What Really Happened:
One of the most tantalising possibilities from 1941 comes with
Churchill’s decision to divert forces from Egypt – where they were engaged
against the Italian forces and General Rommel – to Greece in an ill-planned
and futile attempt to save Greece against overwhelming German attack.
It failed; the British had to retreat from Greece and then lost at Crete.
What Might Have Happened: What might happen if the forces remained in Egypt?
Its quite possible that Wavel might have managed to pull off a tactical
victory against the Germans, who were running out of supplies (not for the first
or last time). Let’s imagine that the British defeat a German force and
press on, evicting them from Egypt.
Hitler goes nuts. He
was never keen on sending troops to Africa anyway. The Italians are losing badly as the British press forward,
and there are the demands of the Balkan fronts to contend with.
Even German logistics can only stretch so far – and he’s running out
Rommel gets orders to pull back to Libya.
The British forces are scenting blood as the Italian position comes
apart, forcing their way into Libya. Recognising
that they’re on the verge of a genuine victory, Admiral Cunningham directs all
his efforts towards supporting the troops, including bombardment of Libyan ports
and interdicting the supply lines, which were falling apart anyway.
Mussolini orders his troops to fight to the last man, but the Italians
are out of supplies and their morale is at rock-bottom. Rommel
flies out in an aircraft as the remaining Italians start to discuss surrender
with the British.
Churchill is delighted as Libya surrenders.
The British take as prisoners much of the Italian force and the Germans
who survived the final battles. The
PM starts to look for other ways to affect the Germans, including a possible
invasion of French North Africa. DeGaulle
is very keen on that, claiming that the French in North Africa will support him
if the British invade. The War
Cabinet isn't so keen; they would much rather keep French North Africa neutral
for the moment.
The stunning defeat has political repercussions in Italy.
Many Italians are anti-war; they don’t want to fight besides the
Germans. Some elements of the
‘peace party’ start to open communications with the British, attempting to
leave the war with honour. The Germans catch wind of this and start planning their
countermove, despite Hitler’s determination to invade Russia in the winter.
In a sudden coup, the King of Italy moves against
Mussolini, ordering the Italian people to rise against him. Mussolini is unseated by members of his own guard, more out
of a sense that a sacrifice is necessary than royal loyalty.
The new government begins to talk openly to the British, who are
encouraging, but demand that the Italian fleet be surrendered to prevent it
falling into German hands. The new government balks at this; they don’t trust the
British very far at all. Negotiations
break down over the status of Italy’s colonies.
Meanwhile, the Germans jump. Hitler has planned a quick victory, air-jumping German forces
into Rome and seizing the King and court. The
British catch wind of the preparations through Ultra, but don’t dare inform
the Italians. Some Italian forces
fight bravely – the navy sails en masse for Cairo – but by and large the
Germans have occupied Italy. Bitter
over the loss of the Afrika Korps, the Germans take it out on the
Italians. Ironically, Italian
industry becomes more productive under the Germans.
The British manage to secure Sardinia and Corsica, moving
radar units and RAF planes in to hold the islands. Hitler is content to allow the British to remain there; their
can’t be used as bases, or so he thinks.
DeGaulle isn’t happy over not being informed that Corsica was being
targeted, but Churchill was adamant that warning must not get back to the
Germans. The British also secure
Crete; Hitler contemplates using a paratroop force to recover it, but General
Student’s force took a beating at Rome.
Strategic Overview: The desert war has stalemated. The British don’t have the strength to invade Italy or France. The Vichy French are playing a dangerous game – denying the Germans transit rights in French North Africa – in order to avoid losing their main colony. The Germans are reluctant to directly invade because of their plans for Russia – and also because the British might manage to cut any German force off in French North Africa.
The British are becoming more and
more aware of Japan as a potential threat, at least in the very near future.
The Americans have started using sanctions against the Japanese,
something that convinces the Japanese that their only option is to strike first.
The British have a nightmare; there are too many targets to defend and
the Americans won’t cooperate on more than a general level.
Barbarossa July 1941: The German army is advancing
into the open steppes of Russia. The
Russians have had more time to prepare their defences, but the Germans have
learnt many lessons from the desert war. The
Germans have also planned a more limited campaign for this round; they don’t
think that they can seize Moscow in 1941. Instead, the Germans concentrate on seizing Leningrad and the
grain lands of the Ukraine.
Stalin has been warned of the limited German intentions by
Britain. Using his military skills,
upon which opinion is divided, (he thought that he was great; everyone else
thought that he was crap), he decides that late November is a good time for a
counter-attack. The Russian army
can’t pull such manoeuvres off yet; the Germans hand them their heads and
slaughter a great deal of Russia’s finest men.
Rommel distinguishes himself on the battlefield, using techniques
developed for use against the British.
Hitler wants to press on, but the German generals dissuade
him. The Germans are already
dangerously overstretched; they need time to restore themselves.
The German army goes into winter quarters, sweeping up the masses of
Russian equipment that the Russians left behind and conducting anti-partisan
sweeps. Stalin is content to allow
the peace to last; he needs to rebuild his army and defend Moscow for the coming
East Asia: The British government sees the signs on
the wall before the US takes serious notice.
In OTL, there weren’t many men who could be spared for the Far East; in
ATL the British have several spare divisions that aren’t fighting in Africa.
Throughout September to November, the British reinforce India, Burma and
Singapore with crack army and RN units. As
it becomes clearer that Hitler is too busy in Russia to bother with invading
Britain or French North Africa, the British move more and more troops to the
east. The Italian and Free French
units can handle most of the German threats that remain in the west.
Ironically, the massive British reinforcement prompts the
Japanese to start the war earlier than OTL.
The Japanese begin the war with fewer divisions than they did in OTL (at
least 2 were in China almost until the war started), but their navy is first
rate. They also adjust their
planning for the British Empire, concentrating on a holding action while driving
the Americans out of the pacific.
Pearl Harbour is hit, as in OTL, but with the unfortunate
addition of the loss of two American carriers.
The US uses its remaining forces to raid the Japanese, but isn’t able
to contemplate aggressive action for at least six months, due to limited
resources. This has a knock-on
effect; Macarthur will not survive the Philippines.
The US press howls about Macarthur’s last stand.
(And that’s when Fleetlord Atvar turns up – only
The US concentrates on building up the forces in Australia
as their war production comes online. The
British are concentrating on East Asia. In this Singapore, Hong Kong will still fall, but Singapore
will not. With more forces and a
competent general – Wavel - in command, the Japanese will not manage to
surprise the British. British
Matilda tanks are an unpleasant surprise to the Japanese, even if they can’t
be deployed in the jungles. After
several weeks of hard bitter fighting, the landing force is in serious trouble.
The Japanese Army decides upon a new strategy.
While a blocking force will invest Singapore, the army will head into
Burma, breaking the supply lines. They
meet a powerful British force on the borders of India, while the RN and the
Japanese navy dukes it out in the Indian Ocean.
The Japanese suffer badly from British submarines, but the royal navy
isn’t able to stand up to the Japanese in equal combat.
The result is a bloody stalemate – tactically – but strategically the
British have won.
The British launch counterattacks into Burma, evicting the
Japanese by sheer weight of numbers. By
late 1942-early 1943, the Japanese are being wiped out by the British forces,
while Singapore still stands. A
final desperate attack is beaten off – a very close run thing, as General
Monty observes later. The British
invade Indochina, aided by revolts in the Japanese rear, and Siam turns against
In late 1942, America returns to the seas.
The new carrier force is still training, but politically the Americans
have to launch a counterattack soon, before the British defeat the Japanese on
their own. Their priority is to
break the Japanese blockade of Australia and start rolling up the Japanese
conquests. Without Macarthur, the
Americans don’t have so much pressure to invade the Philippines, instead they
head upwards to the older Japanese territories.
The British and the Americans have something of a
disagreement over China. With a
full-scale war going on and an even-more damaged American fleet, the supplies to
China had been severely reduced. The
British don’t feel that Chiang is worth supporting – not entirely from
decent motives – and the Americans think he is.
Eventually, the British agree to allow the Americans to use India as a
transit base, but not to send any help themselves.
By early 1944, the pressure on the Japanese is becoming
intolerable. The British have
forced the Japanese out of East Asia and are working to recover Hong Kong.
Despite Churchill’s howls, there is a great deal of covert cooperation
between British and Chinese forces, including a British-trained Chinese division
under Stillwell. As logistics improve, Allied submarines cut Japan off from
its remaining sources of supply, and once Saipan falls to the US, the Americans
can begin to pound Japan into the dirt.
The Eastern Front 1942-1944: Hitler believes that his army is ready for the push on to
Moscow, while Stalin believes that he’s ready to throw out the Germans.
The Soviets strike first, using carefully horded tanks and aircraft to
launch a number of powerful attacks. The
attacks catch the Germans by surprise and they’re pushed backwards, but they
manage to gain control when Stalin pushes the offensive too far forward.
After a brutal series of battles, the Germans force the soviets back, and
then go on the offensive. Millions
of Soviets are killed in the battles around Moscow before the city is
surrounded; Stalin and his inner cabinet fleeing just before the Germans enter
The victory is not as impressive as it seems on the map.
Stalin has moved most of the USSR’s bureaucrats to the Urals, where
they can control the Soviet economy. Most
of the production plants have also gone east, so the USSR won’t be as badly
hurt as it seems. Hitler, however,
is delighted; he orders preparation to seize the oil wells.
After taking a breather, the Germans head south.
Stalin builds up forces near Novgorod and launches a counterattack
against Moscow, attempting to regain his capital.
After a brutal battle, with winter coming on, Rommel defies Hitler by
ordering a retreat from Moscow, falling back to Smolensk.
The Germans take a beating from the Russians during the winter, before
they withdraw back into the Ukraine and Belarus.
Under pressure from Rommel, who is now sceptical of Hitler, the Germans
begin to prepare their defences to bleed the soviets white.
Stalin refuses to sit on his laurels.
Mustering a major force, he launches a major attack on the German
defences. The Germans fight well,
bleeding him heavily, falling back after killing thousands of Russian soldiers.
Stalin takes several miles of ground and proclaims it a victory, before
the Germans counterattack and retake it. May-June
1943. The war seesaws back and
forth for months, with neither side gaining the upper hand, until the allies
To be continued…? You decide – let me know what you think.