An Exercise in Alternative History

History runs pretty much the same as Earth standard, until 1940, with the Nazi-Soviet pact drawn up in 1939. Having walked through Europe, the Nazis then turned their attention to Britain and began the build-up for Sea Lion. The BEF were still defeated early in 1940, but weren't quite as soundly routed and the evacuation was more orderly. Therefore their morale was better once they got back to England. Moreover, when the Battle of Britain began, the RAF were just as dedicated as in straight history, and resisted with every bone in their collective bodies.

The lack of progress against the British angered Hitler, and it soon became clear to his generals that he was determined to finish off the British, whether or not the Luftwaffe had gained air supremacy by then. He finalised the Axis Alliance with Italy, Spain and Japan in late August 1940, to give himself allies in the fight he knew was to come, and then, instead of abandoning Sea Lion on 17 September, he launched it.

Needless to say, it didn't go well. The combination of British air superiority and the Royal Navy, plus the desire of the BEF to get revenge for Dunkirk, meant that the tables were turned. The British returned to the continent on 6th June 1941, and once the French, Belgians and Dutch were encouraged to rise up against their invaders, the Germans were retreating back towards their own borders.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, the Japanese were planning Pearl Harbour and launched the attack on schedule at the beginning of December. However, with matters in Europe pretty much in hand, the US was able to concentrate on dealing with the threat from Japan, without needing to send as many forces to Europe.

Separately, the war in Africa was also far less significant due to the change in focus of the Nazi forces, and therefore the various deals between the allies and the Arabs/Jews, which promised different people the same thing, didn't happen to the same degree.

Hitler was assassinated on Winter Solstice 1941, further throwing Germany into confusion, and after discussions between Himmler and Göring, the latter became Führer, on the proviso that he left the SS to its own devices. The Germans returned home to consolidate their forces in Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, but were not sufficiently weakened for a harsh peace to be imposed on them. Obviously, the presence of a strong military force with big ambitions and demonstrated capabilities made Europe very nervous, but the continental powers still had some recovering to do before they could push forward. There was also the rising threat of the Soviet Union, and the fact that if the Communists moved, they would have to go through Germany first did give some comfort. Therefore, a rather pragmatic Armistice was signed on 20 April 1942.

Slowly, diplomatic efforts began to turn Nazi Germany from a threat against the West, into a threat to the East. These efforts were helped by the Nazi hatred of the Communists, and an uncomfortable alliance was eventually forged primarily with the British and secondarily the Americans, although the US were happy to leave most of dealing with Europe to the Europeans and concentrate on Japan. The Nazis, still with their historical views on Lebensraum and the "lesser" peoples in tact (and the Final Solution under way under the guidance of Reinhard Heydrich - who survived an assassination attempt in July 1942 - and Adolf Eichmann), launched Operation Barbarossa against Russia in Spring 1943. They left defensive forces on their European border, just in case, but for the most part were able to concentrate on destroying the Russians. Himmler died in a mortar attack while inspecting the troops on the Eastern Front in early 1945, whereupon Heydrich became RFSS.

Of course, the Russians were unwilling to lie down and die, and the fighting was fierce, with territory being gained and lost on both sides for the next two and a half years. The US dropped the bomb on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945, and Japan surrendered without the need for the nuclear attack on Nagasaki. The Nazis took their cue from this - after all, the precedent that nuclear weapons could be used had been set - and used the product of their own nuclear programme on Moscow on 24 October 1945. The remains of the Russian government sued for peace and the Nazis moved in.

Tenterden in the Year 2009

The British Empire remains stronger than in regular history, as it wasn't ripped apart in the same way as in the regular timeline. There have been independence movements, notably in India and some of the African nations. However, for the most part, these have been undertaken in an orderly manner, and the British have kept influence in those areas to stop them descending to anarchy. Pakistan is a major exception, having failed as a state after its independence from India. The British military remains a force to be reckoned with.

Germany expanded eastwards, taking pretty much all the useable land to a line from St Petersburg in the north to the Ukraine in the south, and is holding that territory after a number of border wars with Russia since the end of WWII. Their views have modified somewhat over the years, including their attitudes towards women, which have become much less "Kinder, Küche, Kirche" - indeed, there has even been a female Führer - but the regime is still racist, fascist and militaristic. For forty years after the end of WWII it was tolerated as the bastion against the eastern hoards. However, with the effective fall of Communism, that tolerance is beginning to fade and in the minds of many, the threat they represent was brought back into sharp relief with their recent annexation of the Eastern Caucasus.

In Europe, the fact that Britain led the fight back against the Nazis, and liberated France, Belgium and the Netherlands without significant help from the US, meant that it kept a lot more kudos in the aftermath of the war. It and Germany became the dominant European powers, rather than Germany and France. France, Belgium and the Netherlands remain independent, and often work together as a co-ordinated economic force, although there are obviously tensions in the alliance. Italy remains under Fascist control, and is allied with Germany, although it is very much a junior partner. Spain remained in the German camp while General Franco was alive, but since the restoration of the Spanish monarchy, it has drifted more into alliance with Britain. Greece and Portugal remain as they ever were. Switzerland and the Scandinavian countries remain firmly neutral and independent.

Eurasia is an area of turmoil. The Soviet Union was severely weakened after Moscow was bombed, and the Central Asian republics had begun looking independence by the mid-1960s. Those parts of Russia which hadn't been taken over by the Nazis remained Communist for a long time, and there continued to be armed struggles between the two ideologies. In addition, Russia has staged various attempts to push their influence into Central Asia, to try to seize mineral and other natural resources. The last major push by the Nazis against Moscow was in late-1980, and while it was ultimately unsuccessful, it did hasten the end of the Communist regime. The allure of Communism as a political structure has weakened, and rampant neo-capitalism has developed in reaction to the failed Communist experiment, ultimately leading to a plutarcy. The newly elected Russian President was formerly head of the State Secret Service, and has a lot of contacts among the new order of super-rich Russian oligarchs.

China never became a Communist state; instead, after the Second World War, a movement developed to return the former Emperor, Aisin-Gioro Puyi, to the throne as a Constitutional Monarch with an elected government. China and Japan - also now a Constitutional Monarchy after its defeat by the US - continue to argue over territory in the East, both their own, and the nominally independent Asian nations. The US is happy to stir the trouble, so that two potentially influential powers are more concerned with each other than everyone else. Both have developed nuclear weapons (in Japan's case, as a deterrent, so it's never the victim of a nuclear attack again).

The US remains the major power in the Americas, although strong links between Germany and Argentina have meant that there is significant Nazi influence in certain areas of South America, with Argentina more dominant in the region than Brazil. Moreover, the Russians have tried to gain influence in Central America, and there have been anti-Communist wars in the region. The Jewish population in the US is somewhat higher than in the regular timeline, as more Jews were allowed into the US during WWII. A bill passed through Congress/Senate in 2008 to remove the limitations on Presidential terms, and in November 2008, President Josiah Bartlett was elected for a third term.

Canada maintains links with both the US and Britain, although as time passes, the US influence is becoming more prevalent. However, at this time, it does still acknowledge Queen Elizabeth as its head of state.

India has industrialised much more quickly than in the regular timeline, with assistance from its former colonial masters, and has become a rising economic powerhouse. The fact that it is a declared nuclear power hasn't done anything to harm its reputation. However, it does have ongoing border issues with Pakistan. Pakistan itself has devolved into a country split by rival warlords and without a central government.

The Arab world has become a force to be reckoned with, due to its large oil and gas reserves, with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Persia as the dominant powers in the region. At this point, Islamic Extremism hasn't become as ingrained: there is no Israel for it to focus its hatred on, the US has never become "the policeman of the world" in the same way as in regular history, and 9/11 did not happen.

Declared nuclear powers

Britain, Germany, the US, China, Japan and India.

Russia is believed to be developing nuclear technology, but has not, as yet, declared itself to be a nuclear power.

Pakistan was rumoured to be going that route, but what has happened to the programme since the breakdown of the rule of law there is anyone's guess.

The space race

Germany and Britain both funded space programmes which culminated in unmanned moon landings by the mid-1960s, and manned missions by 1970. The US joined the lunar club a little later, first achieving an unmanned landing in 1980, with a manned mission three years later. However, the three powers then signed the Lunar Treaty, which has prevented an all-out race for conquest.

India, Japan and China all have space programmes, and by 2000 have achieved orbital capacity and are launching their own satellites. Russia is believed to have been developing space travel, but there have been few signs that the programme has been successful.

Key world leaders

Britain: Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II (b.1926, accession 1952, coronation 1953)
Germany: Führer Klaus Heydrich (b.1934, appointed Führer in 1994)
The US: President Josiah Bartlet (b. 1940, elected November 1998, inaugurated January 1999)
Japan: Emperor Akihito (b.1933, accession 1989, enthroned 1990)
India: President APJ Abdul Kalam  (b.1931, elected and inaugurated, 2002)
China: Emperor Aisin-Gioro Pu Chieh (b. 1955, accession 1967, enthroned 1968)
Russia: President Vladimir Mikoyan (b.1952, elected and inaugurated, 2000)