To Sealion and Beyond
by Chris Nuttall
Note – anything in  is a note on changes between the timelines.
1923 – Adolf Hitler attempts to overthrow the government and is soundly defeated. In the confusion, a man called Kreigslieter saves his life; Kreigslieter subsequently becomes one of Hitler’s most trusted allies.
[Kreigslieter has no existence in the Original TimeLine (OTL). He was named for a character from an old alternate history novel.]
1933-1936 – Adolf Hitler rises to power in Germany, allied to the Nazi Party – and a German problem-solver called Doctor Kreigslieter. In the coming months, the Nazis will establish a single-party state; renounce the treaties that had been imposed on Germany, and work towards war. Kreigslieter’s contribution towards this is to work to streamline German industry, arms production and economy. In particularly, Germany’s internal canals and rivers get much-needed upgrading.
[Germany lacked – badly – a strong central authority to handle the economy. Hitler simply didn’t have the concentration needed to focus on the work, or on drawing firm lines of control. The net result was considerable confusion at all levels.]
1936 – Germany marches back into the Rhineland, provoking no action from the Allies. Kreigslieter’s work has had some effect at this point; the Germans actually have more aircraft and weapons than they possessed in OTL. The Allies do not know that the Germans are bluffing…and don’t call the bluff.
Kreigslieter’s control has a further effect on the rapidly expanding Germany Navy. His control over production allows him to twist Goring’s arm into giving the Navy some aircraft on permanent loan, particularly with the sheer impossibility of building a force to challenge the Royal Navy in time for Hitler’s predicted war date of 1938. The Germans begin to research naval aircraft, sharing some information with Japan, working towards a point where they hope to confront the Royal Navy with overwhelming air power.
[Historically, Goring refused to part with many aircraft; this solution ensures that the German Admirals have some aircraft of their own to play with. Hitler originally expected war over Czechoslovakia – and was reported to have been disappointed when war did not occur.]
1937-1938 – Germany continues expanding towards war. Kreigslieter’s efforts, working with the army, allow the finalisation of Panzer designs for the predicted launch date of 1938; Germany will have a sizeable Panzer force for the war. The Air Force also expands; Goring is very interested in ensuring that they will play a major role in the coming war. This leads to the development of a greater air transport capability.
[The Germans – correctly – believed that the French could defeat them before 1939. Their war plan was based on crushing the Czechs and spinning to deal with the French.]
Crisis comes over Czechoslovakia. Ironically, the British and French are unaware that they posses a massive superiority over the Germans – the Germans are not unaware of their weakness and, except Hitler, dread the coming war. Chamberlain flies to Munich and offers Hitler a deal; the Czechs will be betrayed in exchange for a guarantee from Hitler that he will not expand further. Hitler, of course, has no intention of sticking to the deal.
This actually provokes a crisis within the British Government, particularly with the reports of increased German air strength. Churchill actually gains some prominence from the reports of German anti-ship capability; he wants a crash program to duplicate it. As it becomes obvious that Hitler has no intention of sticking to the agreement, the British issue a series of guarantees to the other smaller nations in Europe.
The Germans, learning from the capture of Czech industries, discontinue production of the Panzer III, concentrating on the heavier Panzer IV and a planned Panzer V. German production is increasing across the board, although they are running into problems caused by limited resources. The Germans begin looking seriously at ways of adding to their resources, mainly through conquering Norway and perhaps Sweden.
[With the increased focus on actual production, as opposed to a confused mixture of production and pie-in-the-sky schemes, Germany will actually hit resource problems earlier. Germany is roughly 30% stronger in this timeline; the addition of the resources from Czechoslovakia and the more controlled production gives the Germans considerably more resources to play around with.]
Italy and Germany enter a pact, joined later by Japan. As war grows closer, it becomes evident that Italy won’t join in unless victory seems certain. Kreigslieter manages to convince Hitler to allow some information sharing; an Italian radar system alone proves the entire experiment worthwhile.
[Ironically, Italy had the best radar sets in the world until around 1943; they suffered from such bad problems that they were utterly unable to put it to any use at all.]
As an incidental note, Soviet and Japanese forces clashed at Nomonhan, in North China. The Russians soundly spanked the overconfident Japanese.
1939 – Hitler finally runs out of patience with what he sees as Polish stalling over the territories lost to them by Germany. The Germans mass along the border, but the Poles are defiant – unfortunately, they allow Chamberlain, desperate for peace, to pressure them into not mobilising their army. When Hitler’s forces attack, they rapidly defeat the Poles…aided by the Soviets stabbing the Poles in the back.
[The Poles would have been better off, in both timelines, to ignore Chamberlain.]
The Polish defeat sends shockwaves through the alliance. The French attempts to get an offensive off the ground sputter to nothing in the face of increased German power and the rapid defeat of Poland. As the year goes on, the French will become more and more mired in their own problems; the French Army is badly outclassed and knows it. Chamberlain forms a War Cabinet; Churchill ends up as First Lord of the Admiralty…and the loudest proponent of action.
The USSR launches an attack against Finland. The Finns are expected to be crushed within weeks, but the attack fails badly – the Finns are still holding out months later. Churchill, demanding action, plots to launch a ‘peaceful’ invasion of Norway, opening supply lines – fortunately, this piece of madness is forestalled by the Finnish surrender.
[As pretty much happened in OTL.]
1940 – Hitler has not been idle during the Phoney War. In particular, he suspects that the Allies are plotting to snatch Norway first; he orders the planning for the conquest of Norway to be forced forward into high gear. The Germans move quickly and efficiently – the attack is launched several weeks earlier than anyone, including Churchill, expected. As German airborne soldiers land in Norway, and the German fleet starts to transport troops to the Norwegian cities, the British attempt to react.
[The Germans have moved quicker than OTL here.]
The Royal Navy attempts to interdict the shipping lanes to Norway, facing concentrated German air attacks for the first time, along with duels with German ships. The Germans, however, are careful to avoid a surface action between their handful of capital ships and the Royal Navy’s massive fleet; the battlecruisers are withdrawn back towards Germany. In one of the rare flashes of initiative, the British attempt to engage the Germans on the surface, running into the German naval air force instead. In the resulting battle, two British carriers and one battleship are sunk; the battleship, in particular, is sunk with the use of Japanese-designed torpedoes.
[Historically, the British and the Germans engaged in a very close race to see who could land troops first. The two German battlecruisers would both be damaged in the original campaign; in this campaign, both survive intact, although the fear of their presence is reduced by their retreat. The British lost one carrier in the original campaign, to the German battlecruisers; ironically, HMS Glorious avoids being sunk in the altered war.]
The Germans have actually managed to beat the British to most of the Norwegian targets. After some inconclusive skirmishing, there is a major battle at Narvik; the British lose after hard fighting, with the remains of their force surrendering to the Germans. The German use of Danish airbases, overrun in the first day of the fighting, makes the British position impossible; they retreat with all that they can bring away from the battle.
The defeat provokes a major crisis in the British government. Chamberlain is forced to resign, along with Churchill, who drew up the plans for the campaign. Churchill makes his bid to become Prime Minister, but fails; no one wants a loser in the hot seat. Churchill is ordered to America, where he will take over from Lord Lothian as British Ambassador. After a prolonged struggle, Lord Halifax emerges as Prime Minister, shattering the political alliance as he takes the post.
[Churchill managed to escape most of the blame for the Norwegian Campaign in OTL and emerged as the only real candidate for Prime Minister though a combination of luck and judgement. Lord Halifax remains something of a mystery; his supporters believe that he refused the post of Prime Minister because of his lordship, his detractors believe that he refused the post because he believed that the war was lost and he simply didn’t want to share the blame.]
The Germans, including Kreigslieter, have also been learning. Hitler is delighted by the concept of naval aviation and orders resources poured into it; the army is equally delighted, although they are less than impressed by some of the failures that the German airpower showed. As Hitler orders the German Army into its jump-off positions, Kreigslieter arranges for a program of preparation – inspired by Hitler – for expanding right to Britain itself.
[Hitler believed, at least to some extent, that Sealion would only be possible if conditions were heavily stacked in favour of Germany. In this case, he sees the defeat of the Royal Navy at the hands of the German air force as a sign that conditions, particularly in the cramped confines of the channel, as a sign that the war could be won that way. Unfortunately for them, the British have drawn the same lesson. Note; the Germans have not yet attacked France – they moved against Norway early.]
In the midst of the British political crisis, the Germans launch their attack on France. The Germans are actually more powerful than the French had expected, and, in some places, they actually have better radars and more practice at close-air support. The Germans overwhelm the Netherlands and Belgium very quickly – using airborne troops in places – and head directly for the largest surviving allied formation.
The alliance between France and British starts to break apart. The British have seen some parts of the writing on the wall; the French, largely because of their fatally disrupted communications, believe that the situation can still be saved. Lord Halifax panics and orders the BEF evacuated; the resulting chaos sees much of the force lifted from the beaches, under heavy air attack, while the remainder is destroyed or captured. As the French sue for peace, the Germans start counting up the abandoned British tanks and equipment; the British are weaker than they have ever been.
Hitler hesitates, and then takes the plunge. The Germans start to concentrate their airborne and naval resources for the invasion of Britain – Sealion. The Germans have many more transport ships available, from barges to actual landing craft; they also have a more powerful air force. As the air battles rage from side to side, the Germans launch their attack, pushing six divisions across the channel, along with a major airborne attack.
The British, still caught in the middle of a major political crisis, are in serious trouble. Lord Halifax, depressed and beaten by events, wants the Royal Navy to intervene, but at the same time he is determined to keep the fleet intact as a possible bargaining counter. The orders are far from clear; the Royal Navy tries hard to interfere with the Germans, often chasing them out of the channel, but at a growing cost in ships and men.
[The Germans could have seized control over the channel. Their main mistake was in not possessing a viable antiship capability.]
The Germans probe into England. The British forces have been assembled to face the Germans along the GHQ line; they no longer possess the ability to challenge the Germans at manoeuvre war. Led by Rommel, the 7th Panzer finds a weak spot in the British line and punches a hole right through it; the British line is shattered. The Germans capture some supplies, although they are operating on a shoestring; they are competent enough to tailor what they have sent over from France to what they actually need.
[Many people make a fundamental mistake when talking about logistics; an army unit does not have a constant rate of usage of everything. A Panzer Division that is not moving or fighting will not be burning its supplies at the same rate as one that is actively engaged against the enemy.]
The world turns against Britain, in the form of Italy and Japan. The Italians have been planning an offensive into Egypt for weeks; they launch into the very weak British position – and, with a final sting, attack Malta. The almost-undefended island falls and is annexed by Italy. In the meantime, Japan launches a limited attack against the Dutch East Indies – ‘sold’ to them by Germany – and a handful of other British possessions.
[Mussolini’s stupidest decision, in a war of stupid decisions, was to leave Malta alone; the island was almost undefended until late 1940. Japan planned to launch an attack when Sealion was launched, but – of course – Sealion never came off and the Japanese delayed for a year and a half.]
President Roosevelt would like to intervene. In the absence of any direct threat to American interests, however, he can’t; the political support for war against either Japan or Germany doesn’t exist. Roosevelt, egged on by Ambassador Churchill, attempts to send what help he can, but there just isn’t enough to send.
The Germans launch a final attack, intending to crack part of the British defence line. The result is successful; the Halifax Government tosses in the towel. Imagining that Hitler plans to annex all of Britain, Lord Halifax orders the remains of the Home Fleet to Canada and leaves himself, along with the King and the Royal Family, on a battleship. They are roundly booed at the quay. The caretaker governor is General Fuller; everyone expects that Oswald Mosley would end up as Prime Minister.
[General Fuller took on the role of caretaker Prime Minister in Kenneth Macksey’s book Invasion, the hotly debated account of a successful Sealion. Mosley claimed on several post-war occasions that he would have refused to harm British interests through collaboration with Germany, but we cannot imagine how he might have acted if Germany actually invaded the UK.]
Hitler, advised by Kreigslieter, swiftly discovers that the planned occupation is logistically impossible; besides, the British are reasonably placid and there’s no point in winning additional enemies. (The Reich has quite enough of them.) The Germans settle for occupying and annexing a small strip of land (Dover-London-Southampton), forcing the British to accept Italian control of Egypt (with some German control over Suez), German control of Gibraltar and German control of the Congo. South Africa withdraws from the war; British immigration to South Africa jumps several fold in the next few months.
The Mosley Government ends up reluctantly accepting those terms. The British Empire is shaken badly, following nationalist revolts in Iraq and Iran; both states become independent and Iran, in particular, ends up as a German ally, much to Stalin’s annoyance. India remains under the control of the Mosley Government, largely to prevent Japan from interfering in the region; the Mosley Government has also reluctantly accepted Japanese control of the former British and Dutch possessions in the Far East.
[Iraq revolted against the British in 1941; I think with a perception of a total British defeat the revolt would have come sooner – and the British would have fewer resources to do anything about it. Iran was technically independent and working towards real independence; again, they jumped at the collapse of British power. The Japanese did not develop plans for operations against India until around Pearl Harbour; the largely unarmed Indians could not have revolted against the British.]
Hitler, planning for his real work, the war against Russia, spends the final months of 1940 building up his forces and settling the affairs of Europe. The Reich’s terms with France and Britain are settled to everyone’s – well, at least everyone who matters – satisfaction; Italy gets some limited rewards, including Albania, parts of Africa and reaches a border settlement with Greece. The Germans also begin mass production of the Panzer V; a tank built using lessons learnt from the war in the west.
[Historically, the Germans had to bail the Italians out of trouble; here, they don’t have to waste efforts and resources on a North African war. They also sat on their laurels far too much when it came to tank and antitank research.]
Stalin is growing more and more paranoid about a joint German-Japanese attack, particularly when the NKVD hears about covert German-Turkish talks. His paranoia leads him to make vastly greater military preparations on one hand and purges on the other; the Soviet Union enters a realm of pure fear.
[The Japanese considered jumping on Moscow after the Germans invaded…and, after recalling the thrashing they took at Nomonhan in 1939.]
Roosevelt’s warnings about the threat of Germany fell on deaf(er) ears after the invasion of Britain and the collapse of the British Government. Canada and Australia ended up taking over much of the remaining British ships belonging to the refugee government; Lord Halifax’s death in late 1940 only decapitated the exiled government. Although Churchill ended up as the leader, eventually, due to his popularity in America, he was unable to prevent the slow erosion of the exiled British forces. The problem was compounded by the Canadian Government refusing to recognise the Halifax government – for internal political reasons – and by well-natured American interference.
In any case, Roosevelt lost the election.
1941 – The Germans spent the past few months adapting their new territories into a refined industrial machine. Resistance was minimal; German rule was actually not that bad – and in most places, the Germans behaved themselves. The only real exception was the Jews, who were rounded up and shipped to Germany; a large number emigrated to South Africa, rather than face the Germans.
[British preparations for resistance were always limited by the same shortage of materials that had affected the entire British nation following Dunkirk.]
The new American Government, not exactly reluctantly, started a military build-up of its own, including an alliance with Australia. The Japanese, however, were behaving themselves; they were working to make use of the snatched resources and unwilling to fight the rapidly expanding American naval power. The Japanese signed a non-aggression pact with Australia and New Zealand in early 1941; the terms forbade the stationing of any external military forces on their territory.
[The Americans have much less leverage and will to press Japan to the point where the Japanese would make the decision to launch the war against the USA.]
The Japanese continued to extend their control over China. With their control of most of the supply lines into China, they were able to prevent the Chinese – both sides – from actually gaining enough power to destroy them, or force them out of China. At the same time, the Japanese were unable to push the Chinese into submission; the war reduced into a bitter stalemate, broken occasionally by yet another ‘victory offensive’ that somehow failed to produce victory.
Operation Barbarossa is formally launched on May 10th, 1941; within a week, the Germans have already made huge inroads. The Germans have plenty of supplies for the campaign; including tanks the equal of the Russian machines, and their air power is far superior. They also dispose of divisions recruited from the subject nations, including French and British soldiers. Some of them came out of prison camps, promised a year in German service, then freedom.
[The Germans had no match for the T-34 tank in OTL.]
The Germans make rapid progress, smashing their way though Soviet division after Soviet division. Within three months, they are at the gates of Moscow, facing off against the major divisions from Siberia…when Japan launches an attack at the Soviet rear. Stalin, unsurprisingly, prioritises; Japan is ignored for the moment. The Germans have a considerable advantage and clear skies; the Soviets are beaten and the city is surrounded. As Leningrad falls to a joint German-Finnish offensive, the Soviets have a mini-civil war inside the city; Stalin escapes the fighting and Moscow surrenders.
The Germans take a breath and time to gather up the scattered tons of Soviet war material, before concentrating on ending the threat of Stalin. The Soviets are in disarray – the loss of Moscow meant the end of the horde of planners who really ran the USSR – and the Germans have all the time they could possibly need. As German bombers attempt to harass the Soviets – the Germans draw the lesson that they need more longer-ranged bombers from the campaign – their forces probe against the weakened Soviets. By the end of 1941, Japan has seized large chunks of Siberia – along with a very willing White Army, composed of people sent to the camps – and Germany has no real threat from the east.
1942-1945 – The Germans spend most of the winter putting their affairs in order, placing the conquered territories in the east under the control of SS extermination squads, before expanding their control over the southern regions of the USSR. German Panzers make their way to Baku, linking up with an Iranian force, adding the resources of the vast region to Germany’s resources.
The American build-up irritates Hitler, even though he has everything he wanted – including Stalin’s body hanging from a tree. He orders Kreigslieter to work on building the Reich into a match for American production; Kreigslieter carries out the task with a mixture of efficiency and cold-blooded plotting that pleases some Germans and horrifies others. The German Navy is expanded, using Japanese concepts; the Germans aim at a force of twenty carriers by 1950.
The American election of 1944, however, places someone more concerned with healing the problems in American society into power; the Americans meet to discuss the future with Germany. The arms limitation agreement is not to Hitler’s liking, but he agrees to follow it – for the time being – to allow Germany time to develop newer concepts like rockets and nuclear weapons. The Americans also withdraw official support for the Free British; Churchill ends up bankrolling the remains of the once-proud force from investments using the remains of British gold.
The Americans have too many internal problems of their own to worry about it, not least the race problem. Forces that support the Nazi doctrine of racial supremacy are rising, challenging the existence of free blacks – some of the most extreme even advocate sending them all back into slavery. Some desperate blacks arm themselves and prepare for war; a low-level civil war is soon under way in places.
1945-1950 – The Germans and the Japanese complete their division of the former USSR, the Germans take the lion’s share, but make certain guarantees to the Japanese, including suggestions about how to handle the Europeans in Japanese-occupied territories. The Japanese, perhaps unwisely, have been funding Philippine independence movements – the rebels never present a serious problem, but convince some Americans that operations west of Pearl Harbour should not be contemplated.
The American withdrawal pleases the Japanese, who work hard to bring them into the co-prosperity sphere. They also want to force Australia into the agreement, but the Germans react very strongly against it; they settle for forcing Australia to accept as many Japanese immigrants as they want to send. In the long run, they conclude, Australia will be Japanese anyway – one way or the other.
The American decision – which the Japanese claim credit for – leads to something they need desperately – peace in China. The endless war has worn down all of the sides; the Japanese make a quick agreement with the Nationalists, then strike hard at the communists. In the ensuring chaos, the Chinese Nationalists reluctantly accept a limited peace – while both sides build up and prepare for the next round.
Despite their best intentions, American and German interests are beginning to collide – in two separate places. In Mexico, the new government requested German help to build an army – with the unspoken intention of standing off any American intervention – leading to the German creation of the new Mexican army. Some German ‘efficiency experts’ are also invited; their support for Mexico leads to the reorganising of the country and the defeat of the anti-government forces. In Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, German and American oil interests are beginning to collide; both sides have interests in the region.
The Germans have expanded their own armed forces remarkably, including a large force of carriers, but the Americans manage to surprise them by detonating the world’s first atomic bomb. The ensuring panic – some would later claim that it brought on Hitler’s collapse – led to German withdrawal from Saudi – and some withdrawal from Mexico. The humiliation soured American-German relations. By the time that the Germans detonate their own bomb, in 1947, the inner circle of the Nazi Government is already planning the war of revenge.
[The timing of German success in obtaining their own atomic bomb has been hotly disputed. In this case, Germany would have no obvious need for any nuclear superweapon for some time – research would likely operate at a low level, if at all. In contrast, the Americans, without a clear enemy, couldn’t afford to dispatch all of the resources required for the crash Manhattan project.]
The atomic bomb does have one German casualty, however; Adolf Hitler. The Fuhrer, already in the early stages of Parkinson’s Disease, collapses after hearing the news. Hitler’s stroke is made worse by the attempts by his personal doctor to cure him; by the time that Himmler has the quack dragged away and tortured to death, Hitler is crippled. He might be still alive, but Hitler is not the man he once was.
The Inner Circle, for various reasons, makes the decision to keep Hitler as the figurehead Fuhrer while they deal with the Americans. Kreigslieter, as a moderate voice, pushes for that solution; absolute power would be useless if the war with America was to be lost.
[And in this timeline fewer Nazis would have touched absolute power.]
1950-1955 – the Germans concentrate on building up to face the Americans. Relations with Mexico are rapidly improved, even to the extent that some German units are permanently based in Mexico, and the Germans supply the Mexicans with additional weapons and support. The Germans have also built up their long-range bombers and missiles for the coming war – they have no intention of being caught out again.
The Japanese are in agreement with the Germans; America must be dealt with. They have long-held ambitions for Australia and Pearl Harbour; they have plans to deal with both of them. The two navies work together to develop their plans against the Americans. The Germans also – reluctantly – share a-bomb tech with the Japanese.
The Americans, for the first few years, don’t really believe that there is a problem. They remember how the atomic bomb scared hell out of the Germans – and have forgotten the German ability to hold grudges. The Germans play to that by sending mixed messages – the Germans have also allied with certain elements within American society who want to copy the German practice of exterminating inferiors…and guess who the main target is. It is Sir Winston Churchill who sounds the first warning…
And that is where the story goes.