“They say that generals always prepare for the last war, and now they have a chance to fight it…so why are we still barely holding our own?”
Six months after Britain discovered itself to be in 1940, the war is still raging. From Norway to France to Algeria to the Middle East to India to Australia, the British are fighting desperately to hold a thin red line against fascism…and the balance may be about to shatter. Thanks to the actions of a rogue British criminal, the world now knows about the future…and what weapons are needed to change it.
Working together to reverse the verdict of history, Germany, the Soviet Union and Japan call upon every weapon at their disposal, while the troubles in America are only just beginning. As terrorist tactics and violent war shatter long-held beliefs and entire people are exterminated, just how far will people go to establish their vision of the new world order?
Prologue From: War Premier; the collected notes of Sir Charles Hanover. Pub 1970PT. (Note; these notes were apparently written in early 1941PT, and remained unpublished for twenty years. They appear to be in the correct order.)
None of us expected that Britain would somehow fall back in time to 1940. Had we expected it – and not laughed the prophet out of our homes – we might have made more preparations. As it was, we were lucky to survive. The Nazis were every bit as viscous, clever, treacherous and evil as we had been warned by history – they managed to adapt better to the Transition than we did. Despite some truly stunning military victories in North Africa, and a successful defence of Singapore, the strategic problem hasn’t really changed at all.
No one could have predicted all the changes to the world. The loss of the Americans from 2015, officially to a German strike, brought the Americans in on our side. Unfortunately, they were even more unprepared for war than we were, and they were torn apart by problems. Roosevelt might have won the battle for re-election, with Truman as his Vice President, but America is deeply divided on the issue of the war.
On the other hand, the first American troops should be arriving soon; arguing over strategy should be fun – not! The America military doesn’t want to believe half the things we tell them, even the judgement of future American historians.
Hitler, of course, had no doubts. Correctly deducing that we were the main threat, he forged an alliance with Soviet Russia and Spain, confronting us in the Middle East. For once, the Jihadis are on our side, as the Holy War rages across the desert. Even the single nuclear strike of the war (so far) failed to deter Hitler, and the purge of the German resistance means that none dare to resist him.
In the meantime, Japan went on a rampage against us (and the Dutch and the French, the Vichy French now Germany’s allies) in the Far East, striking at the remains of our Empire. The plan to give India independence at once faltered as the Japanese storm raged against Burma and Singapore; we won in Singapore, but at the cost of losing Burma and Siam to enemy control. Australia now cowers behind its defences, waiting for the invasion that many believe is inevitable. Even the Battle of the Indian Ocean, where four Japanese carriers were sunk along with four battleships, failed to reassure them.
No one knows how close Hitler is to a nuclear device. He has the services of a number of passengers on a jet that came down in German territory, as well as a complete electronic encyclopaedia, but there are many fundamental problems that remain to be solved. In Central Asia and China, a number of unexplained outbreaks of various unpleasant diseases have swept through the population – thank god they lack any major transportation network. Something called Tularemia (Rabbit Fever) got loose in Afghanistan, infecting thousands of people. Something worse called Q-fever appeared in China. For the moment, we’ve prevented the Germans from field-testing their biological weapons with a nuclear deterrent, but as the tide of war swings against Hitler, he may change his mind…
The war’s already worse than it was in OTL. The Germans have enslaved the Spanish, the Italians and the French. The Germans and Soviets have begun exterminating the Polish population, as well as many of their other future enemies. I can’t see Stalin hesitating from introducing a biological weapon into Afghanistan – he might well have started the outbreaks – and there is evidence that the two powers are cooperating on nerve gas development.
Like it or not, we’re in the war to a finish. Do I have the ruthlessness to do what must be done? I’ve already ordered one act that will haunt me for the rest of my life, and it’s become easier as time goes by. We don’t have a choice; we have to hammer our way to Berlin, to Moscow, to Tokyo, or let Hitler develop the atomic bomb and set the world ablaze. We have to do it with an uneasy coalition that could fall apart at any moment, and if we don’t do it right we’ll be fighting the war again in ten years – or an even worse one with the enemy we don’t want to fight.
I can’t help, but think that Winston Churchill had it easy…
Chapter One: Council of War
Ten Downing Street
London, United Kingdom
23rd March 1941 As he had done every day since becoming Prime Minister, when his predecessor had fallen ill with a heart attack, Sir Charles Hanover checked the report of the confidential Alpha Black Project; the research team into why Britain had suddenly appeared back in 1940. As it had said every day for the past six months, the research team had found nothing; there was no sign of UFO activity, unusual supernatural encounters or anything else that might provide a clue as to how the Transition had taken place. Every priest and medium, fortune-teller or wise woman, had attempted to provide the British with a reason, but science had failed to provide any solution – or any hint as to how the Transition might be reversed.
“It might as well be alien space bats,” Professor Bumblebee had said.
Hanover shook his head absently, staring up at the big world map. British and Allied, Commonwealth and American, units were marked clearly; enemy units, German, Soviet and Japanese, were marked at their last known position. The map was constantly updating itself as the war in the Middle East surged backwards and forwards. Turkish units, reluctant participants in the war against the British, were trying to hang back, avoiding combat as much as possible.
I wish we could have done something for the Turks, Hanover thought absently. The combination of threats and blandishments from Germany had done something that had never happened in the original timeline; bringing Turkey into the war. Using Turkey as a base, the Germans had hammered the Syrians into submission, ending the brutal civil war that had consumed the nation when French rule collapsed. The full weight of German power had fallen upon a Contemporary force in Palestine, operating at the end of a logistical shoestring, and run riot until the RAF smashed their supply lines. In the middle of a five-way war, the Soviets had completed their invasion of Iran and punched their way into Iraq.
There had been victories too, Hanover knew. The Battle of the Indian Ocean, the defeat of the Japanese carrier force that had prevented an immediate attack on Australia. Admiral Turtledove, the victor, had been castigated by the Board of Enquiry, but Hanover had suppressed the report. The public needed heroes as the war darkened, even as the Opposition went back into Opposition. Thanks to Turtledove, the war in the Pacific had stabilised, even though the ANZAC units in New Guinea were being evacuated from Port Moresby.
Behind him, the War Cabinet began to file into the room. There were changes; Kenneth Barton, the Leader of the Opposition, had been forced to leave the War Cabinet. The empty seat for Howard Smith, the former Prime Minister, had been filled by John McLachlan; Smith had passed away just after the news of the successful attack on Plosti had come in. Hanover had attended the funeral; they all had, even his political opponents.
“This meeting of the War Cabinet is now called to order,” Hanover said formally, nodding to the guard at the door. There had been a suggestion that the SS had infiltrated strike teams into Britain; the guard around the places of Government had been doubled, along with the RAF and Army bases within the United Kingdom. Just another necessary political duty, like keeping an entire force of forty thousand soldiers and their equipment in Britain, waiting for an impossible invasion.
Hanover suspected that the German infiltrators were a rumour, nothing more, but it was far too important to show that the Government was Doing Something, or Parliament would ask them hard questions and MPs would consider switching their allegiance. Such was the reality of political life; decisions made for political reasons affecting the conduct of military operations.
“Major Stirling,” Hanover said, “you may begin.”
Stirling was one of Hanover’s favourites; a young officer who’d proven his adaptability in the face of the Transition. From working with the Oversight Committee, he had the knowledge to operate on Hanover’s behalf and a wide-ranging brief.
“There are two items of note today,” Stirling said. “The first one is that the British Space Centre, and the Americans we recruited through Mr Oliver, has finally managed to draw up a production plan for a basic launching booster. Next week, we’ll launch the first reconnaissance satellite in the world – this timeline – and orbit it over the Reich.”
He passed around briefing folders. “The rocket, a Trident missile removed from one of the boomers and stripped of its warheads, will blast the satellite into orbit. It won’t be a stable orbit and we’ll have to replace it in a couple of years, but it will serve. Now that we have a procedure for building the satellites, and secure lines of supply, we can develop a full reconnaissance and relay network fairly quickly, perhaps within six months.”
“Excellent,” Hanover said.
“The only problem is political,” Stirling admitted. “We hired a number of Americans to aid with the project, and some American generals aren’t happy about it.”
“That would be MacArthur,” Hanover said. History had judged him harshly for abandoning his men in the shadowy other future – and it had nearly torpedoed his career. Roosevelt had recalled him to the United States after he was nearly killed – fragged – by one of his own men.
“Yes, sir,” Stirling said.
“Screw him,” Hanover said, after a moment’s thought. “If the Americans don’t make use of their skills, I don’t see how they can blame us for Oliver’s good sense in recruiting them.”
He nodded to himself. Jim Oliver, a former German prisoner, had been recruited to work in the United States by the Bracken Consortium, and had proven himself to be capable, a formidable ally for the British.
“The second, grimmer item of note is this,” he said, passing over a reconnaissance picture. “That’s a modified V2, one modified according to a plan drawn up in 1960 by the MOD when we were looking into developing a tactical rocket of our own. You’ll notice that it doesn’t have a nose cone? It has this instead.”
Hanover felt his mouth fall open. “What the hell is that?”
Stirling’s face was grim. “We’re not quite certain,” he admitted. “At first glance, it appears to be a prototype spaceplane, such as the Mir-class craft the Russians finally produced in 2010. We’re looking into producing them ourselves now. The Oversight Committee is unwilling to predict that it’ll work as a spaceplane – it may be a way to take the war to America – but it’s not beyond possibility.”
“Fat chance,” Admiral Grisham, First Sea Lord, muttered.
Stirling nodded. “The Oversight Committee majority opinion is that it’ll blow up when they try to launch another one; the RAF blasted this one on the ground. Strategically, the only motive for building one is to place a rocket in space – and the implications are disturbing. Prime Minister, the Germans did have an idea like this, but only towards the end of the war.”
Hanover felt his blood run cold. “One of the hostages suggested it?”
“Quite possibly,” Stirling said. “However, its not impossible that they have…agents within the nation here, or within America.”
“Who would work for Nazi Germany?” Hanover asked. “It’s not as if they were communists.”
“I don’t know,” Stirling admitted. “MI5 is looking into it, but very quietly. The last thing we need is a witch hunt.”
Hanover nodded. “We’ll discuss this later,” he said. “John?”
John McLachlan, Foreign Minister, nodded to the table. He was Hanover’s…ally, if not exactly friend; both men wanted a renewed Britain. “As you may have heard,” he said bluntly, “the Americans are preparing to send troops here to attack the Germans, as well as their first bombers. They believe that with the massive firepower of the new aircraft – they think that they have worked out all the bugs of the B-29 – they can crush Germany.
“For the moment, they want to know what we can supply them in the way of bases and support,” he continued. “They don’t want to carry the weight of an Operation Overlord on their own.”
“It’s still too premature,” General Cunningham, the Chief of Joint Operations, protested. “We are heavily engaged in the Middle East, and we have commitments to India and Australia. Even if we only provide the bases and RAF support, we will be dangerously exposed. The new Hawk aircraft are very useful for air defence, but we need tactical support in the Middle East.”
“There are also problems with providing the logistical support they will need,” Armin Prushank, the Minister for War Production, droned. His dull voice was one of dust and eternal dryness. “While production of tanks and aircraft is increasing, there are other requirements to fulfil. We need to open up the lines to Saudi, for we need more oil.”
“Not exactly easy,” General Cunningham commented. “At last report, the Soviets were shelling or bombing the oil wells from time to time, and of course the Mosul wells are in Turkish hands and were destroyed to prevent the Germans using them.”
Prushank scowled. “The department has prepared a plan for a hydrogen-powered Firefly tank, which the Americans can put into mass production, but I was given to understand that that was a bad idea.”
“There are also social issues involved,” Noreen Adam, the Public Affairs Representative, said calmly. A scarred Asian woman, Noreen had been given a Cabinet post in exchange for support in what had once been Saudi Arabia. “You know; in 1943 America was the rich land, and we the poor. Now…the positions have been reversed. We might want to keep them in their camps.”
“That will really do wonders for their morale,” General Cunningham muttered. “Prime Minister, they will want rest and relaxation, and of course there is the little issue of who does what. Would it be so bad if we left the liberation of Germany to Rommel and the Americans?”
“We need a political and military presence,” Hanover said mildly. The firmness in his tone was velvety. “Unfortunately, we have other problems; how long will it be before the American are a formidable fighting force?”
McLachlan coughed. “Some time,” he admitted. “They haven’t fought a war for quite some time, so they think that it will be a while before they can land. Some of their politicians are talking about landing in 1941…”
“Fanciful,” Cunningham interrupted.
“That’s what Bradley thinks,” McLachlan agreed. “That plan depends on us doing a lot of the work. More practically, they’re thinking about mid-1942; they want to train their soldiers and put them in with our forces for experience.”
“The Middle East might make a good place for that,” Cunningham said. “Perhaps they could take on the Soviets as well and…”
“I’ll discuss the matter with Roosevelt,” Hanover said. “For the moment, we won’t be launching any invasion ourselves until the new regiments are ready, and we have peace in the Middle East. Speaking of which…?”
“General Flynn is in command,” Cunningham said. Hanover nodded impatiently. “For the moment, he’s holding a line running from Jordan to Baghdad to Basra, so the Republic of Arabia – which is providing some of the rear-area defence – is safe, for the moment.”
Hanover smiled at the look of relief on both McLachlan’s and Noreen’s face. Both of them, for very different reasons, were very emotionally attached to the new republic, positioned in the heart of Islam.
“The problem he is facing at the moment is two-fold,” Cunningham continued. “For the moment, the flood of Jewish refugees from Palestine has abated slightly, but Egypt is making a fuss about accepting more. We really need a long-term solution to the problem, particularly if we want to avoid creating a second Israel. Both Australia and South Africa are willing to accept them as immigrants, but our shipping is still limited.”
“Once the Americans start mass-producing Liberty Ships, that will change,” McLachlan injected. “They’re due to begin the first models in a few weeks.”
“The second problem is logistics,” Cunningham said. “Quite frankly; both sides have piss-poor logistics. At presence, we are dangerously exposed; if either side got their act together enough to launch a joint attack, we might be in trouble. In fact, Flynn has come up with a plan to abandon Baghdad and fall back to Saudi – sorry, the Republic – if the defence lines crumble.”
“That would abandon Iraq to the Soviets,” McLachlan protested.
“They don’t have the logistics themselves to overrun all of Iraq,” Cunningham said. “The good news, at least, is that we’ve been making real progress; both in fitting out new regiments and divisions, and in stockpiling resources in Arabia. Give us a month or so and we might be able to launch a counter-offensive. It won’t be as spectacular as the American victory in 2003, but with some luck we might be able to force the Soviets back out of Iran and the Germans out of Iraq. We might offer that role to the Americans; give them some real practice.”
“Good thinking,” Hanover said. “And Australia?”
The comment was aimed to the room at large. McLachlan spoke first. “The Japanese have conquered the Dutch East Indies,” he said flatly. “Even with Admiral Turtledove’s assistance, the attempt to hold toeholds on the islands has failed; they’re now pulling back in a second Dunkirk. Fortunately, we can provide escorts for their ships and keep them safe from Japanese submarines.
“Politically, this has cost Menzies, our ally, in their Parliament. They’re scared, and following the reports of Japanese atrocities in Burma and the Indies, it’s hard to blame them. In essence, they are reluctant – read utterly unwilling – to release any of their forces for duty elsewhere – and they want as much as we can pour in.”
“They already have the largest force outside here and the Middle East,” Cunningham muttered. “Admiral?”
“The submarines have been having reduced successes recently,” Grisham admitted. “Partly because of the overriding need to protect the evacuation convoys, but also because of the Japanese developing some counters for our torpedoes. They came up with a device that makes a speedboat sound like a battleship; we think we blasted four before we got a radar scan from the AWACS. That let the cat out of the bag.”
Hanover met Stirling’s eyes. “Someone is helping them,” he said. “Whom?”
“Perhaps a neo-nazi organisation?” McLachlan suggested.
“Perhaps,” Hanover said. He cleared his throat. “So…we have to hold the line in the Middle East, defend Australia and India, and somehow assist the Americans in invading Europe.” He chuckled. “Aren’t these meetings fun?”
“No,” McLachlan said flatly, and the others muttered agreement. “Perhaps we should try to speed up preparations for the Middle East.”
“We can’t finish that war by invading through the Caucasus,” Cunningham said. “Later, Major Stirling will brief you on the war plans, but fighting in the Middle East is a holding option, at best.”
The room quietened. None of them had wanted to acknowledge a grim truth; to end the war they would have to hammer their way to Berlin and Moscow…or go nuclear.
“At least we can now recruit openly for the Bundeswehr,” Stirling said afterwards, once the meeting had been concluded. “That should allow us to swell their ranks up to a hundred thousand or so, and we can arm them now.”
Hanover nodded. The Bundeswehr, the Free German Army, commanded by General Rommel, would be needed desperately in the days to come. It was currently working up in Algeria, being trained on the new equipment from war stocks.
“Yes,” he said absently, with other matters on his mind. “You are going to tell me about the war plans now?”
Stirling chuckled nervously. “The PJHQ and the Oversight Committee were divided,” he said. “Unless we commit everything to the effort, it would be difficult to launch a direct invasion of France, and then march into Germany. They wanted to postpone a direct invasion until 1942.”
“Approved,” Hanover said. “It might be tricky to convince the Americans, but I’ll do it somehow.”
“There are two plans for the remainder of 1941,” Stirling said. “Basically, we can hammer away at a corner of the German Reich, either Norway or Sicily, or we can fight it out in the Middle East. Norway offers the advantage of trapping a German army, but our logistics would be bad, even though we’ve now made contact with the Finnish Resistance. Communications are bad, though.”
“We’ll have communication satellites up soon,” Hanover said. “Carry on.”
“Sicily offers the advantage of bad German logistics, particularly since there are only two German forces on the island itself, and a lot more Italians. If we can convince the Free Italians to join in, they might just join us and fight the Germans, but…”
“It seems a lot to risk an adventure on,” Hanover observed.
“It is,” Stirling said. “The Free Italians are hardly under our control, sadly.” Hanover nodded; the Free Italians were the remains of the forces that had been trapped in Ethiopia when Libya had fallen to General Flynn. “Personally, I favour the Middle East option; sooner or later Stalin is going to make a grab for India and the chaos of the Northwest Frontier must be a constant temptation to him. If we do it properly, we might also embroil the Americans…”
“Not something to be discussed,” Hanover said sharply. “Carry on.”
“Japan offers the least chance for changing the war, although we can push forward the submarine program and send non-nuclear submarines to Australia. Given our bad logistics, I would recommend against attacking the Japanese in Malaya; we don’t have the strength to throw them out at the moment.”
“And, of course, any major concentration affects the other theatres,” Hanover said. “Tell me; can the Japanese invade Australia?”
“I don’t think that they have a choice, but to try,” Stirling said. “It’s a major base of operations and it will become a major industrial centre. They have to take it out.”
“Any decision will have to wait for a while,” Hanover said grimly. “You know; we have an entire 2015 industrial base here – you’d have thought that beating the crap out of the Germans would have been easy.”
“Prime Minister,” Stirling said, “blasting them to radioactive rubble would be easy. Building a better world is not.”
“True, true,” Hanover said. He studied the map for the moment. “This would be a lot easier if America had come through the Transition instead.”