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Thread: End of Empire - A British AAR 1938 SF

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    End of Empire - A British AAR 1938 SF

    This is my first attempt at an AAR. Details as below

    End of Empire - A British AAR
    Version: Semper Fi v2.03c
    Starting date: 1938
    Difficulty: Hard
    Game start date 02/11/10
    Style: Narrative through the story of two men

    Combat difficulty setting will be altered as follows to reflect growing Allied competence

    Combat Penalty on the Allied player (ie me) will be -

    Start until 1st January 1941 - 20% penalty
    1st Jan 1941 until 1st Jan 1942 - 10% penalty
    1st Jan 1942 until 1st Jan 1943 - 5% penalty
    1st Jan 1943 onwards - Zero penalty





    End of Empire


    Prologue

    “Sons and Heirs”



    Generations of Bailey’s had lived in the Wiltshire countryside around Devizes. The family name was well known in those parts, particularly in the village of Allington in the Pewsey Vale. Farm workers, labourers, were what they were best known as, and often brawlers, fighters and heavy drinkers. Not that they were much different to other families back then. That was often the way it was back in the twenties and thirties of rural Britain, moreso than the traditional image of smocked, stalk chewing yokels. Drink had always been the curse of the Victorian working classes, and many a soul torn to shreds in the trenches had carried that burden into the post war world hoping to escape their torment.



    1. The typical rural workers of the late 1920's

    Wiltshire had suffered no less than any other part of Britain during the First World War. Many young men, full of bravado and beer, had shaken off the safety of reserved occupation status in their rush to take the Kings shilling, while others from families with long military histories and a loyalty to the Crown of an area that went back to the English Civil War, also pledged their allegiances once again. And so very many never came home, as the many war memorials on village greens and church entranceways bore testimony. By the time it was all over, a million of the Empires sons would be dead, and many of the 750,000 British dead would be factory or mill workers, railwaymen or farm labourers like the Bailey’s. It had been the “War to end all wars”.

    Throughout the 20’s, as people sought to forget, war seemed distant to everyone alike. There were fresh troubles to deal with as the world’s economies began to slip into post war decline. It was no different for the working classes of Britain, as industrial strife, poverty and high infant mortality continued to oppress them, so that a newer understanding of the wider world bought to them by advances in science like radio broadcasting passed largely unnoticed. Growing social unrest and the excesses of the elite also passed with little but casual interest while the focus of most poorer men and women’s lives remained on keeping a roof over their heads and food on the table.
    And such was George and Dorothy Bailey’s lot. George was a big, rough man, with hands like shovels and a heart as big as an ox. He was skilled in many crafts of the countryside, he could thatch roofs, steam plough, milk a herd and just as easily take a pheasant or three when the mood or opportunity presented itself. Nevertheless he worked hard, was always out of the house at 6 every morning, frequently working 16 hour days in summertime, as was the lot of most farm workers of the time. He often failed to escape the torment of the trenches, and could sometimes be found drunk and delirious in a homebound ditch, or brawling in or out of pubs around the area. There were plenty like him who would oblige.



    2. Even in the 1930,s, mechanisation had still not reached the British countryside

    Dorothy, Dot to everyone, was a solid and dependable woman, not immune to outbursts of anger herself, but mainly the stone fixed in the ground around which George could secure an otherwise unlikely foundation. Her kitchen was constantly in a state of preparation to feed, clothe and care for a family of husband, 2 sons and 3 daughters. For despite everything, the family was warm and full of that self effacing English humour that allows you to laugh at yourself, and lack of money in no way meant a lack of love or care.



    3. The village post office

    Jake was the eldest son, stocky, built like a boxer, handsome as sin and with a roguish charm the ladies would find hard to resist as he grew older. Jake was one of those people life made for trouble to follow around. Like his father, he was prone to bouts of fisticuffs but also possessed of mischievous humour and a winning smile, he often escaped retribution for his sins because everyone liked him. Born in the spring of 1920, his upbringing had been tough. Dot had already lost two children by the time Jake was born, one in child birth and another at barely a year old, and he became her favourite as oldest son’s often do. Little that Jake did, including accidentally almost burning down the Manor farm barn, could shake her doting. His charm furnished only a warning from Albert Ball, the local Bobby, and his exploits once again were the subject of laughter in the Plough Inn public bar.

    Much of that sympathy stemmed from the common suffering that everyone had endured, and misdemeanours were often overlooked. Especially in Jakes case, because George Bailey died in 1934, when Jake was barely 14 years old, of disease of the liver and other complaints bought on by his excessive drinking. Still, many saw it as a merciful release for a man tortured by his experiences, like so many of his generation. It left Dot to care alone for Jake, his younger brother Jack, and his sisters Emily, Elizabeth and Rose, a task which despite her loss she set about with dignity and vigour. It nevertheless left Jake and his siblings without a father figure at the time they so badly needed one.

    And such was Jakes childhood. In some ways a rural idyll, in others already tainted by the horror of war. He went on to work himself on the farm, to bring in money to help his mother, and to begin the journey on the road to manhood. That was in 1935.

    Late in 1934, another young man began his scholarship at Queens College, Oxford. He was Edmund Brough-Wilks, just turned 19 years old that summer, the son of wealthy landowner and gentry, George Brough-Wilks. Edmund was born into the pinnacle of British society, in the lush Oxfordshire countryside, to a family with long established links with its Empire and military. His father had taken a commission with the Blues and Royals and had served as a staff officer during the last war, and it was no secret that he wished young Edmund to take a Kings commission also.

    But by the time Edmund was reaching his teens, his diminutive size and timid nature was beginning to make a military career look unlikely. His education at Harrow public school soon confirmed that his sporting aptitude, an indicator of male virility in those days as in these, was clearly not up to par. Edmund was very reserved, a scholarly intellectual, a highly intelligent and thoughtful young man, not one who would be at home making decisions and giving orders on the field of battle. It was obvious a rethink was needed, and his father sought to make sure the necessary strings were pulled to secure Edmund a position in a more suitable environment, the civil service.

    Edmund’s aptitude for organisation, his eye for detail, and his ability to collate and present information clearly and concisely was later to place him in an enviable position compared to that many young men of his generation would find themselves in.

    15th January 1936



    4. Britain's popular view of the Fleet

    The impromptu Imperial General Staff meeting of January 1936 was a rather informal affair compared to usual routines, but was perhaps the military’s turning point in Britain’s preparations, or rather lack of them up until that point, for what many felt was the coming war with Germany. It was to be a combined services event, and Sir Archibald Montgomery-Massingbred, the then CIGS, welcomed his guests to the palatial surroundings of Gunby Hall, his own home for the meeting, to be followed by shooting on the estate the following day. Among those present were Sir Roger Backhouse, Archibald Sinclair, Lord John Gort and many others. As the guests mingled in the drawing room prior to the meeting, the familiar sounds of fine bone china and cut glass crystal in which liveried staff served the finest teas and French wines, mixed with the lively chatter of these powerful men.

    At last, business was gotten down to, and it fell to Sir Archibald to make the opening address. And he pulled no punches. He began with the political turmoil that had beset the country following the last war, the social upheavals of the 1920’s, the depression of the 1930’s and the decline of Great Britain’s Imperial and industrial prestige in relative terms over the period. He weighed this against her future commitments, both at home and abroad, both internally and externally. All the while he kept his comments professionally within the bounds of his purpose, referring only to the events as they affected Britain’s military in terms of budgets, spending, manpower and technology. But by and by, he eventually came to his conclusion.

    Although he did not specifically rule war as being inevitable, he echoed the feeling of most military minds in the room when he stated that, as it stood, Britain would not be capable of fighting anything more than a localised conflict for several years. And even though the 10 year rule had been rescinded in 1932, it now fell to each and every man in the room to impress upon his political superiors the state to which things had sunk.
    He began with the Army. It stood at only 6 Regular Divisions, backed by reserves that would mobilise a strength of 29 Divisions, less than a third of that of France. It had next to no armour while other countries were pressing ahead with armoured formations of up to Corps strength. Its artillery was next to obsolete, it had no mobile formations except cavalry, its tactics were outdated and its funding for the coming budgetary year was being cut yet again.

    The Royal Air Force was hardly in any better position. Many of its aircraft designs had been obsolete even before they went into production. Its most modern fighter aircraft was a bi-plane that other countries bombers could outpace. Its “strategic bombers” were hopelessly outdated, without the range to hit anything except countries that could only be considered allies. Most seriously of all, it lacked anything like the numbers of pilots, crews and ground staff to sustain anything other than light wastage in a conflict lasting weeks, let alone years.

    Of the services, perhaps the Navy was the most well off, but perhaps because it had to be. Britain was an island, and in order to protect itself, and its burgeoning Empire, it had to maintain a strong navy. But this picture of strength, the largest navy in the world, was largely an illusion. To begin with, it had no modern aircraft carriers, and some of those it did have had been conversions from vessels laid down as battlecruisers. In a world where most recognised the coming importance of airpower at sea, this was calamitous.

    Its battleships, with the exception of the Nelson class, all dated to the Great War. They lacked modern gunnery systems, any realistic kind of anti-aircraft defence, and above all were hopelessly outclassed in speed by modern warships. The same was true of its battlecruisers, even if HMS Hood was respected the world over.



    5. HMS Warspite entering Malta during the late 30's

    All of its heavy cruisers and almost all of its light cruisers were of Great War or early 1920’s vintage, and some had been refitted no less than 5 times. All suffered the same fault of having been designed before airpower had been considered a viable threat at sea, and hence had little in the way of practical air defence. They were slow compared to modern German or Italian vessels, required more crew and used more fuel.

    The destroyer situation was even worse. This type of vessel was becoming even more supremely important in naval warfare, yet two thirds of British destroyers were obsolete by modern standards. Many had no anti-aircraft defence at all, and considering the threat of Germany’s much talked about submarine building programme, had not advanced in ASW since 1917. There were slow, lacked range, and many were daily out of service due to breakdowns. Added to the fact that Britain’s own submarine force was also small and neglected, it was a pretty grim picture overall.
    But Massingbred was a great believer in finishing on a high note. While Britain’s armed forces had been neglected, her Schools, Universities and learning institution’s had not, and she still lead the way in very many technologies. Added to this was the fact that the quality of Britain’s soldiers, sailors and airmen was among the best in the world, and her strategic position that controlled Western Europe was still very strong. All they had to do now was to persuade those who employed them that to harness these things together with greater investment in technology needed to be done now. For if war did come in the next few years as many believed it now would, Britain would be unable to fight it.

    There was rapturous applause and much calling of “Here here”, followed by charging of glasses before the guests went on to discuss the minutiae of the day’s events, but the tone of the meeting had been set. There were to be no more heads in the sand.

    23rd July 1936

    The cabinet had met no less than 3 times already during 1936 to consider the issue of defence spending, but Stanley Baldwin’s government appeared to be wallowing in a quagmire of claims and counter claims as to the relative strengths of the British Armed Forces. As long ago as 1934, a plan to increase the size of the RAF by 40 squadrons over the following 5 years had been approved, but by anybodies standard, nothing appeared to be happening. Straight after the January meeting of the IGS, the Air Minister went on record saying that Britain would be ahead of German aircraft production for the next 3 years. Hardly had the echo of this statement died away when in May, the newspapers were reporting that Britain would need to produce 3800 aircraft within only 2 years, twice the current estimate, in order to keep up with Germany. No wonder everyone was confused, not least the RAF who continually pointed out that all this talk had produced no new aircraft at all yet in 2 years.

    It was the same with the Royal Navy. The previous 2 years had been ones of talking and little in the way of action. In fact, the only real achievement was based not on Britain building ships, but in both Britain and Germany not building them, contained in the Anglo-German Naval agreement that had been signed the previous month. Back in February, following the IGS meeting, the Government had approved a report calling for the Royal Navy to be expanded and the Army to be re-equipped, yet no agreement on designs, requirements or timescales had yet been reached, yet alone orders placed. It was all becoming rather messy.

    Nevertheless, July’s meeting achieved three important results. First, that naval rearmament must begin first, and quickly. Second, that the RAF should follow, but with emphasis on building fighters and tactical bombers over strategic forces. And third, that the Army would be re-equipped as a mobile force before any expansion would take place. These conclusions were passed on in subsequent legislation, so that by the end of 1936, the following objectives and timescales could be met

    1) Strategy and requirements agreed in order that warship orders could be placed
    2) Shadow factory system instituted so that facilities to re-equip the Army and to build aircraft would be in place by the beginning of 1938
    3) That threats to the UK and Empire were prioritised and forces placed in relation to that threat, even if that meant abandoning attempts to defend parts of the Empire

    If 1936 had achieved anything, it was that even if Britain had decided to rearm, she had to prioritise what she would defend. The overwhelming might of Britain’s pre WW1 days had gone. If the Empire was threatened, it was no longer certain that Britain could defend it and herself concurrently. All of this became accepted policy in the Defence White Paper of 1937.

    12th March 1937

    Even Jakes charm couldn’t get him out of this one. Even Albert Ball admitted as much to Dot. Jake was in the cells in Devizes after a disturbance in the town, during which Jake had hit another man with a wooden pole. It didn’t matter that Jake protested he was attacked, it didn’t really matter what it was about or if a girl had been involved or whatever. The young man’s parents wanted Jake prosecuted and Albert had to follow that through. Dot was beside herself, and it appeared that Jake could easily go to jail. Albert took pity on her this time, and more out of sympathy for Dot he said he would see what he could do.

    He went to the local magistrate. He explained the situation. He explained that Jake and his brother and sisters and lost their father, that Dorothy was trying to bring them up alone. He explained there were extenuating circumstances. Could anything be done? The Magistrate, JP Bucknall, was old school, an authoritarian who would have like nothing more than to see the likes of Jake Bailey locked up. But he respected Albert Ball. He mulled it over for a few moments before replying. The young man needed discipline. He needed to learn a trade, see the world, become a man. When he had done that, perhaps he would come back a better citizen. If Jake joined the forces, he would speak to the boy’s parents, see what could be done. It was his last chance to come good.

    And so it came to pass. The charges were dropped and Jake was released. Dot hit him with her broom a few times, then burst into tears and hugged him for all her worth. The following month, he passed his medical and entrance test, and on the 25th April 1937, Jake left Pewsey railway station on a train bound for Winchester ATR.

    28th April 1937

    The first of the Royal Navy’s new generation of warships was laid down that week too. HMS Ark Royal was the first of the navy’s modern carriers, a beautiful ship that was to epitomise the Empire she represented in every way. But even before her hull had been completed, plans to lay down her sister ships were shelved in favour of an even more modern carrier design, the Illustrious class. The Illustrious class was to be faster, with better armour and anti-aircraft protection than Ark Royal, so it was an easy decision to take. HMS Illustrious was to be followed by no less than 3 sisters, HMS Formidable, HMS Victorious and HMS Indomitable.

    At last the program of priorities had been decided and a log jam of orders began to be placed by the War Ministry. No less than 5 new modern Battleships of the King George V class, HMS George V, HMS Prince of Wales, HMS Duke of York, HMS Anson and HMS Howe. These were all armed with new 14 inch guns with greater range than the previous 15 inch main armament. They were much faster, more powerful, better protected and required less crew than previous designs. They would form the nucleus of the navy’s new battlegroup strategy.

    The decision was also taken not to build any further heavy cruisers, but to standardise on the new Southampton class light cruiser, and no less than 8 new ships were to be ordered in 1938, along with 10 new destroyer flotillas, with more of both to follow. The aim was now to achieve a target of 50% of destroyers and light cruisers to be of modern design by no later than 1941, including wastage. It was ambitious, and with current industrial resources, not possible. But things would change, and the Admiralty knew that.

    All these designs and orders had been made with policy in mind. The only problem was that this policy was not yet known below those in senior staff positions, yet alone made public. But as the months wore on, it would become increasingly difficult not to address the issue of strategy in realistic terms. The next cabinet defence committee meeting in November was scheduled to address that thorn.



    6. Shipyard workers at Jarrow on Tyneside

    3rd September 1937

    Edmund Brough-Wilkes graduated that autumn. By way of celebration, he went to Paris, drank lots of wine and cognac, got laid, and had a good time. Many Frenchmen he met understandably didn’t want to talk about war, until they realised he was going to work for the British Foreign office. Then came a barrage of questions. What did he think would happen? Would Germany go east, or would the war resume where it had left off in 1918? Would Britain stand shoulder to shoulder with France again? And many others.



    7. Paris in the early 30's. War was a million miles away.

    Edmund didn’t really know the answers to any of these questions, least of all when he was drunk. His French was good and he nodded a lot, agreed when he thought he should do, and shook his head sympathetically when it seemed appropriate. To him, war seemed unlikely. How could war, of which he knew nothing, happen in a country as beautiful as this? Nevertheless, it was clear that many of the Frenchmen he met were worried. There was a surrealism about France it was hard not to notice. A country widely regarded to have the finest army in Europe, riven by internal conflict, governed by the principles of messy compromise, and where everything seemed either to be out of order or closed on the flimsiest of pretexts. Though he knew little of war, it was hard to imagine that this country had fought a grinding and bloody contest that had cost over a million of her young men’s lives barely two decades ago. His overwhelming impression of the French was of a country that was too busy fighting among themselves to notice the threat of any looming war. When he was sober, the thought depressed him.



    8. French troops training pre-war. Many of their weapons were obsolete in this period.

    He returned home at the end of October, to find that his father had arranged a flat for him in Shepherds Bush, west London. He was due to take up his position at the Foreign office in a week’s time, so he busied himself buying furniture and moving belongings into his new flat, exploring his new locality, preferring not to eat in fine clubs and restaurants, as was his pedigree, but in local cafe’s and hostelries. He soon began to feel at home among the down to earth people of the suburb, and soon he had found a bar where his polished tone made him something of a celebrity. He couldn’t help but notice the difference between the English and the French whenever the prospect of war came up as a topic of conversation. These working class English seemed to accept that war was coming, indeed were almost eager for it. He wondered if they would feel the same if it were their homes being shelled by artillery or bombed by aircraft.

    The following week, he began work, at first in Whitehall, but by the end of the week he had been moved to an office by the river Thames at Pimlico. To start with it was boring. Endless reports, sifting through information, collating it, preparing figures for ministers and legations, embassies overseas and anyone else in the service that needed it. The previous summer, Spain had descended into Civil War, and he found himself engaged on tasks related to Spain, Britain’s relations with her, and in collecting information for various people which he soon realised were senior ministers in Neville Chamberlains new government. It wasn’t long before people were starting to specifically request he be engaged on their task. Edmund was quickly becoming very sought after.

    25th November 1937

    The cabinet defence committee’s objective that November was to prioritise threats. In Spain civil war still raged, while across the other side of the world, Japan and China were locked in conflict. Closer to home, it appeared that German expansionism was undiminished, while Italy still clearly had ambitions in the Mediterranean and Africa.
    It was unanimously agreed that Germany currently presented the greatest threat to Great Britain. While still not letting the cat completely out of the bag, Herr Hitler had shown enough of his hand to persuade Britain to begin rearming, whilst remaining hopeful that war could be avoided. Therefore, until such times as Germany showed clear signs of peaceful intent, the main focus of rearmament would be on Northern Europe.

    The second greatest threat was ruled to be Italy’s intentions in the Mediterranean. If she were to be allowed room for manoeuvre, it was quite possible that the Suez Canal might fall under Italian control, along with Gibraltar, effectively sealing off the Med and strangling Britain’s worldwide trade. Her proximity to and her alliance with Germany only magnified her threat status.

    Japan was currently held to be the least threat, locked in a huge war with China as she was, and it was felt that she lacked the resources to threaten British interests significantly while she was so engaged. Nevertheless, it was clear that British colonial interests in the Far East, such as Hong Kong and Singapore would be extremely vulnerable should conditions change such that Japan was able to move south. It was here that the toughest decision had to be taken. Britain could not hope to fight a war against all three Axis powers simultaneously, a scenario which could easily arise. A token ground force was cheap enough to maintain, but Britain could not afford to keep a naval presence in south east Asia when every ship the navy possessed would be needed to combat the combined might of the German and Italian fleets. After much disagreement, it was finally decided that the fleet would be withdrawn east of Ceylon during 1938. It was a tough decision, but one of those that had to be taken. The small force Britain could maintain was likely to be destroyed piecemeal if hostilities did break out anyway. Therefore from September 1938, the navy would withdraw to the Ceylon line. The salient points the meeting agreed were as follows –

    1) Germany was to be considered the prime enemy.
    2) In the event of hostilities, France would be supported with an Expeditionary Force (under British control)
    3) The agreed size limit of the Army set early in the 30’s (nominally 32 Divisions with reserves, but only 29 in reality) was to be rescinded. The 60 Division Army was now the desired target in the medium term, but a decision on this would not be taken until the following year because motorisation of ALL the Army’s Infantry was currently underway, and it was as yet impossible to calculate the industrial requirement to motorise 60 Divisions. In the meantime, the Army were invited to place submissions for their requirements.
    4) Until Italy’s intentions became clear, a strategy of containment would be followed in the Mediterranean
    5) The Navy was to be withdrawn from the Far East during 1938 to reinforce the European theatre.
    6) Hong Kong and Singapore would only be held as bastions, but no reinforcements would be sent in the short term.
    7) On land, Burma would be the stopline, but only minimum forces could only be spared in the short term.

    In essence, the bones of a defensive opening to any conflict had been agreed, while at same time making the preparations to put in place the industrial requirements that would be needed to take the war to the enemy. British policy, at least, was now set.



    9. British reserve troops in training

    6th January 1938

    Jake Bailey had completed his basic training by the end of the previous summer. He was posted to 1st Battalion, Kings Royal Rifle Corps, (KRRC), then part of 10th Infantry Brigade, 4th Infantry Division. At least he was going to a Regular division, something he would be thankful for later.

    The division spent the summer and autumn in Kent, training on Romney Marsh, forced marches in full kit, digging in then filling in the holes again immediately they had completed them, running, milling (boxing) and weapon handling skills. The emphasis was on fitness, fieldcraft and preparation. Jake had never felt so exhausted. But he was learning to work with his mates in his section, to rely on them as they relied on him. He learnt that he had to do his share. There was no shirking and no wasting. They all had to keep each other alive, because when the crap hit the fan, each other was all they would have. He was becoming a man.

    At Christmas he got leave and went home. Dot was so happy to see him she was crying her eyes out again. He laughed that he couldn’t do anything right, she cried when he went, she cried when he came back. But the community welcomed him with open arms too. In the Plough he was treated as a hero and never bought a drink all night. It was like a whole new world for him.

    In January when he went back, he learned they were going to Scotland on exercise.For the first time in his life he felt he belonged.

    16th March 1938

    Events began to speed up as winter drew to a close. Intelligence learned that Hitler had abolished the German War Ministry and created the OKH, while at the same time removing the last officers who might have presented any opposition. In March, German troops marched into Austria and the country was annexed on the 13th.
    The French then gave assurances to the Czechs that they would honour their treaty obligations, but all this was swiftly undone the following month when Daladier became French Prime Minister, immediately bringing appeasement back to the negotiating table. The British Government appeared to be making similar noises. Poland meanwhile, continued its enmity with Lithuania, the Spanish Civil War raged on, and Japan and China were still locked in bloody conflict.

    Edmund Brough-Wilkes watched all this happen, both in the newspapers and in the correspondence and requests for information across his desk. It felt like he was living in a bubble, insulated from life outside work, for having signed the Official Secrets Act he was forbidden to talk about anything he did and he took it deadly seriously. But he heard people talking about these events and the silly things they said and it all seemed so unreal. For the first time, he realised that war was slowly, but very surely creeping up on them all.



    10. Chamberlain on his return from Munich

    30th September 1938

    Peace in our time

    As Chamberlains words faded away from the airwaves, Britain and the rest of Europe settled back to the reality of what their politicians had achieved. The Sudetenland is occupied the following day. Those who know the truth of what has happened to the Czechs are secretly shocked. Among them is Edmund. The “Munich Agreement” is now history, and many realise that a line has been crossed, and that far from being “peace in our time”, war is now virtually certain.



    11. German troops enter Czechoslovakia

    Among them is Winston Churchill, who broadcasts an address to the United States condemning the agreement, saying exactly what many already think, that they, as well as we, should prepare for war.



    .
    Last edited by Redandwhite; 21-04-2011 at 23:55.

  2. #2
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    A powerful opening. Will be interesting to see what will follow.
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  3. #3
    Part 1

    “That will be all, thank you Mr Benes”

    October - December 1938


    As the furore of the Munich Agreement died away, a state of confused calm reigned over Western Europe. The Czech Premier, Benes, had been treated like a butler, not even invited to the meeting to decide the future of his own nation. Many of those involved were left with a feeling of extreme guilt at the plight of the Czechs and their part in it, while among the general population’s of Britain and France, who had no idea of the treachery involved, a feeling of relief came over. In part, this also extended to the senior members of Britain’s military, for although they felt bad about what had happened to the Czechs, their minds were balanced by the knowledge that Britain was in no shape to fight a war as things stood.



    1. The British government and senior military establishment, November 1938

    As far as rearmament went, orders had been placed, and work had begun on HMS Illustrious and HMS King George V, while the keel of HMS Prince of Wales had been laid down. But as yet, with Britain’s economy still firmly on a peacetime footing in the wake of the Munich Agreement, no further industrial capacity yet existed to begin any further orders without upsetting the delicate balance of public opinion.



    2. British production and industrial capacity, November 1938

    October passed with little more thought about war, except in the United States where the broadcasting of Orson Welles’s “War of the Worlds” caused mass panic in various states.

    Meanwhile, the first evidence of Britain’s new intent appeared on the 12th November, as HMS Ark Royal slipped into the Mersey at Birkenhead. She would take a few months to work up, but was due for commission in early 1939. It was a start.



    3. HMS Ark Royal following her launch in 1938

    As 1938 drew to a close, the Empire was reminded of the threat from Japan as troops of the Imperial Japanese Army closed up to the frontier with Hong Kong. In France, civil unrest and calls for a general strike resound around the country following Reynaud’s attempts to reform French industry and improve productivity. Britain looks on with growing unease at an ally who increasingly looks less and less like the dependable one of 1914 with each passing day.

    December brings harsh winter weather, and by Christmas all of Britain is blanketed in snow with temperatures down to -10 degrees in places.

    Jake Bailey’s Division returned from Scotland during the summer, and was sent to Salisbury Plain, where it was to be re-equipped with transport and trained in the Motorised Infantry role, as was intended for all of the existing 27 Infantry Divisions. As yet, Jake had seen precious little sign of anything resembling a modern tank, except some Whippet models when they were held over at Catterick on the way back from Scotland.

    He had now been in the Army for nearly 20 months. On 22nd December, he was told he was being promoted to Lance Corporal, effective 2nd January 1939. He was given a 10 day pass and went to London with some of his mates.

    In the meantime, Edmund’s hard work had not gone unnoticed either. Just before the end of November, he was told he was being transferred back to Whitehall. He had been specifically requested. He was intrigued, but that would have to wait. He also had time due, and went home to Oxfordshire for the Christmas festivities.

    The Foreign office had been studying the stance of the USSR for many months now, particularly since the Munich fiasco had broken. Britain was trading normally with the Communist state, but a dangerous complacency had set in with regard to how senior establishment figure’s viewed “the Great Bear”.

    There was a clear conception among many diplomats that Germany and the USSR were ideological enemies, and so no threat of them co-operating in a common purpose was envisaged. Nevertheless, it was known that the two countries traded extensively and that they may even have shared technology, and some smarter men in the diplomatic corps were counselling caution with this attitude. Still, when the tentative suggestion was put forward that perhaps Britain and France should try and move closer to the USSR, it was met with distain. Britain didn’t need the USSR was the attitude in the FO and the government in general, a stance promoted by Winston Churchill, who undoubtedly influenced Chamberlain on this issue. In the depths of the Foreign Office, there were others who realised that this attitude might have to change. In fact, many felt that Britain had devoted too much of her intelligent resources to internal matters of late, and now it was time to increase her diplomatic activity greatly, even if that were at the expense of other matters.

    Christmas 1938 came and went peacefully without major incident. All seemed well in the world. Some wiser souls were wondering if this might be the last peaceful Christmas they would see for a long time.


    .
    Last edited by Redandwhite; 05-11-2010 at 10:14.

  4. #4
    Part 2

    Marching feet and angry voices

    January – May 1939

    As 1939 began Britain was still gripped in an icy winter. Temperature’s fell further to -15 degrees below zero in some places, and the Army was called in to keep railway lines clear, open roads to remote villages, keep farm animals fed and ensure power supplies remained uninterrupted. It was seen as a further form of training.



    1. Snowbound village

    During January, Sir John Simon was bought in as armament minister, where it was felt his organisational skills might be beneficial to British Industry. Elsewhere in government high office, everything else remained the same for the present.



    The first crises of 1939 had nothing to do with the perceived enemy, but involved an argument between the British and the French over the size of the British land component to the continent should conflict arise. The French demanded 25 divisions immediately on the outbreak of war, in two armies, to be under French command. British GHQ were aghast at this, pointing out that the entire British Army at that point consisted of only 29 divisions, and the French surely could not expect Britain to defend her homeland and fulfil her commitments in the Mediterranean and the Far East with only four divisions? Apart from that, any British Expeditionary Force would remain strictly under British command.

    The French responded with a revised demand for 12 divisions immediately any conflict began, with 12 more within 6 months, all reporting to British commanders, despite the conflict of interest this might create. The British countered that their industry, committed at present as it was to build naval assets and aircraft, would be in no position to expand the Army much beyond its current size until 1940 at the earliest. The best they could achieve in the short term was 9 divisions immediately on the outbreak of war, with 3 divisions held in reserve in Britain. Beyond that, there was little more they could do but look at the situation once war broke out. Reluctantly, the French agreed, but it was a simmering bone of contention that was to remain in the background. The French clearly felt the British could do more as an ally, and the British were, secretly, reluctant to commit a greater force until the mettle of the French had been tested. As if to calm these waters, Neville Chamberlain announced in the House of Commons that any attack on France would be considered an attack on Britain also.

    February passes over quietly, but the month is almost over before a thaw in temperatures arrives to relieve an icebound Britain.




    2. British motorised formation on Salisbury plain

    By the middle of March, the motorisation of Britain’s Infantry divisions is considered complete, although much training in the new role remains. Jake Bailey, now a section 2 i/c, moves with his division to the New Forest which has become a massive assembly area. He has never seen so many troops together in one place, and for the first time he sees more modern tanks, belonging to the 1st Armoured Division which are adjacent to 4th Division in the Christchurch area. Also for the first time he begins to meet the volunteers who have recently signed up, many of them coming into the 4th Division, and he realises that next to them, he is now a veteran. His task, as an NCO, now becomes to train these men, even though he is only 19 years old himself.

    Edmunds new position turns out to be working directly for the office of the foreign minister Anthony Eden, which he begins during early March. From here, Edmund is afforded a spectacularly close view of foreign affairs and is able to see closely what is going on at the heart of the British government. He is told that the plain clothes gentlemen he will see watching him from time to time is from Special Branch and warned again of his Official Secrets Act pledge. He could not have arrived at a more tense moment.



    On 27th March, in direct contravention of the Munich agreement, German forces suddenly move into Czechoslovakia, and the following day the country is annexed. Italy does the same in Albania. Radio stations and newspapers are alive with talk of war and treachery. Any last hope that war can be avoided perishes, and in the west at last it sinks in that perhaps only a few months of peace remain at best.

    The following day, Britain and France issue a “guarantee of Polish independence”, which is perceived the world over as a line in the sand. In the USA it is seen as yet another hurdle in the appeasement process that will be pushed over sooner or later. Edmund can see now that it is different this time. Both the Foreign Office and British Intelligence are sure that the USSR and Germany have been colluding, especially as attempts to move closer to the Soviets have been rebuffed. This time, he knows that Poland is the issue that will start the war.



    On the 30th April, British papers announce the 2 year draft for all men in aged 20 years to 26 years except those in higher education or reserved industries. Later the same day, Chamberlain announces that the British economy will go onto War footing from 5th April. Across the country there is turmoil in homes, factories and offices as men scramble to find out their status. Within days letters will begin dropping on doormats telling them where to go.



    On the 4th April, France announces general mobilisation, followed 2 days later by Britain. Across Europe men are moving to enlistment points, as the military machines are finally shaken into life. As if to underline that the conflict could easily become a worldwide one, Japan annexes Xibei San Ma on the 9th of April.







    3. French troops begin mobilisation



    4. British troops during mobilisation

    The British Army begin the long planned implementation of the British Expeditionary force, already beginning to form along the south coast of England. For the moment, Lord Gort is placed in command, but bearing in mind his other commitments as Chief of the Army and the CIGS, this may change in future. The BEF is to consist initially of four Army Corps



    I Corps : Alanbrooke – 3 Infantry divisions
    II Corps : Wavell – 3 Infantry division
    III Corps : Dill – 3 Infantry divisions
    IV Corps (TBA) – 1 Armoured and 2 Infantry divisions

    The BEF begins its final formation during May, and it is planned to begin sending advance parties across to France during early June. Jake hears that 4th Division will be part of IV corps, and will be one of the first units across.

    Meanwhile, in the Foreign office, Edmund is involved in the final desperate attempts to find which way the USSR will go if, indeed when, it comes to war.





    .
    Last edited by Redandwhite; 05-11-2010 at 12:00.

  5. #5
    Colonel CptEasy's Avatar
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    The guests have arrived at the party. Time to bring in the booze

    Still, if you plan to go historical, it will still take some time before Jake sees any battle. In my MP-AAR (see below) I chose a slightly more aggressive strategy for UK... Looking forwards to next post.
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  6. #6
    Part 3

    The devil you know

    June – July 1939

    Now that mobilisation was well under way and the British economy was on a war footing, the Imperial General Staff sat down at the beginning of June to define strategy for the coming 6 months. They divided their responsibilities into three main areas –

    The North European theatre
    The Mediterranean and North Africa
    India and the Far East

    North Europe
    The Royal Navy felt that, with the new warships currently planned, that it could contain the bulk of the Kreigsmarine in the North Sea and prevent most surface raiders and small battlegroups from breaking out into the Atlantic. If larger forces ventured from port, then this was desirable in order to bring the enemy to battle and it was felt the RN enjoyed sufficient superiority to defeat the Germans. U-Boats were a different matter. The best that could be achieved in the short term was to try and protect the merchant marine and sea lanes as far south and west as possible until the destroyer fleet could be modernised and trained in modern ASW techniques.

    The Royal Air Force, with the limited assets at its disposal, would initially concentrate on protecting the UK mainland from attack and supporting the British land component on the continent. Strategic bombing of the German homeland was ruled out for the time being.

    With only 1 Army and limited armour, the Army’s job depended mainly on the performance of France in the opening stages of any conflict, and also on the decisions of Belgium and Holland. It was unlikely Britain could begin to build up further forces on the continent for some time, therefore a defensive stance, supporting the French and/or Belgians was seen as the only viable alternative in the short term. At this point, it was also noted that Germany may try to take Norway for its mineral assets, and then there was the question of Swedish neutrality. Much would also depend on how the USSR reacted as well.




    The Mediterranean
    Britain’s position in the Med looked vulnerable, on land at least. The Navy envisaged having a harder time against the relatively modern Italian fleet, should she join the war, due to having less resource, but was confident it could contain them in the short term and gain ascendancy in the medium. The longer the Italians stayed out of the war, the longer Britain had to modernise its fleet in the Med. In the meantime, Gibraltar and Malta would have to be held at all costs to prevent the Italians from having access to the Atlantic, and much also depended on France. If she could contain them in the west, Britain’s task in the east would be made easier. The stance of Spain, Greece and Turkey would also be important.

    The Air Force too would have difficulties to begin with. At present, the Air Force in the Middle East consisted of one Tactical bomber wing, and no fighters at all. That had to be remedied, and soon, but that would be difficult as Britain’s home resources also had to be strengthened too. Again, time would be of the greatest importance.



    The Army’s task looked difficult on paper. The Western Desert Force was in the process of being upgraded to full Army status, the 8th Army. But at present, its entire strength consisted of 3 weak Motorised Infantry divisions and an outdated Armoured division. In Britain’s African possessions, the only defence forces were weak militia or Garrison divisions. The aim in the short term was to complete the upgrade of the WDF to an Army of a minimum of 3 Corps, preferably with at least 3 Armoured divisions, which it was thought could be accomplished with the 6 months. In the meantime, if Italy joined any war against Britain and decided to go east, or if France’s position deteriorated and she were forced to withdraw forces from North Africa, then the situation might deteriorate badly. Time, again, would be the deciding factor.



    India and the Far East
    Strategy in the Far East had already been set to some degree by Britain’s decision to pull naval forces out of the theatre. The downside of the decision to reinforce Europe and the Med at the expense of Hong Kong and Singapore meant that Japan might be encouraged to try her hand. Still, so long as Japan remained bogged down in China, she would be hard pressed to sweep down into South East Asia.

    Nevertheless, if she did it was felt that the Burma stopline was the best strategy. Hong Kong would almost certainly be lost, and it was doubtful if Singapore would last long without reinforcement. But if Japan could be held in the jungles of Burma, with the resulting supply problems presented by an offensive in that type of terrain, time could be bought to reinforce the position, and in due course go over to the offensive.
    Still, on the face of it, that was going to be no easy task. The defence of Burma rested at present on Burma Corps, consisting of only 2 Indian Divisions, and two garrison brigades of Burmese troops. The only immediate improvement that could be made was to upgrade the Burmese units to a division for the defence of Rangoon, giving the other two divisions more scope for manoeuvre. Short of that, there would be no fresh forces for Burma for some time. That being the case, Lt General Slim, one of the Army’s best rising stars, had been placed in overall command.



    That just left India. There was limited scope to draw forces into Burma from the Army of India, which is where the two reinforcement divisions already there had come from. But that left India, a country where dissent could easily take hold, with only 9 divisions for defence of its borders and internal security duties. In fact, as any scholar of the British Army knows, the Indian Army is 1/3 British, for every Indian Army Brigade of three battalions, one is a British Battalion (which is why only 29 divisions of the 1939 32 division British Army were available in Europe – the other three were divided among the Army of India)

    As resource became available, it was planned to create 4 more Indian Divisions and divert 2 new British regular Infantry divisions to reinforce Burma, and possibly a light Armoured division as well. The possibility of creating militia units would also be looked at. This would allow the creation of a new 14th Army. Again, much depended on time. If Japan stayed out of the war, so much the better. If she did not, then the situation might quickly deteriorate.



    That, in essence, was the strategic plan. Britain would buy time in all three theatres to a greater of lesser extent, but would press any opportunity that developed. In 6 months time, the situation would be reviewed again.

    The Intelligence game. Britain’s intelligence networks in 1939.







    As summer arrived, the first of the new class of carriers, HMS Illustrious, was launched. Britain now had two modern carriers and 3 more on the way. The superiority of the new class was clear when comparison was offered -





    1. HMS Illustrious following her launch in 1939

    Across the country, families began preparing to evacuate children, taping up windows and building Anderson shelters. Peace could not last much longer.
    Last edited by Redandwhite; 05-11-2010 at 23:37.

  7. #7
    Part 4

    The scent of war

    August 1939

    Advance units of the BEF had been in France since early June, selecting and preparing assembly points, marking routes, preparing supply areas and allocating quarters. At the beginning of August, the bulk of the Army began to cross to France on ferries, troop ships and navy vessels. On the rail routes to the south coast of England from the interior counties where the troops had been held, the lines were choked with troop trains moving to the embarkation ports in Kent and the Portsmouth area.



    1. British units disembarking in France

    The political tension rose inexorably, and by early August the Royal Navy had begun to patrol its stations, moving battle groups out into the North Sea and destroyer patrols out into the western approaches and the Eastern Atlantic as well as the Portuguese seaboard.



    2. HMS Ark Royal underway, seen from under the guns of HMS Renown, August 1939.

    By mid August , the British Expeditionary Force had moved nine divisions across, and 3 corps had moved into the line between the channel coast and Lille. Now they began to dig in and prepare defensive positions while everyone waited for the next development. It wasn’t long in coming.



    At 4.00am on the 22nd August, German artillery units opened fire on their pre-ranged target areas, and an hour later the main assaults began to go in on forward Polish positions. At first light, tactical bombers and close support aircraft were engaging targets deep inside Poland and attacking airfields across the frontier. The Second World War had begun.

    Back in Britain, the news was greeted with as much relief as it was with anything else. After years of waiting, hoping, praying, it was now here, it was time to put up or shut up. Everyone now had a job to do. By 5pm that day, it had been announced that the British economy was going to total economic mobilisation the following week, and service by obligation would follow on the 1st September. Britain was now preparing to fight the long war.

    The Navy were first into action, and they did their job well. In an early engagement on the 26th August off the Thames estuary, a German battle group was intercepted and put to flight, but not before sinking the 9th Destroyer Flotilla. Nevertheless, revenge was sweet. The retreating German naval group was ambushed by 2 CAG operating from HMS Ark Royal, quickly sinking a destroyer and the cruiser Nurnberg.





    In the opening naval exchanges, it was first blood to the Royal Navy. The war was barely a week old.


    .
    Last edited by Redandwhite; 07-11-2010 at 00:52.

  8. #8
    Colonel CptEasy's Avatar
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    Nice reading as usually. Havn't seen pic 1 in part 4 before. Good quality and a lot of nice little details. Looking forwards to the action.
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  9. #9
    Very interesting AAR, I must say. Brittain always makes for a challeging game, especially when starting in 1936.

    Will surely be following this one!

  10. #10
    General truth is life's Avatar
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    This is well-written interesting stuff redandwhite. And a challenging scenario, too. Subscribed.

  11. #11
    First Lieutenant AUSTERLITZ's Avatar

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    Subscribed,nice start.
    My AAR on the use of the 3 brigade model for germany.
    Red baron's Revenge on the aar forums

  12. #12
    Thanks everyone.

    This is my very first game of HOI3, as it wouldn't run on my old computer, and sat in it's box on a shelf for 6 months. I was an HOI2 addict, but now with the game patched to 1.04 and SI added, it runs fine.

    I've read through as many threads as I can in the general HOI3 forum to get some pointers, but rather than run a few games to get used to it, I decided to jump straight in. That way I can't practice "gamey tactics" even if I knew them. Hopefully, this might lead to some entertaining moments because I'm bound to make mistakes and under/over-estimations. It might also mean a more realistic game. After all, Churchill, Hitler and Stalin et al, only got to make the decisions once. So I felt that if I was going to do an AAR, the first one would be the best.

    I also decided to go on Hard setting, and try to keep my decisions similar or in line with what the military commanders of the day would have done in terms of "risk" assessment. For example, the decision to limit the British Expeditionary Force to 12 divisions is similar to that of the actual decision, wheras some players might have been tempted to send a bigger force or even go at the Germans while they were engaged with the Poles. The latter would have fallen at the "upper" end of the risk scale to me, and so was discarded as an option.

    I hope that helps set the scene a little more and thank you for all your comments so far.

  13. #13
    If this is your first game I think you're doing very well, although the war hasn't really started yet...

    Best of luck!

  14. #14
    Part 5

    The fall of Poland and the convoys

    September – November 1939

    Edmund Brough-Wilkes listened attentively, notepad in hand, as Anthony Eden spoke. That was Edmunds job. To record concisely what had been said or agreed, then to take it away and provide the information required. And he was very good at it. It was early September, and Eden was summing up the position as the meeting of the Foreign affairs team drew to a close.

    It had to be said that British diplomacy had hit a bit of slump. There had been no rush from the Commonwealth nations to Britain’s side, as at the start of the last war. Though they remained close and would probably join the mother country in time, for the moment they were still on the sidelines. Belgium was hanging stubbornly on to neutrality, as was the Netherlands, and no amount of talking seemed to be able to shift them. In the Mediterranean, efforts were being made to stop Greece sliding toward the Axis, and while the USA was drifting toward the allies she remained indifferent to all attempts to secure her support. Currently, Britain had little to show for her expenditure of precious diplomatic assets.

    Eden now switched to Poland. It had been expected that Poland would be able to hold out for some time in a defensive stance, until Britain and France could gather strength, but now this was looking unlikely. Under the weight of the German offensive, her front had buckled, she had quickly lost almost all her frontier territories along with a large chunk of her industrial capacity, and now the Germans had broken through in several places. For the Poles, it looked grim indeed. The press had clamoured for Britain to send aid and a couple of foolish generals had suggested sending an expeditionary force, an idea that was quickly squashed by the General Staff. The editorials of several papers were carrying highly critical analysis of British policy, something which had led the government to pass a press censure bill that afternoon.





    1. German ground crews play cards while Bf109D1's sit nearby at readiness, September 1939

    Nevertheless, the press were right. Britain and France’s “guarantee” had been shown up for exactly what it was. A huge paper tiger, a bluff, and one which had manifestly failed in its purpose. Poland was alone and she was losing and Britain and France could not, or would not, help. The General staff had pressed France for an offensive in Alsac-Lorraine, but this had been met with outright refusal. The French had responded that, if Britain were not prepared to send larger forces, then France could not be expected to undertake the war against Germany alone, and there was more than a little truth in this. In fact, neither France nor Britain was strong enough to launch an offensive on land at this stage, and they both knew it. And both watched uneasily as the German army cut through the Poles with consummate ease. The General Staff, in its coolest appraisal, gave the Poles a month, perhaps two.



    2. German Motorised Infantry, September 1939

    150 miles away, Jake Bailey was digging holes in the ground. They dug one hole, then they were ordered to dig another. Then another. There didn’t seem much point in this. They were told that at the first sign of a German move in the west, the BEF would move forward into Belgium, to cover the flank of the French 1st Army. So these holes in France seemed pretty pointless. Why could they not move forward into Belgium now and dig holes there, they asked? No one seemed to know the answer. So they carried on digging them where they were. Many of the younger or newer recruits were whinging about it. Lack of character, laughed the older hands and the sweats like Jake. That was the Army for you. They rather you dug holes than did nothing. Even if you had to fill them in again.

    As September wore on, the first signs that the war at sea would become a siege conflict began to manifest themselves. After their August defeat, the Kreigsmarine’s surface ships were nowhere to be seen. But a another more sinister threat, also rarely seen, was definitely there unlike their surface ships. Submarines.

    Throughout September Britain’s convoys came under sustained attack. By late September, 12 merchantmen had been lost to submarine attack. And it only appeared that things would get worse. By October, fully ¾ of Britain’s destroyers in home waters and all of Coastal Commands air assets were engaged on Anti-submarine warfare in the western approaches and off the Spanish and Portuguese coasts, but with little success. Little more could be done in the short term, but research into better ASW methods and weapons was underway. It was a war that had to be won. For even if Britain improved her success rate substantially, Germany’s ability to replace losses would only grow with it. Still, it was not a war without success at all. The Navy managed in the same period to intercept and sink 4 German merchantmen also. But the difference was, at this stage Britain relied on her convoy’s for survival.





    3. Lockheed Hudson's of RAF Coastal Command on patrol, western approaches.

    As October began, the Spanish Civil war ended in a Nationalist victory. This was yet another threat, as a country now close to the Axis bordered the Mediterranean, and more importantly, Gibraltar.
    For the Poles, the game was nearly up. On 15th October, strong German spearheads broke through in the south and began pushing toward Poland’s eastern border, while another thrust came within 30 miles of Warsaw. The following week, Soviet forces crossed the eastern frontier, confirming the Allies worst fears of collusion between Germany and the USSR. On the 24th, Warsaw fell, and the following day Polish resistance collapsed. No announcement of annexation was made, but the new border between the uneasy alliance of fascism and communism appeared to run along the River Bug. Poland was no more.



    4. Polish POW's



    5. It wasn't all one way. Knocked out Pzkfw III, Poznan, 1939.

    As October turned into November, Britain’s attention now focused on the battle of the convoy’s. Before his departure as armaments minister, Hore Belisha, in a moment of thankful foresight, had put the production of merchant ships quite high up on production priorities. New freighters were due to start coming off the slipways in December, and as it proved to be, not a moment too soon. By the start of that month, British Merchant losses had hit 37 in three months, a figure that could not be sustained for long without a substantial replacement program. For the moment, that was in place, but along with the warship replacement program, it was eating into available production capacity for tanks and aircraft, both of which would be sorely needed once German attention turned west, as it surely would.

    As December began, temperatures again plummeted across northern Europe. The days had shortened, snow began to fall in Scotland, and storms raged across the North Sea and the Atlantic. It was a lonely, bitterly cold and thankless duty for the destroyer crews at sea. But for the moment at least, it seemed that any German operations in the west would have to wait until 1940. Poland’s valiant stand had achieved no more in the end than a little more breathing space for Britain and France.


    .
    Last edited by Redandwhite; 08-11-2010 at 17:42.

  15. #15
    Colonel CptEasy's Avatar
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    Everything is quite neatly following history so far. Lets see what you can do in the west. With French AI doing weired stuff you better watch out for losing divisions to Germany.
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  16. #16
    Part 6

    All quiet on the western front

    December 1939 – January 1940

    For Jake Bailey and the soldiers of the BEF, the winter of 1939-40 was bleak indeed. There was no leave and everyone had to maintain readiness. Daytime temperatures in December fell to minus 5, and at night it dropped to 12 below in places. The battalions in his brigade were rotated so that the “frontier”, which in their sector was actually a drainage ditch 3 feet wide between two fields, was manned one week on, one week off, and one in reserve. Not that “on” and “off” made much difference. “On” consisted of manning defensive works, revetments and slit trenches close up to the border...or ditch, depending on which way you looked at it. The joke in his battalion went round that some of the cows on the Belgian side might be fifth columnists.

    “Off” consisted of manning defensive works, revetments and slit trenches further back, the only difference being that the mortar platoon was dug in there, the Battalion CP was in a farmhouse nearby, and there was shelter of sorts in the barns and farm buildings to be had. Only “reserve” afforded any real relief, being 2 miles back in the brigade rest area, where there was a cookhouse and somewhere to get a hot bath. Otherwise it was a pretty miserable existence that December.

    The land on the 4th Infantry Division’s frontage was flat. There was no high ground nearby, and the terrain followed the typical open nucleus dwelling style of that area. Small fields of perhaps 5 -10 acres, bordered by hedgerows, occasional copses of trees, little or no elevation, and the occasional farm or hamlet. There was also a high water table, which meant that as soon as a trench was excavated, it pretty much immediately filled with water in the bottom 12 inches. Trenchfoot and frostbite were common and many men were lost to the sick bay for extended periods. And that was before anyone had fired a shot.


    Back in London, in warm heated offices, the War Cabinet met on 12th December. One of the items on the agenda was the General Staff’s summary of events and possible next moves, which was read out to the assembled politicians.
    The General Staff considered German options. Obviously, the German’s had agreed to the USSR sharing the spoils in Poland in return for keeping out of the conflict, at least for the moment. It was also noted that she had employed new tactics coupled with highly mobile forces, though the fact that several British Generals, among them Liddell Hart and Fuller, had been advocating this very approach since the 1920’s, was skilfully ignored.

    It was now assumed that the USSR’s tacit compliance extended to Western Europe as well as Poland, since if the Germans were fighting there, they were not fighting in Russia. Therefore, Germany’s next move would be to eliminate Denmark, which could well lead to attempts to secure mineral resources in Norway, either by diplomatic means, or more likely by force. No one knew at this stage which way Sweden would go if and when this occurred. The Allies therefore had to decide if they would intervene in such an event.

    Whether or not they did, with the swift fall of Poland and the USSR looking the other way, the German’s were free to concentrate against the British and the French on the western front. That would begin, in the General Staff’s estimation, as soon as the weather permitted.

    The American’s were already describing it as the “phoney war”. On land and in the air, very little had actually happened. At sea, it was a different matter. During December, U-Boats sank another 8 merchant vessels, although 10 new ships were launched. It was perhaps a month of respite for the Navy, as German activity decreased during the latter half of the month, perhaps because it was Christmas. Across Northern Europe it snowed heavily through to the end of the month. In Britain, navy patrols and air missions were called in. It was pointless wasting the fuel.



    1. Typical British Destroyer, 1940


    On the 31st December the weather began to change. And the General Staff were proved correct. On 6th January, German forces suddenly crossed the Danish border and within 9 days it was all over. On the 9th January, New Zealand joined the allies, and the same day, Bomber Command began nightime operations against Bremen and Wilhelmshaven. The next day, the Royal Navy moved into blocking positions in the Norwegian Trench and the Skagerrak to prevent any amphibious operations aimed at Oslo. It was too late for the Danes, but Britain was determined that Norway would not go without a fight. On 12th January, the General Staff was ordered to start preparing a second force initially up to Corps strength to intervene in Norway should it become necessary.



    By 16th January, German forces were beginning to build up on the French Frontier. 3 days later, HMS Formidable, the 2nd Illustrious class carrier was launched. On the 26th, Bomber Command called off its night time bombing after heavy losses. In 18 consecutive night time operations, Bomber Command had lost 51 aircraft, an average which on current strength could not be sustained.



    Despite another new carrier, HMS Victorious, being launched on the 30th, at sea, things got slowly worse. During January, U-Boats sank 22 merchant vessels and 4 escorts. There were no more replacements due until late February. For the moment at least, Britain needed merchant vessels, destroyers, and better ASW weapons, not carriers.



    2. Another merchant ship lost


    .

  17. #17
    First Lieutenant AUSTERLITZ's Avatar

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    Typical british earlygame dilemma,too many fronts too few troops.
    Btw how is ur asw tech?
    Nice update,looking forwards.
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  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by AUSTERLITZ View Post
    Typical british earlygame dilemma,too many fronts too few troops.
    Btw how is ur asw tech?
    Nice update,looking forwards.
    Currently researching ASW level 2 (due to be complete July), and ASW is going straight back to the top priority spot each time until we get to level 5. Building convoy transports and destroyers (Battle class) all on high priority. About to put some research into Naval bombers too.

  19. #19
    Pantomacatalasecesionanis ta

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    A very appealing and interesting AAR. To be your first one, I must say that the beginning is wonderful. Keep going like that!
    Last edited by Kurt_Steiner; 10-11-2010 at 16:18.
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  20. #20
    Field Marshal TheBromgrev's Avatar
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    I like your writing style, although I would prefer a few more in-game screenshots. Not that I don't like your historical pictures; they're great. But, a few more in-game screens of your current situation, production queue, and tech research would help tie the narrative to in-game events.

    I'm very interested to see how your game goes, since I've never played an Allied nation aside from the Republic of China.
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