WI: Free Italy - a.k.a. Kingdom of Italy in exile as an Allied nation

A german invasion of Italy would be a very hard thing indeed. The only access points are a small section on France's south, or from Austria. Both of which are mainly moutain terrain. WWI showed what figthing there would mean. Italy would be on the defensive (and I'd wonder what forts they sill have in the area) so it's relative lack of preparedness would be less of a problem, and air support (a german strong asset) would be nearly useless.

Deleted member 94680

Im also wondering if the oil in the gulf of guinea was exploitable in 1940, considering the vichy regime now controls gabon and cameroon.
Considering the oil was discovered in-between 1970 and 1997 in the various countries on the Gulf of Guinea, I’d say that’s unlikely.
Oh right, it seem that ITTL France will take the place of Italy as part of the Axis even if Marine Nationale has been already gutted between Dakar, Mars el Kebir and Toulon and frankly after the war there will be a lot of internal discussion and payback.
In any invasion of Italy, with the Navy in bad shape, the French contribution will be limited as any invasion must past the Alps and the fortification line there and even before thinking to launch an attack you need to start to prepare the troops for the terrain...better remember that the italian had a lot of people wounded by frostbite due to the lack of proper equipement and the invasion started in Summer now is Winter.
Also Jugoslavia seem has been rallied and bribed enough to join the invasion, unfortunely they are an order of magnitude less prepared for an offensive war than Italy and i don't even start with the internal division.

VEIII seem having grow a pair (almost ASB) and try to keep things quiet and as before, limiting to repel the racial law and honestly with the OVRA involved i expect that anyone that will be contacted by the Germans will have a quiet incident 4 or 5 minutes later (unlike the rest of the fascist apparatus they were pretty efficient).

For the UK, even if they really don't know, things have gone better than OTL, no campaign in Africa for now and the Mediterrean is relatively open so there are more resources to both fight the battle of Britain and the battle of Atlantic, this can also mean a less one sided 'Destroyers for bases deal' and 'Tizard Mission'

Deleted member 147289

Love it, I wonder when Italy will be nvaded and if it's ready to face the Germans along the alps...
Instead of a North African front, are we going to see a West African front as the British try and wrestle control of the region out of Vichy France's hands?
Well, I'm definitely subscribed.

Your English is excellent; the main thing was just the occasional personal possessive pronoun glitch (i.e., "its" for "his"), not at all hard to understand what you meant, though.

And I agree with others, that an invasion of Italy presented all kinds of difficulties for Hitler. He would, of course, be outraged, as you have him; but once the military and economies realities are made clear to him, it's quite possible that he would put up with it for the time being.

1) Military: Yes, the Wehrmacht could likely bludgeon its way down into the Po Valley, but the fact that Italy is a long skinny and mountainous peninsula would make it difficult to get too far down it before the British could introduce troops and help shore up a defensive line, probably well north of Rome; and the Royal Navy, backed up by the RM, would make supply and transport of troops a straightforward matter. Which in turn gives the British a foothold on continental Europe again (complete with bases for strategic bombing), which the Germans could ony liquidate at some considerable time and cost. Notwithstanding the weaknesses of the Italian Army, it wouldn't be nearly so easy as Greece, and there would be no hope for securing Sicily and Sardinia, let alone anything in Africa.

And of course since the USSR remained Hitler's real priority, a major theater opened up in the mountains of Italy is the last distraction he needs, especially with the Balkans also in need of securing.

2) Economic: Italy still had great value to Germany as a non-belligerent trade portal, one harder for the British to close down the way they were able to do with Spain.

So perhaps a good chance that Hitler decides to hold off on Italy, hoping to settle accounts down there after he's driven Stalin past the Volga, and suck as many critical raw materials as possible through it in the meanwhile.
If the UK uses De Gaulle as a political/propaganda front, this might go easier.

De Gaulle has been hanged by zealous Vichy officers in the aftermath of the Battle of Gabon for treason (big Butterfly).

In the next update I will focus on the OKH plans and the fascistization of France. A small detail on the state of Italian Royal Army will be also added...

De Gaulle has been hanged by zealous Vichy officers in the aftermath of the Battle of Gabon for treason (big Butterfly).

OooO! Missed that... still, French West Africa is too far to fully supply and support... the allies would have an advantage there.
Since De Gaulle has been hanged as a so-called traitor to France, it will be VERY interesting to see the long-term effects in the long run, especially Algeria, Indochina, US/French relations, and NATO.
Since De Gaulle has been hanged as a so-called traitor to France, it will be VERY interesting to see the long-term effects in the long run, especially Algeria, Indochina, US/French relations, and NATO.

It basically makes Free France stillborn. There is no obvious #2 to step up to the job.
A thought just ocurred: with the Italian Fleet sailing along the RN in the med, there's no way what's left of the French in Toulon would be able to do anything. And any ship stuck in Merz better not even think about sailing. In fact I wouldn't discount the chance of a "Taranto" done to Toulon; the RN would certainly now have the fast heavy escorts to go in, and I'm sure 3-4 carriers could be arranged for this.
He made a deal after Mers-el-Kébir OTL so why not here?

Darlan was a weather vane; and here, the wind has not changed direction yet. Petain has made him Minister of Marine, which means he already controls the entire French Navy (at least, that is still afloat).
Hi everybody !

Thanks for both the compliments and (even more) for the hints on the evolution of the TL. Expect a double update, one for today on France and what's going on with the War and one for tomorrow on the growing frictions between Italians and Germans.

03 - Spring 1941: What's going on outside Italy?
Disclaimer: Major edits in red in the text below due to revised TL accordingly to more realistic historical reconstruction

Etat Français strengthens despite Central Africa loss

De Gaulle’s execution as a traitor to the Etat Français following the Battle of Gabon almost shattered the Comité français de la Libération nationale, which was still trying to reorganize itself under British assistance in Central Africa. Indochina and almost all the colonies pledged their allegiance to the new Laval government, excluding the North American holdings of Saint Pierre et Miquelon, promptly occupied by the Canadians. From these small islands, General Philippe Leclerc, who escaped metropolitan France wanting to carry on the war on the British side and that was promoted by De Gaulle during Gabon campaign, declared the constitution of a new France Libre movement. The movement, still small in numbers, began to recruit among French troops who managed to retire from Dunkirk meeting little success as the Petainist propaganda had good success in positioning again the British as “genetic enemy of France”. Vichy’s propaganda Minister Henriot developed an unceasing campaign against the British, highlighting both historical figures like Joan d’Arc and the recent attacks on the very own French sovereignty (Mers el Kebir, Toulon, the assault on Gabon…) as proof of the treacherous Albion enmity.

Marshal Petain, in his reactionary and ultraconservative new cabinet, did not allow a full fascistization of society, anchoring his government to the Deep France, deeply catholic and traditionalist, for the reinstatement of traditional values, that were identified as the concrete keeping together the nation. The new government, thanks to the diplomatic effort and as a recognition of the formal joining in war against the British Empire, was allowed by the Germans to return to Paris. Moreover, the sovereignty on metropolitan France was reinstated with the remarkable exclusions of the departments of Bas-Rhin, Haut-Rhin, and Moselle (Alsace-Lorraine), which were under formal French authority but de facto annexed to the Third Reich.

The French State (Etat Français) was, in Spring 1941, already solid and in charge, the Revolution nationale erasing the historical French radicalism was met among general Frenchmen with skepticism, even if the Travail, Patrie, Famille motto became more and more appreciated after the second Laval – Ribbentrop understanding in the first months of 1941, with the liberation of over 1 million French POWs from Germany in exchange for the participation in the next attack to Soviet Union. Petain, in a radio speech, announced the reconstruction of the Armée de Terre, with around 30 divisions and a half a million-strong manpower. This move also allowed the Germans to pull out of France hundreds of thousand men to prepare for Unternehmen Barbarossa and, potentially to counter Italian backstabbing and prop up Yugoslavians, Hungarians, Bulgarians, and Romanians, already in German geopolitical and economic sphere.

Despite Leclerc and British efforts, the French were more and more tight to the Germans. The invasion of the Central African holdings, this time carried out by strong South African and British colonial forces was a success. In a matter of weeks, the British swept with overwhelming forces the undermanned and unsupplied French garrisons who still gallantly resisted to the invasion. The short, four weeks campaign between January and February 1941 delivered to the control of the France Libre the whole colonies of French Equatorial Africa. Australian troops then proceeded in occupying French pacific outposts but were met by the resistance of pockets of French garrisons (secretly propped up by Japanese supplies) in New Caledonia.

Minor clashes occurred in Gambia, where the Tirailleur Senegalais captured the British colony, and with the encroachment of British Gold Coast by Vichy loyalist forces.

In the meanwhile, Royal Navy proactively shelled Marseille in February and launched a large-scale bombing activity on Northern France and French North Africa, resulting in a growing hatred that the Germans looked upon amused.

German preparations: Balkans strategy and Barbarossa preparations

In March 1941 also Bulgaria joined the pact between Germany and Japan, already extended in some forms to Yugoslavia and Hungary (and informally, to France). Germans technocrats and military planners knew that securing the Balkans was very crucial to defend their right flank in the planned invasion of Soviet Union.

A series of minor border adjustments were carried out in favour of Hungary (towards Slovakia and Romania) while territorial claims of Yugoslavia towards Istria, Karst and Albania, Bulgarian ones in Thrace and Romanian ones on recovering the lost territories of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina were recognized. The Germans acted brilliantly in a divide et impera approach on the Balkan polities, changing their support accordingly to the needs of the moment. The only country still not on the German side of the chessboard was Greece: the government led by Metaxas was close to the new Italian establishment and sensibly open to British economic penetration. The Germans, fearing of a possible British intervention to open a land front in Europe and the capability to bomb the vital oilfields of Ploiesti, immediately addressed the matter through a general neutralization plan of Greece.

Unternehmen Marita, propped up by 8 German divisions (XVIII Mountain Corps and XL Panzer Corps), was launched in April, from the staging bases in Southern Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, supported by 5 Bulgarian infantry divisions and the Third Yugoslavian Army (4 infantry divisions and a cavalry brigade). The swift advance promoted by diversionary attacks on Thrace from the Bulgarians, allowed the Germans, led by General Wilhelm List, to push through, overwhelming the Metaxas Line. British immediately rushed to the Hellenic Peninsula, with around 60k strong troops from Commonwealth (mainly Australians and New Zealanders). In the following battles, the Germans mauled both Greeks and Commonwealth forces thanks to heavy aerial support through dive bombing on fortifications, while the Yugoslavians defeated the Greek Epirus Army who surrendered. In this occasion, several minor skirmishes happened on the border of the Italian protectorate of Albania, resulting in formal Italian protests to both Belgrade and Berlin.

Within the last days of April, the Greek and the Commonwealth resistance was crashed, with the Germans and their allies dividing Greece in three occupation zones: the Thrace, with Thessalonica went to the Bulgarians, the Yugoslavians garrisoned Epirus and Thessaly, while the Germans occupied the remaining part of Greece. At the moment, Italian Dodecanese and Crete are still out of Hitler’s grasp, still in range to hit Ploiesti Oilfields…

The resulting intervention in the Balkans delayed the preparation of Barbarossa, as in OTL, with the shift from May to June that occurs also in this timeline. The Germans amassed over 153 divisions for the invasion, supported by ~7k armoured vehicles and ~4k aircrafts. From their allies, the Finnish prepared 14 divisions (to be committed only after Soviet attack to Finland as agreed with the Germans), the Romanians provided additional 13 divisions, Hungarians sent the entire Second Army (10 Divisions), Slovaks provided additional 2 Divisions while the French, under the command of General Weygand, provided additional 12 fully equipped Divisions organized in the AFR - Armée française en Russie. Barbarossa start date was scheduled for June 22nd, 1941. Germans diplomacy, partially deceived by Ciano’s ploys, still asked an Italian contribution for the campaign, leveraging on the visceral anticommunism entrenched in the Italian regime, receiving just vague promises of volunteers.

World War: Middle East and Asia theatres

The pro-axis coup in Iraq led by Rashid Ali is quickly dismissed by the British intervention in May with the flee of the leading personalities to neutral Turkey and from there to Germany. In the Middle East, the attempts of the France Libre to overthrow the Vichy officials in Damascus went bad: the British, under the command of General Wavell invaded Syria and Lebanon from Palestine and Iraq in June, immediately confronted by stiff resistance from General Henri Dentz. Germans immediately provided aerial assistance, while the French begin to transfer troops via land to Greece and then through expensive airlifts and naval convoys a couple of new divisions being heavily plagued during the transfer by both RAF Fighter Command in Alexandria and by the Mediterranean Fleet

The Germans recognized the thorn on their side caused by Crete during the planning of Marita, planning an invasion of the Mediterranean island with the assistance of Yugoslavian and Bulgarian + some French heavy cruisers and transports to be leveraged upon being already based in Athens for the Syrian campaign. The daring paratrooper’s operation (Unternehmen Merkur), was followed by amphibious assaults in the middle of June. Commonwealth and Greek troops were defeated but succeeding in retreating leaving only a small number of POWs and materials thanks to the missing Axis naval barrage. German Fallschirmjaeger made themselves a name in Crete for exceptional skills and combativeness suffering heavy losses but finally acquiring Crete to the Axis.

With their back now guarded after the take of Crete and Turkish neutrality, the Germans thought that reinforcing the French effort in Syria could lead to a breakthrough towards Suez and Iraq therefore cutting off British supplies from India. Unfortunately, the difficult chance of properly supplying the front as shown by the sinking of more than half of the French convoys towards Beirut and Latakia convinced the OKH to just help the French with limited aerial assets from Greek bases (effectively countered by RAF based on Cyprus and Alexandria). Additional plans aimed to choke the British economy and control over the Mediterranean were developed to take Gibraltar from French Morocco and with the collaboration of Spain. Despite diplomatic efforts in this direction, Franco refused the Germans to stage their operations on Spanish soil in Morocco or Southern Spain either.

A German token force of military advisers reach anyway French North Africa to prepare and plan potential actions against Italian Lybia and to evaluate bold actions on Gibraltar from Algerian and Moroccan bases.

In Asia, the Japanese, now allied to the French, land in July in Indochina, occupying it and establishing naval and airbases with the permit Admiral Jean Decoux, local French commander, while administration remains under the French authority.
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