Chapter 3.5 - Battle of Yorkshire
RAAF Squadrons were assigned to the vital role of interception - they would engage any German aircraft spotted over Northern and Central England.
As the Battle of Yorkshire began to rage intensely on the ground, the RAAF realized now that the weakened RAF had little remaining capacity to intercept German bombers due to repeated battles against the Luftwaffe. Air General Caldwell took the matter into his own hands and drew up plans to cover England against air attack by fighters mainly based out of Lancaster. RAAF Hurricanes and Spitfires would have a hard job against a German air force that vastly outnumbered them. With just three fighter wings to try and control the skies of the entirety of Northern England, Caldwell commanded little more than 240 fighters - of which only 50 were the superior Spitfire model. Intelligence estimated that the Germans had four times as many fighters based in England and Northern France alone.
As the Australians begin to push back into Yorkshire, a German advance force collides with defensive positions near Nottingham.
Nonetheless, the battle would be joined on the ground and in the sky. Australian troops had successfully defended the positions north of Hull and began to advance on the city, fighting through the Yorkshire countryside against a well-equipped and veteran German Army. Although outnumbered, the Australians successfully pushed Germany off the banks of the River Ouse and was slowly driving them back towards Hull, albeit with great cost. To their southwest, battles raged over the town of Doncaster, where Australian troops had blunted the advance on Sheffield. Retaking Doncaster would be a huge victory in the Battle of Yorkshire and Field Marshall Sir Cyril Bingham-White ordered three divisions to push against it, eager to earn a much-needed victory for the British people.
Luftwaffe Bombers strike at the vital steel industry of Sheffield as well as bombing the front line just 2km east of the city.
On the morning of February 7th, a large German bombing force was spotted heading for Yorkshire. RAAF aircraft were scrambled and intercepted the bombers just before they reached their intended target - Sheffield. The city held what some called the world's largest steelworks and it was the beating heart of British Industry in the region. If the steelworks were destroyed, industry in England would grind to a halt - this could not be allowed to happen. The RAAF were largely successful in their efforts, forcing the Germans to bomb from high altitudes and under heavy attack by interceptors. In the end the Germans turned back, causing no serious damage to the front line troops and only hitting two buildings in the entire Sheffield industrial park. It was a great success for the Australians, who had thus far struggled against German aircraft.
Following an RAAF naval strike against German convoys heading for the Thames, a massive air battle as German interceptors collided with Hurricanes and Spitfires chasing the Sheffield Bombers.
Caldwell knew this was his one chance to deal a significant blow to the German bomber force and he ordered his freshly-fuelled plans to pursue and dog the German bombers on their way home. Even as the Junkers called desperately for backup while Australian interceptors picked them off one by one, German interceptors were chasing a force of Australian Short Sunderlands which had been harassing German Convoys attempting to enter the River Thames. The two forces met east of London and a large aerial dogfight ensued. Lasting for nearly two hours before both sides turned back, the battle was a tactical victory for the RAAF. They lost few bombers while the Germans lost many and in the following dogfight, Australia got the upper hand over a weakened German air group for the first time. 72 German fighters were shot down through the course of the battle, compared to just 44 Australian fighters lost. Likewise, Australia shot down 99 German bombers, but only lost 12 of her own to German fighter craft. This was not the first time Allied aircraft had been able to score a victory over the Luftwaffe, but it was one of the largest victories of the Battle of Britain and the first time Australia had decisively defeated the Germans in the air.
In the Balkans, the Yugoslavian-Greek front was collapsing as increasing numbers of Italian and German troops staged breakthroughs in the south, threatening to overwhelm their opposing numbers.
The Yugoslavians and Greeks were now having serious issues. With the impending threat of invasion by any or all of Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria, they were unable to realistically withdraw their border forces to meet the Italians and Germans. The Italians and Germans, likewise, were too great a force to resist without these reserves. Inevitably, Axis forces broke the Yugoslavian lines in the south and as quickly as Greek reinforcements tried to move in, Hitler's armies moved quicker. It seemed that they would be able to break out in the South and sweep east to completely cut off the Yugoslavian army from her supply production in Bosnia and Serbia.
Japanese troops advance into Burma against heavy resistance. At this rate it is doubtful if the Japanese can reach Mandalay, let alone Rangoon.
Axis forces in Asia, too, were making minimal progress. Japanese and Chinese troops under the command of General Yamagata had made advances deep into Burma, but the British Colony was a vast and unforgiving country. As Indian and Burmese troops bitterly resisted Yamagata's advance, his troops were ground to a halt and the advance ceased thanks to supply shortages and heavy resistance. Yamagata wrote back of his pessimism regarding Japan's ability to take Burma as long as Indian troops defended her so fiercely. He suggested that he should be permitted to relocate the bulk of his forces off of the direct Indian Front and instead thrust from Indochina towards the Kra Isthmus to confront the advancing Australian forces, who he believed would be easier prey.
In the Pacific, Japan has reached a stalemate with Britain and America - no islands have changed hands and neither side is able to gain the upper hand on the seas.
Imperial Command was worried about Yamagata's idea as they would be unable to support a serious invasion of Malaya from the sea, while the British could. Although the Navy had long had plans of war with America, Admiral Yamamoto, the Naval Supreme Commander, regarded their only real chance of defeating the Americans as coming from a first strike scenario. They had not accounted for an early declaration of war, which was negatively received in America. Ironically, although they did not realize it, this declaration of war by Roosevelt had weakened the American war potential - no one wanted this war except the politicians and it was negatively viewed as breaking the isolationism which America had enjoyed since the Great War. Neither Allied nor Imperial forces had been able to break each other on the seas and the Japanese Navy was successfully engaging the world's first and second largest Navies simultaneously without defeat.
Australian infantry relax before the scheduled push to Bangkok - despite awful terrain and terrible weather, Australians show remarkable readiness and high morale.
Progress in the jungles was difficult for the ANZAC forces, but now that Bangkok was near, morale was greatly improving. The Indochinese troops were highly immobile and expected to surrender within the week, freeing up the Australian infantry and tanks for a serious push on the city.
As ANZAC forces attempt to finish off the surrounded Indochinese on the Kra, NZ Cavalry have taken Phet Buri. A newly-mobilized division has also arrived from New Zealand as reinforcements.
Australian troops were ordered to hold out and avoid serious frontal assaults due to the risk of casualties - as fresh weapons, reinforcements and supplies were delivered to the front, NZ cavalry elements linked up with the Indian Army and began the initial march to Bangkok, hoping to be on the city's outskirts before the main assault force arrived. This push would be a difficult one, but Australian command expected huge results from it. Thai troops were no match for the Commonwealth Armies and without the support of Japanese troops the city seemed doomed to fall.
News hits the world that British and Palestinian troops have entered Baghdad, seizing the city and the country's rebellious leadership in one fell swoop.
On the afternoon of the 8th, British and Palestinian troops stormed the city of Baghdad, breaking the poorly-organized garrison troops and surrounding it to prevent escape from the capital. Shellshocked Iraqi officers surrendered almost immediately, placing blame for the war declaration directly on Prime Minister Rashid Ali. The Prime Minsiter and most of the civilian government were captured in the evening.
Just before midnight, an official document of surrender was signed by the Iraqi government, reinstating the Anglo-Iraqi treaty and subjecting Rashid Ali and his loyalist cabinet to the legal prosecution of the British Empire. Local British administrators were placed in charge of the country and Iraq was now little more than a British puppet. Her military forces would be used to secure Africa and Asia from Italian and German threat - this suited Britain, who was desperately short of manpower.
Finally, some good news from Britain hit the airwaves. ANZAC troops had forced the German defenders out of Doncaster and had retaken the city, driving them southeast towards Lincolnshire. The Germans had suffered heavy casualties thanks to the support of Australian close air support and heavy barrages of artillery.
9th of February, the Germans finally ceased their assault on Nottingham. Fresh ANZAC reinforcements had arrived in the city and the Wehrmacht was taking heavy casualties assaulting the city. Australian troops were making the Germans pay for every inch of soil with blood. In Liverpool, Field Marshal Sir Cyril Bingham-White was delighted at the news. Now was the time to put his plan into action. Fresh reinforcements had just arrived from Sardinia - experienced Australian infantry divisions who had fought hard across Italy and Africa. Now they would fight for England, the home of their ancestors.
German forces have been driven out of the vicinity of Nottingham and Sheffield and Australian troops are slowly winning the Battle of Yorkshire.
As Germany continued to push into Midlands and broke through British defences time and again, the Australians were preparing a daring counterattack. Bingham-White believed that where the Germans had achieved great success by creating 'pockets' of enemy troops, so too could his men. He quietly consolidated as much of his artillery, trucks and armoured cars as he could in the area of Nottinghamshire and placed Major General Robertson in charge of spearheading an assault east. Bingham-White believed that if he could seize the town of Grimsby, they would be able to successfully cut off an entire corps of German troops in Yorkshire. Without access to their main supply dumps and with repeated bombing of Hull, he posited that the German troops would quickly run out of supply and could be crushed and defeated. Robertson was highly critical of the plan - he called it an impossible task, in fact, but High Command agreed that he was the best man in the area for the job and he was tasked with making it happen. When asked what he needed, Robertson said that the British would have to hold the southern lines without Australian support for another week or two at the bare minimum, and that he would need armoured units in order to punch through the German line and create a fast-moving spearhead the way that the Wehrmacht had. Britain promised him a week, but had no armour to lend, and insisted he make do with antiquated armoured cars dating as far back as the 20s.
British intelligence had a good idea of what German war capacity was currently like.
If there was one good thing to the German invasion, it was that it had become increasingly easy to insert agents behind German lines and infiltrate the entire German administrative structure. British intelligence thanks to skilled agents and the ULTRA codebreakers had been able to decipher a great deal about Germany's war preparations. With the vast resources of France, Poland and the Low Countries at their disposal, Hitler's Reich was a force to be reckoned with that outstripped Britain's ability to produce fighting forces. It's greatest weakness was internal - relatively few people were true Nazis and most of the populace obeyed Hitler only because of patriotism or because of fear of the Gestapo. Allied leaders were beginning to wonder if the easiest defeat would not come in battle, but through less shady methods.
Soviet war capacity looked even more impressive on paper, but following the Great Purges many did not believe the USSR had the capacity to fight a serious war on two fronts.
When investigating the Germans, it was equally important to investigate their chief remaining rival on the continent: Stalin. Stalin's Soviet Union was an enormous Empire stretching across the vastness of Eastern Europe and Asia. Having boldly annexed the Baltic States, Bessarabia and subjugated Finland, the Russians now seemed more than ready on papre to fight Hitler at a moment's notice. The truth of the matter was a little more disturbing - non-aggression pacts with Japan had allowed Stalin to secure his front and Hitler's army was experienced and now fuelled by loot from many different countries. Supported on land by Italy, Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria, once Greece and Yugoslavia fell the Soviets would face a united Axis front stretching across most of Europe. Hitler's dream of Fortress Europe, from which he would be safe against America and Britain's lackeys, was almost complete.
Good news reaches Australian troops: shipments of the Owen Gun, the country's own home-designed submachine gun, have reached Asian forces and are on the way to Australian troops in Britain.
On the 10th of February, huge shipments of crates began to arrive from Phet Buri at the front lines in Thailand. ANZAC infantry were delighted to finally receive the new weapon they had needed for this war. The Lee-Enfield No. 4 Rifle was a good fighting weapon, but it had weaknesses in the jungle - its rate of fire and length were both limiting for the kind of close quarters combat that tropical warfare had been giving them. The Owen Gun was a design drawn up by a young gun enthusiast named Evelyn Owen, who resided in Wollongong, New South Wales. Although enlisted as a Private and serving with the Australian Army in Africa, he had been transferred to a command position to work with military engineers and design specialists in tweaking and perfecting the new weapon after showing his prototype to a General.
Private Evelyn Owen posing with his new weapon, which had been adopted as the new official submachine gun of the Australian Army.
The Owen Gun would be the weapon that would help Australia turn the tide of the war and would make them a lethal fighting force in urban and jungle warfare. Not only was the .45 ACP round a powerful round caliber while retaining its light form, but the weapon's rate of fire was superior to the Allies' favourite submachine gun: the US Thompson or Tommy Gun. The Owen Gun was extremely reliable and difficult to jam and break even in the harshest weather conditions. Army trials had found that the gun could be submerged in mud, covered in sand and exposed to heavy salt water. It survived all of these treatments and could still be fired with ease by troops. What did go wrong was usually fixed by the gun's simple modularity which made it easy for any soldier to conduct field service on the gun. The only disadvantage of the weapon was its relatively bulky frame, although it was still smaller and lighter than the Lee-Enfield and easier to use in the close quarters of the jungle. Australia's first natively produced weapon would be one of the world's finest submachine guns.
Frequently successful in his distinguished career, Morshead had been proposed by several of his peers as the ideal candidate to lead the AIF, but lost out due to politics and fears of his right-wing leanings.
Now, with over 10,000 produced and being shipped to Australian troops all over the world, demand for the weapon was heating up. Still, in spite of its successful trials, Australian General Leslie Morshead in charge of the Asian Theatre stated: "Reliable and fantastic as this weapon design is, it cannot overcome the great advantage of men and material that Germany has brought to bear. We only remain in Britain because of politics and Bingham-White's boasting - he speaks of an Australian victory in Europe, but everyone can see it is impossible. Those troops need to come home as quickly as possible, along with any other men that Britain can salvage. We should retreat from Britain immediately; we need those men here, to protect Australia and to save India."
February 6th-February 10th
Royal Australian Army:
1,891 Soldiers killed in action
3x Vickers MkV Light Tanks lost
Royal Australian Air Force:
40x Hawker Hurricane fighters lost
4x Supermarine Spitfire fighters lost
12x Short Sunderland patrol bombers lost
5x Fairey Battle dive bombers lost
2,872 Soldiers killed in action
72x Messerschmitt Bf-109 fighters lost
85x Junkers Ju88 medium bombers lost
14x Junkers Ju87 dive bombers lost
1 Merchant ship sunk
Royal Thai Army:
420 Soldiers killed in action
641 Soldiers killed in action