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Hans Grickheim was born on the streets of Berlin in 1848. His parents were in poverty and were forced to abandon Hans. He was found by an elderly couple and taken to a nearby orphanage. Hans lived in the orphanage for most of his childhood life. From humble beginnings Grickheim grew from an orphan boy to a national hero and admiral. This is the history of the TL.
Grickheim's Early Life
See Biography of Hans Grickheim for complete article.
Hans was taken to an orphanage when he was only ten months old. The orphanage was not wealthy and Hans had encountered troubles while he was a child. His fellow orphans were not kind to him. He often dreamed of soaring far above all of his worries and problems. At five, Hans was far ahead of his classmates in math and science. The nuns at the orphanage took Hans into private tutor classes. By ten, Hans was studying aerodynamics and propulsion. He was immensely interested in flight and engineering. Using common objects and materials, Hans built miniature hot air balloon models. The nuns at his orphanage were amazed at his skill at the models. A wealthy Prussian couple came and observed Hans's skill and intellect. They had no children and wished to adopt one. When Hans was twelve, the Grickheims adopted him. The Grickheims hired tutors and professors to teach Hans. By fifteen, Hans was one of the best educated engineers in Berlin.
Hans Grickheim enrolled in Freidrich-Wilhelm University when he was 17 in 1865. Hans's innovations in engineering amazed his professors. Hans's thirst for knowledge made many professors and teachers enjoy teaching him. In 1869, when Hans was 21, he could not be taught anything more. Hans returned to his adoptive parents mansion. They were amazed at how much he had learned. The Grickheims were supportive of Hans's projects and supplied him with his budget. Hans's dreams were finally coming down to earth when his began construction of a propelled air balloon. In an institute outside Berlin, Grickheim built his first working balloon. It used a steam engine and had a specialized rudder that made the balloon fully steerable. The prototype worked and Hans took his parents on its maiden voyage. The Grickheims were extremely impressed and continued funding their son's project. A better version of the airship was built in 1871. Bismarck met with Hans and observed the Grickheimship II's flight. The Chancellor was very interested and put huge funding into Hans's project. By 1875, Hans and his team of engineers had launched four more ships. The project became more and more popular and famous engineers such as Haenlein, Eckener, Zeppelin and Schwarz joined it. By 1880, there were twelve airships in Grickheims fleet. Aluminum replaced wood as the major material in airship construction.
Airships in the Military
After Graf Zeppellin joined the Airship project, the military became interested in an airships use in the military. Big guns and artillery are very effective against the airships. In 1890, five of Grickheims airships were modified to serve in the military. Medium and heavy artillery are used on the ships to eliminate the enemy cannon before it threatens the ship itself. Other airships have smaller guns to use against infantry. The best role for military airships is the role of reconnasaince. With their long range vision and near invulnerability to infantry, the airships seve as great scouts. Economic growth in the 1880s and 1890s allowed the military budget to be greatly heightened. By 1895, the Sky Fleet was large enough to be considered a separate branch of the military. The sturdy Zeppelin airships werved as artillery, while the faster Grickheims were reconnaisance and paratrooper transports. The Hoch Himmel Flotte (High Sky Fleet) was formed in 1914 as the airship counterpart to the High Seas Fleet.
Effects of Airships
From the 1870s to the 1900s, the size and influence of Grickheim and his teams's airship fleet. Half of the fleet was military and was used as a show of German power. The commercial fleet was used for transportation. Because of this, Germany began to feel an economic boom from the 1880s to the 1890s (see above). Easier access to colonies was an important factor as well. African German colonies grew in wealth and population. With more effective modes of transportation, goods from the colonies could be taken back to Germany. Airship bases were extablished in various cities throughout the empire. Most cities with large bases grew in size because of great access to the skylanes. Mail ships were faster and had more cargoe room. This class of the fleet earned much public recognition. The citizens of the German empire enjoyed quick transportation, communication, and globalization. Other nations became drawn into Germany's sphere of influence. Both the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Italy built airship bases and traded intensely with Germany. Although trade blossomed, very few airships were built and put into service outside of Germany. This meant that Italy and Austro-Hungary were dependent on Germany for trading rights and communication. By gaining massive amounts of money from so many sources, Hans Grickheim became unbelievably wealthy. He poured almost all of it into the fleet. by 1890, the airship sky fleet measured 132 (64 in military, 68 in civilian).
In 1899, the Boxers in China rebelled. Unlike OTL, Germany, Italy and Austro-Hungary contributed much more to the war cause. Germany's two allies sent soldiers and finance to the German army in China. German war airships bombarded rebellious cities with mostly efficient results. First generation paratroopers see action during the conflict as well. German air strategies evolve during the air fleets first use. Several Chinese towns were continually bombarded even after surrender. The Germans were too enthusiastic to excercise their military might to stop. A reliable and experienced German governor is sent to occupied China. Unlike OTL in which Germany only had the Shangdong province as a sphere of influence, Manchuria and much of China that was unclaimed in OTL was German influenced. Shangdong was treated almost as a colony. Airship bases sprung up throughout the German Shpere of Influence, eager to join the rapidly growing industry. Chinese resources are used to build more airships for communication/transportation in China. To prevent future rebellions, military bases and institutes are built in Beijing and other cities. Kaiser Wilhelm made a public remark about building up German economic interests in the Far East. If the Chinese will participate, Wilhelm says, they will be rewarded.
The Oil of the Ottomans
In 1902, a German prospector in Libya finds oil. He was assigned to find a new source of oil for the airship industry. The Ottoman sultan entertains the idea of becoming an oil producing country. German and Italian contractors help build oil wells and refineries in Sicily and Libya. By 1904, several refineries existed in Tripoli and Cyrenaica. After growing rich off selling oil to the Germans, the Ottoman sultan allows oil drilling in Palestine, Iraq, Jordan, and Turkey. Tens of millions of barrels of oil were sold each year from the Ottomans alone by 1910. Airships travel across the Mediterranean daily to deliver and transport the oil. Airship bases and oil wells spring up all over Libya and the Middle East. Many Turks move to Libya to supply the well workers and sky sailors with food and other needs. Sicilian port towns swelled with size and wealth from the trade. To protect the vital trade routes, Italian and German ships and airships guarded the Aegean. The Ottomans became close trading partners with the Germans and Italians. The Turkish military budget became huge and many more soldiers were recruited to protect the precious oil welsl from any threat of attack or invasion. The Cretan Republic soon became rich from trade as well. It's directly in the middle of most vital sea and sky lanes. The Republic of Crete has close ties with Greece, and thus Greece became an ally of Germany and Italy. Even when the Balkans War begun, Greece declared itself neutral.
The Balkans Wars
In 1912, the Balkan League of Bulgaria, Serbia, and Montenegro declared war with the Ottoman Empire. Admiral Hans Grickheim and his armada of German airships assisted the Ottomans during the battles in Thrace and Macedonia. The numerically inferior Turks were able to anticipate enemy movements and forces thanks to Admiral Grickheims reconnasaince. Because Greece was neutral, its relatively strong sea fleet could not hamper Turkish troop ships as in OTL. This quickly gave the Ottomans an advantage. The Balkan League was also down about a hundred thousand men because of Greek neutrality. Bulgaria's industrial foundries were bombarded by German and Italian airships. The Ottoman advance on Bulgaria formed a massive trench system. The Turks formed clever tactics such as decoy attacks and tunnel ambushes. Austro-Hugary entered the war against Serbia in very early 1913. Repeated air raids crippled the Serbian economy in the north. The Italian navy refueled and rested in the abundant Greek ports. Bulgarian intelligence discovered this in November 1912. This greatly angered the Balkans League members. In January 1913, Greece was persuaded to enter the war on the Turkish side. If the Greeks did, they would receive most of modern Greece west of Thessaloniki and most of Macedonia. The offer was accepted. With Greek soldiers covering from the Serbians, the Turkish army mobilized for a full on invasion of Bulgaria. By March 1913, Bulgaria was overrun by the Turks and Serbia was absorbed by Austro-Hungary. Greece gained much of it's modern OTL territory and Macedonia. Montenegro surrendered and was invaded by Austro-Hungary. Germany's allies had became the dominant powers in the Balkans.
World War 1
WW1 was caused by many reasons. Both British and German navies had been showing off their power and building bigger and better warships. Germany's massive air fleet of Zeppelins and Grickheims intimidated the Triple Entente and made the British weary. The stress and tension erupted into conflict when a Sebian activist assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914. The murder was Russian instigated. Austro-Hungarian troops were sent into occupied Serbia to destroy anything that might be of use to the independence activists. By late July, Serbia's ally Russia declared war on Austro-Hungary for the harsh measures taken.
Alliances in the War
Russia and Austro-Hungary went to war on August 1. Germany and Italy both declared war on Russia on August 2. The Ottoman empire followed two days after. France was allied with Russia and declared war on Germany and allies on August 3. Romania and Albania were initially neutral, but both countries had relatively close ties with Russia and declared war on Germany and allies on August 10. Irish independence activists are supplied with German weapons and fight for freedom. A treaty is signed dictating that the independent Irish country would be an ally of Germany. Germany, Italy, Turkey, and Austro-Hungary form the Central Powers. The Entente is formed of France, Russia, and Britain. Britain joined only after Belgium was invaded.
Beginning Battle and Campaigns (Late 1914 to early 1915)
The war started with Austro-Hungary and Turkey dominantly focusing on Russia. Germany aided it's allies by using scout Zeppelins and lending weapons. Most of the German army was attacking Russia as well. Light skirmishes on the French border forced a portion of the German troops to stay and protect Germany. The large German navy and submarine fleet was used to blockade France. On August 4, 1914, the German Army invaded Belgium and headed into France. Luxembourg was occupied a day earlier without complications. Half of the German force on the Western Front was streaming through Belgium destroying resistance, and the rest was on the French border, preparing to pounce and capture Paris. The lightly defended Ardennes in Belgium and France were converted into massive scenes of horrific trench warfare. Zeppelins and Grickheims sailed above dropping shells and bombs on enemy positions. The German air advantage posed a considerable threat to the allies. Small biplanes zipped through the air, but their tiny guns had little effect on the massive airships. German airplanes saw practice as well. The Russian front in the east turned into a huge trench line almost immediately. Austro-Hungarian and German troops made slow but heavy progress through the Belarus and Ukrainian plains and steppe.
In South Africa, German made weapons were smuggled in for use in the Boer rebellion against Britain. Jan Smuts (a British serving Boer Commander) met with the Kaiser of Germany and discussed their terms. By the end of the conference, Smuts had decided he was serving the wrong side. A large Boer uprising began in South Africa only a few weeks after the war had started. Jan Smuts commanded a Boer army working out of German Namibia to assist in the uprisings. The original British plans to invade the other German African colonies was now impossible. The Germans were turning the tables. While the British had their hands full with rebellion in South Africa, German Zepellins brought young volunteer soldiers into Togoland and Kamerun. About 5000 paramilitary mercenaries were also hired. Both colonies were of strategic importance. A French attack into Togoland was repulsed. In German East Africa, the situation was very different. Taganyika (modern day Tanzania+Rwanda+Burundi) was heavily protected and had a powerful air force protecting it. Belgian planes and ships on Lake Taganyika fought with the sizable German lake fleet. Artillery bombarded villages in the Belgian Congo with varying successes.
During the early days of the war, the Allied powers were in control of vast amounts of land in all parts of the world. When war struck, colonies and territories had to choose sides. Years of persecution and hatred force some to rebel against their masters. This happened in South Africa with the Boers. In Ireland, independence fighters side with the Central powers. Ukrainian revolters are supported by Germany and Turkey. Indian activists are supplied with Italian and Austrian guns and artillery. Throughout the world, the massive Allied empires feel the strain of the fight for freedom. Russia is being bombarded and attacked by three different great powers and many of it's territories wish to depart. The economy is strained to its limits and the army is running out of weapons and men. The Finnish Revolution Army was rather powerful and knew their lands well. Russian soldiers froze to death in the Scandinavian tundra while the rebellion worsens. All these strains on the Russian people give power to followers of yet another revolution: Socialism.
The Socialist Revolution
In 1915, socialist rebels in Russia began to gain power. The Finnish, Baltic, and Ukrainian revolutions for freedom in combination with three powerful empires attacking Russia with earnest caused the Russian economy to implode. Socialists inspired by Marx collected hundreds of thousands of followers. In February 1916, the Tsar and Tsarina of Russia were murdered by a mob of Socialist rebels. All aspects of the Imperial government was destroyed and tore down. Imperialist and Socialist forces fought each other in Moscow and other major cities. Austro-Hungary, Turkey, and Germany pushed deep into Russia. When an armistice was signed between the German Kaiser and Lenin, what is now Poland and much of Belarus was added to Germany. Romania had fallen to Austro-Hungary without Russian support. Austro-Hungary also gained a large chunk of western Ukraine. Ukraine, Finland, and the countries that made up Turkestan had won their independence. Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan were swallowed up by Turkey. Albania had also fallen without support. The Italians took Albania for their own. With the predominant enemy in the east defeated, more resources could be used in the west and south. For the Allies, things were about to get a lot more exciting.
The Middle East Campaign
After the Russians dropped out of the war from internal disorder, the Central Powers turned their heads to the south. Greece and Austro-Hungary contributed the men and supplies that were not needed after the victory in Russia to Turkey. Germany spent most of its troops attacking France with vengeance. In the Middle East, the Ottomans had two main objectives. They wanted the British port colony of Kuwait as well as the all-important Suez Canal in Egypt.
The German airship fleet bombarded the British defenses in Sinai and Kuwait as soon as the campaign began. The Turkish garrison in Libya stayed there so that the vital oil wells would not be captured. German and Greek seaforces helped to make Sinai as weak as possible before the actual invasion. On October 19th, 1916, the Ottomans invaded Egypt. Three hundred thousand soldiers quikly captured Sinai, but getting to the canal was much more complicated. About the same amount of British troops defended the vital seaway. Sinai was converted into a massive trench formation. A Greco-German blockade from Libya to Turkey combined with an Italo-Turkish blockade near Eritrea prevented the Allies from bringing in sufficient amounts of troops into Egypt. Turkish tanks rumble through the rocky deserts, often meeting gory ends. Air assistance gave the Central powers an advantage. They could anticipate the enemy movements quite effectively. On March 20, 1917, the first Central soldiers broke through to the canal. By May, it was completely captured. Egypt fell soonly after.
Soon after the fighting in Egypt began, British controlled Kuwait was attacked by the Turks. If Kuwait City was captured, Yemen and Oman were in danger of attack and the Ottomans would have control over a major port. German airships dropped Turkish soldiers into all major escape choke points. The country fell within a month. The oil there was quickly utilized for use in the Ottoman army.
Oman and Yemen
The European powers meet on May 7 1917, and discuss peace terms. Under the treaty of Stockholm, Germany would receive all of Alsace-Lorraine, the Polish territories with various colonies (Indochina, all of New Guinea and many African territories) and the entente powers will all have military restrictions imposed on them as well as reparations.
After the war, Germany was master of Africa. It then pursued a brutal ethnic cleansing policy to keep the natives in line.
New alliances and war on the horizon
Britain was angered at the loss of much of her African territories, as well as all of Papua new Guinea. So Britain, Japan and Persia vacillated towards Communist Russia and the United States. Their joint programme in Canada would get them in a new arms race with the central powers. One major area where they had reasonable success was Jet Fighters, namely thanks to the help of the American triumvirate of Goddard, Lindbergh and Ford. Germany responded with utilizing its massive industrial base for war.
Germany sent a massive wave of airships (still retaining the zeppelin strategy) against Britain. However, they were merely target practice for the new Meteor fighters, which with new radar technology was a lethal combination. Chairman Stalin of the Soviet Union ordered People's commissar for war Timoshenko to prepare for the inevitable German invasion.