An International Blogfest for February 22nd


"The waters around Great Britain and Ireland, including the whole of the English Channel, are hereby declared to be a War Zone" (Admiral Hugo von Pohl)

An Englishman Alternate Historian writes - On this day Imperial Germany instituted unrestricted submarine warfare.

Great Britain had made a similar declaration three months earlier, using the Royal Navy to starve the Germans into defeat by classifying "food stuffs" as contraband. The severity of the British blockade did not go over well in America.

Alternate Historian
Blatantly provoked into retaliation by the British Admiralty, a fleet of twenty German U-boat moored at the Belgian port of Ostend began to sink Allied Ships at an alarming rate of two vessels per day, one hundred tonnes per month.
Because of the misuse of "false flags", neutral shipping was also put at risk and indeed von Pohl, the commander of the German High Seas Fleet warned that "it may not always be possible to prevent attacks on enemy ships from harming neutral ships".

On this day in history
The German Chancellor, Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg argued that "shoot without warning" would antagonize the United States and other neutrals such as Brazil, and although he was overruled, he was of course proven to be quite right. Now Germany was demonized; rather than Great Britain, the Fatherland soon became the target of popular outrage in the United States.

Lured into a disastrous misstep, Imperial Germany had taken the first step on the road to war with America. And the continuing brutalization of the twentieth century moved forward, with a frightening pace. Such is the tragedy of war.

What if Robert Stewart did not ascend the throne of Scotland and found the House of Stuart in 1371?

A German Dirk Puehl writes - With high probability Robert Stewart’s rebellion of 1363 marks one of the turning points of history in England’s troublesome north and the end of the independent medieval kingdom of Scotland. Even though the English suffered a serious drawback or three, the Battle of Neville Cross and the capture of the King of the Scots, David II, was the beginning of the end. David, in English confinement since his 17th birthday returned to his native land almost an Englishman and with no heirs but King Edward III’s pressure at his back to remit his enormous ransom in favour of naming a scion of the House of Plantagenet as successor to the throne of Scotland, he was a rather unwelcome monarch.

Robert Stewart who ruled Scotland after a fashion would neither accept David as a king nor an even stronger English dominance in his homeland. Invoking again the so-called “Auld Alliance” with France and buying continental mercenaries from the money that was intended as first instalment for David’s ransom according to the Treaty of Berwick, he and his conspirators, the Lords of Douglas and March, suddenly proved themselves to be a real threat in Edward’s back while he was campaigning in France.
Unable to put down the Stewart’s revolt with his own meagre resources, King David fled to York to await Edward’s reaction, while the rebels quickly threatened Northumberland and moved South with considerable strength and took Durham in late July. Edward acted promptly. Withdrawing his support for Pedro the Cruel in Northern Spain, he recalled his sons Edward of Woodstock and John of Gaunt from that theatre and hurried them and their battle-hardened troops north to Normandy to cross the channel before the beginning of winter.

An alternate history by Dirk Puehl
While the Stewart’s undisciplined troops occupied themselves with plundering Northumbria and Durham, the Plantagenet’s princes’ army arrived in the North in October 1363. Lord Douglas’ hastily assembled contingent was defeated at the Battle of Barnard Castle, Robert tried to withdraw back to Scotland but his withdrawal went slowly and was hindered by the large baggage carts filled with plunder that his men insisted to bring with them.

Dirk Puehl
His column was literally rolled up by the English and what was left defeated on November 1st in the All Saints’ Battle near Bamburgh Castle. The Stewart was taken captive and executed in London in 1364.

With a victorious Plantagenet army at his back, David could return to Edinburgh but had no choice to name an English prince as his heir – John of Gaunt was named heir apparent on Christmas Day 1363 and acceded the throne as John II of Scotland after David’s dead on February 22nd 1371.

A last glimpse of Scottish independence in the Middle Ages was at least in debate, when King John II fell out with his brother Richard II, King of England, but, after the latter’s untimely death in 1400, John’s son Henry was crowned King of England and Scotland, the name of Scotland being a historical footnote for “The North” for a very long time.

..Watson & Crick combine with Pauling and Franklin to propose the double helix model.

A Dutchman Marko Bosscher writes -

Watson and Crick abandon search for DNA structure. "At once I felt something was not right. I could not pinpoint the mistake, however, until I looked at the illustrations for several minutes."

An alternate history by Marko Bosscher
As the fifties started the race for the structure of DNA was about to begin. In 1951 Linus Pauling had accurately described the helix structure of proteins and he was confident he could do the same for DNA. In the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge Watson and Crick were discussing the structure of DNA among themselves, although they were not officially allowed to work on this subject. Meanwhile at King´s College in London Rosalind Franklin was working with Maurice Wilkins and Ph.D. student Raymond Gosling on X-ray diffraction images of DNA

Marko Bosscher
The race was on! And it officially became a three horse race when the head of the Cavendish Laboratory, Sir Lawrence Bragg, finally gave Watson and Crick permission to pursue their search for the structure of DNA.

Franklin meanwhile had a hard time of it. Only just arriving in King´s College after years of successful work on X-ray diffraction in France she immediately came into conflict with Wilkins, who had been conducting DNA research with Gosling. As a compromise the research team was split between Wilkins and Franklin, with Gosling assigned as her student. Pauling was a experiencing problems of a different kind, his nuclear activism had led to his passport being revoked. Leaving him unable to visit conference in England attended by the other major players, his assistant Robert Corey would take his place.

Under pressure to gain results quickly Watson and Crick created a preliminary model of DNA, with a triple helix structure. In Cambridge Wilkins and Franklin were on a collision course, as Wilkins became convinced that DNA had a helix structure Franklin came to the opposite conclusion. Franklin´s direct and often abrasive personality didn´t help matters either. After regaining his passport Pauling did visit England, but he did not take note of Rosalind Franklin´s images. Perhaps Corey had failed to realise their importance. Or perhaps he was too preoccupied with his own triple helix model.

At the start of 1953 things came to a head, Franklin had decided to leave King´s College and DNA research behind forever. But not before sending out manuscripts describing her research, among the papers were two that described a double helix structure. Pauling meanwhile had decided to publish his triple helix model of DNA, and a prepublication version was circulated at the end of January, Watson and Crick having read the Pauling paper realised it was flawed. Watson approached Franklin for cooperation in a final attempt to beat Pauling, but she dismissed them. Because they did not have a valid competing model Watson and Crick were forced to call of the hunt.

While the race was seemingly over Wilkins and Gosling continued to work on DNA, building off the work in previous years. Although Watson, who was friends with Wilkins, had a large amount of input on the final work it was Franklin whose name would appear on the paper. Wilkins, Gosling and Franklin became famous as the discoverers of the structure of DNA, while the important work of Watson and Crick was unjustly ignored.

In reality: After the row between Franklin and Watson in early 1953 Wilkins gave Franklin’s data (including the vital 'Photograph 51') to Watson and Crick, who used it to create their double helix model of DNA. Franklin’s paper was published as as a supporting piece and generally overlooked.

..and Ngo Dinh Diem is assassinated in 1957

An American Professor Jeff Provine writes -

While touring an economic fair in Buon Ma Thuot, President of the Republic of Vietnam Ngo Dinh Diem was shot pointblank by communist agent Ha Minh Tri. The president was killed immediately, causing an anti-communist uproar in South Vietnam and creating a wave of instability in the young state.

Following colonial expansion through military conquest in the 1850-80s, the Kingdom of Vietnam that was controlled by the Nguyen Dynasty became French Indochina along with further regions in Southeast Asia. The French built up plantations and sought to convert the populace to Catholicism.

The Vietnamese, however, reacted with increasing demands for civil liberty and nationalism that would be largely dismissed.
When France was defeated in Europe by Nazi Germany in 1940, the colonies were turned over to the Japanese in 1941, and the Viet Minh communist/nationalist movement led the rebellion under its leader Ho Chi Minh. After the liberation of France, the French Far East Expeditionary Corps arrived to combat Japan but instead went about suppressing the Vietnamese and reinstalling French Indochina. Supported by the Soviet Union and communist China, the Viet Minh fought on until 1954 when victorious at the Dien Bien Phu.

An alternate history by Professor Jeff Provine
Ho Chi Minh sought peace in the resulting Geneva Accords, and Vietnam was separated with a communist north and capitalist south along the 17th Parallel. It was to be a temporary separation to pacify both territories and lead to a nationwide election by 1956.

In South Vietnam, however, Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem overthrew Emperor Bao Dai in a 1955 referendum. Even at the time, the election was suspect when he won 98.2 percent of the vote. From the numbers of votes (which were counted by agents of his brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu), Diem received more than 100 percent support in several regions; for example, out of 450,000 registered voters in Saigon, Diem managed 605,025 votes. Diem proclaimed a Republic of Vietnam with himself as head and created a legislature that was simply to give popular support to his actions. Bao Dai warned world powers such as France and the United States not to trust Diem, but they saw this as the opportunity to block the spread of Communism in Asia after China had fallen. With international approval, Diem cancelled the 1956 national elections, claiming that had been an agreement made before the existence of the new Republic.

Professor Jeff Provine
Initially, Diem's term seemed beneficial. Citing his Catholic upbringing for his policies, he closed opium dens, brothels, and the organized crime of Binh Xuyen. However, his Catholicism proved extreme, and Diem soon turned state forces against the Buddhist Hoa Hao organization.

The sweeping executions of potential enemies caused Diem to lose public favor, but he maintained power through public relations, diplomacy with the United States (who shared his fervent anti-Communism), and Nhu's use of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam Special Forces. In the midst of the oppression, Diem's rule was cut short as another photo op allowed Ha Minh Tri to walk up and shoot the president.

Nhu quickly seized power, but, despite his often public self-applause for his intelligence, he was not popular. His ARVN was exposed as a personal army already clashing with locals as well as Cambodians, and hubris led to further exposure of corruption, such as his wife's extortion schemes. Since Nhu had never been elected, protests called for new elections, and international opinion agreed.

Pressure forced Nhu to begin elections in 1958, already planning to move troops, censor papers, and ensure his victory. Nhu did not possess the Teflon class of his brother, however, and even his own ARVN turned against him, leading to his exile in Australia. With open elections in 1959, physician and prominent government critic Phan Quang Dan became president and quickly began to reconstruct the nation along genuine democratic grounds.

Dan's government proved nationalist as well as anti-communist. Ho Chi Minh, now seventy years old, had conducted mass support of insurgency through the late 1950s, primarily through assassinating local leaders and installing supporters of communism. With a policy of "armed propaganda", he instructed, "If an assassination is necessary, use a knife, not a rifle or grenade. It is too easy to kill innocent bystanders with guns and bombs, and accidental killing of the innocent bystanders will alienate peasants from the revolution. Once an assassination has taken place, make sure peasants know why the killing occurred". While Diem and Nhu had combated this with violent witch hunts, Dan proved more able to win popular support and show communists as the antagonists. He was friendly with US support, but did not take in luxuries and military aid as the previous presidents had.

Ho Chi Minh stepped down from party leadership as Le Duan rose to power. In 1960, North Vietnam organized the National Liberation Front to unify communists in the South, but by 1963, it had lost much of its support despite Le Duan's warmongering. Ho worked behind the scenes to motivate the North Vietnamese government into coming into peace with the South, which was readily accepted by Dan. The two Vietnams lived side-by-side, eventually warming to one another as the horrors of the Khmer Rouge were seen across the border in Cambodia. Following the restructuring of communism in 1986, new bids for peaceful reunification grew, and Vietnam was again whole in 1997.

In reality, Ha Minh Tri missed Diem entirely, hitting only the Secretary of Agrarian Reform in the arm before his weapon jammed and he was subdued. Diem and his family would face another assassination attempt by air force officers bombing the palace, but he would remain in power until a coup in 1963 led by General Duong Van Minh. Minh was himself overthrown the next year, and continued turnovers in government along with the spread of the Vietnam War resulted in the fall of Saigon in 1975.

And last, but not least, Robbie A. Taylor writes -

1345 AH
Sukarno, Caliph of the Sumatrans, is overthrown by his highest general, Suharto. For two years, Caliph Sukarno had been dependent on Suharto's military prowess to defend himself from rebels within his nation, and had become too weak to resist Suharto when the general decided to seize power. 

Comrade Ambassador George Kennan sends his famous "Long Telegram" back to the Soviet States of America (S.S.A). In it, he details that the European monarchies cannot foresee "permanent peaceful coexistence" with the communist Americans. He said that the monarchies would "do all that they could to weaken the power and influence of the Western Powers on colonial, backward and dependent peoples". This telegram provoked the S.S.A. into a long-running Cold War with the European powers.

A selection of alternate histories by Robbie Taylor1998
The deadliest series of tornadoes in Florida's history provides the impetus for Vice-President Al Gore to begin a study of climate change. Already an environmentalist, Gore was alarmed at the massive changes in the climate that many scientists were predicting could soon become irreversible. He runs for the presidency with a passion and urgency that moves the nation, and sweeps in a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives to aid him in his work. The Senate is split evenly, so his vice-president, Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, is more important than any VP in decades. With Gore's skills and commitment, the warming of the earth was slowed, and Wellstone continued his former boss' work when he was elected president in 2008.

Robbie's latest e-book "The Tree Of Knowledge (The Chelsea Perkins Trilogy)" is now available from Amazon
Georgia's Governor Archibald Bulloch thwarts an assassination attempt as a Loyalist steward brings him a cup of wine laced with arsenic. When he accidentally spills the cup, the enraged Tory tries to strangle him, but Bulloch wins their struggle. The governor then uses the near-total powers he had been granted by Georgia's rebel government to rally the state's colonists and send them into war for the rebel cause. Bulloch is such a successful leader in the revolution that he maneuvers himself into the newly-created office of president of the new nation after the revolution, and influences the writing of the constitution to give himself powers similar to his near-complete control of Georgia. The other states chafe under his presidency, and the formerly united states dissolve into regional war in Bulloch's 5th year in office. The wars end when Bulloch is shot dead by a member of his staff, Thomas Paine, who had been planted close to the president in order to get the opportunity to kill him. Another Constitutional Convention is called to rewrite the document that had granted so much power to the president, and a tripartite government is born from the ashes of Bulloch's dictatorship in 1797.

Robbie Taylor, Creator of Today in Alternate History Alternate Historian, Editor of Today in Alternate History Dirk Puehl, Editor of #Onthisday Professor Jeff Provine, Editor of This Day in Alternate History Marko Bosscher, Guest Reader of #Onthisday

Today's quintiple post forms a new and exciting development of the structure of our weekly collaboration: Alternate Historian writes about a real event in German History, whilst the Reverend Robbie A. Taylor, Professor Jeff Provine, Dirk Puehl and Marko Bosscher write about a fictionalized event in American and English Alternate History.

An International Blogfest for February 15th

"Steinway is the only piano on which the pianist can do everything he wants. And everything he dreams" (Vladimir Ashkenazy)

15th February, 1797. An Englishman Alternate Historian writes - On this day maker of the finest American and German handmade pianos Henry Engelhard Steinway was born in Wolfshagen im Harz in the Duchy of Brunswick.

After service in the volunteer corps in the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, he became an apprentice to an organ builder in the town of Goslar.

He soon discovered his love for music and became an organ player in the church. He started building instruments, though hidden in the kitchen of his house because of the strong rules of the guild. In Braunschweig, he started by building guitars and zithers, and then graduated to pianos, of small proportions initially and gradually increasing in size.

He emigrated to the United States after the 1848 revolution. In New York City under the business name of Steinway & Sons, he and his family advanced the durability, action, and tone-quality of the instrument.

Purpose built using selected woods, each piano takes a year to make. Amongst many, many awards, the company holds a royal warrant by appointment to Queen Elizabeth II.

“Who is the third who walks always beside you? When I count, there are only you and I together. But when I look ahead up the white road There is always another one walking beside you. Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded I do not know whether a man or a woman -But who is that on the other side of you?” (T.S. Eliot, “The Waste Land”)

15th February, 1874. A German Dirk Puehl writes - Birth of Irish Explorer Ernest Shackleton.

It was grim irony that the wreck of the “Nimrod“ was discovered drifting in the pack ice on Ernest Shackleton’s birthday by his old rival Roald Amundsen on February 15th 1911. Since Amundsen was a Norwegian citizen and not subject to the gagging orders imposed by British Home Secretary Winston Churchill and the Admiralty, at least some of the quite disturbing news of Amundsen’s discovery leaked out, but were mainly covered by rather dubious elements of the international press and Amundsen, fearing for his reputation as a scientist, refused to comment on his discovery in public until his death in 1928 and the mystery of Shackleton’s death and the fate of the “Nimrod” were soon overshadowed by the outbreak of the Great War.

Fact is that Amundsen alerted the sealing steamer “Aurora” to make contact with British authorities who send the Port Stanley-based cruiser HMS “Glasgow” to investigate. Alerted by wireless, London decided to create virtually a restricted area in Antarctica by dispatching a whole squadron of cruisers under the command of Rear-Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock. Cradock's first action was to seize Amundsen’s logs and records and send him on his way in the “Fram”.

Protests of the Norwegian and German government were officially ignored. The little-known “Nimrod” protocol, passed during the London Conference of 1912, finally ended similar international irritations and made Antarctica the “no-go area” it was until the late 1950s, the naval blockade, joined by the United States, Japan and France, was in place until 1936.

What actually happened to Shackleton, his crew and the “Nimrod” remains a mystery. Rumour has it that the wreck in the pack ice had her masts shorn off, not broken, like the pressure on the hull would lead to expect. Her superstructure was covered in a greenish substance that emitted a glow even in frozen condition, members of her crew allegedly encapsulated in the fluorescent. Besides that, Amundsen’s family is supposed to have donated artefacts to Borgarsyssel Museum in his native Sarpsborg after his death that might hint to the discovery of Shackleton’s base camp on the Antarctic mainland by Amundsen, among them several bottles of MacInlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt and bas-reliefs found on the spot by Shackleton and his crew. None of these items are displayed and Borgarsyssel Museum continuously denies their existence. However, after the extensive nuclear tests the US and USSR conducted in the area of Mount Erebus and Cape Royds in 1957 and 1959 respectively, the fate of Shackleton will in all probability remain a mystery forever.

..and would-be Saboteurs are Caught aboard USS MAINE

An American Professor Jeff Provine writes -

Shortly after nine o’clock in the evening, a group of men were caught attempting to sneak aboard the USS Maine while it rested in Havana Harbor, defending American interests during the Cuban insurrection. The five men were carrying with them explosives and were believed to have been headed toward the storage of the ship’s powder charges for its six-inch and ten-inch guns. The discovery had been nearly happenstance as one man coughed too loudly and the crew on patrol thought to double-check.

The men were separated and questioned, and each gave wildly different stories. Crewmen leaked the investigation, and rumors exploded into news. Fueled by yellow journalism, the men were believed to be saboteurs from Spain, attempting to knock America out of its defensive position with Cuba; or, Cubans hoping to spark a war between the United States and Spain; or, mercenaries hired by the U.S. government to blow up their own ship and instigate a war that would bring in a wealth of captured territory for a new empire. Some even said that they had been hired by newspapermen Hearst or Pulitzer to precipitate a reason to sell more papers, but these rumors did not appear in print.

The whole of America rose up in anger over the ordeal, but there was no consensus on how to act. Some demanded war with Spain, others demanded war with the Cuban revolutionaries that America had previously supported, and still others demanded the Maine to leave Havana and the US wash its hands of the whole matter. President McKinley weighed his options carefully and finally decided to bring the diplomatic ordeal with Spain to an end as quickly as possible.

He dispatched orders to Admiral Dewey in Hong Kong to sail toward the Philippines (also fighting for its independence) in case anything got out of order. Congress and the President worked together to create a reasonable ultimatum for Spain, ignoring many of Republican Senator Redfield Proctor’s demands for war. The Spanish government weighed its options and finally decided to concede in Cuba and the Philippines

In exchange for a massive gift of “dollar diplomacy” (to be paid back by bonds from the new Cuban and Filipino governments), Spain would grant its colonies their independence. America, meanwhile, would gain valuable coaling stations and naval bases. The Pilón-Woodward Treaty that summer ironed out the diplomatic details, and the cries for war were silenced. Several Americans, such as Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt, spoke out that the nation had not acted valiantly enough, but for the most part the populace had come to ease with international relations. Other imperial-minded Americans called for expansion into the Pacific rather than merely opening markets, such as conquering the Philippines rather than holding content with bases at Manila and Luzon. Letters from Sanford Dole the newly formed Republic of Hawaii offered the islands to McKinley.

Hawaii would become the new battleground as many politicians and businessmen hoped to support it as a new territory. However, the American Anti-Imperialist League formed around such famous members as Andrew Carnegie, Mark Twain, Samuel Gompers, and Senator George Boutwell. Their collective clout broke up the imperialist calls prominent in the press, and America returned to a sense of dollar diplomacy as McKinley refused Dole’s offer. Hawaii would later be returned to the Hawaiian Royal family, and it retains close political ties to the United States to this day.

The divided Republican Party in 1900 would result in the narrow election of President William Jennings Bryan and Vice-President Dewey, heralded as the man who won the Philippines its independence without firing a single shot. Dewey received a great deal of political criticism for his comment that "Our next war will be with Germany," which was proven correct some eighteen years later.

“Remember the Maine!” became a popular cry among Navy security as they patrolled in the early twentieth century. A policy of stringent observance of any possible attack became the norm, which proved effective in the detection of the Japanese carrier fleet approaching the base at Pearl Harbor in 1941.

In reality, the Maine suffered a grave explosion that destroyed the front third of the ship with the rest sinking almost immediately. Only 94 of the 355 crew survived, and the spirit of revenge rose up from America, urged on by the New York Journal’s cry for war. The widely successful Spanish-American War brought a new age of expansionism to the United States with gains in Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines.

And finally, Robbie A. Taylor writes - In Hellenic Year 3362, Socrates flees Athens, confirming his guilt to all citizens. He lives the remainder of his life in shameful exile in Thrace, and his work and students no longer commanded respect among the elite in Athenian society. Even today, he is an obscure philosopher of that great era in Hellenic history. 

In 1, his excellency, Xosrov II, king of all Persia and emperor of the civilized world, took the reigns. All calendars begin from his reign's start. He is most famous for reuniting the Roman Empire and extending it into Asia after tamping down the cult that had divided the ancient empire into 2 halves.

In 1869, Jefferson Davis goes on trial for high treason against the United States. He is found guilty, obviously, and sentenced to death by hanging. It was thought that President-Elect Grant favored  leniency, but since he did not take office for another month, President Johnson allowed the hanging to go forward, and close this chapter of the war between the states.

Robbie Taylor, Creator of Today in Alternate History Alternate Historian, Editor of Today in Alternate History Dirk Puehl, Editor of #Onthisday Professor Jeff Provine, Editor of This Day in Alternate History

Today's quadruple post forms a new and exciting development of the structure of our weekly collaboration: Alternate Historian writes about a real event in German History, whilst the Reverend Robbie A. Taylor, Professor Jeff Provine and Dirk Puehl writes about a fictionalized event in American and English Alternate History.

February 8th

"Shield and Sword of the Party" Meanwhile, in Alternate History....Queen Elizabeth II plays a more active and far-sighted role during the Suez Crisis.
8th February, 1950. On this day the Ministry for State Security was formally established in East Berlin with Soviet help by German communists in Soviet-occupied Germany after World War II. Although it was an independent East German organization, it co-operated with counterparts in the Soviet Union and was widely praised by Soviet intelligence for its extensive operations.

Ruling most aspects of daily life for almost forty years, their job was to spy on everybody in East Germany to make sure they weren't doing anything detrimental to the interests of the ruling Communist regime. And by 1989, approximately two million informers from virtually every factory, office, military unit, school, university, hospital, and church. had been drawn into their incredibly far-reaching network.

Described as one of the most effective and repressive intelligence and secret police agencies in the world, the Stasi employed a total of almost three hundred thousand people in an effort to root out the class enemy. The KGB even invited the Stasi to establish operational bases in Moscow and Leningrad to monitor visiting East German tourists. You could say that they had out-Russianed the Russians.

After the collapse of the totalitarian regime, almost three million individuals requested to see their own files. Many former East Germans were startled to learn that their friends and families reported on them, either voluntarily or through coercion.

"The sovereign has under a constitutional monarchy such as ours, three rights – the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, the right to warn." (Walter Bagehot, 1867)

When the “Maléter Note“ reached the British Foreign Ministry, a warning by the commander of an armoured division stationed in Budapest that the Soviets were about to crush the Hungarian insurgents on October 29th, the young Queen Elizabeth II, in office for just three years was shown top secret government papers for the first time – in this particular case the plans of the imminent Anglo-French invasion of Egypt.

It was probably her estrangement towards Winston Churchill and his opposition against the dismemberment of the Empire that made the young Queen remind Prime Minister Anthony Eden of his promise “peace comes first, always" –and a remarkably farsighted assessment of Great Britain’s post-war role. The US and Soviets already struggling for influence in the Near and Middle East would not let a war against Egypt go unpunished – and the US special allies could hardly condemn a Soviet invasion of Hungary and support a Western attack on Egypt, especially with Eisenhower’s support of the decolonisation process.

The young queen’s exertion of influence behind the scenes did cause some upheaval in British and French military circles, but the task force of 6 six allied aircraft carriers and a battleship did nothing but threaten off the Egyptian coast – while Khrushchev threatened the UK, France and Israel with a massive “rocket attack” should they dare to attack Nasser’s Egypt or the Suez Canal – and invaded Hungary. A signal towards potential Arab allies about how the Soviet Union would treat their foederati if they didn’t toe the line. A major setback for Soviet influence in the Middle East.

The first immediate lesson the U.K. as well as France learned beyond ultra-conservative sabre-rattling was the necessity of a third power in the emerging cold war if both ex world powers wouldn’t want to be on the drip of either the US and the USSR forever – the latter’s foreign minister Molotov made France an offer almost too good to refuse: French neutrality and withdrawal from the NATO versus cessation of Soviet support for Algerian rebels.

But Prime Minister Guy Mollet decided to stick to the West – and, not without the leverage of the new “Queen of Hearts”, arranged the quiet integration of France into the Commonwealth of Nations – with Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway following within the next five years. The third power, the Commonwealth, had indeed been established in the Mid-Sixties. 

Today's dual post follows the structure of our weekly collaboration: Alternate Historian writes about a real event in German History, whilst Dirk writes about a fictionalized event in English Alternate History.

2nd February

Birth of Konstantin von Neurath Meanwhile, in Alternate History....Lord Dover, Saviour of the Royal Navy
Aristocrat, Diplomat, convicted Nazi War Criminal Konstantin Freiherr von Neurath born on this day one hundred and forty years ago at the baronic manor of Kleinglattbach in the South German Kingdom of Württemberg.

Appointed into the "Cabinet of the Barons", it was his prestigious long-service as Foreign Minister (a post his father earlier held) during the Governments of Chancellors Franz von Papen, Kurt von Schleicher and then Adolf Hitler (1932-8) that gave crucial international credibility disguising the triumph of the criminal right. And it was more the long-term damage caused by this false respectability rather than the expression of his own direct authority as a Reich Minister (and later Protectkor of Occupied Czechoslovakia) that led to his sentencing at the Nuremburg Trial (pictured; the headphones were donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial).

Perhaps most damning of all he knew better, having witnessed the Armenian Genocide first hand on the diplomatic service of the Kaiser, he issued orders from his office in Prague Castle to persecute Jews in Bohemia and Morovia.

Held as a war criminal in Spandau Prison until November 1954, he was released in the wake of the Paris Conference, officially due to his ill health - he had suffered a heart attack. He retired to his family's estates in Enzweihingen, where he died two years later, aged 83.

"I have neither intrigued nor caballed; I have in a great degree secluded myself from company to avoid all suspicion and misrepresentation, and have rested with a most resigned confidence in your Majesty's goodness to me, and having assured your Majesty that I was only your's, I have carefully avoided every other connexion and support". (Welbore Ellis, Lord Dover)

Succeeding Lord Hawke today, 242 years ago, as First Lord of Admiralty, Welbore Ellis, Lord Dover, not only kept on the good work of his predecessor in reforming the Royal Navy but surpassed him - mostly by being one of the few upright persons in the otherwise chaotic and corrupt government of Lord North.

With the growing problems in Britain's American Colonies, Dover's reform of the naval yards and especially naval suppliers saw the Royal Navy well prepared, when troubles became all-out war and the European powers joined in.

Dover's reforms did not only cut costs for fleet maintenance by more than 25%, allowing for a sufficient number of ships-of-the-line in European waters as well as on the North American station but had a lasting effect on the virulent nepotism up to then prevailing in the promotional system of the Navy. 

Today's dual post follows the structure of our weekly collaboration: Alternate Historian writes about a real event in German History, whilst Dirk writes about a fictionalized event in English Alternate History.