Into the Fire - the "Minor" nations of WW2 strike back

all according to keikaku for the Generals' Plot. Can the naval forces available to the allies with this blockade Albania, or would attrition to aircraft and submarines in the Adriatic be too bad?

I hope the Surcouf gets to do something cool.
The Lufftwaffe still has a significant advantage over the Allies.
 
Imagine the Surcouf surfacing off shore of a Italian port in Sardinia or Sicily at night and firing off a few rounds of 8" shells the diving back under and going further out to sea at night. It might also be used on a commando raid to provide some gunfire support.
 
it's impossible to hold greece especially now that the minor nations are more invested in actively helping. what I see happening is that the Greek army gold and government/royal family escapes to like what happened in Norway
 
it's impossible to hold greece especially now that the minor nations are more invested in actively helping. what I see happening is that the Greek army gold and government/royal family escapes to like what happened in Norway
Well, in an earlier udate Wings wrote:
In fact, the Norwegian troops would do more than wipe the shame of their defeat in Narvik, when they would be the first to enter Sofia, only two years later…

So there will be some major differences in the Balkans compared to OTL if Norwegian troops enter Sofia in 1942.
 
Darlan was promoted to…French representative to the Allied High Command. A post which sounded like a promotion, but, for Mandel and De Gaulle, primarily meant to keep this troublesome person away from “his” Navy, which was entrusted to Admiral Emmanuel Ollive.
It seems to be a consistency that Darlan always manages to get himself "promoted" whenever he defects with his fleet due to his ego in every timeline lol. I really want to read more about the man now and how far that ego went.
 
It won't be possible to hold Greece, it's still a pipe dream. I'm not sure about Poleponnese myself.

The need to develop logistics for Greece alone will be a nightmare, it would be much better for the Allies if they and the Axis recognized that this was a private adventure, Italy and Greece would soon sign an armistice.

Italy will never accept an armistice and Germany will never let Italy fall since Hitler needs Italy's troops to compensate for the losses in France, on the Eastern Front. A defeat in Albania could potentially spell the doom of Mussolini and Hitler cannot let it happen.

all according to keikaku for the Generals' Plot. Can the naval forces available to the allies with this blockade Albania, or would attrition to aircraft and submarines in the Adriatic be too bad?

I hope the Surcouf gets to do something cool.

Too hard to blockade Albania without controlling both sides of the Strait of Otranto. With the French fleet, though, the Allies hold total naval supremacy anywhere not named the Ligurian or Adriatic Sea.

Imagine the Surcouf surfacing off shore of a Italian port in Sardinia or Sicily at night and firing off a few rounds of 8" shells the diving back under and going further out to sea at night. It might also be used on a commando raid to provide some gunfire support.

The Surcouf will have its chance to shine...

it's impossible to hold greece especially now that the minor nations are more invested in actively helping. what I see happening is that the Greek army gold and government/royal family escapes to like what happened in Norway

Well, the minor nations themselves that could help in Greece aren't numerous. Hungary doesn't have a stake in it and Bulgaria...we will see.

Well, in an earlier udate Wings wrote:


So there will be some major differences in the Balkans compared to OTL if Norwegian troops enter Sofia in 1942.

The main thing here is that because of Libya falling extremely early, it frees up a lot of divisions to go fight and be ready in Greece far before Germany can. The Commonwealth has committed six divisions, plus two French and one Belgian almost immediately. All you need to do is figure out the logistics of it all.

It seems to be a consistency that Darlan always manages to get himself "promoted" whenever he defects with his fleet due to his ego in every timeline lol. I really want to read more about the man now and how far that ego went.

He is an extremely interesting figure for sure, and yeah, Darlan is too important to be kept near naval matters, since his ego is...massive.
 
The main thing here is that because of Libya falling extremely early, it frees up a lot of divisions to go fight and be ready in Greece far before Germany can. The Commonwealth has committed six divisions, plus two French and one Belgian almost immediately. All you need to do is figure out the logistics of it all.
With North Africa under allied control shipping through the mediterranean is possible, they've got aircover the whole way. Not going to have to go around Africa saves up a lot of shipping time. Supply lines within Greece are probably rather short, so I assume for forces in Greece supply won't really be much of a problem.
 
Now with another front opening in the Balkans, Germany might be so desperate that it would have to form units with personnel of the occupied nations - and even try to recruit foreigns, if desperate enough
 
Now with another front opening in the Balkans, Germany might be so desperate that it would have to form units with personnel of the occupied nations - and even try to recruit foreigns, if desperate enough
After all, they did it and it was called Waffen-SS. Or they enlisted former citizens of the Empire or German-speaking people into service.
 
I've enjoyed this so much that I've joined in order to thank Wings for such a great afternoon read yesterday - everything seems just that plausible - I especially enjoyed the French fleet steaming out of port to rejoin their sister ships and to fight the good fight, so thank you for the ride so far.

If I may ask, have the Channel Islands fallen as I have a soft spot for them having lived on Jersey for several months
 
Chapter 26: Losing the Mediterranean – Act 4: Lustre (February - March 1941)
February - March 1941



With the fall of Libya imminent with the success of Simoun, the Allies were now fully focused on the transfer of troops to Greece. Operation Lustre, as codenamed by the British, had now started and was in full swing, aiming to transfer no less than nine Allied divisions.

Of course, this posed a problem for logistics. The ports of Greece were poorly developed, and disembarking supplies in Valona was judged too risky considering that the Germans had brought the X. Fliegerkorps to protect Italian reinforcements (no less than seven divisions!) in the area. As such, the Allies continued the submarine harassment of Italian forces in the area.

The Italians themselves had also committed substantial naval assets for the safe escort of these convoys, which made interception of these convoys risky, but not without cost for the Italians. On February 20th, the destroyer Alvise da Mosto was sunk by an aggressive British submarine (HMS Tetrarch), while five days later, the cruiser Giovanni delle Bande Nere, on a shelling mission along the frontline, was sunk by the Greek submarine Papanikolis.

For the Allies, the focus was elsewhere. The poor Greek road system needed to be rebuilt to accommodate the British armoured vehicles, from Piraeus to Thessaloniki and Valona. Railways needed to be built and renovated, especially around Piraeus, airfields built to accommodate Allied aircraft…in short, the Allied offensive in Albania was delayed till March, the time for everything to be put in place…and for supplies to be accumulated [1].

For the Allies were under no illusions: Germany could not let its ally fail in Albania, but for different reasons than expected. For Hitler and the OKW, the Allied presence in Greece was a critical threat, as the Allies could hope to sway an Axis-leaning Yugoslavia, right on the front door of the Reich! Not to mention the threat of Allied bombers in Greece which could be used to raid the Romanian oilfields... The issue was now how to plan an intervention. While some argued to push back the date of Barbarossa, the Fuhrer was inflexible: there would not be a delay, not even a day! As such, aid had to be provided to the Italians, and quickly!

If the offensive into Greece and Yugoslavia (if the government refused access to the German troops) was maintained for April 18th, the Germans would need to hold Durazzo in order to save the Italian Army…and the Italian government. It was thus decided to send the 5th Light Division [2], under Heinrich Kirchheim, to Durazzo in order to protect the port and keep the Italian Army alive.

On March 4th, the 7th Armoured Division and the Greeks finally started their own push, slamming into the Italian defenses at Fier and Berat. The British armoured division, equipped with Matilda IIs, Covenanters and, more importantly, Valentines, had no problem in blasting the Italian stoppers, rolling onto the plain below.

Then, however, the effort switched. The British wished to rush their tanks along the coastal plain straight towards Durazzo, but the Greeks wished to push to Elbasan and then Tirana, in order to gain a massive political victory. It was later revealed that the Greeks hoped to take the capital in order to force the Albanians to concede Northern Epirus, and thus was more important than the coastal town of Durazzo.

The Greeks pushed hard, managing to rush their way in the Albanian hills and mountains, reaching Elbasan on March 12th, where they were met with the Italian 48th Infantry Taro, helped by the 2nd Alpine Infantry Tridentina. As for the British, they were slowed more by the mud than the Italians, who were desperately waiting for Kirchener’s armoured vehicles to come bail them out.

In the meantime, the Allies did not stay idle. The French 86th DIA and Belgian 2nd Infantry Division had landed on March 15th, and the 6th British Infantry would land on March 20th. The Continentals would move up towards the Metaxas line, with the 86th DIA, equipped with American armored vehicles [3], going up to the Yugoslav border, and the Belgians staying behind Thessaloniki. The Franco-Belgian strategy was to block a future German push through Bulgaria or Macedonia, with the 1st Free French Division and Levant Armored Brigade (reclassified as 1st DB) to join them along the line. The French and Belgian P-40s would of course follow.

The British would see their numbers quickly balloon to more than 150,000 men in Greece as well. The 7th Armoured Division, which was now was in sight of Kavaje after crossing the Shkumbin at Kercukaj, but also the 2nd New Zealand Division and 6th British Infantry, landed in Athens and on their way to the front, the 6th Australian, in the process of transferring from Libya, the 51st Highland, taking position at Karditsa, and the 10th Indian, freshly arrived near Ambracia. All was well for the Allies, with the Italians growing desperate.

Seeing the number of troops in Greece swell, the Regia Marina was asked to sortie to destroy Allied convoys heading for Piraeus. Needing a victory badly after the fall of Keren and Libya, and with the French carrier Dixmude having been spotted off Malta, the Italians felt confident enough to make a hit-and-run by attacking the convoys off Crete which were ferrying the 6th Australian between Benghazi and Piraeus.

Unfortunately for them, the screen of Allied submarines spotted the sortie off of the Ionian Islands, dooming the attempt. The Italian naval force ran straight into a waiting British squadron, which included the carrier HMS Illustrious, and its deadly Fairey Albacore.

Already experienced from the raid on Taranto, the Albacore executed a perfect attack on the Italian raiders off Cape Matapan, sinking the destroyer Nicoloso da Recco outright, and damaging the cruisers Luigi Cadorna and Pola, as well as the battleship Vittorio Veneto.

The crippled cruisers were then intercepted by the British naval force, spearheaded by the battleships Valiant and Warspite, and the cruisers HMAS Perth and HMS Ajax. What followed was more akin to an execution than an actual battle. Despite the Italian destroyers desperately trying to save the larger units, they were brutally slaughtered while the British battleships pounded the crippled Italian cruisers with shells, eventually sinking them.

The action ended in the morning, with the British finishing off the last Italian destroyers still standing and rescuing the survivors. Alongside the Pola and Luigi Cadorna, the Italians had lost no less than five destroyers in the action, and the battleship Vittorio Veneto was not only damaged, but sunk by a combined effort of the French submarine Dauphin (three torpedoes hit) and the British submarine HMS Upholder (two torpedoes hit, battleship finished off).

All in all, the disaster of Cape Matapan cost the Italians one battleship, two cruisers and five destroyers, leaving more than 3,500 dead and 2,000 captured. The same day, the heavy cruiser Bolzano was also sunk off Sicily by a French task force led by the battleship Dunkerque, which were escorting aerial reinforcements to Malta, adding to the catastrophe.

And as the Italians licked their wounds, their German counterparts finally reacted, taking the 7th Armoured by surprise as their vehicles attacked from Durazzo, pinning the British troops at Kavaje, and seriously threatening an overrun from the hills towards the river, which would put the British in an unfortunate position.

Flanked by the Italians on their left, the Germans thus had free reign to strike a still inexperienced 7th Armoured, all the while leaving the Greeks to struggle for Tirana (it is true that Germany and Greece were not at war yet). The British did try to counter-attack, with disastrous results as the German PaK-38 shredded the Matilda IIs, with only the Valentines being met with limited success.

However, the Germans struggled to exploit their breakthrough: the Luftwaffe was matched in the air by the RAF and AdA aircraft which were eager to strike the Hun once again. Unable to gain total air superiority like they once could in France, the German counter-attack was only partially successful, pushing the British beyond the Shkumbin but being unable to push past the Seman and retake Fier. Not to mention the fact that the Valentines answered the German blow for blow, to the surprise of many German officers...

This push also allowed the Italians to free up their own divisions (101st Infantry Trieste, 5th Alpine Infantry Pusteria) and bolster the front between the Germans and their lines and stop any counter-attack at Fier-Shegan which could have outflanked the 5th Light Division. This also forced the Greeks back towards Elbasan, not wanting to be taken by surprise with a push towards Kucove.

In the end, the Greeks were forced to abandon the city, so dearly conquered, to establish their line of defence along the rivers, controlling the roads to Greece at Kucove, Gostime and Drize, with the help of the British 6th Infantry, which had just finally put its brigades on the frontline. This also stopped any attempt by the 5th Light Division to break through towards Fier and Valona, now being faced with two British divisions (and the 10th Indian on the way!).

Heading into April, it seemed as if things were in a stalemate, but neither the Allies nor the Axis wished for this to stay this way.



[1] The Allies did not have problems with the Albanian road network, though, since the Italians had kindly helped put it back into shape for their own invasion of Greece.

[2] Future 21st Panzer Division.

[3] Notably the M3 Murat (Stuart in GB denomination).
 
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Great read - especially the Battle of Cape Mattapan. I would presume this would have the Italians think twice before sending such a large number of ships out together. Given that you mentioned Illustrious did she still get her OTL damage but merely repaired faster or avoid it altogether? If so, would that mean she took the place of Formidable and fired her guns at the Italians at the battle or not?
 
In the meantime, the Allies did not stay idle. The French 86th DIA and Belgian 2nd Infantry Division had landed on March 15th, and the 6th British Infantry would land on March 20th. The Continentals would move up towards the Metaxas line, with the 86th DIA, equipped with American armored vehicles [3]
OTL, the Medium tank M3 (Lee/Grant for British, not Sherman, that is the M4), received by the 5th Royal Tank Regiment in Middle East late 41, beginning 1942, saw numerous modifications before entering into action in May 1942 in Libya. It's unlikely that it could be earlier here. And at this stage of the war, a DIA didn't have armored vehicles, you mean 1st DB, I guess. The sole American tank that could have been exported in small quantities at this time is the Light tank M3 (Stuart for British), which participated Operation Crusader OTL.
 
Great read - especially the Battle of Cape Mattapan. I would presume this would have the Italians think twice before sending such a large number of ships out together. Given that you mentioned Illustrious did she still get her OTL damage but merely repaired faster or avoid it altogether? If so, would that mean she took the place of Formidable and fired her guns at the Italians at the battle or not?

Because of the presence of the Dixmude in the Malta-Gibraltar area, and more AA resources with the defection of part of the French fleet, Illustrious' damage was butterflied and the amount of CVs in the Med at that point sent Formidable straight to the Far East in response to the Franco-Japanese incident.

OTL, the Medium tank M3 (Lee/Grant for British, not Sherman, that is the M4), received by the 5th Royal Tank Regiment in Middle East late 41, beginning 1942, saw numerous modifications before entering into action in May 1942 in Libya. It's unlikely that it could be earlier here. And at this stage of the war, a DIA didn't have armored vehicles, you mean 1st DB, I guess. The sole American tank that could have been exported in small quantities at this time is the Light tank M3 (Stuart for British), which participated Operation Crusader OTL.
I got my M3s confused. We are talking about the M3 Stuart, not the American M3 Lee.
 
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