Marching Through Georgia
by Geoff Barker
My previous article published in Ragnarok 4, entitled "Alternative Histories: Novel Ideas" covered a range of "Alternative History" novels. (Ed. Note: This article was re-published in The Ragnarok Compendium).
This article will concentrate on just one of these, Marching through Georgia by S. M. Stirling and published by Baen Books in 1988. This book tells the tale of the Draka, their Empire, and their wars.
Who were the Draka?
Stirling proposes Britain annexed the Dutch Cape Colony in 1783, following the British defeat in the American Revolution, renaming it in honour of Sir Francis Drake.
There was an immediate mass arrival of refugee American Loyalists together with the defeated Hessian (and other petty German states) mercenaries previously in British service. Military expansion followed rapidly, with General Banastre Tarleton as first Commander in Chief. Other military refugees arrived later, induding the French Royalists, adding further fuel to the military might of the colonists. By 1807 most of Africa was in British or Draka hands. Tremendous industrial development occurred.
Following the American Civil War 150,000 Confederates emigrated to the "Dominion of the Draka" as it had now become known. Africa was soon brought under total submission.
The Great War of 1914-19 saw the Draka defeat both the Austrians and Turks to occupy the Middle East and establish a toehold in the Balkans. Ties were finally cut with Britain.
By 1942, when the main story is set, a number of power blocks have developed. Foremost amongst these is the "Domination" as it's now offlcially known, which rules all Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Central Asia/China. The Japanese hold the remainder of China together with Eastern Australia and Manchuria. Britain's only major overseas colony is India. An aggressive Third Reich holds most of Western & Central Europe, with the Soviets clinging precariously to their territories but under pressure from all sides. America has expanded to contain what was previously known as Canada and Mexico.
The Main Story
The main character in the book is Centurion Eric Von Shrakenberg, commander of Century A, 1st Airborne Legion. The story centres around the efforts of his unit to take, and hold, a small village astride a vital military highway through the Caucasus mountains, and disrupt German communications/movements whilst Draka land forces (currently to the South) push through the German frontline. In total there are about 200 men/women under Von Shrakenberg's command, the equivalent of a reinforced company.
April 14th 1942
The attack commenced. Von Shrakenberg's forces are carried in 2 transport planes, each with 80 paratroopers plus individual weapons aboard. Each transport tows a glider carrying a further 20 troopers, and the heavy equipment.
The troops land OK and soon get organised. Final preparations are made for the capture of the village.
The Draka forces successfully suround the village, and pour a withering hail of fire upon the village and its German defenders. Arned mainly with small arms, the Germans are soon overwhelmed. By 06:00 mopping-up operations are almost complete. At least thirty prisoners were taken, and are subsequently tied up and shot.
The locals, Caucasian Moslems - clearly anti-Soviet - are enrolled to help rebuild the defences, and help with the further preparations necessary prior to the inevitable German counterattack. Even a bunch of Soviet partisans previously held captive by the Germans are pressed into service. A couple of captured Soviet 76.2mm guns are found and deployed in an anti-tank role.
A Draka motorised column arrived. consisting of captured German, Soviet, and French trucks, together with a small Draka armoured escort. [This escort is made up of 2 light armoured cars, and 3 "Bakkies" - cross country vehicles with 6 small balloon wheels, mounting a bristle of automatic cannon and recoilless rifles] They were able to re-supply some small arms ammo, but little for the heavier weapons. However, a Forward Artillery Observer joined the unit from of a battery 2 of towed howitzers (l05mm, 107mm, and captured German 150mm calibres) 4km to the rear.
Feverish efforts are made to strengthen the defences of the village. Mines are laid, both anti-taink and "Broadsword" antipersonnel (from description these would seem to be based on the US Claymore mine). Weapons are deployed in position, and fallback positions are prepared. The stone houses of the village have extensive cellars which are now interlinked by newly cut tunnels.
A German reconnaissance unit arrives consisting of 3 Puma armoured cars (albeit armed with 20mm auto cannon rather than the historically correct 50mm gun). This is lured into town where one is destroyed by an 84mm recoilless and a second by 15mm HMG fire. The surviving vehicle was allowed to escape.
Half of the houses in the village have now been demolished, and traps prepared in the remainder. The defences near completion.
The expected German counter-attack now came into view, led by Standartenfuhrer Felix Hoth, commander of a regiment of SS Division Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler. The column comprised:
- 6 Tanks - Captured Soviet KV1s fitted with a new turret, and armed with the formidable 88mm gun.
- Heavy Assault Guns - again based on the KV1 chassis, and mounting a l50mm gun/howitzer.
- 12 Tracked Infantry Carriers, based on the SU76 chassis and carrying 11 men in each.
- 2 Flakpanzers, again based on the SU76 chassis. (No mention is made re weaponry carried, however twin 30mm flakpanzers appear in the next day's battle so these could be they).
The Germans commenced their assault on the village with assault guns and tanks to the front, infantry carriers to the rear, and flakpanzers deployed to the flanks. Heavy fire from the Draka defenders forced Hoth to dismount the PanzerGrenadiers and order them to move towards the treeline on the flanks. Hidden Draka forces, together with the Soviet partisans, had prepared an ambush here and were able to inflict serious losses. The Germans then withdrew.
April 15th 1942
German outflanking moves were heard, early reports confirmed approximately 30 trucks and 400 infantry. Von Shrakenberg ordered an ambush to delay/disrupt these, and sent a Tetrarchy of Draka, along with a 60mm mortar and a rocket gun, to deal with it. An unspecified number of Caucasian allies were also sent to act as guides.
By 4:00 the ambush was ready with mines and booby-traps laid. The ambush proved successful, with satchel charges particularly effective. Wreckage blocked the road.
The Draka withdrew back to the village having inflicted losses of about 200 men, "many" trucks and 2 or 3 tanks, for a loss of only 15 of their own.
German artillery commenced bombardment of the village before dawn, followed by an attack at dawn. The Air Corps provided some assistance against this assault, however the German 88mm guns and twin 30mm flakpanzers higher up the valley caused some losses. Cloud at 500 meters prevented further air support. The attack, and 3 subsequent attacks later that morning were met by an ever more desperate Draka defence.
The artillery bombardment ceased [see Note 1] as the Germans mass their remaining forces for a final assault. Unfortunately the Draka ran out of anti-tank ammunition before the Germans ran out of tanks. Von Shrakenberg ordered a withdrawal to the woods, as the Draka hoped to melt away to the South where the main Draka forces were. The retreat was initially successful, however the final despair came as the Draka ran into a German armour column.
Relief came seconds later as they realised it was a Draka ruse! (it was a Draka column of tanks, APCs and Multiple Rocket Launchers spearheaded by captured German armour).
Victory had been won, but it was a close run thing. Only about 50 survivors remained.
Coincidence or wot?? Johanna Von Shrakenberg, sister of the Draka commander and a pilot in the Air Corps, was shot down nearby at 8:00 on April 14th. In the meantime she managed to evade Germans hunting for her, met up with a 300 strong band of partisans, and persuaded them to aid the Draka cause. The following day they managed to attack and destroy the German artillery units (150mm and 170mm Self-Propelled Guns) involved in bombarding the village, thus saving her brother's unit.
Organisation & Equipment
For wargaming purposes I suggest the Draka Airborne forces are a cross between the US Rapid Deployment Forces and the Israeli elite forces. Their uniform, according to the books cover, appears mainly green with some brown patches. A "Fritz" style helmet is worn, as are jackboots. A machete, with an 18-2 inch blade, is worn suspended from the left shoulder down the back, and is a remnant of the "old days" soldiering in Africa.
The Draka Airborne's organisation is as follows:-
- 4 troopers = a "Stick" , commanded by a Monitor.
- 8 troopers = a "Lochos", commanded by a Decurion.
- 33 troopers = a "Tetrarchy", commanded by a Tetrarch.
- 110 troopers = a "Century", commanded by a Centurion.
Von Shrakenberg's forces comprised a reinforced Century.
The book also provides details of other Draka unit organisation, certainly sufficient for the gamer wishing to create his/her own battles. Note: Citizen units, even frontline ones, contain a mixture of males and females. Equality is total.
Weaponry and equipment of the Draka are mentioned in some detail.
Available to Von Shrakenberg's force are:-
- Holbars assault rifles, which appear similar to the Israeli Galil, although of 5mm calibre, and with 75 round drum magazines.
- 15mm Heavy Machine Guns.
- 60mm "Trench mortars".
- 85mm "Recoilless-rocket Guns".
- 100mm Automortars (they fire very fast, and use up amminition at the same rate! Only limited ammo is available remember).
- 120mm Recoilless guns.
- Flamethrowers (whilst mentioned in passing we hear nothing of their effectiveness).
- Demolition charges are widely available, containing 20lb of plastic explosive.
Weapons/equipment used by other Draka units are detailed in the book. Little Draka armour or heavy weapons are available to the Domination forces in this battle, however considerable use of captured vehicles/weaponry is evident.
The German forces are primarily standard (real) WW2, although some of the armoured vehicles are pure fantasy (albeit using real parts/weapons in a fantasy amalgamation). Due to the "politicking" between the SS.and the regular Army the SS are using a wide variety of captured/obsolete weapons, and conversions.
The Soviets are typical untermensch, and wouldn't be out of place in a Sven Hassel novel. The only Soviet armour mentioned in the book is that which has been captured by the Germans, and subsequently converted by them.
Steam transport, for lorries and such, was well advanced even from early times (1820s), and considerable improvements have been made since. Performance is on a par with petrol driven vehicles.
Whilst real world 1940s aircraft technology is present, considerable use is made of dirigibles, especially for cheap, long distance transportation. Primitive jets are becoming available.
Draka socialengineering has created a citizen population of supermen/superwomen, tall, strong, tireless and fearless, above all they are convinced of their divine right to conquer and rule.
20mm or 1/300th? It depends on what you've got available. As I've shown, all sides had to make the best of what's available. At least you.can now pit your modern US infantry, with Dragons and SMAWs, against your WW2 Eastern Front stuff with a clear conscience.
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