"We thought that Christmas that none of us were going to go home ever again. Bullets, shells and grenades were the everyday really. However when when it turned to Christmas day all of us the Yanks and the Canucks just stopped fighting. It was eerily quiet...... I never did find out who started singing us or them but within minutes of the first carol starting men up and down all the trenches were joining in before long the little impromptu truce escalated so that we all came out of our positions, leaving behind our weapons and actually got to know the people we were fighting against...... Somehow that gave us the hope to get through the rest of the conflict." - "Christmas at War" Joseph Berke
ANZAC Deployment Camp,
December 30th, 1915
It was smokey in the tent, the smoke didn't help with the humidity and oppressing heat but Cpl John Smith didn't mind. At least he wasn't getting shot at. I man to his right offered him a smoke but he declined, working with explosives didn't really encourage smoking so he had dropped the habit. Instead he chewed on either seeds, grass or occasionally coffee beans. They didn't taste great but they killed the cravings. A hushed silence fell over the tent as Lt Daniels took up a position in front of the chairs. He stood there looking out to the crowd and then nodded. With that the lights in the tent were turned out and a clicking noise started with a single light showing on the white canvas screen at the front of the room. The light darkened as a familiar picture showed up on the screen to much cheering from the men.
The picture proceeded to inform them that this cut of film reel was for the "Viewing of His Majesties Armed Forces". The film then proceeded to change to show them a picture of twisted metal looking for all the world like a ribcage sticking out of the ground. It changed to a black screen with writing on it and the Leftenant began to talk.
"Strasbourg, Germany. Famed German fighter pilot Manfred Von Richthofen," the picture changed to show a smiling man moving around an aircraft with the ensign of the German Air Force before switching back to the writing, "has successfully shot down a French airship outside the city of Strasbourg that was believed to be destined for the city to bomb civilian targets" the picture changed again to show the city "upon watching this behemoth of the sky take flame the grateful populace rushed the nearby aerodrome and treated Von Richthofen and his men to celebrations" the picture showed people surrounding an aircraft, passing around flowers and bottles while supporting a very happy man in German uniform on their shoulders.
"The French Military denies the Airship was bound for any civilian targets stating it was bound for military targets only. The French media however have started to give brave Von Richthofen the nickname "Le Baron Rouge" after his aircraft and "The noble blood he has bathed himself in." " The Lt looked up at the room "Bloody Frogs, can't even insult a man correctly." The laughter that followed was immediately hushed as the picture changed. "French Indochina, Japanese Troops began landing operations." It showed soldiers coming off boats and organising tents and such, the Japanese Flag of the red dot on a white field with a Union Jack in the top left flew in the background. "They hope that they will be able to push the French out of the area and secure India from any possible enemy attack."
The picture changed again numerous times to show Irish forces returning to Okinawa supposedly to be stationed there before being moved somewhere else, South African troops taking towns that had belonged to the French in Africa, British Troops landing in Belgium to help reinforce the Belgians against the French and the Dutch, Canadian troops in their positions along that miserable front and finally some message from the Pom's Prime-Minister that was supposed to be rallying. John wasn't really paying attention for at that bit he had spied senior officers and NCO's falling into the tent and he stood up at the end of the film before they even spoke. "Alright Gents you've had your rest now His Majesty wants you to go out and earn your shilling. Pack up and get ready to move out, we sail in two hours." Spoke the RSM.
And so it was that Cpl John Smith boarded the landing boat as it went dark. As the boat sailed out he went through his checking routine to make sure he had his tools, some gun-cotten for blasting, and ammunition for his rifle. He worked the action on his rifle to make sure it was smooth and loaded the two extra .303 rounds on top of his ten into the rifle that he had been shown by a Veteran how to do. The boats slipped through the night with the coast to his right, after a while he heard the booms of thunder behind him and looked back to see that on the coast flashes were filling up the night as well as the sound of shells hitting the ground. The boats came to shore at the beach and the ANZAC forces were dropped off. A small corps of troops stayed back to organise supplies while the majority of the troops moved in-ground.
They moved through jungle that was just shy of be being impassable and after an hour they were at their objective. Mortars were set up and machine guns were run up to firing positions while John and another bloody Kiwi engineer, this time a Pessimist named Julian Smeetin, got ready with some standard infantry troops so that they could run the position they had been assigned.
At exactly ten minutes past midnight of December 31st, 1915. The forces of the Australian, New-Zealand Army Corps opened fire upon the guard barracks and positions of the Panama Canal. While the attack didn't hit the whole Canal at once the forces quickly moved to take out the sections that were guarded, information that had been provided to them by the Colombian Armies Intelligence unit. The politics around the capture of the Canal are murky at best but the Colombian Government was promised that it would have all territories formerly held by Panama up to the Canal returned to them while the Canal itself and the territories on the North American side of the Canal that had belonged to Panama would fall under British control. The exact details of the deal wouldn't be fully worked out until the year 1953 but the immediate effect of this was to see Colombia join the Allies and help secure the Canal. It was on New Year's Day 1916 that the Canal was deemed under British control and the landing a complete success. The strategy behind the tactic would be repeated numerous times throughout the war with differing levels of success.
However the war was still far from over, for it is not for nothing that the Year 1916 is known as the year of "Total War."
Kingdom of Sardinia,
January 1st, 1916
An army officer grinned as he looked at the reports he had been given. The Austrians and French had agreed to the demands from Naples and within 24 hours the territories to the North-East, including Venice, would be handed over to the Kingdom of Italy. Just as within 24 hours the Kingdom of Sardinia would dissolve. The intelligence bureau had provided the military with what it needed to know and troops were preparing themselves near the borders of the territories that the British had stolen all those years ago, that they had now abandoned to go and fight in foreign fields. The only real threat lay in Rome. But that would be defeated in due time.
The officer grinned. Soon there would be no Sicilia, no Sardinia, only Italia and then the unification that had been so cruelly denied for so long would be real.
So Questions, Comments, etc?
The Panama canal thing is mostly born out of narrative with me landing the Anzacs in Panama after it foolishly decide to stick with the US. Colombia joining was just icing on the cake.