Neville part 2, A Black Ice AAR

Author: Yoper101
Published: 2017-03-01, edited: 2017-03-01
A telling of a different war. This time, Neville must deal with the nationalistic ambitions of Hitler at the negotiating table.

Part of the campaign:

Neville, A Black Ice AAR

Previous part:

Game: Hearts of Iron IV

Neville part 1, A Black Ice AAR

Images: 8, author: Yoper101, published: 2017-02-25

Rows upon rows of foundations were being dug into the ground for simple brick buildings to be built upon. Teams of men with shovels and wheelbarrows carved great rectangles into the muddy soil. The earth thus removed was hauled to the other side of the site and piled up on top of ammunition bunkers, to protect them from explosions and to disguise them from potential enemy spotter planes. This sight was becoming more and more common across the United Kingdom, as a great tension began to build across Europe.

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain strolled amicably through the construction site in the south of Lancashire that, when completed, would be known as a Royal Ordnance factory. He gazed at the barley-started work, but was content that at last something was being done to counter the ever-growing strength of Germany.

Neville checked his pocket-watch. 11:30. He was supposed to be inspecting this dreary place the the next half-hour, make sure that the workers saw that this was serious business. He sighed to himself, thinking of half-a-dozen more useful things he could be getting up to.

Just then, a black car drove through the open gate to the site and stopped to disgorge its two passengers. Neville of course recognised his personal secretary, Thomas Humphrey, but was surprised to see that with him was Lord Halifax, the Foreign Secretary. Neville made his apologies to the construction overseer whom had been guiding him around, and marched over to the two new arrivals.

'What's all this about?' He asked when they reached each other.

'I've just had the French ambassador wake me up at 6 o'clock.' Lord Halifax stated. 'He wanted to speak to you with a matter of urgency.'

'We phoned your hotel, but nobody answered,' Humphrey volunteered. 'So we've driven all the way from London to get you.'

'How unfortunate for you.' Commiserated Neville. 'I suppose we should head back right now then and see what the French want.'

Humphrey lead them to the car and held the back door open, first for Neville, then for his Lordship before climbing into the driver's seat. The engine roared to life, and Neville settled in for the awfully long journey back to London.
The French ambassador spoke almost perfect English, and Lord Halifax was himself fluent in French, so there was no disguising the objective of the French request.

They wanted a military alliance.

Germany's moves first into the Saarland, then the Rhineland, and finally into Austria indicated that Hitler had great ambitions hidden behind his silly little moustache.

The French wanted this agreement to be solidified as soon as possible. They had already drafted up an agreement on paper, and Neville was scanning through it, just to make sure all was present and correct.

After a rather relaxing half-hour, Neville agreed to the terms of the alliance and signed his name at the bottom of the long sheet of paper. He then passed it to Lord Halifax to sign also, who passed it back to the French ambassador afterwards, with his assurance that the french President would have it signed before the day was out.
The French ambassador left, taking the all-important sheet of paper with him. Neville, Humphrey and his Lordship stayed behind.

'So they want us to step up our naval production.' Halifax commented. 'How do you think we could find the funds for that?'

'We can redirect some of the civilian industrial grants.' Neville said. 'The contractors might grumble, but building shipyards will pay as well as building factories. The ships themselves will be expensive, but I think the government can afford a little more debt if it means peace and security for us.'

'Very good sir.' Said Humphrey. 'Shall I contact the contractors now?'

'No, leave that to the Chancellor's staff. Then we can at least make this look like it wasn't done under the table. Parliament's already given out the money anyway. We're just changing where it's spent.'

Humphrey nodded and then left to find a telephone.
A knock came on Neville's hotel suite door. Humphrey answered it, and brought Edward Deladier into the room, the short but thick-set french Prime Minister.

'Monsieur Chamberlain, I would appreciate it if we could speak alone.' He said.

'Of course, right this way'.

Neville lead him into one of the bedrooms of the suite and then asked; 'What did you want to see me about?'

'Mr. Hitler's ambitions are too aggressive. I see that he wants to create a new empire that would make Napoleon balk at its scale. Giving in to him at this stage is a terrible idea.'

'Come on man, his country was torn apart at Versailles. I'm sure all he wants to do is rebuild his old borders.'

'But that is exactly the problem. Today he asks for the Sudetenland. Tomorrow he asks for Romania, for Hungary, for Yugoslavia. We cannot give in to him at this early stage.'

'Tell me honestly, Edward. Could France fight a war tomorrow? Could France invade across the border into Germany, fight through their fortified Siegfried Line, march all the way across their country and capture Berlin? Because, if France cannot do that, then there is nothing we can do to oppose Hitler.'

'I see your point.' Deladier coincided. 'But we must do something. Perhaps we can keep him at the negotiating table.'

Neville nodded. 'I'll see what I can do.'
Neville rubbed his tired eyes and shook hands with the other four men around the table. The Sudetenland would pass to Germany, ostentatiously for greater stability in that region. The clocks had chimed midnight some time ago, and all were glad to come to an agreement, even if it was an agreement that the Czechs did not like.

As they walked out of the room together, Neville passed Hitler a note. The man quickly scanned it, reached into his inside pocket for a pen, leaned the note against the stone wall, and signed it. He passed it back to Neville with a quick smile, then carried on his way.
'I do not believe for one moment that Hitler is going to abide by this,' Neville said to Lord Halifax, tapping the note he had carelessly thrown onto his desk.

'Naturally,' His Lordship commented. 'The man's a clear tyrant.'

'What happened to singing his praises?' Neville asked.

'Oh, the man's got some cracking ideas about how to run a country, but quite frankly I don't trust a man whose smile is hidden under a little toothbrush. It's like he has to polish his smile each morning to make people trust him.'

Neville immediately began to wonder what the true reason behind Halifax's new opinion of Hitler was, but right now he had more pressing concerns.

'I think we'd better begin getting the chaps down at the Royal Arsenal to take a look a the guns the men are using. I'm sure Hitler's up to something and if we're going to have to stop him, we'll need to get with the times.' Halifax continued.

'Good idea,' Said Neville. 'I'll get the defence minister to introduce another funding bill to Parliament tomorrow. They should pass it pretty swiftly in light of current affairs.'
Humphrey left after delivering the news, with orders to open up talks with all eastern European nations, and Neville sat there in the cabinet office for quite some time on his own. Then he got up and threw his little note in the fire.
The next day, the government passed the Military Training act, and the nation began reshuffling its economy to prepare for a war. Factories were re-assigned to produce bombs and bullets. Cars were appropriated for military use. Airfields were shut down and re-opened as RAF aerodromes. Concrete was poured out all over the country to fortify it against an invasion. And Neville Chamberlain looked over all the work he had done, and saw that it was bad.
Neville rubbed his temples as he thought. Now one more person in the world knew a dreadful secret. That person was the current British Prime Minister. The Enigma code had been broken. It had been broken eight years ago. The Polish simply didn't have a way of regularly decrypt the messages.

'Alright, we designate this to our highest security priority.' Neville said to the the assembled heads of the military departments. 'No, scratch that, we assign this to a new level. Only we in this room, and the people we deem competent and trustworthy enough to work with this information can ever learn about this.'

'That would mean we need a name high than "most secret"' The head of M.I.6 commented.

'We'll call it ultra secret.' Said Neville. 'I'll let your sort among yourselves whom is going to take the lead in this. But we must keep this under our hats. I don't want a word of Enigma being spoken again in this country, lest the Germans become suspicious.'

'And if you need any money, just ask, and it will be found.' Neville added as an afterthought.

The department heads nodded and began to discuss amongst themselves.
The cabinet office had been taken over, but not by politicians for once. A BBC radio crew had set up all their complicated equipment necessary to record the Prime Minister's words. Neville's words.

'Sir, your tie.' Humphrey pointed out.

Neville looked down and saw that his tie was crooked, caught on one of his shirt buttons.

'Dash it all, I'm not going to be seen by anyone except this BBC crew.' He said.

'If you're sure sir,' Said Humphrey.

'Let's just get on with it.' Neville said, grumpily. He leaned forward towards the radio microphone and waited for the radio producer to give him the signal that he was now "on air" as they called it.

The man gave him a thumbs-up and Neville began his speech.

'I am speaking to you from the cabinet room at 10, Downing Street...'
Authors note:

And so the stage is set. Neville is off to war with his people dragged along behind him. I wonder how long he will last in office?

I wanted to include a bit about the ROF's, because there are the remains of one near where I live. For those interested in such things, the largest military factory in English history was at Gretna Green in the south of Scotland. It was in operation only for WW1. The whole factory complex was 14 miles long, and 9 miles wide. It employed over ten-thousand people at its peak. The factory there exclusively produced an explosive called Cordite. It was used to propel the artillery shells that pockmarked the landscape of the Western Front. The work there was dangerous and many of the workers (most of whom were young women) were poisoned by the dangerous chemicals that they handled on a daily basis.

And I think that I should make it clear that, while I am borrowing elements from history, like Deladier seeing through Hitler's ambition, and Lord Halifax's sudden disliking of the Germans after the Munich conference, this is still a fictional story. Things are not going to work out as history dictated that they did.

Next chapter:

Game: Hearts of Iron IV

Neville part 3, A Black Ice AAR

Images: 8, author: Yoper101, published: 2017-03-09

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