Essai en Guerre: an FFO-inspired TL

In the east, Rhodes is too big to leave. I wonder how many Dodecanese and Aegean islands are the same, and how many can be left to wither on the vine.
Well, the majority of the Aegean islands are in greek hands since the mainland hasnt fallen. I say most because in the OTL the OKW had a specifi interest to Lemnos as it can be developed in a major airbase and controls the entrance to the Dardanelles. Originally, it was thought that a regiment of paratroopers would be dropped there. A Greek retired general did a thesis on those plans a few years back and I have a map with the planned drop zones. Another battalion was to be lifted to Lemnos with fishing boats from Porto Lagos in the thracian coast. I guess the Germans have also occupied Thasos and Samothrace. However, i dont think they will have been able to capture other islands since they can go only so far south with fishing boats before warships make mincemeat out of them. In the original Marita plans they didn't have other island targets after all.

The Dodecanese are completely cut off by the Cyclades, Chios and Lesbos. The Germans don't have warships in the Aegean. At best they can transport and assemble some E-boats and small subchasers with rail. The Allies even enjoy the port of Syros as a base. There is a small shipyard there that in OTL was able to service destroyers.

I am under the impression that Churchill would want to recapture Lemnos. As it stands now, Lemnos is more important that Rhodes, as it controls the Dardanelles. Moreover, Churchill knew the island as he had visited the Entente logistics base there in 1915. In April 1941 a british battalion had landed there and RAF officers started surveying the island in order to develop airfields. The battalion was able to evacuate the island well before the Germans captured it.
 
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In the east, Rhodes is too big to leave. I wonder how many Dodecanese and Aegean islands are the same, and how many can be left to wither on the vine. That implies great hardship for the native islanders, of course, but I expect some hard-headed decisions on that one. Rhodes, I can see an attack before the turn of the year. That will be the only big one, but there might be a few smaller ones on other islands if they're deemed necessary.
(snip)
But, as said, come December, Japan throws a continent-sized spanner in the works. So we shall see.

The Dodecanese are completely cut off by the Cyclades, Chios and Lesbos. The Germans don't have warships in the Aegean. At best they can transport and assemble some E-boats and small subchasers with rail. The Allies even enjoy the port of Syros as a base. There is a small shipyard there that in OTL was able to service destroyers.

I am under the impression that Churchill would want to recapture Lemnos. As it stands now, Lemnos is more important that Rhodes, as it controls the Dardanelles. Moreover, Churchill knew the island as he had visited the Entente logistics base there in 1915. In April 1941 a british battalion had landed there and RAF officers started surveying the island in order to develop airfields. The battalion was able to evacuate the island well before the Germans captured it.
These two comments summarise the strategic choice the Allies face at this point: their next move must go against either Rhodes or Lemnos. I will need to write some additional material to reflect this issue.
I have a shameful confession to make here: I had not realised that Chios and Lesbos are not part of the Dodecanese, I had assumed that the Italians had them also. Insufficient research on my part. @X Oristos , once again many thanks for putting me right!
 
Part 6.2
Memorandum to the Supreme War Council
TOP SECRET/ HAUT SECRET
22/BV/7/313
8/10/41

Sirs, on the occasion of my taking up this Command you requested a full description of the land forces available for further operations in the Aegean, and which forces might transfer East without immediate prejudice to our position. Please find annexed my Order of Battle as of today, with my annotations, and commentary on the strategic choice we currently face.
ALEXANDER

Order of Battle, Middle East Command

Greece
(under overall command of General Bethouart)

6th & 7th Australian Divs. (potential for transfer East once relieved)
2nd New Zealand Div.
Indian 4th Div. (intended for transfer East)
7th Armoured Div. (mobile reserve)
2nd Armoured Div. (in reserve, re-equipping)
British 50th Div.
NB French V Corps comprises 3 divs, 86eme Div. earmarked for op ARDENT

N. Africa

1st South African Div. (currently restricted to service within Africa)

Crete & islands

Australian 9th Div.
Polish Carpathian Brigade (Crete), plus one French bn (22nd)
11 Commando (battalion strength)
1st Army Tank Bde. (less one regt on Scarpanto; potential for transfer east)
British 6th Div. (less one bde on Cyprus; potential for transfer East)

Cyprus

As noted above

East Africa

Elements of 5th Indian Div. (potential for transfer East)

Iran

10th Indian Div.

Expected divisions currently earmarked as reinforcement over during winter: 1st Armoured, 5th, 18th, 44th, 51st

Strategic appreciation
The Council has discussed the question of mounting an operation against either Rhodes or Lemnos and requested my professional opinion. Rhodes could safely be left, bypassed, as its offensive power has swiftly declined. Lemnos offers bases within easy reach of the Straits and therefore the prospect, if taken, of a decisive change in Ankara’s attitude. This makes it a highly attractive target.
Against this, we believe that Lemnos is also much the harder target. Its garrison is entirely German, and intelligence reports indicate heavy fortifications, with all possible landing points heavily mined and wired, and covered by artillery. The German airbase there is amply protected by AA and the island is of course well within range of enemy Air operating from Salonika. The Council should note that our amphibious successes so far have been against Italian opposition only. The risk of a reverse, as it were under the very eyes of the Turks, must be taken seriously. In the case of Rhodes, we may, by contrast, regard air superiority as assured. The fall of Rhodes would bring with it the entire Dodecanese, probably with little if any further fighting. This by itself might suffice to bring the political and diplomatic results sought…
 
Erm... no Greek army in Greece?
Not the Op, but:

It might be politics. If the Anglo-French (with already embedded Imperial and Polish forces, respectively) have moved some way towards a unified command structure, it might be that forces can be deployed with less negotiating. Plus, I imagine that much of the Greek forces will be in refit and recuperate mode after their fighting.
 
Erm... no Greek army in Greece?
Yes, but not under Alexander's command at this point - this really covers British Empire (plus Polish) forces only (albeit with an aside about French V Corps because part of that formation might be needed in the Aegean offensive), with a particular view on what might go to the Far East.
Lemnos as the prize, but Rhodes (and the others) as the "low-hanging fruit"?
Yes - they'd like Lemnos, but think it might be too risky, especially until the problems identified in the Karpathos and Pantelleria landings are dealt with.
If the Anglo-French (with already embedded Imperial and Polish forces, respectively) have moved some way towards a unified command structure, it might be that forces can be deployed with less negotiating.
The command structure I haven't gone into. I suspect that the Franco-British (and now, Franco-Hellenic-British-Commonwealth) command structure is both convoluted and repeatedly changing, quite apart from the constant churn of personalities.
Plus, I imagine that much of the Greek forces will be in refit and recuperate mode after their fighting.
This is true. They will need to integrate various equipment (mostly now British but still using some of the captured Italian kit from Libya) and are also now starting to receive American supplies. However, much of the Greek army is still in the field, mainly facing the Italians near Ioannina. The Greek army will come out of this quite formidably, once they have time to rebuild.
 
As to why Greek Forces weren't considered for Reinforcement to the East:

A) I imagine that Greek forces areu Atonomous enough command-wise that they can't just be ordered to the Far East.

B) I would personally imagine that it'd be politically politically impossible to send Greek Troops so far away from Greece when the Germans are right there, occupying most of Greece! Whilst it may not be practical to actually host all of the organised Greek forces on Greek soil due to supply/Luftwaffe issues, I imagine that that the further you put the Troops from Greece, the louder the complaining gets.

C) You've already got British Kit, slowly decaying French Kit, and French Kit. The French Army, the British Army, the Commonwealth Armies and, oh yes, the British Indian Army, which is distinct from the British Army. Do you really want to add in another Language, Command Structure and shudders logistical tails to the mix?

D) Points C also politely skips over the fact that the Greek divisions are not only (almost certainly) less well/plentifully supplied than British/French Divisions, they're also differently supplied. Keeping most of the Greek divisions in defensive or garrison duties allows their original and pilfered Italian kit to last longer and, perhaps crucially, be sufficient to the task at hand!
 
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Part 6.3
Extract from Girolamo Leoni, La Follia, ch.8

...so we could see what would come next with the inevitability of an avalanche. While it took our utmost efforts simply to sustain our sea and air power in the Aegean at the level of the summer, the enemy’s strength seemed to increase continually. One can trace the causes for the loss of the battle for Rhodes, in fact, in the paperwork of the summer and autumn: endless requests, endless excuses for inaction, protests, smooth explanations for failure, innumerable insinuations of incompetence or cowardice… I saw them all. The favourite excuse given was an attempt at buck-passing: many of our officers believed, or professed to believe, that the Allied preparations were directed against Lemnos, which was held by the Germans and therefore not their concern.
By late October my health was giving way, and the doctors sent me back to Rome. So the rest I can relate only from the information publicly available together with the recollections of those comrades who returned from the struggle about to commence.
Some of us believed in a major offensive on the mainland. Others, as I have said, said that the enemy’s first move would be against one of the other islands, probably Lemnos, but I did not believe it, though the English, as was their usual practice, made many deceptions in that direction. I knew our weakness and I had to believe the Allies did too. We discovered that the enemy had based no less than one hundred bombers on Cyprus, which to me screamed their intentions. We knew the French 86th Division had spent weeks training for amphibious landings in locations that closely resembled Rhodes, it seemed obvious that they had removed this formation from the mainland for just this purpose. Allied submarines also came and went constantly, laying minefields and putting agents ashore, with much more activity around Rhodes than anywhere else. Besides I did not think that they would try to take Lemnos without first having the whole Dodecanese.
The final piece of the puzzle came when, on my return to Rome, I learned that we had acquired a very good source of intelligence about enemy plans. ‘A smart piece of work by our boys,’ Mario said to me, ‘I heard it from Roatta himself.’ This source confirmed that Rhodes was the next British target, and gave us the code-name ARDENT. Even with this foreknowledge, however, we found ourselves paralysed. The Navy claimed that shortages of fuel kept them in port - perhaps it was that; perhaps they did not want to fight against heavy odds. This in turn meant reinforcement of Rhodes had become impossible. Our airmen struggled bravely against the odds, but during the autumn we lost two hundred planes in that theatre, many of them in increasingly desperate attempts merely to reach Rhodes, let alone operate from there. For every machine lost outright, we lost at least one more to damage that proved impossible to repair. The Germans offered no meaningful help. Therefore, when the Allies struck, on 7th November, they had air supremacy not only over the island itself, but over the entire Dodecanese.
 
I wonder, was the Italian idea that Lemnos was the target merely wishful thinking, or are we seeing misinformation campaigns start?
 
I wonder, was the Italian idea that Lemnos was the target merely wishful thinking, or are we seeing misinformation campaigns start?
Why not both?

And now, before the denouement in Rhodes, the answer to a question implied by earlier developments...
 
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Part 6.4
Extract from ch.9, Mit Rommel bis zum Ende, by Hans von Luck

...even though the oil had frozen. I wished him good luck, and moved on. A few hundred metres further down the road I saw the General.
‘It is too bad,’ he was saying. Half a dozen snowmen listened to him; when they moved they revealed themselves as human. ‘See if you can work your way down to the railway station, find out what Ivan has got there.’
We greeted each other. ‘Any joy with the 14th?’ I asked. He shook his head.
‘Their vehicles are even worse than ours,’ he said. ‘Still. How many can you scrape up?’
‘Fifteen all told,’ I said. ‘All my half-tracks have gone kaput. Weber tells me he can get another armoured car working.’
‘So sixteen?’
‘Fifteen includes Weber’s baby.’ I sighed. ‘Normandy was a long time ago.’
Then he smiled, an incongruous thing to see in those circumstances. There we stood, not much more than twenty kilometres from the Kremlin, our beloved 7th Division many kilometres ahead of our flank support, with God knew how many Russians lurking around, and he smiled. When I think back on our years together, all our triumphs and heartbreaks, and how many times he could make things seem better just by his presence, small wonder it is that so many of us loved him.
‘We’ll just have to give it a try,’ he said. I had never doubted that he would make that decision. He always gave his utmost, and I was content to follow…
We ran into trouble before we reached the railway station. The enemy had two anti-tank guns backed by mortars and machine guns, well dug in and concealed, and we lost three vehicles straight away. The infantry could not get round to them because of ditches and mines - we had no means of clearing these under fire. Our assault pioneers had been shot up badly in the fight at Klin and we had received no replacements.
We skirmished fiercely for about an hour, taking and giving ground, when a runner came in from the flanking company on the east.
‘Sir, there’s hundreds of enemy advancing in our sector,’ he said, ‘they have armour. We counted three heavies and six light tanks.’ I swore. No matter how many Red units we smashed, they always had more to throw at us. And now our position was desperate. More reports of attacks came in over the radio, the enemy were making a substantial effort, and it was clearly directed against us. After all Ivan knew we were closer to Red Square than anyone else, they presumably wanted to make an example of us. I realised the entire division would probably have to retreat, and it might fall to my battalion to cover the retreat, with all that implied.
Rommel himself had come right forward to give as much impetus to the attack as he could, and now as we disengaged from the enemy at the railway station, we met his half-track. The sky had cleared briefly and we hoped for air cover, but instead we suffered a strafing attack by a pair of fighters - Sergeant Beck identified them as Hurricanes, though I saw nothing but a sudden shadow overhead and a hail of machine gun bullets. ‘Blasted Tommies follow us everywhere, sir,’ he said.
No-one was hurt in this attack, but it damaged one of the trucks which unfortunately now blocked the way. We lost a quarter of an hour dealing with the snarl-up, and when we got moving again, we found we had lost our race against time. Two shots hit our leading armoured car and wrecked it. Another struck the General’s own vehicle, just in front of my own, and it halted. Then with heavy heart we saw, approaching along a lane from our right, five enemy tanks followed by a horde of riflemen. We fired into them and a few fell, but the tanks came on and blocked the crossroads.
The General came back from his own vehicle and climbed onto mine. ‘It’s no good, Hans,’ he said. ‘We’ve got nothing here that can stop those things.’ He gestured at the tanks: as they came closer I could see they were English Matildas. In my despair I could think only one coherent thought, how Beck had identified such an essential feature of this war: that London had this uncanny ability to make its hostility to us effective even when no Tommies stood within thousands of kilometres…
A Russian Colonel, very tall and fair-haired, undoubtedly the descendant of one of those Germans who moved to Russia in the time of the Tsars, appeared before us and saluted. ‘A good fight, general,’ he said in good German. ‘My congratulations on your skill, you had reached our very last defences before the city. I regret this unfortunate necessity.’
The General saluted back. ‘Exemplary tactics on your part,’ he said. He offered his side-arm, which the colonel rejected. ‘So, colonel, what now?’
They marched us a couple of kilometres back to the railway station where by some miracle there was a train waiting. We boarded and it took us into the city, then we marched again, and after a short while a suspicion grew which turned into certainty. Our march took us through Red Square…
‘Well, Hans, I told you we’d get here,’ said the General. Despite the grimness of the day, the situation was so absurd that I had to laugh.
 
Oh dear, supposing Rommel survives his captivity, we'll get yet another self-serving memoir that puts all the blame on Hitler and the Nazi leadership... sigh...
 
Oh dear, supposing Rommel survives his captivity, we'll get yet another self-serving memoir that puts all the blame on Hitler and the Nazi leadership... sigh...
Or gets to be General Secretary or President of East Germany after immediately collaborating with the Communists
 
As someone who hails from the same part of Germany as Rommel (and who, in fact, was born a mere thirty-odd kilometres away) I consider that unlikely. :)
 
As someone who hails from the same part of Germany as Rommel (and who, in fact, was born a mere thirty-odd kilometres away) I consider that unlikely. :)
While Zentrum did best in that area, SPD and KPD were not exactly unknown.
More importantly, Erwin was opportunistic enough to see what the safer path was.
 
Oh dear, supposing Rommel survives his captivity, we'll get yet another self-serving memoir that puts all the blame on Hitler and the Nazi leadership... sigh...
And the Western fanboys will eat it up. Even without North Africa, he'll still have a high reputation based on his role in 1940, and as "the General who got closest to the Kremlin". Some kind of star role in the Bundeswehr probably beckons. Getting captured at this point might turn out a good career move.
 
Part 6.5
Extract from A Song at the Sacrifice, ch.11, by Theo Barker

We learned we were off to Rhodes only once we were on the way, those most of us had guessed that operation ARDENT could have no other objective. Things had improved since the Scarpanto show. Everything had become a bit slicker. This time, we had actually practised, and even if the rehearsals showed up problems, we got them ironed out. It was tremendously heartening to hear our planes going overhead, not just three or six at a time but whole squadrons, and now we could actually talk to them - we had an RAF officer and signallers attached to us at HQ. Our ship passed close by a battleship, I think the Warspite, at one point, as she bombarded the shore; the noise was terrific.
‘Four of those,’ George shouted to me, my ears still ringing.
‘What?’ I said.
‘Four battlewagons hitting the signori,’ he said. Then he leaned over the rail and shouted in the Navy's direction, ‘Leave some for us!’
We didn’t have it all our own way, of course. On the way in we saw an LCM foundering, it had taken a hit or maybe a near miss from coastal guns. But we couldn’t stop to help - we had strict instructions on that point. Still I heard later it was the only LCM we lost that day.
We came ashore on a pebble beach, and I can still hear the sound of twenty pairs of boots crunching on the shingle almost as one. On Scarpanto we had taken quite a few casualties to mines; this time we were taking that threat a bit more seriously, and the Sappers were everywhere. We still hadn’t fixed all the problems - I saw half a dozen tanks stuck on the beach, all of them surrounded by swearing crews and REME types. Luckily the Italians didn’t mount any armoured counter-attacks - I heard later they had tried but been badly shot up by our ships…
The locals were pretty happy to see us. Many of them wanted to talk, and most of these came my way. One fine old chap I recall, with a daughter a bit like Eleni, brought us roses and said, ‘thank you. They tried to make us forget we were Greeks.’ I told him they never had much chance of that.
We had gone into reserve after the landings were successful, but bad weather meant that our reserve brigade was delayed getting ashore, so while the French pushed north towards the city, we got the job of mopping up on Mount Attavyros. One thing the Italians had shown repeatedly was they knew how to defend mountains - it comes of having the Alps and Apennines - so we didn’t like the sound of it. ‘Take it easy,’ George kept telling the troop leaders. ‘Let the guns do the hard work.’ But that could only take us so far, and our fire support was cut in half when the Fiji hit a mine.
So it was slow work, and we lost some good chaps. We were still there when the Italians threw in the towel. We headed into the city, where the French had snaffled all the best billets, so for a while we were camping. Every so often there would be a minor air raid, but these did little harm, so it wasn’t a bad life.
We were still on Rhodes in early December. On 4th we heard that the Italians on Tilos had surrendered to the Greeks, so it looked like we’d soon mop up the whole Dodecanese. A couple of nights later, during another half-hearted air raid, there were half a dozen of us chatting and laying bets on our next target - Kos or Leros were favourites - when there was a commotion in George’s tent (I say a tent, he’d just got a few scraps of tarp together stretched over a few sticks, just enough room for a palliasse and a hurricane lamp), and he came out.
‘What’s the flap, sir?’ said someone. ‘Has another island surrendered?’
‘Not yet,’ he said, and paused. Flares were bursting in the distance and the moon was still nearly full, I recall. So the scene already had an element of the fantastic. Then he told us the tremendous news.
 
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