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Authors: Stuart Slade

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A Mighty Endeavor

BOOK: A Mighty Endeavor
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A MIGHTY ENDEAVOR
Stuart Slade

 

Copyright Notice

Copyright © 2012 Lion Publications Inc, 22 Commerce Road, Newtown, Connecticut 06470. ISBN 978-0-9859730-2-5.

Lion By Lion Publishing, A Forecast International Company

 

Previous Books In This Series

A Mighty Endeavor  (1940)
Winter Warriors  (1945)
The Big One  (1947)
Anvil of Necessity  (1948)
The Great Game  (1959)
Crusade  (1965)
Ride of The Valkyries  (1972)
Lion Resurgent  (1982)

Coming Shortly

Conflict of Interest  (1941)

 

Dedication

This book is respectfully dedicated to the memory of Air Chief Marshal Sir Wilfrid Rhodes Freeman

 

Acknowledgements

A Mighty Endeavor could not have been written without the very generous help of a large number of people who contributed their time, input and efforts into confirming the technical details of the story. Some of these generous souls I know personally and we discussed the conduct and probable results of the actions described in this novel in depth. Others I know only via the internet as the collective membership of the History, Politics and Current Affairs Forum, yet their communal wisdom and vast store of knowledge, freely contributed, has been truly irreplaceable.

The assistance of Shane Rodgers was invaluable in preparing the sections that deal with the political and economic development of Australia in the 1940/1941 era. His expertise and encyclopedic knowledge of these aspects of the story were utterly indispensable in ensuring the impact of the British actions described in this novel on Australia and the rest of the Commonwealth were properly represented.

I must also express a particular debt of gratitude to my wife Josefa; for without her kind forbearance, patient support and unstintingly generous assistance, this novel would have remained nothing more than a vague idea floating in the back of my mind

 

Caveat

A Mighty Endeavor is a work of fiction, set in an alternate universe. All the characters appearing in this book are fictional and any resemblance to any person, living or dead is purely coincidental. Although some names of historical characters appear, they do not necessarily represent the same people we know in our reality.

 

 

CHAPTER ONE: STATEMENT OF WORK

 

Government House, Calcutta, India, 7:30 AM, 19th June, 1940

“Get out of my way, you stupid man!”

Heads emerged from offices, civil servants were startled out of their usual calm demeanor by the sudden yell and the sight of the august personage of Sir Eric Haohoa running down the corridors of Government House. In fact, it was hard to decide which startled them most; the completely out-of-character rudeness or the fact that an Assistant Deputy Cabinet Secretary was running at all. It was unprecedented and, what was much worse, deeply alarming.

Sir Eric knew it; he realized he was creating an incident that would ripple throughout the whole of the building within minutes. The sight of the departmental char-wallah’s tea-trolley being unceremoniously kicked out of the way would ensure that. It couldn’t be helped. The char wallah watched him pass, his mouth hanging open in disbelief. Sir Eric grabbed a door post, swung around the corner and vanished from sight. Behind him, the quiet rustle of gossip spread and increased in volume as additional spectators added their opinions to the debate on What It All Meant. There was one consensus; between them, the operative word was ‘trouble’.

“What the dev  ‘‘ Sir Martyn Sharpe’s face ran through a quick gamut of expressions as his door burst open. First was anger that somebody dared enter his office without knocking, let alone advising his secretary and waiting to be called in. That expression faded quickly to pleasure at seeing his old friend, then even more quickly to concern that his friend was red-faced and panting for breath.

“BBC World Service, quickly.”

Sir Martyn turned the radio on. It crackled and whined slightly as it warmed up, then clicked as Sharpe pressed the pre-set button for the World Service. A familiar voice emerged from the static; the educated accent and precise pronunciation were quite unmistakable.

“And that was the news on this momentous day, and this is Alvar Lidell reading it. To repeat the main item of this bulletin, the war between Great Britain and Germany is over. An offer of an Armistice was received from Germany at noon Greenwich Mean Time and was presented to Cabinet by Lord Halifax. The terms contained therein were deemed to be satisfactory and the Foreign Office was therefore instructed to contact Herr Ribbentrop with British agreement to those proposed terms. With the signature of the Armistice by Herr Ribbentrop and His Majesty’s representative in Geneva, hostilities between Great Britain and Germany ceased at 6pm Greenwich Mean Time today, pending the negotiation of a final peace agreement.”

“I can’t believe it. I never thought Winston would just surrender like this.” Sir Martyn was aghast, his face white with shock.

“We don’t know he did. There’s been no mention of him.” Sir Eric coughed and took a deep breath. “We don’t know much at all about what’s happening over there. If one of the Secretaries hadn’t turned the radio on for the cricket scores, we’d have no idea about any of this going on. Everybody who heard has been sworn to secrecy of course, but the word will leak out soon anyway.”

“You mean we didn’t know?” If anything, Sir Martyn’s face went even paler.

“Nobody knows anything. Certainly not in the Cabinet Office, that’s for certain. The Viceroy’s office? I don’t...”

“We’ll soon find out.” Sir Martyn picked up the telephone on his desk. “Operator, connect me with Lord Linlithgow’s office. Topmost priority.”

He covered the mouthpiece with his hand while the connection was being made. “I doubt if the Marquess is in yet but I might catch Gerry, his Secretary
....
Hello Gerry? The boss not in?    Have you heard the news?    Britain’s out the war    No I’m not joking. It was on the BBC news    Alvar Lidell, of course. Certainly, I’ll hold.”

Sir Martyn covered the mouthpiece again. “Gerry’s checking the telegrams from London. So far nothing... Hello, Gerry, nothing at all? That’s very strange. You’d better get in touch with the Viceroy right away.”

“Is that as bad as it sounds Martyn? Has Britain caved in?”

“Worse. There’s been no communications at all from London. As far as we’re concerned, Britain has just dropped out of the war and left us holding the bag.”

 

Family Shrine, Bang Phitsan Palace, Bangkok, Thailand

Princess Suriyothai Bhirombhakdi na Sukothai lit the incense in front of the Buddha statue and bowed down, listening to the quiet chime fade away. She had struck the small gong as she had knelt before the statue to pray. The sound had taken her back, recalling the sounds of all the gongs she had heard over so many years. The last few years had been quiet. There had been the coup back in 1932 that had established an elected government in Siam and turned the Royal Family into a constitutional instead of an absolute monarchy. That much had been essential to guarantee both the survival of the country and the Monarchy she served. Some hotheads had wanted to go the whole way and turn the country into a Republic, but they had been easy to defeat. The couple of years spent maneuvering to frustrate them had been barely more than keeping in practice.
Still, it did give me some practical experience in commanding modern military units.

Suriyothai rebuked herself for not realizing that the present calm had been too good to last. Before it, there had been so many emergencies, so many problems to be solved, but none like this. It seemed a minor thing, far away. As she ran its implications and consequences through her mind, though, they spread and interlocked. Consequences and outcomes fell against each other, one influencing the next; each held potential for good or ill. All too many of those chains of cause and effect, of policies and consequences, led to disaster.

As she stared at the statue, her mind worried away at the problem. This was big, serious; it affected the whole world. Her country was but a small part of that world, dwarfed by the powers that surrounded it.
When elephants fight, mice get trampled.
The old saying ran through her mind, its implications stark and clear. If something wasn’t done and done fast, Thailand would be trampled into the dust. For a moment, her mind raged at the idiots in Europe who had set this ball rolling. She crushed the fleeting urge mercilessly, grinding it down until all that was left was ice-cold clarity of vision. That was her gift. She hadn’t always had it; once she had been as prone to allowing emotion to cloud her judgment as anybody else, but the art of crushing her emotions had been taught to her, patiently and comprehensively. The gift truly was a gift, and now she treasured it more than even the other gift, the one she so painstakingly concealed. She knew she would need every scrap of insight she had to maneuver her way through this situation.

The first thought that crossed her mind was that the sudden collapse of Britain and France in Europe put some of their prime assets within her reach. The lands stolen by France in the last half of the 19th century were one set of cherries ready to be plucked. The problem was that other people also had their eyes on those lands; most notably the Japanese. Once again, the images of elephants fighting crossed her mind. When elephants fought, there were only three ways for the mice to survive. One was to be somewhere else. That option did not exist. The second was to ally with one of the elephants. That option very definitely did exist. The third was to become an elephant. That option was also closed.

Or was it?
Suddenly, her mind snapped at the idea and bit into it, holding it hard.
Was it so impossible? Did the way things had so suddenly changed make it possible?
Suriyothai settled back on her heels. To any outside spectator, she was just continuing her worship at the family shrine. In reality, her mind was filled with a waterfall display; a sheet of colored lights interlocked and merged only to split apart again as the events that drove them eddied and swirled. As they did so, she assessed them and measured possibilities. One particular thread started to grow in greater prominence than the others; its color pulsed brighter and stronger than the rest. She looked at it and isolated it, examining it and its demands in depth. As she did so, she realized that it could be done. Not only could it be done;it was the only viable way out of the mess that had so suddenly been created.

She stood erect, holding her back rigidly straight, and stepped outside the shrine. Outside was her desk, an antique that had served her well for many years. If wood had a memory, this piece of furniture could tell a terrifying number of secrets. But if Suriyothai had believed that wood had a memory and could hold secrets, this desk would have been burned a long time ago. She started to write, her Thai script elegantly and perfectly formed. Once the message had been completed, she coded it from a book that was only known to her and her inner circle. Finished, she stood again, thoughtful and reserved. One of the implications of the course that she had set herself upon was that her anonymity would vanish. Her very existence was unknown outside tightly limited circles high in the Thai government. That would have to change. For good or ill, she was about to become a public figure.

“Lani, take this message. Ensure that it is sent by telegram to our embassies in London, Paris, New Delhi and Washington. Oh, and Canberra as well. Also ensure that it goes to our contacts at Jardine Matheson, Swire, Hutchinson-Whampoa, Hendersons, Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank; all the Hongs in fact. I will need to see their Taipans urgently. Finally, send copies to Loki in Geneva and Philip Stuyvesant in Washington.”

“You, your Highness?” Lani’s voice was concerned.

“Yes, me. And I will also need to see Marshal Plaek Pibulsonggram. I have urgent business that must be discussed with him.”

 

Room
208,
Munitions Building, Washington, DC,
USA

“Have we any idea of what is going on over there?” Henry L Stimson was bewildered. He’d got up this morning expecting the usual bad news about the war in Europe, but he knew neither just how much worse the situation would get nor just how quickly the slide downhill would gather speed.

“None. I hate to say it, but we’ve got virtually no insight into what has happened. We don’t even know who the British Prime Minister is. Is it Halifax? Or Churchill? Or somebody else entirely? Kennedy at the Embassy is worse than useless. All we’re getting from him is a barrage of nonsense about how it doesn’t matter to us who is top dog in Europe and it might as well be Germany as anybody else. Dear God, what is that man doing over there? A chimpanzee would make a better ambassador.”

BOOK: A Mighty Endeavor
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