Sunday, December 27, 2009

DBTL 49: Operation Sea Lion

This is the latest installment in the Drowned Baby Timeline, an alternate history where Adolf Hitler drowned at birth. With no spellbinding demagogue to unite them, Germany's radical right remains fragmented. In October 1932, ex-Army Captain Ernst Röhm, the leader of Germany's right-wing street fighters, siezes power in a coup d'etat. The lawlessness and misrule of his Brown Revolution leads to growing popular discontent, and in an effort to head off a possible uprising, Röhm launches an invasion of Poland on 10 May 1936.

The German advance grinds to a halt in October, and the Poles launch a counterattack on Christmas morning. By the spring of 1937 the Poles have driven Röhm's Brown Army completely out of Poland and have set their sights on Berlin . . .

London, Great Britain
12 April 1937

Stanley Baldwin, Prime Minister for his His Majesty King Edward VIII, sat for a moment while digesting the report from his Foreign Minister, Lord Halifax. Great Britain's erstwhile Polish allies had just succeeded in recapturing the port of Gdinia from Ernst Röhm's Brown Army, thereby cutting Danzig and East Prussia off from the rest of Germany. Every attempt by the Germans to halt the Polish advance had been overcome; the Poles were adding growing numbers of tanks to their army's infantry and cavalry wings, and the Germans were unable to stand up to them.

The previous winter, during the siege of Warsaw, Marshal Piłsudski had flatly turned down Röhm's demanded surrender, and insisted that the war would not end until the Germans had unconditionally surrendered to Poland and her British and French allies. At the time, it had struck Baldwin as a bit of typically foolish Polish bravado. Had Piłsudski consulted with him, he would have advised the Marshal to seek a negotiated settlement with Röhm while he still had at least some of his country left. Piłsudski had not consulted with him, however, and Baldwin had concluded that Britain and France would soon find themselves faced with the sticky problem of trying to salvage something from Poland's defeat.

Now, four months later, Baldwin found himself facing the equally sticky problem of trying to salvage something from Germany's defeat. Piłsudski still insisted on unconditional surrender, and it was looking more and more as though he would eventually force the Germans to do so, or else simply overrun Germany. Baldwin found the prospect of a triumphant Poland only slightly less alarming than the prospect of a triumphant Germany.

"Gentlemen," he finally said to his cabinet colleagues, "I must tell you that I find the prospect of a triumphant Poland only slightly less alarming than the prospect of a triumphant Germany. Is there any way to prevent the Poles from taking over all of Germany?"

"Well," said Halifax, "of course the Poles won't be able to take over anything that we and the French occupy ourselves."

"Which currently amounts to exactly nothing," said the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill.

"Is there any chance that we could, ermm, invade Germany ourselves?" wondered the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Neville Chamberlain.

"As we share no common border with Germany," Halifax pointed out, "this would necessarily involve an amphibious assault on our part."

"True," said Baldwin. "Winston, how long do you suppose it would take for us to launch an amphibious assault on Germany?"

Churchill pondered the question for a moment, then answered, "Two weeks."

"Surely you're not serious," said Chamberlain.

"I am perfectly serious," Churchill responded. "We have been at war with Germany for almost a year now, and I assure you the Royal Navy has not been idle in that time. In addition to the blockade, we have been making plans for a seaborne invasion of the Bremerhaven area. We currently have all the landing craft, the ships, and the men needed for such an assault. In two weeks, I can have a flotilla steaming across the North Sea. And," he added, "don't call me Shirley."

"I say, Winston, wherever did you get the money for all this?" wondered Chamberlain. "I'm don't recall allocating the Navy any funds for an invasion."

"Oh, contingency funds," Churchill said in an offhand, almost evasive way. "That sort of thing. A bit here, a bit there, and it starts to add up. My staff handled that end for the most part; I concentrated on operations."

The rest of the cabinet now pondered this new wrinkle in the situation. "Mmmm," Baldwin said finally. "Very well, Winston. Set the wheels in motion for a launch date on the," he checked his calendar, "on the twenty-sixth."

"Yes, Prime Minister," said Churchill.

"And I suppose we'd better let Monsieur Blum and Marshal Piłsudski know. See to it, won't you, old boy?" Baldwin said to Halifax.

"Yes, Prime Minister."

"By the bye, Winston," Baldwin added. "What's this invasion plan of yours called, anyway?"

"We decided on Operation Sea Lion," said Churchill. "It just seemed appropriate somehow."

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