Essai en Guerre: an FFO-inspired TL

In this universe, would there be an equivalent group of French VIP's as was interned in Castle Iter? (Nowadays more noted for the unique rescue operation) Not necessarily the same cast of characters, but a comparable group?

Some of the OTL prisoners (from Wikipedia):
Taking them in turn:
Jean Borotra - imprisoned OTL because he was in the Vichy government & the Germans arrested him after TORCH. ATL, no Vichy, so never got involved, so probably still at liberty.
MM. Daladier & Reynaud - left for Algiers along with MM. Mandel & Blum. La Roque also maybe took this route, along with other right-wing figures like Castelnau. With no Vichy the choice is starker for them and perhaps less befuddling.
Weygand - an interesting one. Possibly part of the PoD (which I admit is vague) is that his plane crashed on its way from Syria, thus removing one defeatist influence at the crucial time. This evidently wouldn't suffice by itself to change the course of events: in the original FFO the PoD was Helene de Portes (Reynaud's mistress & hardcore defeatist) dying early, along with at least one other defeatist advisor to the PM.
Gamelin, Mme Cailliau, Jouhaux - probably imprisoned as OTL.

Casting the net more widely, I wonder what Philippe Henriot (and others like him) would have done? OTL he was anti-German but joined Vichy for all the usual extreme-right reasons, and took a very pro-German turn after Barbarossa. In the ATL he might have gone to Algeria, then turned against the Government in 1941, disgruntled that France was now on the same side as the USSR. I've alluded in the TL to the political difficulties facing the Algiers Government in 1942, after the loss of Indochina, but being aligned with Moscow would probably have made even more difficulties for Daladier & Mandel. However I've also alluded to the chief problem facing the malcontents: they have no credible alternative policy. The idea of a separate peace with the Axis in return for the restoration of French independence would get nowhere.
Part 12.1
Part 12. Seule Paris est digne de Rome

Extract from Marianne and John, by Charles Montague, ch.15

As 1943 dawned, the Allied statesmen assembled in Martinique. Their prospects were clearly improving. Oddly, however, this improvement brought on a distinct crisis within the Union. ‘Pressure of adversity kept us together,’ wrote Mandel, ‘the new prosperity of our fortunes drives us apart.’ Churchill shared the sentiment even as he found himself seriously disagreeing with Mandel for the first time. ‘The French have been magnificent,’ he said, ‘but their proposals for this year are simply unworkable.’

The underlying tensions with the Anglo-French Union were returning, and the American factor did not help with these political developments. Both London and Algiers developed the habit, almost unconsciously, of appealing to Washington as arbiter of intra-Union disputes. Mr. Bevin noted this tendency during the Martinique Conference. ‘Every time we fall out with the Frogs, we run to Roosevelt,’ he grumbled privately. De Gaulle disliked this tendency also, a fact exacerbated by his own difficult relationship with the President. ‘We disliked each other on sight,’ he said. ‘The fact is, France cannot allow itself to depend on American goodwill in order to obtain its points.’ This issue contributed to the worsening rifts within the Algiers government, though these were not to come into the open for some time.

The issue in question at Martinique was the overall direction of the war. Each of the three had their own priorities and limitations.

The British were broadly satisfied with the direction of events, recognising that 1942 could have gone much worse. ‘Singapore held, Sicily taken - a year ago, we would have jumped at such an offer,’ said Churchill. But they had one overriding objective for Martinique, which was to resist renewed pressure for a cross-Channel invasion in 1943. The demands of the Far East and the Mediterranean had seen this idea shelved during the summer, but the successes of the autumn and winter had seen the idea briefly picked up again.

The Americans saw this as the only way to win quickly and decisively, the French felt desperate to liberate their homeland. ‘But we have not enough landing craft, not enough aircraft, and not enough Americans,’ as Brooke summarised it. ‘We have not yet won the Battle of the Atlantic, so the build-up progresses slowly - the risks are too great.’ For the entire week of the Conference the arguments constantly returned to this theme. The British were prepared to concede almost any point but this. ‘They have become quite impossible, they find new ways to say “no” each day,’ de Gaulle complained. Relations became embittered, a development that lit a long fuse.

The result was to confirm the decision to launch the invasion of France in spring 1944. This left a long period, more than a year, in which offensives of a secondary and preparatory nature were to be pursued… The first of these plans was TIRADE, the intended recapture of Thessaly, scheduled for February 1943. Much greater events elsewhere soon overshadowed this.
Part 12.2
Girolamo Leoni, La Follia, ch. 13

News of the complete rout of our 8th Army at Stalingrad decided the last waverers. One cannot exaggerate the effect this had on us. ‘Saints preserve us,’ said Pastorelli, ‘this must end it.’ Two of his cousins had gone missing - we never found out what became of them, but they never came home. ‘One can only blame one man for this,’ he said…

I feel sure, with the advantage of hindsight, our sounding-out of support for our coup came to the ears of the Germans. In late January they insisted on deploying forces into Provence, displacing our troops in several key places. We could not oppose this, since we still had to evince a desire to fight the Allies, and they posed an obvious threat with their new position in Corsica. We did all we could, however, to delay the deployment of German forces into Italy, over and above those troops evacuated from Sicily. Those German troops, two or three divisions’ worth, were recuperating in the South, and preparing to resist the English invasion of the toe which we could all see must soon come. These developments distracted us, and discouraged some, but also stiffened the determination of some weak brothers to go through with our plans as soon as possible, before the Germans thought of occupying the entire peninsula.

On February 1st the Grand Council met, and the Duce left under guard. The new government proclaimed its intention to fight the war more effectively, but took no steps to do so. The Germans were furious. They believed we had made a secret deal with the Allies. If only we had! But such furbizia was beyond us. Instead, we frittered away the next three precious weeks, and allowed German forces to occupy the north of the country…

I spent much of this period on leave, my first leave in many months, owing to the illness of a close family member. When I returned to Rome all the Fascist Party badges and emblems had vanished like mist… I was with the General when news came of the Armistice terms. We were both shocked, because it was clear to us that our Government had promised too much.


Extract from letter from William Dempster Jr. to his father, February 20th 1943

Dad, I can only write a very short note this time. The news from Italy shook everything up. Couple of weeks ago, we had a spell off duty, and John, Salvatore and I had gone to visit the Napoleon museum - he was born here, as you may know - when a runner came from company HQ telling us to get back to base PDQ... It seems plans have changed, or maybe somebody suddenly got a burr under his saddle… we’ve worked graveyard shifts for a week to get ready. Now we’re at an hour’s notice to board our ship for our next adventure. Who knows, maybe my next letter will be from DELETED BY CENSOR.


Girolamo Leoni, La Follia, ch. 13 (continued)

The English had crossed the Strait of Messina, and their ships had appeared off Naples and Taranto. The Americans headed for Anzio, and landed two divisions there. The French for their part had planned a coup de main against Rome, the so-called operation LYNX. They had an armoured regiment aboard ships heading for Ostia, and airborne battalions headed for the Rome airports.

Apparently they had heard that our forces around the capital only needed a little stiffening in order to resist the Germans effectively. The story goes that when Marshal Balbo, in captivity in Algiers, heard of this, he immediately tried to warn the French, telling them to cancel the operation, but could not convince them in time to prevent the first planes taking off. This brought a succession of disasters. A hail of German gunfire greeted the ships heading into Ostia, and they diverted to Anzio. But the first phase of the French airborne landing went ahead…
Part 12.3
Extract from A Song at the Sacrifice, ch.15, by Theo Barker

We had heard our planes fly over with increasing regularity since Mussolini’s removal, and we always cheered at the sight. The Italians, to begin with, tried to stop us, but soon it became clear that they felt just as keen as us for the farce to end. At morning roll-call on the 19th we turned out as usual to find the guards all gone. I say all: we found one, apparently drunk, occupying an easy chair in the Commandant’s office. ‘Tutti andati,’ he mumbled, unhelpfully: we could see that everyone had gone. We sobered him up a bit and he explained that there was an armistice. ‘Attendiamo gli americani. Oppure i tedeschi.’ We had no intention of waiting for either the Americans or the Germans, and headed out of the camp as soon as possible. As we did so, we saw dozens of aircraft flying in formation, away to the west, then hundreds of tiny specks falling: paratroopers.

Our party divided between those who wanted to head south as quickly as they could, to try to link up with 8th Army, and those who wanted to link up with the airborne troops, who must surely herald the arrival of larger forces. ‘We want to get to Gott,’ said one faction. ‘Birds in hand,’ said the other faction. My head was with the first, but my heart was with the second. Possibly a slight touch of rheumatism swayed my judgement; it had been very cold for several days, the prospect of a long hike didn’t appeal. So off I went with Harry, Con and Mac towards the airborne landing. ‘They’ll be dropping onto Ciampino,’ said Harry, ‘mark my words, our boys will come in by teatime. Fancy a ride out on a plane? First class?’

On the way we saw plenty of Italian soldiers wandering around seemingly without orders. We tried to ask them for news, but most of them were just singing or said ‘me ne vado’, so it was no use. Finally we stole some bicycles and followed the old Via Appia towards the airfield. When we got there, we heard shooting, and rather alarmingly, the rumble of tank engines. We doubted that these last could be friendly, and we were right. We took cover behind a low wall and assessed the situation.

A German tank approached slowly along a side road, stopping occasionally to shell the airfield. Grey-clad infantry exchanged fire with the defenders. ‘The rest of our lads had better turn up soon,’ said Con, but I think we all had a bad feeling. We had seen ourselves how paratroops fare against armour. We slunk off down a lane between some trees to find a better way in. As we did so, a party of paratroops, as grim-looking a bunch as you could ever wish to see, came up the lane the other way. We put our hands up, not knowing any better way to identify ourselves. ‘Qui va la?’ they asked.

‘Amis,’ we all replied hastily. ‘Anglais.’ Of course, Mac quickly added, ‘Well I’m not a -ing Anglais,’ but we all knew what he meant and didn’t mind.

The French officer introduced himself. ‘Lieutenant De Roche, at your service,’ he said in passable English. ‘Any more of you?’

‘About five hundred in a camp up the road,’ we said. An explosion nearby compelled us to take cover.

‘We are hunting that tank,’ de Roche explained, ‘but the enemy are everywhere. It’s a fiasco.’

He explained that they were just the first wave, there should have been more coming, but they’d just heard that the second wave had been cancelled - perhaps due to bad weather. ‘We were supposed to link up with the Italians and fight the Germans together. But there’s nothing to link up with. At the airfield we found a roomful of colonels with no troops, they’ve all gone home.’

The prospects looked decidedly sticky. We cheered up a little when we got our hands on some abandoned Italian weapons, and we followed de Roche’s platoon into a sharp little firefight which netted us a couple of German prisoners. ‘Lovely weather for the time of year,’ said one of them, a captain, in perfect English, somewhat sarcastically I assume.

‘Hard luck for you, though,’ I said.

‘I think we’ll be free soon enough,’ he replied, and lit a cigarette apparently without a care in the world.

...we heard the tank - or maybe it was a different tank - rumbling towards us. ‘Got anything?’ I asked.

‘Of course,’ de Roche said, I saw he was holding a Gammon bomb, or something like it. ‘Stay down, and wish me luck.’ We began to pull back, but as we moved behind some houses we saw another bunch of Germans sweeping through the farmland to the rear; some of them set up a small cannon.

Almost at the same moment, I saw half a dozen Italians - soldiers and civilians together - enter a house and open fire on the Germans, they had some kind of machine gun. In moments there was firing from all sides, and I have to admit I got my head down, not that I could see anything to shoot at. Con landed next to me, bleeding from a leg wound, and I applied pressure and tied on a bandage. Harry and Mac joined us too. The firing died down for a while, the tank seemed to move off. The sun came out briefly.

I can’t recall exactly how soon after that we heard yet more vehicles approaching - cars and lorries by the sound. I risked a glance, and saw several vehicles come to a halt. Then a shell came out of nowhere and hit the lead vehicle, and in another instant there were people running everywhere, including a lot of civilians. Some of them didn’t make it to cover, several bodies lay in the road. One of the civilians, a driver, took refuge with us. He was gibbering.

Tedeschi dappertutto,’ he said. Apparently they had been trying to flee to the south, but had kept running into Germans and ended up taking this route - ‘e adesso piu’ maledetti tedeschi,’ he whimpered.

I agreed it was hard luck, but perhaps fortune had favoured us, if they distracted the Germans long enough for us to get away. De Roche and his men seemed to be giving as good as they got, so I wanted to take Con and head southwards, which we should have done all along. Then the Italian said something that stopped me in my tracks.

Non capisce? Hanno ucciso il Re!
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Things in Italy are about to reach unprecedented levels of Extremely Cool. I feel sorry for them.

If the Americans are at Anzio I feel reasonably good for Theo's chances, things are going to be so confused that small units of prisoners sneaking into the Anzio perimeter should be fine. Question is, how far out from Anzio will the Americans be able to get before the Germans manage to get their boots on?
Thanks for the comments, everyone. It occurred to me that what with Marshal Balbo and a few other surviving, that the butterflies might fly in the other direction sometimes. So far ITTL I have had Balbo, Rommel, Molders, Strafer Gott and Luz Long all surviving; while on the other side Anthony Eden, General Fredendall and (now) Victor Emmanuel haven't. There will be a few more butterflies like this.

I anticipate some potential criticisms of the next update - the situation in Italy is so fluid at this point that there is quite a wide range of possible outcomes. As always, feedback is welcome, any serious ATL is an attempt at modelling, and any model is only as good as its assumptions.
Part 12.4
Extract from War in the Middle Sea, ch.19

Mercifully, as it proved, only two German divisions were available to contain the Anzio landings, which allowed II Corps, once reinforced, to maintain its foothold. However, they were unable to break through to relieve the French paratroopers in Rome, who were forced to surrender. Their sacrifice, however, was not quite vain: General von Vietinghoff wrote later, ‘the French airborne troops imposed great delays on us. They resisted longer than we would have thought possible, and so 15th Panzer’s movement to Anzio was at least a day late. We would have driven them into the sea otherwise.’ When he learned of this opinion, General Patton expressed himself bluntly to the contrary. In all likelihood Allied naval gunfire would have prevented a complete collapse of the beach-head at that point, as on so many other occasions. The Germans realised this, and now made strenuous efforts to attack the Allied fleet.

Air attacks on the fleet off the coast inflicted serious damage on Wasp and Ramillies, which were out of action for many months, but fighter cover from Sardinia disrupted most attacks. Submarines and mines proved the bigger threat. February 24th saw the Allied anti-submarine arrangements break down catastrophically. U-boats torpedoed and sank the small carrier Chaser, the cruisers Montcalm, Primauguet and Brooklyn, and also crippled the Tuscaloosa. ‘Incredible that she survived,’ wrote one British observer who saw her in Cagliari later, she had her bows blown right off. Never seen a square-ended cruiser before.’ For some hours the battered old Bretagne was the only gunfire support available. General Patton admitted no anxiety, but his superiors were less coy. ‘For several hours, we lacked naval gunfire support, and a heavy German attack might have broken through,’ wrote General Eisenhower, ‘but the moment passed. Evidently the German Navy and Army were not co-ordinating their operations as tightly as they would have wished.’

...The German command had not quite decided where to draw their main defensive line. Some wanted it well to the south of Rome, in the Liri valley, but von Vietinghoff felt that the German forces in the south lacked the strength for this, and after US II Corps held on at Anzio, decided that he lacked the strength to simultaneously disarm the Italians, contain Anzio, and resist 8th Army’s advance. He wrote later, ‘my men and I have faced much criticism for the events of February-March 1943. We allowed the enemy to get too close to Rome, they say. I reject all such criticisms. We had had barely three weeks between the fall of Mussolini and the Allied landings. We needed twice as long. Against the English in the south I had three weak divisions against eight or more, the enemy also enjoying air superiority. Against the Americans at Anzio I could only initially employ two divisions, and that by taking great risks in and around Rome, where we had to fight the French paratroopers and Italian turncoats. We had several more divisions coming, but they came in more slowly than I wished. Winter weather in the Alps and enemy bombers operating from Sardinia impeded their movements. Under these circumstances, we could not hope to hold the line far enough south to prevent the link-up of the English and Americans. I believe we worked wonders doing as well as we did.’

He concentrated his main forces just south of Rome, and successfully contained the Anzio beach-head. Hitler criticised this caution, but left him in command. Berlin was still banking on a major offensive on the Eastern Front transforming the situation.

Other minor landings helped secure the rest of southern Italy, and in March the front line stabilised not far south of Rome, roughly on the line Pomezia - Avezzano - Ortona. The tragedy of the French 1st Airborne Regiment led to a renewal of the acrimonious debates in the US, French and British armies about the proper size, structure and use of airborne forces. At the time the Allies did not know just how badly the French paras had disrupted the German response. Instead, the French abandoned their plan to create an airborne division. ‘We do not have so many men we can throw them out of airplanes,’ commented de Gaulle. Activation of the US 13th and 17th Airborne Divisions was put on hold, and the British War Office likewise refused to authorise a second British airborne division…

The death of the King did not seriously impact events in Italy, as the Crown Prince managed to reach Allied lines successfully, and the new Italian government now changed sides to join the Allies. Part of the deal at the time was that the precise circumstances of the King’s death should not be divulged; rather than recognising that he had been fleeing from Rome, the Allies announced that he had fallen in the defence of the city. The true story did not emerge until 1950, when it caused a major political crisis in Italy.

The three modern battleships of the Italian fleet had escaped, not without some dangerous moments, including German air attacks in the Tyrrhenian Sea that were driven off by the arrival of French and US fighters. In the event, this escape was of morale importance only, as the ships played no further part in the war. However, the elimination of the Italian fleet as a threat meant that there was no further need to keep any Allied fleet carriers or modern capital ships in the Mediterranean. This freed up Indomitable and Wasp for service in the Far East, once repaired; the old French battleships in the event were kept at Oran, anticipating further action. Algiers gave some thought to acquiring the surrendered Italian battleships, but their inspection by naval officers soon put paid to this notion...

The spring of 1943 saw both sides build up their forces in Italy. The Allies had no difficulties keeping up in this race, as several ports had fallen into their hands intact. By the end of April General Alexander had activated 10th Army Group. Gott’s 8th Army had built up to ten divisions, while US II Corps formed the nucleus of 5th Army, with eight, now under General Patton’s command. He chafed at being under Alexander, and now had his sights on Rome. ‘This Alexander the Great wants to take Rome,’ mused Patton, ‘but it is the legitimate prize of my Army.’ His superiors agreed on the substance though not the sentiment. ‘It is a prize worth having,’ said the President, ‘it will be something to keep the Press amused this year.’ General Marshall insisted, however, on taking operations no further. ‘Rome has some propaganda value,’ he wrote, ‘but beyond that, there is nothing in Italy that should cause any delay to OCEAN or PRECIPICE.’

Marshall also took a dim view of the British and French desire to exploit developments in the Aegean, where the few remaining North Aegean islands, other than Lemnos, had fallen into Allied hands swiftly after the Italian armistice. British and Italian forces acting together under an air umbrella from Attica and Rhodes had beaten off German attempts at retaking them. On the mainland, the armistice had seen the elimination of the Italian forces in the western part of the front, and the Germans had withdrawn in good order back to the Olympus line while also taking over Italian positions on the Albanian frontier. The Allied forces in Greece lacked the strength to interfere with these movements, though the liberation of Larissa and Ioannina came as a welcome relief to the Greek government. The theatre would, therefore, remain a backwater, as there were no obvious further gains to be made.
But i doubt it is going to safe the Italian monarchy later on.

It mentions a major political crisis in the 50s so it sounds like they hung in longer then OTL.
My thinking on this point: the 1946 constitutional referendum might have gone the other way, if there had been some strong and recent factor aligning the monarchy with patriotic feeling. I think the idea of a "martyr-king" might have been such a factor. If the story was that the previous king had fallen in the defence of Rome, that might have made the monarchy sufficiently popular to enable the monarchists to win the referendum. In fact the referendum might not even have been held. However, the truth of the matter - that the King had been trying to flee, and died by accident in crossfire - would certainly come out in time, creating a major scandal. It might perhaps be fanciful to imagine that the true story would not come out immediately.
I agree that the long-term prospects for the monarchy would not be great, unless Umberto managed to make himself genuinely useful at some point, an unlikely eventuality.
My thinking on this point: the 1946 constitutional referendum might have gone the other way, if there had been some strong and recent factor aligning the monarchy with patriotic feeling. I think the idea of a "martyr-king" might have been such a factor. If the story was that the previous king had fallen in the defence of Rome, that might have made the monarchy sufficiently popular to enable the monarchists to win the referendum. In fact the referendum might not even have been held. However, the truth of the matter - that the King had been trying to flee, and died by accident in crossfire - would certainly come out in time, creating a major scandal. It might perhaps be fanciful to imagine that the true story would not come out immediately.
I agree that the long-term prospects for the monarchy would not be great, unless Umberto managed to make himself genuinely useful at some point, an unlikely eventuality.
Reasonable. By all accounts, Umberto was kind of a decent guy, though he shines in comparison to his family, which sets quite a low bar actually. Are the Germans able to create a puppet Fascist Republic here, or do they have to just set up a military administration as occupiers? It looks like Italy's switch of sides is more clearly cut ITTL, which should make Italian forces more cohesively resisting the Germans. I guess that liberating Albania is very easily within the Allies' capabilities now?