The Martians have invaded for a second time and the world is at war!

Monday, June 4, 2007

The Martian Punitive Expedition


When Queen Victoria's government first announced its intention to mount a Punitive Expedition to Mars there was no general call to arms. To all appearances the British neither expected not wished the participation of other nations. But the Cephalids had invaded all of Earth, and all Mankind cried out for revenge. The British showed something less than good grace in accepting their self-volunteered allies.

In short order it became plain to any student of politics that any nation with pretensions to being a "Great Power" needed to have a place in the Martian Punitive Expedition, preferably lifting its own force via its own ethyr conveyors. The United States, flexing its nascent industrial power laid down more hulls than any other nation. Germany was a close second. Britain built more compared to Her size than any other nation. The French, to their embarrassment proved unable to build their own conveyors and joined the expedition only through the gift of three hulls from the United States. A Belgian-led consortium also wangled a hull from the United States. The Japanese, driven to prove their Great Power status accepted no outside help (at least not publicly) and unveiled two conveyors, Sho-maru of conventional size and Dai-maru of enormous proportions, virtually on the even of departure. Even the Russians managed to outfit a hull, bought at great expense from the Germans. But getting to Mars was only the first hurdle.


After years of preparations, secret and not-so-secret meetings and agreements, espionage and cooperation and back-stabbing, the great day of departure finally came. Bands played. Troops passed in review, resplendent in new uniforms. The great adventure was about to begin. Those who had survived the onslaught of the Invaders knew that not all of the brave soldiers would be coming home. Many of those who did would be broken, seared by the Heat ray or made consumptive by a whiff of the Black Smoke. Women and children, and not a few strong men, cried.

Not all who left for Mars returned to Earth.

Not all even made it to Mars. Most of the ships carrying the forces of Earth reached the Red Planet intact, but two met mishaps. The rickety Sho-maru Japanese conveyor "landed" nearly three hundred miles off-course. A greater loss was that of one US conveyor whose fate is, to this day, unknown.

The dangers of the voyage were only the beginning.

Bows and Arrows Against the Lightning

No rational being thought that traditional infantry and cavalry units would matter in a battle against Cephalid Fighting Machines, but that didn't stop them from being included in every army's order of battle for the Punitive Expedition. Perhaps, as was formally put forth, it was expected that on their home ground the Cephalids would have comparable, conventional forces. More likely the generals of those arms refused to be left out of what was surely going to be Man's greatest battle.

It could be that the new armies despite the vaunted but not very numerous technological wonders seemed too pitifully small for the job ahead of them. The colossi and battle walkers, the chars de battaille and the panzerfahrzeug, and most of all the aeroscaphs were awesome, but were there enough of them to conquer the Martians? And once the fighting was done, how could the machines control the subjugated Martians? Surely then, if not before, there would be roles for conventional forces.

Or it could be that no nation trusted its fellows not to claim Mars for itself.

The New Armies

There was not a power on Earth that did not look to its armed forces and see that what had been was not what needed to be. Those that could took action. Standing regiments were brought up to strength with the pick of hordes of volunteers. New soldiers and old were supplied with improved weapons. The old armies themselves were remade as new units were formed to man the wondrous new "steam technology" weapons.

Dreams born in scientific romances were suddenly made real. Colossi! Battle Walkers! Panzerfahrzeug! Chars de battaille! Aeroscaphs! The very names of the new machines evoked wonder. Their capabilities were amazing.

But in the end, steam and steel are only worth so much, for what is an army made of but men - mortal flesh and blood.

Even the original Punitive Expedition rosters included units of what came be to be called the Territorial Regiments. Drawn from the empires and dominions of the principal participants, these troops often played decisive roles in the battles against the Martian City-states. Indeed, in the Martian Wars that followed the Punitive Expedition's campaign that broke Cephalid power, they were sometimes the dominant troop type employed.

Most of the Great Powers armed and equipped their territorials well. Even the ruthless Belgians and their cronies made sure their African surrogate soldiers had decent firearms. The British, presumably motivated by memories of the Indian Mutiny, stand out for making sure that their territorials were a technological generation behind their regulars. Even so, the British territorials were notably better equipped that any City Dweller units. Or at least they were until City Dwellers were recruited as askari and sepoys by some of the Great Powers.

During the early stages of the Punitive Expedition, the Press made much of the British failure to supply Her territorials with the most modern equipment, especially in regards to measures against the Black Smoke. Allegations were made that certain British generals actually used unprotected territorials to draw out the Black Smoke, preserving British regular units from the hellish clouds. The sad truth is that most territorial units suffered in that regard, whether deliberately set to soak up the Smoke attacks or not. Only the French seem to have been even handed in their distribution of safeguards against the Black Smoke.

1 comment:

Joe said...

This is a great way to start off a game!