Essai en Guerre: an FFO-inspired TL

Part 13.2
Extract from A Song at the Sacrifice, ch.18, by Theo Barker


Footsore and exhausted, Mac and I finally reached Allied lines in the neighbourhood of Benevento, a name familiar to me as the place where king Manfred met his end. A South African patrol picked us up and whisked us off to the rear where we fell in with the Americans, who I have to say treated us excellently. We ate our fill for the first time in months...

Despite all the kindness shown us by the poor Italian country folk who had sheltered us on our trek, we had lost a lot of weight, and it was a few weeks before we felt fit for any more exertion. Eventually I cadged a ride on a transport heading for Tripoli, then after a few more adventures on the road, got to Alex and my family in late March, where I spent a happy month’s leave. Eleni and I went to church on my first Sunday back. This was of course just after the collapse of the Italians had freed Thessaly again, and Father Demetrios preached on the text, ‘when the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion’. I have rarely felt such happiness…

... of course the war called me back. No-one, it seems, quite knew what to do with me, but I made myself known in every office that would see me as an old Greece hand, and I very much wanted to get back into the show, once my strength returned. I emphasised how valuable I might be on Lemnos, or on the mainland, or really anywhere where the locals spoke Greek. There was talk of making an assault on Thasos, or perhaps Samothrace, which the Germans held, at that point, rather tentatively; that sounded like the best place for me. And all this was carefully noted down, and filed, and no doubt discussed somewhere, and the upshot of it all was that I was posted to Singapore.

I protested, pointing out that while I could chatter away in Greek until the war ended, my knowledge of Malay ran out with the word ‘amok’. But it was no use…

If ill-luck had brought me to Singapore, good luck attended me once I got there. The day after arriving I bumped into none other than old Bingo, who had built quite a fine little Intelligence empire for himself. He asked me to come and chat with a friend of his, as things were readying for a big show…

The friend turned out to be Wingate, who had refused quarters in the city and was camping near the Johore strait. He greeted us in his tent completely naked, and offered us an onion. We declined, and he began munching one apparently with great contentment. ‘I’m putting a force together for some special duties. Are you game?’ he asked. Put like that, I could hardly refuse…
 
There was talk of making an assault on Thasos, or perhaps Samothrace, which the Germans held, at that point, rather tentatively; that sounded like the best place for me. And all this was carefully noted down, and filed, and no doubt discussed somewhere, and the upshot of it all was that I was posted to Singapore.
Ahhh. The Joys of military postings.
He greeted us in his tent completely naked, and offered us an onion. We declined, and he began munching one apparently with great contentment. ‘I’m putting a force together for some special duties. Are you game?’ he asked. Put like that, I could hardly refuse…
...Sometimes, I forget how eccentric Orde Wingate was. Thankfully, you were on hand to remind me!
 
Part 13.3
Extract from letter from William Dempster Jr. to his father, June 7th 1943

Dad, I’m sorry it’s been so long and I hope you weren’t worrying. Our feet have hardly touched the ground in three months or more. You wouldn’t believe how much we were DELETED BY CENSOR about. But you will surely know by now what the Germans surely know, that we are here in DELETED BY CENSOR, eating lots of spaghetti. The locals are doing well out of us - one can see they haven’t eaten well for a long time - it feels strange that we should import pasta here from New York!

Without giving away any secrets, you can probably tell just how big a thing this has become. I realise I am just a cog in a machine bigger than anyone could imagine. My French friend - I’ll call him Louis, of course - keep telling me they can’t quite believe the scale we do things. “You have machines to do the jobs we would get men to do,” he says, “then machines to do things we would never do in the first place, then more machines to look after the other machines.” I took him for a ride in my jeep (oh yes, I’ve got my own jeep now, going up in the world) the other day. He said it reminded him of his first ride in a Yankee vehicle, when he was in the capture of Tripoli in ‘41. ‘As much fun as I ever had sitting down,’ he said.

Well, here we sit outside Rome, and the Germans are doing everything to keep us out, but they won’t be able to keep us out forever. You probably know more than I do about the strategy of the thing. The papers like to talk about Blitzkriegs and tank warfare. But it strikes me just how much this war - probably like you remember from ‘18, only more so - is still mainly a matter of piling up shells.

The Germans tried their big Valmontone counter-attack not long ago, I guess I can talk about that since I saw it all printed in the papers. They made a big drama out of the way we lost some ground, but no-one in my regiment turned a hair - I guess the infantry had it tougher. The fact is losing a mile or two doesn’t mean much if they have to pay for it, and we sure made them pay for it, more than they could afford. No-one can move, even in tanks, if the enemy has fire superiority, so we waited until they came in range. We had a mountain of shells for the 105s, the 155s, and all the other calibers - then we fired them off double-quick, a million dollars’ worth, or more, gone in a morning. We had a Limey officer with us, Major Updike, because their heavy guns joined in the shoot. Our observers said the Germans were scurrying back a lot quicker than they came on. ‘Collapse of stout party,’ says the Major, a phrase that stuck…

The Germans have hit us pretty hard a few times, but our Intelligence boys say it’s nothing to what we’re doing to them. Having been under shellfire a few times, you know what it’s like, but I can honestly say I never thought anything could be quite so bad. So what we’re doing to them must be worse - I wonder that they are still alive, and apparently sane - though what passes for sane among Nazis seems different to back in civilization.

I’ll make you a bet that we get to Rome before Thanksgiving. Send my best regards to the widow McFee…
 
I have to wonder if the censor didn't bother to read past the first paragraph.
The distinction may be that 'Outside Rome' is broad/vague enough to be acceptable, whereas the comment that was DELETED BY CENSOR mentioned the specific Town/Village/Position, which was deemed unacceptable.
 
I have to wonder if the censor didn't bother to read past the first paragraph.
The distinction may be that 'Outside Rome' is broad/vague enough to be acceptable, whereas the comment that was DELETED BY CENSOR mentioned the specific Town/Village/Position, which was deemed unacceptable.
Both interpretations are certainly possible - but you may notice in young Bill's previous letters, all the deletions have been in the first paragraph, so I incline to the 'lazy censor' theory. I've no doubt if challenged, the censor would defend himself taking the argument made by @diestormlie...
 

Driftless

Donor
Both interpretations are certainly possible - but you may notice in young Bill's previous letters, all the deletions have been in the first paragraph, so I incline to the 'lazy censor' theory. I've no doubt if challenged, the censor would defend himself taking the argument made by @diestormlie...

What unit level would the censor be operating at? Platoon? Company?, or ???? Reading dozens of letters could get to be an immensely time consuming and truly tedious process.
 
What unit level would the censor be operating at? Platoon? Company?, or ???? Reading dozens of letters could get to be an immensely time consuming and truly tedious process.
From what I understand the censor was either the Company clerk under the direction of the XO or at battalion level with a junior officer and a couple of clerks.
 
From what I understand the censor was either the Company clerk under the direction of the XO or at battalion level with a junior officer and a couple of clerks.
I recall in the first episode of Band of Brothers, Lt. Winters mentions that he was censoring the enlisted men's mail on one occasion for a quarter or half an hour, and at that point he was a company officer. No indication as to the frequency of the job, let's suppose Winters (being conscientious) tried to do it daily, so as not to delay mail unnecessarily. A company contained perhaps 120-130 enlisted men - if each man averaged 1 letter a week (a low estimate IMO) that would imply maybe 15-20 letters to censor daily. Fairly sure, speaking for myself, that I'd be praying for the sweet release of merciful death after the first few, and feel strongly tempted to just skim-read, especially when I reflected on the hundred more important jobs that I had to think about. Young Bill, of course, is a (very junior) officer, but I suspect similar considerations would apply.
 
Part 13.4
Extract from ch.11, The Fall of the Rising Sun, Brendan Green


As in other theatres, 1943 saw the Allies undertake preliminary offensives with the aim of laying the groundwork for the decisive strategic offensives that were to come. Having blunted the Japanese drive in New Guinea, the Allies eliminated or neutralised Japanese positions in the Solomon Islands. The US Navy’s vision for a grand drive through the central Pacific was by now taking form, and also diverging from General Macarthur’s ambition for a drive towards the Philippines.

However the central Pacific drive represented an opportunity for General Wavell’s command. ‘Simultaneous assaults at widely spaced points of the enemy perimeter offer good prospects to divide his forces, especially his air forces,’ wrote Wavell to the Council. During the spring the staffs of FABDA and US Pacific Fleet worked out the details, with a view to an overlapping sequence of offensives during the summer...

The US Navy would mount its operation first. They targeted the Gilbert Islands, a stepping stone towards the Marshalls and ultimately the Marianas, which the admirals clearly understood to have great strategic potential. The fleet employed five aircraft carriers to provide air cover, so enjoyed naval and air supremacy; the Japanese made little effort to interfere by air or sea, as their objective in the Gilberts was merely to lose as slowly as possible, to buy time to build up defences in the Marshalls and Marianas. The operation therefore did not have quite the effect that General Wavell had hoped in drawing off Japanese air power. The only real attempt to counteract American air superiority came from Japanese submarines, one of which managed to put a torpedo into the Yorktown. She returned to Pearl, and the remaining carriers proved quite capable of providing adequate air cover.

The Marines landed on Tarawa and Makin on successive days. ‘A strong spring tide took us ashore,’ wrote one Marine officer on Tarawa, ‘and we swept over and overcame the enemy in three days.’ Losses were high, especially among the Stuart tanks and their crews, which the Japanese made priority targets. ‘We will need heavier tanks in future, despite the difficulties of landing them', commented General Smith, ‘clearly Stuarts lack the necessary armour.’ The landings also showed several other weaknesses in amphibious technique. Hitherto American amphibious operations had been in the Mediterranean, where the tide was a negligible factor. ‘In the Gilberts we experienced unfavourable tides on several occasions,’ noted Admiral Spruance, ‘notably in the assault on Makin. Many of our landing craft were sitting ducks for hours on end. Fortunately the weak garrison there could not exploit their opportunities fully.’ These lessons were taken to heart for the planning of subsequent operations in the Pacific, not to mention OCEAN.

The day after the completion of the Gilberts assaults, operation FORUM commenced, and brought its own lessons regarding the hazards of amphibious assaults…


*​

Report of General Wavell to the Council concerning initial phase of operation FORUM
TRÈS SECRET/ TOP SECRET
21st July 1943

...over several months FABDA planning staff studied numerous options for the strategic offensive in the Indies. The Council will recall the debates on this question. The only option that took full account of strategic and logistic constraints was the assault on Borneo in the Pontianak - Singkawang region, despite the relative lack of suitable beaches. The enemy were well aware of the importance of the theatre and had fortified the obvious landing places.

4. We believed that very heavy naval and air support would be essential to the success of the landings. Accordingly the Navy employed the full strength of the Eastern Fleet, reinforced to a strength of five capital ships and four aircraft carriers. However, the enemy appeared not yet to have learned from previous experience elsewhere that defending the shoreline means exposing their forces to our naval artillery. The landings of the British 6th and Australian 9th Divisions therefore met heavy resistance.

5. We took considerable precautions against enemy naval intervention. Two flotillas of submarines, and three squadrons of coastal aircraft, patrolled the seas to the north and east of the landing area. Little naval activity occurred, however. Enemy submarines mainly confined themselves to mine-laying, which proved unpleasantly effective. However, our forces report having sunk five enemy submarines during the first week, the team of Legion and Lance accounting for three of these.

6. Air attacks against the fleet posed a more serious problem. Air cover to the fleet came chiefly from the FAA’s seven fighter squadrons (Martlets and Seafires), together with some sorties by RAF and RAAF Beaufighters from Singapore. USMC Corsairs from Sumatra also participated in some patrols prior to their transfer to shore bases. Although the FAA performed very effectively in disrupting the enemy attacks, within a week the FAA had suffered such attrition that the Fleet had to withdraw. However, by this time the USMC and RAAF had fighters operating from airstrips ashore. The enemy initially made a priority of attacking our carriers but had only modest success, causing damage to Formidable which did not impede her operations. They then switched to attacking transports and landing craft with little more success.

7. Much credit belongs to the RAF, RAAF and RNZAF Beaufighter and Wellington squadrons and their incessant attacks on enemy airfields. Our Intelligence has noted from radio intercepts the extent to which this disrupted enemy preparations and prevented large-scale, coordinated attacks. Admiral Cunningham has asked me to add that the quality and quantity of Intelligence information has improved enormously since last year, thanks primarily to the US Navy’s superb work in this field. I would like to add my own appreciation for this.

8. Australian 9th Division encountered strong resistance on its beaches, consisting of very numerous machine-gun nests supported by light artillery and mortars. However, apparently owing to transport and labour difficulties on their side, the Japanese had not mined or wired the beaches to any great extent. The early landing of armour on the beach gave the assault battalions the support they needed to establish a viable beach-head, and naval gunfire support proved excellent. Of particular note was the shooting of the cruisers Sydney and Canberra which apparently destroyed the enemy’s main ammunition dumps. By nightfall on the first day the entire division had landed with fewer than 700 casualties.

9. The Council will already have heard of the tragic events which befell 6th Division, and will rightly wish to understand the causes. The main factor was the delay in landing armour. Despite extensive reconnaissance and rehearsal, the tank landing craft were delayed by several factors including unexpectedly shallow water in the offing. Only one troop of light tanks therefore reached shore in the first four hours. On this beach the enemy had placed a substantial amount of barbed wire, apparently in the twenty-four hours before the landing, which had not been detected by our reconnaissance. The leading battalions, 2nd Black Watch and 1st Essex, therefore lost very heavily to well-placed enemy gun positions.

10. By the time the armour reached the beach, the first wave infantry were no longer able to operate effectively, exposing the armour to destruction in detail. Subsequent infantry waves then found their approach to the beach impeded by the empty tank landing craft, and found themselves several hours behind schedule. The timetable had suffered such disruption that it became clear to General Montgomery that success could not be achieved. By this time, it had become clear that the Australian 9th's assault had succeeded, and he made the difficult but necessary decision to halt landings in the British sector. All available empty landing craft bravely made the journey into the shore to evacuate as many men as possible under cover of smoke, suffering many losses in doing so. Our total losses on this beach were more than 1,000 men, including those wounded men evacuated. The remainder of the division was then landed in the Australian sector.

11. Due to the restricted area of our beach-head, the buildup of our forces has not gone as quickly as planned. This in turn has meant that the enemy have moved forces into the battle area to block rapid expansion. Our forces have spent several weeks fighting off counter-attacks and making local attacks of their own to expand the beach-head little by little, to the point where the beach-front airstrips are no longer within artillery range. Clearly the break-out from the beach-head must await the arrival of Indian 10th Division, currently underway, and the remainder of 32nd Tank Brigade.
 
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Deleted member 2186

Another nice update.

Nice to see the Free French having Joined ABDA and that it in is new form still goes strong in 1943.
 
Two steps forward, one step back. Sounds brutal for the 6th.

Still better than the two steps backwards, one more step backwards of OTL, mind.
 
Another outstanding update and a truly fascinating alt history operation of which I would like to know a little more about.

7 FAA fighter squadrons seems to indicate a extremely formidable (pun intended) carrier force. How many carriers? How many battleship/cruisers does Cunningham have? What type of tanks are the UK/Aus using?
 
Another outstanding update and a truly fascinating alt history operation of which I would like to know a little more about.

7 FAA fighter squadrons seems to indicate a extremely formidable (pun intended) carrier force. How many carriers? How many battleship/cruisers does Cunningham have? What type of tanks are the UK/Aus using?
This deserves a long reply, but unfortunately I can only do a short one. Basically a high-level OOB for British Eastern Fleet at this point would go something like:

3 CV - probably all Illustrious-class; one would probably be from the Indomitable sub-class which had a slightly bigger air wing. Basically 3-4 squadrons on each CV would allow 7 FAA fighter squadrons and still leave room for some strike/ patrol aircraft - probably still Albacores at this point, but with Avengers coming soon. Since they are not that far from Singapore, they can replenish attrition relatively easily. I think the RN can spare 3 CV for the East, since the Med is by now an Allied lake and the Atlantic is even safer than OTL. The RN has still lost Hermes and Eagle but the Ark Royal has survived to this point (no need for Force H and the very risky Med operations of 1941-2). Also the lower than OTL losses for the US Pacific Fleet means no need to detach Victorious to the USN. In short the RN can, by ATL summer 1943, afford to generate almost the naval air power of OTL 1945 in the Far East. If anything this might understate the ATL RN's capabilities: as usual I am trying not to make this TL over-favourable to the Allies, but sometimes it gets difficult.

3 BB/BC - probably one KGV-class (Prince of Wales survives), one QE-class (probably the Warspite, because of course :) ) and the Hood (now refitted/ upgraded).
A force this size would want probably a squadron of cruisers in support, so say 4-5 light cruisers and/ or AA cruisers (Coventry and Cairo, for instance, would have survived ITTL). Earlier in the TL I had an alt-'Force K' feature prominently, comprising 3-4 Town-class CLs, I expect they are still in the mix.

Tanks: Borneo is a secondary front so wouldn't have priority for armour. Churchills would be going to the British, Canadian, NZ and Greek forces in the Med theatre, where their hill-climbing ability would make them useful. Commonwealth armoured units in Italy & Greece might also still be using Crusader IIIs to some extent (and praying for something better to turn up soon; though the Crusader would probably not have quite such a bad reputation as OTL). American armour is going to US and French forces in that order, so I doubt if Commonwealth forces are using many Stuarts or Shermans. In Borneo they would have Matildas - OTL the Australians were still using Matildas against the Japanese as late as 1945. They would after all still match or even outclass Japanese armour, and their low speed would matter little (since no-one can move fast in Borneo).

Although the RN have employed their main strength to cover FORUM, Wavell also has plenty of land-based air available, based in Malaya/ Singapore. Borneo is out of range for RAF single-engined types as of summer 1943, but as mentioned he has Wellingtons and Beaufighters to give strike (and night-fighter) capabilities, which is why the CVs are carrying mostly fighters. And the plan would certainly lay great emphasis on creating fighter strips ashore at the first opportunity, which the USMC in particular would quickly begin to use. My thinking here is that although the main American efforts are in the Pacific proper, they would also be interested in participating in a campaign against Borneo, since Borneo is Japan's main oil source at this point. One of the As in Wavell's command stands for 'American'. USMC air assets would make sense in this context.

All this gives FABDA naval and air superiority (& maybe even supremacy). That, though, only gets you ashore, and even well-prepared amphibious operations pose a challenge. I wanted to illustrate the pitfalls, and those two poor battalions of 6th Division took the brunt. They'll be back.
 
This deserves a long reply, but unfortunately I can only do a short one. Basically a high-level OOB for British Eastern Fleet at this point would go something like:

3 CV - probably all Illustrious-class; one would probably be from the Indomitable sub-class which had a slightly bigger air wing. Basically 3-4 squadrons on each CV would allow 7 FAA fighter squadrons and still leave room for some strike/ patrol aircraft - probably still Albacores at this point, but with Avengers coming soon. Since they are not that far from Singapore, they can replenish attrition relatively easily. I think the RN can spare 3 CV for the East, since the Med is by now an Allied lake and the Atlantic is even safer than OTL. The RN has still lost Hermes and Eagle but the Ark Royal has survived to this point (no need for Force H and the very risky Med operations of 1941-2). Also the lower than OTL losses for the US Pacific Fleet means no need to detach Victorious to the USN. In short the RN can, by ATL summer 1943, afford to generate almost the naval air power of OTL 1945 in the Far East. If anything this might understate the ATL RN's capabilities: as usual I am trying not to make this TL over-favourable to the Allies, but sometimes it gets difficult.

3 BB/BC - probably one KGV-class (Prince of Wales survives), one QE-class (probably the Warspite, because of course :) ) and the Hood (now refitted/ upgraded).
A force this size would want probably a squadron of cruisers in support, so say 4-5 light cruisers and/ or AA cruisers (Coventry and Cairo, for instance, would have survived ITTL). Earlier in the TL I had an alt-'Force K' feature prominently, comprising 3-4 Town-class CLs, I expect they are still in the mix.

Tanks: Borneo is a secondary front so wouldn't have priority for armour. Churchills would be going to the British, Canadian, NZ and Greek forces in the Med theatre, where their hill-climbing ability would make them useful. Commonwealth armoured units in Italy & Greece might also still be using Crusader IIIs to some extent (and praying for something better to turn up soon; though the Crusader would probably not have quite such a bad reputation as OTL). American armour is going to US and French forces in that order, so I doubt if Commonwealth forces are using many Stuarts or Shermans. In Borneo they would have Matildas - OTL the Australians were still using Matildas against the Japanese as late as 1945. They would after all still match or even outclass Japanese armour, and their low speed would matter little (since no-one can move fast in Borneo).

Although the RN have employed their main strength to cover FORUM, Wavell also has plenty of land-based air available, based in Malaya/ Singapore. Borneo is out of range for RAF single-engined types as of summer 1943, but as mentioned he has Wellingtons and Beaufighters to give strike (and night-fighter) capabilities, which is why the CVs are carrying mostly fighters. And the plan would certainly lay great emphasis on creating fighter strips ashore at the first opportunity, which the USMC in particular would quickly begin to use. My thinking here is that although the main American efforts are in the Pacific proper, they would also be interested in participating in a campaign against Borneo, since Borneo is Japan's main oil source at this point. One of the As in Wavell's command stands for 'American'. USMC air assets would make sense in this context.

All this gives FABDA naval and air superiority (& maybe even supremacy). That, though, only gets you ashore, and even well-prepared amphibious operations pose a challenge. I wanted to illustrate the pitfalls, and those two poor battalions of 6th Division took the brunt. They'll be back.
Thank you, that was more than I was expecting.
 
Hello,

Just a word about the French words for "top secret" : you can use "très secret" (very secret) or "confidentiel".

You mention five capital ships for FORUM. If I remember well, the Germans still have Bismarck, Tirpitz and Gneisenau. So it is questionable whether the USN has to keep one modern battleship in the Atlantic, along with Richelieu and KGV.
This could mean that Strasbourg and Dunkerque could be in Asia.

Loïc
 
Just a word about the French words for "top secret" : you can use "très secret" (very secret) or "confidentiel".
Thanks: I think "haut secret" was a translation I saw somewhere and liked, but happy to correct this.
You mention five capital ships for FORUM. If I remember well, the Germans still have Bismarck, Tirpitz and Gneisenau. So it is questionable whether the USN has to keep one modern battleship in the Atlantic, along with Richelieu and KGV.
This could mean that Strasbourg and Dunkerque could be in Asia.
I wrote part 13.4 some time ago and realise that para 4 of Gen. Wavell's report doesn't quite square with my comment on fleet strengths. He says 5 capital ships and 4 aircraft carriers, whereas I've said the RN has deployed 3 BB/BC and 3 CV. I think I can reconcile this.
The fourth carrier would be Unicorn, more of a CVL than a CV. OTL she was in the Atlantic & Med after joining the fleet in spring 1943. In the ATL it would make sense for her to be completed slightly earlier (again because of the overall better situation for the Allies; per Wiki, OTL her construction was delayed by the crisis of 1940-1) and sent to join the Eastern Fleet.
As you say the Dunkerques could also be with the Eastern Fleet - putting the F into FABDA, one might say. With 3 German BB/BC in the Atlantic, the Allies would want 6 modern BB. My guess there would be Richelieu as you suggest plus one USN BB (which might be one of the older ones) and the 4 KGV-class BBs. On top of that the Home Fleet would have probably one Illustrious-class CV and the older CVs (Ark Royal and Furious so far as she remains useful). Probably also one modernised QE-class. On the whole the Allies could contemplate the Atlantic with confidence on that basis, especially with Jean Bart completing as a CV sometime in 1943.
 

Driftless

Donor
plus one USN BB (which might be one of the older ones)
The standards (and older) were too slow to be of much use as a counter against the German capital ships, so that's where the USS Washington and other fast(er) BB's went to join the Home Fleet in Britain. The old-timers did come in very handy when shore bombardment was needed though.
 
The standards (and older) were too slow to be of much use as a counter against the German capital ships, so that's where the USS Washington and other fast(er) BB's went to join the Home Fleet in Britain. The old-timers did come in very handy when shore bombardment was needed though.
They would fill the same role as Rodney and Nelson
 
Part 13.5
Extract from ‘Revised strategic appreciation of the Southern question’, German General Staff briefing paper OKW ZB4/20/5/43/1, June 1943

…5. The unfavourable turn of political events in the south, notably the Italian betrayal, has in part blinded us to the heavy odds we would in any case be facing in that theatre, above all arising from the yielding of air superiority to masses of American aircraft… taking all these factors into account we can look for no useful offensive action anywhere in the Mediterranean theatre. We must therefore turn our attention to anticipating enemy initiatives.

6. We have noted a tendency to downplay the significance of the Southern theatre on the part of officers who have mainly taken the East as their field of activity. They emphasise the need to concentrate all forces for CITADEL in order to achieve decisive effects. Clearly CITADEL represents our main offensive effort for 1943, but an over-emphasis on it betrays a misapprehension of the stakes in the South. Although Anglo-Saxon, French and Greek formations muster fewer men than Soviet, they now generally employ greater firepower. Their Air is a factor counting against us to an extent not true on the Eastern front.

7. It is worth dwelling on this point. The re-equipment of French and Greek forces with American materiel, now largely complete, means that these forces cannot be estimated at the same value as in 1940-1. Hitherto the successes of French and Greek forces have chiefly been against Italian opposition; in the future we must treat them as threats almost on a par with Anglo-Saxon formations. This despite the fact that French forces in particular include large numbers of inferior racial elements. Party circles lay heavy emphasis on this point in order to downplay the threat, but this under-estimates the degree to which materiel can compensate.

8. The enemy threat in the south resembles a trident, with prongs pointing towards Salonika, Rome and the south of France, and the enemy can choose at will which prong they will push with greatest force.

9. The recent build up of French forces in Corsica and Sardinia is of very great concern. Several factors indicate a Franco-American invasion through the Riviera this year.

10. Firstly, the large build-up of French and American air forces in Corsica and Sardinia (see annex B). This is on a scale quite exceeding the requirements of defence, or of providing flanking support to operations in Italy.

11. Secondly, the extraordinary growth of radio traffic in the region, which our analysts have demonstrated has always signalled large-scale operations in the near future. Much of the content of this traffic has been decrypted, thanks partly to poor enemy cyphers, and it indicates a large build up of forces and stores in Corsica.

12. Thirdly, the likely attitude of the Algiers regime, which came close to collapse last year and therefore urgently needs to re-establish itself in metropolitan France. Recently many Algiers parliamentarians and newspapers have assailed the government for its tardiness in recovering French territory and its subservience to Anglo-Saxon strategy. We should note the political opportunities that might arise if a French-led effort against the Riviera were to be defeated, which we detail further in annex F.

13. Fourthly, the withdrawal of French forces from other fronts. We note that the enemy have reduced V Corps in Greece to two divisions, and only XIX Corps remains in Italy. By our calculations they could by late summer have an army of 10 divisions available, supplemented by American forces which continue to flow into the theatre.

14. Given that the Riviera and Rome constitute the points in the South which we must hold in 1943, we propose a thorough review of the forces allocated to the Greek front, with a view to handing over greater responsibility there to the Bulgarians. This review must of course take into account the need to maintain forces in the Balkans sufficient to maintain Sofia’s loyalty…


*
Leoni, La Follia, ch. 15

During the summer we slowly reorganised. We all hated Caserta, but found we could not get anywhere better. We went hungry often - the food situation had begun to improve, and the Americans were generous with their rations, but I could not bring myself to eat much more than the locals, who showed the effects of war in their gaunt faces. More than ever we cursed the madness that drove our rulers into this war.

Yet the war continued to rage, and honour demanded that we participate in driving the Nazi scourge out. Our Army had largely disintegrated, but we still had a few brave men with the right spirit. By June we had a weak division at the front, under American command, with which I had the honour to serve for a time…

One day in July the General called me to his office. With some trepidation, I went, concerned that he might wish to upbraid me concerning the Termoli affair. Instead, he welcomed me graciously and invited me to join our mission in the Aegean, where my friend Fabio was already present.

Matters had become difficult there. The Greeks, of course, wanted to annex the Dodecanese islands, and we could put up only a rearguard action - in a diplomatic sense, of course. London, Washington and Algiers were united on this question. Much as it pained us, we understood that the folly of our rulers meant the loss of these islands by our country. But also, we must shed blood to redeem Greece from the enemy. We hoped this would help to restore our standing with the new masters of the world.

The British and Greeks had taken the other islands, and now showed interest in Samothrace. They and the Americans had begun to mount escorted bombing raids against Ploesti, which evidently the islands in the north would assist with. But it seemed academic, by all accounts the Germans had by now put a garrison there, which by all accounts would need at least a brigade to handle. We had learnt that there were not enough troops or landing craft for the operation. Not long after we heard of the Borneo invasion, and we understood. Still, we felt there might still be possibilities. We had retaken Thessaly - I now found myself thinking “we” in a quite opposite sense to before - but the generals disliked going any further north on the mainland without first securing the remaining islands. Besides in those days all available supplies and reinforcements had to go to support the operations south of Rome. So during August I joined British and Greek officers looking at our options.

The food situation in the north Aegean was bad, perhaps even worse than the Greek mainland, with hunger common. The poor folk lived largely by fishing, and this had stopped due to the constant clashes between Germans and Allies by air and sea. Even without the fighting, we and the Germans had scooped up most of the boats for various purposes the previous year, and they were never replaced or compensated. I felt a certain culpability in this.

Furthermore, we had reports that some of our countrymen remained there. Many of our men had been barbarously murdered by the Germans after surrendering, but reports said a handful were under guard on Samothrace, either as hostages or for intelligence reasons, it was not quite clear. Rumour had it the Germans kept only a weak garrison there, and we enjoyed air superiority. So General Alexander (a good name for this theatre!) gave permission for a raid, with the goal of rescuing as many people as possible from the place, and “to keep Jerry on his toes” as my friend Major Easonsmith put it...

We presented an exotic mixture. The British provided a company of Royal Marines under Major Easonsmith. Then we had a reinforced battalion of Greek troops from the Crete garrison, the Sacred Band, a name to conjure with: I saw them drill, and thought of how wonderfully they carried on the great martial tradition of Epaminondas and Philopoemen. They had trained specially for this operation. At my insistence, we added a battalion of our men. I addressed the men of our Regina division. Many of them were very war-weary and wanted nothing more than to go home, but I reminded them that we had a score to settle; so as it turned out we did not lack for volunteers. We did lack landing craft, though. I asked around and called in some favours, and we obtained the use of the old landing ship Garigliano. By good fortune she was in those waters, and had just come out of repair.

There was also a party of volunteers from the Jews of Rhodes, naturally thirsting for the chance to hurt the Germans, and a company of South Africans, who had turned up from somewhere, apparently just looking for some fun. As an aside, I should say I saw much of the South Africans in those days. I remember saying to Fabio that they seemed to me the most imposing and manly of all the troops of the British Empire. Fabio thought them great fighters, but also added: ‘but you haven’t seen the Anzacs.’

This whole assemblage, violating every principle of national cohesiveness, went aboard the Garigliano plus some old Greek and French corvettes and destroyers, and some British light craft. Since we had arranged our participation, Fabio and I insisted on joining the force. We set sail on the eve of the solemnity of the Assumption, and I prayed long for courage, that I should make a fine figure, and for the success of our mission…

We landed on the east coast, as I recall. Fabio was with a party that set off to find the Italian prisoners, while I stayed with the main body of our troops, who pushed inland to attack a German strongpoint that had been shown by air reconnaissance. With my heart in my mouth, I fired the red flare to signal the start of the assault, and our men surged forward. Within minutes they fired a green flare to show the capture of the objective. The rest of the men and I went forward, and found the place empty. ‘No-one at home,’ said the captain in command…

Fabio came on the radio, and said he had found the same. None of our men - no Germans either. ‘What do we do?’ he asked.

Perhaps it was a rush of blood to the head, but I heard myself saying, ‘let’s push on, this raid might become a liberation.’ And so it was… The Greeks had pushed north as well and found only a handful of Germans, most of whom they captured. Some time after midnight the Rhodians turned up with a captured MG42 and a couple of helmets as souvenirs: no need to ask what had happened. The South African commander, a bearded rascal who was called just ‘Olly’, came with me to the beach just before dawn, where we met the British naval officer, a very young lieutenant, who was supposed to take us off. ‘We’re staying’, said Olly, ‘we like it here.’ He turned to his signaller. ‘Tell the flyboys we’re here, or the dumb beggars will bomb us by mistake. Again.’

‘Just as well we’re staying,’ said the lieutenant, ‘you do realise Garigliano has broken down?’ The poor old thing was still stuck on the beach. Evidently my guardian angel, or someone’s, had been working hard. As the sun rose a flight of fighters - the curious twin-fuselage American type that the French and Greeks loved - appeared overhead, to our great comfort.

To this day it’s not very clear exactly what had happened. General Muller likes to say that he had temporarily withdrawn the German garrison to strengthen the garrison in Thasos, or Chalkidike, where they feared a landing, and that it was all planned. Also there has been a suggestion that the Army troops were to have been replaced by a Luftwaffe unit, and that poor inter-service communication caused the fiasco. But that is not the story we heard from the German prisoners, none of them more senior than a lieutenant. ‘They said it was just a rotation,’ they said. ‘We were just keeping things quiet here until fresh troops arrived. They were supposed to come tomorrow.’ Having had much experience of disasters, I must say that the whole affair appears like one of those “God-awful cock-ups” (Translator’s note: English in original) that all too often occurs when a military machine, in this case the German one, is under great stress. Whatever the truth of it, I must say that this affair was in many ways the high point of my war…
 
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