Essai en Guerre: an FFO-inspired TL

Readers will note that I’ve been reading bits of FFO (AKA Fantasque Time Line), some interesting threads here and at Axis History Forum and Sea Lion Press, and related works including @Dunois ’ Sword of Freedom TL. I assume the same PoD (more or less) as FFO, but I differ with them about what comes next.
Many smart and well-informed people, at the time and since, believed an FFO-style scenario was possible. Many other smart and well-informed people disagree. I think France choosing to Fight On, though improbable, is less improbable than any Axis Victory timeline. Furthermore, I think it is less improbable than most Axis Do Significantly Better timeline.
Here’s my take on the might-have-beens.
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Part 1.1
Part 1. Mon mieux est, je croy, de partir

Extract from Marianne and John: A history of the Anglo-French Union by Charles Montague, ch.3

...the reasons behind the French Cabinet’s acceptance of a proposal that would have seemed ridiculous even a few weeks earlier have been long debated. Undoubtedly everything that had to happen did happen, up to and including the fortuitous road accidents of June 8th… The Cabinet, we should note, accepted the plan only two votes, and did so knowing that the sense of the Assembly opposed it. One minister said later, ‘of course we knew the Assembly opposed us in that moment. We believed they had fallen into a state of panic because of the military debacle, and the horrors unfolding amongst the refugees. We also knew that in a few weeks they would come round. London’s Union proposal showed they were serious, and that an armistice between France and Germany would not end the war. In such a context, France would become a mere sufferer of whatever the Germans chose to impose on us, with the war continuing.’ M. Mandel added, ‘We knew we might end up shot. But we convinced ourselves to make a trial of the war - of fighting it out to the end.’ A handful of Assembly members returned to Paris, and gave a meaningless approval to the Quisling government there. Others again tried to form a new government that would negotiate peace, but could not agree on either its composition or its policy. In the event the Assembly did not meet again, in Algiers, for three months. By that time enough had happened to give the Government a shaky legitimacy...

Most members of the Government reached Algiers in late June. By that time the evacuation of French assets had reached full swing, permitted by the sacrificial defence of those French units that could not escape. After the fall of Paris and the retreat south of the Loire, there was a further operational pause before the final German offensive, in July, ended all resistance on the Continent.

Resistance elsewhere was only just beginning. The Supreme War Council of the Union met in person and in full for the first time on August 10th - the British members could not reach Algiers before that date and it was considered a political imperative that the inaugural meeting should be on French territory. The Algiers Manifesto was a bald restatement of the war aims set out by the Allies nearly a year earlier. ‘We have seen nothing,’ it concluded, ‘to change our policy.’

...Almost immediately the Council turned its thoughts to the possibility of offensive operations against Libya. The argument swayed to and fro for several days, but in the end several factors prompted a decision to delay the offensive.

Firstly, the Germans did not show any immediate inclination to carry the war into Africa, and although this was not known for sure at the time, Rome did not (at that time) want them to. Therefore the Council believed they had some time to play with. Mussolini regarded Africa, and the entire Mediterranean, as his sphere of interest, and Hitler basically agreed. He was disappointed that the Allies had not sued for peace - in August he reportedly commented to Goebbels, ‘back in June it looked as though the French would do the sensible thing. But now the Jews are back in control, they have the Jew Mandel in Algiers, running things. Still they can do nothing to us from there.’ His thoughts had already begun to turn to his long-nurtured dreams of conquest in the East.

The second factor was uncertainty about the attitude of Spain. We now know that Franco never joined the Axis: but at the time the War Council did not feel so sure. ‘We need to know the attitude of Madrid,’ said Reynaud, ‘we must be ready to take Tangier if need be.’ French troops and aircraft deployed in Morocco, British warships lurked off Tangier and the Canaries, while the US made its position clear: ‘we expect immediate catastrophe for Spain if she enters the war,’ said the President. This was a threat in the form of a prediction. Also, London secretly drew up plans to invoke the Treaty of Windsor if Spain entered the war. ‘Having the Azores would vastly simplify our shipping problems,’ noted Mr. Churchill.

In the end, Hitler was not willing to pay the price Franco demanded. Goering commented, ‘Franco demands the moon, astronomical quantities of materials we cannot spare. He ought to show more gratitude, we helped him in his scuffle with the Reds, and this thanks we get?’ Goering went on: ‘The French have him scared. After all Franco knows the moment one Landser crosses the Pyrenees, he loses Tangier.’ But the Council knew little of all this, and until the winter had no confidence in Franco’s continuing neutrality.

Thirdly, the British were not ready for their own offensive, and the Council considered it highly desirable - both militarily and politically - for the offensive against Libya to be a giant pincer movement. General Wavell did not think his forces would be ready for some months, as reinforcements had only just been sent.

Finally, the French army itself did not feel ready. De Gaulle noted, ‘Mechanised warfare in Africa makes extravagant demands of supply.’ Fuel, water and artillery ammunition would be needed in great quantities, but the French railhead stood some way short of the Mareth Line, let alone the border. The army felt it did not possess enough motor transport. The Council discussed requisitioning every civilian vehicle in French North Africa, but decided against this. As M. Mandel said, ‘we cannot derange the economy so badly. After all, we have just seen an influx on a par with the Exodus - we face enough of a challenge just keeping everyone alive.’ Members of the Allied Purchasing Commission, now renamed the Union Purchasing Commission, soon made several visits to Detroit.
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Part 1.2
Extract from A Life for the Sky, by Werner Molders, ch.5

...the truck took us to an airfield, I think somewhere near Montpellier, and offloaded us into a hangar just as the sun rose. A young-looking French officer addressed us in perfect German, with a trace of an accent. ‘Gentlemen, it seems you are a priority for transport to Algeria, along with senior officers and of course politicians,’ he said.

‘Not sure we like the company,’ one of us replied.

The Frenchman smiled thinly. ‘I have my orders, and will carry them out. Please embark, and I hope you enjoy your stay with us.’

They packed several of us onto a twin-engined aircraft, an American type. I saw the crew of three come over the field; they all looked exhausted, evidently they had been flying several times a day. With that I could certainly sympathise.

We sat for a while, and finally the runway cleared. We took off and climbed to altitude. ‘Hope none of our boys are about,’ said Horst, ‘funny way to get finished off.’ Fortunately for us we were not intercepted, though one of us said he saw smoke rising in the distance, perhaps from one of our raids…

Long flights over water made us uneasy, and this one was about to get worse. There was a commotion in the cockpit, and the plane began to go into a shallow dive. The gunner squeezed through as and dragged me into the cockpit, as I was closest. There the navigator sat, and beside him the pilot, collapsed. Words were unnecessary. We dragged the pilot from the seat and the gunner attended to him. I sat down - the type was unfamiliar, but the basic controls are similar enough on any fixed-wing aircraft. The instruments were labelled in French, sometimes with English alongside, but it was not too difficult to decipher them.

‘Where are we?’ I shouted, somewhat excited. The navigator showed me a map, indicating that we were just north of Algiers. Indeed I could soon confirm that for myself, a white city spread before us through thin cloud. Briefly I thought of trying to take control and head for friendly territory - perhaps the other lads could overpower the crew?
But I noted that the fuel gauge was quite low, and concluded it would be suicidal; quite wrong and a wicked sin.

I also saw several other planes in the distance on a similar course, and reasoned they would lead us to an airfield, so I followed. Ten minutes later we were on a landing trajectory, and I recalled just in time that these American bombers had tricycle undercarriages. I do not claim it was a good landing, but the saying is, any that you walk away from…


Extract from Memoires by Guy Lemoine. ch.6

In those days Armand and I often went to the low brick wall behind the hospital to sit in the sunshine and smoke in between our rounds. Despite the many refugees pouring into the city, many of whom ended up in the hospital, the news of the war still seemed abstract to us, we had not seen any enemy aircraft.

‘But that will very soon change,’ said Armand. ‘My friend, the time to think about getting out is now, not when the enemy get here.’

‘Getting out?’ I said. I had little wish to. ‘I don’t want to abandon my patients. Monsieur Carona, for instance, he has every chance of pulling through.’

‘You wrote those articles,’ he said. ‘I’ll bet the Gestapo has a file on you.’

Of course he was talking about my poor journalistic efforts of the year before. ‘On me? I wrote a handful of pieces for a provincial newspaper. What chance anyone in Germany read them?’

He shook his head. ‘But you had such a turn of phrase. “Murderous ignorant demagogue”, I remember, that’s what you wrote, and a few others. The Germans seem very attached to their dear Leader, they won’t treat you well.’

I remained stubborn. ‘But this is my home, my friend.’

He sighed. ‘Guy, it’s like this. I can’t go anywhere, my little ones are here, my mother is here. But your parents are gone, your wife is gone, and Emilie is safe in Geneva. The rest of us can see to your patients, I promise you.’ He gave me a direct look. ‘We must all go where we can serve best.’

To be honest, I had had similar thoughts myself, of course I had. But to leave Marseilles, a thing I had rarely done in my life, a thing I had rarely wished to do… Armand saw my struggles, and did the wisest deed he ever did, out of many such. He gave me his Christopher, and said, ‘think of it as a pilgrimage.’

...I had vaguely entertained a hope that I might get to fly out, I have always been an aviation enthusiast, but that didn’t occur. I made my way to the port, which of course, was ten times more chaotic than usual. After much asking and being sent to and fro I presented myself before a Navy officer who looked half dead from exhaustion. ‘So what’s your excuse?’ he said without introduction.

‘I’m a doctor,’ I said, showing my diploma. ‘I have a letter.’

I showed him that too; without looking at it he passed it to his colleague, a short, balding petty officer, who glanced at it and said ‘yes’.

‘Did your service?’ he asked.

‘Many years ago,’ I said, ‘in the Army.’

‘Ha! And you want more of it, with all this going on? Takes all sorts.’

That was all the challenge I received. Later I learned that I counted as a ‘medical expert’ and as such ranked alongside aircraft mechanics, signallers and railwaymen in the priority list. Plenty of less fortunate souls, many of them looking half-starved, watched me dully as I went along the dockside and aboard the ship, which was crowded with soldiers and a variety of professional men like myself.

Of course, before long I might have doubted whether I was one of the fortunate. The day I left the Luftwaffe made some of their first serious attacks on the port. My ship dodged several bombs as we left. It was not the first time someone had tried to kill me, there had been that business before my wedding, but the first time some had tried to kill me impersonally, and I had no means of defending myself. I realised that all my anti-Nazi talk had been purely intellectual, an intellectual dislike for cruelty and stupidity. That was the first time my emotions became truly engaged. We are not just animals, I think, but we are animals, and the true power of ideas does not reveal itself to us until we feel them in our skin. I vowed to myself that I would do all in my power to end this thing, and prayed for the strength.
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Part 1.3
Extract from War in the Middle Sea by James Gleeson, ch.2

...the French navy had concentrated in the Mediterranean and undertook much activity throughout the summer. The overall picture was one of successive evacuation convoys from southern France, patchily interfered with by Italian surface forces and German aircraft, and rather more successful if costly operations by Italian submarines. A key event occurred on 28th June. Three days earlier the cruiser San Giorgio had left Tobruk to take part in operations against the French; now in the waters off Tripoli, the submarine Atalante hit her with two torpedoes, though one did not detonate. Badly damaged, the cruiser limped into Tripoli.

The most significant surface action of the summer came on July 4th as the evacuation reached its crescendo. Twenty ships carrying the bulk of the men of XV Corps left Marseilles and Toulon under sporadic but unpleasant German air attack, which sank the Justine transport with the loss of some 1400 lives. However, the rest got away under the escort of 3rd Cruiser Squadron with three light cruisers and five destroyers.

That evening a strong Italian force including the old battleship Giulio Cesare attacked the convoy. However, the actions of the French ships, notably the Montcalm, in counter-attacking with torpedoes and laying smoke screens, convinced the Italians that heavier French forces were in the vicinity, and they withdrew. In fact the French covering squadron, with Provence and Strasbourg, was still some 50 miles away. Casualties were negligible on both sides, but this was a true operational success for the French navy, and gave them a great degree of confidence. The War Council, which had been toying with the idea of ending the evacuation owing to the Italian naval threat, now ordered that it should go on until the Germans ‘reached the very quays of Toulon’.

The British too took confidence from these developments. Admiral Cunningham noted ‘the French appeared to have gained the moral ascendancy’. Having been joined at Alexandria by Illustrious and Barham, he reassured the Admiralty that he did not need further surface ship reinforcements at that time, though more submarines and aircraft would be very useful. (He also pointed to the urgent need to reinforce Malta, a conclusion the Council agreed with - a steady stream of Hurricanes began to flow into the island via Tunisia.) Accordingly, the Ark Royal and Renown, which had been held at Gibraltar, returned to the Home Fleet. Also the Admiralty retained the Resolution, which had been lurking off Tangier, in the Atlantic to escort convoys against the German raider threat.

...what to do about Corsica became subject of impassioned argument in the War Council during August. ‘One small island seemed to loom as large as the rest of the world put together,’ as M. Mandel said. The British favoured its immediate abandonment, but this proved impossible for political reasons. French ministers felt they had to put up a fight, even though their own admirals believed the island untenable, and there were no units there larger than a battalion.

The sequel saw enough tragedy for all sides. German and Italian air attacks became constant throughout September, even though the Germans needed aircraft against Britain. But taking Corsica became as much an obsession to them as holding it was to the French. By October the island’s air and artillery had been eliminated, and a last desperate relief convoy was savaged by submarines and bombers, losing four out of five merchantmen, plus three destroyers. The Axis considered the island ripe for taking.

The plan required a German airborne regiment to land on October 8th, together with an Italian airborne battalion, and seize positions to enable a somewhat improvised seaborne landing by German and Italian troops. Despite the extreme weakness of the defence, the attack became a shambles. A strong mistral wind blew, and consequently the transport aircraft, who had not had time to rehearse properly, dropped the Sturmregiment inaccurately. Many fell into the sea and drowned, many others were scattered and quickly wiped out. The Italian air-drop had to be cancelled owing to shortages of aircraft. Enough German parachutists managed to get into position to enable the seaborne landing to proceed, but the German and Italian seaborne elements could not communicate while at sea, and their landings were uncoordinated, to the point where Axis forces fired on each other by mistake. One Italian battalion landed in Sardinia by accident. Only the inability of the garrison to move, owing to Axis air superiority, prevented complete failure. Gradually the Axis ironed out their problems, landed reinforcements and moved forward, forcing a surrender on the 19th. The cost was high - ‘I had a regiment a week ago, now I have a company,’ complained Colonel Meindl, the Sturmregiment’s commander. Perhaps as bad was the legacy of bad blood between the Germans and Italians, who blamed each other for the near-fiasco.
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Part 2.1
Part 2. Adieu, je m’en vois a Algiers

Extract from Le sable et la poudre: histoire militaire de la campagne en Afrique, by Herbert Molins, ch.3

...the Italian declaration of war, it seemed, had taken the Italian command in Libya by surprise, and they soon concluded that they could attempt nothing against Tunisia until the end of the summer. This despite the fact that the acquisition of Tunisia was a long-standing Italian ambition. Marshal Balbo in particular grew excited by the possibility of such a great acquisition; apart from the prospect of glory for Italy, its conquest under his auspices would be a huge political advantage to him. But the military realities on the ground were correspondingly depressing. He wrote, ‘5th Army, the field formation in Tripolitania, proved incapable of immediate action, until reinforced from 10th Army in Cyrenaica. Even then shortages of fuel and water slowed its movements to a crawl once it got beyond its railhead. Throughout the summer I had to stay in Tripoli without a break, working twelve hour days, dealing with innumerable supply problems, while explaining to the Duce why we were not already in Bizerta.’

The French valued the breathing space thus provided higher than rubies. They knew they would have the advantage in the long run, but needed time to organise. Fortunately, by the time 5th Army began to cross the border into Tunisia too much time had already passed.

The ground forces available to the French to resist comprised, in the main:
  • XIX Corps, the formation already present in North Africa before May, which consisted of three divisions of mostly Algerian and Moroccan troops.
  • XV Corps, the formation which had defended the Alps successfully before its evacuation from Marseilles and Toulon. Though it had lost heavily, it was the only substantial formation to escape in some semblance of order. Its commander, General Olry, having gained a modicum of credit amidst the military disaster, had now been promoted to command the French ground forces, designated the Army of Africa.
  • III Corps, a formation still in the making as of August, but destined for a great role. A vast number of men had escaped from the fall of metropolitan France, either directly to Algeria or to England in the first instance. General Bethouart took on the task of reforming them into three new divisions, while retaining a pool of men (designated as XXVIII Corps) to act as replacements. He commented, ‘Given the likely attrition, and the lack of a recruitment pool besides North Africa, the Armee d’Afrique could not consist of more units than they could sustain.’
These forces received some reinforcement during September from units based in Syria; particularly welcome from this source were several pieces of larger artillery.
A large number of aircraft had also escaped the wreck, including many of the most modern French and American types, though spare parts for all these were in short supply. ‘Our air force must become American,’ commented General de Gaulle, ‘but first we will use up what we have.’

Material deficiencies abounded. There were debates in the War Council about the British armour sent from the UK in August - some voices, British as well as French, asking if these vehicles should not go to Tunisia instead of Egypt. But other voices - again from both nations - successfully insisted they go to Egypt as planned, pointing out that the French had numerous tanks in Tunisia, enough for present purposes, and there was no particular need for the diversion (nor adequate fuel or motor transport in Tunisia to sustain the British armour in the field). In fact, it took some time for the French armour to become effective - many of these vehicles required reconditioning to deal with African conditions, and forming armoured units large enough to be effective took time. The greater shortage was actually in motor transport and signals equipment.

However, at least in basic weapons and ammunition, the men had enough, aided by shipments from America that came in during the summer. Due to the urgency some ships came all the way to Bizerta despite the danger of air or submarine attack, bringing old rifles, machine guns, ammunition, and soixante-quinze cannon - tales, perhaps apocryphal, spread of gunners who found themselves once more using the very same guns they (or their fathers) had used in 1918.

None of this would have served very well against the German tide. Against Italian 5th Army, which had equipment that was often just as old, they served well enough. In September Graziani moved up to the Mareth Line and probed it, but found it too tough to crack. He sat down to a siege and demanded more artillery. The successes of French and British submarines against Italian shipping provided another disincentive to activity - for instance much of the artillery ammunition 5th Army needed went down on the freighter Scarpanto sunk by the Argonaute on 2nd September.

Berlin offered Rome its assistance, but Mussolini refused it, determined to have a triumph of his own. The Germans turned their air force - Luftflotten 2 and 3 - against Britain during this period, beginning intensive air operations on 3rd September, the so-called ‘Eagle Day’. Goering had promised to defeat the RAF in less than a week, and thus encourage the British to negotiate. However his forces had suffered much attrition in their conquest of France. General Sperrle, the brutal-looking but able old war-horse who commanded Luftflotte 3, commented: ‘These schemes for bringing the English round by air attacks will not work. They would not work even if both I and Kesselring could bring our full strength into action. We will do no more than lose a lot of men and machines. Meanwhile I waste half my strength with Corsica.’ Half was an exaggeration, but it was true that both air fleets needed more recuperation than they had received. The RAF by contrast had largely recovered its strength, and during September managed to inflict a true defeat on the Luftwaffe. Washington concluded from this that the Allies, despite their disasters, retained enough strength to prosecute the war effectively, and continued to increase its support. Mussolini, too, looked on the German failure with some complacency.
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Part 2.2
Extract from La Follia by Girolamo Leoni, ch.4

…it seems now, and seemed at the time, that the Duce’s decision to invade Greece showed strategic madness. Many of us in Rome argued, along with Italo Balbo, that first the stalemate in Tunisia must be broken, if necessary by massive reinforcement, before the winter. We pointed to the poor long-term prospects in Africa in the face of Allied sea-power, and demanded everything for the battle. Others argued for a defensive strategy, aimed at tying down the Allies by sea and air action, together with fresh diplomatic initiatives.

However, the Duce, at this time as at others, derived his conclusions from political not military criteria. He believed the situation in Africa to be stable for the time being, which created a window of opportunity for decisive action elsewhere in Italy’s sphere of influence. He saw a need to gain a quick victory which did not depend on German support - and which might offset the political consequences if Africa did go badly. And there were several voices within his inner circle, such as Count Ciano, who advocated the Greek adventure strongly. Finally, he wished to demonstrate his freedom of action to Berlin, which had offended him by its oil agreement with Romania. Once the Duce’s decision became clear, every yes-man in Rome hastened to agree with it...

The Greek fiasco which ensued had several consequences, all negative for us. The Allied guarantee of Greek security took effect. The French appeared the more circumspect of the partners - they wished to give priority to resolving the North African campaign. However, in order to show willing, a regiment of the Foreign Legion moved from Syria to Crete, and later to the mainland. The French also sent a Groupe of fighter aircraft. The British also began a deployment of air and ground forces to Crete, which extended in February to mainland Greece.

Even while news of defeats arrived from Greece, further bad news came from Africa. An assault on the Mareth Line in October failed to make any headway and cost the 5th Army many casualties. Among them were several of my old comrades from the Academy, such as my friend Benedetto, wounded and captured in an action on the 12th. ‘We lacked everything except courage,’ he wrote to me later, from captivity, a letter which took a remarkable route from Martinique via Geneva to Rome. ‘It was futile, and the French fought fiercely. After half of my men were fallen or wounded, they counter-attacked us with light tanks. They were old, but we had nothing more than rifles. What could we do against them?’

Then, in November, the British launched an offensive against Cyrenaica - an offensive accelerated by the decision of the War Council in response to French concerns. We now know that General Wavell did not believe his forces to be ready, but the event proved that 10th Army, having been stripped of its (already somewhat limited) transport and artillery to reinforce 5th Army, was even less ready for action.

At this point Marshal Balbo made his celebrated flight to Rome, landing at Centocelle and driving directly to the Palazzo Venezia where he surprised a Cabinet meeting still in his flying gear. ‘I have come from the battle itself,’ he said, ‘to tell you that if Africa is not reinforced, it will be lost to Italy - a loss that can be due only to folly or treason!’ He narrowly avoided arrest, and returned to Tripoli the following day. I drove him to Centocelle myself, and listened to his woes at some length. He wanted to know if the General Staff agreed with him. I sympathised and made it clear to him that the Staff shared many of his views, but we had to comply with the directives of the Duce. He maintained an eloquent silence at that point.

The immediate effect of this intervention was perverse, as Mussolini concluded - in a way quite contrary to Balbo’s known wishes - that German aid in Africa must now be accepted.

By this time, however, OKW, never very keen, had gotten cold feet. A deployment to Africa was very far out of the normal sphere of German operations, and the sea line of communication to Tripoli appeared tenuous. They did not fully explain their views to us, but we realised clearly that they lacked enthusiasm. Privately they expressed themselves more strongly. ‘We must reckon any forces we send to Libya, under present circumstances, to be lost irrecoverably,’ noted General Halder on the 13th. ‘It appears we are to conquer Mussolini an empire, and take our payment in pretty words.’ The British reinforced this judgement with their damaging raid on Taranto a week later. It took a personal plea from Mussolini to Hitler, and a ‘Fuhrer-order’ to OKW, to make the German commitment actually commence. Preparations began to regain a measure of control over the sea passage by German aircraft, and to send a mobile division, but these troops could not arrive until the New Year. But by then fresh developments forced a revision of intentions.
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If you're sticking with the False Document style, does this mean we'll have a passage from Donald MacNeill Flashman's memoirs?
Very impressive, the FFO stuff was always good but IIRC it sadly broke down due to clashes with the writers, this is damn good!

And don't forget to add theadmarks :)
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John Farson

Very impressive, the FFO stuff was always good but IIRC it sadly broke down due to clashes with the writers, this is damn good!

And don't forget to add theadmarks :)
Well, the French version continues to this day on its own site, and the TL there has advanced to 1944.

The separate English-language version, APOD, looks to have died, however.
Speaking of APOD, does anyone happen to have a link to their forum? I had some of their stuff saved but my external drive it was on died and I lost it all :(
Well, the French version continues to this day on its own site, and the TL there has advanced to 1944.

The separate English-language version, APOD, looks to have died, however.
I did have a bit of a look through the French version. I think it's a fine piece of work, and even more impressive that they seem to have created a graphic novel out of it which must be an enormous challenge. I do have some disagreements with the course of events they depict, though, which was part of the inspiration for writing this TL. I also glanced at the APOD archive - the impression I received was that it went off at too many tangents and became unwieldy. In this TL I seek to be more focussed, with a view to actually finishing the thing.
Part 2.3
Memorandum to the Government of the Army Commission of Enquiry regarding the military setbacks of May-June 1940

November 4th 1940

3. ...We must commence by refuting the accusation that the setback of May-June derived from the failure or betrayal of France by our British allies, with whom we have now formed an indissoluble and sacred union. This theme of course constantly recurs in the propaganda of the Quisling regime in Paris that abuses the patience of the nation. We reject it utterly. If we must seek to place blame elsewhere, why do we not place it with the Belgians? Not so much, perhaps, for their precipitate capitulation; nor even for their failure to conduct systematic and timely demolitions in the face of the German assault; but above all by their pathetic belief that neutrality might preserve them from aggression.

4. Of course to blame Belgium would serve no purpose, and could only spread recrimination and despondency. We hope that the Government do not treat this argument with more seriousness than it deserves. The point of this argument is merely to show how ridiculous it is to engage in such national finger-pointing. We must place the focus of our efforts on those factors which we can control.

5. Many of those who have chosen the shameful course of seeking accommodation with the invader argue that the setback resulted from a spiritual failing among the people at large, a weakness arising from over-indulgence in democracy, a malaise of the Republic itself. We reject this theme also. The overriding cause of the setback was a simple strategic error.

6. The story is told of Napoleon setting his subordinates, as an exercise, the task of devising a plan for the defence of France against invasion. One of his generals proposed to distribute the army evenly around the frontiers of the hexagon. ‘Do you intend to stop smuggling?’ the Emperor asked.

7. We trust the point needs no great elaboration. The extension of our line northwards as far as Breda represents a strategic error of the high command, as this forced the use of 1st Army, 7th Army and the BEF in the main line. At least one of these formations should have constituted our strategic reserve. The lack of this proved fatal...

11. Notwithstanding the points above regarding strategy and doctrine, the campaign did reveal serious technical limitations in our forces. The lack of radios in our fighting vehicles proved the most serious deficiency. Even on those occasions when we obtained a local superiority we could not coordinate our forces effectively…

14. Our air force suffered heavy losses on the ground due to a lack of adequate early warning. We have inspected the radio detection system employed by the British for home defence, and found it most impressive. It represents a tremendous elaboration and expansion on the principles identified by MM. David, Ponte, Gutton and others. Tragically our equivalent SADIR system did not come into operation in time; a few months later and the enemy could not have gained air superiority so rapidly. We note furthermore the excellent radio equipment fitted to British combat aircraft, which enables their efficient direction.

15. This point along with point 11 above indicates the path we must take. Victory must come through a tremendous expansion of our technical means in all areas; however it is clear that the exploitation of the electro-magnetic spectrum for military purposes presents the most exciting possibilities, possibilities that the Union is well-placed to pursue. We hope the Government notes this, and that this finding informs the directives it gives to the Joint Purchasing Commission. We propose the setting up of a specialised centre in North Africa to concentrate French technical expertise, while learning all we can from British efforts.

And 17 others
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Part 2.4
Extract from Marianne and John, Montague, ch.4

Japanese pressure on the French in Indo-China began as soon as it became clear that the fall of France was inevitable. It began with pseudo-accidental overflights and border incursions, soon graduating to bombing raids and maritime provocations including the sinking of coastal craft. By the end of August it became clear that the Japanese wanted the closure of the overland supply route from Indochina into China. This being conceded, they escalated to demanding transit and basing rights. This received a firm no, to which the Japanese responded with an open attack on northern Indochina by ships and aircraft and the seizing of some offshore islands. Japanese army units closed up to the border. The War Council, however, was not intimidated, despite the desperate position. As a sop to the Japanese, the British did temporarily close the Burma Road, but the Council held firm against the demand for transit and basing. ‘If we give way on this point it is all over,’ said Lord Halifax. ‘We must keep something back to show we will not be bullied.’

The Japanese had to consider, at the close of September, whether or not to escalate further. Certainly, they did already have the capability to invade and conquer Indochina. However, that would mean open war with France and Britain, and as yet Tokyo had not committed itself to the so-called Southern Operation. The Army on balance still liked the ‘Northern Operation’ against the USSR, and the Emperor’s assent, though a formality, had not been attained, and could not be attained quickly. Also the Americans made it clear they would instantly impose an embargo in this case. Tokyo therefore pulled back most of its forces, and began to explore other options...

The obvious solution was to use a deniable agent. Thailand had grievances against the French, and the Thai dictator Phibun was open to Tokyo’s approaches. However, although Phibun’s authority was dictatorial, he still had to consider the preferences of his key supporters, who did not all share his views. The Regent in particular became a focus for opposition. Moreover Thailand had a poor strategic situation, surrounded by Anglo-French territories. The Thai ambassador in Washington argued weakly that the USA ought to restrain Britain in the event of conflict, but the Administration was having none of it. ‘If Thailand commits aggression against Indochina, the British will not hesitate to threaten invasion,’ commented the President, ‘and they would have every right to do so.’ The British ambassador in Bangkok passed on a clear threat, reported to the War Council in November: ‘We have reminded the Siamese dictator,’ said Mr. Churchill, ‘that we have six divisions forming in India, one of them armoured, and they will be ready next year. Where they go depends on his attitude.’

Phibun therefore restricted the Thai armed forces to the same kind of limited provocations and attacks employed by the Japanese in August-September. ‘These pinpricks do not scare us,’ said Churchill. They did, however, create a strong desire in the Council to reinforce the Far East. In this the French showed greater enthusiasm, and sometimes had to chivvy the British along, but they found unexpected allies in the shape of the Australian and (to a lesser extent) Indian governments, which also took the Indochina issue seriously…

By the end of the year the composition of the Council had seen several changes. Mr. Chamberlain’s fatal illness saw him replaced firstly by Lord Halifax and then, upon his departure for Washington, by Mr. Eden. M. Reynaud departed the scene in October, citing ill health, and it is true that he had missed several Council meetings, and contributed little when he attended. ‘In fact, he has served as a mere figurehead for some months,’ noted Eden. Furthermore the common opinion in Algiers was that he had become sickened by constant intriguing against his position. M. Daladier replaced him. Later the same month, after long campaigning, Admiral Darlan joined the Council, thereby adding a fourth French member. In order to maintain equal numbers, Mr. Bevin joined from the British side (thereby adding a second Labour voice to Mr. Attlee, a necessary consideration). Darlan, however, offended not only the British but also his own colleagues by his attitude - especially de Gaulle and Mandel, who both eventually refused to talk to him. He therefore found himself isolated, and resigned before the end of the year, being replaced by Nogues. Gossip had it that Darlan wished to gain political advantage from playing the martyr, but if so his move proved ill-timed, as his departure came just before important successes, for which he later tried in vain to take the credit…
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