Friday, October 16, 2015

AltHistory Scenario #12: What if Winston Churchill Died in the Boer War?

Ahhh, good old Sir Winston Churchill, the saviour of democracy (and the British Empire) in World War Two, a witty public speaker, and also a pretty good writer of history. Sure, he was the guy that had the brilliant idea of sending troops to Gallipoli, and also advocated for the arrest or even execution of Mahatma Gandhi, and also to keep millions of people under undemocratic colonial governments... but, you know, no one is perfect.

However, Churchill first came to public attention during the Boer War, one of those imperial scuffles that fill the history books, where the people in charge and the people living in an area not only are different but don't see eye to eye, and eventually just leads to armed conflict. Churchill was a war correspondent there, after serving in the Sudan and India, and was captured as a Prisoner of War when the armoured train he was riding in was ambushed. What if, instead, he was killed in that ambush?
Nothing like saying "This is pretty darn important" than having machine guns on a train.

Point of Divergence

Well... I think already mentioned how I wanted to change history this time. If you didn't get it, read the previous paragraph again.

Immediate Consequences

Churchill was a national hero when he returned from South Africa, and used it to get elected to the House of Commons, which he would sit in for the next sixty some years, on both Liberal and Conservative benches, in and out of power, and Prime Minister twice. The effects of the lack Churchill's presence wouldn't be felt until 1910, and the constitutional crisis of the period that eventually lead to the "People's Budget" of 1910 and the Parliament Act of 1911.  In both cases, Churchill supported and actively argued for the passage of both acts, but I feel that at this point he wasn't the deciding factor, so both would still be passed.

The next change would be 1911, when Churchill was made the First Lord of the Admiralty. Immediately he advocated that the coal fired ships of the Royal Navy, namely the big battleships, be converted to oil power, which was mostly achieved by 1913. Without Churchill to push for this reform, despite the approval of admirals like the famously argumentative and reform minded "Jackie" Fisher, it could take a longer period of time for oil to be adopted. This had the side effect where the British government wouldn't invest in the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, which, in the complicated history of business mergers and breakups, would eventually become British Petroleum, aka BP.

So, Gulf Coast residents, blame Winston Churchill for Deepwater Horizon!

In World War One, Churchill was still the First Lord, and pushed for the invasion of Gallipoli to capture Constantinople and force the Ottoman Empire from the war. Without Churchill to propose it, I wouldn't think that the British and French would try for an invasion of the Dardanelles, which also lead to the popular rise of an Ottoman solider who would later become known as Ataturk, the first President of a democratic Turkey...

Another thing Churchill got the Admiralty to investigate was "landships," to be used to break the stalemate of World War One. Without Churchill, the development of the tanks that helped the Allies win World War One wouldn't be developed until later, (they first arrived on the battlefield in 1916) and possibly still be in their infant stages in the next one.

World War One's result would not be much different, despite the lack of tanks, the possibility that the German navy could have been more successful against the still coal-fired Dreadnoughts of the British, but without the distraction of the Gallipoli campaign. So, in the end it would be a wash.

So... yay?

Later Consequences

However, World War Two is where Churchill's influence is most felt, and the area that will really be changed without Winston. As the PM of Britain in it's darkest hour, he was able to rally the British and prepare them for a long, bloody war. After the Fall of Poland, France, Norway, and the Low Countries. The Royal Navy would have been able to hold it's own, but with the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk, made possible when Hitler called a halt to the attack, the British people's desire for peace would come to the forefront.

A few more months of Phoney War, with limited air foray's by both forces to at least make it look like something was happening, but by August 1940, less than a year after the war started, a negotiated peace between Nazi Germany and the United Kingdom would take place. France was reformed, minus Alsace-Lorraine and some other land and shorn of it's colonies to be given to Germany, and Germany would pay the British for damages caused to British and Imperial forces in the war. The War in the West was over by Christmas.

Let's face it, this picture is one of the better tourist pictures taken in France in the past 100 some years.

However, this only dealt with Europe, at least as far as the British are concerned. In May, without having to rescue Mussolini from being trounced by the British in Egypt and Greece, Hitler would unleash his Blitzkrieg on the Soviet Union. With another month of prime campaigning weather on the Steppes, German armies would reach Moscow before it snows, killing Joseph Stalin in the desperate battle to try to hold the Germans back. With the Swastika over Moscow and Stalin dead, the Soviet Union completely fractures. A new Civil War between Stalin loyalists, supporters of the recently deceased Trotsky, monarchists, republicans, anarchists and fascists would all rise up and try to claim their own chunk of Russia. Germany, despite it's intentions of just claiming the land for their own use, would be dragged into this increasingly bloody battle, which would slowly wear down their strength, but not enough to collapse the Third Reich.

By mid-1941, relations between Japan, the UK and the US were falling, and with a surprise attack on Hong Kong and Pearl Harbor respectfully in December, both powers were dragged into war with Japan. Continued reverses, Japanese surprise attacks, difficult relations between the US (Roosevelt would be voted out in 1940, since there was no war in Europe for him to prepare America for) and the British would mean that the two powerful nations would spend more time squabbling than planning a combined strategy to defeat Japan. By 1944, war exhaustion in both Britain and the UK would lead to both nations finally making peace with a more powerful Japan. The world was finally back at peace, and in a totally different shape than before.

Somehow Japan always seems to come out of WWII Alternate History's pretty unscathed... Lucky bastards.

The British Empire would continue to survive, minus a few colonies in the Pacific (Australia and New Zealand would still be independent of the Japanese, but fear of a new invasion means both nations are heavily armed), and eventually India and the African colonies would be given Dominion status in a reformed Commonwealth, mostly because the British were still powerful enough to maintain military presence in the Colonies, but desire to cut costs would be the big reason that would happen. The Royal Navy still rules the waves, though mostly in the Eastern Atlantic.

As for the rest of the world, the United States would return to isolationism, not wanting to get dragged into another war with Japan, and sure as hell not Germany. Japan would be quite content with their Co-Prosperity Sphere, and soon would become a major economic power to rival their military success. Japan, the US and the UK all eye each other warily, still expecting a big war someday.

It will most likely break out because of THIS misunderstanding...

Germany, on the other hand, wouldn't be so lucky. While at the peak of their power after 1945, including detonating the first atomic bomb in occupied Ukraine in 1949 (the US got the bomb in 1950, the UK in 1954, and Japan by 1958), the exile of the "Jewish problem" to Madagascar and the German colonies in Southern Africa, and presiding over the occupation and subjection of all of Europe the death of Adolf Hitler (officially a heart attack, unofficially some syphilitic disease) by 1955 would result in the entire structure collapsing. Brutal struggles between Goering, Goebbels, Himmler, Rommel and other big name Nazi's would see the Third Reich be broken up into rival fiefdoms, armed with tanks, atom bombs and conscript armies. For years this Civil War would continue until an uneasy peace is made in 1962. The Nazi Empire is reunified under Erwin Rommel as the other big wigs die, some from suspicious causes, who makes it slightly more democratic, somewhat more stable, and significantly less insane. Russia is still a chaotic, anarchic mess that no one wants to deal with, and Latin America just switches between one Banana Republic dictator to another, just so long as American business interests are left alone.

Because why deal with the complicated cultural, political, historical, and linguistic differences of a huge chunk of the world when you can just ignore it?

By 1970, the Four Atomic Powers are now in a Cold War, much as Churchill had said would happen in 1946 when speaking in the US of the Iron Curtain. While proxy wars on the periphery of the major power's sphere of influences would continue, the Cold War still continues today.


For all his faults (and there are quite a few), I still believe that Winston Churchill is one of the most important men in world history, if just because he had a good strategic vision of how to win World War Two, if a flawed tactical expertise as Dardanelles, Crete and Italy showed. He was a brilliant speaker, a great writer, and did what he thought was best of the British people. If that meant a little self promotion, allowing the Empire to fracture, or working with his hated enemies in Soviet Russia, so be it.

Winston Churchill, 90 years of quotes and witty combacks that will last forever.

Without Churchill to rally the British people in May 1940, it's fair to say that the world would be in a lot darker place than it is now. It's a testament that, even when Britain was mostly alone, with the colonies thousands of miles away and months, if not years, away from supplying the homeland, the US still staunchly isolationist and facing down the greatest evil of modern times, Churchill would stand up in the House of Commons, and say that Britain, protected by the few of the RAF, would fight on the beaches and landing fields, never surrender. He rallied a people that just months before were willing to give in to Hitler's demands

If you think words have no meaning, look no further than Churchill

1 comment:

  1. I'll buy a four way cold war with an England in an uneasy truce with Germany. But if somehow Japan always comes out on top of WWII alternate histories, the USSR somehow always takes the worst drubbing. Even counting a war not fought on two fronts and Germany entering Russia earlier in the year, I still don't buy that Russia falls to the Nazis so spectacularly.

    Besides the fact that Hitler isn't the first Western European despot who tried to conquer Russia (Napoleon anyone?), there's also the fact that the Germans who were originally treated as liberators in the eastern territories like the Ukraine quickly soured that notion with their brutal occupation. Even assuming the Nazis could take Moscow and kill Stalin (who was possibly the one person on the earth more paranoid than Hitler, I really don't think this is even an option), I think the reverse of a devolution in the region would happen. No matter how bad some may have hated old Joe, having him assassinated by a foreign occupying force would make him an instant martyr for the cause of a free Russia. The sheer numerical difference in population between Germany and the other powers was always the Nazis' greatest weakness, and I think it would again hurt them here. The Nazis would get bogged down in a war of attrition a la Vietnam with a virulent, unified population intent on throwing out the invaders.

    If (and I do mean a very qualified if) Stalin were dead, I can see another strong man coming forward to fill the vacuum of power and organize a resistance. Once the Nazis were forced to leave Russia proper (the outer satellites I leave open for debate, but the Ukrainians really didn't like the Germans toward the end of the war), I can see this guy being a popular war hero that takes control. It really doesn't matter what faction this guy comes from, since Russia usually defaults to a centralized authoritarian state with limited benefits for the masses and a consolidation of power and influence for the elites no matter what they try to do.

    In short: don't ever count the Russia out. Time and time again throughout history they've taken the West by surprise, reminding us all they are an old, tough bird that isn't out of the game yet.