The Italian garrison at Tunis has not left it’s entrenchments since it arrived in the Fall of 1901, three years ago. But now the army is on the move– columns of green-jacketed Italian infantry snake west along the coast into Algeria. They are followed closely by an Italian fleet that steams towards the great harbor at Tunis.
As the Italians follow the dusty roads west, they see thousands of ships massing off the coast. The French are organizing an invasion– The entire Marseilles army, convoyed by the combined Mediterranean fleet, is heading for the port of Algiers. The Tyrrhenian fleet unsuccessfully attempts to disrupt the convoy just west of Corsica. Italians columns rush to meet the invasion force, and in a month of bitter street fighting French marines are forced withdraw. Victorious but decimated, the Italian troops retreat to their supply depots at Tunis.
Meanwhile, Austrian forces march west into Piedmont with assistance from allied troops in Tuscany.
The battle for Germany remains in relative stasis, and no gains are made by either side throughout the summer and fall. The French continue to make probing attacks against Munich, but the Austro-German lines are too well defended. Meanwhile British troops in Kiel and Holland fortify their front against Heeresgruppe Bülow.
The British resume their assault on St. Petersburg early in the season, desperate to make gains before the winter. The army in Norway strikes east through the permafrosted mountains of near Kirkenes. Russian attempts to deny the British passage through the mountains are turned back by a naval bombardment from the Barents Sea. By mid October, a combined force of British infantry and marines seizes St. Petersburg.
A second British assault, this time against Sweden, comes howling across the Oresund strait in early fall. They find Stockholm abandoned– The Russian fleet has already moved west into Norway. A British naval force moving into the Skagerrak briefly skirmishes with Russian ships at harbor in Oslo.
Meanwhile the rest of Russia’s armies rush north to create a defensive front against the British invasion. Troops in Poland occupy Livonia, while a second army moves by rail to defend the entrenchments north of Moscow. They are replaced in Sevastopol by their Rumanian fleet.
Desperate Turkish forces attempt to retake Istanbul in late summer with a supported assault from their gunboats in the Black Sea. A spoiling attack from Russian troops into Smyrna dashes their hopes, and Austria successfully defends the city with support from Bulgaria. As winter falls across Anatolia, Free Turkish forces hold only the province of Ankara against the invading forces.
Britain makes gains in the north, but loses Norway. Germany lives to fight another year with help from Austria. The battle for the Mediterranean Sea begins as Turkey loses the last of it’s home provinces.
Retreats! Russia: St. Petersburg can retreat to Finland or choose to disband Turkey: Smyrna can choose to retreat to Syria or disband.
Build orders for Winter 1904 will follow retreats, but are welcome ASAP
Supply center changes: Austria: Gain one Britain: Gain one France: Gain one (differential from disband of Silesia) Turkey: Lose two
In early spring, British and Russian navies work tirelessly to clear their cold water ports of the last of the winter ice, and soon hundreds of ships steam out of harbor. The British fleet in Oslo moves north once again, this time into position in the Barents sea. They are shadowed by the Russian army in Livonia, as it moves to occupy the defenses of St. Petersburg.
Meanwhile, the British North Sea fleet convoys a freshly-raised army into Norway to provide for its defense and threaten a supported assault on St. Petes.
In Sweden, Russian ships leave Stockholm and rush south to occupy the Baltic Sea, where they meet a much larger force of British ships steaming out from Kiel and Denmark. The Russian ships are outnumbered and outclassed, and lose a dozen heavy cruisers to British guns before limping back to the safety of the Swedish coast. Victorious, Britain occupies the Baltic Sea.
Finally, the British fleet in the Helgoland Bight moves to occupy Kiel with supplies from friendly depots in Holland.
Germany has spent the winter constructing a powerful series of fortifications from Munich to Stralsund. Along this “Western Wall” the two remaining German armies support each other in a last, desperate defense. French assaults resume in the spring. As a French army moves to occupy the Rhineland, a second attacks the Western Wall in the south, just outside of Munich. They are turned back by a combined German and Austrian defense.
To the north, another French attack from Silesia is repulsed. This time however, retreating French troops stumble headlong into a supported Austrian assault from Galacia. The French army is shattered and its troops are forced to retreat north towards Prussia. Russian infantry around Warsaw hold their positions, not wanting to give Gallic troops a line of retreat into Poland.
Long dormant as a theater of war, the western Mediterranean sees a flurry of activity in early 1904. French cruisers in Spain and Marseilles leave harbor and steam out into open waters, occupying the sea north of Morocco and the Gulf of Lyon. The French army wintering in Gascony rails east into Marseilles to replace the fleet there.
To the east, Italian fleets mirror French movements. Ships leave Naples and Greece to steam west into the Tyrrhenian and Ionian seas, while troops in Tuscany and Tunisia dig in for the long summer.
In 1453, Greek refugees fleeing the sack of Constantinople watched as the Hagia Sophia burned, brightly silhouetted by flames against the smoky night sky. The refugees cried out that they could see the Holy Spirit leaving the city. Almost 500 years later, Istanbul is once again in Christian hands, as a combined assault by Austro-Italian marines at last dislodges the beleaguered Turkish garrison. Expected support from the Black Sea is delayed by another attack from the Russian fleet in Rumania.
Fighting continues along the eastern frontier, as both Russian and Turkish armies try unsuccessfully to outmaneuver their opponents. Russian troops in Sevastopol are content to hold in place.
British sea power rolls inexorably eastward while the defense of Germany holds. France and Italy marshal their fleets in the Mediterranean Sea, while Turkey finally begins to crumble under a relentless allied assault.