Chapter 2 – Let the War Drums Beat
“Eternal Peace exists only until the next war.” – Russian Proverb
With war on the horizon, the Tsar knows that Russia is not nearly as industrialized as she should be. Therefore he sets the national focus for the nation, to retrain workers and those destitute and unemployed, empowering them through labour and giving them jobs. Because in work there is dignity.
Prime Minister Rodzaevsky is notified by wire telegram that the Hindenburg – a monolith of air travel and transportation has befallen from fiery explosions. Appalled at this, he immediately puts a halt on all production of civilian airliners for the Russian people, causing some grumbles among the aero-engineering firms, but those are just whispers in back hallways. In the past the Prime Minister was accused of being anti-technology and firmly archaic in his beliefs, but he announces that this is more for safety than his own personal crusade.
In the East, the Empire of Japan seems to flex its muscles, demanding that the Chinese apologize for incursions supposedly made by their army. The Tsar watches closely, and in his weekly Monday morning meeting with the Prime Minister voiced his silent support for China, as their involvement would mean lessened pressure on Russia.
The fighting men of the Russian Empire deserve nothing less than the best care, and as such the replacement of field aid stations with fully fledged field hospitals is sure to empower the men to fight harder knowing that should they fall wounded, nurses and doctors of the Imperial Medical Corps will be there to care for them.
A tragedy, as many women in the Empire had looked at Ms. Earhart with great admiration as an enterprising and modern woman, and the Tsarina was always fond of hearing of her exploits. The Royal Family shall miss her dearly.
Romania should learn to brace itself, or learn to become experts at the martial laws of this world, as soon the tanks and boots of Russian heroes shall come over their border!
With war fast approaching, the Prime Minister announces the Georgian Industrial Initiative, aimed at giving the people of this impoverished corner of the Empire more wealth through work. The coincidental benefit is that this masks troop movements, as the Imperial Engineering Corps develops the roads for the purposes of moving ‘construction’ materials South. With this, the Industrial White Paper of 1937 is conducted, and the census reveals that there is now forty military factories and eighty-eight civilian factories. How quick the Russian worker can build when he puts his mind to the task!
The world is yet again plunged into the depths of war, with Japan leaping feet first into conflict against their Asian brethren. Only time will tell if the Chinese have the stiff upper lip to fight off Tojo’s hordes.
France joins the United Kingdom in assuring the independence of Romania. And for the first time, the Prime Minister slows his rhetoric. A shift is detected by political columnists both at home and abroad, whereas previously the Tsar had allowed for such chest thumping and saber rattling, now the Prime Minister has been given silent directives from the Office of the Tsar to slow his campaigns for war.
The destitute merge with the desperate to cling to any hope of victory. The alliance is clearly one of necessity, as many of the Chinese are communist sympathizers, and the Russian people watch on as if observing dogs fight in a pit.
The Prime Minister’s lack of action has begun to upset the people, who had begun to prepare themselves for war, furrowing personal savings and other monies into the stockpiling of goods and hard to find items, anticipating rationing. Sadly for them, and luckily for Romania, the war in China has changed the Tsar’s view of conflict, as he has decided it is necessary to have allies in order to fight the United Kingdom and France together.
The anticipation of war makes for strange friendships to form, and this is not a shock to many. The final elements of those on the left are shouted down in parliament and the Comintern officially ceases to exist on the 30th of September, 1937. Just days later, with the official directive being hand-carried to Herr Hitler’s office by the Russian Ambassador, the Russian Empire’s formal request for alliance with Germany was accepted, and the bonds of Russo-German friendship were sown. The ambassador’s official telegram stated the following,
FR WIRE TELEGRAPH SERVICES
RECEIVED AT Moscow, Russia, 103073 4 OCT 1937
FOR OFFICIAL DISTRIBUTION
The German government has formally accepted our offer for military and economic alliances, both were met with open arms and wide approval by both the cabinet and the Reichstag. Mr. Hitler himself was dubious at first as to my inquiring of Germany’s new foreign policy towards the East, but upon hearing our interest in alliance was quick to accept.
Dorian Vladvekesdy, Ambassador to Germany
With Germany on our side now, it must be firm that we stand if not in the same political aisle as them, at least the same wing. The Prime Minister himself takes on the cabinet position for Minister of Political Affairs, ensuring that official communiques and the party’s future is set against the communist threat posed by the Soviets and Chinese.
With war there is a need for weapons, and the newest weapons must be acquired for our men. Experiences put forward from the large-scale military exercises in 1936 called for more effective infantry support weapons, and as such a new machinegun and 50mm mortar are ordered to be developed for the infantry.
The Tsar knows of Japan’s aggression, and with such ambitions in Eastern Europe, now is not the time for war against the forces of the island nation. He chooses to allow the Japanese to tread on Russian sovereignty, a decision he did not make lightly.
Observers sent to the front by the Army note that there is hundreds of German-speaking soldiers fighting for the Chinese, most notably on the main axis and assault to retake Beijing from the Japanese. It would seem that the Reich has sent its men East in the fight against Japan.
Casualty figures begin to mount, with nearly a quarter of a million men perishing under the Chinese banner. Largely a result of ignoring their military for so long, they march off with antiquated artillery and rifles their grandfathers used during the Great War. It is no surprise that thousands fall before the modern machineguns of the Japanese.
The Tsar’s words are succinct, this is simply a “Tactical Withdrawal.”
The Tsar’s hints at war with Turkey are finally met with action. Operation Grom, named for the sound the artillery was to make upon opening up along the front, enters the planning phase. The Imperial War Council sends its objectives off to the Army Staff and Planning Office for the initial estimates, the first of which calls for the entirety of the 3rd Army to be relocated to the new front.
The Staff and Planning Office are also told by the War Council that the plans and movements of men and materiel are to be ready no later than the second week of October, and dozens of Colonels and civilian engineers throw themselves into the deluge of maps and rulers necessary to move the massive amounts of men and materiel.
Men of the 58th Gornostrelkovaya Division (Mountain) march through the Georgian city of Tbilisi as part of the 3rd Army’s movement South to the Turkish border.
Upon a special request from the Tsar, the 6th Army, made up entirely of the new “Imperial Land Pattern” divisions is also sent to the Turkish Front. These new divisions have more support assets such as reconnaissance, combat engineers, and field hospitals, making them the most modern fighting forces of the Russian Empire.
A total of 34 divisions, numbering nearly half a million men are earmarked for the beginning of Operation Grom. The Turks begin to match this, as they are quick to react to an increased presence on their own border. 33 Turkish Army units from the Brigade to Division level are spotted by scouts and cross-border aerial reconnaissance flights.
The Imperial Staff and Planning Office also has a plan to alleviate the pressure imposed by the mass of Turkmen against the border. Elements of the 2nd Army are to make amphibious assaults along the Northern Coast, capturing the city of Trabzon if possible, to force Turkey to split its forces. Deep water ports are the key for success and as such the 2nd Army’s crack infantry divisions are chosen for the assignment.
Operation Lyagushka (‘Frog’) operational area, pictured. The two deep water ports along the coast are respectively Objectives Red and Blue.
Democracies seem to stick together, as America stretches its expansive reach to protect its smaller Southern American neighbors. Far outside the reach of the Russian Empire, this is about as concerning as a stray hair in a horse’s feed trough. However, France and Britain beginning to have such close ties, this is cause of great concern, and many special cabinet meetings called by the Prime Minister.
Our friends in Western Europe kindly wish to make our bonds closer, and as such the effort at making these ties tighter is accepted, with the bonus of excellent German armoured fighting vehicle technology and its engineers benefiting the factories of the Russian Empire.
The first of many speeches given by the Prime Minister, ranting against the Turk menace.
And the first problem with Operation Thunder arises. The United Kingdom again oversteps its bounds, this time much to the anger and frustration of the Tsar. He demands that the British be taught a lesson, and rather than leash Rodzaevsky as before with Romania and Estonia, this time he tells him to ramp up his rhetoric. In a rare moment of lightheartedness, the Tsar, sipping on his private reserve of vodka jests, “Damn the Torpedoes!”
The Tsar demands that military production be taken to the forefront of the construction effort, with everything from the Interior to the Georgian projects being put on hold. Factories in the interior spring up everywhere, and the demands of the people for war shall likely soon be met. The Industrial White Paper of 1938 reveals that the nation now has 113 civilian factories and forty military, and columnists in newspapers across the country agree that the Tsar’s increase in military production is a necessary one.
Efforts are made to normalize relations with the English and French. If we can keep them from fighting this war, perhaps Turkey will stand alone against the mighty forces of Germany and Russia. Alone to share the burden of a war on land, in the skies, and on the seas.
The Prime Minister announces that the time for Turkey’s self-rule has come to an end. The Prime Minister also announced the new weapons being fielded to the troops, and how these new weapons will help be the grease of the gears from which the Turkish threat to Georgia’s new industrial prowess shall be crushed.
A DP-28 machinegun team of the 11th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division waits in a trench dug from their defensive position on the Russo-Turkish border. Trenches were dug to provide shelter for divisions in preparation of Operation Grom.
The 4th Army is ordered by the Tsar to the Russian border, as it seems the Poles have begun to shift several divisions there. The worry is now that they will use the weakening of internal forces sent to the Turkish front as an opportunity to attack and strike deep within the Russian heartland.
Unexpectedly, and without warning Germany attacks Austria. The Minister of Foreign Affairs Leonid Tuchevsky theorized this is likely due to the Austrians not being willing to bend the knee and accept the Anschluss of their own nation. The fighting is fierce, as the spring mountains come awake with the sounds of guns.
Fighting outside of Innsbruck is savage, with Germans pitted against Austrian brothers they may have drank with on their weekend leave just months before. The Austrians fight for every bit of ground, although the lack of proper modern anti-tank weaponry in the face of Panzers begins to take its toll on the small Army.
Meanwhile in the East, casualties mount even more heavily. 662,000 soldiers have perished, with half of all total casualties being shouldered by China. Luckily, it seems they have an endless supply of manpower to throw at the Japanese invaders. Japan has made gains, and the successful actions against the March on Beijing resulted in nearly thirty thousand dead Chinese soldiers to only five thousand Japanese.
Germany’s appetite for Lebensraum seems to know no bounds, as even though they are embroiled in a conflict against Austria, they seek another with the Czech government. The sham alliance between Britain and France seems to be cracking, as Britain’s policies of appeasement have begun to take their toll on the frightened French government.
Krupp’s guns again bark out, against a new foe. The front erupts with fighting. now stretching from the fields North of Prague to the alleyways and factories of Innsbruck.
The Tsar demands constant updates on the military’s state of readiness for Operation Grom, moreso than Operation Lyagushka. Vast stockpiles of rifles, trucks, and howitzers are being prepared in anticipation of the coming battle. Unfortunately, the production of infantry equipment has left the armoured corps neglected, resulting in a deficit of tracked fighting vehicles, leaving many armoured divisions understrength.
Trade is becoming more and more of an issue. The Tsar knows that soon Britain and France, along with their basket of deplorable allies shall embargo our glorious Empire. The Prime Minister begins to seek trade with more neutral nations, and the need for rubber to field trucks is ever higher with the increase in motorized support units such as field hospitals. At this time, the Tsar calls for a return to the traditional naming and organization of the army. Old interwar habits are bad habits he declares, and as such all armies are to transition to Corps, and all Commands to Military Districts. As well, as of the June 1938 Military White Paper, all previous interwar divisions will be the lowest priority for equipment upgrades, in order to field new Land Pattern divisions.
The 7th Corps is sent North, to the Baltics. The new Land Pattern divisions comprise the bulk of the 13-division frontage, and they will form the bulk of the force against Estonia and Latvia should posturing and words turn to blows and airstrikes.
The Draft of 1938 is enabled, as the sons and fathers of Russia will soon not be needed in factories milling rifles or welding trucks, they will be needed firing howitzers or flying bombers for the Tsar.
Austria’s fight for freedom ends, just over 4 months after the fighting began. However, as their fight ends the battles in the Czech heartland have begun to heat up, as France joins their only mainland European ally it seems. Thus far the Czechs have suffered nearly 154,000 men lost, and Germany has suffered less than half that. The power of the Panzer is king on the mainland, it seems.
German gains on the front are absolute, and now with Czechoslovakia’s soft underbelly, the former Austrian border, now exposed, the race is between the legs of their soldiers and the tracks of the Reich’s Panzers.
A race, that it seems Czechoslovakia has lost. Germany’s casualties did not even amount to 70,000 men, whilst now the Czechs have over half a million of their men taken prisoner, with a third of that number being dead.
With the realization that the Dutch have begun to side with the allies, and that the Dutch East Indies with all of their rubber will soon be gone, the Prime Minister begins the Ural Oil Expeditions, an aim to build refineries and produce synthetic rubber and oil in order to support the coming war effort. The October Industrial White Paper also revealed that military factories now stood at 64, whilst their civilian counterparts have reduced from 113 to 109, as a result of free trade.
And so on the eve of the 15th of October, 1938 Operation Grom is authorized by the Tsar, with wire telegraphs reaching out to the frontline positions of the 3rd and 6th Corps, and the guns come alive, howitzers along the frontline erupting in the dawn hours of October 16th, finally putting the Empire on its path towards conquest.
M1936 76mm Howitzers of the 19th Field Artillery Battery, 4th Infantry Division engage Turkish Positions along the Division’s frontage during the mid-morning of October 16th, 1938.
The war drums beat, as Germany answers Russia’s call for aid, and the United Kingdom and French come to the defense of Turkey. The war will soon draw in more and more contenders on all sides, but for now, the guns and men of Operation Grom have begun to go to work, with reports from the front of massive engagements between titanic infantry divisions on both sides beginning to send the first mangled bodies back to field hospitals, and the first grave s needing to be dug.
Ch.1 – Affairs of the State