French Army: 2300AD
'Mon général I do not doubt what you say. It is indeed true that 9e Corps had no fewer than 12 armoured regiments under command at the start of February 2302. That, as you say, in total it amounted to more than 600 'tanks'.
'Yet of these no fewer than six regiments were formations equipped with obsolete ABR-76, and three of those were newly converted militia. I'm not even going to attempt to describe the 'soixante-seize' as a tank. The three Coloniale regiments of the 100e DLB had just given up those very same 'soixante-seize' for cast-off AC-8s which had seen better days in the 'bled' and when I saw them for were good only for scrap. The boys from la Coloniale are good soldiers, but it takes more than a few months to master 'la guerre de manœuvre'.
'So we are now down to the 150 AC-12s of the 21e DM, my regiment of Spahis and two regiments of Cuirassiers. Excellent vehicles and excellent troops rotated in from the Armée de Manœuvre. So 150 first rank AFV, 150 obsolete AFV and 300 moving targets and only half of the total with properly trained crews.
'Do not blame the troops if they don't have the tools. Don't you dare attempt to shift the blame from where it really lies…
'In contempt mon général? I certainly am!'
Translated extract from the testimony of Commandant Messaoud to the Imperial Court of Inquiry, Continent Français, January 2303
The French Army in the 20th Century had a bitter time. The glories of Napoleon had long faded and the two bloody conflicts with Germany had ended in draining, pyrrhric victories and the humiliation of occupation. After the war the army became involved in the long fight to disengage from France's first colonial Empire and as a result of political instability at home became increasingly politicised.
However the French took a decision to stay out of the looming 3rd World War and concentrate on the development and protection of the Francophonie an economic union of European and African French speaking states that would eventually become a political union, and later still the 3rd French Empire. It was at this time that the French Army was used ruthlessly in pursuit of the protection of French interests, and would become the paramount force in global military affairs.
It was the Army that laid the foundations for the so-called French Peace which enabled humanities' long and slow recovery from the after-effects of the nuclear war. The army would also intervene directly in the internal politics of many of the nations comprising the Francophonie and once again Algeria was brought into the French sphere. Slowly many of the African nations were politically integrated into the French Union and their armies swallowed up into the expanding French Army, which after this time was never completely 'French' again.
The discovery of FTL travel and the establishment of French colonies created another role for the Army. Colonists flooded from the French Union into many diverse and challenging colony worlds. But the humiliating Alpha Centauri War with Argentina caused the French to send military garrisons to protect their colonists. Initially these were provided by Marines and the Legion, but soon colonial and militia regiments were being raised to supplement the regulars.
The French Army has always had a more political role than other western armies, primarily because of France's often chronic political instability. Indeed across the whole spectrum of the Francophonie sometimes perhaps the Army provided the only unifying element. However France's involvement in the bloody Central Asian War during the 2280's changed the military's involvement with the central government in Paris. The war was badly misconceived and the capabilities and willingness to fight of the Manchurians badly underestimated. French forces generally fought well, but were hampered by half-hearted political support. France and Russia were on the brink of defeat and only saved by Japanese intervention.
At the wars end in 2287 returning leaders led by the 'Les Colonels', a group of highly decorated veteran combat officers, spoke out loud and often about the political malaise and lack of support for the military. The shaky 12th Republic didn't want to deal with the opprobrium raised by the Colonels and tried to get them posted off-world or back to the peacekeeping forces in the Central Asian Republic. However the fiery parachute Colonel Phillipe Kiefer refused to keep silent and published numerous tracts in the national press. Eventually the government jailed him on spurious 'national security' charges. The 'Kiefer Affair' coincided with the final blocking of a defence bill which utterly exasperated the GQG (High Command) and using public support for the Colonels and Kiefer the military launched a coup. In the early hours of Bastille Day, 2289 the veteran paras of the 11e DI were on the streets of Paris and the 12th Republic was over-thrown by the military Junta.
Unfortunately the Junta had none of the reforming zeal of the Colonels and often little sympathy with them. And whilst a series of military reforms were introduced the Junta seemed more interested about handing out monopolies of key industries to friendly businessmen. The malaise in the Army continued almost unabated, and the much needed restructuring highlighted by the Central Asian War was slow in coming. The Junta took little interest in the independence campaign underway in the colony of Elysia on Joi, resorting only to increasingly heavy-handed measures.
The Junta was also taken somewhat by surprise by the Reunification of the northern and eastern German states under Hannover's auspices. The increasing pressure being put on France's closest ally Bavaria to come under the new union was also disdainfully dismissed by the Junta. When the new Germany Army crossed into Bavaria against only scattered resistance the French Army was caught unawares with heavy commitments in the Central Asian Republic and with the guerrilla conflict on Joi. They were able only to protect those Bavarian soldiers and units who opted to oppose the Reunification as they crossed the border into France.
Humiliated the Junta held a full scale mobilisation of the mainly conscript French territorial defence forces (DOT), but neglected to recall those elements of the Manouvre Army from the CAR or bring in substantial reinforcements from Africa or the Colonies. By these measures the military government managed to alarm the Germans without actually providing themselves with the numbers of troops that would actually be required to separate Bavaria from the new German state.
When war actually came French operations were limited to a slow moving, slogging match through the heavily urbanised Rhineland that was easily contained by the Germans. Germany's counter assault was far more effective as fast moving columns of hover-mobile armour punched through a hole created in the defences of the Ardennes. The French mobile reserves from the Manouvre Army were able to eventually bring the assault to a halt on the Somme in the Battle of Picardy. In fact at this stage the initiative was beginning to swing to the French, with reinforcements arriving from Africa and the CAR. Ultimately the Junta had lost the moral battle and pushed for an armistice.
The Armistice was a stunning victory for Germany. She gained recognition of her new borders, tied up French units that might have intervened in rebellious Flanders, and created the impression of a young, ambitious country that united the German people. For the Junta it was an utter humiliation, and it was swept from power on the election of Ruffin's 'Meritocracy' which included several of the Colonels. As in Central Asia the Army had mostly fought well, but the public perception of the defeat and army bungling meant that morale hit rock bottom. The French Army once again became the butt of cruel jokes across Europe.
The new incumbents in the Defence Ministries were determined to rectify this situation, and defence spending was vastly increased. The long delayed structural reforms were rushed in and re-equipment programs swelled the order books of French factories. This regeneration of the Army was part of the reason for Ruffin's eventual election as Emperor. By 2300 the Army had been engaged heavily against the alien Kafers on Aurore on the frontier of the French Arm. Its good showing has started to regain some confidence in its abilities, yet no-one was predicting what was to come next.
After the War of German Reunification French military operations on the French Arm's Eta Bootis finger were largely aimed at a watching brief over the German colonies of Hochbaden and Dunkelheim. This changed with the contact of the alien Kafers by the Station Arcture. The militaristic and aggressive nature of the Kafers was evident from the off and the small Auroran garrison was boosted by the arrival of the II/2e REI and TIS special forces units. Some far sighted officers put in place measures to increase the readiness of the militia, but these were relatively limited.
The assault, when it came, was a brutal one, smashing the Franco-Ukrainian fleet from the system. Bombardment and landings came soon after and all the colonies were subjected to fierce ground attack. However this simultaneous attack was to prove the Kafer's undoing, although Novoa Kiyev was over-run Aurore Français and Tanstaafl managed to hold off the attack. The Franco-Ukrainian fleet bolstered by the Germans at Hochbaden waited for reinforcements and with them came units of the TIS and the regular 5e DM despatched from Beta Canum with a mixed bag of Légion Étrangère and Coloniale units. On Aurore the population was mobilised and incorporated into an expanding Milice Coloniale which fought the Kafers to a stalemate.
When the human fleet returned to the system in July of 2298 the commander of the 5e DM led the landings around the Cité d'Aurore and his units were soon in combat with the Kafers. A month later a further divisional HQ arrived from the Core with more reinforcements and was thrown into the action. A corps HQ was brought in to control the defence of the colony. The French learned many lessons from this experience, up till then one of the biggest movements of troops by starlift ever. The French were soon joined by Ukrainian reinforcements, mercenaries recruited off-world for the Tanstaafl Free Legion and an increasing influx of combat supplies. Eventually the multi-national Armée d'Aurore was set up to co-ordinate the multi-national effort.
At the time of the Invasion France's ground military effort on the French Arm was very much focused on the tail end of the campaign on Aurore. The Armée d'Aurore had reached a very high level of expertise in counter-Kafer operations and some units attached to the Army were preparing for operations beyond Arcturus. Elsewhere on the Arm tensions remained high on colony worlds shared with Germany and most elements of the Armée Coloniale were focused on a more conventional conflict.
The destruction of Hochbaden came as a bitter shock to France who thought the Kafer threat contained. The subsequent capture of Dunkelheim resulted in the reinforcement of Nous Voila with significant numbers of regular troops from Beta Canum and the 1e DM. However the Kafer chose not to assault the surface after the successful 2nd Battle of BCB. Aurore was now utterly isolated and Nous Voila subject to a vicious blockade and the position of Kimanjano and Beta Canum weakened.
Measures for the creation of a mobile striking group attached to Rochemont's Fleet at Vogelheim were accelerated. This consisted of two elite Brigades d'Intervention and a formidable US Marine force supported by a strong force of landing ships and interface assault assets. The next response was the call up of reservists on Vogelheim, Beta Canum, Kimanjano and Beowulf. In the Core elements of the Armée de Manœuvre, Armée de Tirane and Force d' Action Rapide were stood too. The 1e Division Légère Blindée was the first unit dispatched to Beowulf but was soon followed by several other FAR units. A new mobile HQ, the FAR Etat Major (or FAREM), was formed to control these highly mobile units in the field.
Events began to overtake the French response. Kimanjano was attacked unexpectedly. Its strong garrison had been reinforced by a Groupement Mobile of the 101e DLB, a Demi-Brigade of the 1e DM and an American Marine brigade but it was still outmatched after 6 weeks of heavy fighting. Plans to reinforce the planet with an Anglo-French task force were stymied by confused political direction and overwhelming Kafer space force superiority. Only at the end of the campaign with Kafer warships diverted to BCV could a rescue mission be launched, and that was strictly an evacuation that managed to lift off several thousand troops and civilians while abandoning most of their equipment.
If the Battle of Kimanjano could be seen as humanities' Dunkirk, the Battle of Beta Canum was an utter debacle - its Fall of France in 1940. Although the world's three colonies were militarily well prepared the events of 'Black February' proved disastrous. The French administration cut away the famed Beanstalk during a Kafer raid, removing a large proportion of the colony's power generation facilities, and the Kafers launched a punishing orbital bombardment of French cities before withdrawing. The resulting humanitarian disaster had appalling consequences and mobilised French troops were dispersed to help relieve the suffering.
When the Kafers returned in force the defending 9e Corps had little chance to re-group. Its commander decided to make a stand around Premier and the Beanstalk terminal and buy time for his dispersed units to re-group and help to come from the other colonies or off-world. However this didn't come to pass, as the Kafers smashed his defences in short order and only a small part of his force managed to escape in a fighting retreat. The remaining units had no opportunity to form a coherent defence. In the meantime the British and German colonies were too busy fending off their own invasions to come to the rescue of the French. Elements of the French Colonial Administration made the decision to come to terms with the Kafers, a small force of troops, most famously including the 1e Spahis managed to escape to New Africa. This was one of the few bright spots in a bitter, humiliating week.
The taking of Kimanjano had sealed off the bulk of the FAR and 2e Corps units now flooding onto Beowulf and prevented them from influencing the course of the fighting in the Beta Canum Cluster. The tide of the war was now definitely running in favour of the Kafers, human morale was ebbing and fears were rising that even Beowulf was not safe. In conjunction with his war cabinet and Allies Emperor Ruffin realised that measures need to be taken to start taking the initiative and to instil an aggressive spirit into the human forces. The result was the creation of the Armée de Libération on Beowulf, comprising both the FAREM, 2e Corps and local Nouvelle Européen forces of 15e Corps.
The Armée de Libération was intended to co-ordinate offensive operations against the Kafers, to destroy the Kafer's main ground forces wherever they were found and then free the captured human colonies. The Armée commander was called out from semi-retirement on Tirane, Général d' Armée Claude Hébert was a controversial but popular choice. In a career blighted by political interference he had commanded troops in action at every level above company in Central Asia, Elysia and against Germany. His opposition to the Empire and views on the conduct of the war with Germany had relegated him to the sinecure position of Inspector of Forces on Tirane.
Hébert was a workaholic, austere in private whilst flamboyant in his professional life. An armoured cavalry officer from la Coloniale who had made his name commanding metropolitan troops on Earth. His arrival at Devereux sparked life into the previously lacklustre defensive efforts. He formed the survivors of Kimanjano into their own division promoting a young Colonel from their ranks to Général de Division over the heads of more senior men to lead them. He linked his Staff closely to the British led Commonwealth Expeditionary Force gathering across the Ramadenthine in Alicia, sending his own daughter as liaison.
Meanwhile TIS forces with Rochemont were involved in a variety of operations, conducting landings on Crater and Beta Canum as well as smaller raids. The Armée d'Aurore was also back in action, fighting a new wave of Kafers troops deployed to the colony world. Remnant French forces based out of New Africa on Beta Canum had been engaged in raids but had managed to accomplish little. Whilst on Nous Voila French troops had been unable to prevent the blockaded and bombarded colony spiralling into anarchy and could only maintain small enclaves under government control.
The time from the fall of Kimanjano and the Battle of Beowulf were a stressful time for the forces gathered at Queen Alice's Star. The only offensive action was undertaken by small numbers of troops operating with Reserve Fleet incursions into occupied space. The bulk of the thousands of troops now gathered on Beowulf were kept busy conducting training programmes covering both the defence of Beowulf and offensive operations into the Beta Canum Cluster. Thankfully they were never called on to face a Kafer assault landing as the enemy fleet was defeated by the Reserve Fleet in the climactic Battle of Beowulf.
The defeat of the Kafer fleet at Beowulf was followed by Admiral Graham's counter-attack. Graham took every serviceable ship and planned to finish off the Kafers before they could recover, or Admiral Rochemont beat him to the punch. Accompanying him was a group of fast assault ships including the Verdun and Bir Hakeim, packed with lightly equipped assault troops. Back at Queen Alice's Star the combined forces of the colonial powers were up-lifting their heavy equipment as rapidly as possible to a fleet of merchant ships. An epic logistical undertaking in its own right.
Graham's swift counter-attack paid off, catching the surviving Kafers in the middle of a replenishment and scattering them. However reports from special forces and resistance groups on Kimanjano confirmed that the world was heavily defended by regular Kafer troops. Arriving in his command ship Le Clerc de Hautecloque Hébert took the quick decision to commit to the deliberate assault option and convinced Generals Lewis and Schneider, the British and German commanders, not to move onto BCV until the Drop Zones on Kimanjano were secure. Whilst the Armée gathered, forces already in system prepared a comprehensive series of raids in order to disperse Kafer ground forces as widely as possible.
Preliminary operations began with warships moving in to close orbit; challenging defences, bombarding ground positions and inserting extra teams of special forces. On the ground resistance groups of the Francs-Tireurs de Kimanjano began a highly choreographed sequence of raids designed to move Kafer ground forces from potential DZ's and forcing them to concentrate providing the orbiting ships with better targets. The assault itself was led by troops of the TIS, Azanian paratroopers and US Marines who seized the drop zones north of Fromme.
Whilst the initial assault went well, the Kafers were quick to respond and a race to reinforce the planethead took place. The follow-up forces of the FAREM included the elite 1e and 2e DLBs, however these unit equipped with the lightweight ACL-7s were chewed up almost as quickly as they landed. Similarly the arrival of the brigade sized 9e DIMa and American 11th ACR seemed unlikely to break the attritional deadlock that raged on the perimeter. Several commanders were pleading with Hébert to abandon the landings. Instead he gambled, authorising the dead-drop of the equipment of the 12e DM and 2e DMC from the big Metal Class freighters in orbit and the landing of the soldiers of the division.
Hébert's gamble paid off as the 12e DM was launched rapidly into the assault and broke the Kafer offensive. The 2e DMC, a division of veterans from the first round of fighting on Kimanjano, completed the break out. The battles around the planethead had lasted a mere three days and had swung in the balance throughout. The 2e DMC reached the outskirts of Fromme before logistical problems brought the offensive to a halt. Hébert was forced to consolidate as the forces of FAREM, 2e Corps and international forces were hampered by the interface bottleneck. This gave the Kafers room to reorganise and resupply.
With his landings secure the Anglo-German force proceeded on to Beta Canum which, despite Rochemont's protestations of liberation, was still being contested. Hébert sent only the elite 11e DP to show the flag for France. However the division was soon confronted with the difficult task of liberating Premiere and had to be supported by Anglo-German forces. Chagrined Hébert detached his orbital reserve from 2e Corps to Beta Canum, depleting the forces at his disposal on Kimanjano. The fighting on Kimanjano was to continue for 3 months before the last of the Kafer manoeuvre forces were destroyed, even then the remnants of the Kafer garrison remained an immense problem, locking in large numbers of troops to counter-Kafer warfare.
When sufficient shipping was freed up the 106e DI was sent to Nous Voila. The problems there were immense and multi-national troops were sent to bolster the force in suppressing marauders and distributing humanitarian aid.
With the main Kafer forces defeated French forces are concentrating on two tasks. Restoring order to the liberated colonies and preparing for further operations against the Kafers, either in attack or defence. The Armée de Libération is based on three worlds, although Hébert's HQ remains on Kimanjano and is overseeing much of the work to restructure the Armée Coloniale in the Beta Canum Cluster. Strike forces of the TIS are rebuilding and are already ready for action. The Armée d'Aurore remains, as ever, the bulwark against the Kafers on the Frontier.
1 July 2003
Copyright D Hebditch, 2003