Chapter 9 – From Russia, With Love
Author’s Note: Sorry for the short hiatus, was on vacation/travelling before getting back to school! Regular posting should resume on Mondays.
With the cessation of hostilities and Finland’s surrender, Operation Shutit comes to a close. The 1st, 2nd and 7th Corps fought hard, and now the 1st Corps is put onto rest, with the peaceful occupation of Finland to be conducted by the 1st until the Okhrana are needed for further pacification efforts.
A British breakthrough led by 3 Dutch divisions and supported by ANZAC unit makes gains against Malinovksy’s beleaguered 9th Corps. Chibisov’s 6th fights hard, giving 4 of its infantry divisions to help delay the onslaught of Dutchmen, while preparing for a counterattack South to try and capture the ports and encircle the Allied units.
More unrest in the Balkans. The Okhrana are stretched, but the redistribution of some of the police battalions should help root out the treasonous rebels hiding within the Tsar’s borders.
In fact, the entirety of the Eastern Department is shuffled under Valutin’s recommendation that a strategic police shift to Western Turkey and the Balkans be conducted among the renewed unrest.
Tukhachevsky’s 7th is sent South, to stage and begin exercises for potential offensives in Africa, and also to link up with Pliyev’s 3rd Corps, relieving the veteran units so they can be sent to shore up the flailing Italian Armies in Africa.
In Northern Iraq, an Indian unit is surrounded by the elements of the 9th Corps, where it had been holding out desperately without the supplies or fuel to escape. The 59-61st and 134th Infantry Divisions crush it, with the loss of thousands of Indian soldiers.
Chibisov’s gamble to rush to the sea pays off, and by seizing one of two major ports the Dutch and ANZACs are forced to backpedal and defend their rear echelon gains, allowing Malinovsky to go on the offensive, and all across the front Russian guns sing out, crushing the Allies as the slow push to the Persian Gulf begins.
Semyon Budyonny, also known as “The Walrus” due to his impressive facial hair, is told to position the 4th Corps to the North. SPaO (Imperial Staff and Planning Office) lays out for the Tsar the potential for an invasion of Sweden. Under the codename Operation Krasnaya Zarya (Red Dawn) the goal is to open up an invasion of Norway, and give the Tsar better access to the North Sea, so strikes at the Royal Navy in support of the Kriegsmarine can begin, by positioning Russian surface fleet forces on the Norwegian coastline.
The initial earmark calls for just the 4th Corps, as the winter fighting will necessitate forces experienced fighting this far North, and with the 1st Corps on forced rest and refit, and the 7th marching South, this only leaves the Walrus’ men for the task
Chibisov, always a fair weather General, forgets to reinforce his lines, and the 10th and 11th Infantry divisions, two of the more experienced of the Land Pattern Divisions are surrounded in Kuwait.
The Tsar’s plan for an airborne force has long since been in the works, and now with the transport aircraft to conduct such operations, the forward staging of airborne elements begins to take hold, in preparation for Operation ZK.
The Dutch and ANZAC forces, ever resilient, push hard, and Malinovsky assigns an armored division to try and cut off their new advance. Overflights by reconnaissance aircraft however indicate that the Allies are leaving their port almost entirely undefended.
2 trapped Allied divisions are assaulted by a combined force of 20 Russian divisions and the results are predictable, as the Massacre at Basrah ends with the near total annihilation of both units.
10th of December, 1940 – ANZAC armor sits destroyed in the vicinity of Basrah, Iraq after the massacre following the encirclement of Dutch and ANZAC forces by the 6th and 9th Corps
The Tsar’s pride, the Vozdukh Corps (roughly translating to Sky troops) is stood up, and veteran light infantry General Vasily Kuznetsov is assigned to command the forces, as his ability to command with little or few supplies (proved during harsh campaigns in the First World War) earned him the premier spot as the Vozdukh commander. His men are sent to prepare and begin exercising for the invasion of Sweden.
Due to a clerical error by the SPaO, they are however accidentally assigned to the Eastern Military District and have to be shipped by rail. This is chalked up to the Tsar having too much vodka and forgetting where they were training, it seems.
Operation Zmeya drags on, with the exhausted 6th and 9th Corps throwing themselves at the ANZACs and Dutch, who have again surged and then withdrawn from their gains to their ports.
Frustrated with the lack of success, the Tsar halts the rail shipment of Kuznetsov’s Skytroops in favor of their first operation against hostile forces, and airdrop over the hot sandy deserts of the Middle East. Transport aircraft are flown down from their staging sites in Leningrad, and away from the planning for Operation ZK.
Hundreds of heavy fighters are flown South to provide escort and air coverage for the first combat drop of Skytroops.
Initial reconnaissance of Swedish forces shows that the few divisions they can muster are outnumbered by The Walrus’ men, and that a single Corps should prove sufficient. The Tsar is more enveloped with the use of airborne forces then the efficient employment of land forces however, and demands near hourly updates on the progress of the first use of Skytroops.
The second of the Guard Corps is stood up, and with the first assigned to the German Border, the SPaO plans on using the veteran troops for the invasion of Sweden, conducting an amphibious assault against the Swedes to reinforce paratrooper assaults along the Eastern Swedish coast.
The heavy Corps is sent North, loaded onto flatcars with the latest equipment and weapons the Tsar’s factories have to offer.
The tentative name for the ad-hoc combat drop is Operation Yastreb (Hawk), and the first of the Vozdukh units load onto their transport aircraft a the military airfields in Damascus.
1st of January, 1941 – At 1800h local, men of the 2nd Parachute Battalion, 4th Vozdukh Division load onto their transport aircraft with their combat equipment at the Imperial Air Station Damascus for the first airborne assault in Russian history, slated to occur at midnight on New Year’s Day.
2nd of January, 1941 – Tsar Nicholas II stays awake late at night, captured here by the Palace Photographer, waiting for telegraph news of the operation’s status.
2nd of January, 1941 – Pictured here, men of the 2nd Parachute Battalion, 4th Vozdukh Division conduct their first combat drop in the vicinity of ANZAC forces North-West of Kuwait, in support of Operation Yastreb.
The initial drop is met with mixed results. The vast majority of Russian Skytroopers make it onto the ground, and take the ANZAC forces completely by surprise, however the lack of heavy equipment quickly means that they are at risk of being routed, and frantic air strikes and radio communication with the 6th and 9th Corps is made.
Air strikes, and a supporting ground attack made later in the day mean the ANZAC forces are completely overwhelmed, and as a result they begin to be overrun. Operation Yastreb may not be over, but the Tsar is delighted that the concept of Skytroops itself is considered a success, and the capability to airdrop infantry and light equipment has been developed.
Yastreb was conducted in concert with renewed assaults to push the remaining Dutch and ANZAC forces out of Iraq and drive them into the Gulf, but as always, the fighting in the desert is bitter and fierce.
In Africa, the Italians have somehow managed to convince their soldiers to go on the offensive long enough to move the forces of the United Kingdom and her allies all the way to West Africa, with some assistance from Hitler’s forces pushing from the Congo.
Operation Yastreb ends as the ANZAC forces hold out long enough, and it is considered to be a failure. The Tsar is furious, and tells both Chibisov and Pliyev by direct telegraph courier that if they have not ended the Iraqi expedition by the Spring and the beginning of Operation ZK, they can be expected to be reassigned as clerks on the Chinese border.
The remaining Vozdukh forces are assigned to help the bitter urban fighting occuring in Basrah proper. The Allied forces were aware of the massacre of their comrades to the North just weeks before, and the fighting is massive, even an Italian expeditionary force contributing.
8th of January, 1941 – A Machinegun team from the 4th Infantry Battalion, 5th Infantry Division engage Dutch forces in the ruins of a home located in the Old City within Basrah, Iraq.
One of the valiant heroes of the Tsar’s winged service are promoted, as Lieutenant Vladimir Brusilov used his Pe-2 to shoot down a record 6 Allied fighter planes in a single morning while supporting the Battle for Basrah.
Tired ANZAC and dutch forces begin to withdraw from the front, as Spanish regular army units sent as expeditionary units come to aid the massed assault on Basrah. To the West, the pocket that Operation Yastreb failed to crush are overrun by Malinovsky’s armor.
Just one week after the Tsar demanded an end to Operation Zmeya, Pliyev’s reshuffled strategy, and using experienced shock troops in the form of Vozdukh divisions as regular infantry has resulted in the beginning of the end, with the Dutch and ANZACs beginning to withdraw forces from Basrah, the ships being strafed and shelled by Russian forces closing in on the port.
A lone Iraqi unit, abandoned in the Desert, is crushed mercilessly by Chibisov’s rear echelon units.
Chibisov’s mopping up concludes, and all enemy forces are overrun outside of Basrah. The final battle for Iraq comes to a head at the port city.
In the North Sea, Russian convoys suffer at the helm of the Dutch Navy, much to the efforts of German Admirals and the Kriegsmarine. This only infuriates the Tsar more and demands that Operation ZK be moved up so that the North Sea supply issues can be resolved.
The Research and Development Department suggests to the Tsar that a new strategy be investigated – in the form of nuclear weapons. A short brief is sufficient for Nicholas to agree, and invest the necessary resources to begin the long process to acquiring these weapons, yet untested on the field of battle.
The Tsar’s directive seems to be effective, and Operation Zmeya officially ceases. Tens of thousands of casualties, and the Allies thrown into the sea, finally the battles in the Iraqi sun have come to a close. The 6th and 9th Corps are placed on occupation duty, and ordered to refit and rest, as future battles for these now grizzled veterans may soon be at hand.
The Tsar’s lands now stretch from the Northern reaches of Finland to the Suez, and he informs Pliyev he is planning a state visit to Cairo after the conclusion of Operation ZK.
A priority on coastal forts is placed on the Kuwaiti coast – to ensure no further Allied incursions into Iraq. The Imperial Engineering Corps sets upon these with fervor.
In total, the Imperial Army now numbers 323 Divisions, the largest it has ever been. And with plans for Sweden and potential excursions to the East, the Tsar informs the SPaO that he wants another two Guard Corps stood up by 1943 at the latest.
A much needed artillery upgrade comes in the form of the M1940, and the new, and larger howitzers will add a bigger punch to the already weighty Land Pattern Divisions.
The 6th Corps is sent to finish its refit in Turkey, leaving the 9th to conduct its own rest in the ruined city of Basrah.
The 7th Corps arrives on the Iranian border, preparing for the next great invasion. The Office of the Tsar issues a directive to begin investigating the potential for an expansion into Iran, and the diligent strategists and planners of the SPaO begin their work.
No rest for the weary, as they SPaO suggests that both the 6th and 9th Corps come off of their R&R and the Tsar agrees, reluctantly, and soldiers are roused from their beds, sent to the Iranian border to prepare to bring Persia to its knees. Operation Byk (Bull) is slated to begin within a few months, and aircraft by the hundreds are forward deployed to assist.
The plans for the North Sea require more capital ships – and the research into aircraft carriers is just the beginning of this.
The Office of the Tsar puts out a directive for a 4-carrier Navy in the Baltic by the end of 1943, and they want something more advanced than a WWI relic akin to the Ismail, so the Research and Development schematics for a new class are drawn up.
The development of Turkey cannot be ignored, as part of the economic restructuring plan of the former Ottoman stronghold requires the industrial capacity to have a functioning puppet.
The Okhrana have been resoundingly successful, and across both Greece, the Balkans, and Turkey, revolts and rebellions sit at an all time low.
The Tsar demands that the thorn that is Cyprus be resolved, and the Skytroopers are again slated to conduct an air assault, named Operation Yastreb II.
The initial drop is successful, with the limited British forces on the island being taken by surprise as in the early afternoon thousands of Russians descend on the island. And begin hunting for the British Garrison on the island’s East side.
Troublesome as ever – the Greeks again demand more than they deserve. Valutin’s men are sent in to crack skulls and re-align the population.
As the first hints of Spring are close at hand, five new regiments of Okhrana are sent to the ever-conflicted Balkans, to resume more occupation duties. The Tsar is overheard grumbling that even the Iraqis knew when they were beaten, before burying himself in the SPaO briefing for Operation ZK.