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trekaddict

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I know as much, and for that reason I didn't totally do away with the dive-bombers. If, or rather when the RN faces the Japanese, there will be dive-bomber squadrons. Right now they are probably getting their experience by raiding against targets on the coast of occupied Europe. Hmmm...*has idea for a near future update*
 

trekaddict

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Chapter 171


14th October 1941

1933 hours

House of Commons ( backup location )

The cheering Mps of the British Empire rose like a man from their seats when the Prime Minister, entered the house. They all knew what was going on in Italy, and they all felt that at last, one was fighting back, that they were no longer taking things lying down. The spirits were high, the mood was good and for the first time since the end of the Battle of France. The applause only topped when Churchill stepped up to the microphones and began to speak:

I have also to announce to the House that during the night and the early hours of this morning the first of the series of landings in force upon the European Continent has taken place. In this case the liberating assault fell upon the coast of Italy. An immense armada of upwards of 1,000 ships and smaller craft, crossed the Mediterranean Sea. Massed airborne landings have been successfully effected behind the enemy lines, and landings on the beaches are proceeding at various points at the present time. Air and naval attacks have been repulsed. The obstacles that were constructed in the on land have not proved so difficult as was apprehended. The Allies are sustained by about 4,000 firstline aircraft, which can be drawn upon as may be needed for the purposes of the battle. I cannot, of course, commit myself to any particular details. Reports are coming in in rapid succession. So far the Commanders who are engaged report that everything is proceeding according to plan. And what a plan! This vast operation is undoubtedly the most complicated and difficult that has ever taken place. It involves tides, wind, waves, visibility, both from the air and the sea standpoint, and the combined employment of land, air and sea forces in the highest degree of intimacy and in contact with conditions which could not and cannot be fully foreseen.

The House should, I think, take formal cognisance of this invasion of Italy by the Allied Armies under the Command of General Alexander, with General Browning of the Royal Parachute Corps in command of the airborne landings and Admiral Somerville in command of the Mediterranean Fleet respectively. This is a memorable and glorious event, which rewards the intense fighting of the last five months in Mediterranean Sea. The original landing, made this morning on the northern shore of Callabria, has, in the end, borne good fruit. In the first place, the enemy is induced to send to the south of Rome eight or nine divisions which he may well have need of elsewhere. Secondly, the first counterattacks were repulsed, and their teeth broken, by the successful resistance of our airborne and armoured forces in the important battle which took place in the middle of the day. The losses on both sides were light-the Allies losing about 5,00 men, and the Germans about 1,000 men. Thereafter, the bridgehead was considered by the enemy to be impregnable.

Meanwhile, the great landing of the main Army has to take place before the attacks can be renewed. These attacks will be carried out as soon as overwhelming force can be applied on land and in the air. At 2:00 o'clock, Generals Brooke and Alexander began this present operation, and after unceasing and intense fighting by the whole of the services, broke into the enemy's lines and entered Italian soil. It is noteworthy that, counting from right to left, the whole of the Polish, British Empire, French, Belgian, Dutch and exiled forces achieved total surprise. That has an important bearing on other matters, which I shall come to before I sit down.

At what was judged the right moment the bridgehead force, which by tomorrow this time will have reached a total of nearly 180,000 men, fell upon the unsuspecting enemy's flank and threatened his retreat. The junction of the main Armies with the airborne forces drove the enemy off his principal lines of attack from the North, forcing a great part of his army to halt and reassemble for a greater drive at a later day. The Allied Forces, with great rapidity, are regrouped, with special emphasis on their left flank, which soon will be deployed against Rome after consolidating our position on the continent. The British and Allied of the Eighth Army have established themselves on the continent, where the liberation of the occupied nations of Europe has begun. This entry and liberation is the mission with which the British Empire has tasked herself. However, General Alexander's prime object is not the capture of Rome, great as would be the moral, political and psychological advantages of that episode. The Allied Forces, with the Poles in the van, will drive ahead, northwards, in relentless pursuit of the enemy. The destruction of the enemy army will be, throughout, the single aim, and they are now being engaged at the same time along the whole length of the line as they attempt to push us back into the sea. It is hoped that the 500 prisoners already taken will be followed by further captures in future, and that the condition of the enemy's army, which he has crowded into Southern Italy, will be decisively affected.

It would be futile to attempt to estimate our final gains at the present time. It is our duty, however, to pay the warmest tribute of gratitude and admiration to General Alexander for the skill with which he has handled this Army of so many different States and nations, and for the tenacity and fortitude with which he will sustain it in the difficult times in the future. The great strength of the Air Forces at our disposal, as well as the preponderance in armour, has undoubtedly contributed in a notable and distinctive manner to the successes which have been achieved today. We must await further developments in the Italian theatre before it is possible to estimate the magnitude and quality of our gains, great and timely though they certainly will be.



Strategic and tactical surprise has been attained, and we hope to furnish the enemy with a succession of surprises during the course of the fighting. The battle that has now begun will grow constantly in scale and in intensity for many weeks and months to come, and I shall not attempt to speculate upon its course. This I may say, however. Complete unity prevails throughout the Allied Armies. There is a brotherhood in arms between us and our friends of. There is complete confidence in the supreme commander, General Alexander, and his lieutenants, and also in the commander of the Eighth Army, General Ritchie. The ardour and spirit of the troops, as I saw myself, embarking in these last few weeks was splendid to witness. Nothing that equipment, science or forethought could do has been neglected, and the whole process of opening this great new front will be pursued with the utmost resolution both by the commanders and by the Exiled and British Governments whom they serve. I have been at the centres where the latest information is received, and I can state to the House that this operation is proceeding in a thoroughly satisfactory manner. Many dangers and difficulties which at this time last night appeared extremely formidable are behind us. The passage of the sea has been made with far less loss than we apprehended. The resistance of the enemy has been greatly weakened by the bombing of the Air Force and the superior bombardment of our ships. The landings of the troops on a broad front, both British and Allied troops, I will not give lists of all the different nationalities they represent-but the landings along the whole front have been effective, and our troops have penetrated, in some cases, several miles inland. Lodgments exist on a broad front.

The outstanding feature has been the landings of the airborne troops, which were on a scale far larger than anything that has been seen so far in the world. These landings took place with extremely little loss and with great accuracy. Particular anxiety attached to them, because the conditions of light prevailing in the very limited period of the dawn-just before the dawn-the conditions of visibility made all the difference. Indeed, there might have been something happening at the last minute which would have prevented airborne troops from playing their part. A very great degree of risk had to be taken in respect of the weather.

But our courage is equal to all the necessary decisions that have to be taken in these extremely difficult and uncontrollable matters. The airborne troops are well established, and the landings and the follow-ups are all proceeding with much less loss-very much less-than we expected. Fighting is in progress at various points. We captured various bridges which were of importance, and which were not blown up. But all this, although a very valuable first step-a vital and essential first step-gives no indication of what may be the course of the battle in the next days and weeks, because the enemy will now probably endeavour to concentrate on this area, and in that event heavy fighting will soon begin and will continue without end, as we can push troops in and he can bring other troops up. It is, therefore, a most serious time that we enter upon. Thank God, we enter upon it with our great Allies all in good heart and all in good friendship.”



As the PM spoke, the members, including the Imperial Observers, rose like a man and engulfed the Prime Minister in a massive standing ovation. Churchill smiled to himself. He had given them more than a military victory. He and the Armed Forces had given them hope.






[Notes: Turns out Winston's original D-day speech was longer than I expected....]
 

Ciryandor

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Some of the numbers feel off for the circumstances. Or is it just me?

One more thing: How'd you reconcile Speirs being born Scottish?
 

Sir Humphrey

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Just caught up. Great stuff.
 

Kurt_Steiner

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I'm just wondering what might happen when the Allies get to a place called Montecassino. Bearing in mind the Russian stubborness (Stalingrad, for instance), it can be a bit of a problem...
 

MadVlad

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Well, the upshot is perhaps the Soviets won't be quite as willing to give their lives for central Italy as they were for their homeland. That being said, the sentiment is correct...

The Allies could be in for quite a surprise once the Axis are able to form a coherent front line. Right now they're riding high on the success of the landings, but a stalemate south of Rome (or north of it, really) would be a very bad thing indeed.
 

Lord Strange

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I'm just wondering what might happen when the Allies get to a place called Montecassino. Bearing in mind the Russian stubborness (Stalingrad, for instance), it can be a bit of a problem...
This time, we go around. All the way around.:eek:
 

arya126

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i dont think italy will be a problem and trek will find a way to get the french to invade france if a stalemate occurs. the real problem seems to be when invading the russian motherland and a different version of the great patriotic war occurs..can the british handle the huge front along with their others? (lik japan..leftovers of germans in europe..possibly commie amerrica..will they even have the troops to hold a defensive stance let alone an offensive by then? remember british manpower cannot match the americans or the soviets.)
 

trekaddict

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Ciryandor The numbers are based on the landings meeting only minimal resistance, and I did land 12 Divisions in the first wave of amphib landings. As for Speirs.... hmmmm....


Sir Humphrey Thanks!

Kurt_Steiner Speed and/or overwhelming force.

MadVlad Exactly. They will send some forces of course, but not proclaim the great patriotic war over it. What I really fear is indeed a stalemate, especially in Northern Italy, because there my superior Artillery and doctrine techs can easily be cancelled out by numbers.

Lord Strange That's why the Cromwell is so fast. :D

arya126 For Japan I count on the Indian Army ( still in India and Burma ) and the Commonwealth Divisions, mainly Australia and New Zealand. As for Russia itself, I will never be able to match their numbers, even though I gave myself enough off-map MP to keep the growth at the peace-time level, so my hope is technology and superior doctrines.

EDIT: And of course it's my plan to knock out the Germans first if I can.
 

Le Jones

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Trek, hungover and grumpy though I be, that was a sterling update. Bravo.
 

trekaddict

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trekaddict

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Chapter 172


15th October 1941



final approach to Kingston, Jamaica


The pen flew over the paper as if the writer was not sitting in a flying boat roaring over the Atlantic but rather at a comfortable desk in a warm flat. The author did not care. It was something he had promised a friend he would be doing a long time ago, and at last his state of mind and his general acceptance of what had happened allowed him to put pen to paper. Ian sat ten seats down from the Admiral on the otherwise almost empty aircraft. They had spent the last two days travelling from London to where they were now, and had spent an extra three hours in Gibraltar when a fault in the pumping mechanism of one of the engines had developed. Then, after re-fuelling and taking drinks on the invasion with the station commander, the flying boat took off again. There Ian had taken out pre-war writing pad and a fountain pen and had let pen meet paper. He had as yet no idea where he was going with this, but it was more of an experiment anyway, so when the plane landed and taxied towards the pier, he put the notepad into his bag, not expecting to take it out soon. He stepped off the plane and was instantly taken in by the warm weather and the generally Caribbean feel and look of the place. He only stopped for a few seconds and soon followed the Admiral past the customs booth and outside the terminal. When he sat in the car beside the Admiral, he was glad that he had changed into his tropical gear even though he thought that white did not suit him much, but at least he did not have to wear the heavy blue service uniform King's regulations required during winter in the United Kingdom. The car moved off, and Ian decided to take the opportunity to catch some sleep while the Admiral reviewed his papers. And so the car moved through the countryside of Jamaica until it reached an old Victorian house that was probably a former plantation mansion. When Ian awoke, he saw that the house was almost five miles away from the main road. Located between the peaks of the Blue Mountains in the centre of the Island, the property was surrounded by steep cliffs and trees that made it impossible to directly look at the house from any form of distance except from the surrounding peaks. The house itself was guarded by Royal Marines and by members of the diplomatic protection service.

Reason for the latter was the fact that the Intelligence Chiefs of the Dominions were present. The Admiral, and by extension Ian, were there because said Chiefs were to be briefed on the deception methods and on counter-intelligence procedures. When he had left his family in London Ian had been less than enthusiastic about flying out again, since there was nothing he knew what the Admiral did not know, but according to someone his experience in actually conducting counter-intelligence made his input valuable, and right now his whole surroundings softened the blow immensely. Ian put on his cap again and looked around as he stepped out of the car and wished that Sandra and Sean could be here with him. When he didn't follow the Admiral, Edwards stopped and turned around: “Commander? We have to sign in.” “Uh... yes, Sir.” He took his bag from the car and walked over the the Marine who was carrying the list of attendands. His eyes quickly flew over the list and in the back of his mind he registered that this was the biggest gathering of Commonwealth Intelligence officials in history, most certainly since the First World War. He signed and followed the Admiral inside. The inside of the house conformed to the late Victorian/colonial look of the outside of the house, and Ian once again had to sign on a list before they were motioned to some of the second floor rooms. The chiefs of Intelligence were travelling with a minimum entourage, so overall there were less than thirty people in the house if one was to discount the guarding Marines. As a result of that, even the lower ranked officials and Officers such as Ian himself were getting their own rooms, all situated on the upper floor. When he walked up the staircase he could see Makin, representing Australia, talk with MacKenzie from New Zealand and St.Pierre from Canada, while Sir John, representing the British Empire was nowhere to be seen, even though he had been the one to call this conference. Ian already realized that he wouldn't have much to do once he had delivered his report, but when he looked out the window he was once again taken in by the Island itself and decided that if there was any chance at all, he would get out of this villa as soon as possible and have a look around. He placed his bag on the table and thought of Felix for the first time in days. He could see the mischievous smirk in his late friend's face and could almost hear the voice that would have said something about Ian being supposed to enjoy himself when he had the chance. When he began to unpack, he once again had the writing pad in his hands, and when he read what he had written he smiled, and decided that as much fun as it was, he had work to do first. He put it aside and went back to why he was here, even though he wouldn't give his briefing until tomorrow.


A day later Ian was walking out of the room where he had just talked for three hours and was fuming with anger. The Canadian CIS had repeatedly questioned Ian and by extension Felix on a professional level when Ian had detailed how the two had tracked down and arrested Kim Philby back before the war, claiming that Philby should have been spotted weeks before he had started off to Wales, and Ian had been about to jump over the desk or at the very least telling what he was thinking, when Admiral Edwards had told the Canadian CIS that with hindsight the clues were easy to see, but as long as you weren't looking for it didn't stand out much. This not only proved enough for Ian not to wreck his carreer but also that the Canadian CIS was a civil servant and not a trained or at least experienced Intelligence Officer like the Admiral or Ian. Afterwards Ian had sat back down and was now off-Duty until the day they flew back and decided that it was a good an opportunity as any during wartime to scout out the Island, even though officially it was frowned upon to leave the premises while the conference was still going on. But since Ian was not privy to the secret information that was being handled outside his area of expertise Edwards had waved the concerns away. The five miles that the area was from the main road into Kingston were easily traversed with a car from the local motor pool. The road was winded down into the valley where the main road was going, and Ian drove slow and cautious since he was unfamilliar with the terrain. About half-way down, one of the left hand curves was wide enough to allow almost three cars to pass, and he decided that stopping here was the right thing to do. He stopped the car and walked to the edge of the road. Standing there he admired the magnificent mid-afternoon weather and the equally magnificent view of the valley with the low-hanging clouds. He breathed deeply and decided to go directly to Kingston for a start. After all, it was less than an hour away, and since this whole conference wasn't your usual duty assignment he had no fixed duty hours any more like he had had them during sea duty. Just as he was sitting back in the car and had started the engine, a second car came racing down the road. The driver was running wide, and saw Ian's car only at the last second. He tried to evade and swerved to the left. The car was obviously out of control and as a result, it hit a overhanging tree at the edge of the road. Ian climbed out of the car and ran over in an effort to pull the driver out of the car before it dropped down onto the next lane of the road.

When he approached it, he saw that there were what seemed to be bullet holes at the back, and the car also leaked petrol onto the road. At that point two more cars came racing down the road, albeit slower. They stopped in time and out got eight Marines, Stens and Enfields in hand. “Commander, are you alright?”

Ian looked at the man, a Sergeant of the Marines and simply nodded. “That bloke there almost fell down there. What the hell did he do so you shot at him?” “He was caught snooping through the quarters of the New Zealand CIS, and when he was caught by Admiral Edwards, he pulled out a gun and shot the Admiral in the arm. He ran, the Admiral followed and that bloke then high-tailed it out of there with the next car he could find.” Ian let out a breath of relief and walked over to the car. He pulled the bleeding man out of the car and slammed him into the the trunk of his own car.

“Listen up, scumbag. I will ask this only once, and I bloody well hope for you that you answer, because if you don't, I'll personally toss you down there, my friend.” The man did not react at first, but when Ian dragged him over to the edge of the cliff, the Marines nervously looking at him, and then the man talked. “A...alright. I'll talk.....” Ian stepped back from the edge and was about to begin questioning the man, when the agent pushed Ian against the chest who let go in surprise and stumbled backwards. The man ran over to his own car, got in and before anyone could react, pulled out a petrol lighter and set both the car and himself on fire. The car caught immediately and exploded in a tremendous bang. Ian and the marines picked themselves back up and tried to get closer to the car, but the blazing inferno made it clear that it was useless. Ian sweared accordingly and held his hand to his bleeding nose. By that time two more cars arrived. Edwards stepped out of one of them, still wearing the blood stained jacket of his peace-time No.1s which he was wearing as a tropical uniform like many other senior officers even though his arm was bandaged and he wore it in a sling.

“What the hell happened here, Fleming?” “The bastard set himself on fire before we could stop him. The petrol tank was punctured when the Marines shot at him back up there.” Ian said and motioned towards the villa. Edwards sweared. “There's nothing we can do about that now.”

The group headed back towards the house, leaving the burning car behind. Ian sat besides Edwards in the car when the Admiral began to speak. “Commander, I want you to run this. You are probably the only one here with any sort of experience in such matters, and with all the Chiefs of Intelligence around this is far too big for the locals.” “Yes, Sir. How much time?” “Whatever you need and I will make sure that you have full authority.” “Thank you, Admiral.” “Don't lie to me, Commander. I know that you could think of a few better things than doing this sort of work down here, but we need to keep this under wraps as much as possible. Whoever that man was working for, they could try again and god knows how many more men they still have in the Jamaica Marine Regiment.” “What was his job exactly at the villa?” “That's for you to find out, Commander.”

Up at the Villa Ian went to his room and changed into another set of whites before going to work. The Canadian CIS of course objected that Ian be the one to investigate, but Admiral Edwards seemed to carry more authority than Ian knew, because after a few minutes of talking with the Canadian man to man, Ian had no longer anyone obstructing his way. He had the man's trunk brought over from the Marine barracks behind the villa and decided to go through it alone. The trunk was unlocked, and when Ian opened it, at first he only found the usual belongings of a normal marine, uniforms, tools, utensils, some personal belongings, all in all nothing special. At the bottom he found a book on birds, some personal letters and a folded piece of paper. He unfolded the paper and saw that it was a hand drawn map of some sort without a legend or names on it. Putting the paper aside for closer inspection at a later date, he began to have a look at the letters. They were all addressed to the marine in question and had been posted in Discovery bay in the space of the last three months. They were opened, and after reading Ian concluded that there was nothing special about them even though the language used indicated that the writer was either even less of a local than the Marine, or had been expert at faking a certain style of spelling, writing and punctuation that escaped Ian at the moment. He then began to skim through the book on birds, but found nothing special in there either. In the end he was exactly where he had begun.


[Notes: Guesses and suggestions welcome.]
 

trekaddict

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Also, I moved all my awards/cookies and honours to my Inkwell. Thanks for giving me the idea El Pip.
 

ColossusCrusher

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SPECTRE, perhaps? :D
 

unmerged(85800)

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ah finally caught up. university leaves me little time for this, at least for the moment. just wanted to say the last few updates were very good.
 

Doge Robert

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Hmm.. Jamaica? That kinda leaves out the Abwehr as I can't see them operate that far from home, although the general competense (or lack off), displayed by the spy (and to some extent his fanatism) could be explained by this.. However, due to the fact that so many South American nations (rather close by) are socialists and I'm sure Uncle Joe would like to keep an eye on them and thus, have personel in the area, my guess is the OGPU, as I believe was the name for the Soviet Intellience at that time..

That or some minor nation and then I'm completely off the track. ;)

Great set of updates Trek.. You are, as always, brilliantly good. :)
 

Lord Strange

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WEll, Jamaica is where Fleming later had his home - Goldeneye, but its close to either the Americas, who maybe are stirring up trouble, or even some possible Axis allies in South America?
 

trekaddict

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ColossusCrusher Ian has to invent them first. :D

BritishImperial I know the feeling. Come next Thursday it's back to university for me too. And thank you.


Doge Robert It's my plan to keep you guys guessing as long as possible. And thanks to you too.


Lord Strange See the above. As for Ian's future, I sent him to Jamaica for a reason, and it's not only the conference. :D
 

trekaddict

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Chapter 173

16th October 1941

Taranto., Italy

“The Italian Aerial reconnaissance has so far been unable to really penetrate through to the landing beaches themselves, but we know that the British have landed troops here, here, and here. Paratrooper landings to probably seize key bridges and to hold off initial counter strokes have been made here, here and here, and so far they have done their job well. We are currently assembling the main force of our own corps near to the north of here in order to make a coordinated attack on the British lines.”

Rommel looked at the map again and did not like what he saw. He glanced at his chief of staff again and asked: “What sort of units have been identified so far?” The Intelligence Officer looked at his notepad and said: “We believe that the Paratrooper forces are from the 1st, 6th, 7th and 8th Airborne Divisions, basing on that these are the only division-sized paratroop formations within the British Army. It also seems that the British have indeed raised a brigade of colonial troops fro the 6th Airborne Division, and these troops have proven to be very skilled and tenacious adversaries. I must say that even our own troops would have broken under what we threw at them.” The Lieutenant General creased his forehead in doubt. “How so, Oberst?” “Well, for example the 25th was facing perhaps a short Regiment of them, and they managed to knock out almost thirty percent of the 25ths panzers even thought they are in the essence Light Infantry, the tanks that reinforced them when we were at last pushing them back were only the last straw.”


“But it's not just that, Herr General.” The Oberst sighed. “The light anti-tank rocket of theirs...” “Ah yes, the PIAT is what they call them.” Rommel said. “Yes, Sir. They are using it expertly, and we can say that from what reports we have received so far, their normal Infantry is just as skilled at employing them.” Rommel rose and walked over to the large map of southern Italy that he had had fixed to the wall. There the estimated positions of the British were plotted, along with arriving Axis units. The Italians were pouring in everything they could spare, the Soviets were sending their own Italian Corps, and aside from that the Luftwaffe was redeploying to airfields north of Rome that had only been attacks sparingly. In the south the British and their allies ruled the skies and made movement by day very difficult even though the Italian Air Force fought as well as it could.

On the ground the Axis forces were preparing for their great attack on the stiffening line, but troubles in the command structure threatened to impose unacceptable delays. Small-unit actions continued all along the line as patrols of both sides tried to find out when the other was attacking, as both sides had yet to assemble a sufficient number of troops to smash the line of the other. Unknown to Rommel however the British had one vital edge. They had superior intelligence. Thanks to the efforts by the Polish Squadrons that had been among the first to relocate to Italy, Full General Alexander, now GOC European Front, had a comprehensive picture of the Axis deployments and the Royal Artillery did it's own to disrupt the enemy when the Air Forces couldn't.


At the same time as Rommel received this briefing, the British Army went to the attack. The goal was not to actually breach the Axis lines which would have been extraordinarily difficult with the forces at hand and would have overstretched the British Army dangerously. Instead, Alexander was aiming to capture the rest of the province. Not only would this allow him to reinforce his own Army with impunity, but also to launch the secondary attack on Sicily. Right now the German Italy corps still formed the bulk of the Axis troops in the area since the Allied air effort had seriously disrupted the transportation systems all over southern Italy, and even this force was still strung out. The main body of Rommel's force was still bottled up north of Taranto, while the 25th Panzer Regiment was currently retreating out of Callabria towards the other German Divisions after their engagement with the Paras. They had however already a considerable head start, and when the British attack began, the first blow fell instead on the Italian 12th Infantry Division that was forming a van for the Axis position. The Italians fought bravely, but the two fully assembled Armoured Divisions were too much for the ill-equipped Italian Infantry and the British drove north-east in the general direction of the rest of Italy. The British reached their limited objectives by the end of the 16th and dug in all along the line. Right now priority was to eliminate the threat in the rear: Sicily.


Such was the plan at least. In the end Alexander was forced to postphone the attack when Rommel began his own counter attack. The 25th Regiment stayed behind and formed the rear guard when the rest of the 7. Panzerdivision, the bulk of the 15. Panzer and the 90th Light Division slammed into the position of the 1st Infantry Division. Once again the British line refused to break at first but by pure chance the 90th Light drove right though the gap between the 1st Infantry and the neighbouring Division, the 1st Indian Infantry ( motorized ). The Indian troops were currently re-deploying for a counterstroke against Rommel and the Italy Corps, but the speed with which the Germans advanced allowed them to cut the main road west before any British Division could advance. The 1st Infantry Division was surrounded and early on Market Garden was on the brink of disaster. In his headquarters in the residence of the mayor of Gioia Tauro General Alexander realized that he had been caught flat footed and postphoned any attacks on Sicily until the British position on the mainland was stronger. Urgent re-deployments were made, but at first the 1st Infantry needed to be saved. The 1st Indian Division had already taken action. On his own authority the Division's commander Major-General Potter launched an attack against the 90th Light even before the Germans had fully realized what they had achieved. Rommel was still busy running his tanks against the stubborn resistance of the 1st Infantry when the 90th reported that it was under massive attack by motorized forces and was itself now in danger of being cut off. Soon Rommel realized that there was nothing more he could do as long as his two other Divisions were engaged with the 1st Infantry Division, and authorized the commander, Major General Sümmermann to retreat if the situation required it, and an hour later the first units of the defeated German Division began to come back to the starting line. Stiffening resistance by the 1st Infantry and reports of British Armoured spearheads approaching his own position prompted Rommel to retreat and by the end of the day the Germans were back where they had started, and the province was firmly in Allied hands. This attack had still caught the attention of Berlin where the OKW was convinced that Rommel would have been victorious if only he had had more forces, so when Rommel demanded that Berlin sort out the confused command situation southern Italy the Staff was more than on his side and backed him even though he was still seen as an upstart by many of the older Officer Corps. Upon hearing Hitler was forced to agree. Consultations with the Italian Ambassador followed. Initially the Italians refused to put their forces under the unified Axis command structure and the Duce was annoyed that instead of throwing the British Imperialists back into the sea there was only talking, but in the end Mussolini was politely reminded that it had been his responsibility to make sure that the British could never land in the first place, and since his vaunted Army had again failed, the Führer, backed by the Soviet Ambassador acting in Stalin's place, said that the Italian Army was as of now under German command in all but name. By the 20th October the Axis forces were at last under a unified command structure. The selection of a commander was easy. Von Rundstedt was considered, but in the end Hitler wanted his personal favourite on the job, and so when Rommel arrived in Rome, he not only found himself relieved of his command but also promoted to full General and in command of the Defence of southern Italy.

However the British did not sit on their laurels during this critical first week of the Invasion. Alexander quickly realized that his best chance at neutralizing the combat power of the Germans and to put the Italian defenders onto the defensive he needed to be quick. By the late 17th, the full strength of I (UK) Armoured Corps was on land and Alexander decided that it was time to attack now. London had not been happy when he had cancelled the attack on Sicily, and neither had the Admiralty, but he had explained his reasons, and he was now about to prove himself right or wrong. The most obvious route to take was of course an attack against Taranto where not only Rommel had his headquarters at the time, but also because it was still the main anchorage for the Italian Fleet, and if one was able to force the fleet out, one would be able to destroy it. The Italians had realized this and had concentrated a considerable amount of strength around the port city. Alexander decided that attacking Taranto was the too obvious choice and decided to attack directly northwards, right through the middle of the still fragile Italian line, and either force the Italians to retreat or to cut them off from the rest of Italy. As a result of this the General Ironside, in his last act as Commander of the Corps, attacked northwards towards Potenza. Once again his enemy was only a collection of Italian Infantry, but this time the enemy was prepared and had the most modern Anti-Tank weaponry the Italians had in their arsenal and the losses, light though they were, reflected this and the going was rougher than before. Alexander found out what many others had found out over the centuries: Every soldier fought the hardest when he was defending his own home.

However soon enough the sheer weight of firepower that Artillery, tanks and motorized Infantry could bring to bear was too much for the Italians and after two days of hard fighting they were forced to retreat. After half a day of rest Ironside followed, unsure where the enemy was exactly. What followed would later be seen as a 'classic' meeting engagement, since as the 1st Armoured Division ran smack into an Italian counter-attack that was carried out by the reconstituted Ariette Armoured Division. The Italians were under-strength, but fought with a feriocity that belied the lacklustre performance of the Italian Armoured units in North Africa. However the outcome was a foregone conclusion, as the Italians were using M13/40 augmented by existing stocks of obsolete M11/39 tanks, which were without chance against the motivated, experienced and well-equipped British Tank Troops. The two brigades of the Ariette Division tried four times to turn the left flank of the hastily deployed 1st Armoured Division, but failed to do so. Charge after charge over open and relatively flat ground was smashed by the superior range and firepower of the British tanks, and after loosing twenty percent of it's stock of vehicles the Italian Division withdrew.


The battle that developed was a small one when compared to those that would follow later in the war, but it was the most desicive one of the early Italian campaign. Not only had it destroyed most of the remaining Italian stock of reasonably modern tanks, it also forced the Italians to call off a general offensive before it had begun because it was clear now that the British had not taken the bait and were not willing to conform to the wishes of the Duce and his military advisers. When Potenza fell on the 20th after minor resistance by some Blackshirt Militias, Rommel arrived in Rome, and the first order was for all units to hold fast. The front was a mess. Italian and Soviet Divisions arriving, the three German Divisions holding the line that tied the Italian defenders of Taranto and the rest of Italy together and the British having a salient that was potentially dangerous for any number of potential strategic targets.



[Notes: The British Army is firmly established on the continent. Occupied forces of whatever nature fly their own national markings.]
 

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Go Rommel!

What? It has to be said. With any luck, a nice little bomb can get Hitler/Stalin/Mussolini at once. :D