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 Post subject: A Blunted Sickle
PostPosted: Mon Jul 11, 2016 11:23 am 
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As requested, I'm going to start posting updates from A Blunted Sickle here at the same time as they go up on AH.com.
The point of departure here is that in both OTL and TTL there was a meeting on the 13th of November 1939 at which the Dyle plan was first considered, and the French 2IC (General Georges) argued that:
"The problem is dominated by the question of available forces... There is no doubt that our offensive manoeuvre in Belgium and Holland should be conducted with the caution of not allowing ourselves to commit the major part of our reserves in this part of the theatre, in the face of a German action that could be nothing more than a diversion. For example, in the event of an attack in force breaking out in the centre, on our front between the Meuse and the Moselle, we could be deprived of the necessary means for a counter-attack." (the quote is from Horne's To Lose A Battle)
Now in OTL he was ignored (relationships between Gamelin and Georges were terrible) and the OTL disaster happened. Here, Gamelin has second thoughts and sticks to the original Escaut plan which requires less in the way of mobile forces, enabling him to create a strong mobile reserve in the centre. Combined with a German decision to go for Paris rather than the Channel (something that again almost happened in OTL, apparently), the result is that the German Panzer forces which capture Paris are cut off and forced to surrender, giving the French and British the crucial breathing time they need to get their act together in the face of the new German tactics.
Fast forward to Summer 1941 and the Heer has been very badly ground down with a significant proportion of their remaining forces surrounded in the Brussels region. Italy never entered the war thanks to the German failure at Paris, and the Japanese are concentrating on China thanks to the transfer of most of the RN and chunks of the MN to Singapore and their inability to cheaply gobble p Indochina.


17th August 1941

The German 12th Army is finally overrun by British and Belgian forces, with List being killed when Belgian tanks overrun his HQ at around 8am. Around 12,000 men will go into captivity over the course of the day (many of them wounded) in addition to the 50,000 or so more who have already laid down their arms. Around half of those already taken prisoner are from the mass surrender of VI Corps to the Belgians the day before.

The first additional supply convoy sails from London to Rotterdam in support of the planned British buildup in Holland, with the majority of the load consisting of fuel and ammunition which had been scheduled to sail to Cherbourg later in the week. The Admiralty are planning a phased diversion of supplies from the French Atlantic ports to Rotterdam in order to build up supply dumps in Holland without risking the BEF running short of supplies before the end of the fighting.

Schobert and Reinhardt lose contact with one another under pressure from the French First Army (now taking more of an active part in the fighting having been forced to take some time out for rest and replenishment after the 2nd Battle of Waterloo) and the British 3rd Army to the south and elements of the British 1st Army to the north.
Meanwhile things are continuing to get worse for Reinhardt's First Panzer Army as the last of his stored fuel stocks are depleted. There is a very small amount of petrol still available which has either been captured from the British and French forces or requisitioned from headquarters units previously placed in Brussels, but his tanks no longer have sufficient fuel for more than a few of them to reach friendly lines even if there was no resistance from the British. Accordingly he issues orders for his advanced units to withdraw back into the outskirts of Brussels and take up fixed positions to support the infantry as mobile pillboxes. With this done, he sends an urgent signal to OKH stating that he no longer has sufficient petrol to break out as ordered and therefore intends to hold in place within the city of Brussels until relieved.

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 Post subject: Re: A Blunted Sickle
PostPosted: Mon Jul 11, 2016 11:29 am 
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The attached map was very kindly done by NGF on the AH.com forum - it's a few days out of date now, with Third Panzer already having surrendered and a strip of territory about 20 miles across to the East of Brussels being occupied by the British and French.

Attachment:
Blunted Sickle 10th August 1941.jpg
Blunted Sickle 10th August 1941.jpg [ 221 KiB | Viewed 1676 times ]

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 Post subject: Re: A Blunted Sickle
PostPosted: Mon Jul 11, 2016 6:42 pm 
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Much appreciated! I have enjoyed that story.


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 Post subject: Re: A Blunted Sickle
PostPosted: Sun Jul 31, 2016 9:46 am 
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18th August 1941

With the German 12th Army now out of play, the situation gets rapidly worse for the remaining two German armies. The French and British 1st Armies are now fighting what is more or less a holding action against the First Panzer Army around Brussels – at least in part because they are looking over their shoulders at the forces the Germans are putting together to the East. This leads to what is almost a halt in the fighting for the day with Reinhardt's men also going over to the defensive due to a lack of petrol and ammunition. Meanwhile, the Belgians are mopping up the remains of 12th Army leaving the two British Armies to concentrate on Schobert's unfortunate 11th Army.
Progress here is in fact surprisingly swift - 12th Army have been experiencing the same problems that 11th Army did with supply of fuel and ammunition, and the troops of the British 2nd Army that they are now facing are much more experienced than those they had been fighting before. The result is that 12th Army are thrown back rapidly, experiencing heavy casualties (although most of these are uninjured troops who have surrendered rather than fighting in what many now see as a lost cause) and by sunset 11th Army is reduced to a 20 square kilometre pocket around the town of Geraardsbergen.

Indeed, in light of the poor performance of 3rd Army, General Haining is relieved at 4pm and told that he is to be appointed as Intendant-General for Far Eastern forces. While Brooke believes that he has done a good job of organising and training 3rd Army, it rapidly become apparent to both Brooke and Churchill as his men were committed to combat that he is temperamentally unable to cope with the very rapidly-paced nature of modern mechanised war. He is replaced by Lt General Ritchie from IV Corps.
At the same time, a new 4th Army is formally added to the order of battle from troops in training in northern France and shortly scheduled for transfer to Holland. To stiffen the new formation the two veteran Australian divisions available are transferred to serve together in XII corps, alongside the green British 54th (East Anglian) division. Their places in the existing order of battle are backfilled by two newly raised divisions, one from India and one from West Africa.

BEF – Field Marshall Brooke
1st Army – General Wavell
- I Corps – Lt General Cunningham.
- II Corps – Lt General Franklyn
- III Corps – Lt General Osbourne
2nd Army – General Alexander
- IV Corps – Lt General Dempsey
- V Corps - Lt General Heath
- VI (Canadian) Corps – Lt General Crerar
3rd Army – Lt General Ritchie
- VII Corps – Lt General O’Connor
- VIII Corps – Lt General Pope
- IX (Indian) Corps – Lt General Percival
4th Army – General Auchinleck
- X (Indian) Corps – Lt General Slim
- XI Corps – Lt General Anderson
- XII (Australian) Corps – Lt General Sturdee

General Sir Alan Hartley, Auchinleck’s deputy, takes over from him as Commander-in-Chief, India.

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 Post subject: Re: A Blunted Sickle
PostPosted: Mon Aug 01, 2016 10:47 am 
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Excellent!

Thank you for cross posting here. I really appreciate it.

Belushi TD


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 Post subject: Re: A Blunted Sickle
PostPosted: Mon Aug 01, 2016 2:02 pm 
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Not a problem. It's slow going at the moment (new baby, commuting 2 1/2 hours a day and in the process of moving to a house that needs £100k worth of work doing to it!) so the update schedule is very intermittent and it took me a couple of days to remember to cross-post it here, but it will all go on here as well eventually.

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 Post subject: Re: A Blunted Sickle
PostPosted: Tue Aug 16, 2016 2:27 pm 
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19th August 1941

The first flight takes place of a Gloster Jet Reaper fitted with the Power Jets W.3 engine. Performance is radically improved, with the aircraft now able to reach the buffet limit in level flight. Best of all, rate of climb has trebled and the absolute ceiling is now nearly 50,000 feet: handling is exceptionally difficult at this altitude however due to the almost non-existent window between stall and compressibility and the aircraft is accordingly clearly not suitable for general service use at these altitudes.

Fighting in Belgium around the town of Geraardsbergen continues throughout the day, with the last remnants of 12th Army being destroyed in the early evening – morale among the remaining troops is at close to rock-bottom and they have little more than small-arms ammunition left to defend themselves with against British troops with lavish supplies of tanks and extensive air and artillery support. General Schobert was injured while trying to defend his headquarters and goes into captivity along with the majority of his men.

With the collapse of 12th Army, the position of 1st Panzer has gone from merely extremely bad to hopeless – they are now facing up to five Entente armies (three British, one French and one Belgian) and are utterly cut off from reinforcement. Reinhardt orders his men to dig in within the city of Brussels, using the large number of buildings and the presence of Belgian civilians to keep away the Entente air forces while they wait for a relieving force to fight through to them. He also issues orders that any attacks by Francs-tireurs should be responded to with the utmost severity.

That night, General Derousseaux the Belgian Chief of the General Staff agrees (with encouragement from the Belgian government) with Field Marshall Brooke that Belgian troops should take over the task of digging German troops out of Brussels. Brooke is mostly interested in freeing up his troops for operations in Holland, and only reluctantly agrees to keep 1st Army covering the gap between Leuven and Antwerp until sufficient Belgian forces become available to cover it. 2nd and 3rd Armies will however move into reserve in the next few days before being withdrawn to the Cherbourg area for some days of rest prior to being transferred to Holland.
For their part, the Belgian government believes that it is critically important after the war that they should be seen to have played a full part in the defeat of the Germans, and having liberated their own capital city will be an important contribution to this. There is also some concern about the amount of damage the Germans could do before their forces in Brussels are wiped out, and they feel that after the war it would be less damaging if the forces in contact were seen to be a mix of both Flemish and Walloon troops rather than outsiders.

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 Post subject: Re: A Blunted Sickle
PostPosted: Tue Aug 16, 2016 2:28 pm 
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Oh yes, and it turns out the house we're buying has a tree growing out of the foundations so the floor slab is slowly sinking in one place, so is therefore uninsurable and therefore un-mortgageable. I thought things were going too smoothly!

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 Post subject: Re: A Blunted Sickle
PostPosted: Tue Aug 16, 2016 10:05 pm 
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Very happy to see this here (I've been following from the beginning but never bothered to register over there) and very sad to hear about your house troubles.

Jeff

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 Post subject: Re: A Blunted Sickle
PostPosted: Wed Aug 17, 2016 12:29 am 
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They aren't that severe - the surveyor is a mate of mine from the TA and reckons no more than $15,000 to fix, so for the right price it will all go ahead. Happy to get it fixed myself (that way I know it's done properly), the only issue is the insurance one and there is bound to be an insurance company willing to insure it with the exception of the work needed. A lot of this is about turning the screws on the seller, and since it's a probate sale and the house is badly neglected that's something I do not feel bad about at all!

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 Post subject: Re: A Blunted Sickle
PostPosted: Thu Aug 18, 2016 7:56 pm 
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I feel for you.

We discovered a *ghastly* electrical problem in probate house we were selling. Previous owner's 'full rewire' in mid '90s had been botched to point of re-using lots of old, cracked '50s wiring in the walls. There were many more 'professional fouls', including badly buried cable runs in the extension and bad earthing. Given the system's integrity was totally compromised, the only way to get an 'electrical certificate' would be to tear out every last scrap of wiring and start again.

That, we could afford.
Ripping up, then repairing and re-decorating floors, walls and ceilings, we could not.
So, we bit the bullet and sold to a developer...

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 Post subject: Re: A Blunted Sickle
PostPosted: Sat Aug 20, 2016 9:56 am 
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Actually remembered to put it up on here this time!

20th August 1941

Trials start of the Black Prince tank. This is a slightly enlarged version of the Churchill, with a wider, taller and longer hull to enable a much bigger turret ring and hence a fit of the 77mm HV gun, along with a less cramped engine bay. Various hacks have been running for some time now, for instance a Churchill tank with the turret plated over and rear deck removed to test the proposed running gear, but this is the first trial of the complete tank.

There is a lull in the fighting around Brussels with the British troops preparing to withdraw, with a few outbreaks of fighting limited to the north-western suburbs where the few Belgian troops in contact are to be found. The biggest fight of the day is in fact in the Marolles district where a patrol is set upon and lynched by a mob. The company set out to rescue them are unable to find the perpetrators, and so shoot twenty local residents at random in reprisal before withdrawing.

Lt Colonel KM Cariappa of the Indian Army is promoted to Brigadier and appointed to command the 1st (Guards) Brigade. While partially a political appointment to help satiate demands from Congress for more seniority among Indian officers, Cariappa has had superb fitness reports throughout his career and had spent some time on attachment to the Coldstream Guards as a young officer. Being remembered well by the small number of SNCOs and LE officers who had been there at the time, the Brigade of Guards was more receptive to his appointment than the other potential Brigade he might have been appointed to command (from Tyneside), who had not met him or indeed any other Indian officers before.

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 Post subject: Re: A Blunted Sickle
PostPosted: Sat Aug 20, 2016 11:29 am 
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So why would Belgians lynch British troops?

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 Post subject: Re: A Blunted Sickle
PostPosted: Sat Aug 20, 2016 12:13 pm 
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Sorry, that bit isn't too clear. Brussels is currently occupied by Germans (one of their two remaining Panzer armies in fact, cut off without any fuel and with little ammunition left). The British troops currently surrounding Brussels are being withdrawn and replaced with Belgians, hence the lack of fighting on the perimeter and most of what fighting there is being the local population in Brussels having a go at the Germans. The place is something of a powderkeg right now.

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 Post subject: Re: A Blunted Sickle
PostPosted: Sat Sep 10, 2016 11:05 am 
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21st August 1941

The first run of the Metropolitan Vickers F.2 axial jet engine takes place at Trafford Park. The engine is expected to produce just under 2,000 lbs of thrust making it markedly inferior to the most recent Power Jets engine (the W.3), but the relatively small frontal area for the thrust generated means it is considered promising by the Air Ministry who will continue to fund development.

In view of reports from the Far East about the unsuitability of the S and U class submarines for operations in the South China Sea, the Admiralty orders the cancellation of those boats not yet laid down (eight S-class and thirteen U-class), and instead places orders for twenty of a new design to be known as the V-class. These are enlarged versions of the T-class, with a longer hull for better surface speed and improved range. They are also to be of all-welded construction to give an improved maximum diving depth. Critically, they will also be the first British submarines to be fitted with air conditioning in recognition of the climate they will normally be operating in.

In response to the increasing success of the campaign for Pakistan being led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the over-representation among recruits to the Indian Army of Muslims, the Viceroy publicly repeats the promise given last summer that His Majesty's Government will veto any constitution for an Independent India which is opposed by large and prominent elements in Indian life. He also gives a private reassurance to Osman Ali Khan, Nizam of Hyderabad that the rulers of the larger Princely States are among those considered “prominent” by the British.
A working party is set up under Harry Hodson in Delhi to draw up a draft constitution for an independent India, in consultation with all the major political parties and groups in Indian life.

The first BEF troops slated for transfer to Fortress Holland (from 2/28th Battalion (Australia)) arrive in Rotterdam and move into transit barracks belonging to the Korps Mariniers near the harbour while they wait for their heavy equipment and vehicles to be unloaded and transferred to their new base. While somewhat dilapidated, the barracks are the finest accommodation most of the troops have stayed in since leaving Fremantle 6 months ago, with enough beds for everybody and hot water in the ablutions.


22nd August 1941

The 5th Battalion, Cameron Highlanders arrive in Rotterdam and move into transit barracks. The majority of the Australian troops who arrived the day before have been given local leave in Rotterdam where they are proving very popular with the locals (which will lead to more than a few of the Australians being punished for drunkenness on their return), although the advance party are travelling to Naarden to prepare quarters for the troops to move into.
Barracks capacity is already getting tight in Rotterdam as a result of the troops in transit, and as a result four warehouses are requisitioned by the Dutch government to act as temporary transit accommodation. In a week or so the port of Rotterdam is expecting to see a brigade per day arriving and Brooke has requested at least 24 hours local leave for all of his men if possible, something the city council are keen to facilitate.

Production of the M.41 Johnson rifle at Artillerie-Inrichtingen reaches 500 weapons per day with a number of new machine tools ordered from the USA finally coming on stream. The Lichte Divisie is already fully equipped with the new weapons, and the Dutch hope to have equipped the majority of their infantry with the rifle by the end of the year.

The Belgian Army starts their first probing attacks on the German forces occupying Brussels with a well-planned attack on Machelen, which sees the Belgians advance 800m despite very sparing use of artillery (mostly smoke and shrapnel rather than HE) and thankfully sees very few civilian casualties. Because of the large number of civilians in Brussels the Belgian government have instructed the army to take a very cautious approach and to try and avoid the use of explosives where possible. To assist in this the British have provided them with a large number of tanks (mostly obsolescent Matilda IIs) to provide fire support by firing solid shot against German machine gun nests. Several experienced British NCOs from the fighting in Lille have also been seconded to the Belgian army to teach techniques such as the use of frame charges to create mouseholes.

Flight Lieutenant Roald Dahl, a double ace flying with 80 Squadron RAF is shot down and killed while escorting a bombing raid on the Focke-Wulf aircraft factory in Bremen. Two Hampden bombers are also lost, although 24 tons of bombs land on the target complex leading to the raid to be considered a success.

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 Post subject: Re: A Blunted Sickle
PostPosted: Sat Oct 01, 2016 8:51 am 
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23rd August 1941

Further probing attacks are carried out by the Belgian Army on the outskirts of Brussels, with a couple of blocks in the Watermael district being taken albeit with much heavier casualties than in the last attack – the point Company is badly handled and the OC killed in the process. This is largely attributed to their failure to use artillery even to provide smoke cover, and the orders given to the tanks to only use their machine guns rather than main armament: these proved unable to effectively suppress German bunkers hidden in cellars leaving the infantry to take them with grenades and bayonets.

The Entente carry out their first major daylight raid on Berlin, a joint Franco-British effort by over 80 RAF Manchester and French Consolidated Model 32 bombers flying from airfields around Strasbourg, escorted by Mustang fighters from both the RAF and AdA. The bombs hit their target area around the Reichstag, Brandenburg Gate and Unter den Linden just after dawn, with unusual levels of accuracy thanks to the excellent weather. The raid finishes the work done by the Reichstag fire and almost completely destroys the Brandenburg Gate thanks to a direct hit from an RAF 4,000 lb HC bomb. The bombers face fierce opposition, however, with both sides losing over twenty fighters apiece and a further dozen bombers being shot down or having to be scrapped after landing. Reconnaissance photographs taken by a PRU Spitfire travelling low over the city a few hours later showing the damage are released to the press that evening and prove wildly popular with a populace tired of seeing photographs of their own cities that have been bombed or shelled.

The Queen Mary strikes a mine 6 miles south of Malin Head while on an unescorted run from Halifax to Southampton. Although heavily damaged and with several compartments in the bows open to the sea the ship just about makes it safely to Cobh where she is grounded to prevent her sinking. Over 200 men are taken ashore for hospital treatment, mostly for broken bones although there are 20 stokers with severe burns from a fractured steam pipe. The 3,000 or so Canadian troops being carried by the Queen Mary are asked to remain on board while the Department of External Affairs in Dublin works out what to do with them.
The mines were laid by U-206, which had been diverted from regular operations in the Atlantic to minelaying closer to the UK by the increasingly strong convoy defences. Ironically, U-206 herself was sunk several weeks previously by a British minefield in the North Channel on her way back to Norway, 3 miles south of the Mull of Oa.

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 Post subject: Re: A Blunted Sickle
PostPosted: Sat Oct 01, 2016 1:26 pm 
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I don't think your pace of technological advance is supportable. To have several versions of jets in the air, as well as deployable P-51 Mustangs by August of 1941? Also, replacing the Churchill tank with a new, larger tank when the Mark 1 has only just been delivered to the troops? While some 20/20 hindsight can be used, this hits suspension of disbelief.

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 Post subject: Re: A Blunted Sickle
PostPosted: Sat Oct 01, 2016 2:21 pm 
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Jets:
You're confusing in the air with on the test bench. In the air we have a single aircraft which is being handbuilt in very small numbers to deal with high altitude German reconnaissance aircraft (a Gloster Reaper with Whittle engines), and they've placed an emergency order for DH Spider Crab (which evolved into the Vampire) aircraft as the Meteor isn't going to be ready in time. In OTL the design work on what became the Vampire started in January 1941 but didn't get resources until 1942.
The big difference is frankly that Rolls-Royce have got involved with the Whittle engine at a much earlier stage - if you get time, read up on the involvement of Rover with the Barnoldswick works: essentially they decided to re-design the Whittle engine without really understanding it and fouled things up monumentally while driving Whittle up the wall. Put Hooker there instead - a phenomenal engineer with the right background and who happens to be at a loose end at the right time - and because he has the ear of Hives and hence the Ministry of Aircraft Production many of these issues are likely to be resolved.
The Metrovick work is IIRC approximately OTL - I might have brought it forward a month or two as resources are much more available, but the changes there are minimal. Running an engine on a test bench is a long way from flying it.

Mustangs: This is the Mustang I, which isn't really all that close a relative to the P-51D: the RAF got them in October 1941 in OTL, so bringing them forward 2-3 months in a war where everything is going a lot more smoothly doesn't seem too much of a stretch to me. Note also that UK supercharger development has been rather badly retarded ITTL (the reason that jet engine development is going so smoothly - Stanley Hooker is at Barnoldswick working on jet engines rather than Derby working on Merlins, and has taken a bunch of people from Rolls with him), so we'll almost certainly never see a Merlin Mustang - it'll stay with the Allison V-1710.
Image

Tanks: I'll have to check my notes (upstairs with a sleeping toddler in the room right now), but I'm pretty sure that the Churchill tank isn't available yet: the battle of France has meant that the demand for a dual purpose tank gun capable of firing a big HE shell has become apparent much earlier, and they've adopted the WW1 3" 20 CWT anti-aircraft gun (which I **think** in OTL became the 77mm HV, or a very close relative of it did) as the gun they'd like to have. That gives them problems - the OTL Churchill design just doesn't have a big enough turret ring to squeeze one in as per British practice, so they have to try an enlarged version - and the OTL Bedford engine just isn't man enough for the job. That means they're going to end up with a tank similar to the OTL Black Prince instead of the Churchill, but they aren't going to have it available in any numbers until some time in 1942. Right now most of the British armoured units have the Matilda.

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 Post subject: Re: A Blunted Sickle
PostPosted: Sat Oct 01, 2016 11:06 pm 
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pdf27 wrote:
Mustangs: This is the Mustang I, which isn't really all that close a relative to the P-51D: the RAF got them in October 1941 in OTL, so bringing them forward 2-3 months in a war where everything is going a lot more smoothly doesn't seem too much of a stretch to me. Note also that UK supercharger development has been rather badly retarded ITTL (the reason that jet engine development is going so smoothly - Stanley Hooker is at Barnoldswick working on jet engines rather than Derby working on Merlins, and has taken a bunch of people from Rolls with him), so we'll almost certainly never see a Merlin Mustang - it'll stay with the Allison V-1710.




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 Post subject: Re: A Blunted Sickle
PostPosted: Mon Nov 21, 2016 5:51 pm 
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Are you still updating here PDF or do I have to try and wade my way through all the half wits who post on your thead over on AH.com?


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