• Crusader Kings III Available Now!

    The realm rejoices as Paradox Interactive announces the launch of Crusader Kings III, the latest entry in the publisher’s grand strategy role-playing game franchise. Advisors may now jockey for positions of influence and adversaries should save their schemes for another day, because on this day Crusader Kings III can be purchased on Steam, the Paradox Store, and other major online retailers.


    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

TheButterflyComposer

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If France wouldn't even mobilise over the Rhineland then no way where they sending the Poilu over the Pyrenees.
Well, y'know...money. The french can't afford anything in this period, with even inaction being incredibly expensive in the long term.

Probably should get a new financial advisor. And take away all sharp implements before showing them their situation.
 

DensleyBlair

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Great stuff. Always love a bit of action from Catalonia, even if I must naturally rue the ‘5’ attitude of our surrogate. The socialists themselves seem like exactly the sort of eccentric band you might find in any CLP at the time, and noting your remark about undergrad days I should probably admit to recognising in a few of the tropes some people I’ve encountered during the course of my own ‘exploits’.

Anyway now that the civil war is upon us, the summer from hell is surely just around the corner. Hungrily looking forward to watching everything fall apart!
 

El Pip

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Well, y'know...money. The french can't afford anything in this period, with even inaction being incredibly expensive in the long term.

Probably should get a new financial advisor. And take away all sharp implements before showing them their situation.
Technically France can afford to do things and did so, sadly the things it spent on did not work out (where 'work out' means "Not being defeated by Germany in the next war"). A lot of money was spent on nationalising large chunks of the the defence industry, then more was spent on modernising the industry and then even more on nationalising the railways. And of course the whole 'Trying to make Paris the world's financial capital by buying up all the world's Gold' plan was quite pricey.

Stop any one of those and quite a lot of funds are available for other things. Hell just go off Gold right now, as opposed to September, and the earlier start to the recovery would fund a reasonable Spanish intervention.

@El Pip I was referring to intelligence assets who seem to be rather fond of putting themselves in harms way.
Hmm. But surely now is exactly the time you want your intelligence assets in Spain, to tell London what the hell is going on and if there is anything they need to react to? I know Westminster's preference will be inaction, but in OTL the UK did put effort into finding out what was going on (and then did nothing, but it was at least informed inaction not ignorance. Which is maybe better?)
 

Cromwell

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I don't really see how the Spanish Republic is salvageable for Britian and France. The Soviet Union could possibly have won it if they had been willing to arm everybody instead of just the militias politically loyal to them (obviously unthinkable, what would Marx say if he say his children arming the ideological decndents of Proudhon!).

British intelligence is best used at home checking up on Wallace Simpson's many friends and preventing them getting at his majesty.
 

El Pip

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I don't really see how the Spanish Republic is salvageable for Britian and France. The Soviet Union could possibly have won it if they had been willing to arm everybody instead of just the militias politically loyal to them (obviously unthinkable, what would Marx say if he say his children arming the ideological decndents of Proudhon!).

British intelligence is best used at home checking up on Wallace Simpson's many friends and preventing them getting at his majesty.
A full on naval blockade of Spain by the RN and MN would keep out basically all German, Italian and American Aid (Franco's army ran on US oil that was sold on credit). If the Republican government asks for British and French assistance then legally it is fine, they are just supporting the legitimate government of Spain to secure it's borders. Trading rights for neutrals only apply to governments not rebels, and who is going to risk the escalation by recognising a bunch of failed coup leaders? (This assumes UK/France act relatively promptly and can set the terms, if it is scene as 'just' a bad revolt not a civil war things are automatically much better for the Republicans).

Take away all the foreign support for the Nationalists and have the 'Moscow Gold' used to actually buy weapons and not just enrich the USSR and the Republic has a decent chance of victory even without any British or French troops being committed on land (though the navies will be busy).

Not a guaranteed plan, and it requires a lot more commitment and confidence than Paris or London ever displayed inter-war, but it's certainly doable. And if the Spanish Republic isn't salvageable all the better, major reform was required in any event so maybe 'doing a France' and starting a new Third Republic to replace the old broken one isn't that bad a consequence.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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And of course the whole 'Trying to make Paris the world's financial capital by buying up all the world's Gold' plan was quite pricey.
Still, it is a wonderfully Victorian master plan that is truly ludicrous in scale and hubris. Of course if they actually did go someway to gaining a huge pile of gold, they'd be in a never ending spending spree of buying more from the gold producing colonies, many of which weren't owned by France...

Wonder if the british could make some money tricking france into spending a fortune buying their gold they just dug up so they can put it back in the ground again (but in Paris this time)?

A full on naval blockade of Spain by the RN and MN would keep out basically all German, Italian and American Aid (Franco's army ran on US oil that was sold on credit).
Again that sounds really expensive and not something either government at the time would do.
 

Captured Joe

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and have the 'Moscow Gold' used to actually buy weapons and not just enrich the USSR
It did buy weapons for the Republic, including shipments of hundreds of actual tanks (while the Nationalists only got tankettes from the Germans and Italians) which played a key role in the initial defence of Madrid against the veteran Army of Africa; the Republican air force also consisted of Soviet planes, which were very useful for supporting their (misguided) army offensives as well as defence against Nationalist strategic bombings.
 

Kurt_Steiner

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If half of the "Moscow gold" ends ups in Paris and then falls into German hands, it's going to be most amusing.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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If half of the "Moscow gold" ends ups in Paris and then falls into German hands, it's going to be most amusing.
When does it stop being Moscow gold if it keeps changing capital city?
 

El Pip

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Still, it is a wonderfully Victorian master plan that is truly ludicrous in scale and hubris. Of course if they actually did go someway to gaining a huge pile of gold, they'd be in a never ending spending spree of buying more from the gold producing colonies, many of which weren't owned by France...

Wonder if the british could make some money tricking france into spending a fortune buying their gold they just dug up so they can put it back in the ground again (but in Paris this time)?
There is an IMF research paper that argues the Great Depression is France's fault. Their great gold buying spree was the early 30s, i.e. after the Wall St Crash and Credit Anstalt bankruptcy, so a recession was going to happen but not necessarily a depression. Instead as the French sucked gold out of the market and into their vaults they reduced the money supply for everyone else (because everyone was on the gold standard, so less gold meant less money in circulation) and this caused the deflation that made it the Great Depression not just a bad down turn. The paper states this also explains why the Depression hit France later than everyone else, they didn't experience the contraction in the money supply as they had plenty of metal to back the currency so didn't (initially) experience the deflation everyone else did.

I don't 100% believe it, though it is fun to blame France for all the world's ills, but it certainly convinced me that in a world of gold backed currencies massive buying sprees are not something to be encouraged, as the stakes are high for all involved not just the purchaser.

It did buy weapons for the Republic, including shipments of hundreds of actual tanks (while the Nationalists only got tankettes from the Germans and Italians) which played a key role in the initial defence of Madrid against the veteran Army of Africa; the Republican air force also consisted of Soviet planes, which were very useful for supporting their (misguided) army offensives as well as defence against Nationalist strategic bombings.
True, but a good 5% was skimmed off by the Soviets for transport, smelting and other fees. Then the exchange rate was rigged so the gold became anywhere between 25% to 40% less rubbles than it should have been (it was converted in stages before each purchase, that way the Soviet could carry on charging 'storage' fees for the gold and an additional 'smelting and conversion' fee each time), then the prices charged for the tanks and equipment was higher than that quoted for the other Soviet arms exports of the period. Their deep study of the evils of exploitative capitalist practices served them well when it came to gouging the Spanish Republic.

I think my point is that had all the gold gone to Paris and the weapons been brought on the open market, the Republicans would have got a lot more weapons for the same money. In fact just the threat of being able to do so would have forced the Soviets to be a bit more fair with the pricing, but once the gold was in Moscow the Spanish lost a lot of leverage.
 

Specialist290

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I have to say that this piece is quite excellent at capturing the chaos and uncertainty that comes with the start of a civil war. I definitely get the sense that the "People's Olympiad" have found themselves quite a bit out of their depth, as what was meant to be a peaceful show of solidarity has ended up putting them in the cross-hairs of a group of hostile revolutionaries -- and, of course, it has made Butler's own situation still more complicated.

That said, if he manages to survive the opening phases of the war, he's essentially just become the best source for the British government on what's actually going on in-country, which makes him quite the valuable asset (and will look good on his intelligence resume to boot).
 

stnylan

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I wonder what Mr Orwell will be doing in this timeline?

I think this was a nicely focused introduction to the SCW, concentrating on British viewpoints (being a British-themed AAR), but getting a sense of the choas and confusion of those early heady days.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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There is an IMF research paper that argues the Great Depression is France's fault.
Of course there is.
I bet you had to go have a cold shower after finding that one.

I don't 100% believe it, though it is fun to blame France for all the world's ills,
You're goddamm right it is!

but it certainly convinced me that in a world of gold backed currencies massive buying sprees are not something to be encouraged, as the stakes are high for all involved not just the purchaser.
There's an AAR idea in there, somewhere. This thread seems to be good at throwing out those...

I wonder what Mr Orwell will be doing in this timeline?
The Road to Wigan Pier 2
 
Last edited:

Bullfilter

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An interesting and suitably quirky aside to mark the start of the SCW. Once again, truth proves stranger than fiction: how earnestly silly a situation to find oneself in. Baldwin should read the SIS account: it may well cheer him up!
 

El Pip

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Of course there is.
I bet you had to go have a cold shower after finding that one.
It was perfectly pitched to two of my main prejudices as a British sort-of mining engineer - Blame the French for everything and believing that treating Gold as anything other than just another metal leads to problems.

There's an AAR idea in there, somewhere. This thread seems to be good at throwing out those...
That would need someone to an Interwar mod for a game (could be late Vicki 2 or very early HOI), but they are vanishingly thin on the ground. Best I've seen is the Great War mod which attempts to cover the post-WW1 period, certainly actual late game Vicki II is utterly unsuitable for such a work as it is so rebel happy.

Plus of course Churchill falling down a well, Britain not going onto Gold Standard and then bestriding the world like an economic colossus is, while a beautiful thing, not an particularly long lived subject for an AAR.

I suppose one could do a narrative "Lords of Finance" style work on central bankers and traders playing games with the Gold market during the Depression period. From a certain, very specialist, perspective it was an interesting period and certainly full of opportunities for a more confident Britain (or indeed France) to engineer a very different outcome. Still hits on the problem of the lack of a game to base it on, so you would be inventing it out of whole cloth. Which is fine obviously, but it does stop being even slightly an AAR at that point.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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Plus of course Churchill falling down a well, Britain not going onto Gold Standard and then bestriding the world like an economic colossus is, while a beautiful thing, not an particularly long lived subject for an AAR.
I'd be interested in Churchill's down the well diaries.
 

Le Jones

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1.png


Chapter 32, The Treasury, 23 July 1936

1596002774601.png


Vansittart immediately felt like the ‘odd man out’ that he arguably was; Fisher and Hankey, as well as the new joiner, they were all deeply involved with managing the Government’s response to the King’s behaviour. Other than responding to the increasingly harassed pleadings for direction from the Washington and Ottowa missions, and passing the rather lurid press coverage (the British press, unlike the overseas papers, were keeping a politic silence), the Foreign Office was, in this crisis, a more reactionary force than the domestic Civil Service.

He took his seat, and watched as Hankey and Fisher, along with Sir Horace Wilson, the Government's Chief Industrial Advisor (although Vansittart wryly accepted that this was an artifice: his role was a wide ranging one) entered. The body language was fascinating and Vansittart immediately grasped, as senior Civil Servants do, the nuances of body language; Hankey was clearly, palpably, the ‘odd man out’. His folded arms were an unusually (for Hankey) defensive sign, and the evident warmth with which Fisher and Wilson were in conversation (to the evident exclusion of Hankey) confirmed Vansittart’s theory.

“My Dear Robert,” Fisher said in his usual florid greeting, “thank you for roughing it with us moneylenders here in the Treasury. Anything of note from foreign parts?” Hankey, his place to one side reflecting his isolated status, rolled his eyes while Wilson, adopting the air of the ‘star pupil, sat alert and poised.

Vansittart thought for a moment not wanting this narrowly focussed meeting to drift from the subject of the King. But with three very powerful senior colleagues gathered with him, he realised that he should say something. “Spain is dominating, clearly,” he said quite simply. “Chatfield and I have agreed that the Navy will go in and take out any Britons who wish to escape.”

“Do we know the scale of this?” Fisher asked this with a quiet intensity.

“Substantial element of the Fleet from Gibraltar and Malta,” he said carefully, “Eden’s going to brief the Commons presently.”

“’Slippery Sam’ being supportive?” Fisher couldn’t resist the quip.

Vansittart made a ‘so so’ gesture with his hands. “Chatfield and Stephenson have done most of the running,” he said, modestly masking his own commitment. He wondered if he was being too muted.

Fisher seemed to sense that he wasn’t going to get much more, but Hankey, risking the wrath of the others, ventured a question. “Do we actually know what is going on?”

Fisher rolled his eyes; Vansittart hesitated, but decided that the ought to say something. “The Army, or a significant chunk of it, has risen, starting in the Spanish bits of Morocco but now spreading to the mainland," he said simply.

“Did we know about this?” Wilson asked this very properly, like a newly promoted director at his first board meeting. “I mean,” he clarified in his silky tones, “beforehand.”

Vansittart swiftly forced a neutral expression. “Probably not for this forum,” he said in pointed reference to Wilson, whose status was less defined than the others. “The point is that the conflict is spreading, just yesterday a warship brought rebel troops from Morocco to Cadiz. They’re securing that southern coastline…”

“…hence the evacuation of our nationals,” said Fisher, regaining control, “and we look forward to what the ‘Glamour Boy’ says later today. Can we move on?” He said this in a frustrated, almost pained way.

“By all means,” Hankey said, as if reinforcing his colleague.

“Thank you, Maurice,” Fisher said in patronising acknowledgment. “So, His Majesty. Let’s not shilly-shally, we know that the Cabinet has rather failed the nation,” he said grandly. Hankey looked skyward and Wilson offered a brief, disciplined nod. “That is, when it comes to His Majesty. The Cabinet, the ‘Viceroy’ aside,” Fisher said in gentle mocking of Halifax, “has palpably not delivered. Baldwin, we know, has made a hesitant progress back to Downing Street and Maurice, frankly, is going to be tied up with getting his master and the Cabinet back up to speed and working in glorious harmony again. So,” he said brightly, “the blessed Neville suggested to Baldwin that the talented Horace here,” he waved languidly at Wilson, “be our emissary between Cabinet, Government and the Palace.” Hankey, to Vansittart, looked wounded, as if unfairly judged. But he said nothing as Wilson almost preened in the face of Fisher’s ordination of his role.

“No uplift in resource?” To Vansittart the fact that Wilson operated alone, without the staffs that the others enjoyed, made his alleged importance slightly difficult to believe.

Fisher looked theatrically crestfallen. “Not until Baldwin agrees. There is something else.” Hankey and Vansittart, to whom this probably would be something new, leaned in conspiratorially. “Goddard, the lawyer to that woman,” he looked around, they all understood, “well, I fear that he overestimates his mastery of the client. If the time comes, I will handle the management of the divorce.”

“You?” Vansittart was appalled.

“Why yes,” Fisher said, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. “With the Palace hemorrhaging staff someone appropriately senior must assume responsibility. And I will do it,” he said grandly, “supported by my Brother in Christ Horace here, to ensure that the interests of the nation prevail at all times.”

Vansittart, apologising as he rose to walk back to the Foreign Office, sighed heavily.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Eden sighed heavily as he flopped back onto the front bench. The questions clearly lacked focus; there was a lot of clearing up of unfinished business, of asking those questions which had seemed a great idea a month ago but now one wasn’t so sure. But with the summer adjournment only a week away, a lot of members wanted to cleanse themselves of those hurriedly scribbled thoughts or points so that they could flee London for a restful spell of holiday, free from the cares of Whitehall. Eden knew that Baldwin’s struggles with the King were only beginning, and wondered if Parliament, which was yearning for a chance to adjourn itself away, would actually find itself back here in short order.

Mander, a dull Liberal representing Wolverhampton, rose to ask what he thought was a brilliant question but which, Eden feared, would be as tiresome as the others. “In view of the success attained in the British Empire by the policy of collective security, in protecting it from attack, will he seek an extension of the principle and the inclusion of other States willing to co-operate loyally on this basis?”

Eden just prevented himself from rolling his eyes and rose, offered Mander a dazzling smile, and attempted to give an answer. “The policy of His Majesty's Government as a member of the League of Nations is to apply the principles of the Covenant collectively, and it is their hope that all Governments will cooperate to this end.”

But Mander wasn’t finished. “Is it not a fact that the British Empire has a great lesson to teach the world in the successful working of our collective system, as in so many other things, and will the right honourable Gentleman press this forward as energetically as he can?”

Eden rose again, the dazzling smile fixed on his face. “I will do my best," he said with false modesty.

Herbert Williams was next. What delights, he wondered sarcastically, will this one offer? “In view of the circumstances, will my Right Honourable Friend make sure that we do not transfer any part of the British Empire to any foreign State?”

“I will try," Eden said, barely rising from his bench.

It was the Olympics next, the Berlin bloody Olympics. The ability of members to panic about a foreign matter that they couldn’t hope to influence never ceased to amaze Eden. Oh glory be, he thought sarcastically, it’s Mander again. “Could I ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will now ask for an assurance from the German Government that they do not propose to make use of the occasion of the Olympic Games being held in Berlin for the purposes of political propaganda and as implying recognition of and support for the Nazi regime?”

“No Sir,” was Eden’s polite, if curt, reply.

Mander was back on his feet. “Is it not notorious that the German Government use all these occasions for propaganda purposes?”

Eden sighed huffily. “The Honourable Gentleman asked whether I could give an assurance from the German Government on this subject, and my answer was perfectly clear.”

Moore, like many of them a Great War veteran, was up now. He was a member of the ‘leave alone’ faction and was thought to be pro-German. With his dotted bow tie and florid cheeks he looked with outrage at Mander. “Does not my Right Honourable Friend view with disfavour these impertinent pinpricks against a friendly nation?"

“Nonsense!” That was Mander, not bothering to rise. The Speaker shot a look in rebuke for his speaking from a prone position. The bewigged civil servants below him conferred upon how best to represent this in the Parliamentary record.

Howard Clifton-Brown, a former Brigadier who had served in the Boer and Great Wars, now committed himself to the debate. “Is it not a fact that the very magnificent and large stadium that has been erected for the Olympic Games is going to be permanently used for Military or Air purposes?”

“Er, no," Eden replied, bored.

The debates rolled on, Mander pressing him on a forthcoming meeting of the Locarno powers, some questions on China, some good questions on a revolt in Iraq. It was with some relief that he escaped the Chamber and, running a hand through his hair, strode out of the House, grimacing as his eyes struggled to cope with the shock of summer sunlight, and walked back to the Foreign Office.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

“Is he here?” That was peremptorily almost barked at the (also) newly returned Vansittart, who was waiting for him in his office.

“No, Foreign Secretary, he is not. You have two minutes.”

“They’re mad, you know, Mander, Moore, Clifton-Brown. Who are we sending to the Olympics?”

“We agreed, did we not,” Vansittart began, carefully, “that I would go. Suitably senior, but not actually able to get into anything that I can agree on.”

Eden nodded, his bearing increasingly tense and distracted. “How were they?”

Vansittart now mirrored Eden with a tense, uncomfortable expression. “I am concerned that the rift between Hankey and Fisher is getting out of hand.”

Eden smothered a wry smile beneath the elegant gesture of stroking his moustache; he had long found the Civil Service, so proud of its vaunted independence, just as scheming and political as the Parliamentarians. But he could see that Vansittart was visibly discomforted, and resisted making a quip. “Do we think,” he said finally, “that this will hurt the management of His Majesty?”

Vansittart shook his head. “Fisher’s probably right on that one, he is contemplating taking personal charge if it comes to a divorce, using Horace Wilson as his go-between for the routine stuff.”

Eden offered an appeasing smile in acknowledgment as a secretary walked in, looked at Vansittart, nodded, and retreated. “I presume that means that he is here?”

Vansittart nodded and walked out, returning moments later with a tired, academic looking man in his early forties. “Foreign Secretary, may I introduce His Excellency Senor Pablo de Azcárate, the new envoy from the Republic of Spain."

They shook hands, Vansittart noting how effortlessly Eden became charming and engaging. They sat, more intimately than normal, in armchairs by the fireplace. It was, Vansittart would grudgingly admit, impressive staging.

“Senor de Azcárate, I wish that we met in happier circumstances,” Eden began, all charm and warmth. “Before we discuss specifics, I must remind you that His Majesty’s Government cannot become engaged in what is an internal Spanish matter.” It was done gently, but was still a crisp, formal statement of British non-intervention.

1596003330373.png


“I see, Foreign Secretary,” de Azcárate said in accented, but very clear English.

Eden made a sympathetic expression. “I appreciate that it’s not good news, but I didn’t want to give you a false hope at this stage.” Vansittart wondered if Eden, who was probably, if anything, slightly pro-rebel, was now overdoing it.

“Thank you, Mr Eden.”

Eden himself perhaps wondered if the pleasantries had gone too far. “I understand that you had a request for us to consider?”

“Yes, can I ask how a request to buy oil from you would be viewed?”

Eden and Vansittart exchanged knowing looks. “Sir Robert, what do you think?”

“Well, Your Excellency,” Vansittart began, “at Gibraltar there are large stocks of privately owned fuel, we would have no objection to that being purchased by anyone, including your people.”

“There is no authorisation required from us for that, is there?”

“No Foreign Secretary,” Vansittart clarified, “it is a private matter and would be a normal commercial transaction.”

Eden smiled at de Azcárate. “There you are, would you like me to inform the Governor?”

“Yes, immediately,” de Azcárate said firmly, wielding his power (or trying to) for the first time.

Vansittart looked up from his notes. “You have six ships at anchor or in harbour at Gibraltar, I presume that this oil would be used to refuel them?”

“Yes, and with our own oiler, that will arrive tomorrow.”

Eden nodded. “Good. Obviously, we will not put British property and vessels in harm’s way,” he said with a patronising air, as if talking to a child. “The rebel attack on the British tanker…”

“Attempted attack,” Vansittart said in correction.

“Attempted attack,” Eden said with a tart look at Vansittart, “means that I cannot put pressure on British commercial firms to run abnormal risks.”

de Azcárate nodded his acceptance of that point. “I regret that you have had to evacuate British citizens,” he said softly.

“It’s not many,” Eden said without emotion, “a handful here and there. A couple of dozen at Malaga, I understand. And largely without incident. We’re also helping the Americans and French evacuate their people.”

“I see. Well, thank you, Foreign Secretary,” de Azcárate said with creeping weariness, “I look forward to working with you.”

“And I you,” Eden said, with the dazzling smile.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Viscount Cranborne walked carefully into the Chamber. With Eden meeting with Ambassadors it fell to him to represent the Foreign Office at the second round of questions. Looking again at his briefing notes, he took a moment before listening to a question on from Fletcher, a former Naval officer, on the Spanish situation.

“Could I ask the Under-Secretary whether he will give the latest news of the position in Spain, particularly as affecting the lives and property of British subjects, whether any special precautions are being taken as regards the British population at Malaga and whether the two destroyers standing by at Gibraltar are considered sufficient for the evacuation of British subjects from the ports of Spain in case of need?”

It was a very ‘busy’ question, not particularly direct and overloaded with points. Cranborne, emulating his Secretary of State, suavely rose to the bench and with a deliberately languid air, considered his notes. “Owing to the stoppage of communication with most parts of Spain, it is still very difficult to obtain reliable information regarding the position. In amplification of the statement which was made to the House last Monday, I am able to say that the following British warships have proceeded or are proceeding to Spanish ports with a view to the evacuation of British subjects if necessary.”

He paused and found the note from the Admiralty. “HMS Shamrock to Malaga, HMS Keppel to Vigo, HMS Whitshed to Vigo, the London, Douglas and other destroyers to Barcelona, HMS Devonshire to Palma, the Wren to Corunna, Amphion to Tenerife, HMS Keith to Valencia, HMS Witch to Ferrol, HMS Boadicea to Alicante, and HMS Basilisk to Almeria. These are the latest movements of which I have information at present. Twenty five British subjects, together with two American and two French nationals, were embarked yesterday on Shamrock at Malaga, where His Majesty's Consul has received an assurance from the Governor that order has been restored. British subjects have also been embarked on British ships at Marbella and Algeciras. At all other places from which reports have been received from His Majesty's Consular representatives, British subjects are reported to be safe.”

There were murmurs of support from around the House. Fletcher stood to ask a supplementary question. “May I ask whether the Foreign Office are in communication with the Admiralty and the War Office concerning the security of Gibraltar itself?”

Cranborne nodded emphatically. “I am glad to give the Honourable and Gallant Member that assurance.”

William Gallacher, the Communist MP, stood to ask a question. “Is the noble Lord” Cranborne, whose title was a courtesy one and who was not yet entitled to sit in the House of Lords, looked around the Commons with a look of disdain, “not aware that the democratic forces in Spain can be relied upon to maintain order, to protect the lives of British subjects and to wipe out the reactionary forces, which have the support of many Members opposite?”

The braying and shouting rose up in response, and the Speaker’s intervention prevented Cranborne from having to make a response. His Parliamentary duty done, he left the Chamber, checked his ‘pigeon hole’ for any correspondence, and decided to take tea in town.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

GAME NOTES

The Royal crisis and the Spanish Civil War swirl around London, following on from the chaos of the People’s Olympiad in the last update. I forgot, then, completely omitted, to mention that I had to try and balance game madness with the real world, as my in game SCW started, somewhat unrealistically, on 17 Mar 1936! This is the slight challenge of running things “as they really were” until the PODs really kick in. The PODs so far are all very domestic and very focussed on Edward VIII. It is inconceivable that Edward VIII’s choice of wife would have an impact on the start of the SCW; and, back in March he hadn’t even decided to tell anyone about his marriage plans! So, I have decided that the war would have started as it did in the real world.

Everything else is pretty much as it was; the British Parliament barely debated Spain before the August recess; Eden gave a pretty substantial update when they got back in October in which he mentioned the meeting portrayed in this update. The interaction between the Foreign Office and the Spanish actually took place but I’m in difficulty here, I know that de Azcárate was Republican Spain’s representative, but I cannot find out if he had arrived by late July and so, therefore, whether it was him that Eden dealt with. I’ve gone for a hunch, and guessed that he was in place early to start lobbying a powerful potential western backer. Of course, the British establishment, military and upper classes all (virtually all) inclined to support Franco against what they perceived to be a communist (or at least socialist) inclined government, so he will have an uncomfortable time (he eventually fled to exile in Geneva when the Republic fell). The Republican cause is not helped by outbursts from extreme left and right-wing MPs such as Gallacher asking pretty inflammatory questions. The bit about oil is true, and formed the basis of what was actually three conversations over a couple of days.

I have bookended the key bit, the meeting with the Spanish, with a fictional (although with some basis in fact) meeting of the civil servants, and the real and largely unaltered Parliamentary debates. Eden is fascinating, as we’ve seen already he was a worrier and a ‘fretter’ but could switch on almost film star charm like a lightbulb. I have to say I’m with him on the nonsense questions being asked; Mander, who, for all I know, was a wonderful and committed public servant, nevertheless comes across in HANSARD as hopelessly deluded (and sadly in this rather uninspiring Commons he is not alone). I am mean to him in one way, the questions about the Olympics have been trimmed to avoid a bit about real world horrors that the forum cannot explore, but the nonsense about collective security and getting assurances (as if!) from ze Germans is all real. The slightly comic-opera questions about ceding British territory and about using the Olympic stadium for military purposes are recreated exactly as asked. Vansittart, who was an inspired (IMO) choice really was the British nominee to go out as representative (along with a ton of pro-German aristocrats – but they weren’t ‘credentialled’) at the games, I have the guessed at the reason and think I’m probably not far off the truth.

Cranborne (he was a lord, but not yet a member of the House of Lords – basically as the son of a peer he held a courtesy title but the primary title and membership of the HoL was retained by daddy) handled the Spanish bit of Foreign Office questions that day – I have bent the truth a bit to time Eden’s meeting so as to explain his absence, but it might be the case that it just wasn’t a priority. The ships listed did go into Spanish ports, and while I floated a third SCW update on the British nationals fleeing the violence, after a very focussed chapter previously I then wanted to keep the development of the SCW slightly far away and mysterious at the moment, as it would have been to most Britons. The British of summer 1936 in my timeline are much more domestically focussed than their real-world counterparts, and it’s only going to get worse…

The meeting at the start of this chapter was originally the ‘meat’ of a separate chapter but I eventually gambled that merging the chapters would show how the British are balancing matters at this dicey time. I have deliberately avoided introducing Sir Horace Wilson, the titular “Chief Industrial Advisor” to the Government but, in reality, a Fisher plant in Downing Street and a very controversial figure. He really is an odd one, virtually a ‘rags to riches’ story and a good example of how the Civil Service was more 'socially mobile' than the Armed Forces and most of banking / finance. The Industrial Advisor moniker was a fabrication; it was intended, by Fisher, that Wilson’s role would eventually evolve into a Downing Street Chief of Staff / Chef de Cabinet sort of role, aiding the PM while being subordinate to Fisher as the (titular) Head of the Civil Service. Before that vision was realised, Wilson was something between dogsbody and Minister Without Portfolio: he was a ‘fixer’, a ‘hired gun’, to be deployed to manage a situation. He lacked, as I have hinted, much in the way of staff at this stage; I surmise that Baldwin, so often a creature of habit, backed Hankey (he did like Wilson though, recognising his sharpness of mind). If the senior ranks of the bureaucracy are starting to feel crowded then you’re not wrong. Here he is really ‘marking time’; although Fisher was his mentor and sponsor it was Neville Chamberlain that was his ally. When Baldwin finally retired in 1937 Wilson effortlessly established himself as Chamberlain’s chief confidante and as such deserves as much of the blame for the foreign policy failures as Chamberlain. His ascent chimed with Vansittart’s slow emasculation, the final victory of Fisher over Hankey, Eden’s increasing irrelevance, the lack of a credible alternative to Chamberlain (think, go on, think, of a Conservative Cabinet member who could challenge him – they’re all rather weak figures), reasonably optimistic economic results (not, of course, taking into account the cost of rearmament) and a weak Opposition. He therefore wielded quite a lot of power, largely as the field upon which he played was so empty.

The effect of the meeting is a rather delicious notion, that of the flowery, ‘over the top’ Fisher meeting with Wallis Simpson, and the continued slow emasculation of Hankey. The battle lines are being drawn.

So the war begins. Generally speaking the Republicans are doomed from the get go by being outnumbered and surrounded, as well as less supported internationally. I also suspect that the new updates regarding fuel probably don't help, as they retain the spanish fleet and thus have to send all their oil there whilst the facists can spend all theirs on tanks and planes. The result is far from certain though, since I know that Stalin sending two tanks (divs but who knows how many were in them) to spain as I did in my soviet game was enough to break through, surround and destroy several front lines. They ended up winning that time.

So it depends if anyone shows up to help on either side then.
I think that this is a very fair point; unless one side receives a foreign backer willing to go 'all out' to provide support (with both expeditionary forces and equipment) I've usually seen a protracted conflict in which the Nationalists eventually overpower the Republicans. In this game the AI did naff all (thankfully, given that they started in March!) for the first six months.
Oh dear, what a mess (the situation, not the update!). It might be time for the British government to think about withdrawing some of their assets in Spain.
@El Pip I was referring to intelligence assets who seem to be rather fond of putting themselves in harms way.
Hmm. But surely now is exactly the time you want your intelligence assets in Spain, to tell London what the hell is going on and if there is anything they need to react to? I know Westminster's preference will be inaction, but in OTL the UK did put effort into finding out what was going on (and then did nothing, but it was at least informed inaction not ignorance. Which is maybe better?)
Barcelona, eh? I wonder if we'll see the May Days happen with "Paddy" as well.
I see all points, here; British intelligence (initially) was weirdly skewed in that they sort of knew (largely from what we would now call HUMINT) what was going on at the start, but as the conflict deepened struggled to fully get to grips with who was doing what, and to whom...

Butler is in a great position here, he is legitmately 'in country' and so is less likely to arouse suspicion, and could either augment the British Embassy or develop an affiliation with one side or the other. There are a couple of Butler adventures in draft.

Even if the British government had any capacity to make a policy (and with the King kicking off I frankly doubt they do) I've not seen anything that would prompt a change. Disinterested neutrality as offical policy, drifting into a mild pro-Nationalist stance due to never quite getting a handle on how to treat them (new state or 'just' rebels, at times they were treated as both and took full advantage). And of course various elements on British Intelligence probably aiding the Nationalists as part of their ongoing anti-Communism efforts, a mission MI6 certainly thought was far more important than anything Germany was doing until surprisingly late.
Nothing is going to deviate from this, for now. As you point out, and HOI reflects (in a way I quite like) with its 'political power' mechanism, the ability of the British state to do anything beyond manage the King is diminishing rapidly.


Great stuff. Always love a bit of action from Catalonia, even if I must naturally rue the ‘5’ attitude of our surrogate. The socialists themselves seem like exactly the sort of eccentric band you might find in any CLP at the time, and noting your remark about undergrad days I should probably admit to recognising in a few of the tropes some people I’ve encountered during the course of my own ‘exploits’.
Thanks - I wanted to balance some of the mad encounters that Butler would have had while telling the tale.

I don't really see how the Spanish Republic is salvageable for Britian and France. The Soviet Union could possibly have won it if they had been willing to arm everybody instead of just the militias politically loyal to them (obviously unthinkable, what would Marx say if he say his children arming the ideological decndents of Proudhon!).
A full on naval blockade of Spain by the RN and MN would keep out basically all German, Italian and American Aid (Franco's army ran on US oil that was sold on credit). If the Republican government asks for British and French assistance then legally it is fine, they are just supporting the legitimate government of Spain to secure it's borders. Trading rights for neutrals only apply to governments not rebels, and who is going to risk the escalation by recognising a bunch of failed coup leaders? (This assumes UK/France act relatively promptly and can set the terms, if it is scene as 'just' a bad revolt not a civil war things are automatically much better for the Republicans).

Take away all the foreign support for the Nationalists and have the 'Moscow Gold' used to actually buy weapons and not just enrich the USSR and the Republic has a decent chance of victory even without any British or French troops being committed on land (though the navies will be busy).
I think that short of an all out commitment you're probably correct, the British and French could just about encircle the peninsula (threatening all sorts to Portugal to complete it) and enforce a serious attempt at containment. The assets are there: the French, with a bit of effort, could seal the Pyrenees, the RN has stacks of cruisers and destroyers designed to interdict civilian shipping and you have Gibraltar which is a perfect supply and maintenance base. But with the UK looking inward as the Royal scandal deepens, and a France so far disinclined to act assertively, it's a dream, nothing more.


Still, it is a wonderfully Victorian master plan that is truly ludicrous in scale and hubris. Of course if they actually did go someway to gaining a huge pile of gold, they'd be in a never ending spending spree of buying more from the gold producing colonies, many of which weren't owned by France...
It did buy weapons for the Republic, including shipments of hundreds of actual tanks (while the Nationalists only got tankettes from the Germans and Italians) which played a key role in the initial defence of Madrid against the veteran Army of Africa; the Republican air force also consisted of Soviet planes, which were very useful for supporting their (misguided) army offensives as well as defence against Nationalist strategic bombings.
If half of the "Moscow gold" ends ups in Paris and then falls into German hands, it's going to be most amusing.
When does it stop being Moscow gold if it keeps changing capital city?
I can promise that Spain is one two / three foreign nations to feature heavily in my plan. So far, assume that all is as it was OTL (apart from Edward fighting for his choice of wife, obviously!).


I think my point is that had all the gold gone to Paris and the weapons been brought on the open market, the Republicans would have got a lot more weapons for the same money. In fact just the threat of being able to do so would have forced the Soviets to be a bit more fair with the pricing, but once the gold was in Moscow the Spanish lost a lot of leverage.
Completely agree - and very similar, in some ways, to the US attitude to the UK during the darker moments of 1940 (sorry, couldn't resist).

I have to say that this piece is quite excellent at capturing the chaos and uncertainty that comes with the start of a civil war. I definitely get the sense that the "People's Olympiad" have found themselves quite a bit out of their depth, as what was meant to be a peaceful show of solidarity has ended up putting them in the cross-hairs of a group of hostile revolutionaries -- and, of course, it has made Butler's own situation still more complicated.
Thank you, I just wanted to show some vaguely ordinary people in a situation not of their making. Your Butler points are well made, and if he was a careerist, he is on hand to deliver intelligence that is accurate and (more important for London) requested.

I think this was a nicely focused introduction to the SCW, concentrating on British viewpoints (being a British-themed AAR), but getting a sense of the choas and confusion of those early heady days.
Thank you my friend, I guess mission accomplished!

Of course there is.
I bet you had to go have a cold shower after finding that one.
You are a true wordsmith, aren't you...

An interesting and suitably quirky aside to mark the start of the SCW. Once again, truth proves stranger than fiction: how earnestly silly a situation to find oneself in. Baldwin should read the SIS account: it may well cheer him up!
So your comment landed on the same day as someone vaguely important described me as 'quirky'. I'm making you, in part, liable for the therapist's fees.

Oh yes, the AAR...

Yup, 1936 is rich with mad adventures (including the next update actually)!

It was perfectly pitched to two of my main prejudices as a British sort-of mining engineer - Blame the French for everything and believing that treating Gold as anything other than just another metal leads to problems.
You are eerily like a friend of mine in that - if you're a Yorkshireman, I'd swear you could be him.

I'd be interested in Churchill's down the well diaries.
A three part epic, with how those days transformed international relations for the next century.

That’s the format sorted for our nineteenth Royal Prerogative Hypothetical Spin-off AAR (TM) then
Oh Dear...
 
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