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

Coulsdon Eagle

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Interesting twists. Not turning out as I would have expected; looks like France ATL is more helpful to the Axis cause than Italy OTL. Can't recall a TL before where Rommel ends up in Syria (apart from the odd one where he drives right over Egypt & turns north).
 
From these small islands, General Philippe Leclerc, who escaped metropolitan France wanting to carry on the war on the British side, declared the constitution of a new France Libre movement.
Nice update, Piave.

One quibble, so far: Leclerc in 1940 was only Chef d'escadrons - that is, a major. Not a general. Infact, that was only after de Gaulle promoted him on 25 July - in the Battle of France, he'd been a captain, and chief of staff for the 4th Infantry Division.

It wasn't until August 1941 that de Gaulle promoted him to general.

I think, that being the case, Leclerc is going to be too young, too junior (despite his promising prospects) to jump into de Gaulle's shoes as leader of Free France like this. I confess, however, that I do not have an obvious alternative.
 
Another question:

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. To do so, the OKH developed an Expeditionary Force that would become famous in the future, the Deutsches Syrien Korps (DSK), a highly mechanized corps composed by five divisions (3 Panzers and 2 Light Divisions) led by General Erwin Rommel.
How do the Germans get such a large force and its TOE to Syria - especially in an Eastern Mediterranean (including basing at Cyprus) still controlled by the Royal Navy, based at Alexandria? This is even larger than what Rommel had in Libya, where sea control was at least contested.
 
How do the Germans get such a large force and its TOE to Syria - especially in an Eastern Mediterranean (including basing at Cyprus) still controlled by the Royal Navy, based at Alexandria? This is even larger than what Rommel had in Libya, where sea control was at least contested.
Yeah, any ship that try to go from Greece to Syria is basically DOA, not even Regia Marina attempted such thing OTL and Marine Nationale after Toulon, Dakar and Mers-El Kebir is in a much worse situation in term of units available than OTL RM. Such attempt to supply Syria can happen only if Turkey give permission to use his territory but this mean openly side with the Axis and abandon neutrality and they are in a very tight position.

Syria at the moment is more or less like OTL Italian East Africa, only with less resources and with more enemy to fight, maybe Petain France will try to send supply using submarines or aircraft but it will never even attempt to send something akin to the OTL Afrika Korps there...even because any invasion of Italy will need that force as it will not a less than 2 weeks campaign with total Axis loss around the 4000 unit, hell Axis France will be hard pressed to suplly Algeria and Tunisia if they try to launch an attack in Libya
 
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, 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.

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 an entire Army Corps that was 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, that was invaded through a daring paratrooper’s operation (Unternehmen Merkur), followed by amphibious assaults in the middle of June. Commonwealth and Greek troops were defeated harshly, although the Germans suffered very heavy losses in their Fallschirmjaeger battalions.

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. To do so, the OKH developed an Expeditionary Force that would become famous in the future, the Deutsches Syrien Korps (DSK), a highly mechanized corps composed by five divisions (3 Panzers and 2 Light Divisions) led by General Erwin Rommel.

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.

As promised I tried to deliver something on the evolution of the War. I'm still apologizing for my english, unfortunately I hadn't time to cross check properly also this update (expect lots of edit actions on this post :) ). What do you think ?
You need to rethink the Crete operation , without the Italian Navy the Germans are not capable of an amphibious operation, they don't have as much as a Gunboat in the area to act as escort and of course the Dodecanese Islands are unavailable for basing/support. Its a massive stretch that is more parallelism than plausible. Mainland Greece falling , yes but Crete is an island too far.
 
Yeah, any ship that try to go from Greece to Syria is basically DOA, not even Regia Marina attempted such thing OTL and Marine Nationale after Toulon, Dakar and Mers-El Kebir is in a much worse situation in term of units available than OTL RM. Such attempt to supply Syria can happen only if Turkey give permission to use his territory but this mean openly side with the Axis and abandon neutrality and they are in a very tight position.
1) It's just barely possible to fly a Ju-52/3m from Rhodes (assuming the Italians would turn a blind eye) to the nearest Syrian airfields at Homs and Aleppo, if it's lightly loaded. Any Greek airfields proper - Athens or even Naxos or Heraklion or Setia - are too far away. I mean, maybe it would be possible to put a lot of gas cans in the passenger compartment, but then it becomes a question of why bother at all, since you'd only have room for a squad of soldiers anyway...

Otherwise...perhaps you could use some Fw 200 Condors, which is the one German aircraft I can think of with the range and carrying capacity. But then how do you get them there without the RN or RAF shooting them down? Perhaps if they fly at night and hug the Turkish coastline...but even using this option, it is hard to see how you get more than, say, a regiment or so to Syria, and they wouldn't have a great deal of equipment, and again, you wonder what the point would be. (There is a sizable danger anyway that if the Luftwaffe starts swamping Greek airfields with Condors, the Greeks will get word to British intelligence, who will assume an air assault on Cyprus is in the works, which would make the whole operation just about impossible.)

2) Now, possibly Vichy could use its own ships to openly reinforce Syria, but then it becomes a question of when and where the British draw the line and seize/sink the ships. I doubt that even Petain, let alone Darlan, would condone sneaking some Germans into the transshipment.

You need to rethink the Crete operation , without the Italian Navy the Germans are not capable of an amphibious operation, they don't have as much as a Gunboat in the area to act as escort and of course the Dodecanese Islands are unavailable for basing/support. Its a massive stretch that is more parallelism than plausible. Mainland Greece falling , yes but Crete is an island too far.
I had not thought about this, but you're right. Everything would have to be brought in by air.

I think what it means is that either Crete does not happen, or it has to wait some months while the Germans assemble the muscle to do it. But with Barbaroosa coming up, that seems less likely.
 
Following up on that thought, I went back to see just what the heck the Germans used for Fliegerführer Irak. Turns out it was almost entirely Me-110's and Heinkel 111's. Those might have value for air operations, but wouldn't be exactly, uh, ideal for transporting troops and equipment.

They also used 3 Ju-52's, which I am assuming must have flown in from Rhodes.

Sending anything by sea, of course, will be impossible. Otherwise, you need Turkish cooperation. Which I just cannot see being forthcoming.
 
1) I doubt that the italian goverment will support this, too much trouble for little reward especially in this moment when relations are not that good; the Turks can look on the other way but only for a few aircraft/transport and only if they are very discrete and i'm just talking about letting them go near their coast not using their territory of the interior airspace.

2) Vichy can use whatever left of his merchant marine to try to supply Syria but i doubt that they will be very succesfull, maybe using some submarine but in any case we are talking about a trickle of the necessary supply for a long campaign.

3) An invasion of Crete can be possible if the Axis forces basically take all the ships they can in Greece and wait a little for whatever the Jugoslaviana and the French can give them but honestly i expect a slower invasion with the British being capable of evacuate more people and more equipment than OTL.

Basically the problem for the Axis in any mediterrean strategy ITTL it's the fact that they don't have a navy; the bulk of MN has been destroyed or it's already in British hand
 
1) I doubt that the italian goverment will support this, too much trouble for little reward especially in this moment when relations are not that good; the Turks can look on the other way but only for a few aircraft/transport and only if they are very discrete and i'm just talking about letting them go near their coast not using their territory of the interior airspace.
Agreed.
 
Ok guys thank you for your feedback. I will start to answer a couple of questions:

1) Leclerc: maybe he's correctly too young, but in this TL Free France is a little bit of a phantom of what was in OTL. We can fix the issue about the rank by having Leclerc being appointed General by De Gaulle during the Battle of Gabon.

2) On Crete: I understand what are you trying to say about the lack of sea power for the Axis in this TL. I will edit the update accordingly explaining that Unternehmen Merkur was already planned with the necessary build up of aircraft (could have some aircrafts to spare due to the French contribution in Battle of Britain) to both turn down defences in Crete through bombing and supporting paratroopers.

3) On Syria: Ok, this is a blunder of mine sorry. As I've mentioned at the very start of this TL I'm just an amateur so expect something being not so correct. The idea behind maybe a Turkish benevolent neutrality to pass the forces from Thrace through the Straits and the railways towards Syria. If the Axis were smart enough they could convince Inonu somehow with promises on Italian Dodecanese and Cyprus and the assurance of support in case of Soviet invasion from Georgia... It's a quite a big stretch because it would involve a stronger deviation from OTL in which the Turkish were more friendly to the British... On DSK forces, the order of battle is the same of DAK if the sources I've looked on are correct (http://www.niehorster.org/011_germany/42-oob/42-10-23/corps_dak.html - here's the link). I agree that such buildup would be needed for Italy and Soviets and that would require several months for its deployment in Syria.

I will edit the update incorporating these additional information on #1 & #2 while I will work on #3 because it's worth to see how Rommel works in Syria...
 
Uh, yeah I don't see it. Just by allowing an entire German division and what ever supplies it needs (the DSK's only supply line, since there is no way the rump MN is even able to challenge the Mediterranean fleet) Turkey is basically telling the world Turkey is an Axis ally. There's no way for them to claim neutrality.
 
2) On Crete: I understand what are you trying to say about the lack of sea power for the Axis in this TL. I will edit the update accordingly explaining that Unternehmen Merkur was already planned with the necessary build up of aircraft (could have some aircrafts to spare due to the French contribution in Battle of Britain) to both turn down defences in Crete through bombing and supporting paratroopers..
Hi, as noticed fellow italian here and good work; the problem is not the number of aircraft but the heavy equipment and for that there are necesessary the boat, lot of boat. As i said, the invasion can be done even without, but it will be more costly for the Axis and/or the Commonwealth forces will have more time to evacuate troops and also their heavy equipment (in OTL at least 18000 commonwealth troops and all the heavy equipment were captured).

3) On Syria: Ok, this is a blunder of mine sorry. As I've mentioned at the very start of this TL I'm just an amateur so expect something being not so correct. The idea behind maybe a Turkish benevolent neutrality to pass the forces from Thrace through the Straits and the railways towards Syria. If the Axis were smart enough they could convince Inonu somehow with promises on Italian Dodecanese and Cyprus and the assurance of support in case of Soviet invasion from Georgia... It's a quite a big stretch because it would involve a stronger deviation from OTL in which the Turkish were more friendly to the British... On DSK forces, the order of battle is the same of DAK if the sources I've looked on are correct (http://www.niehorster.org/011_germany/42-oob/42-10-23/corps_dak.html - here's the link). I agree that such buildup would be needed for Italy and Soviets and that would require several months for its deployment in Syria.
Sorry but if the Turks permit that, 3 second later they will receive a visit from bomber command and a nice Dow from the United Kingdom; basically you cannot claim neutrality while permitting passage of troops in your territory and even if the UK decide to play along the diplomatic niceties Turkey become a legitimate target for any attack and the Turkish armed forces are not in the shape to fight off the RAF
Frankly if you want Rommel in Africa, Algeria is the best option
 
Uh, yeah I don't see it. Just by allowing an entire German division and what ever supplies it needs (the DSK's only supply line, since there is no way the rump MN is even able to challenge the Mediterranean fleet) Turkey is basically telling the world Turkey is an Axis ally. There's no way for them to claim neutrality.
That's just about the only possible reading of İnönü. He was assiduous in refusing to leap onto either side until the war was basically over. The memory of what the Great War had done to Turkey was still painfully fresh. He wanted no level of risk if he could help it. I think the Wehrmacht would have to be on the Hindu Kush before he would be willing to be any kind of Axis belligerent, even an informal one.

Sneaking some spies or military advisors or even the odd transport plane quietly across Turkey while the government looks the other way is one thing. Shipping entire divisions will absolutely be noticed by the Allies, who had ample intelligence networks in Turkey; Churchill will treat it as a hostile act and proceed accordingly.

I think if there is going to be any serious reinforcement of Syria, it is going to have be Vichy forces transported on Vichy hulls.
 
I think if there is going to be any serious reinforcement of Syria, it is going to have be Vichy forces transported on Vichy hulls.
Which is likely to get sunk by the time they near Crete or Malta. The rump MN can't do anything.

The only conflict happening in the near future is between the various central African colonies and potentially Algeria depending when Italy jumps in.
 
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I keep getting these flashes of the germans trying to scrape up a fleet from what they and Vichy grab at Toulon, while meanwhile out in the med a combined RN/RM fleet waits for them... :winkytongue:
 
Hello everybody,
Unfortunately I couldn't review the 03 update in these days due to some problems at home. Looking forward to review the chapter 03 (I guess on wednesday since I'll be for hours on train due to work travel...) and to release chapter 04 within the end of week

Piave92
 
Honestly Syria is too difficult to supply in a serious manner, maybe as other had said, some sporadic supply aircraft and ship but no more due to the dominionn of the sea by the British and Turkey unwillingness to being dragged in the war (and frankly at the moment they are british leaning). At most like OTL they will attempt to attack British ships near Lebanon and Syria to stop any landing but were not that much succesfull
The objective of the french forces in the middle east will be to occupy the greater number of commonwealth troops possible for the longest time but the endgame will never be in doubt.
The other targets of the British in this moment will be Djibouti (if not already taken) due to the strategic position, in OTL a plan to attack the colony (that's already undera blockade, at leadt in OTL) in November was postponed to February 1941 due to the lack of naval assets, ITTL this will not be a real problem due to the lack of fighting in the Med from the naval pow; and Madagascar ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Madagascar#Ground_campaign_(Operation_Stream_Line_Jane) ) it will be feared that the German (and the Japanese) will use it a springboard.

If the French want to retaliate and hit the British, the only clear and possible objective are Nigeria and Gold Coast. One think that need to be remembered is that Vichy France will need to rebuild his armed forces, a lot of material is now in German hand (or is quickly become obsolete due to the advance in tech like the aircraft) and they can't really give back otherwise they will have a lethal shortage of vehicles especially at the vigil of Barbarossa.
 
As promised, chapter 03 has been revised with some major changes. I would like to thank everyone who intervened in the discussion providing meaningful suggestions that have been incorporated.

Due to these change, my TL will diverge a little from what I would like to explore previously, but I definitely agree that historical likelihood is more important than my wishes :)

Italian standpoint will be explored in chapter 04 (I'm currently revising it, hope to post it during my return from Rome)

Regards,
Piave92
 
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