This story needs some work. I wrote it before I had really studied the full rule book and I put it in "1920" not "1910."
I would like folks to tell me the details they think are really out of place. One thing that will happen for sure is that the Japanese Air Force will be replaced. Japanese Dirigibles may be present, but much as I like the image of "a swarm of angry bees" there is no likelihood of Japan having vast numbers of combat aircraft.
Singapore was known as a liberty port, a place where Soldiers and sailors on foreign posts came for rest and relaxation, the beloved R&R. As a British Naval Base, and a trade center, Singapore was well suited for the visits of hundreds of foreign servicemen. A city-state, Singapore had a regiment of colonial troops as a garrison, and a battalion of Royal Marines who protected the Naval Base. Her borders were guarded by concrete bunkers armed with modern artillery. The city was rightfully known as the Gibraltar of the Pacific. Young Lance Corporal Simmons was being given a tour of his new duty station. One of the things he thought unusual was the Gymnasium. Several boxing rings, several wrestling mats, space set up for pugal stick training, and a medic was on duty at all times. "We have Japanese, American, French, German and Dutch soldiers here on liberty. fighting men, who want to see who's tougher, who's stronger, in short, they want to fight duels. Well, here's a place where the men can fight, and they do. They fight here, and they keep their stripes, their teeth, and their honor. The Royal Marines and the American Marines teach Judo in basic training. Japan and the Royal Marines use the Pugal Sticks. The politicians and the Patricians don't believe it, but last month, we had two Colonels in here, fighting it out, and they put on a display that was awesome to behold. Last week, two US and three Japanese soldiers fought 8 Germans with Pugal sticks. The Germans won on points, but it was close. Afterward, they all went out and had beer together. The men need to let off steam, and this is the place to do it." The Top Kick's speech was punctuated by two Dutch soldiers who got into a boxing ring and started to brawl.
Simmons was shown the defenses, shown his duty station, and met the rest of the men in his unit. He was a new rating in a new job. He was a radio-telephone operator, tasked with keeping the lines of communication open. The defenses of Singapore were connected with miles of cable. There were phones in each bunker. There were dozens of headquarters, barracks and supply depots all interconnected. All the embassies were in the Military system, and there were lines to the local civilian system. Of course, the board that was the most complex and arguably the most important was the international switchboard. From the room here in Singapore, there were lines to Hong Kong, India, Australia, and even to London. One, rather intimidating label over an otherwise ordinary connection: #10 Downing. Simmons was trained to sit behind the master switchboard. At any time, there were half a dozen operators for the phones. The men put in long shifts that were usually boring. Every post had a communication check. There were hundreds of very routine messages every very routine day. After three months on duty, Simmons met a man in a local pub, and they went to the Gym. Simmons came in the next day with a black eye, but a bit more vigor. His Sergeant smiled.
Sergeant Steven Wagner USMC was on his first overseas tour. He was assigned to the USS Texas, one of the newest and most powerful superdreadnoughts on earth. Her ten 14 inch guns, her thick armor, and her powerful engines made her so. The Captain of the Texas had called for men like Wagner, men who were trained to operate field radios. The bulky boxes were heavy and awkward. A box with the radio. A box with the generator. A box for fuel and spares. To move a radio it took six men to carry it, or, a truck. On board the Texas was a truck, modified to carry a radio. Possibly the ugliest truck ever, it could float, and it had an outboard motor, so it could be dropped over the side by a crane and float ashore. As a boat, it's a good truck. As a truck, it's a good boat. There was also a whaleboat with a radio installed. It was a much more elegant craft, but it could not go ashore. And there was Ensign Miller. Ensign Todd Miller had trained in ships gunnery, and had learned the skills to be an observer ashore. He had called in fire "over the horizon" where the ship could not be seen. He had practiced calling in fire ashore, and from the whaleboat on the other side of islands and atolls. The Texas had eyes that could go anywhere. Wagner ran the Radio, Miller called the fire.
Yuko Tanaka went to college with a major in language. He could write and speak in English, French, Dutch, German and Mandarin. He had planned to go to work as a translator for the growing banking industry in Japan. He was drafted into the Navy, where he was taught how to use the novel electronic equipment to send signals around the world. Well-disciplined and very bright, he was selected to be on Admiral Abe's staff. After a night of too much Saki and too little sense, Yuko bet he could learn to call in fire as well as his fellow ensign. Admiral Abe agreed to the contests. The two men trained, and the contest began. Both men were stationed on the Yamashiro, but 14 inch shells were too expensive for the challenge. The light cruiser Sendai would fire the rounds. It has been said that if you are on the receiving end there is little difference between a six inch shell and a 14 inch shell. As far as calling in fire, there was no difference at all. Yuko was a natural. Lieutenant Sutaka was one of the best gunnery officers in the fleet, but Ensign Tanaka won the competition. Admiral Abe's comment was most telling. "The real winner of this competition is the fleet, and me. I have two gunnery officers that are the envy of the world." Ensign Tanaka became Leiutenant JG Tanaka, and both men were decorated.
Simmons, Wagner, Miller, and Tanaka all had a taste for the beer at a cafe well away from the harbor. They wore civilian clothes, and talked about women and electronics. In another era, they may have been fraternizing, but here, now, they were four men who knew more about vacuum tubes and coils than anyone else.
In the Harbor in Singapore that day, there were three Battleships. The IJN Yamashiro, one of Japan's newest, with twelve 14 inch guns. The HMS Thunderchild, namesake of the gunboat that fought so bravely in the Martian Invasion, an Orion class Superdreadnought with 10 13.5 inch guns, and the USS Texas. There were other warships in the Harbor, Cruisers and Destroyers, but the three battleships seemed to overwhelm the others. As dusk fell, all seemed calm. The great ships seemed to slumber at their moorings.
Off course and off balance, the Martian Cylinder streaked across the skies. It hit three miles north of the city in the Mandalay Peninsula. Before it hit, phones rang. An hour later, for the first time in decades, the "Recall" whistles blew. All men on liberty were recalled to their ships. Well before the whistles blew, four men, not strangers anymore, quickly paid their tabs and moved back to their duty stations.
Simmons arrived at his barracks to change, but his top kick told him to report for duty in Mufti. "You won't be alone, Lance Corporal. Every communications specialist in the garrison is on duty. I need you on the international switchboard." Simmons began what would be the longest night of his life.
The main wharf in Singapore Harbor saw an assembly of men, different uniforms, different equipment, different flags; the same grim determined expressions on their faces. Commanders gave the same speech in English, Dutch and Japanese: "The Martians have invaded again, and there are Tripods heading toward the city. We are going to defend the City. As of now, and until the crisis is over, all men are to respect the rank and follow the orders of men of higher rank NO MATTER THEIR NATIONALITY. Today, we are not American, or Dutch, or Japanese. We are Humans, and our enemies are not. Remember your Duty, and remember your Honor, and know that in other places across the world, other men are risking their lives and shedding their blood for the helpless everywhere."
There was a note in the cadence of the formation. A swagger in the step of all the men, from the colonels to the Privates. We are marching off to fight We may be marching to our Doom But we are going to kick ass.
The Savoy Hotel was on a hill with a great view of the approaches to the city. It had electricity from its own generator and a small switchboard hooked into the city's civilian system. Six stories tall, the top floor was a ballroom and banquet room, set up that way to display its pair of elevators. Yuko Tanaka and Todd Miller were setting up their radios and direction finders on the sixth floor. They would call fire for the Texas and Yamashiro. The Thunder Child would have her fire called in from the observation mast in the British naval base, Coordinated at the naval base thanks to Lance Corporal Simmons. The reunion went unspoken, the men were hard at work. The Texas sent a squad of Marines with the observers, the Japanese had sent a company with their observers. The bulk of the US Marines were sent to guard the Governors Palace, which by some oversight had no garrison troops assigned to its defense. The police were quite busy managing the civilians. The bulk of the Japanese Marines were sent to protect the commercial harbor. Civilians were attempting to board ships to evacuate the city. The police were keeping order, but the situation was tense. Panic would be easy to start, and hard to stop. The was a red glow in the north, the glow of fires and heat rays. There was the thunder of gunfire. The battle had begun.
Admiral Abe transferred his flag to the USS Pensacola. He wondered if any time in history an Admiral had transferred his flag voluntarily to a ship of another country. Abe had been ordered to command the ships in the harbor as they made their way out to sea. The Yamashiro would soon be firing and no place to command a fleet from. The ship with the best Flag Bridge available was the Pensacola. So a Japanese Admiral was commanding an international fleet from the bridge of an American Heavy Cruiser. Abe was too busy to let the irony of all this slow him down. There were commercial ships in the harbor overloaded with people. There were thousands of men, women and children whose lives depended on him. As Abe settled into his new station, he realized how good the US navy was. This was supposed to be the flag bridge for a cruiser squadron, built for a Rear Admiral and to be a subsidiary for a bigger fleet. The facilities here were excellent, he would easily be able to command his ad hoc fleet from here. This round would go to the Humans. Cooperating in the face of a mutual enemy.
The outer defenses of Singapore held longer than the Governor expected. The land-side bunkers were mostly armed with Lewis Guns, with some Six-Pounders and Eighteen-Pounders spread out among them. Singapore had defenses against human troops, not Tripods. The Lewis guns were not very effective, the 6-pounders and 18-pounders were spread too thin. Even so, the Martians had to rely on Green Gas and Black Dust to breach the bunkers. Three feet of reinforced concrete was sufficient to stop the Heat Rays. The men fought in their bunkers until the Tripods got too close, then they swarmed out and planted charges on the legs of Tripods. The Martians countered with Drones, but the drones were vulnerable to the rifle-caliber machine guns. The fighting was bitter, but the Martians were able to breech the outer defenses, and they walked straight into a maelstrom.
Smoke rose from the funnels. Steam built up in boilers. The Battleships awakened from their rest. Texas was the first to work up steam, because her Captain always kept one boiler with steam up, and when the Cylinder came in, boiler two was coming on to take over from boiler one. Yamashiro and Thunder child were not far behind. When she had enough steam up to make steerage way, the Texas slipped her anchor and swung into position, broadside to the shore. Her main turrets swung into position. The hum of her electric motors continued as the guns elevated into position and locked. Across the bay came the same sounds from the Yamashiro, and the Thunder Child. At the end of the cycle came a loud click. Less than five minutes after the Texas had moved into position, the last click reverberated across a now silent harbor.
Ensign Miller had a range and bearing on a trio of tripods just entering range. Lieutenant Tanaka verified his sighting. They both called in their numbers.
The night was ripped open by the Q turret of the Texas sending a pair of 14 inch shells across the sky. Fifteen seconds later, the Q turret of Yamashiro let loose her ranging shots. The shells took over a minute to travel to their targets, shredding the sky with the fury of their passage. Ninety three seconds later, the shells landed.
"Spot On! Spot On! Ensign Miller shouted into his headset. Fire For Effect!
Lieutenant Tanaka was only slightly less exuberant in his response. " No Correction. Pour It On!"
Flame. A score or titanic spouts of flame. Then came the concussion, a wave of pressure that slammed you down then sucked the breath out of you. Then came the sound. The roar of the gods, tearing at what was left of the night. The full Fury of the Texas' broadside.
A measured minute later and the scene was repeated as the full battery of the Yamashiro spoke.
Ninety Three seconds later, two of the three Tripods disintegrated. A measured minute later, the third tripod shattered from a direct hit and two lethal near-misses. The men on the sixth floor of the Savoy took several seconds to let the impact register, then they looked at each other. They had seen the unbelievable. Both Tanaka and Miller quickly recovered and they relayed their response. "Targets Destroyed" Both men spoke into their microphones.
As the night wore on, there were more successes, and several failures. The Tripods tried to go around the area where the first of their number were destroyed. They walked right into the fire of the Thunder Child. Sweet, sweet revenge. From the point of view of a Tripod, it really didn't matter if you got hit by a 14 inch shell or a 13.5 inch shell. The result was a pile of shards and twisted wreckage.
The Battleships in the harbor were untouchable. Since the gunboat Thunder Child, most newer warships had means of circulating cool water on the back of the armor to flush away heat. Ships were protected from gas and dust attacks. Even if the Tripods could get into range, it was not likely a Tripod or three Tripods, or 27 Tripods, could destroy a Battleship in the water. The Martians figured out that somewhere the humans were calling in fire. It took several hours and almost all the scout tripods before the Martians located the Savoy.
Two hours before dawn and the drones launched their attacks. The defenders were outmatched, and they knew it. They fought like demons. Four Japanese Marines fired on a drone, which obliged by chasseing them down the hallway. From behind a door, an American Marine jumped out and jumped on the back of the drone, shoving a grenade in the joint between the neck and the body. He jumped off as the grenade went off. One less drone. In another hallway, the one US marine heavy machine gun was set up. Two drones bull-rushed the team, who destroyed them both. They never saw the drone that had circled behind them. Every hall, every room on every floor cost blood. As dawn broke, Sergeant Wagner, the electronics technician, was manning a machine gun on the stairway leading to the Ballroom. Tanaka and Miller were still calling in fire.
As dawn broke, planes took off from the Naval Base. They quickly found the cylinder, and launched their attacks. One hundred kilogram bombs might have seemed more of an annoyance to the cylinder had it had time to prepare, but the cylinder had not prepared. When the bombs fell, the whole attack paused. The men at the Savoy got a breather. As the sun rose, the Martians withdrew. At night, the Battleships had been able to stall the attack. In the light of day, the Martians would not be able to advance.
The Captain of the Texas swore oaths in Japanese and English. The Martian redoubt was a mile out of range. As his tirade went into its wind-down, a younger chief petty officer spoke. "Begging the captain's pardon, Sir, I think I can get you that mile. He held a medium sized, well-worn notebook in his hand. I have done the calculations. If we flood the torpedo bulges on one side of the ship, we can ..." "We can create a list that will give the guns enough elevation to reach further. " The captain finished the man's sentence, and gently took the offered notebook. The captain went over to the chart table and opened a shallow drawer that held his slide rule. He did enough checking that he confirmed what he already knew to be true. He issued the orders, and then called the Singapore international switchboard. Tired beyond numb, Lance Corporal carefully relayed the message to Yamashiro and Thunder Child. The ships were moving as Simmons set up the links between the Royal Air Force pilots and the ship captains. A bomber was sent up, carrying no bombs but rather fuel. The gunner had no gun, but a radio.
When the ships got into position, they each began to flood compartments and shift fuel to create a deliberate list. The specifics were different for each ship, but the result was the same. Thunder child started, firing two shells for range and bearing from her Q turret. Located near the center of the ship, the Q turrets were very stable, but had the most limited arcs of fire. Thunder Child fired two shells. The pilot called back the corrections. It took almost fifteen minutes for the big ships to get range. Then they poured it on.
After an hour of shelling the pilot called in "I have secondary explosions. Big gouts of green gas. Try some incendiaries. Two salvos of incendiaries and the green gas became red flame. then came the last secondary explosion, as chunks of the cylinder hull were flung in all directions.
"Cease Fire, Cease Fire Cease Fire. Target Destroyed Target Destroyed Target Destroyed." Simmons relayed the message to everyone. The Battle of Singapore was over.
Simmons slumped in his chair and wondered if there was anything to eat or drink except for cigarettes and coffee. He was about to get up from his seat when he saw the light come on. Number 10 Downing Street. The residence of the Prime Minister. Simmons plugged in the cords and spoke "Singapore International Military Switchboard, Lance Corporal Simmons. How may I help you?"
The PM is on the line. He wants your report before he talks to the Governor." "I'm just a Lance Corporal, Sir. I'm flattered you'd ask, but I don't know that much..." "Stop the modesty, Lance Corporal. You've been on the International switchboard all night. You've heard all the traffic between the foreign commanders. What happened, Lance Corporal. Just in plain words, just like I'm one of your mates.
Simmons told the tale. It took him ten minutes. "Thank you Sergeant Simmons. You have been most helpful. Please connect me to the Governor. Simmons made the connection and the introduction. Except for the one connection, the international switchboard was quiet. Quiet for the first time since he took the board over at 7pm. Simmons looked at the clock. He had be on duty for 19 hours and without sleep for over 36 hours. The man who tapped him on the shoulder was not his regular top-kick. "Go on to your barracks, Simmons. You've earned a good sleep. Tell me though: Did the PM advance you to Sergeant? "Yes, sergeant Major." "Good. The Governor just told me to advance you a grade. You've gone from Lance Corporal to Staff Sergeant in one shift. One hellufa shift, to be sure. You've earned it. "
When the butcher's bill was settled, there were many gasps at how steep the cost in lives had been.
A platoon of Dutch Soldiers was sent to guard a railroad station. They fought with hand grenades and satchel charges, and allowed over a thousand civilians to escape. They were annihilated.
The US had not quite 200 Marines in Singapore. All the men fought. Less than 20 survived, 16 of the survivors were badly wounded.
There were just over 500 Japanese Soldiers and Marines in the battle. Just over 50 survived. Of these 20 men were wounded.
There were over 2000 British Soldiers in the Singapore Garrison. They suffered over 1000 deaths and 200 more wounded.
The British awarded nearly 100 Victoria Crosses to the defenders of Singapore. The Japanese awarded some 70 Crysthantamum Medals, the United States issued 50 Congressional Medals of Honor. Todd Miller, Yuko Tanaka and Steven Wagner were amoung the dozen men that won all three awards that day, and the only men who did not win the awards posthumously. Many men were decorated by more than one nation. Admiral Abe did not receive a Victoria Cross or a Medal of Honor. He did recieve a Navy Cross from Britian and from the United States. He won the Order of the Crythanthamum from his own country. He also recieved medals from Holland, Belgium, Germany, Austria and France. His actions had saved civilians from all over the world. Great Britian created a new award. The Order of the Thunderchild, for international cooperation and sacrifice. Abe was the first recipient.
A special section of the military cemetery in Singapore was set aside for the Dutch unit that died to a man. The monument that stood above them was an image of the Thunderchild medal.
The Pensacola, the whole ship and crew, was awarded the medal, as was the crew.
The Yamashiro was ordered to paint a gold star on her bridge and a gold stripe on each of her main guns. An order of the Rising Sun was also painted on her bridge, as well as conferred on her Captain.
The USN heaped honors on the Texas and her crew. They earned it. For the first time since the revolutionary war, the skipper of the Texas had a barrel of rum set out on the fantail, and each of the crew raised a mug together.
The USS Arizona was in Tokyo bay as part of a goodwill tour. Carts to give out ice cream and lemonade were on the deck, and the crew had rigged swings from the big guns for the children to play on. It was a good day for good will.
That night, as dusk fell, an errant cylinder hit the outskirts of the city.
Tokyo was not a city state. It was not ringed with defenses, it did not have a military base or a garrison. For all intents and purposes, it was defenseless.
Hurried calls to the US Ambassador received a prompt reply. There were 100 marines on the Arizona, and they embarked in whaleboats to the Harbor. There were two teams men trained to call in fire. The Tokyo police dispatched two paddy wagons to carry the men and equipment.
There was no Savoy Hotel. No sixth story eerie to observe from. The observers found water towers to set up their observation posts. They had no defenders.
The sight of smoke coming from the Arizona's stacks went un-noticed except for a few men at the harbor. The great ship swung on her moorings and came into position. The turrets swung into position and the guns elevated.
The fire of her Fourteen inch guns shattered the night. Along with her were the ships from the Japanese navy, giving fire support to the few soldiers in the city.
It was a lopsided battle. the Martians were destroying the defenses at will.
The US marines were sent to the Tokyo central train station. They guarded the railroads that swept thousands of people to safety. They held out as long as they could. They died to a man.
The Arizona kept up the fight all night. These Martians never found the OPs.
As dawn broke, waves of Japanese aircraft attacked. Like an angry swarm of bees, they bombed, they strafed, and some crashed their damaged planes into tripods. After the fighters stopped the assault, the bombers came over. Hundreds of twin engine heavy bombers that were not carrying hundred kilogram bombs, but 500 kilogram bombs. they struck the cylinder redoubt. Every aircraft in the Japanese Air Force was part of the attack. It was barely enough.
In the aftermath, there were awards and ceremonies, but there was not a celebration of victory. It was a time of mourning.
Across the world there were a dozen cylinders that missed their intended targets. All caused havoc. The real threat came from the hundreds of cylinders that hit their marks.
Loved this on the old forum and good to see it back at the new. I'll reserve comment on any 'problems', but its a hell of a good story and I hesitate to find any faults with it. More such, hardlec, you've a talent. Like the second short story as well. And who is to say that the Japanese might not have an air force for that battle. They certainly don't after.(Hmmm scott & you on a collection of short stories??).