flooding in a single compartment. Two more hit no more than several inches apart under the most forward turret and exploded. Two times 388 pounds of TNT made short work with the torpedo bulge and ripped open several compartments. The last slammed into the armour between the centre hit and the boiler rooms, but only caused minor damage. The two earlier hits had opened up one of the shell magazines, but what saved the ship was that the magazine was instantly flooded, so no fires broke out.

    While the Yamato was not sunk, she was out of action, and as the British biplanes retreated, Kondo looked around and to his astonishment the British dive-bombers were in the process of demolishing the transports. Of the twelve freighters that carried the Kure Special Naval Landing Force three were already burning, one had presumably already sunk because it was nowhere to be seen and just as he watched, one more was hit by two bombs amidships and exploded with a furious bang as one of the 250 pound bombs penetrated into the hold where much of the landing's artillery ammunition had been stored. It made Kondo realize that he had a decision to make, because it was clear that a significant British Naval Force was in the area, containing at least one Carrier whereas he had none that was operational. With his air cover gone, there was nothing he could do to defend against more air attacks, and the biggest of his capital ships was heavily damaged, and he was unaware that Force Z was not in the area, as far as he knew the Battleships and cruisers were waiting just around the corner. With a heavy heart and aware of the precedent he would create, Kondo turned the remnant of the Invasion force around and ordered it back to Saigon. It would not be known in the Allied camp until very late in the war, but this small and insignificant battle saved the Dutch position in Java for the moment and laid the ground for later, far bigger and more decisive battles elsewhere.

    However, Cunningham too was turning back, because even with all of the fifteen Fleet Carriers in the Royal Navy he would not try to force his way into the South China Sea. A mere year later he would not have hesitated, but at the time the real strength of the Imperial Japanese Navy and the Japanese Fleet was still the bogey man for the British Pacific Fleet. Cunningham was confident that he could defeat in a stand up Battle between similar sized forces, but he was most certainly not going to seek one until the Japanese Battle Line had been whittled down, for the Japanese had more Dreadnoughts and Battlecruisers in the Pacific than the Allies, and given that the Admiralty was in love with Carriers, partly thanks to his own doing, no more could be expected after Warspite arrived and/or the war in Europe was over. Simply put, the British Carrier community lacked self confidence. Beating the Axies in Europe was easy enough where good facilities were paired with an enemy that couldn't conquer a bloody bathtub, but here one would go up against an enemy who was far closer to his own bases and repair yards. Still, Cunningham believed that it was a good days work, not knowing just how good it had been, and neither did the Dutch troops on Java. General Berenschot eventually realized just what sort of a service the British had done him, but for the moment he was too busy trying in vain to defend Batavia. The Japanese had obviously intended to take the city by storm, because by the 23rd May the positions to the west and south of the city came under immense pressure, and in the combat among the rivers, creeks, fields and patches of jungle no quarter was given, and once again the Japanese soldiers learned that the Europeans and their Colonial troops could be just as vicious and brutal as they if they wanted to.


    KNIL troops west of Batavia


    Given the disposition of forces and the terrain it was no wonder that the Japanese failed to break the determined defences, but the city wasn't as well protected everywhere and so the Japanese started to slowly, but surely outflank the Dutch defences. The city, troops and remaining civilians inside it wouldn't be fully surrounded until the 26th, but it was clear that they would soon be so, and on the 23rd, 24th and 25th the exodus continued. Everything that floated, rolled and could carry even the slightest amount of cargo was used by the fleeing European Civilians. Among the most important things to be evacuated was the gold reserve of the Dutch East Indies Government, money that would soon be needed. Batavia was declared a fortress city on the evening of the 26th and whoever was still in it, was trapped and at the mercy of the Japanese. General Berenschot meanwhile was setting up shop in a mansion outside of Surabaya where he was already being annoyed again by the Governor. Unfortunately for him there was little he had to do until the defensive line was in place.


    [Notes: At this point in the game I was scared sh*tless of the IJN. Only later when I came through pretty well through some unplanned major battles was when I lost that.]
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  19. #4299
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    Nice, East Asian action!
    I have to say, the Dutch colonial troops have pretty nice hats.

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  20. #4300
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    Quote Originally Posted by Griffin.Gen View Post
    Nice, East Asian action!
    I have to say, the Dutch colonial troops have pretty nice hats.
    Were not for the Madsen machine gun, I would have thought that they were Aussies...
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