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Bitter Defeat

Bitter Defeat – World-building an alternate history timeline


The World

The Bitter Defeat universe is one that I created for my character Blaise Maximillian, a bitter, jaded, cynical war veteran that can’t leave the war behind due to his duties as a secret policeman on the one hand, and a resistance fighter on the other. It’s a alternate history that sees the Allies losing World War 1, the British Empire being split between King George who creates a separate Empire in India, and his daughter Princess Mary, who is crowned Queen of defeated Britain. It’s a dystopian dieselpunk world that does its best to crush the heroes of the story, and indeed the normal people too.

I started writing the stories years ago on my iPad as I walked to and from work. They were just pieces of flash fiction that gave me something to do with the 30 minutes or so that it took to reach my destination. Gradually though the idea that I should take Blaise Maximillian and his ever-faithful friend, Bill Thatcher, and flesh out them and the universe they inhabited took hold. And just didn’t let go. As a result, Blaise Maximilian: Bitter Defeat was published on September 30th, 2015.

Blaise Maximillian: Emancipation, the second in the series, is well under way with over 40,000 words written and even more insight into the dieselpunk dystopia that they find themselves in. One problem about writing flash fiction, especially when it’s not written in any order, is that bringing order to the stories is somewhat difficult. Placing them into the collection was a start, but then tying them down to a specific timeline was still hard. I had to determine when – and why – the Bitter Defeat timeline deviated the way it did.

The Timeline

As with any series of books that grow from short stories, as opposed to a chapter-by-chapter plan, this timeline is more informative than definitive, more fluid than canon. That’s because as long as I keep writing these stories, there’s always the chance that a major event in this timeline will occur and then need to be inserted. However, as a starter, I think this gives a clear idea as to what happened to keep America out of the war, and to see Britain, France and Italy fall.

1915 – The Lusitania isn’t sunk. As a result, German U-Boats continue to roam the seas, attacking and sinking aid convoys, tightening the noose around Great Britain. The Bitter Defeat timeline starts to diverge from ours at this point, as in our timeline, the sinking of this ship caused such an outcry that U-Boats were held on a more tight rein.

1915 – The Germans star to use thermobaric weapons, primitive body armour that was issued to the elite Angriffsoldaten (assault soldiers) and launched the first chlorine gas attack.

1915 – The Germans were the first to introduce tanks (known as barrels). Although rushed into service, they gave the British forces a shock, and kicked off an arms race that would determine the course of the war.

1916 – American continues to preach neutrality, supplying both sides with ammunition, materials and food. Volunteer regiments from America were sent however, and a squadron of flyers was even formed by Boeing. The first flyers arrived in 1916, with both planes and dirigibles. The combat was used by Boeing to evaluate their plane and dirigible designs, using the knowledge gained to develop better fighters and bombers for the American Empire’s conflicts against Mexico and the independent state of Alaska.

1917 – First Russian Revolution causes Tsar Nicholas II to abdicate in March. German agents (who were key in assisting the revolution to start with) as well as a hand-picked company of Kommandos, disguised as Imperial Soldiers, take him and his family into protective custody before smuggling him out of the country.

The Kaiser planned to reinstate the Tsar as a puppet ruler once the war with the Allies was over.

1917 – Nivelle Offensive fails. Half of the French Divisions on the Western Front mutiny as a result of suicidal attacks which caused heavy casualties for little or no gain. Thus far, out of 20 million French men, the French have suffered over 1 million casualties. The Second Battle of the Aisne sees a further 190,000 casualties. These casualties, along with pacifism perpetuated by news of the Russian Revolution are the main factors behind the mutiny.

1918 – Bolsheviks sign a Peace Treaty with Germany and Austro-Hungary, giving them swathes of land in return, including fertile land. Food shortages in Germany and Austro-Hungary are immediately brought to an end.

1918 – French Prime Minister Clemenceau published notes regarding road to peace for Australia-Hungarians. Seeing the Austrian Emperor was no longer committed to the war as he should be, German High Command place him and his Empress in protective custody after faking an assassination attempt by anarchists in the employ of the Italians

1918 – June – Bolstered by the supposed attack on their monarchs and reinforcements made available due to Russia’s withdrawal from the war, , Austro-Hungarian forces launched a massive attack into Italy, using paratroopers who are dropped from bombers behind the lines to sow confusion and hinder the progress of reinforcements. With over 300,000 casualties including 55,000 dead, 180,000 wounded and the remainder captured, Italy is forced to sue for peace. This in turn frees up the Austro-Hungarian troops to fight on other fronts such as the Eastern and Western Fronts.

Just over 40,000 Italian troops escape by sea to Sicily. Austro-Hungarian navy blockades the island but no attempts are made to invade.

1918 – First women soldiers enter the front line in return for all women over the age of 18 getting the vote in the United Kingdom. Men over the age of 18 also get vote.

1919 – White Russian forces sign a treat with the German Emperor, granting Germany and Austro-Hungarian land in return for support against Boslheviks.

1919 – Emperor Karl of the Austro-Hungarian Empire declares Kaiser Wilhelm as his successor and, stating ill health, abdicates

The German Austro-Hungarian Empire is formed.

1918 – May – The first truly effective body armour starts to appear on the battle field. The German Imperial Bureau of Scientific Endeavour took the armour further, combining it with tank technology to create two-man suits of powered armour called Ritterrüstung (Knights Armour). Initially used to plug gaps caused by fighting, the Imperial High Command was quick to see the value of them and launched an offensive – combining tanks, Knights Armour and conventional forces – that saw the allied forces pushed right out of Belgium and back into France, forcing their lines into a 90-degree ‘L’, shape that ran across the Franco-Belgian border and down to the French mediterranean coast.

1918 – December – The first ‘SteelSteeds’ are fielded by the British. Basically mechanised boxes on four legs, they were slow, badly designed and inherently dangerous to their ‘riders’. This didn’t stop many members of the British Cavalry flocking to join their ranks. With little testing, and even less training, the SteelSteeds and their riders were rushed into action. It took a crew of at least 8 to man the four legged behemoths.

British armour had been deployed in strength and managed to hold the German advance to a slow crawl (they could not achieve a standstill), and it was to their great relief that the SteelSteeds were deployed. As Lord Kitchener was heard to comment ‘quantity has a quality of its own’.

British losses from May – December were astounding. Barrels, ‘steeds and infantry poured into the lines in an attempt to stop the Germans pushing even further south. Casualty lists mirrored that of the opening stages of the Somme. Newspapers were banned from reporting anything and the British public were left to listen to rumour and hearsay. One thing that the British Command could not prevent however, was the delivery of telegrams. Families throughout the country were the recipients of telegrams reporting the loss of their loved ones. It was clear that something was happening on a grand scale across the channel.

Despite stopping the German advance, the British were now well and truly on the back foot both militarily and technologically.

1919 – Germans are the first to start using Giant Zeppelins. These Zeppelins were used to not only bomb cities across Europe, but they were designed for a number of purposes;

City Bomber – Stadtbomber
Aircraft Carrier – Kämpferplanträger
Personnel Carrier – Fallschirmjägerträger

The Personnel Carrier was one of the biggest surprises that the British faced. Despite the success of the Austro-Hungarian attacks in Italy, it had been believed that parachutes were of limited strategic value, and that such small numbers of saboteurs – although effective – did nothing to prove that they should be used on a much wider front. High Command had only recently decided that their pilots should be granted permission to use parachutes and were not expected to be faced with Zeppelins carrying whole companies of troops, dropping them behind British lines.

1920 – Another push on the Belgian front sees the German forces line further south, to the very suburbs of Paris.

1920 – Battle of Paris – After initial success, German and Austro-Hungarian forces find themselves stalled in Paris, the bitter room-to-room fighting taking a heavy toll. After three months of heavy fighting they are forced to retreat, leaving Paris as a besieged fortress. Civilian casualties number in the 100s of thousands.

1921 – October – First Great Offensive – Thirty Personnel Carriers, accompanied by Bombers and Aircraft Carriers launched the first airborne offensive of the world, dropping over 3000 paratroopers behind British lines. The drop was matched by a massed attack in sectors facing and flanking the sector in which the troops had been dropped. Trapped in a pocket, the British troops in that sector quickly surrendered, especially after they were subjected to a six-hour gas and bombing attack.

1922 – January – Second Great Offensive was launched. This time over 100 personnel carriers were used. On the ground, elite Stormtroopers using the latest Knights Armour charged across no-man’s land, accompanied by the latest barrels in numbers previously unseen.

On the Home Front in Britain, things were just as bad with an air offensive that culminated in the ‘Lassen Keine überleben’, otherwise known as ‘Let Nothing Survive’, causing between 100,000 and 150,000 casualties in London alone over a 96-hour period.

The wind was well and truly taken out of the British sails. Realising that further fighting in Europe was pointless and that it was diverting too much manpower from across the Empire, the British finally sued for peace. Unbeknown to them, the Germans were also reaching the end of their stamina and had launched the offensives in order to convince the British that they were stronger than they truly were. A resurgent Russia was gathering forces on the Eastern Front and the Germans needed to be able to shift their manpower.

1922 – Aware of the impending defeat of the Allies, King George and his family escape to India to continue the war.

Princess Mary refuses to leave, saying that she would not abandon her people to face the merciless rule of the Germans on their own.

1922 – Bitter Peace signed April 23rd, April 24th, first occupation troops arrive. German Dreadnoughts sail up the Thames and the Tower of London appropriated as German High Command HQ.

The Germans chose this date deliberately in order to humiliate the English as it was St George’s Day, St George having become a strong force in British propaganda. The peace meant that France and Britain had to accept the positions as they were, albeit with some changes due to ‘bulges’ or salients making holding some areas of land untenable. As such, France was very much reduced in size, and the British had to accept a strong German military presence on its territory, as a guarantee that it would not break the terms of the treaty.

Princess Mary is captured by German forces and shortly invested as Queen Mary. Britain is divided in its support for her, but the majority accept the defeat. Increasing numbers of German and Austro-Hungarian military and civilian ‘administrators’ are to be seen all around the United Kingdom, with garrisons being emplaced in numerous strategic positions.

1922 – Germany sends troops into Ireland, suppressing the IRA viciously, killing all known members of the group as well as Sinn Fein.

1922 – Although peace in Europe reigns, it is an uneasy peace as Britain struggles under the German yoke, and the British and German Empires vie for power throughout the rest of the world. America too has joined the race for power with Cuba, Hawaii, Northern Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and the Philippines all falling under the star spangled banner. The American Empire is threatening the holdings of both Empires from the latter, using it as a base to launch espionage attacks throughout the pacific, undermining what stability there is.

The rest of the Empire, from the capital of New Dehli, including the ‘Lost Army’ i.e. All of the British units that were not stationed on the Western Front and who were able to make it to British Imperial territory, watch on in frustration as their homeland is slowly ground under the Germans’ heels.

Blaise Maximillian and Bill Thatcher, working with the British resistance, join the Kombinierte Kaiserlichsonder Intelligenz Büro (Combined Imperial Special Intelligence Bureau), continuing the fight against the British Empire’s enemies in the only way they know how.

About mattsylvester

Father of two beautiful daughters and married to the beautiful Karen, Matthew has been reading and writing fantasy and science fiction since he first read the Hobbit at the age of 7. Matthew was Features Editor, Technical Consultant and regular columnist for magazines such as ‘Fighters’, ‘Combat’, ‘TKD & Korean Martial Arts’ and ‘Traditional Karate’. These are the four leading martial arts magazines in the United Kingdom. He is also the author of the critically acclaimed 'Practical Taekwondo: Back to the Roots', which has been sold around the world. With regard to his martial arts background he has been studying martial arts since 1991. In 1995 he hosted Professor Rick Clark of the ADK and since then has been studying pressure points and their uses in the martial arts and on the street (initially as a Special Constable and as a Door Supervisor). All of this practical hands-on experience means that he is uniquely placed to write fight scenes that are not only plausible but some of which are based on personal or anecdotal experience. Matthew has had a number of short stories published by Fringe Works, KnightWatch Press, Anderfam Press and Emby Press.

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