The Civil Wars of the 1920’s
At the end of the first world war the states of the defensive alliance had been torn apart by the war. In France and the Russian Empire the existing leadership had been torn up and puppet governments were installed by the victorious Imperial troops, Emperor Napoleon IV had been returned to government of France through revolution and the Russian Tsar had been thrown out by a coalition of parties, amongst them the Bolsheviks and the Agrarian Nationalists who had armed themselves with help from Finish, Polish and Anglo-Dutch troops, while the Spanish government was hanging on by a thread from threats by the Catalan and Basque nationalists.
These changes in government were not always met positively from other elements in the country. The success of the Nationalists and Bolsheviks in Russia was met by significant opposition from the Kadet and Decembrist parties with the assistance of the Japanese, initially democratically within the Duma and then after the collapse of the Coalition Government militarily. Over the course of a long two year civil war ,coming after only three years of peace and four years of war against the Tsar. The Collapse of the Coalition government in Russia was initially followed by a Menshivik, Kadet and Decembrist coalition that governed without the Agrarian Nationalists and the Tsarists, The Tsarists and Nationalists were massively successful in tacking control of the Duma and parts of the Russian North East. The Republican troops found themselves pushed back towards Siberia where the Japanese and Anglo-Dutch intervened to defend a coalition of moderate groups. Despite the assistance of the Imperial powers the moderates in Russia found themselves defeated by the Tsarists and the Agrarian nationalists who installed a new regime, officially led by the Tsar but unofficially led by General Denikin who ruled the Armed Forces with an iron fist.
Denikin almost immediately began a war with China in order to restore territories lost to Japan in the first world war before being returned by Japan to China as part of the Japanese Empires attempt to bring Asia back to the fore in international affairs. The Sino-Russian war was initially a massive success for the Russian Empire as Russian troops overran the Chinese military at the borders and threatened to take Beijing from the fledgling Chinese republic. The success of the Russian army frightened the Japanese and the Germans who feared that a resurgent Russia might feel empowered to take on German territories in the east or challenge Japan’s dominance of Asia. As a result the two states bankrolled the Chinese republic and dispatched the Far East Fleet from Simpsonhafen and the Manchurian Army was dispatched by Japan to defend Beijing. Once the Russians had been turned back, however, the Chinese pressed the assault against them, Initially the Japanese and the Germans assisted them in pushing the Russians back into the Russian far east and some radical elements of the German and Anglo-Dutch governments considered using the Chinese as a tool to reverse Russian monarchism and nationalism and restore what they saw as the natural order of things. Realizing that this threatened to plunge the world back into a major war only ten years after the end of the first world war the Japanese and the Germans decided to intervene and force the two powers to reach a treaty, promising not to advance beyond there prewar boundaries.
The Chinese Republic had survived the Sino-Russian war but only just, the Chinese had been unified behind the desire to survive, in the months and years that followed the various factions that had been unified by the war broke apart. Initially a group of Qing loyalists allied themselves with the right wing nationalist republicans and the socialists to keep the Chinese state intact. Outside of this alliance the Chinese fascists controlled a sizable segment of the Chinese countryside as did the Communists. The Chinese coalition outnumbered the fascists and the communists combined but the coalition was dependent on bringing together a large number of disparate groups, amongst them a number of warlords who sought to break out from the banner of the Chinese State. The most important of these warlords was General Chang Kai-Shek who commanded an army of over a hundred and fifty thousand well trained soldiers and officers from the Whompa military academy, Although Chiang's military might was significantly less than a number of other warlords and paled behind the numbers of the coalition government and its competing governments in the provinces Chiang's military was significantly better trained than its opponents and it had access to armor and artillery as well as a sizable air force taken from the retreating Russians. In essence Chiang commanded the most powerful independent force in China and it gave him a considerable advantage over his rival warlords in carving out a base in China's southern provinces. He dreamed of even vaster power though, seeking more than a small kingdom around his military academy, He made an alliance with the nationalist leader Wang Jingwei and the Communist Mao Zedong, bringing the two together under his national socialist banner. He convinced the two that rallied behind his elite military and with there public support they could overthrow the coalition government and restore China's world prestige. Reluctantly the two threw their support behind Ciang, aware that his military strength provided the needed edge to there own mass armies. This combination of poulism and elite military forces proved deadly to the coalition, despite the best efforts of the coalition government and the assistance of some of the Imperial powers, most notably Japan. The Coalition hung on until 1929 when the new French government sent considerable aid to Chiang's national socialists which proved to be effective in tipping the tide.
Revolutions in Europe
The major European powers had avoided the chaos of the late 1910's and early 1920's for a number of reasons. In France the new emperor recognised that he was distinctly unpopular and relied on his Prime Minister, chosen through elections to be the effective face of governance in the Fourth Empire. Prime Minister Alexandre Millerand, elected in Frances first free elections after the war in 1914 recognised the need to collaborate with the Monarchy, an institution he personally despised in order to keep the country together while Napoleon the 5th struck up a friendship with a well respected staff officer Maxime Weygand who kept the army in line. The most dangerous of the new emperor's subjects belonged in two groups, the right wing Action Francais and the left wing Communist party of France. Millerand was able to bribe off the Communists by offering them a number of there goals, including high social security and low working hours. In order to fund this Millerand required large bank loans from the Anglo-Dutch banks and when they collapsed as a result of the stock crisis all loans were called in, Millerand government collapsed and the Action Francais decided that the time was right to strike against the Imperial regime. The intervention of Weygand's military preserved the Empire and Weygand installed himself as Prime Minister. His premiership worked closely with the Emperor and focused heavily on improving the colonies and keeping the country under control. In the end however Weygand found his regime under pressure from democratic groups who resented his dictatorship and the communists and nationalist who still resented the Empire. In 1928 Weygand agreed to allow democratic elections for the first time in eight years in which the Action Francais swept to power. In the resulting period the Action Francais sympathisers in the military, led by Phillipe Petain and there paramilitaries swept over the institutions of power and removed the Emperor from power. Weygand fled to his favourite colony, French West Africa with the elements of the military that remained loyal to him, hoping to one day re-establish the Empire.
Meanwhile In Spain the Cortes had maintained democratic rule despite the disaster of the loss in the first world war. For the most part this was achieved by exploiting the South American economies as well as using Spain's considerable military, to keep the country together. However four years after the Amsterdam stock crisis disaster struck, the Brasilian Empire decided that enough was enough and that they would prevent the Spanish from extracting debts beyond there pre-war levels. The Spanish responded by intervening militarily in South America but the war that followed proved deeply unpopular and dragged the Spanish economy into depression. After a number of military incidents Francisco Franco swept to power, removing all opposition and installing himself as the countries sole leader.
Denikin in Russia, Chiang Kai-Shek in China, Petain in France and Franco in Spain had decided, independently that war was inevitable for the success of there nations. Denikin sought to regain Russian possessions in China and control over the Eastern European client states, Chiang sought to restore Chinese prestige through defeating Japan and supplanting it as the dominant Asian power while both Franco and Petain sought to restore Colonial prestige and supplant the Anglo-Dutch as the major global power. As such they all began building up there military, Denikin in Russia had an early lead in this, building up Russia beyond its limits from the beginning of the 1920's, unhampered by the the Imperial powers who feared the cost of a war with a country as large as Russia. Denikin's top down rearmament program was dealt a massive blow however in the Sino-Russian war where the Russian military was defeated by the Imperial powers. Denikin decided to change track by approaching the rearmament of Russia through a federal system, As a result the Russian military adopted a number of designs that sometimes filled the same role, the competition between the groups meant that the Russian military developed some of the best equipment in the world, even if had an excess of duplicate parts that weren't standardised.
Chiang, modernised quickly adopting western standards for his military academy at Whoompa and using Russian equipment that had been left behind during the Sino-Russian war. Reaching out to the Russian government the Chinese military developed equipment that was reliable and easily repaired, although it lagged behind the other major powers the reliability and mass produced nature of the Chinese equipment gave them an advantage in land technology over the Japanese and even the Russians. The attempts of the Chinese to match the Russians and the Japanese in naval technology suffered however, despite investing huge sums of money China could never hope to match the numbers of the Japanese who also had the combined experience of fighting and winning, against the odds in three major naval conflicts in the early 20th century.
Franco and Petain took similar approaches to rearming but the difference lied in that Petain benefited from a French rearmament program that had begun under the Napoleonic regime and was continued under Petain, even though around a quarter of the French Military from all branches had defected to the Empire under Weygand the rebuilding under Imperial rule had left the French army as the second largest in Western Europe, behind only the German Army, During Petain's military buildup this lead was extended and conscription re-introduced, bringing France up to Russian levels of military prowess. Franco had the smallest base of all of the 1920's dictators but unlike the others had an active background in military technology, having been an engineering officer in the Spanish Army, While other military programs suffered from a heavy handed government interference Franco allowed his military to operate free from obstruction, as a result the Spanish Army and Air Force, despite lagging behind other countries in numbers fielded some of the best equipment of any interwar military.
While the dictatorships invested in vast military buildups the Democratic powers of Europe and Asia slipped behind there rivals. Though there were efforts for militarily buildup amongst the democratic powers they were for the most part focused on naval expansion over land bound expansion. This was in part based on experience from the intervention in Russia, the Sino-Russian war and the Pacific wars during which the primary determining factor had been the relative naval strength of the powers involved. Even Germany, the major land power of the Imperial Alliance had focused itself on the Air force, although its most powerful wing, the lighter than air Zeppelins had been defunded. A doctrine had been developed amongst the Imperial Powers that power was best projected though the use of Air power and warships. The result was that the imperial alliance powers lagged significantly behind there former enemies in the defensive alliance. The Anglo-Dutch and the Germans did realise, far to late that they were in danger and responded as such but they, along with a number of the other global powers were expecting a war in the late 1930's and were caught of guard when war broke out in 1933.
Of all the potential global flashpoints in 1930's Europe the most important and threatening was the Anglo-Dutch, and former French port of Calais, having been taken over by the Anglo-Dutch at the end of the first world war the port had been fortified and turned into a cornerstone of the Anglo-Dutch defense of the English Channel. The vast military complex and batteries, when paired with there corresponding fortifications at Dover effectively forced all channel traffic to receive permission to pass through the straits from the Union or risk being blown out of the water by 22' inch naval guns. Calais itself was defended by a whole corps of the Union army as well as a garrison division that manned the massive fortifications along the border with France. Conventional military wisdom held that Calais was impregnable form both the land and the sea, as it turned out, however, conventional wisdom, as so ofter was the case was useless.
In 1931 the French government had demanded the return of the German held territories outside of Alsace Loraine and the German government, well aware that it lacked the ability to fight a major conflict ceded the territory to the French. This emboldened the French government and in the next two years a number of French colonial possessions were returned to the French. The end result of this was that by 1933 the French government felt comfortable enough that the union would back down over Calais, and return, if not the port and fortifications the town surrounding it. The French delivered an ultimatum, convinced that the Union would back down in the face of overwhelming French military might. The Union refused and the French fell into internal dispute over how to respond, French troops had the numbers to take the territory but would take heavy loses. In the end Petain decided that France could not back down and tasked the young French officer, Brigader Charles de Gaulle with coming up with a plan to take the territory.
De Gaule knew that a frontal assault was suicide, the fortifications along the border and the considerable military presence in and around the port would prevent a land based assault. Confident that if the fortifications could be taken out the army corps itself would present little difficulty de Gaulle decided to take a bold decisions. Under cover of night French transports would parachute it two divisions of soldiers who would use satchel charges to knock out the fortifications and allow de Gaulle's first and second armoured divisions to advance with co-operation from the French Air Force. De Gaulle presented his plan to Petain who signed of on it with the decision to increase the numbers involved, de Gaulle had been reluctant to draw troops from the German or Anglo-Dutch borders, Petain guessed correctly that they wouldn't advance from there positions and tripled the troops assigned to the operation. De Gaule had been convinced that he didn't need the numbers but Petain insisted on extra security.
The operation began on the evening of the 21st of June with nearly thirty thousand troops dropping by parachute and glider into Anglo-Dutch territory, the French paratroopers landed and were successful in knocking out, first the power for the searchlights and then the various fortifications. With no power going to the AA batteries the French Air Force was free to conduct air strikes against the Anglo-Dutch fortifications and barracks. When the French Armour rolled in they faced little opposition from the shell shocked infantrymen. It was a devastating introduction in what de Gaulle and his 31 year old staff officer Philippe Leclerc called guerpide, an abbreviation of guerre rapide, the French for fast war. In the space of twenty four hours Guerpide had proved its worth, De Gaulle was promoted to General and the most well built fortifications in the world had been demolished and the Anglo-Dutch empire had been dealt a bloody nose it would struggle to recover from. An Emergency meeting of the Imperial alliance was called and war was declared on the French Republic, In short cause the Defensive Alliance, with the exception of Spain had responded , war had once more come to the world.
The fall of the Netherlands
As Petain had predicted the Anglo-Dutch and the Germans did not sally forth from there positions and allowed the French the time they needed to reorganise to invade the Unions mainland territory and Germany, The French knew that they could rely on the Russians to invade Germany and that this would distract the Germans from striking against the French in the west, as would the threat of the Austrians in the South. As such they could be fairly confident that they would be able to launch an assault against the Anglo-Dutch in the Netherlands. This was still a daunting task, the Netherlands was defended by a full army group, numbering three hundred thousand men. For the most part these were conscripts but it included the Anglo-Dutch armies most advanced formations, the 4th Yorkshire Cavalry and the 7th and 8th Flemish Infantrymen. These three divisions were the best equipped in the forces and were some of the best trained as well, The leadership, however, left something to be desired, Field Marshall Gort, while well respected by his men proved inadequate to the task faced before him. On the French side the 3rd Army Group under the command of Marshall Jean Orleanis, was assigned to the operation, the spearhead, however, was General De Gaulle's newly created First Armoured Army. The French had taken massive risks to assemble there forces for the assault, the first armoured army had drawn almost the entire armoured forces of the French republic into one formation, de Gaulle was confident, however, and Orleanis shared his confidence that the armoured spearhead would punch its way through the Anglo-Dutch fortifications and divisions along the border and swing north to split the Anglo-Dutch forces in half.
The operation began on the 5th October 1933 in the morning when the French Air Force launched a major operation to gain control of the skies over the Netherlands, like almost every other aspect of the operation this was a considerable risk, the French didn't really have the numbers of fighters to secure aerial supremacy over the Netherlands as the same time as preventing Anglo-Dutch bombers from launching bombing raids at Paris, Petain saw this as a necessary risk, the continued presence of the Anglo-Dutch army group in the Netherlands was a threat to the Northern French provinces and Paris itself and when compared to the limited cost that would be inflicted by the Anglo-Dutch bombing raids he viewed the losses as being acceptable. Luck was on the side of the French on the 5th, however, and the French strike bombers caught a large percentage of the Anglo-Dutch planes on the ground allowing a number of the fighters assigned to the operation to be redirected to defend Paris. The first French troops to cross the border smashed through the Anglo-Dutch infantrymen defending the border, a large number of which broke and ran. De Gaulle's force swung north to cut of the large pocket of Anglo-Dutch troops around the border and within a week the French troops were within twenty miles of the cut off point, the city, and port of Rotterdam. This time though the French met serious opposition, the 4th Yorkshire Cavalry, alongside the 7th Flemish Infantry, the 1st Lancashire Infantry and the 1st Scots Armour, the first and so far only armoured division of the Union Army under the command of Major General J. Pesman. Pesman recognised that the French Salient attempting to cut off the the Unions forces could be turned against them if Union troops could cut them off and crush the French assault in the process. Pesman's counter assault smashed through parts of the French line, but before Pesman's troops could cut off the salient entirely De Gaulle's armoured troops swiveled to counter the Anglo-Dutch counter attack, in the battle that followed the French tanks, particularly the Renault R35 proved themselves to be far more powerful than the Anglo-Dutch Crusader tanks, even the obscenely well-armoured infantry tanks were vulnerable to the French Char 75's anti tank gun. With Pesman's ad-hoc corps defeated Anglo-Dutch resistance crumbled and within another week French troops had crushed the Anglo-Dutch troops along the border while the remaining effective troops, numbering sixty thousand troops under General Edmund Ironside retreated back to the German border.
Germany Stands Alone
While the French had been having a great deal of success in dealing with the Anglo-Dutch in the north the Russians in the East and the Austrians in the south were having a far more difficult time defeating the Germans, Although the Germans lacked the numbers to defend and go on the offensive the German army had not been idle in the time between the first and second world war. The German military was the largest on the continent and was well trained and well equipped. This combined with a massive series of defense in depth fortifications in the east, the South and along the border with France meant that even for a Russian army that had been training for war with Germany it was still a challenge to not only break through the vast fortifications. It was in essence a repeat of the trench warfare of the first war, even when the Russians allocated enough forces to break through the German lines it meant allocating so many troops away from other sections of the line that they risked a German counterattack in those sectors that threatened to push the line back into Russia.
The German government had held off from fortifying the border with the Netherlands, after all the Union was Germany's most trusted ally and had been since the Napoleonic Wars. German troops trained regularly with there Anglo-Dutch comrades, there was a shared joint command for Union and German troops and they shared everything from military technology to battle plans. When French Troops had captured Rotterdam the Germans were now faced by the prospect of a hostile force on there northern border, Troops were redeployed from all fronts to make up the new Northern force under the command of General Ironside of the Union. November and December remained fairly calm for the German high command, new re-inforcements arrived daily from the colonies, the Brasilian Empire and the Union although troops from the colonies had to travel all the way around Great Britain, the channel having been cut of by the French control of the guns at Calais. As a result the German high command felt increasingly confident that with the assistance of new troops from abroad and the assistance of there allies in Japan they would be able to first hold off the Russians and the French and then go on the counter offensive. Furthermore, they were confident that the size of there country would prevent the French from carrying out an armoured sickle maneuver such as the kind they had conducted in the Netherlands.
This was probably true but the French high command had a plan to counter this, in co-operation with their allies in Russia and Austria. The First armoured army was split up into three armoured corps one of which was assigned to each of the three French assaults, in the Netherlands and Northern and Southern Alsace Loraine. The two groups in Alsace Loraine would join up behind the German lines, cutting of a segment of the German army before forming up to make army group south which would advance towards Bavaria where they would hope to distract enough German troops from the Austrian lines to allow the Austrian army to break through. Army Group North, the larger of the groups would break through the border and push towards Hamburg and then Berlin. The hope was that this would draw troops away from the eastern border and allow a concentrated Russian force to break through the German fortifications and join up to make a push toward Berlin. It was the worlds largest combined arms operations to date and required intense co-operation between groups from three different nationalities. The key to this co-operation was an experimental Russian development by a man called Leonid Mandelstam that allowed the transmission of coded radio waves over long distances, these could be installed at army headquarters and orders transmitted on conventionally from there. This allowed effectively instantaneous communication between officers at different locations and even of different nationalities, as each army HQ had a translation officer.
Go date for Plan X was the 1st of February 1934, although the winter might slow down the operations but the Russians and the the Austrians had a great deal of experience in winter tactics and the French had been training for the operation for a long time. On the morning of the 1st the French opened up there assault in all sectors with a colossal artillery barrage. The speed and co-ordination of the Allied assault shocked the German high command, there attempts to launch a counterattack with Germany's limited armoured forces were met and defeated by De Gaulle and within a month Berlin itself was in French hands. General Rommel's troops were evacuated to Great Britain as were General Ironside's forces. On February the 27th the Kaiser signed a peace treaty with the French ending the German empires existence as a sovereign state. Admiral Raeder of the German Navy refused to except the peace treaty and alongside General Rommels troops fled, first to Great Britain and then to the Germany colonies in Africa.
The Fall of Serbia
After Germany had been defeated the defensive alliance turned towards there rivals in Serbia. The Serbian’s posed a threat to the Alliances southern borders and if they were re-inforced by the Union and Greece could be dangerous to the Austrian puppets in the Balkans. As such, after the Germans and the continental Union had been defeated the logical next step for the Defensive alliance was to prevent Serbia from posing a threat to there operations in the Med and the Aegean as well as denying the Union a base from which to go on the offensive.
The operation was delegated to the Austro-Hungarians and there allies in the Balkan Federation with French assistance limited to the 1st Republican Guards division and the Russians supplying air cover for the operation. The Defensive alliance assembled a considerable force for the operation, the 1st Corps of the Austro-Hungarian army and the 2nd Corps of the Balkan Federation were assigned to the operation with assistance from the Russian first air fleet. The operation was commanded by General Tito of the Federation Army, an expert in infantry tactics. Tito was confident that the Serbian’s had little in Armour to pose a threat to his forces and that his combined armed tactics would mean that he was able to nock out any heavy opposition he came up against.
On the 24th March 1934 Tito’s forces repelled an attempted break through of the Balkan lines by Serbian forces. On the counter attack the Federation armies took advantage of the depleted Serbian lines to punch through the Serbian trenches. Having broken through the Serbian lines the Federation forces launched an assault towards Belgrade. More important than the Federation breakthrough was the Russian air assault that began on the 30th of the March and preceded to first knock out the Serbian fighters on the ground and then to burn a number of Serbian cities to the ground. The bombing of Belgrade alone killed nearly ten thousand people. and the Serbian Government, never hugely keen on the war in the first place decided that it would rather surrender than continue to fight on. Serbia had been pacified and the Imperial forces had been denied a base on the defensive alliances southern border.
Spain on the Defensive
With Serbia having been dealt with the only remaining non defensive Alliance powers in continental Europe were the Italian Kingdom , Portugal and Spain. Italy wasn’t a problem, surrounded as it was on all sides by Defensive alliance powers the Italian government had made the wise decision that Italian interests were best served by remaining neutral although there were elements of the Italian government that supported both sides of the conflict. Spain too was neutral, for the time being at least but the potential remained for Franco to interfere in the conflict and unlike Italy Spain’s geographical position worked in its favor. It would be impossible to bring the Alliance's full weight against the Spanish, the Pyrenees prevented the movement of massive numbers of troops across the Border and Portugal was a strong ally of the Union that provided Anglo-Dutch ships with a number of naval bases in the Atlantic that were key to the Imperial forces resupplying the German and Napoleonic French in Africa. Total French domination of the continent was contingent on control of the Iberian peninsular and the North African coast, otherwise the Imperial powers would continue to threaten the French and Austrian domination of the Med.
The French decided that it was necessary to occupy the Iberian peninsular and deprive the Imperial forces of their last bastion on the continent. The French marshaled a considerable military force along the Spanish border consisting of General de Gaulle’s 1st Army and the 4th and 8th Armies under the command of Marshal Foch. Foch hoped that by using armoured forces under his command he would be able to break through the Spanish lines and knock Spain out the war without a protracted fight. The French armies were initially successful in knocking out the Spanish defenses along the border but the concentric layers of Spanish defenses allowed Spanish forces under the command of General Grandes to fall back to pre-existing stations and fortifications within Spain. Grandes forces established a defensive line a hundred miles within Spain where the Spanish Northern Army met and defeated the Armee de Sud for the first time.
The Empire Reborn
Loss of the Black Sea Fleet
The Victory of his ally General Franco’s troops encouraged Vizir Josef Stalin to declare his lot for the Union. The Ottoman Empire had in the first world war posed an important role in distracting the Russian Empire and the intervention of Ottoman troops in the Caucuses could potentially force the Russians to draw troops away from Europe and force them and the Austrians into taking potentially risky decisions. Before the Ottoman troops could make a move, however, the Russian Black Sea Fleet had to be dealt with else it would pose a major threat to any ottoman operations in the area. The Ottoman black fleet however was much smaller in number than its Russian counterpart, it lacked many capital ships and those that it did have were mostly older ship classes, its flagship the TGS Memhett II had been built during the first world war. However, the fleet also contained a number of so called black sea capital ships, warships designed specifically for use in the black seas calmer waters with a far shallower draft than regular warships. The most important of these were the Black sea carriers, a six ship strong class of floating airstrips with little anti-air defenses. Unlike most of the western powers the Ottoman navy had paid great attention to the successes of the Japanese and Chilean fleets in the Pacific war and recognised that its only chance for victory over the Russians came through the strength of its air power. When the time came to strike the Ottomans struck a decisive victory sending two thirds of the Russian black sea fleet to the bottom of Sevastapol harbor before they could scramble there land based fighters. The quick victory of the Ottoman fleet allowed the quick movement of men and material across the Black sea with the ottomans launching an attack at Sevastopol and at the Austrian territories in the Balkans.
While in Europe success, for the most part belonged to the French and there allies the only defensive alliance member in Asia, The Chinese Republic found itself under relentless assault from the Japanese and the Anglo-Dutch Union. With the fall of Berlin in February 1934 the Chinese had seized the German Empire’s Asian possessions and gained a major victory in March the same year when the Japanese for the first time since the beginning of the war were pushed out of Chinese territory and back into Manchuria. Furthermore the Chinese fleet had dealt a major blow to the ability of the Japanese to transport troops across from the Japanese home Islands through the use of mine laying submarines that had mined the approaches to most of Japans major naval bases. Left with only the troops that he could muster from Manchuria and Korea as well as airdropped equipment from the Philippines and Japan General Togo found himself in the Autumn of 1934 with few good options available to him. Russian troops were already mobilising on the border with Vladivostok, eager to recapture the greatest city in Far East Asia. The limited Japanese army could not survive a full on assault from both China and Russia.
Recognising that the Chinese, while still powerful were the weaker of his two enemies Togo decided to launch an all out assault against the Chinese lines in the hope of dealing sufficient harm to the Chinese war effort that even if they were not forced out of the war it would put them permanently on the back foot and give the empire the time it needed to mobilize new troops from the home islands, if there was to be any chance of a Japanese victory it needed to be big and it needed to be decisive. Togo’s army was for the most part made up of peoples of Mongolian or Manchu descent, Mongolia after all had been one of the few parts of the Japanese empire that had joined voluntarily and its people had been rewarded with increased representation in the Diet, equal even with the Japanese themselves and had kept their own cultural identity, part of this was that the Mongolians in Togo’s army, and many of the Manchu as well all had there own horses and could fight on horseback. Cavalry had fallen out of fashion in most European armies but the additional speed they provided and their ability to go where vehicles could not meant that the Mongolian cavalry were one of the Japanese armies elite units. Facing the Chinese armies Northern Army Group of three hundred thousand men Togo had the 1st, 6th, 8th, 11th and 13th Mongolian (Horse) Cavalry Divisions, the 2nd ,3rd ,5th, 7th, 9th and 10th Mongolian (Armoured) Cavalry divisions as well as the 1st and 2nd Pilipino Infantry (Motorised) Division, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Manchu Infantry (Mounted) Divisions and the 3rd and 4th Mongolian (Motorised) Artillery Divisions, just over half the number of men that the Chinese Northern Army Group could muster, Uniquely though Togo’s entire force was either motorised or mounted and although he lacked a dedicated armored division the Mongolian armoured cavalry had a number of powerful Tank destroyer units.
The Nature of Togo’s force meant that he could move quickly and respond to developments faster than his Chinese opponents. He ordered the 1st and 2nd Pilipino and the 1st and 3rd Mongolian divisions to launch an attack on the center of the Chinese lines, using decoys to suggest that this was just the beginning of a much larger attack involving forces brought down from the Vladivostok Garrison, this had two effects, firstly the Chinese drew in units from elsewhere along the line to defend against the attack in the center and secondly the Russians, operating on false assurances launched an attack against the Vladivostok garrison, which unknown to them remained as strong as ever. While the Russian attack was repulsed with only light casualties Togo ordered the flanks of his army to strike at the now weakened Chinese flanks breaking through the Chinese lines and cutting off Army Group North. With the loss of only around ten thousand of his men, mostly from the initial faint Togo had neutralised the entire Chinese Northern flank leaving the gates to Beijing open and buying the Japanese the time they needed to mobilize new forces.
Crossing the Bering Straits
With the Chinese on the defensive and the Russian army weakened by its defeat by the Japanese army at Vladivostok the Pacific coasts coastal fortresses were the weakest they had been in nearly two decades. The USA and the Anglo-Dutch Union had been planning a joint invasion of the Russian Far East for the middle of 1935, the defeat of the Russian Army in Vladivostok however convinced the Anglo-American high command to push the date for the operation forwards to the winter months of 1934, a winter invasion had initially been considered by the allied high command but discounted because of the difficulty in getting armour and equipment across the frozen Bering Straits. The thick ice that covered the Bering Straits during the winter was thick enough for soldiers to march across but not for vehicles to drive across and cutting though the Ice would weaken it irreparably. The Challenge therefore became how could the allied units cross the Straits with all of there forces intact. The answer to this was the invention of a little known Anglo-Dutch army officer and former Cambridge graduate called Christopher Cockerel, in his dissertation for the army office Cockerel had worked on developing the theory’s of an Austrian engineer called Dagobert Muller, Muller had worked on a fast attack land-sea hybrid vehicle for the Austrian navy in the aftermath of the first world war. Cockerel had improved on Muller’s initial work with the Army office to produce the MK22 Cruiser Tank “Crosswind”, colloquially known as the Hovertank. With the need to cross the straits the Navies of the USA and the Union threw money at Cockerel who within four months of the defeat of the Russian army at Vladivostok had a prototype ground affect assault transport ready for production.
By January 1935 cockerel’s prototype had been in mass production for two months, long enough for the USN and Royal Navy to be confident of being able to cross the Bering Straits with relative ease, The American and British infantry would cross on foot as would modified MK22 tanks, the MK22 having proven useless as an actual tank now found use as an assault vehicle with Mortars and flamethrowers for the assault on the Russian far east while the bulk of the supplies and actual tanks would be carried in the Hovercraft’s. Once the allied forces had secured the port and airport at Magadan in the Russian Far East. The Allied powers were so concerned that the Russians could scupper the plan by attacking the crossing Infantry that they diverted 75% of the interceptor squadrons normally based along the east coast. Along with those Interceptors there would be Combat Air patrols supplied by the Japanese Northern Fleet and the American and Union Pacific Fleets. Furthermore the Russian Pacific fleet based out of Magadan had to be dealt with to ensure the operations success. The long trek across the Straits began on January the 2nd and at the same time the Union Pacific Fleet and the Japanese Northern Fleet launched there assault on the Russian Fleet at Magadan. The Russian Fleet sallied out to attack them but was massively outnumbered, the battle was short and cost the Russian fleet almost its entire capital ship stock. Cowed the Russian fleet retreated to Magadan not to emerge for the duration. Crossing the Straits was a long and dull experience for the soldiers involved but Cockerel’s hovercraft allowed for soldiers to huddle out of the cold at night and constant airdrops kept them supplied with home comforts. After nearly a month and half the allied Far Northern force reached and captured the city of Magadan, ending the Russian Pacific fleets involvement in the war and secured the Allied forces a base in the Russian far east.
The Winter War
The loss of Magadan scared the Russian high command who dispatched Marshall Gustaf Mannerheim and the Finish 1st Royal Army, consisting of those who had remained loyal to the Russian Tsar during the civil war east to deal with the Allied Assault. Mannerheim had in addition to the Finish veterans under his personal command the forces of the 1st and 2nd Far East Armies, conscript formations mostly made up of green units. Mannerheim realised that the most important city in the far east with the loss of Vladivostok and Magadan was the city of Khabarovsk which sat at the end of the Trans-Siberian railway and was the key to any further re-inforcements of the Russian Far East, if Khabarovsk fell the gates to the Russian far east were wide open. Khabarovsk had to be held against the Union at all costs for any chance of re-inforcing the Far East.
Mannerheim stationed his troops in and around the city leaving him with a choice in how to deal with the attacking Union Troops. Mannerheim knew that any Imperial assault had to be short, the Russian weather meant that it was impossible to hold a long term campaign together for longer than a month, to tackle the attacking union troops there was a stark choice, however. Either his Finnish troops could sally out and attack the Imperial troops in there element or he could hold them close to the city and force the Imperial troops to fight in a protracted city conflict, the disadvantage of this was that it played to neither of his strengths, although he trusted the Finns under his command not to break and run under the pressure of a Union assault the same could not be said of his green recruits who he correctly suspected would break and run at the point that they were under assault by the highly skilled and dedicated troops of the Union.
Deciding to take a gamble Mannerheim ordered his troops to sally forth and take on the Imperial troops advancing to the city. Mannerheim was confident that his Finnish ski troops had a sufficient advantage when it came to attacking in the wintery conditions that they would be able to overcome and defeat the attacking Imperial Troops. Unfortunately for Mannerheim the attacking Imperial forces had a considerable advantage in heavy equipment over Mannerheim's forces. Most noticeably the 2nd Yorkshire Armoured Division and the 7th Manchu Armoured Division had been modified for winter combat and equipped with the brand new Mk23(s) “Comet” Cruiser Tank which had been modified for winter combat. Combined with the elite ski troops of the 2nd Frisian Infantry and the 12th Alaskan Rifleman this left Mannerhiem's elite Finish units outnumbered and outgunned. Mannerheim considered re-inforcing the Finnish Ski Troops with the rest of his forces but was acutely aware of the danger that came with deploying under-equipped troops in the frozen north. Deciding to adapt a more conservative strategy Mannerheim withdrew to the outskirts of Khabarovsk where he ordered his troops to dig in and await re-inforcements from Moscow in the form of the 12th and 20th Russian Armoured Divisions, much of which came straight off the train at Khabarovsk station and into combat with the Imperial Troops who had by the end of the winter of 35 secured much of the city.
While the Imperial Northern Army was trapped in the Russian Far East, fighting Mannerhiem's Army Group East the Spanish military was preparing to launch a counter attack against the French along the entire border. General Grandes had not been idle in the time immediately following his famous victory against the French in the autumn of '34 and the Spanish army at the beginning of May 1935 was a very different beast to the one that had fought the French to a standstill in '34. General Grandes had demanded that Franco submit to his demands and equip the Spanish Northern Army Group with the best equipment available, regardless of where it came from. Reluctantly, and aware of the danger that might be involved in denying Spain's most popular General Franco had folded, promoting Grandes to Marshall and supplying the Northern Army Group with the best equipment the Imperial Alliance could supply, as well as assigning Franco's own elite divisions, the Royal Guards Division and the Sword of Christ Armoured Division to Grandes command. Furthermore Grandes had instituted radical new training programs in the Spanish military, for the first time in Spain's military history Grandes promoted a number of senior NCO's to officer rank, trusting low born men with experience over the wet nosed pups he got from Saville's military academy. Furthermore officers were encouraged to build friendships with there men. Grandes inspired a culture of trust and dedication of his men, many of whom affectionately referred to him as El Gran Duque de edad, or the grand old duke. Grandes was well known for telling his men that the only people they could trust were there fellow soldiers and would even drill with them himself. His response to an officer in the Royal Guards who refused to help his men set up camp was to say that in his army Officers who don't work, are no officers of mine. This new culture of military excellence, alongside new equipment supplied by the Union, most notably consisting of new Mk23 Comet Tanks.
This new improved Spanish army launched a much vaunted offensive in July 1935. Marshall Grandes was confident of a sterling victory that would drive the French back, Army propaganda proudly displayed the words “We'll be in Nice by Christmas”. Grandes was completely and utterly wrong in his prediction. The French armee de Sud had also be re-inforced and improved, The now Marshall De Gaulle was in command of a military force the envy of the world, as it turned out the vaunted Comet, despite having been peerless in the face of the Russians in the far east was as much scrap compared to the new French Char B5 tanks which tore through the comet's armour like paper. The offensive was not an unmitigated failure, the French were pushed back almost seventy miles.
What Grandes had failed to account for, however, aside from the failure of the unions supposed war winning tank, was that the same defensive lines that he had used to supply Army Group North in its struggle against the French a year previously now worked against him. The offensive bogged down without recapturing any major cities and in November of '35 Grandes was recalled to Madrid where he was severely punished for his failure. Initially Franco intended to have him executed but a petition from the men of the Northern Army changed his mind. Grandes was demoted to General and Franco himself now traveled north to take command of the army.
The Struggle for Supremacy
Battle for Beijing
Although the November of 1935 had been a marked failure for the imperial alliance in Europe with the failure of the vaunted Spanish counterattacks to achieve that much the Japanese in China were ready to launch there final offensive against the Chinese government and its major holdout in Beijing. General Togo had now been re-inforced by troops from the Home Islands, unlike a year previously where a mostly conscript force that disliked its Japanese masters had only just beaten an elite Chinese army the reverse was now true. The Japanese Kwatung Army now consisting of a large number of elite military divisions from the home islands, equipped with Japan's finest military equipment. In simple terms Togo now outnumbered and outgunned his Chinese opposition.
Aware of this the Chinese set up a strong defensive position in and around Beijing, having evacuated much of the cities population to the south the Chinese government was hopeful that they might be able to hold the city, despite Togo's advantage in numbers and equipment. On the 1st of December 1935 Togo launched his offensive, beginning with a massive bombardment of Beijing with artillery and aircraft. One observer from the Anglo-Dutch Army described the city as being set aflame. The firebombing of Beijing sapped the morale of the city's Chinese defenders, many of whom had to be cajoled into staying at gunpoint. In the aftermath of the bombardment Togo's troops advanced into the city, despite the heavy damage that the bombing had caused the Japanese found themselves fighting street by street as ever increasing numbers of Chinese conscripts arrived in the city . Nonetheless, despite the best efforts of the Chinese army, which increasingly amounted to just throwing men at Togo's forces the city fell to Togo on the 1st of January 1936. Without a capital and increasingly unpopular amongst its own citizens the Chinese government collapsed and an emergency peace conference was held in which China surrendered to Japan.
Seizure of Russian America
The Anglo-American assault on the Russian Far East had been launched from the American west coast rather than Alaska from a number of reasons. Most notably the reason was this, the border between Russian America and the American provinces of the Anglo-Dutch Union was the most heavily fortified in the entire world. Any military operation against Alaska would inevitably have huge costs, both in men and material. However the Anglo-American seizure of much of the Russian Far East deprived the Alaskan garrison of much of its supplies. Despite the best efforts of the Russian Air Force the Alaskan garrison was increasingly running out of food other than what they could find themselves and more importantly lacked things like regular supplies of new equipment. For example while the Russian Army in the far east had now finally received equipment capable of dealing with the Crosswind and Comet tanks, namely the T-34/85 Tank and RPG-3 rocket launcher, the same had not been supplied to the Alaskan garrison which barely had the equipment to take out aging Valentine Tanks, let alone a Comet or the brand new Centurian Tank which had been designed to counter the new French Char B5's. Additionally the Alaskan Garrison was running out of fuel for its tanks, many of which had frozen over from lack of use.
Given this it was surprising that the Anglo-Dutch waited as long as they did before carrying out an attack against the Alaskan garrison. When the North American Governor, John MacDonald finally received permission to order the local forces into action against the Alaskan Garrison it was February 1936. MacDonald appointed General Burke to command the operation and assigned him the 1st Canadian Army Corps for the Job. Burke was unhappy with this, he insisted, correctly as it turned out, that despite the lack of equipment on the Russian side that the Alaskan Garrison was far tougher than anyone guessed. Burke had spent two years in the Alaskan Garrison himself in the first world war, it being made up almost entirely of prisoners who had either been captured and used for hard labour and logistics or criminals who had chosen to go to Zabor v kontse mira (The Fence at the end of the world) over the Gulag. Burke knew that even with depleted resources and equipment the Alaskan garrison was far more of a challenge than MacDonald thought, particularly given that it was under the command of the renowned Russian General, Leon Trotsky, who had been sent there in punishment for disagreeing with the new regime.
Burke complained repeatedly to the Imperial General Staff that he had been given what he viewed as an impossible task but was repeatedly rebuked and told that if he had not commenced offensive operations against the Garrison by the 2nd of March he would be relieved of command. Reluctantly on the 1st of March Burke ordered the 1st Canadian Corps to launch an assault at the northern most point of the Alaskan defensive line, hoping that it would be the least defended there. Indeed Burke was correct that this section of the Line was relatively undefended, however the extreme cold left his armour nonfunctional and his assault was repelled with heavy casualties. After this Burke was recalled to London to explain himself to the Imperial General Staff. Initially he was to be reprimanded and dismissed but General Rommel of the Free German Forces intervened and reminded the General Staff that they had all repeatedly denied the evidence in front of their eyes. Despite this, the General Staff still refused to supply Burke with more forces. Infuriated Rommel agreed to contribute some of the free German Army to the assault. Likewise, Marshall Weygand of the Napoleonic Empire agreed to support the assault, an attempt by both of the relatively minor imperial powers to show that they still had teeth.
Burke's new Army consisted of the 2nd Free German Corps and the 1st Napoleonic Corps as well as the 1st Canadian, three groups who were by now all veterans of several campaigns. Burke's second offensive, this time against the southern part of the Alaskan Line broke through the Russian defenses and captured Anchorage for the Union. General Trotsky himself Surrendered to Burke on the 5th of May 1936. The minor imperial powers had proved there worth and Burke became a strong advocate for Imperial assistance for them in Africa.
Encirclement of the Armee de Sud
Although General Grandes grand offensive against the French in 1935 had failed, Franco remained confident that it would be possible for the Spanish to gain a major victory over the French. Franco identified correctly that the strongest section of the French Army was General De Gaules Armee de Sud. If the Spanish could break the Armee de Sud they would have simultaneously have cut off half of the French Armies southern forces and deprive France of its Greatest military mind. Franco wasn't a fool and had maintained Grandes military reforms. Furthermore, he understood that while his presence was a boon to the morale of the men he understood grand strategy less well than Grandes who he allowed to plan the offensive. Franco was at his heart an engineer rather than an officer, but as an engineer had understood the major mechanical lessons of Grande's failed offensive in '35. Despite its initial promised the Anglo-Dutch Comet Tank had proved less than useless against the French Char B5's, Franco, alongside a team of Spanish engineers and tankers had designed a replacement that Franco was confident could take on the French armour, even the brand new Renault FT-37's which had many Anglo-Dutch tankers shaking in their boots. In tests the new Spanish Victoria tanks had proved to be the match of the brand new Anglo-American Centurian as well as captured FT-37's.
Thus equipped, Grandes planned to launch a major military offensive along the flanks of the French line, hoping to sweep round the French lines and encircle de Gaulle's forces. Despite the best efforts of his men Franco himself planned to take part in the offensive, on board his heavy modified Victoria as part of the 1st Company of the Sword of Christ Division. The assault was launched on the 4th of April 1936 to great success. Unlike in '35 when the defensive lines had held up Grandes assault this time modified howitzer-equipped comet tanks and bunker buster bombs dropped from Spanish bombers cleared the way. The assault proved to be a triumph of combined arms military tactics, as did new Spanish fighters equipped with anti-armour guns, Within a week the Armee de Sud was encircled and cut off from the rest of the French forces, de Gaulle just escaped but his spirit had been broken. The sight of many of his best tankers standing in disbelief around their brand new FT-37's shattered wrecks, had greatly disheartened him. The loss of the Armee de Sud proved to be a halt to any further French attacks against the Spanish, and marked the turning point of the conflicts southern front. As a result of the loss of the Armee De Sud, French forces were withdrawn from Germany, forcing Russia to move troops back from the far east.
The Fall of Istanbul
While in the West of the European continent the war went well for the Anglo-Dutch Union and its Imperial Allies event unfolding in the Balkans and Asia Minor threatened to deal a major blow to Imperial hopes and free up troops for a new assault against either spain or the Anglo-American landings in North-East Russia. This was the impending collapse of the last major bastion of Ottoman control on the European continent, the great fortress city of Istanbul. Having crushed what little resistance there was from Serbia in the summer of 1934 forces from the Austrian Empire and the Balkan Federation had been engaged with a long and hard military campaign against the Ottoman Empire under Josef Stalin. Ottoman forces under the command of the increasingly fragile Mustafa Kemal had successfully orchestrated a rearguard action that persisted in delaying Tito's forces. This however was an inevitably futile operation, the ottoman army was outnumbered and out-gunned and Tito's forces were re-inforced with fresh new troops from the German Alliance regime under Adolf Hitler. The Ottoman Troops on the other hand barely received even the smallest of re-inforcements. Turkish faith in the Empire was at an all time low and Stalin's reforms, while in theory greatly improving the countries economic situation had done little to prepare it for war.
The collapse of the Ottoman forces holding out in European Turkey was not therefore a surprise, what was a surprise was the extent and the scale of the collapse. Beginning in May 1936 over the period of barely three months Ottoman troops were driven back from the border with former Serbia, out of Greece and Bulgaria and back to the gates of Istanbul.