Campaign for North Rivett day 3 Posted on 10 Mar 23:30 , 0 comments

Joseph Stalin, alarmed at the rapid and triumphant aggression of the Axis powers, decided he must take fate into his own hands. First he occupied the Baltic states in July 1940. Then on the 2nd August, he placed his troops on alert in the Leningrad district and demanded that Finland return the borderlands that are rightfully the possession of the Soviet motherland. Stalin displayed quite a force on the Finnish border to back up his demand.

 Mannerheim noted that the Soviet Marine corps based near Oranienbaum could employ coastal craft to make a surprise landing east of Helsinki and, aided by Zhukov (shipped on the Leningrad troop transports), could attack Helsinki in conjunction with the V Para corps and the Soviet airforce to capture the coup de main. He thus reluctantly recommended to the Finnish Prime minister to accede to the heinous Soviet blackmail.

While these negotiations were going on,the German Marines based in Calais almost succeeded in a surprise landing at Dover on the 3rd September 1940 using Rhine barges and other light craft, until Dad's army appeared on the beaches just in the nick of time.

Frustrated and disappointed yet again, and with the entire summer seemingly frittered away after their spectacular success against France and the low countries way back in May, on September 10, Germany made the shocking announcement to declare war on Greece in an attempt to pressure Yugoslavia to sign the Tripartite agreement.

The Greek Mountain corps sets up in the mountains west of Salonika providing a formidable barrier to the German advance. Unfortunately it was placed too far forward to receive adequate supply from Athens and 250 long range Ju-87R Stukas based in Albania launched a surprise dawn raid on the poorly positioned Greeks, disrupting them and making the German assault far easier. Even so the plucky Greek mountaineers covered themselves in glory causing heavy losses amongst the attacking hordes before finally succumbing to vastly superior numbers.

Even with this qualified Wehrmacht success, the delay to the advance and the stalwart defence of the Greek ingantry and militia gave Churchill enough time to slip his transports past the Italian fleet based in the eastern Mediterranean  to reinforce the stalwart Greece defence with 4 Commonwealth corps to provide an impassable advance to the German forces who were stalled well short of their objective Athens with General winter closing in.

Prince Paul, the Yugoslav king, watching with fascination the unfolding Axis fiasco in the Balkans, decided that Adolf was a broken reed, and joined the Commonwealth by declaring war on Germany and Italy on the 22 of January 1941.

Balkan front Late January 1941

Meeting in Munich in early February, Mussolini acidly informs Hitler that the Italian General staff had studied an October invasion of Greece over the mountains and came to the conclusion that perhaps winter was not the optimal time to conduct such an operation. Mussolini then compared the Wehrmacht's performance to that of the Italian army that was advancing deep into Egypt at the same time.

North African campaign heats up October 1940

Although the Germans were halted in Greece, they did make progress in northern Yugoslavia but very slowly and at inordinate cost suffering 150,000 casualties in occupying Zagreb alone which was not achieved until 26th February.

They then advanced eastwards to Belgrade and met even more fanatical resistance before finally occupying Belgrade and conquering Yugoslavia on March 18 1941.

Yugoslav front late February just prior to capture of Belgrade.

Although the resources of Yugoslavia were now available to the Axis, the hapless campaign had cost Germany dear in both troops and time and they now had to face the prospect of a long drawn out partisan war against the enraged Yugoslavian people.

Adolf contemplating the price of failure

However the conclusion of the Yugoslav campaign did free up large numbers of German troops to rail ever eastwards to destinations unknown.

In the Atlantic, German and Italians finally had the spectacular success that had been eluding them to date sinking 2 million tonnes of British shipping and damaging another million in May and June 1941 leaving Britain short not only the merchantmen but 600,000 tonnes of vital war material as well.

North Atlantic cleared of British merchant shipping early June 1941

But the RAF got their own back, launching wave after wave of Wellington and Hampden bombers on successive successful strikes on Stettin, Nuremburg, Cologne and Munich costing the German economy 800,000 tonnes of war material during the same period.

In China, constantly thwarted by the superb Chinese defence, on the 12th of October Japan demanded that the Vichy Government allow Japanese forces be allowed to be stationed in French Indo-China. This opened up a new southern front in China stretching the Nationalist defence and potentially allowing the Japanese to occupy the vital city of Kunming (the start of the Burma road).

Chinese front 15 Nov 1940

 The race was on between Japan and China to close the gap to the Burmese border which was only narrowly won by the Nationalist Chinese but at the cost of having to evacuate Nanning on the 2nd February 1941 and Kweiyang on March 23rd. The only bright spot in these succession of retreats was the strong measure of support given to the beleaguered Chinese by the US people and their even stronger level of condemnation to this wanton Japanese aggression.

By June 1941 Emperor Hirohito was satisfied that at last the Japanese offensive was achieving far reaching results including liberating vital resources near Changsha to further fuel the Japanese war economy.

 China June 1941

 By the end of June a lull had settled across the globe. But Joseph Stalin was receiving ominous rumours of massive German concentrations of German panzers, infantry and aircraft in Poland

and Rumania

Stalin knew that one day there would be a reckoning between the children of the revolution and the evil scourge of Nazism but he had been hoping that any clash could be postponed until 1942. But the Secretary General was not naive and had spent months in planning for every eventuality.

The accession of Bulgaria, Rumania and Hungary to the Axis tripartite pact had prompted the Soviets to invent excuses to delay shipments of grain, oil and other vital raw materials to Germany, using them in her own industries instead.

In this way and with careful planning the Soviets had built a large army to hold back any German tide both in the north

and in the south

All Stalin, the Soviet people and indeed the people of the world could do was hold their collective breath to see if, when, and where the mighty Axis hammer blow will fall.