The way forward with the don’t wake the lion (aka WOBTL ) timeline – the conundrum
The underlying premise is an Anglo/Dutch/Flemish vs Nationalist Right wing France conflict set in approx 1940-1. The rationale is a conflict further to a break up of Belgium along ethnic lines with France supporting the Walloons and Dutch (supported by GB) supporting the Flemish. Leaving aside plausibility of the Point of Departure the objective was a slightly different WW2 era AH from the usual ‘what if’ scenarios which have been put forward (which seem to revolve around the unmentionable sea mammal or Overlord/Sledgehammer what if)
I have had more than one go at revisiting the timeline to close off one loose end that was threatening the integrity of the timeline (i.e. why Germany would remain neutral or at the minimum non-belligerent). However I am still left with some fundamental integrity issues the most significant of which are the mis-match in force strengths – need it to be more even or the BEF would not even get time to deploy, and also how to ‘break up’ the Belgian forces along ethnic lines. My original premise would be to simply split the 1940 OOB on a 60:40 split but whilst easy would be difficult to do well and risk alienating any readers with knowledge of the Belgian OOB. Personally an AH is irrevocably spoiled for me if the writer makes some glaring errors like Matildas taking on Tigers in 1940 ! and I risked doing that myself by arbitrarily splitting the Belgian by location or 60/40 split.
I think I need to argue this out ‘aloud’ to help me position the re-write.
As I see it I have following options
- Stick with original ‘plot (Nazi Germany engaged in East) – pros no rewrite required cons doesn’t really explain why Germany will not be engaged, Belgian forces split issue, relative OOB issue
- Go with the July 2008 re-write (Hitler deposed in 1938) – pros and cons as option 1
- New option – Option 2 but the POD is 1933/4 (i.e. before Hitler comes fully to power Von Papen victorious variant – still premise of split Belgium. Pros more plausible military takeover (no oath of loyalty) Cons – rewrite required (again) Belgian force integrity issue and relative OOB issue.
- New option – radical rewrite Earlier German POD (as option 3) but Belgian integrity maintained – France invades united Belgium. Pros – greater historical integrity of Belgian armed forces and indeed territory, greater depth of territory to defend and greater OOB equality (i.e. conflict may last longer), no need to manufacture ethnic disintegration. Cons – major rewrite required, need to have revised ‘cover story’ (although may now be pre-emptive rather as result of disintegration).
I was ‘minded’ to go with option 4 as despite the cons it has the major advantage of being to be able to use historical Belgian OOBs. I am also conscious that the original premise was perhaps anachronistic projecting late 20th century values with respect to self government onto the 1940s. Whilst there are Flemish/Walloon issues in the 1940s they are not as strong as those that we have seen over the last few years. The more I think about it a united Belgium (albeit with a vocal Walloon pro French movement) makes much more sense and makes writing easier an reduces the risk of the AH integrity being compromised further.
All of the above have the anglo-france split plausibility issue which is the 500lb gorilla in room which just won’t go away.
That said a new option (or options) has arisen moving from the AH/counter factual to the hypothetical/alternate (but recognisably similar) reality, a world where a country which looks very much like Great Britain but isn’t but with same equipment etc takes on a country that looks like France but isnt.
The new extra options are
5. Use real world countries renamed
Pro – easy for reader to ‘get’ but gets over OTL plausibility issues
Cons – limited by many of same as the AH version
6. Use completely made up world (with early 1940s technology)
Pros – blank sheet of paper
Cons –need to reinvent whole world
At the moment I’m wavering towards option 5 (just so I don’t have to reinvent a whole world and the reader will be able to read without knowing the geography.