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PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 5:55 am 
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A nicely balanced build up to a very important battle that leaves us eager for more. Well done.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 11:10 am 
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And its back!!!!

YAY!!!!

Nicely done. I particularly like how you flow smoothly from the big picture right into the fighting.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 12:20 pm 
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its back! love it


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 14, 2017 12:48 pm 
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Yes, nice to see it back.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2017 9:31 am 
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Location: On the shores of Lake Armstrong
Chapter 389

A squadron of British tanks slowly advanced along the road towards Fulda, or at least towards the Soviet forward position. Strung out over the open fields on both sides of the road, they were seeking that most Soviet of battlefield truisms, the meeting engagement, but aside from some fairly speculative artillery and rocket fire they had yet to encounter any armed resistance. That changed when they encountered the burning wreckage of a trio of BA-64 armoured cars and an equally burnt out Landy.

This was instantly followed by a short, terse wireless message that kept the tanks from 2 RSH and the accompanying infantry from the Durham Light Infantry from advancing any further. The Infantry took cover behind and in-between the tanks which scanned the horizon and the opposing treeline for any threats that might emerge. Lieutenant-Colonel Niven listened to the report and then had the battlegroup advance towards the treeline. Three quarters of a mile later they stopped, with a slight depression that was low enough for an at least partial hull-down position with a clear field of fire that overlooked not only the opposing treeline, but also road crossing that would decades later be one of the primary hubs for the access roads that would in turn feed the Autobahn 7 and Autobahn 66, two of the biggest North-South and East-West connections for the country by 1990.

Even in 1944 it was an access point for the network, and thus a potentially very valuable piece infrastructure. Either side could use it for supply. It had been attacked a few times by Allied tactical aircraft in the past, but while destroyed lorries and cars littered both sides of the roads, the roads themselves were still very much usable, in fact the segments of the network behind Allied lines were proving to be a godsend to allied logistics.

In any event, it was the piece of Germany the 2 RSH Battlegroup was tasked with capturing, but it appeared that someone on the other side of the line had discovered that it was just as useful for them. Since the enemy was also deploying a vast number of aircraft that they had obviously husbanded for the task given their conspicuous absence in recent weeks, the Battlegroup had also been assigned a pair of the brand new Centaur, AA Mk II tanks, which were effectively old Cromwell tanks that had been fitted with a turret based on the even older Crusader design of all things, sporting two twenty millimetre cannons. They couldn't go for the really high-fliers, but placed properly, they were deadly to the Stukas, -190s and Shturmoviks that had given the British Army so much grief over the years.

Numbers were limited, so the 2 RSH had only two of them, but such were the ways of war. Never enough of anything to go around.

Still, 7th Armoured Division was in a good position. An additional full regiment each of SRLS rocket artillery and Sexton guns had been assigned to XXX Corps which had been designated as on-call support beyond anything integrated the Divisions might have. This had been done because the Corps was straight in the expected line of advance of 3rd Shock Army and maybe elements of 11th Guards Army. Exclusively Soviet units, but much father east, and the 2nd Royal Scots Hussars would be facing the Germans instead.

Of course, as was usual for the Army, they spent the next hour only... waiting. Of course it was too much to expect for the enemy to act to the schedule set down by Her Majesty's Armed Forces, but to Lt. Colonel Niven waiting for the proverbial other shoe as his American second was wont to say.

He did not have to wait for too long however as the first Soviet scouts were not too far away. The ongoing fight in the air hampered the recce efforts of both side equally, but at this moment that favoured the 2 RSH battlegroup. Niven's opponent announced his presence by increasing a speculative artillery barrage fired at the road the British had advanced on, but it did little more than turn trees into splinters. Niven didn't have to stand the men to, nor did they have to wait for much longer until the first Soviet light vehicles nosed their way through the opposing line of trees. They did not advance very far and instead waited for the infantry and the tanks to catch up. Eventually they advanced in the 'two front, one back' formation so beloved by the Soviet military. He couldn't discern any unit markings, but going by the tight formation, the T-44s and BTR-152, it was one of their Guards units. British Artillery was by this time falling among them, at the same time the Soviets were starting to seek out the British position.

Niven waited for them to get closer. “All stations, this is Sunray Actual. Hold your fire until I give the word.” Thank god for

When he was satisfied, he activated his throat microphone.

“All stations, commence firing.”

He wasn't even halfway through the last word before all the 17pounder barrels of the Regiment's tanks bellowed almost as one. Experience and training by Colonels both present and past told as no less than eight of the Soviet tanks exploded. They pulled back slightly and began to lay down a smoke screen. Niven didn't have to tell his infantry that their Soviet counterparts would be disembarking behind it, much to his satisfaction the Regiment's Brownings and mortars were already firing into the smoke-screen in a well-practised pattern. He knew that the enemy infantry would be advancing behind their vehicles in a tactic that they had copied from the Americans along with the basic design idea of the BTRs, though just about everyone with Armoured Infantry Carriers did the same. Speaking of which...

Once again Sergeant Greeley, who had somehow found his way into the Division despite belonging to the Royal Australian Artillery, was as good as his word. He and Flight Lieutenant Anderson, a 'former American by way of Chicago' both had turned into very good friends in spite of the difference in rank and were very, very good at their jobs. A short message later, and the Lieutenant was directing in a section of Typhoons that dropped jellypet canisters among the trees, setting fire to whatever Soviet elements still hid in there. Since there was fighting up and down the line, that was about it for air support, but that was hardly his fault.

Overall the Battlegroup was holding well, and the Soviet attack was beginning to falter in the face of probably unexpectedly heavy British resistance in spite of Soviet Artillery falling among them. Eventually they just could not sustain it any more and fell back towards where the trees were still on fire. They were chased by the occasional shell and machine gun fire, but only a limited pursuit was enacted. The British Army had been burned by this so-called opportunity far too many times, but as most of the trees were on fire by now, a scarce half hour after the first shot of this small battle had been fired, Niven pushed the battlegroup's reconnaissance element towards the other side of the thicket, with strict orders to fall back at the least sign of resistance. They did not get very far. At the cost of two Valentines and ten dead they discovered that he Soviets had only retreated far enough to re-join the rest of the Division, though they had managed to identify the parent unit of the regiment the battlegroup had fought as the 120th Guards Rifle Division.

Even though the 2nd Royal Scots Hussars saw no further significant action that morning, Major General Fogel, Commander of the 120th Guards, was intent to break through the British line. One attack had been repulsed at the cost of his independent tank regiment, so he would have to try somewhere else. The commander of 3rd Shock Army agreed, and a more concerted, less hap-hazar effort was sure to break the strong, but brittle imperialist lines. He threw both his Tank Divisions, the 11th and 54th Tank Divisions at the British, and having identified the juncture between two of 8th Army's corps, he knew where to attack.

The units facing the brunt of this thrust would be elements of units that were not British at all. The Irish Expeditionary Corps served with XXX Corps from 1944 onwards, the other unit being the Italian Ariette Armoured Division, re-equipped with Allied equipment and organized on the British pattern, the Division was likely the best in the Regio Esercito at the time. Together with other Italian troops at other parts of the front, they acted as the core of the Italian 'Northern Army' that was standing up and would be declared operational just in time to partake in the operations that secured the surroundings of Berlin later that year.

That time and day however they faced a virtual avalance of Soviet troops and equipment. Had they still been the under-equipped and poorly led force that had tried and failed to stop the Western Desert Force in 1940 and then the Allied invasion of Italy, they would have fought valiantly and still broken quickly. Now hoever they were a superbly equipped force that had trained extensively for several years, and though most of the troops were inexperienced, they had sufficient veterans in their ranks to allow them to know more than the average Division new to war. It also helped that they had confidence in themselves and their tools of the trade, though they were lighter on Artillery than a British Division was at this stage of the war.

So when the Soviets slammed into them, they bent, they withdrew but they did not break.

When a withdrawal became necessary, they generally did execute it in good order. Even though a few small component units were destroyed in place or ran away, overall the Division fought admirably. The first Soviet attack on them and the Irish was made roughly at eleven in the morning, about two hours after the 2nd Royal Scots Hussars and Durham Light Infantry had seen off the attack on their position, and the fight hung in the balance until roughly half past two in the afternoon. After this, the 3rd Shock Army was ordered to hold in place and support the attack by the Germans on other parts of the line. However, the German 6. Armee saw little more success. A mixed Soviet-German force managed to break through the line of the 3rd Indian Infantry Division at one in the afternoon, but within an hour a counter-attack by the Indians, supported by Churchill Assault guns and mechanized Infantry elements from Army reserves in the persons of the 51st Highland Division sealed off the breach, creating a pocket that contained roughly a brigade's worth of troops that would take most of the rest of the day to destroy. That concluded large-scale operations for the day and in the opening moves of the battle, neither side had really managed to achieve it's goals.

While the Allied advance had been halted, the British were not on the retreat. Opposing that, the British had not managed to destroy any significant Axis forces.

But night did not mean sleep for many of the men in the trenches and foxholes. Between artillery fire and small-unit, vicious patrol actions fought between the opposing armies, few found sleep that was not permanent.

The Generals did not sleep much either. Early the next morning, two German and two Soviet Corps hurled themselves at 8th Army again. Having expected another attack, the Allies were nevertheless caught on the wrong foot, mostly because the place of the attack had not been anticipated. Because of this the 8th Army and elements of the surrounding units were forced back almost to their startlines of the previous day, creating a dangerous bulge in the Allied line after seven hours of gruelling fighting. By the end of the day, both Armies were exhausted, but having both the better position and slowly gaining air superiority over the battlefield, the Allied forces were far more capable to fight on, while the Axis had thrown away the offensive capabilities of two of their best corps, something best illustrated with the state of 3rd Shock Army. After two days of hard fighting, they had suffered twenty-five percent losses on average, a rate far higher with the armoured and mechanized Infantry formations that had spearheaded their attacks. While the Army was not out of action by any means, they would normally have needed a few days to rest.

Allied forces on the other hand were exhausted as well, but less so. They also had a greater and better strategic reserve, whereas the Axis only had Divisions that were either several days or even weeks of travel away or, in the case of the Germans, consisted mostly of units that were exhausted themselves, refitting after previous combat operations or were the so-called Volksgrenadierdivisionen, little more than militia armed with an eclectic mixture of Kar98ks, Mosnins, Manlichers and whatever else the various Axis governments that still existed could pull from their arsenal. The Soviets, producing millions of SKS self-loaders and already working on what would become famous the world over as the Avtomat Kalashnikova were all too happy about off-loading millions of Mosins on someone else, so at least some sort of uniformity of misery existed.

Simply put, Nazi Germany was starting to fall apart and for this battle, they had comitted as well as exhausted the last of their full-strength first-line units.

According to Field Marshal Rommel's autobiography, this night was spent in the map room, though he claimed that he knew that the gamble had failed at this point. In how far that is true remains open to debate, but from the orders he had written up, we know that the Axis forces assigned to Army group centre were supposed to adopt a defensive posture. Before those could be issued, he was overruled by orders from an increasingly unhinged Hitler who firmly believed that the Allies were close to collapse and that another sharp push would make their line break. What was worse for the Nazis, things were about to get a whole lot worse as the classically educated Field Marshal Alexander saw an opportunity and decided to take it.


tbc

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2017 7:23 pm 
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Glad to see this is still running! Great battle update, trekchu. And that little bit at the end about Field Marshal Alexander picking up on an opportunity....something tells me Germany isn't quite done getting a wedgie courtesy of Her Majesty and Company :twisted:.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 19, 2017 7:24 am 
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Good to see this still being updated, it was one of the first alternate histories I started reading and is still one of the best.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 19, 2017 9:07 am 
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It lives! :)

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Adrian Carton de Wiart, VC wrote:
Frankly I had enjoyed the war...and why do people want peace if the war is so much fun?


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 19, 2017 9:16 pm 
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Good update.

Is that David Niven in the chapter?

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 20, 2017 1:38 pm 
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No relation, I'm afraid. Colonel Niven is very frustrated by this all too common question.

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 21, 2017 11:34 am 
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Probably introduces himself as 'Colonel Niven, no relation.' What is his famous namesake doing at the moment?

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Adrian Carton de Wiart, VC wrote:
Frankly I had enjoyed the war...and why do people want peace if the war is so much fun?


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 21, 2017 2:54 pm 
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Just about the same thing he did in @ most likely. Making movies and preparing to give young lads from Germany an appreciation for the Queen's English by way of War movies he will do in the 60s.

Now your brother-in-naming on the other hand....

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 21, 2017 5:05 pm 
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In @ David Niven was in the GHQ Liasion Regiment. He'd also been in the Commandos.
He did work with the Army Fim Unit and made several films mid-war, however he saw action in NW Europe in 1944 and 1945. Niven was certainly shot at during that time and finished the war as a Lieutenant Colonel.

Niven always looked a natural when he played British officers and I think that he actually went to Sandhurst and served in the army had a lot to do with that.

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Adrian Carton de Wiart, VC wrote:
Frankly I had enjoyed the war...and why do people want peace if the war is so much fun?


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 22, 2017 12:48 am 
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To be honest, the naming was actually meant to be taken 100% serious. :oops:

That said, while I'd love to fit him in, this tale has grown way too big for it's own good already.

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 22, 2017 10:42 am 
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Mind you, this conversation has made me consider what might function as a standin for the Guns of Navarone ITTL, since Greece has remained neutral.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 23, 2017 3:07 am 
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Lovely to see this back. You balance the tactical details of the battle with the broader strategic picture in a seamless manner that keeps the reader engaged. Well done and keep up the good work.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 23, 2017 9:32 am 
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That's actually far more accident than design, but thanks anyway. :P

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 24, 2017 1:24 pm 
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trekchu wrote:
Mind you, this conversation has made me consider what might function as a standin for the Guns of Navarone ITTL, since Greece has remained neutral.


Heligoland?

Belushi TD


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