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Interesting PODs not commonly used

#21
Apparently Callaghan seriously considered scrapping the television license fee and bringing funding of the BBC into general government spending in the second half of the 1970s. IIRC there were two or three years where they only gave them one-year settlements, ostensibly to help with inflation but it keeping the Corporation reliant on the government was also a benefit. It probably wouldn't have made much of a difference to begin with but then the Conservatives won the general election a year or two later.
 
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Cook

an obscure historical reference.
#22
Leo Szilard doesn't catch the flu.

In 1918, twenty year old Szilard was training with his regiment at Kufstein in Austria when he fell ill with the Spanish Flu and was hospitalised. While he was in hospital recovering, his regiment was sent to the Italian front and completely wiped out at the battle of Vittorio Veneto; had young Leo not been fighting for his life against a disease that killed over a hundred million people worldwide that year, he most probably would have died in battle in northern Italy.

Leo Szilard was one of the most important physicists of the twentieth century. It was Szilard who, in 1933 realised that not only was a nuclear chain reaction possible, but that it would be possible to generate enormous amounts of energy from such a reaction - directly contradicting several papers by the renowned Ernest Rutherford.

Not only did his theoretical paper inspire a series of experiments that, in 1938, proved that a nuclear chain reaction was possible, but Szilard realised that the energy released from such a reaction could, in theory, be used to create a bomb several thousand times more powerful than any ever made before. Szilard was by then a refugee in the United States. Concerned that Nazi Germany might already be building such a bomb he wrote a letter to president Roosevelt, and had it endorsed by his former teacher Albert Einstein. That letter began the government research that led to the Manhattan Project and the Atomic bomb.

Had Szilard died on the trenches of the first would war, science would have lost one of its greatest minds, Rutherford's 1933 paper arguing that a nuclear chain reaction could not be maintained might not have been challenged for years and Otto Hahn wouldn't have developed the experiments to determine that a nuclear chain reaction was possible in 1938. Since there was no other physicist in the United States in 1939-40 who was considering the possibility of an atomic bomb, there would not have been any impetus to develop one then, and possibly for several more years at least.

The end of the Second World War, the beginning of the Cold War would have been fundamentally changed, with the atomic bomb being developed much later.
 
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Comisario

Bit of a tankie for Cromwell
Published by SLP
Location
Bow, London
#23
Just been reading Leslie Hunter’s The Road to Brighton Pier and one of the more interesting PODs that I’ve talked about before on The Other Place is Bevan’s expulsion from the party, as facilitated by union leader Arthur Deakin. According to this book, however, the expulsion also appears to have been setting the stage for a constitutional innovation on the part of Deakin which would have abolished the CLP section of the party’s National Executive Committee. Now, this didn’t happen because the excruciatingly tight vote against Bevan went the other way and Deakin died in May 1955. Had the vote gone as expected (and Greenwood, Mikardo, Castle, Wilson, and Crossman all resigned their positions in protest) and Deakin had maybe lived a few months more, then the Labour Party would have been more under the thumb of right-wing trade union leaders than it was IOTL and the Labour left probably would have organised around an anti-union position in the build-up to the 1959 election.

The really zany butterflies here cannot be underestimated.
 

George Kearton

Well-known member
Published by SLP
#25
I'm just writing about a very different 'Stalin' in volume nine of my House of Stuart Sequence ("The Longest Road"). The volume is almost finished and, hopefully, together with volume eight, will be published shortly.
 

Bonniecanuck

get a feeling so complicated
Location
Ford Nation
#26
I'm going to post a proper thread on this, but I believe that the Battle of Mohács has never been given its proper due in alternate history just for its sheer consequences that completely shaped the destiny of Central Europe. Perhaps no battle has been so thoroughly mythologised as the literal end of a golden age in one nation's historiography, yet I've not seen any timeline that's dealt with it at all.
 

George Kearton

Well-known member
Published by SLP
#27
I'm going to post a proper thread on this, but I believe that the Battle of Mohács has never been given its proper due in alternate history just for its sheer consequences that completely shaped the destiny of Central Europe. Perhaps no battle has been so thoroughly mythologised as the literal end of a golden age in one nation's historiography, yet I've not seen any timeline that's dealt with it at all.
I quite agree - and look forward to the thread....
 

Tabac Iberez

Impetious
Published by SLP
#28
1. Instead of braving the Kachin Mountains and returning to China, V Corps of the Chinese Expeditionary Force retreated into India;
2. No Battle of Peleliu;
3. MacArthur either dies or was incapacitated some time after Seoul was liberated, his successor (let's go with Ridgway) didn't see the need to drive all the way to the Yalu and instead stops at Pyongyang;
4. 1st Battalion, 7th Air Cavalry was destroyed at Ia Drang Valley after a CAS mishap resulting in a blue-on-blue incident that wiped out the battalion command element in the heat of battle;
5. General William Garrison cancels the 3rd October 1993 mission to capture Omar Salad Elmi Mohamed Hassan Awal;

Marc A
Most of these don't make much sense. A Chinese force, especially V Corps, will always retreat to China considering how much bad blood they have with the English. Likewise, Pelileu was a reasonably important objective to take to ensure flank security of the Philippines operations, since parking a seaplane tender out in the ocean is far worse than using land based MPAs. Stopping at Pyongyang meanwhile doesn't complete political war goals and is less defensive terrain, which is an important factor considering the ferocity and utility of Chinese light infantry. Meanwhile, Na Drang was already considered a loss on the ground when they called in the broken arrow strikes, which are the only strikes that reasonably had a chance to hit the 1/7 HQ company. Taking it out doesn't stop the individual elements from being lunatics and pressing assaults of firepower into the Vietcong lines, and that plus the absolute horde of CAS strikes are what won the battle.
 

Cook

an obscure historical reference.
#29
The Royal Navy doesn’t attack the French fleet at Mers-el-Kébir

On the 3rd of July 1940 the Royal Navy attacked the French fleet in port at Mers-el-Kébir in Algeria. Historians have generally regarded this as bold act by Churchill, a clean break from the indecisive policies of the previous Chamberlain government and, to friend and foe alike, signalled “that the British War Cabinet feared nothing and would stop at nothing.” It is accepted that way principally because that is how Churchill wrote it in his history of the Second World War. It was none of these things. It wasn’t quite “the biggest political blunder of modern times”, as Admiral Sir James Somerville, commander of the Royal Navy task force that carried out the attack, called it, but it was certainly closer to that than the claims Churchill made for it. (There was never any possibility of the French fleet peacefully complying with the British demands; to do so would have explicitly violated the terms of the Franco-German armistice signed only a week before and opened France up to further German attack.)

It wasn’t a break from the Chamberlain government’s strategy, it was a continuation of it; that strategy, of attacking anyone but the Germans in anywhere but Germany, had produced the disastrous Norwegian campaign and almost saw the RAF try to destroy the Soviet Union’s hundreds of miles of oil fields in the Caucasus with a handful of bombers based in Iraq. Nor should this be a surprise; those had both been plans that Churchill, as First Lord of the Admiralty in Chamberlain’s cabinet, had championed. It would result in the disastrous allied campaign in Greece in 1941 and the appallingly costly Italian campaign of ’43-45. It was a case of acting with Churchillian boldness and equally Churchillian lack of consideration of the consequences.

Nor was it necessary; the bulk of the French fleet was already in British hands; interned almost entirely peacefully. Following the collapse of the fighting front northern France in early June, the French fleet had fled to overseas ports. The Atlantic squadron had gone to the English Channel ports of Plymouth and Portsmouth, remained there after the armistice, and really had no choice but be interned, unless they wanted to try running the gauntlet of British coastal defences, including being fired on at point-blank range by coastal guns defending those very ports. The same was true of the French squadron that had been operating in the eastern Mediterranean; it had ended up in the British controlled port of Alexandria in Egypt, and would remain there for the duration of the war. That Britain would intern these ships was not a surprise to the new Petain government in France; they’d given ample warning that they would. Nor was it a cause for outrage; interning what were now neutral warships was consistent with maritime law and in the case of the ships in England the crews were swiftly repatriated to France; so without firing a shot and with no political repercussions, two thirds of the French fleet had been neutralised.

That then only left the threat posed by squadron at Mers-el-Kébir in Algeria. But the ‘threat’ existed more in the mind of Winston Churchill than it did in the French ships. Churchill and his war cabinet were concerned that once the ships returned to ports in metropolitan France they would either be seized by Hitler in defiance of the armistice that he’d just signed with the French, or that the French would voluntarily hand over the fleet to the Germans in an effort to seek more lenient terms in a peace treaty. Churchill argued that Hitler’s word meant nothing, and therefore the terms of the armistice, which left the fleet in French hands, were meaningless. But the British weren’t being asked to trust Hitler, they were being asked to trust their erstwhile former allies; that the French would scuttle their ships rather than let them fall into German hands. However, cabinet weren’t in a trusting mood, as demonstrated by their fear that the French would trade their fleet for better terms from the Germans. But even if either of those two scenarios had occurred, there still was no real threat; as the British Joint Intelligence Committee reported to the war cabinet; the French ships were of no use to the Germans because they simply did not have trained officers and seamen to crew them. The German Kriegsmarine of 1940 was still small and struggling to train enough men to crew the newly commissioned surface warships and U-boats that their own shipyards were turning out, let alone any more ships acquired elsewhere. And because their navy was so much smaller than the Royal Navy, training up new crews took considerably longer; sea trials and final crew training for the Kriegsmarine’s major surface warships took 7 to 11 months, as opposed to the RN’s 3-4 months. If the Germans had seized the French ships once they anchored in the south of France, the earliest that they could pose a threat to Britain would be early 1941 at the earliest, and more likely mid to late 1941; by that time, according to the secret Chiefs of Staff report, “British Strategy in a Certain Eventuality”, that Churchill’s war cabinet had accepted as their basis for continuing the war, the German war economy would be collapsing under the burden of its own successful conquest of Europe; the Kriegsmarine would be crippled through lack of fuel oil without a shot being fired. (If that sounds ludicrous it should. “British Strategy in a Certain Eventuality” is a document that is, quite simply, detached from reality; but in 1940 it was the basis of Britain’s strategic war planning.) Even if that scenario did turn out to be too rose-tinted and the Germans didn’t collapse under their own success, their newly acquired French ships would still be in the south of France; sea trials would have to take place in the Mediterranean, vulnerable to Royal Navy attack, not the secure confines of the Baltic.

The only way that the French fleet posed an immediate threat, or any threat at all within the timeframe that the Joint Chiefs envisaged Germany taking to collapse, as if the French crews went with the ships; in other words only if France went to war against Britain. But in late June 1940 no-one in either Britain or France thought that was even a remote possibility. The French were still reeling from the shock of their defeat and were sullenly complying with the terms of the armistice they’d been forced to sign in such a humiliating manner in the forest at Compiègne; many Frenchmen resented the way Britain had left them in the lurch, some even have blamed the British for France’s defeat, but that is a far cry from wanting to go to war against Britain.

So at dawn on the 3rd of July, the idea that the French would send their ships to fight alongside their German conquerors against their former allies was simply ridiculous; by dusk the same day it had become a very real possibility. That was what Churchill’s decision to attack at Mers-el-Kébir wrought. The attack roused the French from their shock and into a rage that strangely united them in a way that fighting the Germans hadn’t. The Pétain government abandoned its policy of sullen compliance and cautious pragmatism and enthusiastically embraced active and enthusiastic collaboration. Over the coming months the most aggressively anti-British members, Laval, Darlan and Huntziger, rose in power while more cautious, foreign minister Baudouin, fell. In the coming months Darlan would discuss alliance proposals with Hitler and for the next two and a half years Britain would waste men and resources desperately needed elsewhere on a futile colonial war with France.

So, for the attack not to take place, all that is needed is for the war cabinet to act with a little more caution and accept the Joint Intelligence Committee’s assessment that the French ships did not pose a latent threat. Alternatively, even if, despite JIC advice, the cabinet still considered them to be a threat, the more cautious members of the cabinet (i.e. everyone other than Churchill) are persuaded that the potential damage to the relationship with France far outweighed whatever benefits might be accrued from the sinking of four battleships. This is not entirely unlikely; in June 1940 four Swedish destroyers, newly purchased from Italy, were passing through the English Channel on their way to Stockholm when Churchill ordered them intercepted and seized, again because he thought the Germans might get their hands on the ships and the war cabinet decided that this was not the best course of action and ordered the ships released.

So what then of the consequences of no attack? Obviously the warships, including the battleship Bretagne, would sail for metropolitan France, and spend much of the war at anchor in Toulon harbour.

Without the attack the Pétain government would not have broken off diplomatic relations with Britain in July and would have continued to be discretely represented in London despite the awkward presence of Charles de Gaulle there claiming to be the legitimate head of Free France. Although none of the members of Pétain’s government were pro-British, the majority were initially merely resentful and a bitter of their former ally, not outright hostile, that was certainly the case for general Huntzinger (Minister of War) and Darlan (Minister of the Marine).

Without the attack de Gaulle’s prospects would have been markedly better; Mers-el-Kébir radically changed French sentiments and embittered them towards the British and anyone working with the British. The Pétain regime used the attack to rally Frenchmen to the regime, and their propaganda portrayed de Gaulle as a puppet, providing a fig leaf of respectability to perfidious English piratical designs on the French colonial empire; sans that propaganda French sentiments would have been much more divided, and more could be expected to rally to de Gaulle’s cause.

With a more honestly neutral Vichy regime, Operation Menace, the mission to take the French West African port of Dakar in September, if it took place at all, would have involved a significantly smaller force. The British cabinet decided to weaken Britain’s defences, in the face of imminent German invasion, by sending five desperately needed cruisers and ten destroyers, to say nothing of a brigade of royal marine commandos, then best trained and equipped infantry available, was because of the rumour that Vichy prime minister Pierre Laval had offered Dakar to the Germans as a U-boat base with which to attack British convoys in the South Atlantic – well beyond the range of Britain’s home defences. (Two battleships and an aircraft carrier were also part of the Dakar raid, but since Admiral Sir Charles Forbes had ruled out using his capital ships in the close confines of the English Channel after experiencing the devastating impact of Luftwaffe attacks during the Norway campaign, their presence on the mission did not weaken the anti-invasion defences.) While relations between Vichy and London would have inevitably declined over the course of 1940 as the Royal Navy imposed their blockade on all of Europe and intercepted French merchant ships, and Laval was predisposed to a pro-German outlook, it is unlikely that relations would have declined so badly by September that the rumour would be given enough credence by the British admiralty and cabinet for them to send such a large force. If Menace took place at all, it would likely have had a much smaller naval contingent, consisted entirely of Free French troops, and no commandos, and rely on general de Gaulle’s persuasive abilities rather than the naval force.

Without the attack Madagascar would have followed French Equatorial Africa's lead and gone over to the Free French; governor Jules Marcel de Copper was poised to declare for the Gaullist cause when news of the attack arrived in Tananarive and made it politically impossible for him to do so. The British invasion of the island in 1942, which required an invasion fleet including two aircraft carriers and tied down for six months more than a division of infantry with tank support, would never have been required and those desperately needed forces could have been sent to North Africa or Burma where they could have done some good.

Projecting how events would have progressed in 1941 is more problematic. Relations between London and Vichy would undoubtedly have become worse as the British continued to impose their blockade of French ports, intercepting and seizing French merchant ships carrying oil, iron ore and rubber (while permitting ships carrying food to proceed). Just how quickly and badly the relationship deteriorated would depend heavily on who held primacy in Vichy, but it could well be that Vichy would not have become a de facto junior member of the Axis alliance, materially supporting German operations in North Africa and the Middle East.

That being the case there likely would not have been a Syrian campaign. The Vichy administration in Damascus had provided the Iraqi army with arms and ammunition out of their stockpiles at German request, but that request had followed Admiral Darlan’s offers of logistic and material support to the German war effort in North Africa. German aircraft flying to Iraq would have staged through the Italian island of Rhodes, as they’d originally planned to, rather than landing and refuelling in Syria. If that were the case general Wavell would have had no reason to stretch his already desperately overextended forces further by invading the Levant; the 7th A.I.F. would have been deployed directly to the Western Desert after their return from the debacle in Greece and without the invasion French prestige in the Levant might have lasted a little while longer, delaying by several years Syria and Lebanon’s independence after the war.

It would also have altered the public profile of the armed forces of the new state of Israel. Moshe Dayan, his trademark eye patch adding an element of piratical roughish charm and making him instantly recognisable the world over and synonymous with Israeli’s armed forces, lost his eye fighting the Vichy French; the Jewish Palmach provided scouts to the Australian 7th division for the invasion of Lebanon and Dayan was wounded defending a critical crossing point over the Latani river.

Ultimately, would Anglo-American strategic planning still include an invasion of French North Africa?
 
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Meadow

[voice cracks] to deport the people you love
Administrator
Sea Lion Press staff
Published by SLP
Location
Balham
#30
The Royal Navy doesn’t attack the French fleet at Mers-el-Kébir

On the 3rd of July 1940 the Royal Navy attacked the French fleet in port at Mers-el-Kébir in Algeria. Historians have generally regarded this as bold act by Churchill, a clean break from the indecisive policies of the previous Chamberlain government and, to friend and foe alike, signalled “that the British War Cabinet feared nothing and would stop at nothing.” It is accepted that way principally because that is how Churchill wrote it in his history of the Second World War. It was none of these things. It wasn’t quite “the biggest political blunder of modern times”, as Admiral Sir James Somerville, commander of the Royal Navy task force that carried out the attack, called it, but it was certainly closer to that than the claims Churchill made for it. (There was never any possibility of the French fleet peacefully complying with the British demands; to do so would have explicitly violated the terms of the Franco-German armistice signed only a week before and opened France up to further German attack.)

It wasn’t a break from the Chamberlain government’s strategy, it was a continuation of it; that strategy, of attacking anyone but the Germans in anywhere but Germany, had produced the disastrous Norwegian campaign and almost saw the RAF try to destroy the Soviet Union’s hundreds of miles of oil fields in the Caucasus with a handful of bombers based in Iraq. Nor should this be a surprise; those had both been plans that Churchill, as First Lord of the Admiralty in Chamberlain’s cabinet, had championed. It would result in the disastrous allied campaign in Greece in 1941 and the appallingly costly Italian campaign of ’43-45. It was a case of acting with Churchillian boldness and equally Churchillian lack of consideration of the consequences.

Nor was it necessary; the bulk of the French fleet was already in British hands; interned almost entirely peacefully. Following the collapse of the fighting front northern France in early June, the French fleet had fled to overseas ports. The Atlantic squadron had gone to the English Channel ports of Plymouth and Portsmouth, remained there after the armistice, and really had no choice but be interned, unless they wanted to try running the gauntlet of British coastal defences, including being fired on at point-blank range by coastal guns defending those very ports. The same was true of the French squadron that had been operating in the eastern Mediterranean; it had ended up in the British controlled port of Alexandria in Egypt, and would remain there for the duration of the war. That Britain would intern these ships was not a surprise to the new Petain government in France; they’d given ample warning that they would. Nor was it a cause for outrage; interning what were now neutral warships was consistent with maritime law and in the case of the ships in England the crews were swiftly repatriated to France; so without firing a shot and with no political repercussions, two thirds of the French fleet had been neutralised.

That then only left the threat posed by squadron at Mers-el-Kébir in Algeria. But the ‘threat’ existed more in the mind of Winston Churchill than it did in the French ships. Churchill and his war cabinet were concerned that once the ships returned to ports in metropolitan France they would either be seized by Hitler in defiance of the armistice that he’d just signed with the French, or that the French would voluntarily hand over the fleet to the Germans in an effort to seek more lenient terms in a peace treaty. Churchill argued that Hitler’s word meant nothing, and therefore the terms of the armistice, which left the fleet in French hands, were meaningless. But the British weren’t being asked to trust Hitler, they were being asked to trust their erstwhile former allies; that the French would scuttle their ships rather than let them fall into German hands. However, cabinet weren’t in a trusting mood, as demonstrated by their fear that the French would trade their fleet for better terms from the Germans. But even if either of those two scenarios had occurred, there still was no real threat; as the British Joint Intelligence Committee reported to the war cabinet; the French ships were of no use to the Germans because they simply did not have trained officers and seamen to crew them. The German Kriegsmarine of 1940 was still small and struggling to train enough men to crew the newly commissioned surface warships and U-boats that their own shipyards were turning out, let alone any more ships acquired elsewhere. And because their navy was so much smaller than the Royal Navy, training up new crews took considerably longer; sea trials and final crew training for the Kriegsmarine’s major surface warships took 7 to 11 months, as opposed to the RN’s 3-4 months. If the Germans had seized the French ships once they anchored in the south of France, the earliest that they could pose a threat to Britain would be early 1941 at the earliest, and more likely mid to late 1941; by that time, according to the secret Chiefs of Staff report, “British Strategy in a Certain Eventuality”, that Churchill’s war cabinet had accepted as their basis for continuing the war, the German war economy would be collapsing under the burden of its own successful conquest of Europe; the Kriegsmarine would be crippled through lack of fuel oil without a shot being fired. (If that sounds ludicrous it should. “British Strategy in a Certain Eventuality” is a document that is, quite simply, detached from reality; but in 1940 it was the basis of Britain’s strategic war planning.) Even if that scenario did turn out to be too rose-tinted and the Germans didn’t collapse under their own success, their newly acquired French ships would still be in the south of France; sea trials would have to take place in the Mediterranean, vulnerable to Royal Navy attack, not the secure confines of the Baltic.

The only way that the French fleet posed an immediate threat, or any threat at all within the timeframe that the Joint Chiefs envisaged Germany taking to collapse, as if the French crews went with the ships; in other words only if France went to war against Britain. But in late June 1940 no-one in either Britain or France thought that was even a remote possibility. The French were still reeling from the shock of their defeat and were sullenly complying with the terms of the armistice they’d been forced to sign in such a humiliating manner in the forest at Compiègne; many Frenchmen resented the way Britain had left them in the lurch, some even have blamed the British for France’s defeat, but that is a far cry from wanting to go to war against Britain.

So at dawn on the 3rd of July, the idea that the French would send their ships to fight alongside their German conquerors against their former allies was simply ridiculous; by dusk the same day it had become a very real possibility. That was what Churchill’s decision to attack at Mers-el-Kébir wrought. The attack roused the French from their shock and into a rage that strangely united them in a way that fighting the Germans hadn’t. The Pétain government abandoned its policy of sullen compliance and cautious pragmatism and enthusiastically embraced active and enthusiastic collaboration. Over the coming months the most aggressively anti-British members, Laval, Darlan and Huntziger, rose in power while more cautious, foreign minister Baudouin, fell. In the coming months Darlan would discuss alliance proposals with Hitler and for the next two and a half years Britain would waste men and resources desperately needed elsewhere on a futile colonial war with France.

So, for the attack not to take place, all that is needed is for the war cabinet to act with a little more caution and accept the Joint Intelligence Committee’s assessment that the French ships did not pose a latent threat. Alternatively, even if, despite JIC advice, the cabinet still considered them to be a threat, the more cautious members of the cabinet (i.e. everyone other than Churchill) are persuaded that the potential damage to the relationship with France far outweighed whatever benefits might be accrued from the sinking of four battleships. This is not entirely unlikely; in June 1940 four Swedish destroyers, newly purchased from Italy, were passing through the English Channel on their way to Stockholm when Churchill ordered them intercepted and seized, again because he thought the Germans might get their hands on the ships and the war cabinet decided that this was not the best course of action and ordered the ships released.

So what then of the consequences of no attack? Obviously the warships, including the battleship Bretagne, would sail for metropolitan France, and spend much of the war at anchor in Toulon harbour.

Without the attack the Pétain government would not have broken off diplomatic relations with Britain in July and would have continued to be discretely represented in London despite the awkward presence of Charles de Gaulle there claiming to be the legitimate head of Free France. Although none of the members of Pétain’s government were pro-British, the majority were initially merely resentful and a bitter of their former ally, not outright hostile, that was certainly the case for general Huntzinger (Minister of War) and Darlan (Minister of the Marine).

Without the attack de Gaulle’s prospects would have been markedly better; Mers-el-Kébir radically changed French sentiments and embittered them towards the British and anyone working with the British. The Pétain regime used the attack to rally Frenchmen to the regime, and their propaganda portrayed de Gaulle as a puppet, providing a fig leaf of respectability to perfidious English piratical designs on the French colonial empire; sans that propaganda French sentiments would have been much more divided, and more could be expected to rally to de Gaulle’s cause.

With a more honestly neutral Vichy regime, Operation Menace, the mission to take the French West African port of Dakar in September, if it took place at all, would have involved a significantly smaller force. The British cabinet decided to weaken Britain’s defences, in the face of imminent German invasion, by sending five desperately needed cruisers and ten destroyers, to say nothing of a brigade of royal marine commandos, then best trained and equipped infantry available, was because of the rumour that Vichy prime minister Pierre Laval had offered Dakar to the Germans as a U-boat base with which to attack British convoys in the South Atlantic – well beyond the range of Britain’s home defences. (Two battleships and an aircraft carrier were also part of the Dakar raid, but since Admiral Sir Charles Forbes had ruled out using his capital ships in the close confines of the English Channel after experiencing the devastating impact of Luftwaffe attacks during the Norway campaign, their presence on the mission did not weaken the anti-invasion defences.) While relations between Vichy and London would have inevitably declined over the course of 1940 as the Royal Navy imposed their blockade on all of Europe and intercepted French merchant ships, and Laval was predisposed to a pro-German outlook, it is unlikely that relations would have declined so badly by September that the rumour would be given enough credence by the British admiralty and cabinet for them to send such a large force. If Menace took place at all, it would likely have had a much smaller naval contingent, consisted entirely of Free French troops, and no commandos, and rely on general de Gaulle’s persuasive abilities rather than the naval force.

Projecting how events would have progressed in 1941 is more problematic. Relations between London and Vichy would undoubtedly have become worse as the British continued to impose their blockade of French ports, intercepting and seizing French merchant ships carrying oil, iron ore and rubber (while permitting ships carrying food to proceed). Just how quickly and badly the relationship deteriorated would depend heavily on who held primacy in Vichy, but it could well be that Vichy would not have become a de facto junior member of the Axis alliance, materially supporting German operations in North Africa and the Middle East.

That being the case there likely would not have been a Syrian campaign. The Vichy administration in Damascus had provided the Iraqi army with arms and ammunition out of their stockpiles at German request, but that request had followed Admiral Darlan’s offers of logistic and material support to the German war effort in North Africa. German aircraft flying to Iraq would have staged through the Italian island of Rhodes, as they’d originally planned to, rather than landing and refuelling in Syria. If that were the case general Wavell would have had no reason to stretch his already desperately overextended forces further by invading the Levant; the 7th A.I.F. would have been deployed directly to the Western Desert after their return from the debacle in Greece. Without the invasion French prestige in the Levant might have lasted a little while longer, delaying by several years Syrian and Lebanon’s independence after the war.

It would also have altered the public profile of the armed forces of the new state of Israel. Moshe Dayan, his trademark eye patch adding an element of piratical roughish charm and making him instantly recognisable the world over and synonymous with Israeli’s armed forces, lost his eye fighting the Vichy French; the Jewish Palmach provided scouts to the Australian 7th division for the invasion of Lebanon and Dayan was wounded defending a critical crossing point over the Latani river.

Beyond 1941 things become even more speculative. Would Vichy have agreed to Japanese submarines refuelling in Madagascar, prompting the British invasion of the island? Ultimately, would Anglo-American strategic planning still include an invasion of French North Africa?
Funny you should say this, because in the AH game theatre show I'm currently in uses 'no Catapult' as one of the PODs to justify

Operation Sea Lion succeeding - at least initially. It's not an attempt at 'hard' AH so I thought it was a clever way to make the Kriegsmarine a much more serious threat and thus force their way through the Channel. However, they get round the lack of crew and officers by press-ganging the French crews - which leads to an easter egg in the background of the game, where you can get Charles de Gaulle to try to address the crews of the former French ships directly and see if they will turn on the Germans.

That's all good fun, but this is a much more interesting 'hard' AH look at the question, thank you.
 

David Flin

Teenage Breakups.
#31
So, for the attack not to take place, all that is needed is for the war cabinet to act with a little more caution and accept the Joint Intelligence Committee’s assessment that the French ships did not pose a latent threat. Alternatively, even if, despite JIC advice, the cabinet still considered them to be a threat, the more cautious members of the cabinet (i.e. everyone other than Churchill) are persuaded that the potential damage to the relationship with France far outweighed whatever benefits might be accrued from the sinking of four battleships. This is not entirely unlikely; in June 1940 four Swedish destroyers, newly purchased from Italy, were passing through the English Channel on their way to Stockholm when Churchill ordered them intercepted and seized, again because he thought the Germans might get their hands on the ships and the war cabinet decided that this was not the best course of action and ordered the ships released.
To take the second point first; there is a bit of a difference in the potential combat ability of four Swedish destroyers on the one hand, and four French battleships and six destroyers. Four destroyers is loose change in the naval power balance. Four battleships are rather more significant. I rather think that one needs to bear that in mind when comparing the two incidents.

I also would suggest that Admiral Gensoul should come under some scrutiny in any discussion of the event. Gensoul reported to the French Government that the alternatives being offered were internment or battle; he deliberately omitted the other options given him, including sailing to the French West Indies, or going to the USA. Since Darlan had ordered Gensoul to remove the ships to US waters in the event that a foreign power should attempt to take the ships. Gensoul's offered option, of remaining in Oran was clearly a nonsense.

So what then of the consequences of no attack? Obviously the warships, including the battleship Bretagne, would sail for metropolitan France, and spend much of the war at anchor in Toulon harbour.
Until such time as Germany decided to seize them. Britain had already demonstrated how easy it was to seize warships docked in a port troops have access to, having seized several such themselves.

The obvious cause of no attack is that Gensoul agrees (willingly or otherwise) with the option of taking the ships to American waters and placing them under the care of the US Navy. This is, after all, pretty much what Darlan had ordered Gensoul to do, and which Gensoul chose to ignore.
 

Cook

an obscure historical reference.
#32
Until such time as Germany decided to seize them. Britain had already demonstrated how easy it was to seize warships docked in a port troops have access to, having seized several such themselves.
Britain had demonstrated nothing of the sort; the decision to move (or not) against the French ships in the various anchorages was taken prior to the 3rd of July, when action was taken as near to simultaneously as could be arranged across that expanse of the globe.

Besides, as the JIC correctly pointed out:

...even if either of those two scenarios had occurred, there still was no real threat; as the British Joint Intelligence Committee reported to the war cabinet; the French ships were of no use to the Germans because they simply did not have trained officers and seamen to crew them. The German Kriegsmarine of 1940 was still small and struggling to train enough men to crew the newly commissioned surface warships and U-boats that their own shipyards were turning out, let alone any more ships acquired elsewhere. And because their navy was so much smaller...
 
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#34
I don't have much to offer on this but It does seem that Vietnam War PoDs unless they're a contrivance for something else are basically radioactive. The war itself is always treated as though it followed an inevitable trajectory in a way that's at odds with the AH need to rehash every other twentieth century war.
An interesting route is a much better-managed Strategic Hamlet Program. OTL a large part of why its impementation was shit compared to what the British did in Malaya was that Col. Pham Ngoc Thao, the key administrator of the program was a) appointed because he was mates with the Ngo family, but more importantly b) was literally a North Vietnamese agent. While avoiding the Ngos' Catholic patronage scheme is pretty hard to avoid given the social structure of pre-Independence Vietnam, it is possible even a patronage pick who wasn't, you know, an enemy saboteur might give the Viet Cong insurgency a stronger adversary.
 

David Flin

Teenage Breakups.
#35
Britain had demonstrated nothing of the sort; the decision to move (or not) against the French ships in the various anchorages was taken prior to the 3rd of July, when action was taken as near to simultaneously as could be arranged across that expanse of the globe.
I'm still a little puzzled how one can write about Mars el Kebir without once mentioning the role played by Gensoul in the debacle. His role is pivotal in how the situation developed as it did. I'm also a little surprised that you didn't bring up the negotiations between Cunningham and Godfroy at Alexandria at the same time. Cunningham and Godfroy were able to negotiate effectively, while Somerville and Gensoul, well, didn't. The fault for the failure of the negotiations at Mars-el-Kebir was significantly due to Gensoul's deceit and direct disobedience of orders.

As for where the Germans might get trained seamen from, you yourself state:

In the coming months Darlan would discuss alliance proposals with Hitler and for the next two and a half years
Now, granted this is a bit of a chicken and egg situation; reduce tensions by removing Mars-el-Kebir, and you reduce the likelihood of the Darlan being quite so ready to side with Hitler. I note that Darlan ordered the French fleet to attack RN ships wherever possible. Darlan had refused point blank earlier requests to have the French fleet moved out of reach of German forces, and he was convinced that Britain was doomed to defeat. Darlan constantly lied to the British government about the terms of the armistice, which was rather silly, as the British knew what the terms were. These lies meant that the British government - unsurprisingly - didn't trust Darlan's word of honour.

It's a situation where there's a lot of blame in many directions, but one really can't discuss Mars-el-Kebir without mentioning Gensoul's role.

As for the outcome of successful discussions at Mars-el-Kebir, I don't see that one can do other than choose from either a copy of Alexandria (French ships disabled and rendered useless, French sailors repatriated to France) or the option that Gensoul specifically ignored (and was ordered to follow), sailing to the French Caribbean, well out of German and Italian reach.
 

Cook

an obscure historical reference.
#36
I'm still a little puzzled how one can write about Mars el Kebir without once mentioning the role played by Gensoul in the debacle.
Because the scenario is:

The Royal Navy doesn’t attack the French fleet at Mers-el-Kébir
Quite obviously if the fleet is not dispatched to Gibraltar to attack Mers-el-Kébir the decisions made by the French cammander there is not relevant.

I'm also a little surprised that you didn't bring up the negotiations between Cunningham and Godfroy at Alexandria at the same time.

Godfroy's position was in the same postion as the ships in Portsmouth and he simply acquiesced to the inevitable; he was tied up in Alexandria harbour and was in no position to do anything.

The Atlantic squadron had gone to the English Channel ports of Plymouth and Portsmouth... had no choice but be interned, unless they wanted to try running the gauntlet of British coastal defences, including being fired on at point-blank range by coastal guns defending those very ports. The same was true of the French squadron that had been operating in the eastern Mediterranean...
 
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Time Enough

Howdy there, just ride in through
#37
I would be interested in a POD in which Ramsay MacDonald resigns instead of forming a National Government in 1931. Whilst I could still see an election occurring in which the Conservatives win in the early 1930s there could be an election in which Labour wins in the late 30s due to not splitting due to the National Government and a smaller majority for the Conservatives. This would lead to an interesting opportunity in which a Labour Prime Minister is in charge during World War 2 (and also becomes Labour Prime Minister would be interesting too).

Also another interesting POD would be Oliver Baldwin (son of Stanley Baldwin) winning Paisley in the 1935 election as a member of the Independent Labour of the later 1930s, as a result he becomes part of the War Ministry during the Second World War (probably as Under Secretary of State of War). In the Attlee election he gets a cabinet position which could lead to some interesting conflict between the right and the left of the party since he was rather devout socialist, add in a possible scandal in which the newspapers find out he's a homosexual and watch the sparks fly.