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RossN

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Strike & Counter-Strike: The Far East & the Pacific
1915 – 1916​



The Japanese attack on Sanya, October 1915

"Finally!"
- The King recieving news of the victories in the Orient.

The Japanese had not been idle during the Spring and Summer of 1915. In May they invaded the undefended Irish Mariannes Islands. In August the Irish wireless radio on Nauru was destroyed and the island occupied. Finally early September saw the invasion of Okinawa; long abandoned by Irish soldiers the Japanese were met only by cheering, flower throwing locals. Foreign newspapers wondered aloud if Formosa – and then the entire Irish Orient was next.

Aside from the blow to prestige these losses did not hurt the Irish much; there were 10,000 Irish soldiers in Formosa awaiting Japanese invasion and 32,000 in Zhanjiang. The Irish Navy could call upon two battle cruisers, seven light cruisers and an armoured cruiser, a stronger and far more modern force than at the start of the war. But appearances could be deceptive. The battlecruiser Alaska had struck a Japanese mine in February and would spend much of the year in repairs. Worse the loss of her sister Hibernia to another mine in March left the Navy very wary of risking of their big ships in the open sea. Morale had reached crisis point.

The Army had not suffered the same repeated bloody noses the Navy had taken but they also had to constantly worry about Chinese rebels (suspected - albeit with little evidence - of being sponsored by the Japanese.) Even before the war once bustling, cosmopolitan Zhanjiang and peaceful backwater Shanghai had turned tense and green and khaki uniformed figures an all too frequent sight. How could such a force hope to take the offensive without being stretched far too thin?

Help was on the way. Lieutenant-General Malachy O'Donnell, a walrus moustached Limerickman had been commander of the Massaua garrison since 1910 and had been as surprised as anyone to find himself ordered from to take command of Formosa. Not that he was going alone: the 9 & 10th Divisions were also being transported. If the Japanese struck at the key island they'd have to face 32,000 Irish soldiers with artillery support - enough to give even the fearless Imperial Army pause for thought.

O'Donnell's reassignment provoked an explosion of resentment - but not in Dublin. Lieutenant-General Phelim O'Sullivan (no relation to Henry O'Sullivan, the disgraced Admiral who was dismissed in June) had formerly been commander in Formosa but now found himself abruptly posted to Zhanjiang. In theory this was no demotion but it was universally expected that the Japanese would hit Formosa first or at the very least before attacking Zhanjiang and O'Sullivan was hardly slow in writing letters back to his friends in Ireland, bitterly claiming he was being set aside because O'Donnell was friends with the King. This was undeniably true - O'Donnell had been the King's aide-de-camp - but unfair; O'Donnell was considered an excellent soldier throughout the army. Conversely (outside of his own clique) O'Sullivan was not widely loved. Rumours of personal cowardice had dogged him for years and intense arrogance bred from a spoiled background did little to help. No sooner had he arrived in Zhanjiang than he had quarelled with Admiral Moore who turned out to be an O'Donnell partisan.

The morning of 1 October 1915 was a wet and miserable one in Zhanjiang with long tendrils of mist curling down the streets of fine colonial houses where the Irish population lived and the smaller more crowded dwellings of the Chinese. The gloom was not just in the weather; the previous week rationing had been introduced for the first time and the self proclaimed jewel of the Irish empire was struggling with belt tightening. For the civilians the first sign that things were not normal was a rolling thunder coming in from out to sea and distant flashes in the fog. This was no storm though. Somewhere out there a naval battle had started.

The Japanese had seized upon a plan of breathtaking audacity. Bypassing Formosa and O'Donnell a Japanese squadron under Maruyama had steamed down into the South China Sea. Their target was Hainan which they planned to seize from under the Irish nose and to isolate Zhanjiang by mining the Gulf of Tonkin. A little after midnight the first Japanese troops landed near Sanya.

In Zhanjiang the news slowly filtered through to the military and were met with sheer disbelief: no one had expected a strike here. After a few moments of stunned silence Admiral Moore telephoned O'Donnell to break the news and inform him that the Navy would incercept the Japanese fleet - "but in all likelihood the Japanese already have boots on the ground in Hainan."

The Battle of the Gulf of Tonkin, October 1915​

The Japanese had underestimated the Irish ability to respond quickly: had they finished laying their minefield Moore's fleet would have been trapped in port. As it was the battlecruiser Patagonia errupted upon them through the fog like an avenging angel, her 12-inch guns launching salvo after salvo at Maruyama's ships. Beside her, like hunting hounds accomping their master were the sleek modern cruisers Meath, Down, Longford & Armagh and in the distance the venerable Louth, her old engines struggling heroically to keep up.

The battle - if such it could be called - lasted less than an hour and ended with the Japanese at the bottom of the sea. Yet Moore had been right: the Japanese had men ashore and it would be up to General O'Sullivan to deal with them.

The 2nd (Dublin), 3rd (Ulster) & 6th Divisions were based in Zhanjiang and O'Sullivan decided to commit them all to the counter-attack before the Japanese dug in. Early in the morning of 2 October the first Irish troops crossed the short stretch of water dividing Hainan from the mainland. Besides outnumbering the Japanese more than three to one O'Sullivan had 30 field artillery pieces - though even these would not fire the first shells to hit the Japanese troops. Patagonia could fire far inland and thundered away all day at the enemy positions.

The fighting raged for three days after which fewer 800 exhausted Japanese soldiers surrendered; all that was left of the 10,000 that had landed. The Irish had suffered too but by the evening of 5 October the only flag flying on Hainan soil was the gold harp. The Japanese threat to Zhanjiang was over.
 

RossN

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Some of you may be wondering why Hibernia was lost 'offscreen'. Unfortunately I misplaced the save game and the screenshot from that particular battle. Hence striking a mine, which I thought was both plausible and fit well with the story.


Nikolai: Thanks. :)

ComradeOm: You know, I get that a lot. ;)

Agent Larkin: Thanks! :)

Eams: Socially progressive might be going a bit far but not a bad link actually.

KanaX: Glad to hear it. I'll try not to disappoint!

RGB: I know. Wish me luck!

Viden: Thanks, good to be back. :)
 

unmerged(59077)

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Decisive action on the colonial theatre - Japanese audacity didn't pay off for once. BC = win
 

Eams

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Good to see the Japanese being defeated.

It will be interesting to find out if you'll let O'Sullivan get more influence now that he can present himself as a war-hero.
 

RossN

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War in the Air
(1915 - 1916)


A 1910 Ferguson Mark I Monoplane - ancestor of the aircraft used in the Japanese War.

"The aeroplane has come of age."
- The King, upon presenting the Cross of Saint Patrick to Lt. Conn Standish O'Grady.

On the morning of 2 August 1915 the inhabitants of Shanghai awoke to an unusual sound: aeroplane engines. In the grey skies over the Irish-controlled Chinese city three biplanes could be observed. Amazed locals poured out into the streets to witness the startling sight. Moments later their purpose became clear as the aircraft began dropping bombs over the port. The Irish had just endured their first air raid by Japanese aircraft from occupied Ningbo. A second raid would come four days later and a third the day after that.

Military the damage was negligible: slight damage to a couple of warehouses, a small civilian collier hit and about a dozen casualties overall but the impact on morale was beyond question. If the Japanese could bomb Shanghai with impunity why not Formosa or Zhanjiang? Was the Navy safe now even within in its own harbours with the sudden threat of death from above? Clearly something had to be done.

The Irish had been the last of the Great Powers to take up air power and in 1914 the entire Irish Air Corps consisted of just 22 military aircraft, all based in Ireland (Russia had 244!). Quarrelling between the Army and Navy had diluted the already anaemic aviation budget in recent years and the Air Corps was considered a dead end for ambitious officers. That the Air Corps existed at all was thanks to Harry Ferguson, an shrewd Ulsterman who in 1909 became the first Irishman to build and fly an aeroplane. The story very nearly ended there too with Ferguson going on to build tractors had it not been for the intervention of Lady O'Neill, widow of the much missed General Sir Charles O'Neill. Like her late husband Lady O'Neill was not afraid of innovation and she own fortune to help Ferguson's plans become a financial possibility. The result (by 1914-15) was the Ferguson Mark IV. monoplane, as fine an aircraft as any in Europe. Nor was Ferguson the only one aided by Lady O'Neill. Lillian Bland a former journalist had built an aeroplane of her own and eventually managed to sell three of her improved 'Mayfly' biplanes to the Irish Army and another to the Navy.

The Navy for its part had little faith in the short ranged fragile planes being built and wanted to bulk of the aviation budget to be spent on airships which could act as the 'eyes of the fleet'. Before the war an experiment had been made to launch an aeroplane from the deck of the battlecruiser Hibernia and while the experiment had worked and drawn polite applause from the crowd few saw it as significant. Where the Navy agreed with the Army was that, by themselves, heavier than air aircraft were at best a useful luxury, at worst an active money sink and in neither case would they impact the war. Better to buy bayonets or battlecruisers.

The bombing of Shanghai shook this complaceny. The damage might have been slight but the affront was anything but - especially since the Japanese had taken off from Ningbo; occupied Irish territory. The yellow press in Dublin, Cork and Belfast demanded action and by mid-August the War Office had ordered half a dozen aircraft for the Orient. And the Goverment began to look at stepping up orders.

It was over Shanghai that the world's first aerial duel was fought and in the early hours of 2 December 1915 Lt. Conn Standish O'Grady shot down a Japanese biplane scouting the port. He was immediately awarded the Saint Patrick's Cross by the King, an honour previously only given to Naval officers.

It was unknown how the Japanese would respond to this as they didn't have a chance at another raid. The December weather was too bad to fly in and when it finally cleared on 26 December there were no Japanese planes at Ningbo to mount the attack. Two days early the Irish Army under General O'Donnell had landed and liberated the city with little fighting in a well planned assault. For now at least the war on (and over) the Chinese mainland had ended.

Irish soldiers on parade in liberated Ningbo, New Year's Day 1916​
 

RossN

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RGB: Definitely. It is a shame Ricky doesn't have a way to model laying mines since that would have made sense from the Japanese pov.

Agent Larkin: Heh, all part of the master plan. ;)

Viden: Yes... *sigh*. I love naval combat, especially this era so it is frustrating the AI can only do so well. :(

Eams: i think we'll see fairly soon. :)

Jape: Thanks. :) I think it is getting close to the end now - after the war finshes I'll be moving pretty quickly.
 

Nikolai

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On time the King's Government saw the light and got into the wonderful new military world of flight!
 

unmerged(59077)

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Russia has 224 planes and never fought anyone with them? Lazy gits.

I like that whole First Aerial Duel thing. Romantic era, enjoy it while it lasts.
 

Eams

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A woman selling Aeroplanes? How un-orthodox, nothing good of it shall come I say, both the aircraft and Women in Industry. *adjusts monocle*
Too right! And it's seems like this whole "aeroplane" business is completely infiltrated by women. The only rational explanation is that they're all militant suffragettes who want to emasculate our brave boys in uniform through those nefarious aeronautical contraptions and then bomb Dublin from the air until we agree to give them the vote!
 

KanaX

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I like that whole First Aerial Duel thing. Romantic era, enjoy it while it lasts.
Agreed, especially with all this taking place in the mystical Orient. Good stuff.
 

RossN

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Blockade: Japan and Ireland
(1914 - 1916)


The Hiberno-Orient liner Cathay lost to a Japanese mine in the South China Sea, November 1914

"The Army as done well but this war can only be won or lost at sea."
- Erskine Childers in a letter to the PM, New Year's Day 1916

In 1914 Ireland had posessed the fourth largest merchant marine in the world and a massive chunk of this shipping was devoted to the Far Eastern trade. The Hiberno-Orient Line alone ran more vessels to China than Prussia and France combined and Zhanjiang was the most important port east of the Mediterranean Sea. Throw Alaskan and Patagonian shipping into the mix and the China Sea was one of the busiest stretches of sea in the world.

Needless to say the same waters were full of Japanese merchant ships. Japan was heavily dependant on imports and becoming more so - ironically there had been plans, abruptly curtailled by the war to turn Okinawa into a a great coaling station that would have been of great benifit to Japanese ships. As it was the declaration of war had turned Okinawa and for that matter the whole of the China Sea into the front line. On the very first day of the conflict the small Japanese collier Kobayashi Maru found herself interred in Ningbo harbour, the luckless first victim of the war.

Irish Naval theory pushed for a total blockade of the Home Islands but with the sea war in the balance for the first two years of fighting this remained a pipe dream. In any case it was questionable whether Ireland had the neccessary ships; the Far Eastern Fleet had originally been a floating retirement home for slowly rusting pre-dreadnought battleship - hardly the ships to maintain a blockade. Better suited were the venerable Irish protected cruisers like the ten year old Louth who were than capable of running down armed merchantmen and commerce raiders. Unfortunately they were all too vunerable to modern Japanese warships. So the Irish were again faced with the uneviable task; to blockade Japan they had to first win dominance of the seas... which meant more heavy warships. The Japanese were faced with the same problem; blockading Korea and the Irish ports in China might in itself have been enough to win the war but in their way stood the Far Eastern Fleet of the Royal Irish Navy.

In other words sinking warships was a means to an end, not an end in and of itself even if some in both Dublin and Tokyo were starting to forget that. In desperation both sides turned to other methods to break the stalemate.

It was the Japanese that truly pioneered mine warfare. In the second half of 1914 and the first few months of 1915 hundreds of mines were laid initially around the Japanese coast, then around the Ryukyu Islands and off Korea and finally off Shanghai. It didn't always work out as the Battle of the Gulf of Tonkin showed but they had impact. Irish shipping losses mounted and the March 1915 loss of the battlecruiser Hibernia to a magnetic mine off Cheju Island had shaken the Irish Navy to its keel.

For a short time commerce raiders were even worse than the mines. They ran rampant in first ten months of the war when the Irish navy were reeling from defeat after defeat. The arrival of three fast battlecruisers from Ireland had ended their activities but not before the Irish merchant marine had suffered a griveous prince. Between September 1914 and April 1915 more than 80,000 tons of Irish merchant shipping was sunk or captured by the daring Japanese raiders.

The last weapon in the Japanese armoury was ironically Irish. Nearly two decades earlier the late John Phillip Holland had pioneered the modern submarine. The Irish navy had seen little future for the flimsy, ugly craft but others had. In 1914 Japan had possessed four submarines, at once discounted as too small and slow to be significant. They were, but in 1915 they were joined by ten more submarines, large ocean going craft. As yet they seen little action but the day of the submarine was fast approaching unbeknownst to the Irish or most of the Japanese.

The threat to come? Japanese submarines in harbour, 1914.​

The Japanese were not the only ones with plans. Between them Admiral Moore and General O'Donnell planned to retake Okinawa in early 1916. After the Gulf of Tonkin and Ningbo it was time to resume the offensive at sea.

One thing both sides agreed on - the new year would be the turning point.
 

RossN

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Nikolai: Well it was only fair to let the foreigners have a headstart considering how amazing we are. :)

RGB: Heh. Well I still have twenty years to run - Russia may fight someone yet! Oh and I definitely agree about the romance of early aeroplanes. :)

Agent Larkin & Eams: Damn straight gentlemen. :)

Jape: I was very tempted - airships are awesome - but I wanted to slightly historical and there are no Irish ariship pioneers (and few enough aeroplane ones to be honest.)

KanaX: Thank you. It's a lot of fun to work with the period and setting like this. :)
 

unmerged(59077)

Tzar of all the Soviets
Jul 17, 2006
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Oooh and Submarines too.

Next step: mine-laying submarines.
 

Eams

Detective Lt., Police Squad
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The Kobayashi Maru? Was it's captain an American buffoon named Kirk? :p