Pieces Of Creation is an occasional recurring column at Campaign Mastery in which Mike offers game reference and other materials that he has created for his own campaigns.
All images used to illustrate this article are public-domain works hosted by Wikipedia Commons or derivations of such works, save for the illustration of The Mao.
The Technological Era Begins – c.1910-1936 (~120 years ago)
As is usually the case, the dawning of a new era was largely unnoticed, recognizable only in hindsight. Certainly no-one in the Empire paid much attention to a small airfield in the south of France in late 1907 when George Orville and William deBarre† finally managed to get a heavier-than-air craft into the sky. It might have taken place sooner had Orville’s former partner, Wilbur Wright, not perished in an accidental fire in their workshop near Kitty Hawk, USK‡. But to those interested in the conquest of the air, this was exciting news; and so quickly did aviation technology progress that January 1910 saw the beginnings of mail delivery by aircraft, and the opening of Henry Ford’s first factory for the manufacture of automobiles. As always, a change in era was marked within the Empire not with a discovery but with its first practical application.
† ‘William deBarre’ was originally going to be pioneer aviator Felix du Temple de la Croix but at the last minute I decided to use the name of a fictitious “pioneer aviator” as a composite of de la Croix and several others. It was also subsequently determined that the first aircraft would still be named “The Wright Flyer” in tribute to Wilbur. This historical change was needed to delay the age of aviation by a few years for tactical reasons.
‡USK = “Kingdom Of The United States Of America”.
The Empire was consumed by the issues that had been of concern at the end of the Industrial Era. Victoria had been succeeded by the elderly and unwell Edward I, and the Monarch’s health was a matter of considerable concern. In 1910 he succumbed to old age after a reign of only 9 years, and was succeeded by George II, altogether a more vigorous monarch, and a man of strong opinions.
1913 saw the first suffragette demonstrations in London, as the Educated Middle Class Women who were Queen Victoria’s legacy demanded the Vote. In the same year, the Labor Government finagled the Trade Union Act into law, which established the right of Trade Unions to use Union Funds for political purposes. This set the stage for two of the themes of the era – the franchise and who could exercise it; and the heated confrontations between the Unions and the Government.
But it was not until 1914 that the Empire knew just how different this era was to be. It was in that year that the Chinese again emerged from behind their borders with the intention of conquering the World. Unknown to the British, the Mao had instigated a number of minor crises in the Empire to keep their attention focused inward while a massive buildup of troops took place. This included the assassination of most of the Royal Family of the Kingdom Of Russia, the sponsoring of an armed uprising in South Africa, the enlisting of the forbidden and underground Thugee Cults in India, and a variety of other headaches. This tactic largely succeeded, though the ending of the Boer war had at least forewarned the Empire that China was again looking outward. Despite this warning, they remained blissfully unaware of the true level of danger that the Chinese, and their secretive masters, the Mao, posed.
The Second Global War
The rude awakening began with a Thugee uprising in India. Chinese troops swarmed across the Border in support of the Death Cult, while other armies invaded Pakistan, Afghanistan, Korea, Hong Kong, Australia, and Russia. The Second Global War had begun without warning. The technology of the Chinese defied Imperial understanding; Imperial aircraft were shot from the sky by beams of light, their troops were incinerated by fast-moving walls of flame, Chinese troops once again seemed able to come and go at will, striking from behind Enemy lines with impunity. One survivor of a skirmish in Turkey reported that only minutes after a potential battlefield was scouted with no sign of the enemy, it was swarming with troops who appeared from the sky like ghosts.
Any gamer reading the above should immediately recognize it as the way magic would be described (if it really worked) by a scientist who refuses to believe in magic.
After only 4 months of hostilities, the Empire had lost the entire Middle East, Italy, Central Australia, all Asian holdings, Eastern Europe, Russia, and Austria. France and Germany were under direct threat, their armies massed in trenches many miles long. The primary Chinese deficiency in the last war between the two Empires, Naval Power, had seemingly been rectified to Chinese satisfaction; they ruled the waves of the Pacific, but encountered more problems in the Atlantic, where they had underestimated the severity of the conditions they would face. In that ocean, a rough parity between the two sides was soon discovered by each side.
One significant difference between this war and that of 76 years earlier was the invention of moving pictures, which enabled the Empire to capture images of the attacking army and the way they used their terrifyingly effective weapons. It was hoped that at last the Empire would gain some understanding of the operating principles of these strange arms, or at the very least, of their operational parameters, which would enable their tacticians to counter them. Unfortunately, they continued to defy explanation; much of the footage would have been dismissed as trickery were not the results as incomprehensible as the technology. However, the Empire were able to determine that only one or two men in any given squad utilized these weapons; most were equipped with weaponry vastly inferior to that of the Empire. If those key men were eliminated, the Defenders won the battle; if they were not, the conflict was hopeless.
At least this operational information gave the defenders clues as to how to utilize their own arms most effectively. Artillery barrages, Gas attacks, Minefields, and Trenches protected by Machine Guns and barbed wire, were all effective tactics. Most significantly, they learned that if they held every inch of their side of the battlefield, the enemy somehow knew it and were unable to employ their surprise-behind-the-lines tactics. Careful use of tactics and the profligate expenditure of men at last halted the Chinese advance, and captured Chinese troops were forced to reveal that resupply was a major problem for the invaders. The Chinese soon realized that digging their own trenches was the best defense against these tactics, and their advance ground to a complete halt.
But defensive tactics were insufficient; if the Empire were to combat the enemy effectively, they had to develop their own equivalents of at least some of the enemy technology. In particular, a fast-moving mobile strike force that carried sufficient protection against enemy weaponry; capable of inflicting heavy damage very precisely, and which could shift targets rapidly, was required. The Tank was the perfect solution; the enemy troops were behind no barricades of steel, wearing only medieval armor of cane and bone and hideous masks. So long as there was sufficient fuel, they could strike deep into enemy territory destroying all opposition in their path.
Ensuring that fuel supply was the rub; the USK had more than enough to build the tanks, and to fuel the offensive – if the shipments could get through. Naval superiority was again the key to victory, especially in the hostile waters of the Atlantic. The Empire needed better protection for their convoys, and more powerful strike vessels to hound the enemy out of the Sea. These would take years to design and construct, and only when they were deployed and taking effect could the Empire turn to constructing their counterattack, secure in the knowledge that their land power could be delivered to the target. For the next two years, the bloody meat-grinder of trench warfare, and the resulting stalemate, would be the reality of war.
The new vessels entered active service in the Imperial Navy in late 1916. Six months later, half of them had been sunk by the enemy, but the Atlantic belonged to the Empire. Almost exactly a year after the first of the new Battleships and Destroyers entered service, the Imperial land counteroffensive began.
In early 1918, sufficient naval forces existed to invade the enemy-held Pacific Ocean, bringing relief to the Australian Colony. In October of 1918, most of the captured territory had been reclaimed, but the Empire was struggling to maintain the offensive; fuel and arms expenditure had been running at triple their most pessimistic estimates for well over a year. Supply though the much larger Pacific was still especially problematic, despite the recapture of many key strategic points such as Midway and Wake islands. Finally, a forward commander received an official envoy of the Chinese, bearing a proposal of peace.
The War peters out
The Empire had been stretched to the limit, and had yet to claim and hold any significant land territory on the Asian Mainland, let alone getting a military force anywhere near China itself. Although unhappy with the current situation, they had little choice but to accept peace terms. Even if an end to hostilities was declared immediately, the Empire faced famine: the farmers who should have been planting crops had instead been sent to war, and altogether too many of them had been killed.
The Imperial Military commander agreed to negotiate a peaceful end to the conflict, but insisted that the Chinese be represented by one of the Mao, in person. The Chinese were outraged, but were facing similar problems to those of the Empire. They reciprocated by insisting that the Empire be represented by someone able to speak for the Empire as a whole, knowing that this meant the Emperor – and that the Empire would refuse to risk such a prominent individual, and that this would give them the leverage to dismiss the original demand.
But China had reckoned without the changes in Western society over the last 80 years. Thanks to the passivity of Queen Victoria, it was now the Throne that was important, not the individual who currently sat apon it. On behalf of the Emperor, they agreed, knowing that should he fall through trickery, his heir, and his heir’s heir, and so on down a line of succession almost 1400 names in length, stood ready to assume the “burden”.
The Mysteries Deepen
It thus came to pass that the Empire got its first substantial intelligence on the Mao, no member of whom they had ever seen. The Chinese representative was tall, almost eight feet in height, and both lithe and muscular in build. Completely enshrouded in robes and mask and gloves, his soft boots showed metal “toes” designed for ripping and shredding. He walked with an odd gait, and spoke in a peculiar, throaty whisper, with an even stranger – and decidedly non-oriental – accent.
The peace negotiations took place on the Island of Singapore, since both sides held part of it too securely to be dislodged – an area that was decidedly windy at this time of year. As a result, the Empire was further able to determine that the Mao’s physical build was completely unlike that of any human that had ever lived. The negotiators were not great artists, but between them they drew the sketch shown. Note the flattened and inclined nose, the projecting jaw, the unusual ribcage, hips, and ankles, and the general resemblance to many “Ancient Astronaut” pictures. Observe also the deep-set eyes and their unusual angle and shape.
Where the Mao came from, and how, remains a mystery to this day. No Imperial citizen has yet knowingly seen an unmasked Mao.
The Postwar Impact
The War had dominated politics within the Empire for its duration. Elections were suspended and a coalition government formed from members of both Labour and the Tories from the lower house and selected Nobles from the Upper house as well. The armistice signed on Nov 11th of 1918 ended this coalition and restored normality to Imperial Politics.
The social effects of the war were as substantial as the political, but far longer lasting. In Western Europe, up to 60% of the Male population was called into military service, and fully 2/3 of these did not return. Hardest hit was the 16-30 age bracket, with three quarters of that generation’s males dying in the course of the conflict.
This left Wives and Daughters running farms and businesses, or trying to, and increased the existing pressure to grant women the vote. 24 hours after the peace treaty was signed, George II extended the privilege of compulsory voting to women over 30 and men over 21 (except for Peers, lunatics, and felons).
That winter was a harsh one. In addition to the problems of adequate food supply, many other commodities had run short and been subject to rationing. It was an environment certain to lower the general health of the population. During the War, the Empire had been lucky; but with the coming of the winter of 1918, that luck ran out. Even while George was negotiating the diplomatic waters with the Mao, the Emprie was deep in the grip of a world-wide influenza epidemic that would ultimately kill another 100,000 people – not counting any deaths in Mao-held Asia.
With manpower at an all-time low, the only solution was a greater level of industrialization; replacing people with mechanical arrangements. To ensure that the workers who were available were not made to do the work of several, the Labour government persuaded George II to limit the Working Week to 48 hours in 1919, the same year in which George granted the petition of the Viscountess Astor, who wished to participate fully, and on an equal basis, within the House Of Lords.
Further social fallout from the War would follow over the next decade. In 1926 the adoption of children was legalized in Britain; many mothers having found it impossible to cope with the practical demands being made apon them and with the social obligations of raising children. In addition, in many parts of the Empire orphanages had been overcrowded beyond any ability to cope, again as a consequence of the War. This change had been proposed in 1919, but for reasons which remain inexplicable, it had been refused by George II.
Only when the Upper House brokered a deal with their Parliamentary brethren to overrule the Monarch did they come into effect. The Quid Pro Quo that the Government demanded was that the vote for women be placed on the same qualifications as had been promulgated for men.
The following year, the Upper House demanded an increase in the minimum age for marriage – which had been 14 for boys and 12 for girls – to 16, and then only with parental consent or a Judicial License. This was another consequence of the lack of parental guidance resulting from the war losses. Only at 21 would marriage be freely permitted.
Life had more or less returned to normal throughout the Empire, and the war was a fading memory over a decade old. Then the Financial Markets crashed, led by Wall Street in the USK, on a day in 1929 which would come to be known as Black Tuesday,
The Roaring 20s and the Great Depression
For stock market investors, the 1920s had appeared to be a dream come true. The somewhat gloomy picture painted by government policies aimed at countering the negative consequences of the war is not indicative of the overall mood of the times. To the common man, the underdog, the “British Bulldog”, had come from nowhere in extra time to force a terrifying enemy to its knees and score a mighty victory. 1919 might have been a little rough, but by 1920 the mood could best be described as “buoyant” and it only went up from there.
New-fangled technology, like the radio (RCA) and the car (Ford started mass production) coupled with real estate speculation created an economic temperament of “get rich quick.” Jazz was all the rage and clubs were starting up in the major cities. Life, in general, was good, although poverty was still evident. Industrial production was rising, and this fueled the speculation. The “Working Man’s Dream” of making a fortune and retiring wealthy seemed to be available to just about anyone who wanted to lift a finger to demand it. From 1925 to 1929, the average price of common stocks on the New York Stock Exchange more than doubled. The world economy was booming as the stock market rose to unparalleled heights.
Everyone wanted to think that the growth would never end. The “bull market” motivated thousands to buy stocks “on margin.” This meant that investors bought stock by borrowing huge amounts of money from the broker. Before the abolition of debtor’s prison, this would never be contemplated; but not only was the gamble seen as a “Sure Thing” – even (especially?) by people who should have known better – but even if they jumped the wrong way and lost their shirt, that meant little more than a decade-long setback on the road to riches. The times were known as the “Roaring 20s” for a reason!
The ordinary investor did not see the risks that were involved, figuring that once their stocks increased enough, they could sell them at a huge profit and easily pay back the broker. In pursuit of fortune, many invested their life savings. By 1929, over a BILLION shares were traded! To meet the demand, the stock exchange added 275 new seats and built a second trading floor.
The Banks, too, saw these investments as sure-fire winners, and were more than happy to underwrite huge sums of money to the brokers who were doling out get-rich-quick investment schemes like candy to a sweet-tooth. Broker’s fees were generating huge incomes, and these incomes themselves were considered adequate collateral for the most outrageous loans. It was not impossible for a man with £50 to his name and a clean suit to walk out of a bank with a line of credit of three or four digits, with no guarantees of any kind. And, while the bull market held sway, buoyed up by this vast influx of capital, record profits resulted.
The stock market continued to spiral upward until October 24, 1929, when it stabilized for the first time in over 5 years.
On Tuesday October 29th, Wall Street witnessed a 13% decline in the Dow Jones, earning the date the sobriquet of “Black Tuesday.” It is generally recognized that this was the beginning of the Great Depression. In modern times, students of history have gained the impression that the economic collapse took place overnight, but in reality it was a long, sustained period of falling share values. Between early September and the end of October 1929 the market lost a total of 40% in less than 8 weeks. Even this was just the end of the beginning of the crash; the market continued to fall for several years after Black Tuesday. By the end of the slide, some pundits conjectured that the market might actually go to zero value! From its high of 386.10 in September ’29 to its low of 40.60 on July 29, 1932, the market had lost a total of 89%!
What really happened on Black Tuesday is little understood and highly controversial. What history suggests is that the mass of investors capitulated, in essence said, “Enough is enough,” and ran from the market, most of them never to return. This is overly simplistic, to say the least.
Production and GDP were rising at a much slower rate than the stock market, in other words the number of possessions of value weren’t increasing as quickly as was the value that people attached to them. They were no longer buying investments based on what a company had and could do, they were speculating on what it MIGHT be able to do in the future.
That began producing an economic squeeze on the banks and financial institutions that held the cash which flowed through the Imperial economic arteries. Ultimately, it was these institutions that were underwriting the risks of the margin calls. With the size of the speculations continually increasing, it was inevitable that eventually an investor would write a cheque that his backer couldn’t cash.
This had also occurred a number of times before the crash, so it alone is not the “smoking gun”. The banks had long had a policy of protecting each other, and bailing each other out when this happened, in effect, investing in each other. It just so happened that on October 21st, a number of backers couldn’t cover the margins, and that as a consequence the banking sector overall were forced to reassess the potential of what they might be able to do over the next decade.
They so advised their larger customers of their new, rather bearish outlook, in a bulletin issued on the 23rd. With the prospect of loans becoming harder to obtain, or costing more in interest, several key manufacturers in turn had to revise their future plans. Whispers and rumors were already circulating around the smaller investors, who had not been made privy to the Bank’s bulletin. When, on the 24th, Bank investors began to sell off stocks at a little less than their current value – converting the stocks to cash in hand – the market growth slowed, and then stopped. By noon, panic had set in and millions of shares had been sold. The selling frenzy continued all afternoon. By closing, 13 million shares had been traded and the market dropped four billion pounds.
If there is a lesson that the Empire has been forced to re-learn time and again – and has only recently come to properly appreciate – it is that morale is both insubstantial and the most important aspect of society. In the course of a week of stagnating market values, the mood of investors turned cautious. A small but decisive percentage of them decided to follow the banks’ lead, and cash out for now until they saw which way things went. They began to sell and not buy; at first, there were a number of people to snap up the shares offered, and for a few hours the market again began to rise, seeming to rebound after its brief hesitation.
An Opportunity Lost
Intervention at this moment might have prevented the catastrophe to come. But there were more shares being sold than there were willing buyers. What’s more, because the smaller investors didn’t know that the problem was restricted to one small part of the market, and its flow-on effects, they weren’t just selling the affected stocks, they were selling all stocks. To keep selling, the people trying to get out had to accept smaller and smaller amounts, and slowly the market began to fall. Ultimately, someone found that they simply could not sell a stock – history does not record who or which stock – but the word of an offer made to sell at 90% of the apparent value which had no takers quickly went around the floor of the trading house.
This scared other investors, who had been planning to wait and see what happened, into selling – or trying to. But those willing to buy had spent their money already, and the banks – noting the falling values of stocks across the board – refused to extend further credit to them. The asking price for various stocks began to drop precipitously as traders began to panic. Over 16 million shares of stock were sold on Black Tuesday and the market fell by over 14 billion pounds. By comparison, the entire budget of the USK Government that year was three billion pounds. Brokers screamed as hysterical visitors were taken away by the police.
The Great Depression
In one day, the Kingdom of the United States lost more capital than it had spent in all of The Second Global War. Some of the losses had been soaked up by smaller investors grabbing onto shares priced as fire-sale commodities, providing a late surge that lifted the market back up slightly. Overnight, a number of these changed their minds, but it was too late to sell. And so the market crashed. People who had invested their entire life savings during the boom were now bankrupt. Many banks and businesses were forced to close. But the worst was yet to come.
The Kingdom Of The United States Of America was a microcosm of the economy of the entire empire. The same forces at work on Wall Street had been in full force in Sydney, London, and Berlin.
Black Tuesday was the result of the collapse of a house of cards, and the chill economic wind that it generated blew over all the other houses of cards. The market would continue to trend downwards for the next three years. The crash had such an impact that the market did not recover its lost value until 1954, 25 years later.
The consequences have been shown on many newsreels; the lack of employment, the poverty, etc – and need no amplification.
The Third Global War – c.1936-1945 (~110 years ago)
Politics in the German Kingdom had always been murky, and far more Machiavellian than those of Machiavelli’s Italian birthplace. Through a prolonged period of double-dealings and betrayals, Adolf Hitler had become Prime Minister in 1928. He blamed the depression and its harsh effects on the Empire, and began placing bureaucratic “buffers” between the Kingdom of Germany and the rest of the Empire.
Like most of the Imperial Kingdoms, Germany had rearmed and rebuilt its military substantially in preparation for further hostilities with the Chinese. Hitler began a massive arms buildup, enacting local laws which came close to martial law to force construction, research & development, and manufacturing to unprecedented levels. More disturbingly, he claimed to have evidence that the Mao had penetrated the governments of many of the other Kingdoms, and that only his purges of the unreliable had eliminated these spies from Germany; and as a result, he refused to share the results of his scientist’s efforts with the rest of the Empire.
There was no one thing that he did in the years leading up to 1936 that was all that alarming or unwarranted, if his reasons were taken at face value, which the rest of the Empire had no reason not to do. It was only when reviewed in aggregate, and with the assumption that he might not be entirely truthful – as demonstrated through his political history – that they began to take on disturbing overtones of intentional malice.
The rest of the empire had also begun to recover from the effects of the great depression, following the lead of the Prime Minister of the USK, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Big Government spending and government debts were the way to get the mood of the country turned around. To FDR, the term “Great Depression” was not about economics, it was a description of the state of mind of the citizens he represented. A massive investment in infrastructure by the Government would pay for itself in the long run, according to his philosophy, and would stimulate the economy and create jobs in the short term. The trick was to sell the idea that things were getting better to the public, and then to ensure that the benefits of the infrastructure investments began to appear before he ran out of government projects of real value.
The Nazi Buildup
Many of the Kingdoms neighboring Germany had suffered badly from economic and political mismanagement. Despite this, to “build up the Imperial Economy”, Hitler placed many orders with these kingdoms for machinery, components, raw materials, and other produce. That these kingdoms had the capacity to meet these contracts was unquestionable; but time after time something seemed to go wrong.
At first, Hitler alleged sabotage by Mao agents, and demanded that the Empire investigate at the highest level; but he was not taken seriously. Newly-elected Prime Minister of the British Empire, Neville Chamberlain, began a policy of appeasing Hitler, trying to prevent a general loss of morale throughout the Empire. He promised the German leader an investigation, but the British effort was little more than a token review; the Imperial investigator delegated the task never even left London, simply having the relevant records shipped to him. (It is now generally accepted – without proof – that had a serious investigation taken place, it would have found proof of German sabotage).
State Of The Monarchy
These developments had taken place under the auspices of a new and untried Monarch. George II, who had so ably steered the Empire through the trials of the Second Global War, had passed away on January 20th of 1936, Edward II ascending the throne to succeed him.
But Edward wanted to marry a commoner, and under the terms of the Magna Carta (and many subsequent documents and treaties), it was not permitted for a woman subject to the protections of Common Law to marry a member of the peerage, and the Emperor was considered to be just that under the terms of the Magna Carta. While he could simply issue a decree rescinding this condition as it applied to the Monarch, doing so would call into question many of the other agreements and treaties which held the Empire together in the political sense. It risked the complete disintegration of the Empire, and this was unacceptable.
After almost a year of resisting pressure to set aside his “infatuation” with the commoner and wed some suitable member of the peerage, Edward finally made the difficult choice between the throne and romance; on December 5th, he abdicated in favor of his cousin, the Duke Of York, who ascended the throne to become George III. (Side-note: Edward has never been a lucky name within the Imperial monarchy, while George has been the name of the greatest of the Emperors. This piece of folk wisdom has been generalised over the decades to the point where “Edward” is considered a name of ill-omen throughout the Empire).
In 1937, Hitler claimed to have had enough. Using his pristine new military forces, he invaded Austria, and then Czechoslovakia. He claimed that it was in the Empires’ best interests that vital industries and resources be placed under efficient and effective control. Taking a cue from the formation of the Empire, he left the existing Monarchs in titular charge of the captive Kingdoms, which fell in a terrifyingly short space of time. But the governments were mostly dismissed and German administrators took over, implementing policies that mirrored the “efficient” ones of Germany.
Chamberlain immediately departed for London, where he was convinced by Hitler that the Germans had no territorial aspirations at all; they simply insisted that the government meet a professional management standard. Either the failures had been caused by sabotage, as he had thought initially, or by incompetence; if he accepted Chamberlain’s reassurance that Mao saboteurs were not the problem, it only became more important for Germany to help the Empire recover with some sound Aryan management. Chamberlain returned to promise ‘Peace In Our Time’ in an infamous speech to the Government. To ensure that the public received his speech well, and bolster his chances of reelection, he used the same speech to announce that the creation of Paid Holidays throughout the Empire.
What Chamberlain had failed to notice that with the exception of a couple of sympathetic talking heads and “representatives”, no one had heard from any of the German peerage for years. They were virtually all under strict “House Arrest”, including the Monarch, King William IX. To all intents and purposes, Hitler and his Nazi Party were the sole controllers of Germany.
In late 1939, Hitler turned his attention to Poland, but Chamberlain, stung by what he perceived (correctly) as a double-cross by Hitler, advised George III to issue an ultimatum to the Nazis. They responded by dissolving the bureaucratic barrier which had kept the Empire at arms length within their boarders and declaring the creation of the Aryan Empire. They revealed that they had the support of the Russians, who had never been satisfied by Imperial efforts to rebuild their Kingdom after the Mao invasion, and of the Italians, who under Mussolini had begun to model themselves on the German archetype.
He had timed the announcement well – it was the heart of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, when fuel and oil reserves were at their lowest, and people were least interested in foreign affairs. In fact, this was the coldest winter in Western Europe since 1894, so reserves were far below even their normal levels for the season. (Records recovered after the War would show that Hitler knew of the depth of the impending Winter long before the season’s first snowfall, and had delayed his offensive accordingly. How he could know remains a mystery).
War sweeps the globe
Chamberlain tried to reinvent himself into a wartime Prime Minister in the mould of Asquith, who had led the coalition government through The Second Global War, but his credibility had been shattered by his many opportunities to foresee what was coming and act accordingly.
In May of 1940 he was forced by George III to step aside for a coalition government formed around Winston Churchill, whose family had once been members of the peerage but who had stood aside to become commoners – without severing their social ties to the Nobility. Churchill had been among the first to observe the overall pattern of events and react with public and outspoken alarm, for which he had been openly ridiculed by Chamberlain; his appointment was particularly galling to the outgoing PM.
In terms of actual events, the conduct of the war had little variation on the events documented as World War II on Earth-Prime until Dec 7, 1940. While the “allies” were far more tightly united, and America was already in the War, The Axis allies had been able to take advantage of existing conditions to achieve an even stronger military force, and the Imperial Defenses were focused outward, against the Mao, and were of the type expected to be most useful against that enemy. In addition, this “civil war” had the usual aspects of such wars – conflicts of loyalty, etc – which weakened the allied positions, and the Aryans had far greater intelligence concerning Imperial tactics and planning.
The axis had amassed enough naval power to blockade Europe, just as had the Mao; it was a tactic of proven effectiveness. As with the Second Global War, the disposition of the USK would be the ultimate determining factor between victory and failure. Germany made serious and extensive attempts to persuade the USK into the axis ranks even as Nazi Saboteurs did everything within their power to disrupt the industrial capability of this key player, and conducted negotiations with Mexico aimed at neutralizing the potential American threat.
The following paragraph is only appropriate to a Pulp or Superhero campaign. Anyone using this Alternate History for any other purpose may wish to ignore it altogether.
The German efforts at persuading the USK to abandon the Empire and strive for total independence were fruitless, and their sabotage efforts were blocked by the rise of a new breed of public figure – the masked hero. Ordinary people who sought, for one reason or another, to conceal their identities, and fight the good fight against the forces of Tyranny. These heroes had a series of fantastic adventures and escapades against an equally-colorful breed of enemy, captured the public imagination and gave heart to the allies. Their names are incredibly camp by modern standards, as are those of their opponents – Baron Blitz, Rubber Doll, The Green Man, Tank, Mr. Wilde, The Bee, The Comb, Union Jacky, Stars-n-stripes, Miss Glamour, Red Cave, Empire O’Day, and the evocatively-named Blue Mask being amongst them.
But on December 7, 1941, The Imperial countermeasures against the Axis threat suffered a serious setback. By now, France had fallen, and most of Europe was under the conqueror’s Heel, but the Empire remained confident that the huge counterstrike being assembled in the USK would turn the tables, especially given the double-cross the Nazis had pulled on Russia, which had returned that Kingdom – somewhat dispirited but with a Never-Say-Die-Attitude – to the Imperial fold. The Nazi diplomats now sold out what remained of their Imperial Loyalties, and welcomed a third superpower into the axis – The Mao.
The first that the Empire knew of this development was when a Mao aerial force attacked the Pearl Harbor shipyards without warning, where the munitions for taking control of the Atlantic were being built, far from the planned War Zone. The existence of Mao aerial forces was an unexpected development, and one that signaled that they had come up with a few new tricks since their last conflict with the Empire.
The situation was desperate, and called for a desperate response. Although Imperial technology had improved – Imperial researchers thought that by Century’s end they might be able to match the technology already demonstrated by the Chinese – that was still 50 years off at best.
In the meantime, as it had in the past, courage and sacrifice would be the order of the day. The King ordered a bold strategy – the Empire would parachute a full heavy tank division into the Siberian territory occupied by the Mau by coming across the pole with orders to drive for China and stop at nothing. This would leave the European campaign bereft of the forces to do anything more than Dig In and hold on for grim death while the arms were readied in the USK for a war of European Liberation.
This was a suicide mission designed purely to buy everyone else the time to knock over the Nazis. Once the Empire had been reunified, the allies would implement a full-scale Pacific War, with the USK being supported as they had previously supported Europe. The bulk of the nation’s food would either be exported from Europe or grown by volunteer tenders from the Continent, freeing the USK to focus their maximum efforts on military action. They might be unsuccessful at overthrowing the Mao completely, but the intention was to make their Asiatic enemies pay dearly for their presumption.
In each military encounter with the Mao, Imperial technology had advanced, permitting better analysis of the Mao techniques and technology. While the operating principles remained as unfathomable as ever, the Imperial understanding of the operational parameters of the Mao elite forces became clearer each time. What was learned from the attack on Pearl Harbor was that they had developed some form of personal flight, and that the Mao technology operated on Voice Control of some sort. The language was a specialized and unnatural one, clearly suggesting that it had been custom-designed for its purpose; the extreme sophistication of the language spoke volumes about the degree of variation of effect the Mao could generate. This went a long way in Imperial minds toward explaining why they had never had the smallest success making Mao devices function correctly. It also suggested for the first time a class of potential counter-weapon against them.
Fortunately, the damage to the systems and warships at Pearl Harbor proved less severe than initial estimates; much of it was cosmetic or quickly repairable in nature. To some extent, this was a consequence of the designs involved; intended to make turnaround of a vessel damaged by naval artillery more rapid, it proved equally effective against the Mao attacks. Still more importantly, the very existence of an error of judgment of that magnitude proved that the Mao were not superhuman, however alien they might be; they were as capable of error as anyone else, and that fact gave a much-needed shot in the arm to the entire Empire.
In retrospect, a third piece of vital intelligence was realized: wherever the Mao came from, clearly from somewhere beyond the Earth, they clearly did not have access to the resources of that point of origin. Rather than being part of some invasion from beyond the stars, they were more akin to the planned parachute assault in Siberia, dumped and forced to fend for themselves with whatever resources they could muster of their own volition – again news of some cheer to the beleaguered Empire.
For once, everything went more or less as planned. Although subjected to air-raids daily, England held until American forces could be forced through an increasingly-hostile Atlantic. While the critical commodity limiting the Imperial war efforts was oil, allied intelligence suggested that the Nazis were in even greater need in this area, and would have to undertake serious military action to obtain it – which meant a massive North African campaign.
Now the true strategic situation began to clarify for the Imperial analysts; the attacks on neighboring kingdoms were to obtain their oil reserves, each victory enabling the war machine to roll on. The current bombing of London was not a prelude to an imminent invasion as feared; it was intended to tie allied resources down. The role of the Italians was to hold and protect the Mediterranean and Black Seas, enabling the Nazis to make their real thrust for the recently discovered African oil fields. Even the closing of the Atlantic by German warships was intended less as a direct defense of the Fatherland than it was to help keep the Empire pinned down.
Knowing at last the German strategic direction, the Empire determined to target the Italian forces. If they could seize control of the Mediterranean, they could isolate the Nazi forces in Libya, preventing resupply of arms from the Continent and resupply of the Continental Oil reserves. Once driven out of Africa, it would only be a matter of time before the Nazi war apparatus began to wind down; victory in Europe would then be only a matter of time. The capture of the German industrial base would be a harder mission than simply destroying it, but would enable Europe to reverse the direction of logistic and tactical support, adding that much more force to the war against the Mao.
These plans proved even more effective than the Empire could have hoped. Their researchers managed through technological development to crack the German “unbreakable” Enigma code, giving them access to top-level German intelligence and planning. The imperial war effort focused on, and successfully liberated, Malta, giving them a platform to attack both Italy and Libya. The moment the first troops set foot on Italian Soil, they received a total capitulation by the Italians, who had never been steadfast in their loyalties; Mussolini had simply done whatever he had to do in order to ensure his own position, and he hoped that by surrendering he could preserve his rule.
The King was less forgiving than the Imperial diplomats might have liked, and insisted that the entire Italian Leadership be tried for the crime of High Treason against the Empire. While some were found guilty of lesser offenses, the Italian Inner Cabinet and Leadership were convicted and most were sentenced to death by Hanging. Churchill, whose eye was still firmly fixed on the War overall, persuaded George III to commute these sentences to lifetime imprisonment so as to further weaken the German resolve; he wanted to attempt to parley the “last chance to take a stand” concept amongst the German Population into a fifth column. The assistance of the French resistance had been incredibly valuable already, and bolstering a German equivalent would only make the overall objectives easier to achieve. Largely unsuccessful (the Gestapo were simply too efficient), this move would eventually prove beneficial to the Empire; as Germany crumbled in 1943-4, it prevented and blocked many Nazi attempts at the equivalent of a “scorched industry” defense.
The Pacific Theatre
When Germany surrendered in 1944, following Hitler’s culminating act of murder-suicide, Imperial attention turned to the Pacific War. This had proven to be a much nastier affair than Empire planning had hoped; the Siberian counter-invasion, using mostly Russian, Scandinavian, and Spanish forces, with Pakistani support, had paused repeatedly to subdue captured territories rather than acting as the intended spearhead into China itself. (At their subsequent Court-Martial, the coomanders of the force pointed out that the manner of prosecution of the mission had been left to their discretion, and that they had opted for a slower, longer-term approach which far extended their ability to harass the Chinese from behind. They were exonerated by a narrow vote).
That meant that the Chinese offensive had been only blunted, not slowed dramatically, which in turn led to the loss of several key strategic positions in the Pacific, and threatened a second invasion of Australia by way of New Guinea. Only stubborn resistance and the devising of new forms of tactics by the Australians permitted the fall of that Island, despite being outnumbered ten-to-one. These new tactics, later named “Guerilla Warfare” by Imperial Analysts, meant that the Mao lines were in a state of perpetual hemorrhage. By the time they had been driven out of New Guinea, the ANZAC forces had established themselves as the elite Special Forces troops of the Empire.
A Desperate Plan
This led to a radical change of plan for the Pacific Theatre campaign. Rather than the straightforward liberation of Wake & Midway Islands, followed by the capture of some of the larger Japanese Islands to form staging points on the Chinese mainland, Churchill decided to focus Naval operations on the Banda Sea by way of Polynesia and Samoa, releasing the battle-hardened Australian Troops to swarm throughout Indonesia and then up through Thailand and Burma. Once the invasion of Thailand had begun, the Chinese fleet would have been cut in two, permitting first the Indian and then the Northern Pacific oceans to be recaptured.
The foundation of the whole strategy was promoting the Australian forces into senior positions and providing experienced troops from the European campaigns to learn this new and very effective combat style. The Imperial Tacticians had learned an invaluable lesson: The Empire did not need to be more technologically advanced than the Mao to defeat their enemy, they simply needed to use what they had more effectively than the enemy could use what it had.
Which was not to imply that Imperial technology had not developed by leaps and bounds. Heavy Bombers, Fighter Aircraft, Radar Systems, Electronic Computing Devices, Tanks and Armored Personnel Carriers, Submarines, and Jet Engines had all been developed in the course of the War. Through the recapture of Germany, Missiles, Rockets, and Jet fighters were all newly-acquired technologies; while they could not be developed fully without substantially more time, if the Pacific War went – as anticipated – for as long as the European Campaign had, or longer, they would surely be in service by Wars End. And scientists within the USK were now working on the most potent explosive ever devised, an atomic explosive, capable of leveling a city with a single weapon. Not even the Mao had shown themselves able to do that!
Setbacks and Successes
Not everything went quite according to the script, of course. In War, as in life, it rarely does. The breaking up of the elite Australian units didn’t work, and the veteran Europeans resented and ignored the lessons the Guerilla Fighters had learned the hard way. As a result, they tried to fight the campaign using traditional European tactics, and lost, time after time. The source of the problem lay in the mostly European commanding officers, who were not amenable to changing “proven” (traditional) methods. As a result, the only units which achieved positive results were commanded by Australians who enforced their insistence on the new tactics very pointedly.
At first, the Emperor received a constant stream of complaints about this treatment, complaints which began to vanish as the effectiveness of the results built esperit de corps. At the same time, the other Commanders were perpetually complaining about the Australians under their command being arrogant, uncontrollable, dirty wild men with no concept of military discipline. At first, the monarch and his senior military commanders didn’t know what to make of these complaints; only slowly did the respective patterns of behavior emerge. The units which were forced, unhappily and unwillingly, to follow the new procedures learned to be effective in the Jungle & Rainforest combat theatres, and eventually stopped complaining; those that continued to complain were the ones that had disobeyed orders to follow the lead of the Australian experts and that were, consequently, failing to achieve their objectives.
In a time of peace, this might be cause for nothing more than a reprimand and possible demotion; but in this time of war, it was a direct violation of orders in the face of the enemy which was placing the entire Pacific War in jeopardy. The issue then became, what to do about it? Wholesale Courts Martial were the solution called for by strict interpretation of the Military Code, but this would be counter-productive.
The Decree of the monarch
It was decided by George III that an object lesson, and a full report of the trial, was the better solution. The other commanders would then be placed on notice – obey orders or face the same. For this example to be effective, it needed to be a high-profile target, and the choice was the matter of some debate. Again, it was the Emperor who made the final selection – General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the successful commander of the Imperial Forces in the recently completed European Campaign, was charged with a raft-load of charges, including Disobeying a direct order in the face of the enemy, taking the most extreme viewpoint of his actions in the Pacific.
This was somewhat unfair, as Eisenhower was by no means the worst offender; but his high profile ensured that the lesson would not be lost. The tribunal which attended his court-martial was no lightweight one either; Both George III and Prime Minister Churchill, who had been military officers in their youth, were amongst its members, as was General Douglas Macarthur, the unwilling architect of the Pacific Campaign, and a natural show-boater, known to hate Eisenhower with a passion. It was a hanging Jury, and it did not escape notice that the supreme commanders of the war were both the men preferring charges and those sitting in judgment. The trial took place on Feb 10, 1945.
Eisenhower was found guilty of all charges, and sentenced to death by firing squad. This sentence was later rescinded when legal issues concerning the impact of common law on military officers were raised; the presence of George III and Churchill on the tribunal was adjudged to have tainted proceedings, and have been improper under the protections of common law. Years later, Churchill’s memoirs would show that this was no accident, but had been a deliberate act to avoid carrying out an unjust verdict, despite the need in military terms for that verdict to be issued. Nevertheless, he freely admitted that “…of all the black decisions made in overcoming the foulest of villains in that foulest of conflicts, only the firebombing of Coventry troubled me more.”†
† The Empire had learned that Coventry was to be firebombed, but could not act on the knowledge without revealing thier breaking of the Enigma code to the Germans.
At the time, the sentence had the desired effect, as it spelled out exactly how the General had been deficient in his duties as instructed by his Commander-In-Chief and Emperor – and how others would be treated if they continued their current policies. The target of the prosecution had been well-chosen, as Eisenhower was actually not very popular amongst those under his command despite his success in Europe (neither was Macarthur amongst the Pacific troops, if truth be told).
The hard road to victory
The armed forces slowly began learning the brutally practical lessons being dished out by the Australians, and the tide of war began to turn. But much time had been lost; where before a total victory might have been possible, the Chinese had been given ample opportunity to entrench and prepare fortified defenses. Where the still-theoretical atomic super-bomb had once seemed like icing on the cake, a final trump card to cap an overwhelming campaign, it now seemed the only prospect for a lasting victory. Conquest by force of conventional arms would virtually annihilate the Imperial Defenses, and the lessons of the recent German conflict had shown clearly how dangerous that would be, even without taking into consideration the belief that it would take the Mao considerably less time to rearm. Analysts predicted that a minimum of 100 million men would be needed to achieve victory in an invasion of the Chinese mainland without the use of these weapons for their maximum shock value.
Consequently, while areas of the Asian coastlands had been captured, the military objectives had slowly narrowed from the pursuit of total victory to forcing the Mao to recognition of the status quo. By the time the weapons were ready, this strategic transition was complete. On August 6, the first nuclear device ever used in anger was dropped from a B52 bomber on Tianjin; it was followed three days later by a second device dropped on Hefei. These targets were of a clearly military nature, but at the same time carried tremendous civilian casualties.
Unknown to the Mao, this also exhausted supplies of the new weapon, save for one abandoned prototype that had only a 50/50 chance of detonation. It would be at least 8 months before sufficient weapons-grade materials were accumulated for a third bomb. Nevertheless, the Empire now carried out its most dangerous bluff – as a completely false bombing schedule was “accidentally” leaked through a suspected Chinese sympathizer. Concurrently, Churchill demanded the surrender of the Chinese forces, or they would be “exploded into complete oblivion”.
The Chinese fell for the bluff, largely because the military preparations for the bombings to take place were being carried out – even the Imperial Defense forces had been bluffed. This turned the uncanny intelligence-gathering abilities of the Mao to their disadvantage, and ensured that the bluff was convincing. On Sept 2, 1945, the Chinese called for a cease-fire, and to all intents and purposes, the War was over.
A Negotiated Peace
Negotiation of the peace terms took another 3 months (it had taken over 2 weeks just to establish the protocols for the formal cease-fire agreement!); this was no defeated enemy, it was a proud and independent nation forced to accept that it was not the only military significant force on the face of the planet. In the end, the Empire got as good a deal as it could have hoped for. There was no end in sight to the cold war between the two Empires, however; the Mao, their motivations and psychology and technology and origins, remained as murky as ever before, and hence as unpredictable…
- The Imperial History of Earth-Regency, Part I: The Middle Ages – 1189-1220
- The Imperial History of Earth-Regency, Part 2: The Road To Empire – 1220-1782
- The Imperial History of Earth-Regency, Part 3: Birth Of An Empire – 1782-1910
- The Imperial History of Earth-Regency, Part 4: An Empire At War – 1910-1945
- The Imperial History of Earth-Regency, Part 5: The Cold War Begins – 1945-1959
- The Imperial History of Earth-Regency, Part 6: Coming Apart At The Seams – 1960-1972
- The Imperial History of Earth-Regency, Part 7: Disintegration And Repair – 1973-75
- The Imperial History of Earth-Regency, Part 8: The Ascendancy Of The Peerage – 1978-1979
- The Imperial History of Earth-Regency, Part 9: Peter Pan, The Saint, & The Fairy Princess – 1980-1997
- The Imperial History of Earth-Regency, Part 10: The Crumbling Of Icons – 1980-1997 continued
- The Imperial History Of Earth-Regency, Part 11: The Post-Modernist Dark Age – 1998-2015
- The Imperial History Of Earth-Regency Part 12: 1998