Ste Catherine, croiseur de bataille, as completed 1915
|In a world only slightly different from our own, geological forces uplifted the Continental Shelf to form an island, west of Brittany and south of Ireland. This island came to be known as Tarrantry. From a duchy of medieval France it became in time an independent nation, small in population but prosperous from trade and redoubtable at sea ...|
|xx||This page is badly outdated! A lot
of Tarrantry material has been written since I put this up; follow the links to Infinity Wanderers
and the Saga of Tarrantry pages for
some of it.
"First Blood" By Bill Wellman
Storm-force winds buffeted the modest quarters of the Commandant of the
About Tarrantry ... It all began as an exercise, on the Battleship v Battleship discussion board at Battleships Carriers and All Other Warships (www.warships1.com), to explore what sort of a fleet a middle-rank European maritime power might build, especially during the dreadnought era, 1906-1945. But as JRR Tolkien says, the tale grew in the telling. Talented writers on the board took it on themselves to flesh out the abstractions of fleet development -- and the men and ships of the Marine Royale Terentrienne suddenly came to life, not only in battle but in the long watches that make up the daily routine of a navy at war, and in their private lives as well. (Oddly, I've been only a lesser contributor to the Tarrantry saga; at the time I was mostly wrapped up in developing space warfare ideas.)
A brief personal note. Tarrantry is an indirect offshoot of another parallel world of mine, created for my novel Catherine of Lyonesse. (Now in the marketplace.) In the novel, Lyonesse is a synologue of Britain -- if I hadn't already used the name, it would have been perfectly appropriate for Tarrantry.
(Click on map for a Europe-wide view)
Tarrantry is an Atlantic island, located on the corner of the European continental shelf west of Brittany and south of Ireland. Thus in geographical terms it is really a third British Isle. In area it is slightly smaller than Ireland, though with a larger population on the order of 8-10 million people by 1939.
The ancient population was Celtic, and a language related to Breton is still spoken in remote areas. The predominant ancient tribe was the Terentri, hence the Latin name Insula Terentria. Tarrantry's recorded history begins with a Roman commander who attempted to conquer it, only to be driven off by a native queen. In response, the Emperor Vaspasian -- who had previous experience dealing with a troublesome Celtic queen, Boudicca -- sent a more capable officer, P. Cornelius Longinus, apparently with instructions to avoid creating another mess.
We have only a sketchy account, in Suetonius, of Longinus' campaign, but at the end of it a peace was made and Queen Trevanna was recognized as a "friend of the Roman People" -- Suetonius insinuating that Longinus and Queen Trevanna ended up as very good friends indeed. :-) By tradition this amicable union of Roman and Celt is regarded as the beginning of the Terentrian nation, and in the late 1930s their names were given to the most powerful ships of the MRT (Marine Royal Terentrienne), the battleships Trevanne and Longine. A Roman fort was built on a sound near the eastern tip of the island; this fort, Colonia Longina, eventually became Tarrantry's capital city, Colnille.
By the Middle Ages, French culture had become predominant. Medieval Tarrantry was a duchy of France, semi-independent in practice as were other French duchies. Colnille, on the coastal trade route between southern and northern Europe, became a wealthy trading town, and the basis of ducal power. With the aid of its ships the Dukes of Tarrantry (the House of Toulouse, though the name actually comes from Tolosa in Spain) were well positioned to play off England and France in order to maintain their de facto independence; as late as the reign of Louis XIV they called on English support to preserve their medieval liberties against the French crown. Nevertheless, by the 18th century Tarrantry was a loyal province of France, and Terentrian ships fought alongside the French royal fleet -- in 1780 a Terentrian squadron defeated a British one in the Battle of Richemont.
The great turn in Terentrian history came with the French Revolution. Initially the liberal Duke Jean IV favored the revolution and went so far as to renounce his title and be elected to the Convention as "Citoyen Toulouse." But the arrest of the king and the rise of the Jacobins turned Terentrian opinion against the revolutionaries, and a provincial convention restored ex-Duke Jean to his ducal title. Tarrantry broke away from the Revolutionary government, and though still nominally a royalist province of France, it fought alongside Britain in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Subsequently the Congress of Vienna recognized Tarrantry as an independent country and elevated the House of Toulouse to royal rank.
Throughout the 19th century, fear of re-annexation by France was the dominant factor in Tarrantry's foreign policy. Terentrians recognized that the British Royal Navy was their ultimate source of protection, but it was strongly felt that Tarrantry needed a strong navy of its own. By the 1870s, Tarrantry had more than half a dozen major ironclads; the "turret ram" Auguste boasted the heaviest gun afloat, a single 18" breech-loading rifle. Following a decline in the later 1870s and 1880s -- after the War of 1870 had seemed to weaken France - a war scare in 1890 led to a revitalization of the fleet, and by 1900 Tarrantry had six pre-dreadnoughts and four large armored cruisers built or under construction.
The Entente between France and Britain altered Tarrantry's strategic situation. A general European war was clearly looming, and Tarrantry hoped to preserve its neutrality. Consideration was given to basing the fleet on powerful armored cruisers -- a proposal made especially by then-Captain Rene Delacroix I - but the dreadnought revolution confused the issue. Already in 1905-06 Tarrantry had laid down a "marginal dreadnought," L'Inflexible, with 8 x 12", in twin turrets fore and aft and single turrets on the wings, as well as two powerful armored cruisers, not-quite-battlecruisers, Hyrcanie and Guerriere, with 8 x 10", all on the centerline with a superfiring turret forward.
These were followed by two full-fledged dreadnoughts, Richemont and Constant (10 x 12"), the battlecruiser Foudroyante (8 x 12"), and then by the powerful battlecruisers Ste Catherine and Taranis (8 x 14"). These, the last prewar capital ships, were modernized in the 1930s and remained major fleet units in 1939. Tarrantry was neutral in the first months of World War I, but the German U-boat campaign was regarded as intolerable. The sinking of Lusitania was the last straw; on 11 May 1915 Tarrantry declared war on Germany. The Ste Catherines served with the Grand Fleet at Jutland, and during the German Atlantic battlecruiser raids of 1917-18 the Ste Catherine sank the German battlecruiser Derfflinger after an epic duel.
Postwar plans called for two battleships and two "super-cruisers," but due to the Washington Treaty only the battleship Hyrcanie (8 x 16") and super-cruiser Sans Souci (12 x 8") were completed. (Note that the Sans Souci was designed before anyone expected 8" cruisers to become the Treaty standard.) A sister ship to Sans Souci was completed as the carrier Fauconniere.
As a trading state, Tarrantry was hard-hit by the Great Depression, and a moderate Socialist, Pierre de Fossier, became Prime Minister in 1933. He remained in office to lead Tarrantry through the Second World War -- save for a brief few weeks in 1939, after the Hitler-Stalin Pact caused the Communists, coalition partners with the Socialists in the Union of the Left, to join the Conservative opposition in a vote of no-confidence. The outbreak of war quickly brought de Fossier back to office (with some help from Captain Rene Delacroix III, who in a much-hushed-up episode decked Prime Minister Mirabeau in the latter's office). A strong navalist in spite of his leftish leanings, de Fossier used a naval buildup in the 1930s both to support employment in the shipyards and to prepare for an eventual war against Nazi Germany. He arranged covert assistance to the Republican side during the Spanish Civil War -- and in 1936, in another hushed-up episode, the Sans Souci engaged the panzerschiff ("pocket battleship") Deutschland off the coast of Spain and sent her home badly damaged.
Major construction in the 1930s includes three more "super-cruisers," Hastings, Sans Pareil, and Patrice (9 x 10") -- rated as capital ships for Washington Treaty purposes, as the Sans Souci had been -- and the fast battleships Trevanne and Longine (9 x 14"). Also worthy of note are several "aviation cruisers" combining a flight deck with 6" guns forward, and the big light cruisers Ardent and Temeraire, with 16 x 6" in four quad turrets. Anticipating events a bit, this last class will come to the attention of Americans during the war, who dub them "Colnille Pianos."
As for what happens after the outbreak of the Second World War, that is the subject
matter of the stories soon to be posted here!
-- Rick Robinson
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