It is August of 1941. The Second World War, (probably about to become) the most destructive conflict known to man has been raging for...all of five months, actually.
The heroic Allied powers are Great Britain, France, Poland (in exile, sadly), the various flavors of China, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. The less heroic allied powers are Siam, Nationalist Spain, and Romania. Possibly Portugal soon as well.
The villainous Axis powers are Fascist Ethiopia (which is really going to mess up reggae postwar), Germany, Italy, Japan, Manchukuo et al, Slovakia, and Hungary.
Let us now turn to the innermost recesses of the British government, and sneak a peak at the British War Cabinet in action.
MINUTES OF THE WAR CABINET FOR 1 AUGUST 1940
Lieutenant General Alan Brooke (CIGS): Chief of the Imperial General Staff, widely regarded by his peers as the right man in the right place. Widely regarded by those not his peers as an acerbic technocrat and deeply intimidating.
Admiral of the Fleet Ernle Montacute Chatfield, 1st Baron Chatfield (1SL): First Sea Lord, flag captain of Admiral Beatty at Jutland. Considered by Stephen Roskill to have been the best 1SL of the Interwar Era.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Caswell Tremenheere "Stuffy" Dowding (MRAF): Professional head of the Royal Air Force. Not a people person.
Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin (PMUK): Conservative PM of the UK, not about to step down any time soon, not for Neville, not for anyone. Churchill once called him an "epileptic corpse".
Winston Churchill (WSC): disgraced backbench Tory MP; not invited to War Cabinet meetings, he just started showing up.
Major General Chen Xianzhou (CHXI): Head of Chinese Military Bureau of Investigation & Statistics, liason to European Forces China Command. Wily, possibly inscrutable.
CIGS: ...and Montgomery's armoured corps has shattered the Ethiopian army and associated Italian forces at minimal cost to us. We'll be bringing his three divisions back here in case of a French collapse and attempted German invasion.
PMUK: Excellent, excellent, jolly good. [puffs pipe]
WSC: Pray ought we consider sending them to France? There may still be time to stabilize the front by some sustained miracle of fortitude and valour.
CIGS: [pointedly ignoring WSC] Anglo-French forces in North Africa have completely destroyed the Italian army there. Per my recommendations, the Imperial General Staff have begun to draw up plans for an invasion of Italy, to commence as soon as the situation in Europe stabilizes. We intend to use the two armoured divisions being withdrawn from France, along with the two motorized and one armoured division presently in the Middle East, as well as four other divisions currently being raised.
PMUK: [sucks teeth] Ooh, sounds half risky. I don't much like the idea of sending our boys to the continent.
CIGS: [tiredly] With respect, Prime Minister, it will prove extremely difficult to defeat the enemy if we do not actually fight him.
PMUK: [triumphantly] But do we actually need to defeat him? Eh? Eh?
PMUK: That was uncalled for, Winston. And very, very hurtful. Moving along!
MRAF: The enemy persists in bombing Sheffield, sir. Our fighters persist in shooting him down. One issue of some concern: our Hawker Typhoon ground attack aircraft appear to be better interceptors than our purpose-built Spitfire XIV high-performance fighters. I believe that Supermarine has sold us a bill of goods.
PMUK: Well blow me down! Thank you, Dowling.
MRAF: Dowding, sir.
PMUK: So sorry, Dowting. It's the strain of the job.
MRAF: It's...yes, yes, I quite understand, sir.
PMUK: First Sea Lord, your report?
1SL: Unfortunately the situation in the Far East has not materially improved since the loss of K G V and Prince of Wales. Somerville still has the Illustrious and two flotillas of Battle-class destroyers, but until the 1940 and 1941 programmes complete, we do not feel able to reinforce the Eastern Fleet. By late 1942, we should have two more modern aircraft carriers and three modern battleships plus escorts to send out; this will form the nucleus of a balanced fleet. Our submarines continue to do well in Japanese waters, and our China Station forces supported the Chinese landings on Okinawa.
CHXI: Most appreciated.
PMUK: That reminds me, how goes the land war with Japan?
CHXI: We completed a successful double-envelopment at the start of the war, crushing the majority of the Japanese mobile forces at the outset. Then a sustained blitzkrieg campaign culminated in the schwerpunkt to end all schwerpunkts, destroying the enemy on the mainland utterly. Now our forces have commenced a revolutionary new strategy called "Island Hopping", by which we intend to engage Japanese land power with superior amounts of our own land power, and simultaneously cut off and isolate much of their combat power in strategically insignificant locales. We predict that this strategy will position us for an invasion of Mainland Japan by 1944, provided their fleet is defeated in a general action.
PMUK: [blinks once, very slowly.] Yes, good. [whispers loudly to Brooke:] These foreign fellows have some quaint notions, don't they?