Byzantia 1918-1920


A New Byzantium 1919

Genesis - Greeks in the Balkans 1917-1920

The Greek Army (after much vacillating) finally entered WW1 in 1917, and fought with the French, British and Serbs against the Bulgarians, Austrians and Germans, and emerged victorious on the southern Balkan "Salonica" Front. In 1919 a Greek expeditionary force joined Poles, French and Romamnians to protect the Uktraine's White Russian forces around Odessa. In 1921-22 the Greeks invaded Turkey and were beaten for their troubles.
What this gives you (if you collect a Greek army of the period, as I have) is an extraordinary set of allies, and enemies to fight, over a fascinating peruod - old style tactics were adapting to the modern,
Most of our battles in this period are on the Salonica front, and in the Russian Civil War (heading "Odessa Files" on the blog).
But it does make you wonder if, after WW1, the Allies had decide to recreate Byzantium from some of Turkey's European lands, rolling back some of the Bulgarian, Greek & Serbian advances in the Balkan Wars. Why and How may it have happened?

Byzantium re-emerges in 1919

At the Treaty of Versailles, Byzantia was made a Class A mandate (effectively an independent state, but under French management). The why was to ensure that Turkey no longe had a starnglehold on the Dardanelles and Bosphorus. and to punish Bulgaria for the trouble it caused, Greece for being a such a lukewarm ally, and the rest to make it a viable state. Being a French mandate meant that they became involved in the Russian Civil War in Odessa (partly to ensure they got their War Gift of equipment, necessary given all the covetous surrounding powers), withdrawing with the Greeks in 1921. They did not get involved in the Graeco-Turkish war, which strained relations with their Southern neighbour (the view was that if they had, their Northern neighbours would have gone to war to capture parts of Byzantia).

Byzantia's Turkish governor, Marx Effendi, served as the first prime minister, saw the constitution through, and presided over the first election in 1923 and is now State President, as he was immensely respected by all. Although Marx Effendi had hoped that Byzantia would be returned to the Turkish fold, he had also realised that his future there was limited (as part of Turkey that had - by necessity - actually worked with the Allies to ensure that its people did not suffer too much) and in fact potentially dangerous (his great friend and nentor, Mehmet Cavit Bey, was executed last year).
This is the period of the first editions of Tintin and other literary Imagi-Nations, so New Byzantium is certainly well aware of the tensions between Syldavia and Borduria, unsettled intrigues in Ruritania, even peaceful Herzoslovakia is not untouched, and it also has Johnny Turk breathing down its back, as well as the Pan-Hellenes wanting it to join the Greek nation for the Greater Good. For the demi-democratic Government this is also the period of the Communist and Fascist demagogues, Young Turks, The Balkan Black Hand, plotting ex-Royals and dangerously democratic ideals fomented by Secret Societies - never mind the crackpot schemes of various Mad Professors in Tran - Syldavian castles....and not forgetting the various Orthodox Churches vying for superiority 

An Army in the 1920's


The army that emerged as a Class C mandate was predominantly taken from the Turkish army in World War One, but in the aftermath of the war the Byzantia view was that the defeated Germans and Turks were not the best example, and so they re-modelled themselves on the French army they served alongside in the Russian Civil War (most commentators there confused Byzantia with Greek troops, probably because they were both French equiped and used the Greek alphabet)
Following the analysis of Army Sizing in 1756, the next step was to define the potential size of the military in the 1920's. Firstly, the initial analysis is c 1810 when Ottoman Europe was about 8m strong. By 1910 the population was about 24m, a 3 - fold increase. World War one ensured little growth.

Thus New Byzantium, reconstituted as Byzantia in 1919, re-emerged with a 3 fold population increase over the 18th century population, from 800,000 to 2.4m. Using the 1% rule, we can calculate that a peacetime military of c 24,000 is affordable, and with Militias, trainees etc it can rapidly mobilise to c 48,000. Assuming again a c 1/3rd tail (Typical World War One level), that is a 16,000 person effective standing military. About 1/3rd are in the Navy and Air Arm, leaving c 11,000 in the Army. This gives (at about 600 men per Battalion) about 18 Battalion sized formations, roughly doubling at the time of callup.

As with the Napoleonic wars. the Great Powers bled themselves white in World War One, running between c 15% and 20% of all the population called up - so double that for % of males - (Russia was less, at c 7.5%, but that is partly a function of the society structure and partly exiting early). At full stretch, Greece as a late entrant in World War One had 230,000 men in arms with a population of  c 4.8m (ie c 5% of the population). The other Balkan states, fighting more intensively, averaged c 13% (Bulgaria at 20% was at major state levels)

(Warning - stats differ wildly per source so these are orders-of-magnitude views)

Assuming the same difference between large and small states in troop raising capabilty,  I set the 1% limit as a peacetime standing army, the 2% limit as with reserves called up, 5% as a state at war with a draft, and 10% as a small state at near total war. That means that in a major conflict Byzantia can mobilise about 120,000 men and at full stretch will be at c 240,000 (10 %)  Once you get to Bulgarian levels of 20% (480,000) the state is ruined whether they win or lose.

The big lessons from the Russian Civil War conflict was the usefulness of fast moving Armoured Car and Cavalry, and easy to move medium artillery, and that has influenced Byantia's thinking. Tanks were felt to be less useful so they equip just one Guard unit.(Tanks also were less reliable and needed a larger support structure than armoured cars, about 20 men per tank as opposed to 10 per car)

Byzantia managed to wheedle a War Gift from the French and British, so loaded up on decommissioned armoured cars, tanks, guns (and planes) from the two great powers.

The current structure of the army is:
  • Guards Brigade
  • Two Armoured Car Regiments (Battalion sized) - the Latinikon and Sipahoi
  • Two Cavalry Regiments - the Skythikon and Turcopoloi
  • Six Infantry Regiments of 1 (standing) Battalion, one per Theme
  • Two Light Infantry (Evzone) Battalions who can operate in mountains and the deep woods
  • An Artillery Regiment, supplying all the heavier Artillery (as per Byzantine tradition, mortars and light mountain guns are attached to infantry and cavalry Battalions.
How to organise them is the great debate in the mid 1920s - concentrate the cavalry and armour to break through at a point, or disperse it to stiffen the infantry?

In reforming the army, the new government reached back to Olde Byzantium for the regiments. This is especially true of the Guards Brigade, which now comprises of:

  • The Varangian Guard (Armoured Stormtroopers), many ex White Russians now serve in it
  • The Gianitzaroi (Elite light assault troops, many are Turks who for various reasons don't want to be in Turkey)
  • Les Biscotins (Boukellarioi) - the original mercenary regiment, dating from the 1700's
  • The Scholae / Tagmata (Converted to Heavy Tanks)
  • Trapezitae (top class lancers but also trained to operate as crack rifle armed cavalry)
  • The Latinikon - not Guard, but certainly elite - the New Byzantines were impressed with light tanks in the Russian Civil War and have thus recruited de-mobbed engineeers from Europe to be the core of an armoured Corps of Light tanks, using the Renault-Danglis tank
Tagmatic and Thematic cavalry - Byzantia was also impressed with cavalry from their experience in the Russian Civil War, and thus have resurrected the cavalry (not too hard as many Balkan peoples ride). The Skythikon and Turkopoloi remain as light cavalry units and operate as any other light cavalry of this period.

There is of course a vast difference between the dress uniforms of the army overall, which hark back to more gaudy times on parade, and their standard dusty drab khaki in real operations.

As always, the Vardariots function as police/gendarmes ad as a full time force are often first to be involved in any Troubles on the borders. The Evzone battalions are also full time and as they are stationed on the borders see a lot of the border action (I have Evzone models, you see....)

And of course, there is a small Air Corps, operating with (initially) easy-to-get WW1 cast-offfs and then getting 1920's/30's aircraft a few years later than the major powers.

As the main victorious powers in the region were Britain and France, and France was New Byzantium's Mandator, New Byzantium began it's life with primarily French organisation and equipment, overlayed on the Germano-Tuirkish system - and has quite a few bits purloined from defeated Bulgarian, Ottoman and German WW1 forces.