Essai en Guerre: an FFO-inspired TL

I'm trying to think if the fever is something that I should recognise, but I'm drawing a blank.

Something big is coming. My bet, as in OTL, is Sicily, with a ruse making Mussolini thinking were after Sardinia. Of course, I could be wrong.


‘His symptoms remind me of that case a few months back,’ I said. ‘What did he call himself? That strange youth?’
Didier looked puzzled a moment, then comprehension dawned. ‘Oh, him. Meursault, wasn’t it?’

Is Meursault a historic figure? Or a nom de guerre of a historic figure?
I'm trying to think if the fever is something that I should recognise, but I'm drawing a blank.
No, it's just a minor case of plotdevicitis.
My bet, as in OTL, is Sicily, with a ruse making Mussolini thinking were after Sardinia.
That's the way to bet...
I believe that's a reference to Camus's The Stranger.
Yes: I confess to a weakness for these kinds of references.

Now for the resolution of Villon's question about where CHARLEMAGNE is.
Part 11.2
Report of General Olry to the Council concerning initial phase of operation CHARLEMAGNE
August 1942

I have the honour to report to you the success of our arms in the endeavour of achieving a foothold on the native soil of the Axis. I have discussed the prospects with my staff and my British comrades, and we agree that we have every chance of completing this campaign according to the schedule we laid out at the Algiers conferences in May.

2. Complete naval superiority was the first requirement of this operation. Between April and July admirals Gensoul and Somerville co-operated effectively in creating a favourable situation for us, clearing enemy minefields, laying minefields of our own, and progressively isolating Sicily by submarine action. In this they received the effective co-operation of bomber and coastal squadrons of the AdA and RAF.

3. The efforts of our airmen, ably assisted by the Americans, had by June created an air power such as has never before been seen under the flag of France. As of June 30th, the AAA had concentrated some 500 modern combat types in northern Tunisia, with more based on Pantelleria. The RAF had over 400 aircraft operating from Malta and various bases in the Sfax - Tripoli region, with further aircraft operating from carriers. The gaining of air superiority received the highest priority and unfolded at high intensity from June 30th onwards. On that day, eight AdA bomber groups (four with DB-7s, four with GM 167s) each performed two or three sorties against enemy airfields, these raids being supplemented by low-level fighter attacks. Our new heavy bombers also went into action against the Italian mainland. That night RAF Wellingtons continued the raids so that the enemy could enjoy no respite. By July 18th, the Axis air force in Sicily no longer posed a serious threat. They were still flying, but by this point no longer had the strength to prevent our landings. Our dive bombers, at great cost nobly borne, also disabled most of the known enemy coastal batteries.

4. These preparations therefore created a permissive environment for our invasion forces. The months of training and drilling in the use of landing craft showed their worth. However inevitably these landings, on a much larger scale than any we have hitherto undertaken, proved frustrating in places. We enjoyed fine weather and no tides to complicate matters; these factors will not be present in any operations outside the Mediterranean. The initial phase of the landing therefore went better than expected. By the end of the first day we had penetrated several kilometres inland. French forces took the small ports of Gela and Licata, the New Zealanders took Augusta on the 19th and Syracuse shortly thereafter. However we found that we needed to retain the landing craft for longer than hoped in order to maintain the flow of supplies over the beaches.

5. The airborne operations cannot receive so much praise. On this matter I must speak from the heart, as I had the pleasure of inspecting the British Parachute Brigade in June. Although they showed uncommon courage, I must conclude that the results were too meagre to justify the effective annihilation of two very fine battalions, and heavy losses to a third. I consider it fortunate that shortage of transport aircraft forced the cancellation of the proposed drop by the French airborne regiment.

6. The British aircraft carriers played a very valuable role in providing air cover to the invasion fleet. The most serious setback of the operation, in naval terms, occurred when the Eagle was torpedoed and sunk on the 24th. This in turn reduced the air cover available, so that the enemy mounted a successful attack on the Provence resulting in her sinking the following day. Fortunately by the time of these melancholy events our foothold was well established.

7. By nightfall on the 19th, elements of the following forces had landed, commenced landing or were en route:

French 1st Army - XIX Corps (3 divisions); III Corps (3 divisions)
British 8th Army - XIII Corps (2 divisions plus armoured brigade); XXX Corps (3 divisions)

8. Naval gunfire support played a very large part in our success. Indeed the importance of this factor cannot be overstated. The Bretagne-class ships with Nelson and Rodney represented a force of 30-40 very heavy guns that the ground troops could call on for support. With these ships present, no large-scale enemy counter-attack was possible while our troops remained within 10-15 kilometres of the coast.

9. This proved of the first importance when the enemy mounted its major counter-attack on the 25th. The counter-attacking force comprised the Italian mechanised corps, notably the Ariete and Littorio divisions. These struck the seam between the French and British forces, and drove us back some kilometres in places. The enemy employed a new type of armoured vehicle, the Semovente assault-gun, which proved mostly impervious to our tank guns and anti-tank artillery. Casualties were particularly heavy among the 2nd Algerian Division. Some enemy units came within five kilometres of the coast, but here came under the fire of the battleships and cruisers. The British 57mm/ 6-pounder anti-tank guns proved their worth, including those fitted to our S41 tanks. I have separately requested that our forces expedite the wider adoption of these weapons, which the Americans have now begun to supply.

10. During the second week a lull followed on land as we built up our strength. The Italians dug in deeply and by now had received German reinforcements. I felt a renewed attack was very likely, and therefore requested that the Navy keep the battleships on station until we could land more artillery, especially the medium howitzers and anti-tank guns. We recognise that this brought serious consequences.

11. The co-ordinated enemy air and submarine attacks on the night of 30th-31st July saw serious damage to Indomitable, Bretagne and Nelson leaving only the Rodney on station. The next few days were most anxious. As expected the Axis forces resumed their counter-attacks on the 2nd, this time with German forces in the van. Only the heavy employment of our artillery managed to slow and eventually stop the advance, and at one point our medium guns ran out of ammunition entirely. Fortunately a battery of British 3.7 inch anti-aircraft guns stood in the way of the enemy spearhead and imposed enough delay that our reserve, 5th Division, could counter-attack successfully, though at great cost. The arrival on the 4th of the Ramillies and Washington also assisted greatly. The Navy’s foresight in having these ships in readiness at Gibraltar is to be commended.

12. By the end of the week the situation stabilised. General Alexander has therefore taken over command, and he believes that he can undertake successful offensive operations during late August, with the goal of clearing the island by the end of the month. However, should this objective not be attained, we must in my view commence operation RAVELIN on schedule, regardless.
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Monthly Donor
The American invasion, we called it. Even before December 1941, they had become a common sight all over North Africa. The old-stagers said that in the old days, the only Americans one saw were tourists and low-life chancers fleeing justice, who came to Africa to smuggle or run night-clubs.
How's Rick's business ITTL?


How's Rick's business ITTL?

Terrible. Sam and Sascha are both embezzling. Rick knows, but can't do anything as they are the reason folks visit Rick's.

Well, Major Strasser is sitting in Marseilles torturing the locals. Captain Renault has decided the wind blows from Algiers and is splitting time working on ferreting out neer-do-wells and accepting bribes, while cohabiting with Yvonne in the evenings. Ilsa never made it to Casablanca. She is holed up in Algiers as well. Lazlo was last seen in northern Greece.
A heavy price for a worthwhile reward.

Interesting potential butterflies regarding Paratroops.
Perhaps, but the OTL Sicily airborne operations were disasters on a far larger and more sustained scale than the mere destruction of a brigade. Four operations and not one of them achieved its intended objectives. All that caused was a rethink in the use of paratroops before the more successful operations in Normandy.

Sicily was the sensible choice, but I wonder if a protracted struggle for Sicily instead of the historical steady overrun will force Italian surrender in the same way. Certainly they're losing, but have they lost? This is more critical than ever for the FBU because of the political imperative to take back some of France, even if it is just Corsica. Presumably, that is Ravelin.
Here's hoping they can block the escape of Axis units to a greater extent than OTL. I know the straits of Messina aren't very wide, but it would be nice to prevent quite so many troops slipping the net.
Interesting potential butterflies regarding Paratroops.
Perhaps, but the OTL Sicily airborne operations were disasters on a far larger and more sustained scale than the mere destruction of a brigade. Four operations and not one of them achieved its intended objectives. All that caused was a rethink in the use of paratroops before the more successful operations in Normandy.
In the ATL, though, it's not just the Sicily disaster for the paras. There have been few if any high-profile cases of success (no Crete) and several high-profile cases of disaster (e.g. the ATL Japanese assault on Palembang, which became the centrepiece of one of Alan Moorehead's reports). There still will be airborne operations - but the Allied high command will come to realise they can't be hasty or casual.
Sicily was the sensible choice, but I wonder if a protracted struggle for Sicily instead of the historical steady overrun will force Italian surrender in the same way. Certainly they're losing, but have they lost? This is more critical than ever for the FBU because of the political imperative to take back some of France, even if it is just Corsica. Presumably, that is Ravelin.
The struggle will certainly take longer than the 38 days of OTL. The Italians still have their best formations in the field (e.g. Ariete) and the Allies don't have the same level of air dominance, or the same mobility that the US forces had OTL. This has an implication for RAVELIN - the Union might not have time to finish Sicily first, if they want to reach Corsica by Christmas.
Here's hoping they can block the escape of Axis units to a greater extent than OTL. I know the straits of Messina aren't very wide, but it would be nice to prevent quite so many troops slipping the net.
Messina is still some way away. Etna might play something like the role that Longstop did OTL. I don't see much chance for blocking the evacuation, once the Axis decide on it - Sicily's shape allows a nice, smooth draw-down of forces.
Part 11.3
Extract from War in the Middle Sea, ch.17

Supply problems dominated the progress of the campaign. German air attacks sank two ammunition ships on 3rd August while unloading, devastating the port of Licata. Consequently the accumulation of artillery ammunition went slowly, and August was well advanced before General Alexander felt able to break out of the beach-head in strength.

He began with an assault towards Catania with XIII Corps. This was evidently the most critical sector, and the best Axis forces concentrated there. XIII Corps therefore made little progress. ‘They sat on Etna and shelled us whenever we moved on the plain,’ wrote Gott later. ‘We suffered serious casualties for little result.’ One Yeomanry regiment took thirty tanks into battle on 14th August, and had two left by the evening. ‘Too many fox-hunting types in that regiment,’ noted one British general. Outbreaks of disease also impeded operations: General Olry commented, ‘The Russians say they had two generals on whom they could always rely - Generals January and February. The best Italian generals in Sicily were Generals Malaria and Typhus. In August the sick constituted the most numerous formation we had.’

However, on the 15th, French III Corps broke out in the west, taking Agrigento, after a hard fight against elements of the Littorio Division and some German units. One interesting prisoner taken in this fighting was the athlete Luz Long, the 1936 Olympic silver medalist. After a pause for consolidation, especially bringing forward a mass of artillery and its ammunitions, and the deepening of the beach-head into the mountains by XIX Corps, Bethouart’s men lunged forward again, taking Trapani by the end of the month, with heavy naval gunfire support. The Navy lost two more cruisers to mines off Trapani, but the High Command considered this a price worth paying. ‘We used an entire squadron of cruisers to support the troops, we could have lost all of them and still counted it a win,’ noted Admiral Godfroy. ‘Such is war.’ Bethouart’s men then took Palermo on 3rd September - ‘the first major Axis city to fall, on the third anniversary of the war,’ as Alexander noted. ‘The first of many.’

The fall of Palermo seems to have created a sense of urgency in Berlin that replaced the previous complacency about the theatre. Two fresh German divisions, one of them armoured, were sent into the fray, and used on the Catania plain in operation HERBST. They had no better luck than the British. The 15th Panzer Division overran a brigade of 44th Division and took two thousand prisoners, but then ran into minefields and lost heavily to artillery. After three days the offensive was called off.

Although a tactical reverse for the British, who had to give up several miles of territory, the failure of HERBST to drive them into the sea was a grave disappointment in Berlin. Together with the failure of a smaller Axis counter-attack near Palermo, it made up the minds of the Germans that Sicily was lost. ‘We’re losing too many planes down there,’ complained Goering, ‘Stukas that we need urgently at Stalingrad.’ Like most of the German high command, he blamed the Italians. ‘Their Navy did nothing useful. Their fighters can’t take on the Spitfires, and now the French have these new American planes, these B-24s and P-38s. The fact is, the island was lost as soon as the enemy got their fighters operating from Sicilian airstrips.’ Though unfair to the Italians, this view probably contains much truth; General Alexander concluded, ‘the enemy’s air activity against our fleet mostly ceased once the French 12th Fighter Group began operating from Gela, on July 28th. Only one major attack occurred after that point, and though it proved very damaging, enemy losses were also high. In future amphibious operations, we should seek to get the Air established ashore as quickly as possible - this would have spared the Navy painful losses.’ The lesson was taken to heart.
Part 11.4
Extract from letter from William Dempster Jr. to his father, August 2nd 1942

...of course I can’t tell you exactly where I am, but if you think of that place where we went the summer before old man Thurgood sued the Methodists, you’ll have an idea. Also quite obviously, I can’t mention what we’re doing next, but I think I can say that DELETED BY CENSOR sometime this year. We’ve got nearly two hundred DELETED BY CENSOR until the artillery arrives.

The boys have plenty of spirit, anyway. When we’re not working we spend our time making up a progressively-longer song, now up to thirty verses, about what Adolf and Benito get up to in private, and what we’re going to do to them once we get hold of them. The view here is that we can wipe the floor with the Italians, we get news from Sicily and we see prisoners sometimes, poor half-starved fellows most of them. We see fewer German prisoners, and though we feel sorry for some of them, like the wounded, we don’t like them much in the main. John and Salvatore like to tease them in bad German - “Hitler kaputt, ja?” and stuff like that. I don’t think they like us much either.

The news from the Pacific has been better lately. What I wouldn’t have given to be with the Marines on Midway! It sounds like they showed the Japs a thing or two. We’ve got a book going on what happens next, I have a dollar on Bougainville. Old Lemonface keeps fretting that the Japs might still take Singapore, or New Guinea, but I think they’re all tuckered out now. You know, we would all have liked to go and show Tojo what we think of him, but you’ve got to go where the Brass want you.

Dad, you mentioned seeing Mrs. McFee. You know, I always wanted you to marry her, it seemed like the best thing all round. You’ve both been alone long enough. I know she’s got some funny ideas, but if you married her, she’d listen to you.


Extract from Marianne and John, by Charles Montague, ch.14

During the late summer of 1942, Allied statesmen such as Churchill and Hopkins became increasingly concerned over the survival of the Algiers government. ‘For Daladier and Mandel, the clock was ticking, and they must have some real success,’ noted Hopkins to Roosevelt. ‘The French feel very war-weary, after three years and only losses of territory.’ This dovetailed well with Roosevelt’s priority of getting US troops engaged against the Germans before the end of the year. In August, the the Allied leaders flew to Washington to meet the President. ‘The British would prefer to finish off Sicily before doing anything else,’ Roosevelt said to Daladier. ‘But we are with you.’ In fact the British had already accepted that RAVELIN must take priority, for political reasons, over breaking through the Etna line.

Immediate results followed for the Sicilian campaign. After the fall of Palermo, French III Corps and most of XIX Corps pulled out of the front line to rest and recuperate near Trapani. The British had agreed to this, with some grumbling, as it meant they now took on the main weight of the Sicily campaign. 8th Army had received further reinforcements. General Gott, its new commander, now created X Corps, comprising 1st Canadian, 1st Armoured and 5th British divisions, to operate on the north coast. In the centre, XIII Corps now contained 2nd New Zealand, 51st Highland and 3rd Algerian divisions, and in late September they finally drove the Italians out of Nicosia and Troina after massive artillery bombardments and bitter fighting. This unhinged the Axis position, and enabled XXX Corps (7th Armoured, 44th and 50th divisions) to advance on the east coast, under the shadow of Mount Etna. The German forces in that sector began to withdraw, in good order, to Messina, and began to evacuate their equipment.

By this time a kind of race had developed. On September 18th operation RAVELIN commenced: French XV Corps landed in southern Sardinia, with XIX Corps following up over the next fortnight. This landing had the battleships Lorraine and Bretagne (hastily patched up) in support along with HMS Ramillies and USS Washington, in her final operation before moving to the Far East. Air cover came from land based air in North Africa, plus the USS Wasp. ‘The strain fell heavily on the French air, but they came through triumphant,’ noted Churchill. Again, however, a lack of transport aircraft forced the cancellation of the intended parachute landings by the 1st Airborne Regiment. ‘Armee de l’Air let us down, again we are thwarted,’ wrote its commander. ‘The truth is that Olry, Bethouart and the rest are prejudiced against us. But we will have our day.’
By this time the USAAF had also begun operations from Africa, and by the end of September the Regia Aeronautica no longer contested the sky over Sardinia.
Part 11.5
Extract from Girolamo Leoni, La Follia, ch. 11

The summer and autumn of 1942 tipped the balance of opinion amongst most of us. For instance, my friend Pastorelli had been steadily optimistic throughout the war, he had even seen silver linings in the loss of Africa, and after we took Thessaly he had become very bullish - ‘Athens next, and Crete,’ he had said. But Sicily and then Sardinia, and our inability to drive the invaders out, seemed to break him. ‘We should never have thrown in our fortunes with Berlin,’ he complained. ‘They expect us to carry all the struggle against the French and English, while they chase their dreams in Russia. But beating the Russians brings no help to us.’ If anything, German support to us had declined during the summer and autumn. Although Berlin suddenly seemed to realise the danger in August, and sent in two more divisions to Sicily, their air reinforcements went East. I should repeat this: the air forces they had in Italy received no reinforcement to speak of. And in this war command of the air dictated all. As a consequence, by late September the Germans had no thought but extracting themselves from Sicily as soon as they could. ‘It’ll be a different story if we have to fight them on the continent,’ they said, seemingly oblivious to our feelings on the matter.

French XV Corps took Cagliari on 27th September, and we felt almost relief at the ending of the torment of that unfortunate city. ‘My old neighbourhood is gone,’ Giulio said to me. ‘The French hit it with a hundred bombers.’ Poor Giulio: his brothers had both been killed, one on Rhodes and one in a bomber shot down over Tunis. Now he had terrible fears for the rest of his family. ‘Why can’t our Navy stop these invasions?’ he cried.

A good question, but our Naval colleagues could only wring their hands. On the 29th the Admiral came to talk to us, and he spoke bitterly. ‘Do you know how many vessels we have lost in the last three months? At times we have been losing a submarine every day. My nephew was on one of them. We scraped together enough fuel to send out a force of cruisers to bombard the British positions near Cefalu. We had to beg the Germans to get even that much. It did no good, we lost four ships. Mines, submarines, bombers, it’s no good.’ He had charts to show the decline of our sea power and the growth of the enemy’s air attacks. ‘The Gorizia took damage and had to retreat to Naples. But the American heavy bombers have made even Naples unsafe. She was hit twice more, she’ll be out of action for months, at least.’

Although the Duce did not want to admit it, we had given up on Sardinia by the end of September. We looked at how many men we could evacuate, but it proved precious few. Sicily, and of course the German assets there, took priority. In the end, our last forces on both islands surrendered on the same day, October 19th; my birthday, as it happened. On that day, several of us spoke openly for the first time about taking Italy out of the war, and of removing any obstacles to that objective. This, we concluded, had become our sacred duty to the fatherland.
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