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

  1. #2641
    British Unionist trekaddict's Avatar
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    Chapter 125







    4th July 1940

    The French Army was defeated. Morale, although still comparatively high, was not enough to hold the Axis forces at bay any longer, and the indecisiveness of the French General Staff was not helping at all. Still, with Gamelin back, things were looking up. Over the last days, German and Soviet Armour had raced across northern France, brushing aside everything in their path, taking Reims and pushing towards Lilles and Metz, in order to keep the French guessing. From the directions of the various pushes several scenarios came to mind, a direct push towards Paris from Reims, another one towards the Channel to cut off the Allied Forces in the Pas de Calais and Picardie. The push south from Verdun could, had to be aimed at neutralizing the Maginot Line and to release the two German Armies that were held down by the line of fortifications, and that had been repulsed by the massive works time and again. The Belgians were reeling from their losses and started to evaquate what remained of their Army, at best a few Regiments worth of troops to England to be reformed there. The BEF itself was attempting to reorganize itself to the North of Paris, and would need several days to be back in fighting strength. No, the French had no one to rely on, and Gamelin knew this. In the back of his mind he knew that France was beaten, but unlike men like Weygand and Petain, he knew that there was something to be gained from prolonging it all. For one, French honour demanded it, especially after the retreat from Mons, and secondly, they were fighting more than their second-oldest enemy, they were fighting Communism, an ideology that was even more dangerous than Fascism. Each hour France gained was one more that the British had to prepare themselves. He did not like the British much either, but at least they did not follow the ideology of a fat, balding beardy drunkard. It pained him as a Frenchman, but the British were their best chance for Victory. Still, he had to keep the Axis Forces off guard íf he wanted to give the BEF a chance to return to the fight. To do this, eight French and the last remaining Belgian Division had been massed at certain locations. He picked up the phone and said only one word. “Move.”

    An hour later, Artillery fire thundered to the west of Valenciennes. This time it weren't British or Axis, but rather French guns that delivered the opening barrage. All restrictions on the expenditure of shells were lifted, and the French gunners banged away as hard as they could. French Motorized Infantry, supported by the six Char 2Cs and several Battalions of Char Bs, moved in on the heels of the barrage, catching that Germans that had not expected a French counterattack off guard. Valenciennes was retaken at the evening of the 4th, and the Belgian border was reached during mid-day of the 5th. It was clear by then that the main German push had to come somewhere else, considering the relatively small number of troops in this area. General de Gaulle, commander of the Armoured section of this ad-hoc Army pushed onwards in the spirit of Armoured warfare that the French Army was only beginning to understand and did the impossible, he almost re-took Mons before he was halted more by outrunning his supplies than actual combat. By the time the advance could resume on the 8th, the Germans and Soviets had rushed reserves into the area and halted him twenty miles south of Mons. Despite this, the counterattack had done one valuable service to the Allied war effort that would not be realized by the Allied Generals until after the war, because it had preceeded the massive German attack from Reims towards Paris by a day, an attack that would have driven right into the heart of the French nation and captured most, of not all of the members of the Government, not to speak from the units of the BEF that were stationed to the North of Paris and that were still sorting themselves out. In a frenzy Hitler and Stalin, currently in Spa to oversee the battle for France, had called off the push and redirected the units north to meet the French. This had probably saved the Allied War effort and allowed the BEF to rejoin the fighting.

    However, by the time the British were in the line again, guarding the base of the French Salient to the north and the south, the second, smaller Axis push started. Knowing that shifting the three Divisons from Mons back south was not possible, Zhukov and Guderian called off the attack towards Paris, opting for a push that might do even more damage in the long run. Two pronged, the attack would first feint towards Paris, a task carried out by some of the Soviet forces that were in the line east of Reims. They would attack towards Troyes, hopefully making the Allies believe that they were attempting to attack Paris from the flank, whilst German Infantry, spearheaded by the German Panzer Divisions in the best shape, would attack south from the Verdun front, driving as far south as they could. This however was not the main attack, which would fall somewhere else. The three moved Divisions, all of them Armoured, attacked the base of the salient, about halfway between the forward French position in Belgium and the lines of the British, attempting to cut off De Gaulles forces in the north. This attack went in on the 9th, but dogged resistance by the French and severe fighter opposition by RAF France and the Armée de l'Air that destroyed any possibility of Air support, giving the French General to beat a hasty retreat that soon turned into a rout. Meanwhile General Ironside had decided that there was no point in keeping the BEF open to a flanking attack and had pulled back the units on his northern flanks to form a coherent line again. If the Axies attacked now, they would run into a brick wall of British steel. But the enemy did not have any intention of attacking the British anyway, being totally concentrated on trying to destroy the rapidly retreating French forces. By the end of the 10th only one suitable road remained, and if it were to fall, the two French Divisions still inside the salient would be lost forever. The Germans knew as much and threw the few Brigades still in fighting trimm at the exhausted Belgian Division guarding the road. Dying in the field, the Division managed to keep the road open long enough for the French to retreat through. As soon as the last units had passed, the Belgians, now at mere Regimental strength, with only nine-hundred men of a starting sixthousand still alive, wounded included, surrendered. Once more dogged Allied resistance had foiled axis plans, but it had come at a price. The French were experiencing a manpower shortage that was so severe that no more new Divisions were formed. The Communist insurgency had largely died down, but there were simply no more men, and many of the French Divisions already in the field were understrength. There were simply no more men to be had anywhere.

    The 10th had also seen combat somewhere else. The second diversionary attack towards Troyes had also occupied the soldiers on both sides. The Soviets attacked along a large front, in the same old style and were met in the same old style. The scythe went through the charging Soviet Infantry, but the battered and exhausted French had no choice but to yield after two hours of constant battle. Fighting fierce rearguard action in a night filled with death, blood and steel the French were forced to retreat to the west of the city, giving the Soviets the opportunity to catch the Allied units around Paris in the flank. Panic reigned in the French captial, and the Government began to evacuate the city, prepared to declare it an open city the moment it became known the Soviets were approaching. Once again the Allied Generals of all nation let themselves be fooled, as the main drive in this part of the front was aimed at Chaumont. The aim of the German Panzers was the city of Chaumont, giving the Germans the chance to cut off the remaining fortifications of the Maginot line. This sent the French General staff into an even greater frenty, amplified when news came that German Infantry had started to assault the French positions in Strassbourg. Meetings began. Secret, discreet meetings that bordered on treason. In the spa of Vichy General Weygand met with General Petain, and both men agreed that something needed to be done.



    11th July 1940


    [Notes: I hereby make a rule that combat updates never cover more than a week apiece. The French did actually attack and retook the Mons province. However, what I wrote in the narrative is more realistic. Am I rushing this too much? By the time of posting, I am writing the next update. With narrative. YAY! The problem with the large battles raging in France at the moment is that it is next to impossible to fit them in narrative that is concentrated on two or three people.]
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  2. #2642
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    It seems that the Army Group defending the Maginot line is goint to cease to exist quite soon...
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  3. #2643
    General Hardraade's Avatar
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    The French are fighting hard, but too late it seems. I'm thinking that Petain and Weygand are getting ready to give the country away.
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  4. #2644
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hardraade View Post
    The French are fighting hard, but too late it seems. I'm thinking that Petain and Weygand are getting ready to give the country away.
    The two biggest defeatists working tete à tete... you can bet what comes next...
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  5. #2645
    General Hardraade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kurt_Steiner View Post
    The two biggest defeatists working tete à tete... you can bet what comes next...
    Yep. I'd wager that it's white flag and knuckle under time.
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  6. #2646
    British Unionist trekaddict's Avatar
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    Kurt_Steiner Yes, they are in a bad way, but then again, the Maginot Line had to be ordered to surrender in OTL, and held longer than the rest of the French Army.

    Hardraade That pretty much sums it up, yes.

    Kurt_Steiner Indeed.

    Hardraade Bear in mind though that I moddded the French part of the Vichy event. THere is a 50% chance they choose to fight on. I of course know what happens, but you don't.

    @all The next update is in the works, so hold on tight!
    "That's right, Adolf. The British are coming." - The Eleventh Doctor
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  7. #2647
    Monarchist Griffin.Gen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hardraade View Post
    Ahem.

    American Revolution & War of 1812:
    USA 2 - UK 0

    Thank you.
    I'm sorry but before I read the update, I have to reply to this.
    The War of 1812 was a HUGE failure for the yanks! They tried invading Canada (again) and they failed miserably against a bunch of peasants (the Canadian Militia) and later on their capital would get sacked!
    Besides the Battle of New-Orleans, I wouldn't ever call it a victory for the Americans, as they achieved almost nothing from this war.
    Alright, time to read the update
    Edit: Oh crap, the french did something THAT WORKED!!!
    Last edited by Griffin.Gen; 30-04-2009 at 15:56.

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  8. #2648
    Good for Gamelin! Arrest those two traitors!
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  9. #2649
    Marshal of the Empire BritishImperial's Avatar

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    i keep missing updates for some reason, so i've just been able to read 2. tis a good day... not so good for the allies though, who appear to be finally cracking.

    oh and also, i dont think you are rushing this too much. its very cool to read about battles from one man's perspective but we havent got time to read it all like that, and it'd probably get boring that way. variety is good. plus theres the fact that you've created such a massive universe that it'd be nice to read to the end before my kids reach puberty.
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  10. #2650
    "Look behind you Mr Caesar !" Atlantic Friend's Avatar
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    Gamelin was an awful war leader, but he had devised rather ambitious plan - one could say his war plans were bolder than he was by a far margin.

    A Gamelin decided to have the French Army go down blazing is tremendous good news. He might not be able to save France in the short run, but he might indeed do the Allied cause a tremendous favor, and make sure there's still a France in the fight even if the Métropole falls. The government should stand ready to replace Weygand with men like Billotte, Prételat or Giraud (de Gaulle I think is still too junior to play any major role yet), unpolitical and unimaginative generals, who will simply do what they were taught at the Ecole de Guerre.

  11. #2651
    British Unionist trekaddict's Avatar
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    KiMaSa So far the two have not done anything illegal. IIRC the surrender itself was questionable in OTL though. Atlantic Friend, care to shed any light on this?

    BritishImperial Hehe, good to hear that. The Allies are indeed cracking, but not quite yet. I think I can hold them for a couple more weeks. The French AI is suprising me so far, as I am not military controlling them at this point.

    Atlantic Friend Gamelin was indeed not the best leader, but from what I have read he was slightly more capable than Weygand, though I might err here. Gamelin is in TTL one of the few French Generals who see the realities of the situation. He knows that the Battle for France is all but lost, but he also knows that the best chance for France to be freed are the British, and every day delay is one more the British have to bring their massive, when compared to France, manpower into play. ( India. ) Weygand has been sacked and resigned from the Army. More on him in the next update.
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  12. #2652
    Someone once said that "Treason is a matter of dates." By the time the crime is formalized then it will be too late to act.
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    Weygand's only title of glory was to have been Foch's aide de camp in WW1. The man was also a morbid antisemite. Good riddance if he's sacked, and good luck to Gamelin and the average French soldier. Every French bullet that hits a Red Army/Wehrmacht soldier is a little step towards victory !

  14. #2654
    British Unionist trekaddict's Avatar
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    KiMaSa Indeed. The French are in for some rough political times aside from the reverses of the Battlefield.

    Atlantic Friend Thank you! This will find it's way in the next update. And indeed, every bit of strength and ORG they loose is a bit I don't have to fight against later.
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  15. #2655
    Manners Makyth Man Demi Moderator Lord Strange's Avatar
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    Well, some honour has been regained by the French... the AI does like to be useful sometimes.... Also I quie like these more "history-book" updtaes to be honest
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  16. #2656
    "Look behind you Mr Caesar !" Atlantic Friend's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by trekaddict View Post
    KiMaSaAtlantic Friend Thank you! This will find it's way in the next update.
    Long story short, the young Weygand was raised by Mr Noël, a Belgian Jew, then as a boy met with fervent Catholics who quite successfully convinced him Jews were Satan's offspring. IIRC, Weygand was absolutely convinced of Captain Dreyfus' culpability, over a decade after he had been cleared of all charges. Weygand never took part in any heinous act against French Jews, his antisemitism being as ridicule as it was morbid, but you get the idea.

    What can be said in Weygand's favour is that he was an energetic officer (though one that only prospered in headquarters), and that in 1940 his hedgehog defense tactic was sound (even if he actually countermanded Gameliin's proposed counteroffensives during 3 precious days as soon as he was appointed as his successor).

    There ! I give you Maxime Weygand in a nutshell.

  17. #2657
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    Quote Originally Posted by Atlantic Friend View Post
    Long story short, the young Weygand was raised by Mr Noël, a Belgian Jew, then as a boy met with fervent Catholics who quite successfully convinced him Jews were Satan's offspring. IIRC, Weygand was absolutely convinced of Captain Dreyfus' culpability, over a decade after he had been cleared of all charges. Weygand never took part in any heinous act against French Jews, his antisemitism being as ridicule as it was morbid, but you get the idea.

    What can be said in Weygand's favour is that he was an energetic officer (though one that only prospered in headquarters), and that in 1940 his hedgehog defense tactic was sound (even if he actually countermanded Gameliin's proposed counteroffensives during 3 precious days as soon as he was appointed as his successor).

    There ! I give you Maxime Weygand in a nutshell.
    Actually, that fits with what I have written for the next update so far.

    Thanks again.
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    Chapter 126






    11th July 1940


    A Hotel somewhere in Vichy, France

    “Ah, Maxime, come in, come in. Coffee?” Petain asked his guest. The two Generals were meeting in a strangely clandestine manner. One of them was a disgraced former General, and he could not be seen with Frances greatest living hero. Not only would this endanger his whole plan, but it would also discredit Petain in the eyes of these traiterous politicians in Paris that insisted on fighting a lost war. “No, thank you, mon General.” The older man nodded and gestured for Weygand to sit down. “So, what did you want to talk to me about? Your...friend... seemed very anxious.” Petain asked after Weygand was seated. “Mon General, I trust you are informed about the situation on the front?” Petain nodded. “Indeed I am. What the Socialists write in their papers is not the end of all things, so I have the daily staff reports delivered.” Both men knew that, but Weygand felt that he had to act with caution. If he angered or just annoyed Petain his plan would not work, and France would be destroyed. So he just nodded and scratched his thin in thought. Meanwhile Petain looked at Weygand. When he had heard that the blasted politicians in Paris had booted Weygand from his rightful post as Chief of the General Staff and by extension out of his beloved Army, he had not dared to believe it in the beginning. Weygand was a Staff Officer, and it seemed he had been born for it. Energetic, he was at his best when doing staff work, and as such he was invaluable to the French State. Petain ignored that Weygand had still not said what he wanted, and began to pour himself another cup of Coffee. His doctor constantly tried to persuade him to give it up, but what did doctors know? Just as he rose the cup, Weygand started to talk again. “Ever since Paris let that Jew go,” he said, referring to the Dreyfuss affair, “I did not trust the politicians. Who won the Great war? The Army, and no one else, and certainly not fat politicians in Paris that squandered away our victory when they did not manage to get the damn English to accept our demands at Versailles!” Weygand paused, glancing at Petain to gauge the older General's reaction. Making an impassive face, Petain did not seem to react at all. Weygand however was not deterred by this and went on, growing more impassioned with every word. “General, we cannot let this happen a second time. The Government has dragged France into a war she cannot win. They tied us to the British and a cause that could not be more rotten.....”

    Petain nodded, and signalled Weygand that he was willing to listen. However, what came next surprised him. “As I said, we cannot allow that. I suggest that we, or rather you, use your influence within the Army. If the Army makes a united front, the Government will have no choice but ask for an honourable armistice.” Petain put his cup down on the table and took of his Officers cap. Looking out of the window he said after a few moments: “However much I agree with you, General, and I do, this is treason!” “How can it be treason when it is for the good of France?” Weygand rose from his chair in passion. “How can it be treason when our own leaders are treasonous to the cause and to France? No, mon General, this cannot be treason when it ends needless bloodshed. The British will also see sense. How can they continue the war without France at their side, without their principal ally?” Petain crossed his hands behind his back and turned back around. “All you say is true, Weygand, but how many of our colleagues see it this way?” Weygand grinned. He had known that Petain was on his side, so much was obvious from the speeches he had made on the radio earlier in the war. “I have a list of them here, mon General..”



    The Foreign Office, London, United Kingdom, British Empire

    Lord Halifax seemed to be always worried. This was however not only due to the lost war ( in his opinion ) but also due to the normal look he always had on his face. He had no official post within the Foreign Office, but many of the older civil servants still paid him the due respects, despite the housecleaning Eden had done. Just coming back from a rather unfruitful meeting with the Foreign Secretary, Halifax was now on his way to a rather different meeting, where his ideas and views on how the country was to be saved would be received with more wisdom and open minds. “Where to, mylord?” his driver asked when he entered the car waiting for him. “To the Club, Hawold.” he said, murdering the driver's name. “Yes, Sir.” They drove off, and stopped after a while, but not in front of the club, but rather another Government Office. “Ah, Butlew, I am glad you could join me.” Halifax said. “No trouble, Sir, I don't have too much to do these days.” Butler said, referring to the post in the remnants of the Colonial Office to which he had been 'promoted' when Eden had taken over the Foreign Office. “I take it you want to talk about something important, given these clandestine measures?” “Indeed I want to, my fwiend. The waw has taken a disastwous turn in the last few weeks and if it wowse to wowst, I feaw we might loose it aftew all. I will explain it all in the club.” “As you know, I have been working with the Foreign and Home Offices to oversee the transition of the colonies into the Imperial Federation, and I can tell you that many in the colonies and in Parliament are on our side.” “So you will back me in fwont of the house if the day comes?” “Of course, Sir.” “I knew I could twust you, Butlew.” The two men rode the rest of the way in silence, but when the car stopped in front of the club, Halifax turned around to Butler who was putting his hat back on. “Follow me inside, please.” The club was one of the many Gentlemen's clubs that can be found all over London, and had of course several discreet rooms where one could have serious conversations without being overheard, the club priding itself on the discreetness and the integrity of it's personnel. As the former Viceroy of India, Halifax had of course special treatment, and his own room, on the second floor, and facing to the back of the compound where the club was housed. In the small square several old oak trees that supposedly where here since the reign of King George II, cast a dark shadow through the windows of the room, dosing it in a darker light than usual. The oak plating on the walls was darkened by centuries of smoke and spirits that had been soaked up by the wood.

    In the centre of the room stood several large armchairs with tables in between the chairs. On these tables a discreet and invisible butler had placed Halifax' favourite brand of tea, along an assortment of backed delicacies, it was almost teat time after all. Once they were seated, Halifax began to speak, in an unusually collected and slow manner, even for him. “My fwiend, I believe it is impewative that we make things cleaw. This is not a coup attempt ow anything, I just want to make suwe that the countwy is in save hands if the Fwench decide to call it quits. I feaw though that the Pwime Ministew is convinced that we should fight on wegawdless, and has no considewations fow the unneeded toil and deaths this would bwing fow the Bwitish Empiwe. Besides youwself, I have spoken of my concewns only to a few select membews of the house, and I wanted to sound out youw own opinion in this mattew befow pwoceeding.” Butler leaned back in his chair and made a triangle out of his hands, something he always did when he was thinking. “Mylord, you already know that I am of the same beliefs as yourself in this matter, and I truly think that you are correct in your course of action. But please understand, that I think that certain things must be made clear before we proceed.” “Quite, quite. What do you want to know?” Halifax asked. “Firstly, and with all due respect mylord, but this smacks of treason. A palace revolt while we are fighting the deadliest war since 1914? The population will not like it at all.” Halifax nodded and began to pour tea for both of the men. “All valid points, Butlew. And believe me, I have given them much thought over the last few weeks. Let me outline the idea fiwst befowe I answew.” “Certainly, Sir.” Halifax nodded again and said then: “Mr. Chuwchill has dwagged the Bwitain and hew Empiwe into a waw with an alliance against whom we have vewy little chance of victowy, and....”

    While he listened to Halifax talk, Butler made his own mental notes. In his new position he was not as well informed as Halifax who had an extensive 'Old Boys' network to fall back on, and from what he heard now, the war was in a far worse state than even the most pessimistic writers of the “Daily Worker” before it had been slapped with a wide-coverage D-Notice back in 1939 at the behest of the Ministry of Information. When Halifax ended his explanation, Butler was as white as ashes and gripped the armrests of his chair so hard that his knuckles turned white. “Dear God, Mylord... I had no idea....” Halifax looked at him and took another sip of his tea. “Indeed. And I fiwmly believe that we need to agwee on a couwse of action. I did not come to you fiwst mainly because you wewe off in Afwica fow the last weeks, and this mattew is too delicate to communicate in anything but person to person.” Butler could do nothing but agree. The situation was not good at all. In the last war America had always been there..... “But how can we keep this from Churchill's spies? He is sure to hear about it, if he has not already.” he said after he had calmed down somewhat. “All that is twue, and I am not ovewly concewned by it. Aftew all, this is a fwee countwy, and it is a nowmal thing in politics that a select few of the pawty disagwee with how it is led. Mistew Chuwchill can't to vewy much, howevew much he wants to.” Butler nodded in agreement and finally started to drink of his own, now lukewarm tea. “I guess it is less obvious when I talk to our friends in the Party than when you do, mylord. No offence.” Halifax grinned and said: “None taken, none taken. As a mattew of fact, I was about to ask you the vewy same thing. I am thanking you, Mr. Butlew. Youw sewvice will not be fowgotten, west assuwed.”

    And so, with a conversation in a small room in a club in London the 'palace revolt' that would shape and influence British politics for years and decades to come began to take shape. Over the next few weeks both Butler and to a lesser extent Halifax would seek out friends and supporters within the Conservative Party and build their own powerbase. Soon enough word of the rumblings within the Party reached the ears of those who were in the camp of the Prime Minister, with Eden leading the faction. Ever the diplomat, Eden decided that he had to get more material before talking to the PM. He knew that this could tear the Party apart at a critical moment, and the news from France and the Mediterranean, it was more imperative than ever that the Party showed a united front, both in the face of the enemy and the country itself. If the population both here in the UK and throughout the Empire lost faith in the Government, continuing the war would be difficult at best. And it was needed. While Halifax and Butler talked, the front in France was shifting ever more closer to Paris. The British and Allied were fighting tooth and nail for every inch of ground, and even gained some in western Belgium, where a local counter-attack was had driven back an exhausted Soviet Cavalry Division and had driven halfway to Ghent. The scheming in London and behind the front in France did not yet affect the battlefield, but it was only a matter of time.



    [Notes: So yeah. This wasn't exactly planned, the makeup of this update that is. Thanks to Le Jones for is invaluable input concerning Halifax' character and the general mechanics behind what I have in mind. I figure it will be some time before all this really comes to Winston's knowledge. ]
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  19. #2659
    General Hardraade's Avatar
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    The military and political situation in both Engalnd and France seems pretty bad. If Petain decides to go along with Weygand and France armistice, it will only give more ammunition to Churchill's opponents in Britain.
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    Just a little nitpick about the use of French military ranks :

    If I'm not mistaken, a French Maréchal is called "Monsieur le Maréchal" or, with a little less formality (for example, by a Minister) "Maréchal". Given Pétain's almost divine stature among WW1 officers, "Monsieur le Maréchal" seems de rigueur for Weygand.

    The possessive "mon" that goes before an officer's title is used by inferiors to that officer. Equals and betters (and civilians) would just use the officer's rank and say "Général (possibly followed by his family name)". Therefore a lieutenant will say "Mon capitaine" to a Captain, who'll answer by "Lieutenant" or by "Lieutenant X". It's like the German use of "Herr", I think.

    Now, very good update !

    How can it be treason when it's for the good of France indeed ? Maybe they'll remember that if a Free French movement arises from the Army ranks, should Metropolitan France fall victim of the Brown/Red invasion.
    Last edited by Atlantic Friend; 02-05-2009 at 19:40.

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