I wonder about purges ITTL. Would assume as OTL, but its hard too see except Stalin is known for paranoia.
A Big difference to OTL is that the Finnish campaign is a summer war. Might mask any Soviet deficiencies?
 
Part 18, Chapter 188
Chapter One Hundred Eighty-Eight


28th July 1939

Berlin

Soviet bombers pummel Helsinki, Hundreds feared dead

Kat looked at that day’s headline, more awful things happening around the world. As terrible as it was, the bombing in Finland as far as Kat was aware it was a typical afternoon in China. World opinion was divided regarding those conflicts, Kat saw that when she opened the mail every afternoon. Jokes were being made about how the Russian’s short victorious war had turned into an absurd blood drenched comedy of errors. The Chancellor keeping them out of the war was widely regarded as good call but there was an undercurrent of grumbling that he was throwing the Finns to the wolves and was conceding too much to the French to keep them on side. With the British and French supplying the Finns they were making a fight of it.

Kat didn’t bother to venture an opinion of her own but the photographs they were getting back from Finland were bringing back some very uncomfortable memories. From her perspective, anyone who wanted war should have her experiences and the night terrors that came with those while she could go back to sleeping soundly at night. Not that Kat didn’t have more pressing problems like dear friends.

“I don’t understand you” Maria said, “It’s access the likes of which most journalists would kill for.”

“It’s one of those cases of being careful what you ask for” Kat replied, “Most of what you’d hear would be too boring to bother with.”

The look that Maria gave Kat basically said bullshit.

The thing that Maria was going on about was an invitation sent by the Empress for an event that Kat had begged off from. Maria saw it as a potential avenue towards a story but Kat knew that it could make her the Story and the gossip around the Empress’s cortege was salacious hearsay at best. But that didn’t stop Maria from making suggestions. The actual events were like something from another century and frequently as Kat had described, boring.


Rosenberg, Silesia

Kurt was sitting on the deck of the Tiger with his back against the turret watching the sun set. This whole operation had been a bust, they were left sitting on a low ridge in a quiet corner of the Empire while the main action was taking place somewhere far away. They found the whole experience to be absolutely grating. Not that is was entirely bad, they were camped up here, waiting for an invasion that was not going to happen, at least this summer anyway. Preis had said that it was best outcome that they could have expected. You have to be alive to be bored. Kurt couldn’t argue with that logic.

Eventually they would be sent back to base, the logistics of moving Tigers had proven to be a massive undertaking. Specialty railcars and even modifications to the existing infrastructure were needed for Panzers that big and heavy. Kurt hoped that the Heer was paying attention for the next time they were in the field.

“There’s going to be hot food tonight” Olli said as he climbed onto the deck.

“Aim low and you’re never disappointed” Kurt said.

“Is that why you’re always shooting yourself in the foot?” Olli asked. Kurt looked at Olli in surprise, that one was incredibly witty for Olli. Seeing the earnest look on Olli’s face he couldn’t tell if that had been deliberate or not.

“Did they say how long we have to wait until dinner is ready?” Kurt asked.

“No” Oli said, “But I figure you’ll see everyone drifting that way.”

Kurt knew that was just a good way to end up at the end of a very long line. As always it seemed as if Olli never knew to ask the right questions.

“Too bad it’s not like last summer” Olli said, “That was fun, us driving that Russian Panzer around and before Axel started acting like he had stick up his ass.”

Kurt had to laugh at that, it was the perfect characterization of what had happened with Axel.

“Why can’t we do that again?” Olli asked.

“I don’t think playing extras in movies is something that happens very often.”

“Not that” Olli said, “You in charge as we ran circles around everyone.”

“I’m not a Panzer Commander” Kurt said.

“Why not?” Olli asked.

Kurt didn’t have an answer for that. How did one go about becoming a PC anyway?

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The mail had arrived that afternoon.

“Got several packages for a Karl… how the Hell do you pronounce this?” The Unteroffizer who’d brought the mail said.

“That’s you Karl” Hans said. As he watched the Polish soldier collect the packages. Hans figured that they contained all manner of contraband, from Karl’s wife back in Zossen. She sent the supplies and he sent back the profits. Word was that he was well on his way towards having a down payment on a house in Wunsdorf off this summer’s proceeds. Things that were every day luxuries back home were worth a mint out here. The roof racks of the Rust Bucket II had become a roving black market under Karl’s stewardship, cash up front and the customer was always wrong.

“One for Mischner!” Hans collected the envelope. He saw that it was from his Aunt Marcella. He sat in his fox hole reading it.

“What’s the news?” Jost asked.

“They’re trying to get Kat into University next year” Hans said, “Uncle Klaus threw out his back again so the Doctors are telling him to not take on so much at work, good luck with that.”

Jost kicked back in the foxhole, he could have cared less about Han’s family. He just liked hearing stories of normalcy. The letters he sent off or got from his own family were anything but normal. Mom had no idea of where his father was and was concerned about what Tilo was going to do next year. All the men in the family had gone into the military, Tilo was talking about going to Paris. Ava was sure that Jost would have a new niece or nephew in about six months but hadn’t bothered to inform her husband yet because she figured he wouldn’t take it well. Lenz had made a habit of buzzing Jost’s position every morning until he’d fired off a letter threatening to open up on Lenz’s airplane with a 13mm the next time he did it. Jost wasn't sure if it was Lenz's plane, but waking up to a radial engine going past at treetop level nearly every morning was suspicious.

Hans paused “That’s no good” He said.

“Something happen at home?” Jost asked.

“No” Hans said “Look.”

Jost sat up and saw Horst working his way down the line. A month back the Regiment’s XO had some sort of medical issue and had to be sent back. The Brass in their infinite wisdom had made Horst acting XO. The Hauptmann had then spent his time kicking ass and bringing the Regiment up to his lofty standards. Something that brought joy to the Brass’s little black hearts. Two days ago, it had become officially Major Horst and his position as XO was made permanent.

“We’re moving out” Horst said as he walked past “Start filling in those holes.”

Hans was right, this was no good.
 
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A Big difference to OTL is that the Finnish campaign is a summer war. Might mask any Soviet deficiencies?

IOTL, Finns managed a very successful defence against the Red Army in the summer of 1944 as well on the Karelian Isthmus. The only real benefit the Soviets get from summer conditions is the lack of snow and cold, but then Finnish terrain is difficult in the summer as well - a lot of forest, few roads, a lot of lakes, ponds and swamps. This is true especially north of the Ladoga where the border area is essentially forested wilderness all the way to Lapland. The Karelian Isthmus also presents a very narrow avenue of attack, so the Soviets can only send a certain number of troops through to avoid an operational gridlock. This means that the Finns have better chances for defence than might be expected even in summer conditions - quite simply, pretty much everywhere around the Finnish 1920 borders, the terrain and the geography favour the defender.
 
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Part 18, Chapter 189
Chapter One Hundred Eighty-Nine


20th August 1939

Berlin

It was getting into the time of the year where the heat and humidity of Summer were making everyone a bit crazy. With lack of sleep and general exhaustion taking its toll. For Maria, it meant walking around feeling like she was feverish. Fredrich Grossmann had pointed out in a conversation that Maria had overheard that this was the time of year when all the big wars had traditionally started, just not this year. The Russians had found themselves fighting against the Finns in what was supposed to be cakewalk. Instead they had gotten into a meatgrinder with the Finns inflicting ten to one losses on them. Eventually the Finns had been forced to negotiate but not before the Russians suffered through an internationally embarrassing campaign only winning by throwing large numbers of soldiers at the Finns until they ran out of ammunition. Maria had finished typing up that story before she ran out to meet Emil for dinner.

Now Maria was sitting at a table with a glass of mineral water with ice, at least it didn’t get as hot in Berlin as it did in Spain even if it was light for noticeably longer into the evening. She saw Emil walk in and was a bit surprised by his appearance and judging from the curious looks he was getting from the other people around him their reaction was the same. He was wearing a tropical uniform with Luftwaffe Fallschirmjäger patches sewn to it.

Maria laughed “The weather is supposed to break tomorrow and I don’t think it’s quite that bad out there, at least you have the legs to wear shorts like that.”

“It’s one of the perks of being a General” Emil said, “I can dress how I want and no one dares to say anything.”

“What did Augustus Lang have to say?” Maria asked.

“That is the exception” Emil said, “He laughed too and asked me if I had left the pith helmet in the car.”

“So why did you decide to dress this way?” Maria asked.

“It’s an option for when one may get assigned to a hot climate” Emil said.

That was another surprise for Maria. “You think you’re shipping out?” She asked.

“It comes with a promotion and eventual command of the 1st Division” Emil said, “Australia asked for help in setting up munitions and aircraft manufacturing, Lang has asked me if I wanted to be appointed to oversee the project.”

“Wow” Maria said, “And were you going to bother to tell me about this before you left?”

“I haven’t given a final answer yet” Emil said “And as for talking to you that is exactly what I am doing now. What do you think?”

“I think that lunch will be a lot less interesting after you leave” Maria said.

“It depends on where you want to have that lunch” Emil said, “Berlin, Melbourne or Sydney?”

“Is that some sort of joke?” Maria asked.

“Hardly” Emil said, “Because you’re still willing to talk to me and actually be seen with me in public after as long as we’ve known each other, Lang said that I’d have to be insane to let you go.”

“Is that a fact” Maria said, “What sort of arrangement do you have in mind, General Holz?”

“That’s up to you” Emil said.

“Wouldn’t your stiff-necked Prussian superiors take a dim view on you shacking up with your girlfriend while representing Germany?” Maria asked.

“Yeah, they would” Emil said, “But I’ve never cared much about what they think.”

“What if I take a dim view on that?” Maria asked, “And want something more.”

Emil shrugged “That would get complicated in a hurry” He said “A Generallieutenant can’t just get married. There’s a whole lot of rigmarole, big ceremony, lots of guests, a good chance royalty will show up.”

“Really” Maria said, “I’d not considered that, sounds like a nightmare.”

“As I said it gets complicated and there’s a political aspect” Emil said, “It’s one of those social events of the season sort of things.”

“There’s one thing you might not have considered” Maria said “I’m not giving up my career, that’s nonnegotiable. If you think I’m going to be one of those military wives who meekly follows her husband from post to post with no life of my own, you’d better make other plans.”

“If you meekly did anything I doubt you would be who or where you are” Emil observed.

“Do I have an agreement on that?” Maria asked.

“Sure” Emil said, “Any other deal breakers?”

“Not at the moment” Maria said, “But if you give me some time I’m sure I could think of a few.”

“I just wanted to let you know what you were getting into” Emil said.

“I figured that out when vapid actresses started getting miscast to play me in movies” Maria said with a laugh.

“So, we have an agreement then?” Emil asked.

“Yes” Maria said.

“Do you expect me do the whole formal proposal” Emil said, “Down on one knee and what not.”

“God, no” Maria said, “I don’t want everyone in this place to know our business.”

“Now about that…” Emil said.

“Took you two long enough to get around to it” A man who had been sitting nearby said, Maria recognized him as Walter Horst, a long-time friend of Emil’s. Then she noticed that friends and family were crowding into the restaurant. It was instantly obvious that all of this had been planned.

“I’m going to kill you for this” Maria whispered into Emil’s ear.
 
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*Laughter*, That works really well for the two of them, it just fits. Congratulations on a well written bit. I look forward to reading about Maria's revenge though.
 
Glad to see Emil and Maria have gotten their shit together and have become an official couple.

I do think Emil will pay dearly for the set up. He might want to wear cup to protect his balls for awhile. :D
 
Ballsy set-up there Emil.

Also, Germany and Australia....what the hell? DO they have that good relations with the British Empire now that they seem ok with having Germans run adhoc around...
 
Ballsy set-up there Emil.

Also, Germany and Australia....what the hell? DO they have that good relations with the British Empire now that they seem ok with having Germans run adhoc around...

The British Empire and German Empire are rivals, sure. But the way things shook out ITTL Anglo-American relations are sour particularly in light of how it was American interests that left a good portion of the British Government on the hook after Spain blew up in their faces.

Australia on the on the other hand is acutely aware of their geopolitical situation. They may not like Germans per se but they like but they like the idea of German corporations building factories there. This is a self serving move by the Germans because they figure that it keeps the UK in their corner and in the event that they go to war with Japan over China they'll need infrastructure on that side of the world.

Nations don't have friends, they have interests.
 
The British Empire and German Empire are rivals, sure. But the way things shook out ITTL Anglo-American relations are sour particularly in light of how it was American interests that left a good portion of the British Government on the hook after Spain blew up in their faces.

Australia on the on the other hand is acutely aware of their geopolitical situation. They may not like Germans per se but they like but they like the idea of German corporations building factories there. This is a self serving move by the Germans because they figure that it keeps the UK in their corner and in the event that they go to war with Japan over China they'll need infrastructure on that side of the world.

Nations don't have friends, they have interests.

Ah! Also possibility of fracturing the Empire preCommonwealth days, so to speak.
 
I
The British Empire and German Empire are rivals, sure. But the way things shook out ITTL Anglo-American relations are sour particularly in light of how it was American interests that left a good portion of the British Government on the hook after Spain blew up in their faces.

Australia on the on the other hand is acutely aware of their geopolitical situation. They may not like Germans per se but they like but they like the idea of German corporations building factories there. This is a self serving move by the Germans because they figure that it keeps the UK in their corner and in the event that they go to war with Japan over China they'll need infrastructure on that side of the world.

Nations don't have friends, they have interests.

I've avoided use of the w-word for the most part, but I have found it useful here.

It looks like this is shaping up to be a Realpolitik wank.

There. I used it.
 
That was a fantastic, apt, and uniquely romantic proposal. Emil sort of reminds me of a German Omar Bradley in terms of being a soldier's soldier.

This development re: Australia makes me think a Russian-Japanese alliance is more likely, and the British Empire is vulnerable to Japanese aggression. It will be a very interesting series of wars.
 
Lol I like his style. Good writing!

I'll just ponder on this short bit for a while. With Germany sending Emil to Australia, it seems like war with Russia is not immediately in the offering and the Finns already bended. Hence, if the SU with its known intention to spread Socialism will be the Villain here, this was the obvious chance to take a chance for free nations, actively support the Finns and maybe resoundedly defeat the Russians while they were bugged Down in a Karelian swamp.
In stead we will see the SU army reforming and massively expanding and an inevitable war later with a much stronger SU/Japan. All of this will be obvious in hindsight and ITTL, the leaders will surely be blamed for not having prevented this great war in the making.
The reason while we all follow along is the style. Real people face complicated decisions and have their own motives. Its brilliant.
I'd like to see someone with the skills of PM take on OTL Chamberlain and see how he faces Hitler from his own perspective. Perhabs we would dislike him as a warmonger if he were to seek confrontation earlier.
 
The UK in OTL had a rough time holding on to the Empire after WW1 given the massive debts incurred. How are they managing here? Is the commonwealth rife with independence movements?
 
I'll just ponder on this short bit for a while. With Germany sending Emil to Australia, it seems like war with Russia is not immediately in the offering and the Finns already bended.

One interesting problem is that the German political bench is MUCH thinner than Britain's was with the Reichstag bombing. Can Lang be an effective War Chancellor? On the other hand, this is one of the areas where the Prussian culture gives Germany an advantage. I actually think what Russia will do is try for Norway and possibly Sweden to get warm water ports besides the Baltic.
 
Part 18, Chapter 190
Chapter One Hundred Ninety


1st September 1939

Berlin

They were walking through the Tiergarten towards the Königsplatz. The broken masonry that had littered the ground was gone and the trees were not showing as much damage as they had months earlier. Where the Reichstag had stood was a large hole in the ground surrounded by a rusting chain link fence. Work had stopped for the day, soon enough it would all stop for the winter and work would start on a new building next spring. Helene and Gerta watched as Kat walked ahead of them. Kat was having one of her black moods, so she wasn’t good company today.

“There are times when she does the whole poor tortured soul thing and I just want to slap her” Helene said in a low voice sharper than she’d intended “She tried to apologize for something again and said it was fine if I hated her for it.”

“Try to be nice” Gerta said “Our little Kat is going her best but her friend is going away.”

Helene knew about that. Kat’s friend and mentor Maria Acker was getting married in a few months and was going with her fiancé overseas with no set return date. Helene’s father had gotten an invitation to the wedding.

“I understand that” Helene said, “Kat makes others feel helpless around her when she’s like this, torturing herself, no one can do anything for her and I don’t like it.”

“The problem with crucifying yourself is that try as you might you can’t the third nail in” Gerta said solemnly.

Helene stopped walking, that had to be the most appalling and inappropriate thing that Gerta could have said. Gerta maintained a frivolous persona that was exasperating at times but Helene knew the truth. Gerta had a sharp mind and rapier wit, underestimate her at your peril. There were also times when Helene suspected that Gerta could actually be quite evil.

“Our Kat is anything but helpless” Gerta said “It was all in the report that was in my father’s safe.”

“You got into your father’s papers?” Helene asked, again appalled. General von Wolvogle had been part of the committee that had investigated the Reichstag bombing.

“I’ve been doing that for years” Gerta said with that strange half grin and light in her eyes “Every once in a while, Poppa has the combination changed but that was why I wanted a stethoscope for my ninth birthday.”

Gerta had asked for a birthday present that would further her ambitions in safe cracking when she was a child? Helene realized that was perfectly in keeping with her character.

“Kat was over there” Gerta said pointed towards the column that was encased in scaffolding. “She had shot the bomber on the steps of the Reichstag, Augustus Lang had come out with her, the evacuation had started… You know what happened after that but the report said that just as many people out as not because of her.”

Helene had known most of that already just not the total extent to which Kat had been credited. Gerta had worked tirelessly on Kat’s behalf in the days after the bombing, if she had known all of that then it explained a great deal.

“If Kat hadn’t been here then all those people would have died” Gerta said “We would have different leaders and for all we know we’d be at war right now.”

Helene looked at Kat who was standing silently by the fence, face pale looking across the scene of devastation. She just wished Kat could see things as the authors of that report had.

----------------------------------------------------------------

Lang sat behind his desk reading the memos for the day. It may be a Friday but this never ended, tomorrow there would be another pile of these. The American President Franklin Roosevelt was going to officially announce his intention not to seek the nomination of the Democratic Party next year, ending his term in office in early 1941. After the Reichstag bombing the US economy had avoided falling back into recession by the skin of its teeth. Lang, along with several other world leaders was being informed in advance by back channels to prepare their respective nations to help avoid another shock. How temping the thought of walking away from the constant pressure and demands of this office was.

He’d come under some criticism for his decision to not pursue war against the Soviets. He actually had the plan on his desk at one point. Invading the Soviet Union from Poland and the Baltic States. The problem was that it would have required total war and the people of the German Empire were simply not prepared for that. He had been reading reports of how Stalin was reforming his army, in the wake of the Finland Campaign thousands of officers were getting a bullet in the head for their troubles. While he was hopeful that the Russian despot’s efforts would earn him a military coup, Lang wasn’t holding his breath. There was no way that he would be so fortunate. Tomorrow Lang was going to meet with the Emperor and the Crown Prince. He was going to explain the security situation and start the process that would began the final preparations for a war Lang didn’t want but had feared was inevitable for more than a decade. He just hoped he had enough time before it started and no more distractions like Spain.
 
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