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

This is still unlikely because the M3 went into production in March 1941.

So these must be M2 tanks, the predecessors of the Stuart.
 
This is still unlikely because the M3 went into production in March 1941.

So these must be M2 tanks, the predecessors of the Stuart.
Because of the need to rearm the Franco-Belgian forces and the recovery of their gold from the French Sudan, the development of the M3 Stuart was accelerated with Franco-Belgian help and the first M3s were ready to equip the 1st DB in Greece as soon as March.
 
Did Greek political desires sink Allied chances of kicking the Italians out of Albania? The world will never no. Either way, seeing this full intensity combat even before the invasion of Yugoslavia, with Brits engaged in Albania, is cool! Germany will be hard-pressed to start Barbarossa at the planned date if they want to kick these out.

In OTL the 10th Indian Infantry Division first saw action against Iraq in May. Getting involved in the full fury of the European land war is quite the upgrade for it! I hope it has a good legacy.

How many aircraft can each side support in the Balkans? I figure airstrips are a bigger limitation than number of available airframes there. (How does British and German fighter production compare?) Speaking of planes, if there is sustained land combat in the Balkans, Britain might not devote as much resources to heavy bombers of questionable use when more direct methods of hurting the huns seem available.
 
Did Greek political desires sink Allied chances of kicking the Italians out of Albania? The world will never no.

Probably not. Greek troops have been exhausted by a month of fighting and taking Durazzo against the Germans would've been painful.

Germany will be hard-pressed to start Barbarossa at the planned date if they want to kick these out.

They don't need to: their objective is to run through Yugoslavia and Bulgaria and smash through the Metaxas line right towards Athens where the terrain is more favorable to Panzers, therefore bypassing Albania.

In OTL the 10th Indian Infantry Division first saw action against Iraq in May. Getting involved in the full fury of the European land war is quite the upgrade for it! I hope it has a good legacy.

The Commonwealth troops in general will have much more of a chance to shine since the Syria-Lebanon and Western Desert Campaigns have been butterflied.

How many aircraft can each side support in the Balkans? I figure airstrips are a bigger limitation than number of available airframes there. (How does British and German fighter production compare?) Speaking of planes, if there is sustained land combat in the Balkans, Britain might not devote as much resources to heavy bombers of questionable use when more direct methods of hurting the huns seem available.

The British this time have come very early to Greece and have started expanding and creating a lot of airfields, especially in the Athens area. With Hitler considering the Balkans a sideshow, with the main priority being the protection of the oil fields in Romania and supporting Barbarossa, combined with the losses in France and the mini-BoB, means that the LW will not have an easy time against the Greeks (on MB.150 and Hurricane), British (on Hurricane and Spitfire), Belgians (on P-39), French (on P-40) and Poles (on Spitfire).
 
Chapter 27: Conquering the World’s cradle – the East Africa Campaign (1940-41)
Autumn 1940 - Spring 1941


Often forgotten, one forgets that the East Africa Campaign would later have important ramifications, be it during the war or to influence post-war politics on the dark continent.

With the entry of Italy into the War, resources had to be pulled to defend the British colonies of Somaliland, Kenya and Sudan. As previously stated, the reinforcements of the Belgian Public Force added to the fact that the British felt as if they had a strict advantage over the Italians, who were now only trying to gain time.

Still, the initial Italian push was fairly successful, conquering Somaliland in just under two weeks, having crossed the border as soon as August 15th, only a few days after the Italian declaration of war on the United Kingdom. Though it must be said that the British did not really try to defend the colony, and instead pushed for the conquering of Eritrea, much more vital strategically.

And it would not take long for the Italians to see a wrench thrown in their plan. On September 1st, while they still had not reached Berbera, Paul Legentilhomme declared Djibouti loyal to Free France, freeing up the troops of the Senegalese riflemen present on the territory to go and defend Zeilah, on the border with Somaliland, denying the Italian access into the territory.

This thorn in the Italians’ back forced Amedeo, Duke of Aosta, to send troops initially sent to Sudan to defend the pass at Serdo, to prevent any French offensive towards Addis-Abeba, though such an offensive was unlikely. This combined with the reinforced British presence in the Sudan meant that much of the offensive power of the Italians in Sudan was blunted. Kassala was taken quickly, but the road to Khartoum became difficult, especially since the British had received reinforcements. To the north, Port-Sudan was nowhere in sight, let alone Suakin, and to the west, the Italians were met with fierce resistance at Al-Qadarif.

For the Italians had the nasty surprise of receiving, on October 5th, the Belgian declaration of war. And if Mussolini had laughed at it, the Italian soldiers in the Sudan were laughing a lot less. Harassed by the Belgian Air Force, equipped with Fairey Battle, and ambushed and pushed back by the Congolese of the 1st Congolese Brigade, the Italians suffered a costly setback at Al-Qadarif, stopping them from reaching the Nile. To the south, the Belgians also fought the Italians at Fachoda, on the Nile, alongside the South Africans of the 1st SA Division.

It slowly became clear for Amedeo that the invasion had failed. Even if the Duke knew that such an invasion was doomed to failure, he had at least hoped to reach Khartoum…some dream that was now out of reach. By November, the Italians had been pushed back to the Atbara river by a combination of the British of the West Yorkshire Regiment and the Belgians of the Congolese Public Force.

On November 19th, Kassala was retaken by the British of the 5th Indian Infantry, helped by the Belgian-Congolese who were the first to cross the border into Italian-occupied Ethiopia at Tesseney. The Belgians were doubly happy as their old biplanes were doing quite some work on their Italian counterparts, who had lost the control of the skies.

The Italians would also have the nasty surprise of seeing the French in Djibouti, reinforced by the men of the 2nd Battalion “Black Watch”, recently evacuated from Somaliland, come to hit them in the back! The Franco-British force made a clear strike towards Serdo, aiming for Semera and control of the road leading to Addis Abeba, with a smaller force made of Senegalese riflemen and a composite group of the former men of the Somaliland Camel Corps (reorganized into “Eritrea Force”) took the coastal road to Assab.

This now three-pronged strike into Italian-occupied Ethiopia was very worrisome for the Duke of Aosta, who now feared to run out of troops, especially considering the British were also massing troops on the southern border, with an offensive definitely coming from Moyale towards Yabelo, and another towards the Somalian border and Kisamayo. What’s worse, sabotages by the Ethiopian resistance had only grown, and most rail lines were now unusable. At Serdo, local resistance groups had already acted as guides for the Franco-British to avoid Italian strongpoints, and help flank their forces. Amedeo had no choice: he had to delay, and with the coming end of Operation Compass and the promised reinforcements in the form of the 4th Indian Division, he needed to do so before being completely overwhelmed.

Amedeo was right to be worried. In addition to the already mounting pressure, the British of the 16th Punjab Regiment landed in Berbera, almost uncontested, while the Senegalese riflemen attacked towards Hargeisa, hoping to link with the Indian troops. The Italians were also shocked to find that the Indians were supported by...French FT-17 tanks, which quickly blitzed towards Hargeisa, carrying the Punjabis on the way.

By January, the Allies had reached Hargeisa, Addodas, Edd and Agordat, and were now converging on Asmara, Dire-Dawa, and most importantly, Addis-Abeba.

The last hope for the Italians was now to defend Keren, a real fortress located between the mountains, to deny the Allies free reign to push towards Asmara and Axum, which would soon entail the fall of the colony. Amedeo had reinforced the site in the hope that it would continue to delay the Allied forces long enough, but hope had long waned, since the hoped-for Italian counter-offensive into Egypt had never materialized.

Worse, with the news coming from Albania and their own setbacks, morale was low as could be. But despite this, the Italians held on to Keren doggedly, hoping to make their stand there. And while the British and Congolese smashed their heads into the fortress, desperately trying to make it fall with enough artillery, the Allies advanced elsewhere. Dire-Dawa fell to the Senegalese on January 7th, with Yabelo falling the next day to the Nigerians of the 11th African Division. The Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Selassie, would celebrate his return to Dire-Dawa by saluting the newly formed Ethiopian Regiment, which would soon become the 1st Ethiopian Battalion, incorporated into the British Army. Concurrently, the South Africans had sped through Somalia, taking Mogadischu on January 15th.

At sea, it was not much better. The Italian Red Sea Flotilla was essentially doomed from the start, having no place to run to. Despite this, the Italian destroyers still tried to sortie out to sink convoys off Yemen, with disastrous results. In an engagement off the Dahlak Archipelago, the entire surface fleet of the Red Sea Flotilla was entirely wiped out by the convoy escort, consisting of the light cruisers HMS Kimberley and HMZS Leander, with support from the sloop HMAS Yarra and destroyers HMAS Waterhen and Basque. Those who were not sunk outright would then be mercilessly bombed by the RAF or scuttled by their crews to avoid capture. And the submarines did not fare too well, either. Of the eight that comprised the Red Sea squadron, only two would reach German-occupied France. For starters, the Macallé ran aground on an island and was scuttled by its crew. Then, the Torricelli and Galvani were sunk within days of each other by British escorts. The Galileo Galilei suffered worse, as it was captured by the armed trawler HMS Moonstone, reducing the submarine force of the Red Sea flottila to four vessels.

These last vessels were ordered to scatter and reach German-occupied France, or, if that was not possible, seek internment in Portugal or Spain. Out of the four, two would not make it. The submarine Galileo Ferraris was spotted as she transited through the Bab-al-Mandab Strait by French patrol aircraft, which bombed it and forced it to beach itself near the Peris lighthouse. As for the submarine Perla, it would reach the Bay of Biscay...only to be spotted and sunk by the HMS Sunfish...recently recommissioned as the HMDS Bellona. Only the submarines Archimede and Guglielmotti would make it to Bordeaux, arriving on May 7th and May 9th, respectively.

And the string of defeats continued for the Italians. After almost a month of dogged and determined resistance, the last fort of Keren fell to the Ruana-Urundi Brigade of the Congolese Public Force, which raised the Belgian flag over the town, so dearly held by the Italian Alpini, who capitulated on February 19th, after running out of ammunition.

This defeat would only make its way to Italy much later, though it was trumpeted (despite the losses) by the Allies. And the fall of Keren would make the rest of the dominoes fall quite quickly: Asmara fell on February 22nd, with Massawa following on February 26th. And by then, the only thing left to do for the Allies was now to sink their fangs into the Ethiopian heartland.

On March 9th, 1941, Amedeo Duke of Aosta surrendered Addis-Abeba without a fight. Considering the fight lost and not wanting to waste more lives for nothing, he ordered the surrender of all Italian forces in the area (carefully avoiding those still fighting around Gondar and Bahir Dar). For Amedeo, the fight was over, and he would die of tuberculosis only a year later. The fall of the capital would also have a tremendous effect on the Ethiopian population, which would take up arms against the few Italian troops remaining in the colony.

The last Italian troops, trapped and outnumbered, would capitulate at Gondar on April 4th, 1941 to the 5th Indian Division, putting an end to the Italian campaign. A few groups of isolated Italian battalions would continue the fight in the vast colony, but never numbered more than a thousand men. Most of these would still be fighting at the time of the fall of Rome, and would only cease fighting once orders from the King had been transmitted to them, finally putting a definitive end to the East Africa Campaign.

For the Allies, though, it was not over.

The 4th Indian Division was sent to rest and recuperation, and would later see action as part of the Commonwealth Corps, in the Balkans. It would not be the only division to find itself there, as the 11th and 12th African Divisions would also have their chance to write the first brilliant pages of the Ghanean and Nigerian military in Europe. The 5th Indian Division would see action in South-East Asia, while the 1st South African Infantry would become the 1st South African Armoured and see action in Italy. The Ethiopian Battalion would later see action in Asia, alongside the Belgian Public Force and the Ruanda-Urundi Battalion. Finally, the Senegalese riflemen present in Djibouti would for some be transferred to Greece, while others were sent to Tunisia, waiting for a better assignment.

In the end, for all of these troops, East Africa was the baptism of fire. But unlike the thousands of Italians marching into captivity, it would only be the beginning of their war.
 
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In the end, for all of these troops, East Africa was the baptism of fire. But unlike the thousands of Italians marching into captivity, it would only be the beginning of their war.
Beautiful update, as always. Two questions:

1) How successful is this campaign vis. a vis. OTL (i.e. were there a thousand Italians guerrilla fighting in OTL?); and,
2) Since I just read Ellsberg's "Under the Red Sea Sun", do the Italians still scuttle a huge fleet at Massawa, or did the swiftness of the allied success preclude this?
 
1) How successful is this campaign vis. a vis. OTL (i.e. were there a thousand Italians guerrilla fighting in OTL?); and,

More successful than OTL because of the reinforcement of a substantial Belgian force and the French forces present at Djibouti. OTL Keren fell at the end of March compared to ITTL early February, and OTL Addis Abeba fell on April 6th compared to one month earlier here. OTL about 7,000 Italians continued the fight as guerillas until the armistice, this number is more or less the same ITTL, but their fight will be a lot shorter than OTL.

2) Since I just read Ellsberg's "Under the Red Sea Sun", do the Italians still scuttle a huge fleet at Massawa, or did the swiftness of the allied success preclude this?

Most of the fleet actually gets sunk here due to more escorts being present in the Red Sea following the defection of a large number of French vessels. The ones that do not get sunk or beached were scuttled, but instead of it being a good chunk of the fleet as OTL, it is a minority ITTL.
 
More successful than OTL because of the reinforcement of a substantial Belgian force and the French forces present at Djibouti. OTL Keren fell at the end of March compared to ITTL early February, and OTL Addis Abeba fell on April 6th compared to one month earlier here. OTL about 7,000 Italians continued the fight as guerillas until the armistice, this number is more or less the same ITTL, but their fight will be a lot shorter than OTL.



Most of the fleet actually gets sunk here due to more escorts being present in the Red Sea following the defection of a large number of French vessels. The ones that do not get sunk or beached were scuttled, but instead of it being a good chunk of the fleet as OTL, it is a minority ITTL.
I wonder, with far fewer pickings and the Med a far less vital theater, if Ellsberg goes to Iceland after all...
(he was a brilliant salvage officer who worked miracles in hot Massawa in 1942...)
 
Legentilhomme joining the war becomes a thumbtack in Italy's rear that stalls them just enough for all of Africa to utterly smash their face in. A lot of African units have cut their teeth here as a prelude to getting transferred to the European theater, and it sounds like they are remembered fondly by their homelands. Suggests a fair bit of sympathy towards the British effort in WW2 from their former colonies. I understand that very few 'colonial' divisions were used in the invasion of Europe in OTL. Was it just because they were more needed in the fight against Japan, or were there more racist motives behind it?

So Ethiopia is liberated a little early. Wonder what they're gonna do. I don't know much about what Haile Selassie did afterwards OTL, and I can't see how they could "strike back" more TTL.
On November 19th, Kassala was retaken by the British of the 5th Indian Infantry, helped by the Belgian-Congolese who were the first to cross the border into Italian-occupied Ethiopia at Tesseney. The Belgians were doubly happy as their old biplanes were doing quite some work on their Italian counterparts, who had lost the control of the skies.
Tesseney is in Eritrea. Is this a slip-up, or an indicator Eritrea remains part of Ethiopia in TTL's present day?
To the south, the Belgians also fought the Italians at Fachoda, on the Nile, alongside the South Africans of the 1st SA Division.
You mean Fashoda? It seems like the Congolese-Belgians are fighting all along the Sudanese font, I did not expect there to be enough of them this early on to fight so spread out. How many are there? I'm curious about the "1st Congolese Brigade", was this an existing formation? I figured it's too soon for any new native units to get properly trained.
And while the British and Congolese smashed their heads into the fortress, desperately trying to make it fall with enough artillery,
I hope 'smashed their heads' doesn't mean reckless frontal assaults. But yeah I'm sure this is a particularly intense part of the front. Strategically crucial for Italy, and close enough to the sea that bringing up artillery is logistically viable.
 
I wonder, with far fewer pickings and the Med a far less vital theater, if Ellsberg goes to Iceland after all...
(he was a brilliant salvage officer who worked miracles in hot Massawa in 1942...)

Ellsberg goes to North Africa earlier because the French need him for salvage operations...later.

Small point,HMAS Waterhen was a destroyer, if ya want a sloop instead I suggest HMAS Yarra which was in theatre at the time IOTL.

I wanted to use both and ended up getting them mixed up and confused. I have corrected my mistake, thank you.

So Ethiopia is liberated a little early. Wonder what they're gonna do. I don't know much about what Haile Selassie did afterwards OTL, and I can't see how they could "strike back" more TTL.

Not much except cement his own power and track down the remaining Italians. They will have a somewhat different fate here.

Tesseney is in Eritrea. Is this a slip-up, or an indicator Eritrea remains part of Ethiopia in TTL's present day?

The latter.

You mean Fashoda?

Fachoda/Fashoda is the same city, just different stylizations.

It seems like the Congolese-Belgians are fighting all along the Sudanese font, I did not expect there to be enough of them this early on to fight so spread out. How many are there? I'm curious about the "1st Congolese Brigade", was this an existing formation? I figured it's too soon for any new native units to get properly trained.

About 10,000 right now, but this number will grow substantially over the course of the war. The Congolese forces were spread out along the Nile from Kassala to Fachoda. The 1st Congolese Brigade is only ITTL, and has for basis the OTL 5e RI which was engaged in Ethiopia, but saw its members swell because of the Belgians staying in the war and the decision to give the Congolese fighting in it and their families Belgian citizenship. It will become, over the course of 1941, the 1st Congolese Division.

I hope 'smashed their heads' doesn't mean reckless frontal assaults. But yeah I'm sure this is a particularly intense part of the front. Strategically crucial for Italy, and close enough to the sea that bringing up artillery is logistically viable.

It means a series of unsuccessful assaults due to determined Italian resistance, which was one of the strongest of the war, even OTL.

I understand that very few 'colonial' divisions were used in the invasion of Europe in OTL. Was it just because they were more needed in the fight against Japan, or were there more racist motives behind it?

I'm not completely sure, but I think it was the latter. Three OTL divisions were sent to Burma. OTL the 11th East African was reclassified into the 1st African, and the 12th East African disbanded, but due to different butterflies here, both will stay as is (11th and 12th East African), and none will see combat in Asia. There will however be African troops in Asia, but these will be the OTL West African Divisions.
 
By November, the Italians had been pushed back to the Atbara river by a combination of the British of the West Yorkshire Regiment and the Belgians of the Congolese Public Force.
As a Yorkshireman, this bit made me smile...

Which Batt of the Reg was it that made the attack out of curiosity as I don't think any of them were there IOTL
 
Which Batt of the Reg was it that made the attack out of curiosity as I don't think any of them were there IOTL

2nd Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, which would then be attached to the 9th Indian Infantry Brigade of the 5th Indian Division.
It was present in Sudan at the time, but unsure if it was in the Kassala area proper.
 
Suggests a fair bit of sympathy towards the British effort in WW2 from their former colonies. I understand that very few 'colonial' divisions were used in the invasion of Europe in OTL. Was it just because they were more needed in the fight against Japan, or were there more racist motives behind it?
Some colonial troops served in Europe; mostly Italy I think. I recall reading that Mahratta infantry were deployed to guard the Tuscan villa of a famous British expatriate where a great number of very famous paintings from the museums of Florence had been stored for safekeeping. I believe they had previously served in North Africa.

The African troops and most Indian troops went to East Africa, initially. About the time that campaign ended, the war against Japan started up, and they went to that theater, as did future recruits to those forces. The ground war in Europe didn't really start for another year and a half.

It's possible that the direction of these troops to the Burma theater was in part due to recognition that they were physically unsuited to operations in cold weather. The French had serious problems among their West African troops in the winter of 1944-1945.
 
BTW, does the Ecuadorian–Peruvian War of 41 still occurs?
Yes, I don't see any butterflies that could influence them.

It's possible that the direction of these troops to the Burma theater was in part due to recognition that they were physically unsuited to operations in cold weather. The French had serious problems among their West African troops in the winter of 1944-1945.
The African divisions definitely will need acclimatization training before being put on the line in Europe.
 
Just been rereading it all and I was wondering... Where has Hood got to? She was last seen escorting a convoy to Narvik on August 12th and then nothing... I presume she made it there and back safely in time for what happens in May IOTL assuming it happens here?
 
Just been rereading it all and I was wondering... Where has Hood got to? She was last seen escorting a convoy to Narvik on August 12th and then nothing... I presume she made it there and back safely in time for what happens in May IOTL assuming it happens here?
Hood is currently undergoing a refit at Rosyth as per OTL and will soon join Scapa to escort convoys in the Atlantic.
 
Chapter 28: The Yugoslavian Problem (April 1941 – Balkans) New
March - April 1941


Pre-war Yugoslavia had been in turmoil for some time. The 1938 parliamentary elections had seen the opposition party gain a large percentage of the vote, but due to the specificities of the Yugoslav system, only gained a handful of seats in the Serb-dominated parliament. Tensions continued to rise, especially in Croatia, where the feeling of being governed by “Serbians acting for the good of Greater Serbia” were more and more prevalent. Not even the Cvetković–Maček agreement giving Croatia more autonomy helped to defuse things, as Croatians considered that it did not go far enough, and Serbs considered it gave the Croats too much power.

In fact, this agreement represented the government led by Dragisa Cvetković at the time: one that refused to commit to either side, in fear of angering both, but only resulting in the alienation of both. And this was represented in foreign policy too: Cvetković was anti-Axis, but remained friendly to the Reich. In fact, even within the government, tensions were building. Milan Nedić, Minister of the Army and Navy, encouraged Cvetković to join the Axis as he believed Germany would win the war, and Yugoslavia slowly became encircled by Axis countries. Unfortunately, the regent, Prince Paul, did not share his ideas, and promptly replaced him with Pešić.

But this would not stop the Axis wanting a piece of Yugoslavia. Hitler thought that bringing the country to heel would mean expending a large number of resources he desperately needed to commit on the Eastern Front. Not to mention the fact that he already had to reduce the number of divisions that would be committed to the intervention in Greece due to the losses taken in France. As such, diplomacy was one time favoured by Hitler.

Hitler met Cvetković and asked for transit rights for the German Army and a demobilisation of the Yugoslav Army (due to the mobilisation of several units along the Italian border). While Cvetković continued to press his neutrality, the fall of Hungary and Romania into the Axis camp and the entry of German troops in Bulgaria put an end to this dream: Yugoslavia would have to choose.

Going behind his cabinet’s back, Prince Paul offered a non-aggression pact and enhanced cooperation with Germany, which was declined. Backed into a corner, negotiations started with the Soviets, but these ones refused to even listen to a military alliance: the Molotov-Ribbentropp pact guaranteed non-belligerence with Germany, which was in the interest of the Soviet Union.

Backs against the wall, the Cvetković government was forced to concede, and signed the Tripartite Pact in Vienna on March 31st, thus bringing Yugoslavia into the Axis camp. However, Cvetković and Regent Paul would soon come to regret it. The next day, protests would erupt around Belgrade, as well as other Yugoslav cities, protesting the agreement: "Better war than the pact!", as the crowds chanted . The Army reacted immediately and marched on the parliament, dismissing Regent Paul and prime minister Cvetković and naming general Dusan Simović head of government. Yugoslavia’s participation in the Tripartite Pact had only lasted 24 hours.

The British and French pounced on the occasion, immediately running to Belgrade. Simović was not a fool: if he had refused the Germans, they would soon come knocking. The Yugoslav army was mobilised and placed on full alert. In the meantime, the Hungarian Third Army also moved south, ready to pounce: German diplomacy had born fruit. Hungarian Prime Minister Pal Telecki would shoot himself the moment the first Hungarian troops would cross the border, two weeks later.

Simović himself, while he was concerned about the readiness of his troops, also pushed back against the Allies. These ones wanted them to defend only around Macedonia, therefore linking his troops with the Allied lines in Greece. But this would entail the surrender of 95% of the country, including Belgrade! Something that was politically unacceptable for Simović. However, the Allies leave with the guarantee that the units in Macedonia would be reinforced first, in order to stop a potential push from Bulgaria towards Skopje. The French of the 86th DIA would also move into Yugoslavia as soon as the war starts, in order to hold the line of retreat for the Yugoslav army around the Macedonian capital. The Yugoslavs would be helped by the Belgians of the 2nd Infantry Division, which held the gap in the Allied line between the Aliakmon River and the Metaxas line, along with the 1st Free French Division (now reclassified 1st French Division, since Vichy has for all intents and purposes ceased to exist).

For the Yugoslavs, there was nothing much to do but brace for the shock. Simović was level-headed enough to order the evacuation of the gold of the National Bank, and prepared evacuation lines in Macedonia and Montenegro if the country’s fall seemed imminent. Naval assets were also directed to Suda Bay, Benghazi and the Ambracian Gulf in case of a fall of the country. The government was also quietly whisked away to Greece, although a few, especially Croats, outright refused the move.

As for Hitler, the Yugoslav government’s refusal to accede to his demands had made him furious! As such, he moved the date for the invasion of Yugoslavia forward: April 14th! The units attacking Greece would not be ready? Well, they’ll have to make do, it is not as if it will make a difference…

In fact, it would make a world of a difference. If the Germans had launched Marita with their full force, the Allies could have been taken by surprise by the Luftwaffe…and this would cost the Germans dearly.

On April 14th, the invasion of Yugoslavia started, with the German 2nd Army of Maximilian Von Weichs roaring into the countryside, brushing aside the weak Yugoslav resistance. It operated conjunctly with the Hungarian 3rd Army, which would occupy Banat, and part of the German 12th Army [1], which attacked Macedonia. The Luftwaffe also annihilated the Yugoslav air force…when it was not plagued with sabotages, as Croatian officers deliberately sabotaged their pilots' planes to stop them from fighting the Germans. Unfortunately for them, the Germans did not care whether you were Croat or Serb when it came to bombing airfields.

The moment it was clear war had started, French troops of the 86th DIA and Belgians of the 2nd Infantry immediately began to move into Macedonia [2]. These troops were greatly helped as the Luftwaffe was clearly not as biting here as elsewhere, due to the sheer territory covered, and, unbeknownst to them, the fact that most of it was held back for Barbarossa. This allowed the Franco-Belgians to gain their positions in Macedonia quite easily.

On the other hand, the Yugoslav army was overwhelmed with the numbers, and in the north, was faced with Croat desertions. Ljubljana would thus fall on April 15th and Zagreb on April 16th. However, resistance was stronger in the south, on the edge of Allied air cover. German troops had trouble breaking through at Nis and were kept in check around Belgrade.

For the Yugoslavs, the main effort was now to defend the Belgrade area and engage a fighting withdrawal to Montenegro or Macedonia, where the French troops had started fighting against the Germans around Kumanovo, on the outskirts of Skopje. The French, veterans of the Battle of France, knew how to counter the threat of the German motorized columns, and thus inflicted heavy casualties alongside the Yugoslavs of the 22nd Infantry Ibarska, stopping the German breakthrough there. Here, the lack of the 9th Panzer was critical: this division, slated for Barbarossa, was denied to Wilhelm List’s 12th Army as the losses of the Western Front had still not been fully compensated.

With the fall of Nis, however, it was all of Serbia that was now in critical danger. Belgrade, thoroughly bombed by the Luftwaffe, was taken on April 20th, forcing the rest of the Yugoslav army to fight their way to Montenegro and possible salvation. As a result, the Macedonian line became that much more important, meaning the Greeks now sent their own troops to hold on as the Metaxas line still hadn’t given way. For the Germans, the objective was now twofold: stop the Yugoslavs from forming a defensive line in Bosnia, and punch through the damned defenses in Macedonia! But nothing came to plan. The Yugoslavs resisted fiercely, and the Allies were sure as hell not going to give in [3]. Not to mention that the push in Albania was not going well…

With the fall of Sarajevo on April 24th, things were becoming dire for the Yugoslavs. There was now no choice but to withdraw either to Montenegro and hope for an evacuation by sea, or to join the defence in Montenegro by passing through the mountainous Kosovo region, something that would become impossible after the fall of Pristina on April 26th.

With the fall of the only major road leading into Macedonia from Serbia, the Allied position became more and more untenable as troops poured into the southernmost Yugoslav region. They could hold, but there was not much hope as the Metaxas line had been breached and the threat of a possible encirclement now loomed.

As such, the Allied high command ordered a retreat to the Greek border. The remainder of the government that had not evacuated, including General Simović, were transported to Athens, joining King Peter II, who had left the country a day prior alongside Regent Paul. The Belgians, Greeks and some of the Yugoslav troops (four infantry divisions: the 22nd Ibarska, 5th Šumadijska, 8th Krajinska and 34th Toplička) would come to plug the gap between the Aliakmon line and the Metaxas line. The French and the rest of the Yugoslavs (50th Drinska, 20th Bregalnička and 2nd Cavalry) would retreat towards Bitola and the safety of the British lines around Florina.

As the last Allied troops left Macedonia around April 28th, the last Yugoslav troops that had not scattered or surrendered were now trapped in Montenegro, with no hope of evacuation other than the few ships that the Yugoslav navy still had. Under the dead of night on April 30th, though, a few Allied submarines were ordered to stop harassing Italian shipping and come rescue the Yugoslavs. Greek, French and British vessels thus calmly evacuated a few hundred men, soldiers and sailors alike, who wished to continue the fight from abroad. As for the rest, they silently scattered into the mountains, or tried to join the Greek lines around Lake Ohrid.

The battle for Yugoslavia was over after two weeks of hard fighting. So hard, in fact, that the Germans thought that the most difficult was done. The resistance in Macedonia had been smashed and nothing was stopping them from rushing down the Vardar Valley straight to Thessaloniki! Except that between them and Thessaloniki there were marshes, the guns of the 2nd New Zealand Division, and the tanks of the 1st DB. And what the Germans thought to be a triumphal march would soon become a brutal slaughter…





[1] Georg Stumme’s XL. ArmeeKorps.

[2] Some of these troops were also kept in Greece, but Marita will be covered in the next chapter, as this focuses on the Yugoslav front.

[3] In fact, the Yugoslavs would be more hampered by the lack of infrastructure in Bosnia which completely destroyed supply lines and forced most troops to scatter or seek salvation through Kosovo or Albania on their own.
 
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