The Mountains of the Moon: The Gulf War of 1964 - Part 2 (Timeline 10/27/62 Book 8), страница 1
The Mountains of the Moon
The Gulf War of 1964 – Part 2
By James Philip
Copyright © James P. Coldham writing as James Philip 2016. All rights reserved.
Cover concept by James Philip
Graphic Design by Beastleigh Web Design
‘The Mountains of the Moon: The Gulf War of 1964 – Part 2’ is Book 8 of the alternative history series Timeline 10/27/62.
It is June 1964 in a World in which the ‘swinging sixties’ never happened.
Two Soviet tank armies have fallen on Iran and are pouring down from the Zagros Mountains onto the Iraqi floodplains of the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers like wolves upon the fold. The Shah of Iran is dead, Tehran has been destroyed by a nuclear strike; and the surviving imperial courtiers are squabbling over the distribution of the nation’s riches. Iraq has disintegrated before the advancing Red Army tanks.
The Kennedy Administration has turned its back on any new commitment ‘east of Suez’. Only a handful of British tanks and a few thousand widely scattered Commonwealth troops around the oilfields of the Middle East and a fragile web of hastily concluded agreements of with former enemies and embattled allies stand between the Red Army and complete mastery of the Persian Gulf.
The whole Middle East is in turmoil. The Suez Canal is blocked. The British bases in Malta and Cyprus are wrecked. In America Congress has refused to ratify the US-UK Mutual Defence Treaty.
In the United States the overwhelming popular mood is one of ‘America First’. The ‘victory’ of the October War has never seemed more pyrrhic, or all the death, destruction and grief more futile than it does in the first week of June 1964. The beleaguered British and Commonwealth forces in and around the Persian Gulf must face the fact that the cavalry – in the form of the slowly rebuilding American military colossus – is not about to come to the rescue any time soon, or if at all, ever again.
Faced with a war in the Persian Gulf that it has neither the materiel, or in some quarters the will to fight, the West – what remains of it after the unmitigated disaster of the Cuban Missiles War of October 1962 – faces a humiliating, crushing catastrophe of a kind that will alter the balance of global geopolitical power for a generation.
Has the nightmare of the October War been in vain?
Only one thing is certain; the World is about to be turned upside down again.
The Timeline 10/27/62 – Main Series is:
Book 1: Operation Anadyr
Book 2: Love is Strange
Book 3: The Pillars of Hercules
Book 4: Red Dawn
Book 5: The Burning Time
Book 6: Tales of Brave Ulysses
Book 7: A Line in the Sand
Book 8: The Mountains of the Moon
Book 9: All Along the Watchtower (Available 1st June 2017)
Book 10: Crow on the Cradle (Available 27th October 2017)
Books in the Timeline 10/27/62 – USA Series exploring the American experience of Armageddon from an entirely American point of view are now available:
Timeline 10/27/62 – USA Series:
Book 1: Aftermath
Book 2: California Dreaming
Book 3: The Great Society
Book 4: Ask Not of Your Country
Book 5: The American Dream (Available 27th October 2017)
Timeline 10/27/62 - Australia
Book 1: Cricket on the Beach (Available 20th December 2017)
Book 2: Operation Manna (Available 20th December 2017)
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To the reader: firstly, thank you for reading this book; and secondly, please remember that this is a work of fiction. I made it up in my own head. None of the fictional characters in ‘The Mountains of the Moon: The Gulf War of 1964 – Part 2’ – Book 8 of the ‘Timeline 10/27/62 Series’ - is based on real people I know of, or have ever met. Nor do the specific events described in ‘The Mountains of the Moon: The Gulf War of 1964 – Part 2’ – Book 8 of the ‘Timeline 10/27/62 Series’ - have, to my knowledge, any basis in real events I know to have taken place. Any resemblance to real life people or events is, therefore, unintended and entirely coincidental.
The ‘Timeline 10/27/62 Series’ is an alternative history of the modern World and because of this real historical characters are referenced and in many cases their words and actions form significant parts of the narrative. I have no way of knowing if these real, historical figures would have spoken thus, or acted in the ways I depict them acting. Any word I place in the mouth of a real historical figure, and any action which I attribute to them after 27th October 1962 never actually happened. As I always state – unequivocally - in my Author’s Notes to my readers, I made it all up in my own head.
The books of the Timeline 10/27/62 series are written as episodes; they are instalments in a contiguous narrative arc. The individual ‘episodes’ each explore a number of plot branches while developing themes continuously from book to book. Inevitably, in any series some exposition and extemporization is unavoidable but I try – honestly, I do – to keep this to a minimum as it tends to slow down the flow of the stories I am telling.
In writing each successive addition to the Timeline 10/27/62 ‘verse’ it is my implicit assumption that my readers will have read the previous books in the series, and that my readers do not want their reading experience to be overly impacted by excessive re-hashing of the events in those previous books.
Humbly, I suggest that if you are ‘hooked’ by the Timeline 10/27/62 Series that reading the books in sequence will – most likely - enhance your enjoyment of the experience.
Other Books by James Philip
The Mountains of the Moon
The Gulf War of 1964 – Part 2
[Book 8 of the Timeline 10/27/62 Series]
Friday 5th June 1964
HMAS Anzac, Shatt al-Arab, 33 miles South of Abadan
Commander Stephen Turnbull eyed the low, hazy coast to the north-west as it was imperceptibly swallowed by the gathering dusk. In these latitudes night fell like a veil in minutes. A mile astern the big dark silhouette of HMAS Sydney – the former aircraft carrier converted into a fast transport - was already just a vague, blackening outline against the velvet cloth of the warm, still evening and her smaller attendant minesweeping companions invisible. In a few minutes the only thing which would tell a mariner that he was not steaming across a great ocean far from land, was the slowly surging tidal current of the Arvand River – fed by the great press of fresh water flooding down to the Persian Gulf from the confluence of the Tigris and the Euphrates at al-Qurnah above Basra - and the narrowing of the deep water channel to the north as it carved through the endless sandbanks and treacherous shoals at the mouth of the Shatt al-Arab.
Her Majesty’s Australian Ship Anzac was closed up at battle stations, running without and lights other than a single hooded stern lamp, sounding her way up river, searching for the deepest water. Over geological time the Shatt al-Arab had moved east and west along the northern shore of the Persian Gulf, and every year it deposited millions of tons of new silt, moved old sandbanks, cut a myriad of unsuspected channels to the sea, and closed others. No chart was to be trusted a year after it was drawn and the shifting ‘navigation’, twenty-five to fifty feet deep most of the thirty-three miles from the Gulf to Abadan and up to thirty feet deep as far north as Basra moved seasonally. It was for this reason that the border between Iraq and Iran south of Basra and Khorramshahr followed the middle of the ‘deep water channel’, rather than the middle of the Arvand River.
At fifty-six Stephen Turnbull was the old man of the Royal Australian Navy contingent in the Gulf. He had been on the Reserve List eight years – running the family sheep farm in the New South Wales outback – before the October War; the senior substantive commander on the Navy List, his promotion dating back to February 1943. He had been one of the few survivors of the doomed ABDA – Australian, British, Dutch and American – squadron destroyed by the Imperial Japanese Navy in the Battle of the Java Sea in early 1942, ended the Pacific War in command of a fleet destroyer in Tokyo Bay, and before his ‘retirement’ had commanded one of Anzac’s sisters during the Korean War. He had honestly believed he had come ashore for good in 1954; and to his astonishment never really missed the sea.
He would not have returned to the sea at all if his wife and youngest son had not been in London on the night of the war. He had married Hermione in 1940, both their daughters, Daphne and Janet having been born during the 1945 war and their son Donald in late 1946. Hermione had emigrated to Australia in 1936 with her first husband, Dan. She was from Sheffield, England and the newlyweds had moved to the other side of the World in search of work and a better life. Dan had died in a dockyard accident and Hermione had –like a perfect English rose – brightened Stephen Turnbull’s life from that moment on that day in December 1939 that he had first set eyes upon her.
They had talked about ‘taking six months out’ to go back to the old country for twenty years, but never quite got around to it. With Daphne recently married, with Janet in the second year of her nursing training in Melbourne, and Stephen unable to find anybody he trusted to manage the family farm for such a long absence, in the end Hermione had taken Donald on ‘the trip of a lifetime back to the old country’ in September 1962 to meet her maternal grandmother and her surviving aunts, uncles and cousins. The commanding officer of HMAS Anzac, at that time still an outback sheep farmer, had planned to fly to Europe to join his wife and son for the last weeks of their stay in England in late January 1963. And then the World had gone mad.
The Navy had tried to promote him Commodore; to stick him behind a desk in the Navy Department in Canberra, or at the rapidly expanding base at Williamstown in Victoria. He would have none of it, had demanded a sea command and eventually he had been reunited with Anzac, a ship he had last seen a decade before during the Korean War during the blockade of Wonsan.
At the time the Battle class destroyer with the proudest name in the Service had been in a sorry state. When he first walked up the gangplank she was in dry dock, undergoing a ‘wholesale restoration’. In 1961 the Royal Australian Navy – RAN - had decided, in its wisdom, that it no longer needed its ‘Battles’; the age of the big gun ship was over and consequently Anzac had been converted into a ‘training ship’. Half her main battery had been removed, her torpedo tubes and most of her anti-aircraft cannons sent ashore and the Williamstown Naval Dockyard at Melbourne, where she had been built, had quite literally, been attempting to restore Anzac to her original glory. Inevitably, the addition of modern electronic equipment, updated gunnery and air search radars – the latter relatively high above the waterline - had meant top weight had had to be reduced elsewhere; so Anzac had lost both of her two quadruple 21-inch torpedo launchers, and but for much acrimonious argy-bargy with the idiots at the Design Office, she would also have lost half of her dozen 40-millimetre Bofors anti-aircraft guns.
At one stage everything had been put on hold while the RAN considered the viability and the desirability of modernising both Anzac and the Tobruk along the same lines as their British sisters Agincourt, Barrosa, Corunna, Aisne, Oudenarde and Talavera. Every time that Stephen Turnbull went ashore or viewed his command from a distance, he breathed a sigh of heartfelt relief that the ‘clowns’ at the Defence Ministry in Canberra had vetoed that particular option. It beggared his imagination that any naval architect would even contemplate bastardising such an intrinsically perfect fighting machine in such a cold-hearted way. The Battles were a marvellous combination of firepower, sea-keeping and well, elegance; marvellously balanced expressions of the final word on conventional – gunship – fleet destroyer form and function.
But what did he know?
Other that was, than that there was little or no honour in fighting it out with one’s enemies tens or hundreds of miles away via electronic links at the push of a button with sophisticated guided missiles?
In the gathering darkness of HMAS Anzac’s open bridge Stephen Turnbull chuckled almost, but not quite to himself. Anzac’s Clydebank-built British sister, HMS Talavera had had her finest hours only after she had had all the modernity shot to pieces or stripped out of her in Malta; her magnificent finest hour had been as an old-fashioned gunship destroyer.
Now as Anzac edged cautiously into the mouth of the Shatt al-Arab he was thankful that he had four quick firing 4.5-inch 45-calibre Mark V guns and a dozen 40-millimetre Bofors cannons at his command. He had no need of fancy – probably unreliable - surface-to-air missiles like the GWS Sea Cats carried by many British ships; the work upon which he was engaged was only ever likely to call for shot and shell.
Anzac and the Ton class minesweepers Essington and Tariton, were escorting the Sydney on her latest ‘run’ up to Abadan. This time she was carrying five Centurion Mark IIs, a company of Royal Marines and a whole ammunition dump of ordnan
“Ten feet under the keel, sir,” Anzac’s bridge repeater called, relaying the report from the sonar room.
“Right full rudder!” Stephen Turnbull ordered quietly.
The destroyer drew nearly fifteen feet fully loaded; this evening she was drawing fourteen feet forward, and a few inches less at the stern. The bottom had shelved from fifty feet to less than twenty-five in a handful of seconds even though Anzac was barely making steerage way in the turbulent muddy water of the river mouth.
“Signal Sydney to steer to a cable to starboard!”
Some years a treacherous shallow bar formed across the mouth of the Shatt al-Arab, threatening to close the Shatt al-Arab to big ships. The draught of the fifteen thousand ton former aircraft carrier astern of the Anzac was twenty-five feet. Before the October War limited dredging exercises had been carried out on the approaches to Abadan, and around Basra, enabling ten thousand ton tankers to navigate in relative safety as far as the refinery jetties at Abadan, and smaller steamers all the way up to Basra. The trouble was that ‘before the war’ was another age and no dredging had taken place since October 1962. It was one thing for hydrologists to blithely assert that all the dredging had ever achieved ‘was to move the sandbanks around’, another entirely to guide a lump of a ship like the Sydney safely up river in pitch darkness.
“Twenty feet under the keel, sir!”