Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Wars That Never Were

The main theme of this month's issue of WARGAMES ILLUSTRATED is 'Wars That Never Were'. I was intrigued to find out more ... so I bought a copy.

The relevant contents include the following articles:
  • Wars That Never Were: An introduction to the theme by Gary Mitchell that includes mention of:
    • Invasion by Kenneth Macksey
    • The Moscow Option by David Downing
    • The Battle of Dorking: Reminiscences of a Volunteer by George Tomkyns Chesney
    • The Eternal Empire by Geoff Fabron
    • Things To Come by H G Wells
    • The Third World War by General Sir John Hackett
    • What might have happened if the Roman Empire and the Han Chinese Empire had clashed during the First and Second centuries AD?
    • What might have happened if the Spanish Armada had succeeded in ferrying the Duke of Parma's army across the Channel in 1588?
    • What might have happened if Napoleon's invasion of Egypt had been successful and he had then invaded India?
    • What might have happened if the British and French had intervened in the American Civil War?
    • What might have happened if the Fashoda Incident had not been resolved peacefully and had led to a war between Britain and France?
  • Imagi-nations: Exploring the uses of imagi-nations in wargaming by Charles S Grant
  • The Battle for Britain: 22nd August 1692: An alternative history of Britain that begins when James II decides to stand and fight it out with William of Orange and Mary by Barry Hilton
  • The Battle for Ontario: A war that wasn't (quite!) in America: Scenarios based around what might have happened if the British had intervened in the American Civil War by Don Effinger
  • All Quiet on the Mexican Front?: Wargaming the The Zimmerman Telegram: What might have happened if the Germans had actually sent aid to the Mexicans during World War I by Paul Barnett
  • Winter of '79: Anarchy in the UK when the 'Winter of Discontent' evolved into a civil war by Mark Hannam
  • Making it Modern: Terrain for the Third World War: What sort of terrain is needed if you want to fight 'Cold War turned hot' battles by Andy Rix
Plenty of interesting ideas, especially for someone like me!


  1. Thanks for alerting us to this one as it is one of my favorite wargaming topics. I have played a few games with British forces against ACW ones, all in 1/32 of course. I also read the Battle of Dorking so that is one scenario I would like to read.

  2. James O'Connell,

    Glad to have been of help.

    I have yet to try using my ACW troops against my Brits ... but no doubt one day I will get around to it!

    The Battle of Dorking is a surprisingly well-written book, and reads like a campaign history. It is certainly a lot better than some of the other 'invasion scare' books written during the run up to the Great War.

    All the best,


  3. Thanks for that Bob, I'll definitely pick that one up. Very fond of winter of '79.

  4. Conrad Kinch,

    I always have a quick look through WI when it is published, and if there is anything that takes my fancy, I buy it. This particular issue had lots of things that appealed to me.

    All the best,


  5. I have read the Moscow Option (very good!) and Gen Hackett's 'World war III: August 1985'. Now, although Hackett's book was very readable and interesting, I found the suspension of disbelief bally hard to achieve. For one thing, the WARPAC/USSR motives seemed to wanting. What little indication there was didn't make much sense, either. I also found the 'Birmingham - Minsk' nuclear exchange to be beyond borderline nuts. As a call for additional expenditure for NATO, it was unconconvincing, unpersuasive, and incomprehensible, given that with already existing resources, NATO stopped WARPAC cold in the story.

    I have also read most of H.G. Wells's 'Shapes of things to come' It is especially interesting in its take on years following the Armistice 1918. Even in the early 1930, Mr Wells could see that the harsh peace impose upon Germany by vindictive Allies merely sowed the seeds for a backlash to come. He was on the money, wasn't he?

    For other wars that never were, you might consider Harry Harrison's 'Stars and Stripes' stories. Personally, I found them a little too RW&B, and the generating circumstance - Britain joins the CSA's fight for independence, beats the crap out of a CSA town, the CSA changes sides, and for reasons I found totally incomprehensible, Britain decides to have a crack at winning back the colonies. Seriously. You would thing Lord Elgin's mission to Washington DC to dissuade the US from annexing Canada had never happened, wouldn't you? For some reason, Americans still seriously believe that the UK has been angling ever since 1783 to recover the 13 colonies. Britain wrote them off in 1783. Why can't the Yanks get their heads around that?

    Harry Turtledove is great on wars that never happened. In his alternative history, the CSA gains its independence, to which the Union is never reconciled. Come World War One, the Union enters the war on the German side; the CSA, allied with Canada and an obscure territory out west called Utah have their work cut out to contain the more populous and heavily industrialised Union. An ageing General George Armstrong Custer makes his appearance as a bloody-minded pugnacious general fighting an 1860s war with 1914 weapons.

    Finally, here's something really obscure. About 50 years ago New Zealand had a fairly prolific writer of children's historical novels, one Ronald Syme. One story was 'The Spaniards Came at Dawn' set in New Zealand well before Abel Tasman's time - possibly the 16th Century. In this a Spanish warship cruising the Pacific Ocean lights upon a small English merchant vessel, makes a prize of it and takes the crew prisoner. Caught in a storm, the Spaniard takes some damage, and pulls into a heavily forested shore of an unknown land. The Spanish annoy the locals, who call themselves Maori; the English prisoners escape and seek shelter among them; and a war ensues between Maori and Ingiriti against the Paniora (My memory of the Maori transliterations of 'English' and 'Spanish' is pretty hazy after 50-odd years...).

  6. Archduke Piccolo,

    Hackett's WWIII book does have flaws that are more apparent now than they were at the time it was published, and the second book he wrote (WWIII: The Untold Story) was - in my opinion - better. That said, I preferred WORLD WAR 3: A MILITARY PROJECTION which was edited by Shelford Bidwell and NOT OVER BY CHRISTMAS: NATO'S CENTRAL FRONT IN WORLD WAR III by Elmar Dinter and Paddy Griffith.

    H G Wells was quite politically astute, and could foresee the possible outcomes of punitive reparations on Germany. He was not alone in that, but it was not a fashionable point-of-view to express publicly.

    I must admit to having read quite a few of Turtledove's alternative history books, and although I have found the plots quite believable, the characters are not well drawn and are often a bit too two dimensional for my liking. I have yet to read any of Harrison's books, but the plot that you describe doesn't encourage me to. When I was in the US last year and in 2012, the guides who took us to some of the places we visited did seem to place a lot of emphasis on what they saw as Britain's attempts to 'retake' America in 1812. Mind you, they also kept referring to the rebels as 'patriots', so I suspect that they might have had a somewhat different point-of-view to mine!

    I suppose that it is quite feasible that the Spanish could have 'discovered' New Zealand by accident, and that they could easily have ended up in a confrontation with the Maoris. I suspect that in the circumstances the latter might not have been quite as easy to overcome as the indigenous populations of Central and South America proved to be. Its an interesting proposition, and one that is quite plausible.

    All the best,


  7. Maori resistance to colonisation took a rather different form from any other I can think of. For a start, they quite liked having Pakeha (Europeans) around. A nearby Pakeha settlement give mana to the local iwi or hapu. Pakeha was the source of really good stuff, like axes, muskets and 'tupara' - double barrelled shotguns.

    But Pakeha settlement got out of hand, Pakeha starting throwing his weight around. Pakeha got greedy. The most effective resistance took the form of strategic offensive, tactical defensive. They would grab a location and defy the Brits to take it off them. In the meantime, they would fortify the place. As military engineers, Maori had no superiors. But Maori were never united against British colonialism, and many tribes sided with Pakeha.

  8. Archduke Piccolo,

    My knowledge of the relationships between the Maori and the settlers is rather sketchy, but former do seem to have been extremely good builders of very resilient fortifications, and had the Spanish landed I doubt if they would have been able to overcome them with whatever weapons they would have had available to them.

    Its an interesting 'what if?', and might be well worth pursuing.

    All the best,



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