Homage to Britannia: An HOI4 Kaiserreich AAR | Part Four: Italia Irredenta

Published: 2017-08-05

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Homage to Britannia: An HOI4 Kaiserreich AAR

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Homage to Britannia: An HOI4 Kaiserreich AAR | Part Three: The Devil In Georgia

Images: 77, author: Ceannairceach, published: 2017-08-05

[Welcome back to Homage to Britannia, an HOI4 Kaiserreich AAR! In this chapter, Britain seeks its place among the socialist juggernauts of the world through the Third International, representative of syndicalism across the globe. In doing so, Britain must throw its lot in with the French and Italians, who fight the Austrians for control over fate of the former Italian Federation. Will this path prove fruitful for Republican Britain, or shall tying itself to Europe prove its downfall?]

Part One: http://imgur.com/a/A4pYC
Part Two: http://imgur.com/a/opvee
Part Three: http://imgur.com/a/6TSmW
Europe in the summer of 1938 had become an increasingly unstable place, not the least in part due to the agitation of syndicalist countries against their monarchic counterparts: Italy stood united, and the forces of the Austrian crown faltered before the might of a proletariat at war. Though secret meetings held in Paris, London and Naples sought to bring Britain into the wars of the International, the war continued unaltered for a time, though change was on the horizon.
Though supported by the might of its empire, Austria could not muster the forces necessary to defeat both the rebellious Illyria and repel the invading Franco-Italian armies. Emperor Karl I gambled on a quick victory in the Balkans, a mistake that would come to haunt him.
The Italian campaign, though no longer a priority for the Communard army that had advanced into Austria, still raged in small pockets across the north of the country. The small force of British volunteers, eager to test their mettle against the reactionaries, engaged a surrounded Austrian army in the hills between La Spezia and Bologna.
Monte Cimone and the towns and villages surrounding it would be bathed in Austrian blood as British, French and Socialist-Italian soldiers beat down the remaining Monarchist opposition. Rebels were surrounded, starved, and then violently eliminated. Entire towns were shelled to wipe out those loyal to the Italian crown in the effort to end the war as quickly as possible.
Of greater importance, however, to myself, the British people and the world, were the developments in the Southern campaign of the American Civil War. Atlanta had been recaptured by Long's Union Army, and though the Syndicates had made great advancements thanks in part to the efforts of the British volunteers, they were a long way from forcing a capitulation. Long promised to fight to the end, and with war in Europe looking more likely, the British people desired a solution.
General Brooke ordered the British volunteers to eliminate the Unionist forces that occupied Florida's southern tip. Minutemen militias, organized after the state had been cut off from the rest of Long's army, formed the main opposition to the Blackshirts, who at that point in the American expedition were well versed in the arts of war in the American south.
British soldiers found themselves often outmatched by southerners, who knew the terrain and were generally better prepared than the Blackshirt volunteers. Despite this, British soldiers adapted quickly and efficiently, loosely organized and decentralized as they were, to effectively combat the Union's war machine, often adopting the tactics employed against them by the resistance.
The result of the Florida campaign was astronomical, as Brooke cornered the American forces in Miami. The North Carolina Volunteers were only forces who did not break in the fighting, and remained to hold the city against the British attack.
British soldiers found more often than not that their battles were decided not by the strength of the soldier, but of the armor, and that a fight between men would be decided by equipment and not courage. Though the Minutemen militias fought valiantly for their cause against the Blackshirts, they were outgunned in nearly every way, as the British tested their new equipment against them. There is an argument to be made that if things were fair, we might have seen Long's crusade against the red menace succeed; unfortunately, British steel worked against him.
With Miami secured, British forces turned north to eliminate the last of the Unionist volunteers. Several thousand Minutemen would be captured in the fall of Miami, though the war was far from decided by this minor victory.
The Blackshirts were immediately redeployed, leaving Florida to the CSA's occupation. A new plan had been drawn up in London, and was to be enacted immediately: Operation Jackson called for the British troops to fight their way from West Florida to the Mississippi River, seizing the coasts of Mississippi and Alabama, and more importantly New Orleans, the capital of Huey Long's home state of Louisiana.
In Italy, the British volunteers supported the Italian armies in restoring order to their freshly reconquered homeland, in a slow-going campaign of suppression. Austrian troops organized resistance among Catholic communities in the hills, and British forces were tasked with eliminating them with extreme prejudice by the National-Syndicalist officers that advised them.
The Austrian front, though wildly successful, was a slog as well, as the French and Italians pushed past the Alps and into central Austria and western Slovenia. The Austrians seemed increasingly prepared to abandon the Illyrian front should the French push them back further, though little did they know that the French were cautious that the forces of their Empire would bear down on them at any moment.
By August, the elimination of the Monarchist forces on the Italian Peninsula neared completion: British and Italian troops had scoured the countryside, and put down every hint of opposition to the new National-Syndicalist regime. This was, perhaps, the first true taste of Totalist warfare in its truest form: Italian and British troops, free from French eyes behind lines of conquered Italy, were free to enact violent political purges against the population, which was powerless to resist as the Austrian monarchists were defeated in nearly every confrontation.
British troops were redeployed to the Alps to oversee the destruction of the last Austrian pocket behind International lines, a menial task to strengthen them for the onslaught that was the march for Vienna.
The pocket, centered around Monte San Giorgio, was defended by elements of the Galician army, who steadfastly maintained their loyalty to the Austrian Empire despite the turmoil that faced them and the Polish people during that decade.
The Galician army was comprised mainly of exiles from the Kingdom of Poland, then a recent addition to Germany's sphere of influence, having lost an ill-fated war to remove Lithuania from Mitteleuropa. They fought for the only "free" Polish state they could find that was not completely subject to German authority, but found themselves instead dying in the mountains of northern Italy.
As the push for New Orleans carried on along the Gulf of Mexico, British forces reached Mobile, Alabama with startling speed, and by the 26th of August 1936 looked poised to take the city. Though Unionist forces flooded towards the coast to protect the heart of their new nation, they were unable to stop the tide of Syndicalists that followed the British armor west.
British tank crews were heralded across Syndicalist America as the harbingers of revolution for the "occupied" American south, and to the exploited and oppressed peoples of the Union State, that was true: for many others, though, the tanks were a different symbol altogether, as they represented the invading reds, and their foreign supporters, and thus gained the ire, and envy, of the American opposition.
Mobile fell on the 9th of September, 1938, though not without a fight: General Patton promised to retake the city by any means necessary, and launched immediate, if counterproductive, assaults to recapture the gateway to Alabama.
With the successes of the Italian and American interventions praised daily in the press, it was hard to resist openly joining the chorus of applause for Britain's Grand Protector, who led us through those uncertain days of trial. Maximism had evolved from an outside movement to a political juggernaut, and their rule was to become increasingly absolute in the Union of Britain as time soldiered on.
On the 21st of September, 1938, the Union of Britain joined the Third International, and thus formally solidified its bonds with the other socialist nations of the world. An immediate result of the bargain for entry was Britain's declaration of war on the Austrian Empire in support of the Greater Italian Union, a promise secured by Mussolini in secret at the meeting in Naples.
For the first time, the original socialist and syndicalist countries of the Europe - Italy, France and Britain - stood united against a common foe. Many at the time, myself included, saw the Austro-Italian War as a microcosm of the greater era, and a foreshadowing of future conflicts. In a secret congress of the International in Paris, promises were exchanged and assurances given that when - not if - war broke out, the heirs to the revolution would stand together against the forces of reaction.
Europe in the autumn of 1938 was developing a concrete divide beween the monarchic east and the syndicalist west and south. Were Austria to be defeated, it would result in an open door to Germany's heartland, and thus the war in Italy was of great interest to the Kaiserreich.
The Austro-Italian War had claimed 70,000 lives from the International armies, mostly from the French, who led the charge through the Alps to crush the Italian army in the north.The Austrian Empire and its clients, on the other hand, had suffered close to 200,000 losses by September, and their failure to stabilize their front would only lead to further catastrophe.
An unfortunate side effect of Britain's entry into the Italian conflict was the immediate withdrawal of British volunteers from their involvement in the Second American Civil War: despite Mosley's notion that they could remain in service to the Americans, the TUC would not stand for British soldiers being used anywhere other than in support of the International during wartime. Outvoted by the TUC, Mosley stood down.
British Blackshirts marched out of the American south to the safer harbors of occupied Virginia, often to the cheers, and cries, of the Americans they had liberated from Long's Union State. Those who collaborated with the British would be hunted down and and captured, or, in many cases, outright murdered. Syndicalist forces would not rush to save the liberated south, and the reprisals for their failure to hold that territory would be swift.
Without British support, the Union Army was able to push the CSA Militias back from Georgia and Alabama. After the recapture of Mobile, General Patton called for a massive offensive to retake Florida, which was then unguarded by the slow-moving American Red Army. The sacrifice of hundreds of British lives was in vain, as Long reestablished control over his nation.
Long, ever the showman, gave lavish speeches and organized parades across the Union State to celebrate their victories, in what would become known as Patriot Marches. His movement, his cult of personality, was the glue holding together the southern rebellion, as generals and corporations jostled for his praise and permission. So long as Long was in command, it seemed impossible for the Union to die anything but a violent death.
News would arrive from the Cape that the South African Federation, the independent remnant of the British South African colonies, had broken in half as the Afrikaner population sought to seize control from the Dominionists loyal to Edward VIII. Hardliners within the Union of Britain believed this to be evidence of the Entente's inevitable demise. More rationally, I can look back at this event as one in a long series of events that would bring the Entente back to prominence, a topic I shall return to later.
French troops pushed past the Alps and into central Austria by mid November 1938, only to reach firm Austrian resistance, as they formed up a suitable defensive line to meet International forces. French troops, though better armed and outnumbering their Austrian counterparts, chose caution rather than speed when assaulting their lines, making for a slow campaign through the countryside.
In Central Asia, the Russian State under Savinkov completed its annexation of the former Alash Autonomy, the first in a series of steps that the Vozhd would take to restore Russia's "natural borders." Though his conflict with the Don-Kuban Union remained unsettled, the dictator of Russia wasted little time in launching his next move.
Russian troops that had been used in the subjugation of the Alash remained station on the State's border with the Turkestan Khanate, another breakaway from the old Empire. The Dictator ordered that the Khan submit to Russian authority, or have his government forcibly dissolved.
The Khan refused, and on the 6th December, 1938, Russia invaded Turkestan, amid the backdrop of Turkish tension and open rebellion within the conquered Alash Autonomy. Savinkov would not shirk away from violence as he promised to reunite the empire that had been lost to the Russian people in the Weltkrieg.
To fulfill its obligation to the 3rd International, the Union of Britain deployed six infantry divisions supported by tank battalions from London to Dunkirk, many of them veterans from the American intervention. They went under the command of Alan Brooke, also a veteran commander of the war across the Atlantic, to assist in the capture of Vienna, their sole mission in the war.
They faced a long journey, during which they would tour the border of France as a display of Britain's military might to Mitteleuropa, especially to Germany, as the forces would see the Kaiserreich's western and eastern borders during the journey.
The Republican Army made only a brief detour to Paris, where the army marched in celebration through the streets, crowds of Communards cheering their passage. It would not be the last time British troops marched through Paris, though it was the happier of the occasions.
Despite the festivities abroad, tension on the homefront was increasing rapidly, as the Irish remained discontent with rule from London. Bombings, riots, and general attacks were commonplace in the southern half of the country, as unionism and the socialist ideology was fought on every level by the rebellious Irish people.
Bombing campaigns would prove costly for the Union, which struggled to maintain an economic plan for the Irish syndicates, whose members resisted reform. Each attack only distanced the auditors from London and their Irish charges, who were more liable to help the perpetrators escape than rat on a countryman to the London watchdogs.
On Christmas Day, British troops reached the Austrian front north of the city of Graz. No reprieve was given for holiday celebration as the Austrian forces under General Eduard von Bohm-Ermolli engaged quickly to delay the deployment of British regiments.
In just a few short months, the war had spiraled out of control, as casualties mounted on both sides. The once measly 60,000 Communard casualties had grown astronomically to a quarter million dead or captured. The Austrians had suffered similar losses, with nearly 400,000 losses, though the Empire itself bore the brunt of the carnage.
The fighting in urban Austria was perhaps the most gruesome in Europe in a hundred years, as International forces destroyed block after block of Austrian civilization in the push for Vienna. There was little care for civilians among the ranks of the tripartite army, who saw the war as a part of the eternal revolution against monarchism and the forces of capital. I can only dream of what the Austrians would have thought of that explanation.
In Spain, the Fall of Burgos, temporary capital of the Carlist regime, saw the legitimacy of Javier de Borbon-Parma drop to near nothingness, as Franco's dictatorial regency proved stronger than the Catholic extremists. The Spanish Kingdom seemed nearly through its tumultuous civil war by January 1939, a conflict more quickly settled than the one in America, to Spain's credit.
Vienna became a front line city on the 22nd of January, 1939, when British divisions commanded by General Alan Brooke advanced into the outskirts of the city. They were the first International troops to reach the city, much to the disdain of the French, who had been fighting the Austrians for the better part of a year. Still, it was a monumental victory for the Union of Britain, and the Third International as a whole, and we sang and danced at the communal bars when the news hit the streets of London.
Little did we know of the hell that was the Battle of Vienna. Tanks littered the streets, immobilized by the Austrians when they ran out of fuel or ammunition, and around every corner was a team of Austrians, Poles, Hungarians or Czechs ready to defend the capital of the Hapsburg empire. The fighting was brutal, the Austrian monarchy unwilling to abandon the city to the forces of syndicalism, and the red tide washing over them regardless of their will.
Despite the arrival of Austrian tanks on the front, and French requests for aid there against the Austrians, all available battalions were called to abandon their objectives and rush for Vienna, where the Austrian army was crumbling under the relentless assault of British armor and infantry.
On the 27th of January, 1939, Lothar Rendulic assumed command of the defense of Vienna. Despite promises of reinforcements by Hungary and Bohemia, Rendulic's force of mixed infantry and scattered armor were unable to hold the line in Vienna, and so the general ordered a general retreat from the capital. Emperor Karl was escorted out of the city in an armored car, while those remaining guarded their escape into neighboring Hungary.
British militias secured the city on the 1st of February, 1939, establishing a syndicalist congress for the city's inhabitants in the Hofburg, the Habsburg imperial palace. Tanks were used to quell violence in the streets, as the Austrians balked at the notion of syndicalist rule.
The war in Austria's prominence in the newsreels was interrupted for us only by more news from the cape: the Dominionists won their civil war for control of their country's destiny, and stood poised to recognize the sovereignty of King Edward VIII. Such action sparked a wave of royalist support across the Entente, as the British Empire found itself reunited with its former African colony.
On the 5th of February, the Hapsburg emperor sent a letter to the Kaiser, begging that he intervene in the Italian war. The Kaiser agreed that the war had spiraled out of control, and went to the table with France to negotiate a solution to the question of Italian sovereignty.
After week-long talks in neutral Switzerland, the Commune of France and the German Empire came to an agreement: Italy was to be united under Mussolini's rule, and Austria would surrender its southern territories, and coastline, to the Italians in exchange for an immediate end to hostilities. In addition, the Treaty of Vienna called for a Slovakian state to be carved out of Hungary, to further decentralize the Austrian Empire. Though no promises were made then of a permanent peace, a truce of two years was agreed to. Few on either side believed it would last.
With the Republican Army having survived its first tests against a proper European army, Mosley and the hawkish Maximists sought immediately to make improvements to Britain's fighting capability. The first change was to Britain's preferred infantry rifle: the Lee Enfield, though reliable, was outdated, and many in the army sought a new alternative.
With the war in Italy settled, the focus of Britain turned once more to America, where the Union State had pushed the Red Army completely out of Florida and back up the coast of South Carolina. Patton's strategies led to the Union seizing control of southern Missouri in a radical reversal of their fortune, and if allowed to continue their stabilization, Long's Union would grow to a sizable threat to the workers revolution in America.
Riding a wave of militarism, Mosley secured support for a second expedition to the American conflict, sending the veterans of the previous intervention back for another round with the Kingfish.
This time, there would be no distraction: Mosley demanded that General Brooke seize Atlanta at any cost, and to advance as far as was necessary to secure Georgia for the Combined Syndicates. Permission was given by the Central Committee of the CSA to use all measures available to crush the Union State. With a blank check, the Blackshirts barreled towards South Carolina at breakneck speed in a bid to shore up the crumbling Red Army lines.
Though the southern front was a constant back and forth between the CSA and AUS, the Syndicalists had far better fortune in the American west, where the Federalists broke against the never ending tide of the Red Army. From Iowa to Wyoming, the red-and-black banners of the Syndicalists was raised over courts, schoolhouses, and military bases, all of which were abandoned by fleeing Federal troops.
On the Atlantic coast, infantry divisions with tank support were lent to the American Red Army to lead an assault on reoccupied Charleston, led by the hero of the revolution himself, Smedley Butler.
General Butler agreed to a plan minted in London, hand-delivered to the American brass for consideration and approved by Jack Reed himself. Butler, not a man to send others to die in his battles, opted to head the operation himself. British tanks leading American infantry assaulted Charleston and the surrounding area in a week-long campaign to dislodge the Union Army station there. Though only mildly successful, their purpose was not to succeed in their mission, but to secure an opportunity for a greater battle.
The bulk of the Blackshirts pushed west, across the Savannah River into northern Georgia. The assault on Charleston, brutal though it was, acted only as a distraction for the true purpose of the British intervention: the recapture of Atlanta from Long's regime. General Patton, who was in the region to arm more conscript regiments for the war effort, was the only thing that stood between Brooke's men and the Union State's capital.
The fighting was fierce, as Patton raised every militia and partisan group he could drag from their hiding places to resist the British advance, but such a force could not stop the might of the Republican Army: the Blackshirts were merciless in their assault, as they methodically combed neighborhood after neighborhood for all hints of resistance. British tanks demolished buildings suspected of housing Union soldiers, and the sound of the artillery could be heard throughout the night as they rained down hell upon the people of Atlanta.
On the 17th of April, 1939, British troops reached the outskirts of Atlanta, and commenced a campaign of destruction the likes of which had not been seen in that war before.
For three days, the British shelled the city, until it was a husk of its former self. Even knowing that Long would not have reoccupied his capital officially after having only lost it a few months prior, the British were without mercy, and used their extensive knowledge of the city from its previous occupation to bring it to ruin. When the Blackshirts finally advanced into the destroyed metropolis, they found little resistance, and many, many corpses, of all color and creed.
Though Atlanta was secure, the war still far from over, as Patton organized volunteer regiments to reclaim the Unionist capital. His efforts, though furious and ceaseless, were in vain: the British were not keen on taking Atlanta a third time, and had no intention of surrendering even an inch of my former home to its previous occupants.
For their part, the Union State's government was affected very little by the Syndicalist victory: for all intents and purposes, the de facto capital had been New Orleans since the first Battle of Atlanta: they had returned only for propaganda purposes, all functions and bodies of government remaining firmly in Long's hometown. To defeat the Kingfish, it seemed it was necessary to enter his lair.
Huey Long would not surrender easily, however: regularly he made appearances on television and in radio interviews to extol on the just nature of their revolution, and assure the people he ruled over that victory was close at hand. The people of the Union State, with access only to the tightly controlled state media, knew little then of how close the Long regime had come to a violent end in the year of fighting before the second Battle for Atlanta, and would know even less as Huey's government strangled the press further as the war turned against them.
Though the war raged on, the success of the Atlanta offensive could be seen in the vastly more secure southern front, which by late April 1939 incorporated northern South Carolina, Georgia and western Tennessee. Still, the British would not rest on their laurels, as Mosley had devised a new plan to bring an end to Long's ambitions of empire.
Operation Bonnie Blue called for a rapid advance to the Florida peninsula, with a western front on the Apalachicola River in West Florida. The mission was intended to be used as a springboard for a more ambitious offensive against the Union State, though in itself was a lofty goal.
The loss of life at that stage of the war, however, made the goal seem not only obtainable, but vital: some 500,000 American lives, split roughly evenly between the two sides, had been lost in the fighting, a staggering figure that was only sure to rise as the Union State collapsed.
Compare those figures to those from the Federal-CSA fighting in the west: despite the size of the conflict, American lives lost in the fighting were half those lose in the American South, as Federalist troops low on morale fled or surrendered in the face of the superior American Red Army.
By the 11th of May 1939, Operation Bonnie Blue had reached the Florida-Georgia border, and there engaged General Patton's desperately built defensive lines. His troops, demoralized at the loss of Atlanta and much of the Atlantic coast, were unable to put up a serious resistance to the British, who dominated the battles they entered with their tank support.
On the 18th of May 1939, British troops entered Savannah unopposed, the Unionist defenders melting away at the first volley of tank rounds. For the second time, those oppressed by the Union State greeted them as liberators, though no longer were they seen as angels come to bring them to the light; they were still angels, but ones of vengeance, come to strike down their oppressors.
"Courts" were established by the British to deal with reactionary elements of the population who had accepted the return to Union rule, where the only sentence issued was one of death. Hundreds of men and women were executed by the people's courts, who used any justification necessary to bring their enemies before the firing squad. Among them were so-called "black collaborators," accused of opening their homes and businesses to the Union's men for quartering or rationing. Such atrocities went unnoticed for many years, before discovery by the Committee on War Crimes long after the names of those who committed them had been lost to history.
With South Carolina and Georgia nearly entirely secure, the last pocket of Unionist resistance behind Red Army lines was Charleston, still holding strong with some 10,000 soldiers ready to defend it. Though the offensive in the south continued, American brass thought it absolutely imperative that any organized resistance behind the lines be crushed, and so British tanks were deployed to finish off the Union Army.
By the 3rd June 1939 the British advance had cut off the state of Florida from the rest of the Union, and the Blackshirts were rapidly advancing down the peninsula towards Miami.
Experienced from the previous intervention's expedition into Florida, the British Blackshirts tore into the northern part of the state like it was paper, but met difficulty as the defense stiffened on the road to Orlando. Though the British had learned much fighting in the American South, they were not the masters of the marshes as the Floridians were, who used every swamp and glade lay ambushes for the advancing British armor.
With the front stabilized between recaptured Mobile and Florida, the Red Army and their British helpers were afforded the opportunity to rest, Blue Bonnie heralded as a major success for both the American and British armies. After the stunning loss of territory following the British withdrawal from America in September of 1938, all hope had seemed lost, and yet now the Union State was on its last legs, fleeing farther and farther into itself as the forces of syndicalism beat itself against their gates. Nothing, it seemed, could overshadow this monumental victory...
...until, of course, something did.

On the 11th of June, 1939, the temporary capital of the United States in Denver fell to the Red Army, which took the city with little resistance. President Garner and the remnants of Congress had already abandoned the city when it was engulfed by the front lines, gone underground to continue the resistance from some new bunker.
What mattered was that Denver was red, and it was draped in Syndicalist flags and symbols in celebration of the victory. The liberation of Denver marked the beginning of the end of the old United States: it had never truly recovered from the devastating loss of Washington, DC - and most of the loyal US Army- to the CSA in the Virginia Campaign, and the loss of its new - if temporary - capital was the final nail in the coffin. No more did the people expect a resurgence of the American republic in the eighth inning. For the first time, people saw the future for what it truly was: uncertain.
Not to be outdone by the "Yanks," General Brook ordered the British volunteers still attached to the Red Army to launch an immediate invasion of Charleston, which was still occupied by a force of Minutemen that refused to surrender the city.
British troops fought tooth and nail through the urban environment, against an enemy that had come to hate them, not for their creed, but for the hell they had brought to their shores. British troops in Charleston, a city that had once greeted them as liberators, now rejected them, and around every corner was a man willing to kill to spite the Red Army and their Blackshirt allies.
After two years of brutal fighting, June 1939 appeared to mark the start of the last chapter in the Second American Civil War. Only one thing remained to be done before total victory could be declared by the forces of Syndicalism in America:
The Kingfish had to be caught.

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Homage to Britannia: An HOI4 Kaiserreich AAR | Part Five: The Hunt for Huey Long

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