Chapter 7 – A Two-Front War
The Navy has been squalling for some time that they have not been given adequate new ships or technology, and that they are lagging behind the rest of the world. Sympathetic, the Tsar orders the Imperial Design Bureau to begin the laborious process of designing massive new ships, specifically in the capital ship classes.
Crete still stands as a resolute example of Greek defiance in the Mediterranean.
Yet Greece proper, Bulgaria, and Romania are aflame with revolt. The Tsar orders the Okhrana to begin policing these regions better, and the command is carried out as the Western Department begins to form plans to move constables South.
In the English Channel, German and Japanese naval assets protect Russian convoys doing their best to bring supplies and resources to the heartland of the Empire.
The Staff and Planning Office informs the Office of the Tsar via courier that Operation Zhelezo is ready to begin, and they are prepared to disseminate the plans and information to the Divisions assigned.
The bulk of the fighting will be done by the Italian expeditionary forces, with some minor support in the South to be provided from the 6th Corps, who are being brought off of R&R for this invasion.
The war begins, with the initial results as expected, Albania turns tail and runs to the Allies, and the few divisions they have crumble before Italo-Russian tanks and men like wheat chaff in the wind.
General Zhukov is ordered to conduct full spectrum operations, and take the capital of Tirana from the Albanians within a month. A tough deadline under normal circumstances, but with 47 Divisions there is very little that isn’t possible.
Screening the Italian’s flank is the 6th Corps, who already begin to make themselves known as they help embattle a pair of Albanian infantry divisions on the border, pinning them there and allowing the pressure to be leavened off of Zhukov.
Within a week Canadian, Australian, Dutch, and British assistance arrives, just in time to be picked up by the muscle and sinew of the Italian expeditionary divisions and thrown back into the sea.
A large series of rainstorms turns much of the mountain regions of Albania to mud, and the 9th Corps is brought up from Greece to assist in taking the deep water ports in the South of the small country, to prevent Allied forces from leaving and smash them.
A week after it began, Zhukov achieved all of his objectives. Three weeks ahead of the Staff and Planning Office’s estimates. The Tsar was so shocked that he actually spat out his morning tea, surprising the Tsarina. “But how? He was fighting with Italians!” He exclaimed.
The 6th and 9th are sent back down to Greece for occupation and garrison duties. A running joke throughout the Army for years to come would discuss an “Albanian Vacation,” a term for a snap exercise in the middle of a rest period, due to the fact that Russia suffered just a few hundred casualties and achieved so much.
Troops of the 6th Corps march back to their Greek Garrison barracks after their brief 7-day ‘Albanian Vacation’.
The Balkans now are completely Russian, and from the Adriatic to the Aegean and the Black Sea the Tsar’s colours fly high. With a total size of 299 divisions, the Imperial Army is also surprisingly large, bringing many to vocally express surprise at how quickly the Tsar’s expansion program had worked.
In anticipation of the invasion of Crete, the Tsar orders the creation of paratroopers, as the airborne forces of Germany are something he wishes to utilize for his own army.
Men of the Ispytatel’naya gruppa vozdushno-desantnoy pekhoty (IGZDP, Airborne Infantry Test Group) comically dismount from a transport aircraft during test jumps mid-July 1940 in the Ukraine.
Revolts in Greece continue, as the Okhrana become more and more brutal with their crackdowns on civilians, and the Secret Police taking more and more men away in trucks, the constables returning fewer and fewer as weeks go by.
The Staff and Planning Office receive a directive from the Tsar – prepare for an invasion of Iraq. Completely caught off guard, they realize they actually only have one map of the country, from 1922. The Imperial Engineers contact the Survey Department and immediately they begin updating maps and sourcing information to create field maps for the tactical commanders on the ground. The 6th and 9th Corps are ordered South, through Turkey to the border.
The same day, they receive another letter from the Office of the Tsar, authorizing them to begin planning the invasion of Finland. The 8th Corps is immediately given notice and sent North, towards the Southern ends of the Finnish border.
Greece stubbornly resist occupation, and the Okhrana are authorized to receive another 5 regiments within the next 3 months to facilitate a more smooth transition from sovereignty to submission.
The regiments now occupy areas everywhere from Northern Greece to Romania, and in the extreme areas the East of Turkey. General Valutin is given more regiments from the Eastern Department as Kulik’s Turkish strategies have reduced dissent in the country to almost nothing.
The promised regiments arrive, Special Constables quickly moving to make themselves useful in both Greece and some parts of Turkey.
Another British invasion of North-West France is underway, as German garrison troops fight through the bocage and farmland to push the British back off of the continent.
Thessaly has long been a thorn in the side of the Army. Now, 2 regiments of constables are being sent specially to deal with those attacking police officers in Athens or cutting telegraph lines near airfields.
The 9th Corps moves steadily on the road move to Iraq, crossing the Bosphorus the opposite way it had come a year before, yet still they cross it as conquerors.
Japan begins its invasion of the British Raj, the brief respite of conquering China not satisfying the Empire’s desire for more land and resources. The Tsar toyed with the idea of conquering Afghanistan then invading the Raj, but with Finland and Iraq so close, there is more important goals.
In the North, the 1st Corps sits, as it has been for years, waiting for orders to attack.
The Staff and Planning Office begins to put pen to paper, requesting from the Tsar two months to prepare and disseminate the necessary plans for the multiple Corps required. As the biggest offensive since Operation Horseman, Operation Shutit’ (‘Jester’) will required hundreds of thousands of men, and over a thousand tanks.
The Okhrana in Greece work quickly, as the revolts there die down quickly as Fall comes.
A British Infantry division appears close to the Suez, and Pliyev’s 3rd Corps is tested for the first time in months, as the men of the Corps rush to take up positions and dominate their enemy.
As the battle against the Infantry rages on, with the Spanish holding the line, The Tsar orders that the ‘Pharaoh Line’ be constructed, a deep defensive set of earthworks that will allow Russia to forever keep hold of the Suez.
The fortress line will be garrisoned by Konev’s 2nd Corps in the short term, however the earthworks are last on the list of the many things the Imperial Engineering Corps has been tasked to build.
The Staff and Planning Office decide that the 1st, 4th, 7th, and 8th Corps will be needed to destroy Finland, some 144 divisions of infantry and armor.
The Tsar believes there is enough Italians serving in the ranks of his army and graciously declines Benito Mussolini’s offer.
The Tsar’s words ring true, “We will crush them in a few weeks.” He informs the Staff and Planning Office to set a date for the initiation of Operation Shutit. In the South, the Staff and Planning Office assigned operational control of the campaign for Iraq to General Pliyev, as he has the best sense of the ground in that region. Pliyev deems the undertaking Operation Zmeya (‘Serpent’).
The Staff and Planning Office are notified of the rejection, but seem to care not. The halls and offices, as well as the numerous lecture halls have maps, charts, and statistics drawn all over them, with chalk, grease pencils, and glass map boards being constantly marked and changed by the numerous staff officers and civilians there. The building is a constant flow of soldiers as they rush inside or leave, and it is a pattern that many Allied spies within Moscow have seen before, but they have still as of yet not been able to determine the location of the coming invasion.
Pliyev’s command group finishes the rough planning for Operation Zmeya.
A combined force of Australians and New Zealand troops attempt to make a naval landing on Amsterdam, however the 4 German divisions waiting there are clearly are of their arrival, and the amphibious assault is destroyed on the banks of the Scheldt.
The British forces on the Suez make a good drive, almost making it to the canal itself’s Mediterranean opening, however sadly they are then pinned by some of the 3rd Corp’s armour, with infantry from Konev’s Corps sent in support.
The 42nd Infantry has a rough go as it is battered by several hardened Russian divisions that have been given months to rest in the beautiful villas and palaces of Cairo and Alexandria.
The 6th and 9th Corps under Chibisov and Malinovsky arrive in Syria, and begin taking up their staging areas, directed by officials and attached officers sent by Pliyev’s 3rd Corps to show the more junior divisions how to fight in the Desert.
The Okhrana still have to work hard, with few off days as Greek resistance remains stiff.
New guns for the Imperial Army, at last. The Tsar orders the Design Bureau to immediately put them into full production, with the aim to provide each new Division with the guns before replacing the old ones.
More oil and rubber are needed for the Army, and the research of better manufacturing techniques is one that is highly encouraged by the Prime Minister’s office.
Fighters are sent to provide air cover and reconnaissance flights over the Eastern Mediterranean as a surprise British or Allied naval invasion of the Levant during Operation Zmeya’s opening phases could seriously cripple the Middle Eastern war effort.
Without any actual ‘flat-tops’ as the American turn of phrase goes, the Navy is overjoyed when they learn the Imperial Design Bureau has begun working on a prototype carrier for which to arm their fleets with. Although rudimentary and by no means a true fleet carrier, the Russian Navy believes it is at least a fair start.
The 26 Russian Divisions in Iraq are faced by little more than 8 Iraqi infantry divisions, with few tanks, anti-tank guns, or any modern forms of equipment. The drive for Baghdad will likely be one that is too easy for a commander of Pliyev’s talent.
On the 22nd of September Operation Zmeya is put into action, and the result is expected.
Across the frontline Russian guns boom and tanks rattle and lurch as they move forward across the desert, with the Arab infantry in front of them being crushed beneath their tracks. Veteran Russian infantry clear out trenches with grenades and give the Iraqi the bayonet as they seize their first day objectives.
The battles in the North goe woefully poorly for the dated and ill-trained Iraqis.
The Tsar prepares for his two-front war, and notifies the Staff and Planning Office to officially allow Tchkoslo to begin the campaign in Finland. The theater commander receives his orders, and within minutes the howitzers and field guns of the Imperial Army ring out in the forests of Russia as they do in the deserts of Iraq.
And as with every nation that has fallen with Turkey, Finland takes its first few steps towards becoming another province under the Tsar’s mighty dynasty.