Gentlemen, as of 1 September 1938, I have assumed control of the nation.
Hearts of Iron 3 offers earlier start dates, like 1936, but I think starting so early makes it hard to avoid unrealistically ‘gaming’ an ahistorical approach given the gift of foreknowledge. September 1938 is a critical time for a number of reasons. The Munich Agreement was signed later that month, it’s a bit over a year into Chamberlain’s premiership, and it’s exactly one year before the beginning of the Second World War. Whether appeasement at Munich was for better or worse, I think it put the ‘writing on the wall’ in terms of Hitler’s expansionism, and offered the Brits a last-ditch chance to prepare for war – and so they shall.
Below is the world situation as it stands on 1 September. As noted, the Germans have not yet seized the Sudentenland
, however the Anschluss
of Austria has been complete for some time. Note also the on-going civil war in Spain, with two substantial pockets of Republican hold-outs in the east.Strategic Review
Before issuing opening orders, I begin with a preliminary strategic review of Britain's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats at this moment.Strengths
As an island nation, the home territory possesses a great deal of intrinsic defensibility. Any attempted invasion must come from sea or air; either approach posses many difficulties for an attacker. Further, the UK’s armed forces are fairly substantial in quantity. The upper left pie chart in the three images below show the breakdown of the army, air force, and navy, respectively. The other charts track reinforcement needs and supply and fuel consumption, and are not very important at the moment. Our naval quantitative strength is particularly impressive, with a dozen battleships and a very large cruiser fleet.Weaknesses
Although the British services are quantitatively impressive, in truth I am saddled with a hodge-podge of some bleeding edge modern units but a great deal of antiquated units. This is particularly the case for the navy. Ten of my capital ships and nearly 30 of my screens (light cruisers and destroyers) are ‘level one’ ships (see the ‘I’ under ‘HMS’), which essentially means that they are outfitted with Great War-era kit. I immediately take the step of relegating these ships to a reserve fleet stationed in Scapa Flow. I’ll decide what to do with them later.
As well, a huge portion of my land forces are reserve units. They are almost all operating at half-strength, and, if war erupts, will need a great deal of time to mobilize and reach full strength before they are combat capable.
While the British homeland is an island, its empire is global. This means that geography is also a weakness in the context of Britain’s swath of overseas colonies. From Newfoundland to North Africa to Hong Kong, I have a lot of territory to worry about. Suddenly my twelve battleships don’t seem so mighty when viewed in this light. In simple terms, I don’t currently have enough units to adequately defend all of the territory I possess.Opportunities
I don’t have the resources available to develop a land force that can directly challenge the Wehrmacht, but the big powers like the Americans and the Soviets do. Even if I did, the memory of the Great War is still fresh in the minds of many Britons, and my people have no appetite for all-out blood warfare.
I instead have an opportunity to use my inferior forces to harass the Germans and bite at their heels wherever possible, ideally causing them to redirect vital assets away from front-line fighting to deal with whatever threat I can muster. The analogue to this approach in naval warfare is a fleet-in-being: avoiding decisive action but instead generating capabilities which the foe cannot afford to ignore.Threats
Needless to say, the rapidly rearming Germany and her expansionist policies are the greatest threat to Britain at the moment. Seen below from the Maginot Line, Wehrmacht divisions have reoccupied the Rhineland and are slowly but surely massing on France’s border.
I am also mindful of the evolving situation in the Far East, as Japanese forces fiercely battle their way across China. If the Japanese push the attack, my tenuous grip on Hong Kong, the East Indies, and the Indian subcontinent will be threatened.Strategic Concept
Based on the analysis above, I choose three priorities moving forward. They are, in order of importance, 1) defence against invasion of the British Isles, 2) defence against invasion of British overseas territories, and 3) support to major allied powers wherever possible.
In the short time available before war with Germany, the British military must undergo several quick transformations to suit this strategic concept. The Royal Navy will be Britain’s asymmetric advantage over all threats; doctrine development and technological research will embrace carriers and cruiser-sized warships. The land force will need to raise highly mobile, nimble divisions specializing in amphibious assault and maneuver warfare – this means marines, armour, mechanized infantry and the like. Air forces will be force multipliers for other domains, specializing in tactical engagements like close air support and naval bombing.Opening Orders
Gentlemen, with this guiding concept in hand, my first order of business is a small cabinet shuffle. Sir Frederick Bowhill replaces Sir Cyril Newall as Chief of the Air Force, and Sir Ernie Chatfield replaces Leslie Hore-Belisha as Armament Minister.
Next, I order a massive reorganization of all three services. At the start of September, most of the army is organized into several small corps comprised of one or two divisions at most. While perhaps a sufficient approach for territorial defence, it does not maximize the bonuses applied by having skilled leaders in command at the corps- or army-level. Here is one example where an entire corps, Highland Area, is comprised of just one division, the 51st.
I quickly do away with all corps level commands, and start from scratch. Building new corps out of approximately five divisions each, I construct an army of ten corps. This dramatically reduces command overhead: under the new organizational framework, I cut my number of HQ brigades from 30 down to 16. The image below shows one example of a newly-formed motorized corps.
Research priorities are set. HoI3 requires you to balance leadership points between research, espionage, diplomacy, and officer training. I have selected a range of new technologies/capabilities to research and assigned points accordingly.
As with research, the game requires you to balance your industrial capacity (IC) points between several areas: production, upgrades, reinforcement, supplies, and consumer goods. Several new carriers are already in the production queue. The red items mean that I am producing way beyond what my industrial capacity can accommodate. No problem; they’ll finish eventually, it just means they’ll move slowly until the other ships are done. There’s already been quite a bit of progress made on them by the time I take control, so there’s no sense in cancelling them. I do, however, scrap a string of battleships that had barely made it past the keel-laying to make way for future carrier construction.
Gentlemen, that should be sufficient to get us rolling for the next few months. More to follow….