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"Perhaps it will be simplest to throw away the tags and generalize her with one all-comprehensive name, as the Land of Wonders."
- Mark Twain, 1897

Most of all major parts of British Empire, including Raj, found itself independent overnight in 1918, as ordered by the ruthlessness of the Westminster Treaty. Any territorial ambitions held by the Kaiserreich were mostly fulfilled by Eastern Europe and Africa, so while the Crown Jewel of the British Empire was a tempting prize, it was also very bothersome prize. Life expectancy of newborn, more so a multiethnic, states was minimal in minds of German diplomats and it was deemed likely that soon, India will shatter into bunch of statelets, some ruled by revolutionaries, most powerful nobles or remnants of Raj's military. However, the matters couldn't be left entirely in the God's design, therefore, the Kaiserliche Marine made the island of Ceylon a major base to not only function as a vital link between German-controlled Suez and outposts of the Far East, but to also keep an eye on the developments on the subcontinent. In a rather civil manner, the India's ports were frequently visited by the battleships of the Ost-Asien Flotte, and many naval officers didn't forget to buy their loved ones some precious gifts like jewels bought by the only hard currency in the region - the Reichsmark. The Nizam of Hyderabad or Maharaja of Mysore offered hospitality of their palaces to many high-ranking officers, the most prominent of them being members of House Hohenzollern. All in all, it seemed that everything is falling into designs of Weltpolitik, which was about nothing more and nothing less than keeping Germany to remain as the most prominent military and economic power of the world.


The Army of India, especially it's part consisting of British units sent to India, found itself in absurd position: there were not even any German units they could surrender to, and the subcontinent itself instantly became sovereign state with Army loyal only to it's former foreign overlord. After officially instant demobilization, some returned to England, some chose Australia or New Zealand, or as it was later known, the United Kingdom of Oceania. Some did remain, the most stubborn ones, considering themselves the most loyal soldiers of King-Emperor, protecting His Majesty's realm.

The India itself, clearly, was no threat to such ambitions and was unable to prevent even the Afghani invasion of merely 50.000 badly equipped and armed warriors of their King, who was later deposed and murdered anyway after refusal to accept foreign support, which was badly needed, since this endeavour, although succesful, depleted much of the poor kingdom's resources, including food supplies. In the eastern part of the Raj, the first King of Bhutan, the very man who went to great lengths to unite this tiny country, Ugyen Wangchuck, had to step into some areas which fell into absolute anarchy and banditry: only to to find out that what can be called the government of India accepts ceding these areas under his control. Quite surprised from his not-at-all intended conquest, the elderly monarch pledged loyalty of his people to the desperate souls trying to rule the crumbling country, fearing what will come if they will fail to keep the peace. Although it can be said that most the world didn't even noticed the Bhutan exists, which could be true to this day, the King Ugyen had always a cordial relationship with British administrators, mediated talks between them and Tibetan monks, even met the King George V., when he was still a Prince of Wales and his role in keeping the eastern parts of India together should be recognized.


Brutal fighting in the Middle East allowed many native soldiers to gain necessary experience and knowledge to quickly replace British officers and NCOs, who decided to leave India. In addition of Princely States' token forces entering Army of India, like the Kashmiri volunteers, the British expertise was still valued regardless, and the Indian forces in late 1920s became much more professional: in contrast to remnants of former British Army in England, which was extremely limited in numbers and firepower and had to use many 'Volunteer Force' units to police the streets and later Scotland, after the fall of collaborationist government.

The main fact therefore is, that India didn't collapse out of fear from multiple threats, both internal and external. Hindu and muslim nobles both were largely frustrated or appalled by growing religious and ethnic violence their token militias were unable to solve. Radicals of various ideologies were appearing seemingly out of nowhere all over countryside, as well as in the middle of major cities, sometimes literally in front of some maharaja's estate. At the same time, everything what remained of Raj's colonial administration, including Frederic Thesiger, the last Governor-General of India, desperately tried to put together anything which would resemble central government, negotiating with three sides: the most powerful Princely States, British and Indian commanders who maintained firm control of their garrisons and Indian nationalists, of course. But nothing was certain until late 1919 meeting at Cawnpore, a several weeks of negotiations between Army General Charles Monro and Bipin Chandra Pal, a rather assertive, but respected nationalist leader, who largely rejected 'mild opposition' of Gandhi and others. The delegates from Princely States, usually the siblings of the rulers, were of course present, but their main concern was country's stability, which would allow them to retain their wealth and importance. They all had their concerns, especially the young Maharaja Pratap Sings from Jammu and Kashmir, whose uncle, the previous ruler, was assasinated during Afghani invasion. The elderly Madho Singh II., ruler of Jaipur was equally horrified by prospect of chaotic civil war and religious violence. The man who once founded Raj's Famine Relief Fund and built schools and hospitals, was the only ruler who came by himself to Cawnpore, despite his advanced age, and had a very long discussions with Monro and Pal.


The literal translation of this not-country from Hindi was the 'Sovereign Indian Federation': the central administration in Delhi heavily relied on both military support concentrated around Calcutta, the old capital of British power in India and then, even more importantly, on the resources of de facto independent Princely States. To keep the extremely poor population content, Delhi government created an own chain of hospitals, orphanages and further improved infrastructure, while the ever present fear of famine dissapeared by ever steady supply of Australian wheat.

After the almost four weeks, the agreement was reached. The so called 'Articles of the Indian Sovereignty', among other things, contained an acceptance of every Princely State's right for self-governance, provided they will pay their taxes and abide by laws approved by All-Indian provisional government in Delhi, which also guaranteed the free elections in the near future, 1925 being the latest possible year. Until that, the Army of India was supposed the remain an independent organisation, a literal state within state, based in Bengal, the old center of British power in India and was allowed to act independently only against foreign threat. The Articles didn't acknowledge Burma's independence nor Afghani annexations and affirmed country's 'historical and natural' ties of British Raj, being it's legal successor. Once made public, indeed the very first countries who recognized new India, were countries of the Anglosphere - and the Empire of Japan.
A compromise in it's barest form: both Pal and Monro left the Cawnpore largely unsatisfied. The former lacked the power to force the issue of India being officially proclaimed a Republic and to abolish Princely States altogether, despite them accepting the federal elections on their territory. The latter strongly believed his role here is nothing more and nothing less but preserve existence of British India in the name of imprisoned King-Emperor George V., who was the only person he felt being still bound by any oath. In 1918, just before capitulation of United Kingdom, General Charles Monro left the Middle East with as many soldiers as he could to the Raj, when the onslaught of arriving German forces pushed them all the way to Egypt, and Mediterranean route was blocked by Austrian battleships. His colleagues gave him bare 20% chance he will pull it off, instead, he saved tens of thousand soldiers and most of the equipment with token casualties and all of them reached India. This gave him tremendous respect of his officers and Indian soldiers alike.


The specter of revolutionaries haunted everyone on the subcontinent: so much, that meager Afghani forces invading the realm were not stopped until they threatened Karachi. Even then, armistice and acknowledgment of new borders was considered as a wiser move, since larger population centers elsewhere had to kept under military control, not border regions. Same reasoning worked in favour of Burma's independence, which had it's own revolutionary elements and the native monarchy quickly put itself under protective wings of German eagle, whose East Asian fleet had no rival in the area.

Seemingly tenuous alliance of Monro's loyalists, Pal's nationalists and aristocrats of various convictions worked nevertheless, and to his dismay, Pal's National Party just barely won the election of 1925, only to lose in next one in 1929 to moderate coalition of parties heavily supported by the Maharajas and the Army of India's officer corps, whose opinion had to be taken seriously. In 1932, when both Pal and Monro were no longer among the living, the Federation could already stand on it's own feet, signing alliances and treaties with foreign powers, Oceania, Japan, United States. Even the freshly appointed Russian ambassador was asked if there could be any sort of understanding regarding status of Afghanistan in some hypothetical situation. Only in 1940 the both Central Legislative Assembly and Council of Princes had to re-open the issue under intense pressure from within and without: the careful solution chosen a generation ago was questioned and many feared the consequences.


Even Mohandas Gandhi's still nascent concept of Swaraj, the self-rule, was put aside by it's creator: the sudden collapse of British colonial authority, with literal inability to create strong central government, pushed the subcontinent almost over the edge. Only the triumvirate of reconstituted civilian administration, military and the most powerful aristocrats held the pieces together. Utopian visions couldn't subsume into grim reality of country's questionable existence, further threatened by border raids and ever ominous presence of German battlefleet and military convoys crossing the Indian Ocean. Whatever wrong was with the British rule, the option of them being replaced by militarily more powerful and more ruthless Empire was considered too real.
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What an unexpected rallying and survival of the Raj! And not only survival, but apparently they're building the pillars of a stable state in India? It just needs to find a way to appease to the common people, and not just the elites of aristocracy, military and administration, and then it would be set to become a major player of the 1940s and a superpower of the 1950s and beyond
The Articles didn't acknowledge Burma's independence nor Afghani annexations and affirmed country's 'historical and natural' ties of British Raj, being it's legal successor.
The interesting part about this is that if it claims to be the legal successor of the Raj with all of its territories being claimed, is that the Sovereign Indian Federation lays claim to the Andamans and the city of Aden in Yemen, but not to Ceylon or the Maldives. Burma and Aden were only split off from the Raj with the Government of India act of 1935

The Princely borders are far from perfect but this is the closest I can get
Thx. Btw. I am already in the middle of part 50.

Turned out I just needed to read Das Boot, finally.
Even in this case the book is better than movie.
Monro's retreat from the Middle East sounds a lot like the 'march of the 10.000' I'm guessing that the Indian Sovereignty doesn't claim Ceylon as it's under German occupation, and doing so would be suicide.

"War is the highest summit of human achievement; it is the natural, the final stage in the historical development of humanity."
- Hans von Seeckt's last letter to the Kaiser Wilhelm IV., 1938

By the hardly unexpected death of 86 year old Chancellor Paul von Hindenburg on February 2nd, 1934, the golden era of postwar political stability and economic growth within Germany ended. With the Wilhelm II. comfortable in quiet seclusion of one East Prussian rural estate, it was more the Chancellor's duty to care about matters of the Empire, tacitly led more or less by the rest of Hohenzollern dynasty, the Kaiser's relatives and heirs. Therefore, a change of course required a little more than just a dissapearance of few, mostly elderly figures, who's power instantly vanished with death of Hindenburg.
It was not merely a death of one person: the majority of leading figures and heroes from the all-changing Great War, the devastating Weltkrieg, were mostly dead for a some time. The great strategist Ludendorff, who never experienced the satisfaction of the Westminster Treaty or the Prussian Marshal Mackensen, murdered by Bolshevik sympathizer in Russia, 1926. Grand Admiral Reinhard Scheer and his vocal predecessor Alfred von Tirpitz were also not there anymore and who was still alive mostly chose the comfort of retirement in their estates or civilian pursuits in the colonies. The Hohenzollerns themselves suffered over the years, with Kaiser himself losing sons, grandchildren, even his fiercely loyal younger brother or his beloved wife Augusta Victoria, to the effects of war and terrible diseases.
Previously pacified elements within society immediately started to cause troubles, especially the various leftist organisations, tacitly supported by the reinforced United Social Democratic Party, which was able to breath within the walls of German electoral system, heavily favouring small towns and large parties more than ever before. Universal suffrage or lowering the age limits for voters or representatives was still out of the question since the end of the war. Until now.


The Kaiserliche Marine of 1934 was still the strongest naval force in the world, but with the budget cuts which meant no longer unlimited funding of the battlefleets, the two factions started to struggle over the resources and influence: the supporters of 'Entscheidungsschlacht', the Battle of Annihilation strategy, convinced that previous war proved it's worth in paralyzing the Royal Navy - and supporters of 'Handelskrieg', the Trade War strategy, horrified by the both massive losses of experienced sailors and officers and overall cost of maintenance of such navy in previous and perhaps, next war. In opposition to any Tirpitz's student, such as Erich Raeder, some admirals such as Souchon or de la Periere argued more for the focused defense of critical sea lanes and raiding enemy ships to keep own territory secured, while enemy is forced to split it's own forces and resources for both defense and offense.

Immediate change of the course was signalled by the appointment of Centre Party leader, Heinrich Brüning. Simultaneously approving tight control of the press and education, but opened to social questions which just begged to be solved, he brought fragile coalition together and rejected demands of Social Democrats for a new elections, arguing that government had necessary majority and Kaiser's consent to continue as it is. At the same time he cleverly proposed series of constitutional laws to be immediately voted upon, which couldn't be ignored by opposition and to also reconcile factions within his own party. Unfortunately it angered Centre's coalition partners as well, but they decided to let it pass before their position will improve, it was argued. At long last, some would say, universal suffrage was established at the age of 21: with the special provision for soldiers, who could vote when they were only 18, when entering three years of military service, mostly to appease members of DNVP. Unofficially, the officers of the Army just as well, as the no government of Germany could exist without their approval.
Unable to move against their influence directly, new Chancellor fully intended make his government less a subject of the military's hierarchy regardless of his limited power. First of all, by going around, redirecting some funds intended for the Kaiserliche Marine and Luftstreitkräfte to the land forces, which also experienced some budget cuts, a fairly minor in their case. Afterwards, Brüning publicly presented his plans to remove Germany's problem with suddenly increased unemployment due to some closed arms factories and shipyard: low interest loans for small companies, for a growth of more civilian industries producing luxury goods and providing services. The infrastructure had to be improved too, naturally, so the new dams, bridges, roads and airports were planned all the way from Elsass to Reval in the Baltic Duchy. That being said, the same kind of thought was put into German colonies and protectorates, especially in Africa and Ceylon, but also in lands technically owned and belonging to Suezkanal-Gesellschaft, Jerusalem included.


Localized incidents, like the one in Kattowitz, 1924, where German citizens of Polish ethnicity did let themselves to be provoked by presumably Marxist agitators, were usually solved within a day by the policemen, who always welcomed support of military police or volunteers of the Landwehr, traditionally consisting of former soldiers. Once the broken glass and dead bodies were removed, the city's newspaper could mention something about 'public disturbance' or warning against anti-German individuals, if they were not caught in the act. But it wasn't even worth that much of an attention of larger papers such as Frankfurter Zeitung or Preussenblatt.

In 1936 then, Chancellor Brüning was fully prepared to propose more outrageous legislation: only one year of military service. After previous moves, he was confident enough to argue for it's necessity in the name of further cuts, without actually reducing the size of the Army. In that proposal, he was already backed by some of the more vocal officers, such as Colonel Heinz Guderian, who was a constant headache to his superiors. Most of his criticism was about lack of vision for the future conflicts and called for a fully motorized units by the end of the decade, lamenting how the strongest industrial power in Europe is now using horses as means of transport again, despite all the efforts to end it just few years ago. Or how the troops in the colonies never saw a weapon made before 1918. Quantity over quality was supposed to be normal now for the mighty German military barely a twenty years after first and ten years after the second defeat of Russia. Victorious, falling into complacency, mirroring what happened with the Prussian Army between the death of Frederick the Great and Napoleonic Wars.
Timing could hardly be worse. Economic boom in Russia and expansion of it's military, developments in Spain, France and Britain and new President of the United States, everything outside the German sphere started to escalate further, not in the positive ways for the victors of the Great War. The Chinese were determined to get into open conflict sooner rather than later once again. The Japan was unwilling to commit to any side in China or anyone else yet and surprisingly, Brazilians restored their own Emperor to the throne, who declared 'absolute neutrality' of it's country, which meant quick return of both German advisors and American bankers - and the instant improvement of relations with rest of the South America, disgusted by absolute lack of diplomacy on German part and unwillingness of Americans to commit themselves to alliances: especially after Shelling of Caracas or British Honduras Incident, when German marines took control of the small colony for a few next years, before it was eventually sold to Guatemala: with U.S. Navy humiliated in the process, when Admiral Wilson's warning shots from USS Pennsylvania were correctly disregarded as a bluff by the German cruisers and ignored afterwards, followed by quite a few visits of German battleships in the Carribbean ports.


The Reichstag fire in 1932 was officially declared an unfortunate accident and further investigation and any inquiries into the matter were stopped by Federal Ministry of War led by Quartermaster-General Wilhelm Groener, as commanded by Paul von Hindenburg. Next year the Reichstag reopened with a plaque honoring the bravery of the firefighters. Their families never got to know some of them died of bullet wounds.

Aside from few disturbing reports about their Bulgarian and Greek allies solving uprisings in former Albania or Anatolia though, there seemed to be some bright sides: an oil deposits were newly found in Libya, an extremely pleasant surprise in previously considered worthless piece of Africa, when the Central and Eastern Africa received much more attention from colonists and corporations. The German influence in Iran, Afghanistan or Burma was reinforced, both military and economic one. The geo-strategic chains of fortified islands, including some hidden supply depots, did cut through the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans, providing support for their battlefleets. The Hetmanate proved to be extremely valuable client state, providing the Kaiserreich additional and very close source of food, raw materials and cheap workers, who were still paid better than workers in Russia, suffering an aftermath of rapid industrialization, although much less than before the war. The Romanian monarchy ruled by Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen dynasty didn't forget the leniency of fellow German Hohenzollerns and voluntarily provided troops to help the security of the ever unstable Balkans or during 1930-1932 pacification of Anatolia, where some of the Turkish inhabitants seemingly refused to accept reality.
King Carol II.'s determination to prove his loyalty went as far as to the reconciliation with his wife, daughter of Greek King Constantine I., just when he noticed the rise of unforgiving conservatism within Germany, not considering Romanian open minded culture as amusement at all. In 1932, all his efforts were crowned by the wedding of his sister Illeana and Prince Hubertus of Prussia, third son of the German Crown Prince. On the rare occasion of the 1930s, the Kaiser made a foreign visit just for this reason, which symbolically reconciled both Hohenzollern family branches, much like his own daughter Victoria's wedding reconciled them in 1914 with House Hanover. The Carol of Romania hoped for that much, at least. There was still an unsolved issue of Hungarian Transylvania and personally, according to his diaries, Carol was even more worried by too obviously hidden secrets within the imperial family, which had to concern other countries to the significant extent. Eldest son of the Crown Prince renounced his rights for the throne for publicly unknown reasons. Second son, a rather shy person, by that time cared only about his education and subsequent military service in Luftstreitkräfte and third one, Hubertus, just barely finished his military service in Africa. To the King's own pleasant surprise still, he and Ileana were a good match, which was extremely convenient: he hoped they would be away from Romania as far as possible, since he couldn't bear someone from his close family to be liked by the people more than him. Such as his sister, well-liked for her social activities and support of poorest people in the Kingdom.


The Vice-Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss, an Austrian who served in German Army during the Weltkrieg, in 1933 helped to avert constitutional crisis, when his integralist Heimatblock (Homeland Bloc) party joined heavily weakened DNVP-Centre coalition against united left of USPD and liberal NDP, which tried to take control of both Reichstag and upper house, the Bundesrat, which was previously deemed impossible, due to it's unelected, bureacratic nature: if succeeded, it would paralyze the government and it's legitimity, despite all the reforms to combat the threat of disloyal elements within the Reich's society. Then the political conflict would become unavoidable, and it would be necessary to use force in entire Germany or worse, negotiate about reforms with a rebellious Reichstag. By that time, national socialists and communists were considered a fringe groups though, decimated by the constant police activity and by the imprisonment of most dangerous individuals as far as German New Guinea.

Another reason for optimism was in the Germany itself: compared to the start of the century which lergely saw the rise of parties and non-governmental groups hostile towards the political system of the Kaiserreich (with Social Democrats receiving most votes since 1890), the unquestionably loyal parts of population were no longer just members of Prussian nobility and middle class. And with the acqusition of new members of the Federal monarchy in early 1920s, the times of anti-catholic Kulturkampf were forgotten, with Hohenzollerns now presenting themselves as protectors of common Christian values in the world, which also improved their standing with the common citizens. Organisations of ex-soldiers such as Stahlhelm, including it's youth subdivision Jungstahlhelm, or the integralist Heimwehr, which was more prevalent in former Austrian lands, were numbering few millions. Another millions numbered the structures close to the Prussian Union of Churches or the Catholic Church, who openly cooperated in order to stand against common threat of revolutionary anarchy.
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So the days of peak Germany are behind us, it seems.

But against whom were the naval strategies that the admirals argued over, supposed to be? Germany doesn't need a naval strategy against France ;) And a Britain without her colonies and without the pre war royal navy doesn't need much of Handelskrieg to be brought to its knees, does it? While against America the idea of Handelskrieg is rather pointless, the USA are a continent size nation...

I do very much like the idea alluded to in the last paragraph about political troublemakers being exiled to German New Guinea. I hope they made sure to deport in particular one Austrian postcard painter turned beer hall rabble rouser... Hopefully they made sure to deport him into a very distant, very tropical colony.
Surprised to see Wilhelm III pulling an Edward. He was such a key figure of the military earlier, I thought for sure he'd be assassinated.
Wouldn't that be W IV? W II is the Kaiser, the crown prince is the future W III, his son (who married the woman from low nobility) would be the future W IV but now "did an Edward"
Wouldn't that be W IV? W II is the Kaiser, the crown prince is the future W III, his son (who married the woman from low nobility) would be the future W IV but now "did an Edward"
Yes it is, that was my mistake. Though I'm surprised they'd let him here, seeing as here he's second in line to the greatest power in the world, rather than a pretender whose family has to beg Hitler for scraps.
But against whom were the naval strategies that the admirals argued over, supposed to be? Germany doesn't need a naval strategy against France ;) And a Britain without her colonies and without the pre war royal navy doesn't need much of Handelskrieg to be brought to its knees, does it? While against America the idea of Handelskrieg is rather pointless, the USA are a continent size nation...
Japan, perhaps? They are an island, and we know from OTL how cutting off the Home Islands from outside resources can be such a killing blow.
Japan, perhaps? They are an island, and we know from OTL how cutting off the Home Islands from outside resources can be such a killing blow.
But against whom were the naval strategies that the admirals argued over, supposed to be? Germany doesn't need a naval strategy against France ;) And a Britain without her colonies and without the pre war royal navy doesn't need much of Handelskrieg to be brought to its knees, does it? While against America the idea of Handelskrieg is rather pointless, the USA are a continent size nation...
I just think it's gonna be a combination of all anti-German forces, as we already know that the Americans have increased economic ties with at least Russia and Oceania, which I'm sure is also the case for Canada and Britain. Japan would also be a prime enemy of Germany despite the US reservations regarding them. In total, the enemies likely to face Germany in the 40'ies are able to outnumber them on the high seas and Germany is certainly overstretching herself with a navy whose expansion was based on the capture of foreign navies. But, Germany has the advantage of being a singular naval/colonial power instead of being 5/6 independent ones which would automatically cause conflicting interests and a lack of coordination.
I just think it's gonna be a combination of all anti-German forces, as we already know that the Americans have increased economic ties with at least Russia and Oceania, which I'm sure is also the case for Canada and Britain. Japan would also be a prime enemy of Germany despite the US reservations regarding them. In total, the enemies likely to face Germany in the 40'ies are able to outnumber them on the high seas and Germany is certainly overstretching herself with a navy whose expansion was based on the capture of foreign navies. But, Germany has the advantage of being a singular naval/colonial power instead of being 5/6 independent ones which would automatically cause conflicting interests and a lack of coordination.
That's a good point, the Americans likely intend to be the arsenal of revanchist monarchism democracy, so if Germany can keep that lend lease from making it to the enemy that'll be a major boon in terms of keeping control of Europe
Any word from Vlad guys? What's the status on this one?
The latest chapter is from last sunday, we don't have much to complain about tbh

51. Guards of the Friedrichstrasse


Berlin, 2.1.1936

Smug expression on the stabsfeldwebel's face told his men enough to know. He will tell them something they don't want to hear at all.

"Alright men, there's another round of night patrols in the capital, to keep the nights peaceful. I know you are all eager for a chance to get a rank or extra pay, so I volunteered our unit for another night. It should be without incidents this time. Christmas are gone after all."

'Oh hell no' could be summarization of all their feelings. Sure, extra reichsmarks were nice, but extra sleep was nice as well. Especially after garrison commander's refusal to let them visit their families, no exception. Spend end of the year in the barracks, rearranging their clothes with occasional night drill in freezing weather, certainly not the ideal. Thank God for extra rations of cigarettes and wine. At least some of them realized it was not the God's work, but rather their NCO's, which is why couple of them could start more friendly conversation while being on the truck:

"Sir, weren't some of these Christmas protests happening in Kiel as well?" asked private Berger
"I think so, why?"
"I'd like to visit my sister, I didn't see anyone from my family in six months. Three days would be enough. Sir."
Werner's face, usually choosing bored expression while on duty, now showed a hint of sympathy.
"Since you asked first, I'll give you a week." Then he turned away, and like an afterthought, he added:

"Who else needs few days?"

Four soldiers who articulated their reasons best got their three days. He made the necessary notes, and then only listened to the sounds of the road. The streets were now as loud as the engine of their Opel Blitz, not at all the only military vehicle in Berlin: on the contrary, they met an entire motorized regiment leaving the city, accompanied by few dozens of armored Steyrs. The East Prussian cavalry, skulls with crossed sabers, painted on their helmets and trucks.

What is this elite unit doing there, I wonder...

Then he rather stopped thinking about it. Too much thinking can damage the career. Anyone can learn that, especially in the colonial garrisons. Fortunately, Werner learned that lesson pretty much immediately, or else he wouldn't be stabsfeldwebel now before he even reached 30. And now stationed in Berlin, where are all kinds of opportunities. And his own family. After death of his brother in Russia, they weren't too pleased to learn how much Werner wants to be a soldier like him.
Granted, his idealism somewhat decayed in realities of Africa and the Middle East, but still, it wasn't bad.

Lost in his thoughts, he almost forgot the truck arrived to their desired destination: Friedrichstrasse, one of the streets connected to the famous city's center area, Unter den Linden, running from the Hohenzollern Royal Palace to the Brandenburg Gate. Yes, they could see it already. But their place of duty is few meters away.


Scattered groups of Berliners didn't even bothered looking at them anymore. They were used to their presence. New pieces of barbed wire and hedgehogs to control the road traffic didn't raise a single eyebrow. Why bother, really, when night curfew should end in a week, as promised by the Chancellor. Well, they have still some work to do, before that will be a reality.

"Orders are same like before. Light machine gun here and there, three men on every side street entrance."

Standing with hands behind the back, he knew they are basically a traffic enforcers, which should really be a duty of Feldgendarmerie, however, there was hardly enough of them to be in every street in every major city. Besides, it's not like it's a warzone or that a city is under a siege. There's peace.

With a resigned sigh, he checked any imperfections on his uniform or pose, in case they will meet some high-ranking aristocrat or strategist from General Headquarters. One missing button could be enough to find his new assignment somewhere in Ruthenian marshes.

This time, no one deserving such fear arrived for first three hours. Of course, it's no wonder, in this temperature. One truck full of coffee, delayed by an accident. Another truck was basically lost, clinking with spare parts for airplane engines, unsure which Berlin's airport should be the destination.

After that one, he opened his silver cigarette case and smoked for few blessed minutes.

Nights like these were proving Werner's general opinion on military service: basically it's pure boredom and stereotype, unless when it's not. These times he likes even less, although these were the reasons he joined the German Army. Nowadays, he wasn't even sure if his brother died heroically in combat, like it was described to him. Unable to escape cynicism, he wondered if he indeed charged the enemy, or got lost from his unit and froze to death. He still hoped for the former being true.

Finishing second cigarette, Werner was interrupted by his alarmed subordinate. Oh, private Berger again.
"Sir, there are approximately five vehicles. I...we think there are Prussian eagles on both sides..."
Oh no. That means...

"Everyone! Stand in your position like we were posing for the damn poster! Someone from imperial family is here!"

Even if it wasn't the case, and there was no eagle on car's pennant, the consequences could be...
No, no, too soon to worry. Everything is in order, perfect. They are example of the Prussian discipline, even in these times when economic and political reforms clash with demands of the military.


"What are you doing here? There weren't any..." Werner heard behind him, and saw feldwebel with confused face and...artillery insignia? Accompanied by two other soldiers with submachine guns, standard Schmeisser MP 28.
However, the familiarly sounding tone made him extremely annoyed now, which replaced the initial curiosity.
"I repeat, what are you and your men doing here? I wasn't informed of any unit occupying this street! Do you even know, how important..."
That was enough.
"It's herr stabsfeldwebel to you. The orders regarding the security of this street and surrounding areas came from Colonel von Strachwitz, Infanterie-Regiment 9. Now I have to ask you for the password of the day, which should not be a problem. Besides that, I strongly advise to address your superiors more respectfully next time."

If there is indeed any royalty in those cars, they should see professional soldiers, not these idiots with egos inflated simply from their presence.

Men from the artillery unit were taken aback by his reaction and exchanged few quiet words, looking back to the first car. Then he returned to Werner.
"Cologne?" finally answered, with hopeful tone, with a little amount of anger still.
"No, that was yesterday."
The Mercedes now opened, and figure in ceremonial uniform appeared. Stabsfeldwebel could recognize him anywhere.
"Gentlemen, I am sure there is no issue with this delay, is there?"
Men from the artillery unit look at him for a few seconds before they nodded. They walked slowly back to the cars, still watching his back. Strange people, indeed.
Werner almost forgot to click his heels. Almost.
"Your Highness! It's an honor to see you!"
"You're doing your duty well, soldier. So you did not expect us? Or your men?" asked the Crown Prince Wilhelm, as if studying stabsfeldwebel's face.
"No sir! I wasn't informed at all! I wouldn't be so utterly unprepared to meet someone of your...standing, otherwise."

Now I am almost babbling already. Great. But what...

The Crown Prince approached him, offering him a close handshake and then said, very quietly, through his teeth:
"We are hostages. Act normally."

Extremely intense look to his eyes and the way he was crushing his hand gave Werner every reason to believe those words.
He slowly nodded and then he said loudly, so even artillery men could hear it:
"Berger! Jahns! Kollemann! The Crown Prince would like to change a few words with you as well. He wonders how much you like the Army service."

These three should be smarter enough to not alert them.


Stunned by Crown Prince's presence themselves, they managed to keep their surprise contained when they heard orders for everyone to ready their weapons. Once they left, soldiers around the cars and the trucks behind started to act frenetically, shouting some orders. They knew.

The Prince's eyes widened in fear. Not just for himself, Werner realized. There were three cars with pennants.

"No, no. Now I must go. There's no other choice." explained while turning his back, but Werner already unbuttoned his Luger P08 and the first bullets were shot before he managed to shield heir to the throne from his foolishness. Submachine guns fired in their loud staccato way and then everything just happened in next five minutes. Although for Werner, it was more like a five hours.

With the feeling of his blood boiling between his ears and with stray bullet bounced from helmet, the stabsfeldwebel didn't have time to think. More instinctively than rationally, he managed to put injured Crown Prince behind the steel hedgehog, where he was protected far better. Injured? Yes, bullet wounds. Two? Three? Don't have time to check now. Berger and other soldier are helping. Berger collapses with a hole in his head. Taking light machine gun and firing one long burst, taking down five traitors, trying to overwhelm his small unit. Traitors. Why? Who? Don't know, don't care.
Now everyone could hear and see only Mausers, Lugers, Schmeissers, Germans against Germans. A concert of madness.
Trucks and cars are moving. Are they trying...


One of Werner's soldiers, Moller, managed to threw grenade right under the last vehicle, a truck surrounded by soldiers, all men from the same artillery unit. It had to contain some grenades as well, because the explosion was far larger than expected. Moller bled to death before the medic could do anything. Third Mercedes was partially caught in the explosion, while trying to retreat, and ended up wrecked over stairs to antique shop.

It was over now. One truck barely stood in one piece, pierced like a Swiss cheese by three machine guns in crossfire. Second a burning wreck, or burning pieces of wreck, more precisely. The Crown Prince was alive, breathing, although losing blood fast. At least that's what was his unit's sanitär yelling at him. Now he was too focused on the second car, which contained three dead people, and he cared only about the one on passenger's seat.

Dead. Single bullet wound on forehead. Eyes cold and fixed to the roof of the car's ceiling. Just as fixed as his calm expression. Louis Ferdinand, Prince of Prussia, died with dignity and strange smile on his face.
Still shocked about what happened a mere minutes ago, a magnitude of whole tragedy didn't entirely sink in. This was just too incomprehensible.

Werner, you just couldn't stay in Beirut or Jerusalem, where never ever happens anything of notice.

The city by now experienced a brutal awakening. Sounds of military trucks, shots, whistling, dog barking and yelling, of course. That, and question of corporal Hoffmann what to do now, forced him to return to his duties. Maybe they will be all shot for just being here, who knows, but that's question for the other day.

For now, his men need more orders right now:
"Hoffmann, take the others and secure the street! We must get His Highness to the hospital! I must call to..."
Sound of broken glass made him to suddenly turn back to one of the wrecked vehicles. Flashlight and gun pointed to the wreck of second Mercedes. The crushed engine was smoking.

There was survivor.

Gloved hand in sleeves of Luftstreitkräfte uniform.

"Soldier...help me..." said the weak, but firm voice amidst the cacophony of other sounds.

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