Neville part 3, A Black Ice AAR

Author: Yoper101
Published: 2017-03-09, edited: 2017-03-09
The first month of the war goes terribly for the Allies.

Part of the campaign:

Neville, A Black Ice AAR

Previous part:

Game: Hearts of Iron IV

Neville part 2, A Black Ice AAR

Images: 11, author: Yoper101, published: 2017-03-01

A fire crackled gently in the hearth in the cabinet office at Number 10, Downing Street. Occasionally a log would snap and pop as it was burned away. A great grandfather clock was set diagonally in the corner, quietly ticking away. It was nearly a quarter to six, but the clock only chimed on the hour, so as not to interrupt important meetings too often. But if one listened carefully, and there was indeed only one person in the room to hear; one could possibly hear the distant roar of much greater fires, of steel grinding against steel, of fearful and expectant chattering. For the stations of London were filling up, even as the sun barely began to rise this morning.

The city's children were being evacuated to the countryside. And alongside the evacuation trains were troop trains, taking reservists and soldiers both to training camps in the countryside. Goods trains were bypassing the city entirely, taking tanks and artillery pieces to the coast, where the tools of the Western Front would be loaded onto ships and sent across to France. The British Expeditionary Force was ready to fight, as they had once before fought, for the safety of France.

Neville Chamberlain sat alone in the cabinet office, and maybe he was imagining things, but he was nearly sure that he could just hear the distant sound of trains leaving London. It was a mild distraction from all the war reports that he had to read.
Captain Pablo planned on retiring next year. He'd been at sea for most of his life, but it was fast becoming a young man's game, something he had not been for many years. His little cargo run from Rio to Bristol had not made him a rich man, but he had not been left destitute either. His 4,000 tonne Maria was certainly not the biggest ship in the world, and was almost as old as he was. In fact, Pablo was wondering if he should make this rubber haul his last run, what with the war in Europe that had just broken out. He remembered the Great war, and had sailed all through it. He'd never been attacked himself, but he'd lost friends to the German submarines.

He was sailing through a patch of thick fog; the sort which often descends onto the Atlantic. He had two of his crew shifts up on lookout duty. He was in one of the major shipping lanes after all. It never hurt to be too careful.

A shout came from the starboard bow. One of his men had seen something in the fog. Pablo accordingly turned Maria sixty degrees to port. He didn't want to risk colliding this far out from land.

Then another shout came, but Pablo did not need it. He saw with his own old eyes as the great battleship slid out of the fog like a filleting knife. He reached for the radio set to hail the ship, not a hundred yards distant, but then he saw the black cross on a red background that flew from her pennant line, and Captain Pablo's last thoughts were certainly not dutifully patriotic for home, liberty and Brazil.

But that did not really matter, because the Graf Spee claimed her first four-thousands tonnes of cargo deep-sixed, Captain Pablo was remembered for many decades yet to come, and Brazil declared war on the German Reich.
The King smashed a bottle against the side of the new destroyer and the crowd erupted into cheers as he requested that God speed all who sail upon her.

Neville clapped along with everyone else, but his attention was drawn by Lord Halifax, who had managed to stand next to the Prime Minister.

'We received a coded message from the Poles last night.' He said gravely. 'They've fallen back a hundred miles already, and they don't think that they can stabilise. The best they can do is kill as many Jerries as they can before their country is overrun.'

'Well, it looks like we're going to have to pull another 1918 then.' Neville commented, referring to when Britain and France had defeated Germany after their Eastern front had collapsed with the Soviet revolution.

'I'm not sure that we'll be able to hold them off.' The tall lord said. 'The Poles don't exactly have a small army you know.'

'Well, I for one am not going to give in until Hitler himself stamps into Number 10.'

'If he does, I'll shoot the slimy cretin myself.' Halifax commented, half jokingly.
Neville watched as the painters worked magic with blues and greens, painting a crude lake on top of the factory. They were hurrying at their work; German bombers were expected to fly over the horizon at a moment's notice. It would make things much easier if their pilots could not find the factories they were supposed to destroy.

Thomas Humphrey suddenly appeared at Neville's side with a telegram in hand. Wordlessly he handed it to Neville.

" HMS ILLS & HMS FRMD SUNK BY ENEMY AIRCRAFT. NVY RTUNG TO CHICKEN SHED. "

Oh dear, that was indeed terrible news. Two of the aircraft carriers that Britain had spent so much money on were sunk not even a month into the war. Chicken Shed was the code of the week for the dry docks at Portsmouth. Clearly, the fleet had been badly damaged aside from the loss of the carriers.

It would be a year before Britain could field any of the new Illustrious-class carriers that were currently under construction. Neville supposed that until then the navy would have to make do with only half its carrier complement in the Atlantic, since the other four ships the Navy had were either keeping the Mediterranean safe, or guarding convoys in the far east.

'Is there anything else?' Neville asked, since Humphrey had not yet left.

'Yes sir, the American ambassador wants to speak with you.'

'Let me finish up here first. Tell him that I'll be back in Downing Street in an hour.'
The meeting with the American was short and sweet, and as a result of it, Britain would begin to receive old American war equipment. The move was a preemptive attempt to deter German attacks on American shipping. America did not want her civilian shipping being hurt by German convoy raiding, especially while she was still recovering from the great depression. Brazilian shipping had already been attacked, and the Americans were hoping that by making it clear that they were supporting Britain against Germany, the Germans would not dare attack American shipping for fear of drawing their total ire, as they had during the Great War so many years before.

Neville thought that the logic of such a move was a little convoluted, but he decided not to look such a valuable gift horse in the mouth.
The Naval Air Arm began directing attacks on the German naval base at Williamshaven. Denying Atlantic ports to German warships would make it incredibly dangerous for Hitler to send his ships out raiding. He'd be limited to sending submarines, which while threatening, were too slow to catch up to a convoy whilst underwater.
It came as no surprise to Neville when the Polish capital fell, barely a month into the war. There was nothing that Britain could do to support the defence. The Poles were quite simply outgunned, and with two carriers down, there was no way that Neville could risk sending an expedition to the Baltic.

He sighed and looked around at the ministers assembled in the cabinet room. Most were standing and smoking. Only Lord Halifax was sat, muttering angrily into a flask of brandy that he'd produced from somewhere.

'Let's be blunt about this,' Neville began. 'The Poles are sure to surrender before the week is out; they've barely got a country left to defend. I think we need to press a few offensives of our own. See if we can get some French help and then push into Libya; deny the North African coast from Italy.'

'We should step up submarine production,' The war minister said. 'The Germans don't seem to be any good at hunting them down. If we can cut off their oil supplies in particular, we'll stop the Kriegsmarine from operating, and seriously reduce the number of tanks that they can keep fuelled.'

'That won't limit them too much,' Lord Halifax said morosely. 'They've got some sort of refining process. They turn coal byproducts into some sort of oil substitute. It's terribly complex, but Jerry certainly knows how to get a thing done if he sets his mind to it.'

'Well lets not get ourselves too down over this,' Neville said. 'After all, it'll be years before anyone makes any real progress. We've got the trench and the machine-gun still, so we're really just fighting the Great War all over again. It took us five years, but we still won in the end.'

'I'm not sure I want to win another war that way,' Said Halifax.
Authors Note: The fighting has started largely as normal, expect for Brazil joining the Allies so quickly. Historically, the Brazilian people mocked their governments reluctance to join in the war by saying "It's more likely for a snake to smoke a pipe, than for the BEF (Brazilian Expeditionary Force) to go the front and fight." As a result, the BEF became known as the Smoking Snakes, which I always imagine as a soldier holding a snake under his arm like a rifle, with a little smoke whiffing up from the snake's mouth like it was a gun just fired.

Also, I wanted to include a little about the horrors of being involved with the Battle for the Atlantic, because I'm in the middle of reading 'The Cruel Sea' by Nicholas Monsarrat. If you're looking for some excellent historical fiction, I highly recommend it.

Check out another AAR:

Game: Europa Universalis IV

Byzantium AAR Part 1 - actually a solution for Europe

Images: 29, author: Rfasbr, published: 2017-02-03