A Cornered Lion: Chapter 4-The War Path

Author: Dick_Doug
Published: 2019-04-27, edited: 2019-05-15

Part of the campaign:

A Cornered Lion

Previous part:

Game: Hearts of Iron III

A Cornered Lion: Chapter 3-Once More Unto the Breach

Images: 72, author: Dick_Doug, published: 2019-04-01, edited: 2019-04-13

May 1941.
Our troops in Greece have been pushed back with staggering losses. The Greek Army is shattered from the past year of fighting and can't stand up to the might of the German and Italians. The bulk of the fighting in Greece will have to be fought by our troops. And if we want to be able to mount operations around the globe, pouring more divisions into the small front isn't an option we can afford. The small and outnumbered corps there will have to hold on.
In the industrial side of the war our rocket site is coming to completion soon. But our armoured corp is still very far from being ready to fight and taking up most of our industry capacity unfortunately. So until October our IC is tied up.
On the 25th of May the valiant Italian navy attacked Mountbatten's task force off the coast of Greece. Mountbatten's force was helping cover the retreat of the divisions holding the coastal roads. The Germans and Italians were pushing hard with mechanized forces and RAF bombers and naval guns were the only things holding the Axis forces back from overrunning our troops.

The 33rd Division holding Kerkyra was overwhelmed and supporting counter attacks from the 18th and 77th Divisions couldn't bring any pressure off the 33rd. The 33rd lost 552 men, while the 18th and 77th lost over one hundred men each trying to counterattack the Axis forces.
In support of their assault on the western coast of Greece, German troops attempted to push through in the east. In Katerini our troops were holding their own. Air strikes from the carriers Furious and Courageous were called in to support our valiant defenders.
A German Panzer II of the 7th Panzer Division lays destroyed, while a soldier of the 78th Division rushes forward

The German attack was repelled with heavy casualties. Our troops used the mountain terrain and funneled the Axis tank columns into tight mountain passes. The Axis troops suffered 1,500 casualties while our own losses were just over 500 men. Royal Navy fighter bombers were devastating against the tightly packed tank columns, while our own anti-tank guns made short work of the panzers once they got into close range.

The following day the 4th Panzer division took over the attack, they quickly made progress against the exhausted defenders.After weeks of near daily attacks the 78th and 70th were both exhausted and, the 12th Greek division didn't have the man power to hold off the full might of the panzer division. The fall back order was given the following day to retreat. The battle costed us 412 men losing the region.
At the end of May we got good news and bad news.
The good news was that we finished up research on our fighter plans as well as our naval replenishment tactics. The replenishment would allow us to keep our ships in combat longer and improving our fighter planes would keep us on the edge of the war.

The bad news was that u-boat attacks off the coast of Ireland and in the neighboring sea lanes were continuously increasing. More and more ships were lost and suspicions began to be drawn towards Ireland and the German embassy in Ireland.
We sent several MI6 agents across the Irish border and into Ireland near the end of May and beginning of June. The reports were slow coming back but the picture they began to make was that of German operatives working inside Ireland and information about convoys being passed through Ireland to Germany. An invasion of Ireland would no doubt restart to war against the IRA and be a small distraction for the Empire from the real war. But this had to be stopped. The Irish government was notified and given an ultimatum stating that if no action was taken against the Nazi agents in their country, then extreme measures would be taken.
The situation in Greece was still changing and moving. Our troops were pushed out of Kozani with bloody losses. Nearly two thousand men would die as the Axis forces kept pushing us back towards the Greek coast.

In Katerini on the east coast of Greece two divisions managed to get into the region and hold the German panzers at bay. The 3rd Gurkhas, 23rd Northumbria, and the 37th Division were once again pushed out too. This time causalities were much heavier, on both sides. Taking the region, again, the Germans lost nearly 2,500 men, our losses were just over 2,000. When the newspapers got hold of the casualty lists from the past battles it was slapped on the front page of every newspaper in the Empire. Politicians began to rant and rave in Parliament about the cost of this war. Saying if preventing counties like Greece and Norway from falling, and liberating colonies like Morocco and Libya were worth the price our brave boys and men were paying. These 'Men' were shouted down in Parliament and crowds began to follow them home harassing them.
On June 14th our rocket site was finally finished. Tests began soon after, and after a few unsuccessful launches our first rockets were soaring across the skies of Scotland.
As spring turned into summer in 1941, Italian forces continued to build up on the Libyan front. Italy and German forces on the frontier outnumbered our men, but the timidness and caution of the Italian commander stopped him from making a decisive move against our corp there and running us back across Libya to the Suez.
The odds in Greece continue to grow in the Axis favor. More and more divisions pour onto the frontier stacking up against our two stretched corps there. From the highpeaks in our mountain defenses spotters reported huge enemy formations moving into new positions and back and forth across the enemy lines. A major attack along the whole front was expected to come sooner or later.
Mid July came with some good news. The technology Superior Firepower finally finished up and allowed us to add another brigade to our divisions. The extra few thousand men per division would allow us to bolster future divisions giving them more punch and manpower to finish off the war.
The 28th and 33rd divisions made a small probing assault on the west coast of Greece. The initial plan was for small scouting patrols but then soon escalated into almost a full blown battle. The attack was soon called off when German heavy armour began arriving on the battlefield.
At the beginning of August, Romania entered the war and then soon after began mobilizing. The coming Romanian forces would most likely soon stack up against our Greek corps soon.
On August 29th, two merchant ships were lost off the coast of Ireland. King George VI, made a formal declaration to Ireland and the whole world. In a speech that would come to be legendary across the Empire as the "Allied Declaration". The King declared that any nation aiding, supporting or or in any way helping an Axis nation; was in league with them and as such, would be treated as a hostile nation.
A forward patrol of the 1st Division Royal Marines cross the Irish border on foot ahead of the main advance

At midnight on August 30th, the 1st Commando Corp entered Ireland following a declaration of war.

Initial resistance to the invasion was minimal. But once Marines reached the outskirts of Dublin resistance immediately stiffened. Task Force 9 with the capital ships Hood, Nelson, Ramillies, and Queen Elizabeth sailed off the coast and provided fire support. RAF bombers from England also supported the infantry advance.
The center of the Marine advance finally opened up after heavy fighting in Mullingar. The Irish defenders made good work of the terrain and the boggy swamps. The terrible terrain made bringing up supporting artillery and supplies difficult. Fighter bombers were crucial in digging out the Irish defenses.
Another almost 800 Irish men would die again defending their country, another 800 followed them at Mullingar. The Irish inexperience in warfare quickly began to show.

Defensive positions that would have had to be taken by throwing men at it were quickly outflanked or isolated. Irish hard points in their lines were not properly supported or manned, allowing gaps to form in their line our troops would exploit again and again.
After a 21 day campaign that saw thousands of Irish men die defending their country, Ireland fell to our forces. The campaign had been surprisingly bloody but wasn't unexpected by our intelligence. What was unexpected, was the amount of German weapons and equipment found on Irish soldiers.

The bulk of the Irish Army was outfitted with the German Kar 98K, the MG 34 and 42; and light mortars. The rest of the Irish equipment was bought leased from various countries around the world. The evidence we found during the war painted the same picture that MI6 had made. Nazi Germany had been supplying weapons and training to Irish soldiers, and in return Ireland allowed German operatives to use the country to spy on our shipping for u-boat attacks.
As our armoured corp approached being finished its training and subsequent deployment to Libya that would follow, we would have to start gaining active intelligence on the Italian strength and positions facing us. A major attack was launched October 5th and would last several days. The objective of the attack, code named 'Operation Hill', was not to take or secure ground. But to take prisoners and see the enemy defenses up close, as well as support the Italians would offer and how fast they could mobilize reserves.

The information we gained was that any attack we would launch on the Italian lines would be met by little support from outside of what the Italian divisions themselves had. The Italian Navy had been beaten back over the previous year to where they were afraid to move and support their troops. And the Italian airforce had no bases in range of the front to attack our troops or support theirs. In short, we would have control of the sea and coast, as well as the air.
November 3rd.

November 3rd would be a day that would live in infamy. The Japanese launched a surprise attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor crippling the US capital ships there. Else where across the Pacific the Japanese made other attacks.

American territories including Guam and the Philippines were attacked. Singapore was also bombed by the Japanese resulting in 61 civilians and service men being killed. Japan launched an invasion of Siam, but after only a few hours at war a ceasefire was called and Siam formed an official alliance with Japan. Bringing the war right to our border in India.

America officially joined the Allies the following day. With the might of the American industry and military on our side, hopefully now we can begin to turn the tide against Fascism.
The 1st Armoured Corp landed in Benghazi on November 17th. A week later they were in their positions on the front awaiting the launch order for 'Operation Diamond Avalanche' .

The operation would be a two part operation.
The first part, Diamond, would be the assault by the Africa Corp and the Armored Corp via the Libyan front. They would smash their way to the red line. Pause and regroup, and then part 2 would commence. The second part, Avalanche, would see the landing of the 1st and 2nd Commando Corps in French Morocco and then the continued assault from the Africa Corp and Armoured Corp up into French Tunisia.

The plan was that the Vichy French and Italian defenses would be overwhelmed and out flanked by the two pronged assault. If all went well, the two pincers would meet up in Algeria and all of the north Africa coast would be in allied control.
On December 1st the operation began. The divisions along the coast smashed through the Italian front line on the first day and inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy. Bombers from Benghazi supported the inland troops and Mountbatten's task force would harass the retreating Italians along the coastline.
The inland attack finally broke through after three days of fighting. The Italians suffered nearly three thousand casualities trying to throw their reserve formations into gaps our troops had made. The battle was bloody but finally over and our troops could now begin pushing as fast as they could.
Over the next week our troops kept right on the Italian heels. A brave Italian rearguard action was swept aside with brutal fighting. It was clear the way was now open for our troops and the Italian army in Libya was falling apart at the seams.
The Italian navy made a bold attempt to bring fresh troops to the fighting but simply didn't have the surface fleet big enough to protect the vital troops. The big guns of our battleships and battle cruisers picked apart the small Italian navy with no losses. The entire Italian fleet was destroyed and hundreds of tons of materials and vital supplies lost to the deep.
The Italian army attempted a last stand but it was overwhelmed and without sufficient armour or anti-tank weapons our armoured corp made short work of them.

The Italian army in Libya was now a shell of its former self. Thousands of Italian soldiers had been taken prisioner in the advance over the last 19 days. A large chunk of Italian heavy equipment had also been left on the coastal roads and fell into our hands. The Italians had little to fight with and even less to fight for. Virtually abandoned by their navy and country. The Italian soldiers remaining on the front were urged to surrender and were promised showers, warm food and a warm bed. Many took the offer.
On Christmas Eve a bloody battle was fought for control of the port of Misurata. The port marked the red line for part one of 'Operation Diamond Avalanche' and would also help to alleviate the long supply line our advance would make. Plus it would make the journey for our convoys shorter. And they were constantly being picked off by Italian and German submarines.
12 days after the new year our troops in the Far East made first contact with the Japanese Imperial Army.
Soldiers of the Company 'B', 1st Battalion, 56th 'London' Division move back from the frontline during the Battle of Kantang

The Battle of Kantang would go down in British Military history. The soldiers of the 56th, 59th and 19th Division with stood banzai charge after banzai charge from the Japanese division. Many troops recorded how amazed they were by the Japanese seemingly lack of care for their lives. Time and time again companies and platoons would run into the gunfire of a Vickers or a Bren Gun only to be mowed down time and time again. Our three divisions suffered a combined 176 men lost. While the Japanese suffered 1,200 men dead or wounded. The battle was a showing of what our Empire soldiers could expect from the Japanese and their military.
On the 18th and 20th our troops fought two battles. The Battle of Trang and Surant Thani would be bloody affairs, with the Japanese losing a combined 1,300 men and our own losses at 575 men. We had bloodied the nose of the Japanese pushed into British Thailand and we were now rolling back their advance.

The plan was to advance north into Siam, and then launch an attack from India. With our two forces meeting up somewhere near Bangkok hopefully. With the Japanese no plan was set in concrete and our commanders were ready for any surprises the Japanese might have for us.
A month after part one of Diamond Avalanche finished, part two commenced with the Commando landings in Morocco. Three aircraft carriers, bombers from Gibraltar and two battleship task forces were in support. Our troops met no resistance from the Vichy French forces.
We successfully pushed the Japanese out of another region. This battle was more evenly fought as the Japanese forces began to change their battle tactics and adjust to our tactics.
A week after the Commando landings in Morocco, the Libyan pincer launched their attack. The Italians had stuffed the city of Tripoli full of troops and turned the city into a fortress. Our troops were making slow progress so the navy and airforce were called in to help our men on the ground. Mountbatten's taskforce off the coast of Tripoli encountered a large Italian navy. We lost one destroyer and killed two light Italian ships while scoring hits on the enemy capital ships.

With the Italian fleet successfully driven off, our ships could train their guns on the city in support of the ground attack.
17,000 Japanese soldiers dug themselves into the jungle and refused to leave. Our troops were sent in from two directions and the battle would be bloody. This was the first battle of the war our troops suffered more casualties than the enemy in a victory. The casualty figures shocked the gentle members of Parliament and the lords. The King himself was not shocked. He expected the Japanese to fight like wild animals and make our troops pay. He also expected the Empire solidesr to due what it took to win a battle, even if that meant dying for his King and Country.
The Africa Corp surronded the city of Tripoli and began squeezing it from three sides. The Italian navy once again assaulted our fleet, but planes had spotted the enemy fleet moving and our fleet was ready with guns trained. The Italian fleet sailed right into our gun sights and the result was a disaster again for the Italians. Two more battleships lost, a cruiser and a destroyer, the small and ineffective Italian navy was shrinking more and more.
At the end of February our Nuclear research commenced. This technology would be pushed heavily by the King and his advisers throughout the whole coming war. We could not afford to fall behind in this department.
As the armoured corp entered Vichy French territory small detachments of French troops attempted to halt our advance. Once these small outposts were destroyed, majority of the French troops stepped aside and let us advance with no fight.
Shocking the world, the Japanese conquered the Philippines on March 23rd. Many around the world and in our Empire expected the Americans to put up more of a fight holding this territory.

Hopefully an American general will return one day.
Another bloody battle, this time across a river the Japanese defensive line was anchored on, was fought and won. With once again, heavy Japanese casualities. Our troops had gotten the knack of moving our heavy equipment through the jungle and with our heavy guns brought up close to our lines we blasted the Japanese from their positions and moved across the river.
With Operation Diamond Avachalnche coming to an end, plans were drawn up for an invasion of mainland Italy. 'Operation Giant' was the plan and called for two landings. The first was a small scale landing in Sicily by one corp of infantry. The second landing would follow and be made on the Italy boot itself. Two Commando Corps would land with the paratrooper corp landing as well. Their objective was to secure the port of Taranto, allowing us to move more troops inland, and trap Axis forces in the toe of the boot.
The Japanese launched a counter attack on our positions in Siam on the 2nd of April. The attack began to overwhelm our positions so the fall back order was given to the forward battalions. Troops began pulling back in the night, all while fighting the Japanese. The retreat was a master display in discipline and training of British soldiers. To pull back organized and while under constant attack from the enemy was so small task in Europe, but in the jungle of Thailand,it was a steep task. The British troops proved here that they were the best in the world.
With a Japanese strike coming in the south and halting our advance, the order was given to attack from India. Small detachments began cross the river at night. They were soon spotted in the darkness and a firefight erupted that soon grew into a full scale battle. We finally managed to force the crossing after losing 600 men. With the way open, our troops began to pour over the river and onto the exposed Japanese flank.
A large bulk of the forces from India were ordered to quickly advance and stop the Japanese forces in Siam from retreating north to Bangkok. The rest of our forces pushed towards Bangkok and beyond.
On May 9th, Operation Diamond Avalanche officially came to a close with the liberation of all of the French territories in North Africa. Two days later our 5 paratroop divisions landed in Benghazi and began training for the jump into Italy.
The plan to surrond Japanese forces in Siam proved successful and after digging the last of the enemy out we linked the two fronts together and began to reform for the push to Bangkok and into Vietnam.

Men of the 1st Commando Corp, Number 2 Commando, make their way inland after landing off of Casablanca as part of Operation Diamond Avalanche

As May 1942 comes to a close the world is truly now at war. With combat from Thailand to Norway, and everywhere in between. Almost every country was now involved in someway. Our Empire still had a ways to go before we could finish this war but each month, each battle and each man lost. All brought us one step closer.

Soon, we would be on mainland Europe fighting the enemy in their lands.

Next chapter:

Game: Hearts of Iron III

A Cornered Lion: Chapter 5-The Soft Underbelly

Images: 89, author: Dick_Doug, published: 2019-06-14, edited: 2019-11-09

Check out another AAR:

Game: Victoria 2

Eighteen Thirty-Six - A HPM Russian Luddite AAR - Part 1

Images: 87, author: ElvenAshwin, published: 2017-04-25