Responsibility Michael Kettle. Imprint London ; New York : Routledge, Physical description xiv, p. Series Russia and the Allies, ; v. Online Available online. Full view. Hoover Library. Access Items must be requested in advance and viewed on-site. More options. Find it at other libraries via WorldCat Limited preview.
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Bibliography Includes bibliographical references p. Contents 1.
London and Siberia: the coup d'etat at Omsk 2. The Russian Theatres: Preparations for War 3. When the print workers refused to work he took over the printing presses of the Morning Post , commandeered stocks of paper from The Times and, with the help of naval personnel and students from London University, produced the anti-strike paper the British Gazette. For good measure he brought in the Irish Guards to protect those involved in the Gazette's production. Then, in , his imperialist instincts enraged by widespread support for government policy towards Indian nationalists, he resigned from the shadow cabinet.
In the years that followed he spent much of his time writing when he was not making childish, insulting remarks about Ghandi. He had once tried his hand at fiction, but his first and only attempt at a novel was so bad that even he was embarrassed by it.
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His historical works tended to find fault with others while obscuring his own mistakes and shortcomings. One notable politician said of The Wilderness Years : "Winston's brilliant autobiography disguised as a history of the universe. Legend has it that throughout the thirties Churchill was a lone voice desperately trying to convince uncomprehending British politicians and the public against the evils of fascism and the menace of a Germany re-armed; he was the only one with the prescience to foresee the dangers.
What nonsense! Any blithering idiot would be well aware of the danger of a revived, re-armed Germany, still seething from the injustices inflicted upon it by the Versailles Treaty, flexing its military muscles and re-asserting itself in Western Europe, as a force to be reckoned with. Nor is it true that Churchill was more vociferous than others in calling for Britain to strengthen its air and military forces, in fact Neville Chamberlain had been advocating rearmament for much longer, at a time when Churchill was calling for cuts in defence.
Churchill and most of the leading politicians were not really anti-fascist the opening quotation comes from one of his books, published With such conflicting ideologies it seemed much more likely that Germany and Russia would end up fighting each other, in which case France and Britain could sit back and enjoy the show.
But Hitler had other plans for expanding the Reich. In defiance of the Versailles Treaty he had built up his armed forces and in March his army marched into the Rhineland which was supposed to be a demilitarized zone as a buffer between Germany and France; in his Kondor legion infamously bombed Guernica; in Germany occupied Austria without meeting any resistance. In , on the pretext that its three and a half million Germans were being persecuted, Hitler annexed the part of Czechoslovakia known as the Sudetenland Poland also helped itself to part of Czech territory with the acquiescence of Britain, France and Italy.
It was not the fate of small defenceless countries that worried Britain: it was the imbalance of power in Western Europe. There really wasn't anything else he could do as Britain was not prepared for war at that time and the British public was not interested in going to war for the sake of a country they knew so little about. Encouraged by his easy successes Hitler decided to occupy the rest of Czechoslovakia as well.
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This, however, was too much. Britain and France guaranteed the territorial integrity of Greece, Poland, Turkey and Romania, hoping that this would put a brake on Hitler's expansionist policies. Adolph was not impressed. Both France and Britain issued Hitler an ultimatum to withdraw from Poland. The ultimatum was ignored and on September 3rd war was declared on Germany. Those in command in the navy at that time were well aware that it was madness to go hunting for U-boats in the open sea; the best way to defeat them was to combat them when they tried to attack escorted convoys.
Churchill and the Archangel Fiasco
But Churchill was having none of it. He insisted that the navy must aggressively take the war to the enemy. As a consequence of his idiocy HMS Courageous was sent out into the open sea to hunt submarines and on September 17th it was sunk by a German U-boat. This is a myth propagated by Churchill and his cronies, a lie that should be corrected if historical truth is to mean anything at all. Chamberlain had in fact been one of the first to call for rearmament and would have fought the General Election with a policy of improving Britain's defences but was stopped from doing so by Baldwin.
Churchill's record is somewhat different: in he campaigned for battleships when those who knew better wanted to switch to aircraft-carriers; in he opposed reinforcement of Singapore, claiming that the Japanese could never take Singapore by surprise; in he recommended extension of the year rule no need to spend extra money on armed forces for at least 10 more years ; fought to reduce the naval estimates in and the army estimates in He was right, but he must also take the blame for contributing to that weakness in the first place.
source site But the loss of HMS Courageous was by no means the only disaster incurred by Churchill's arrogant and incompetent interference during his time as First Lord of the Admiralty. It was expected that Germany would soon try to occupy Norway and a plan was drawn up involving both the Royal Navy and troops to prevent this happening. But in April , when Germany did invade, attacking at various key points along the entire Norwegian coast, our modern day Nelson again knew better than his admirals. Troops were disembarked and warships were sent in all directions but the right one; Admiral Sir Charles Forbes, in command of the Home Fleet, had his orders cancelled by Churchill and the result was that Germany occupied Norway with relatively little loss.
Had anyone else but Churchill shown such incompetence, even downright stupidity, he would have been sacked. But the farce continued. It was decided that Narvik, in the northernmost region of Norway, must be taken. Churchill wanted part of the Narvik force to be diverted to Namos, about miles south, with a view to taking Trondheim.
Three days later Ironside was awakened by Churchill at 2am, while the Narvik force was at sea, and told that the navy was to attack Trondheim and Brigade was to be landed at Namos and Andalsnes to form a pincer attack from north and south. To divert Brigade in this manner meant it would land without its commander who was on one of the other ships , with no anti-aircraft guns and without much of its equipment.
Ironside explained this to Churchill, but Churchill lied, saying he had the full agreement of the War Cabinet's Military Co-ordination Committee. The resulting landing at Namos was a fiasco, with the army and navy commanders receiving conflicting orders and Churchill changing commanders, making impossible demands and directing action from hundreds of miles away for a scenario about which he knew nothing. The navy managed to evacuate most of the troops of Brigade against Churchill's wishes: he wanted the troops to disperse into the mountains and conduct a campaign of guerrilla warfare.
Inexperienced and ill-equipped Territorials were to go off into the mountains at a time when the temperature was 40 degrees below, with no training for such terrain and no means of being fed or supplied!? This was folly on an insane scale, even for a commander as hare-brained as Churchill; it betrays not only his stupidity but also his contemptuous disregard for the lives of his soldiers. Meanwhile the Scandinavian campaign had caught the attention of the House of Commons.
Admiral Sir Roger Keyes, speaking with authority, made an impassioned speech in which he blamed everyone except the guilty man himself for the debacle. In the angry debate that followed blame was diverted from Churchill and pointed at Chamberlain. Thus was concluded another inglorious chapter in the career of our great military and naval strategist. It must be pointed out here that the generals and admirals who allowed Churchill to overrule them and impose his own strategy and tactics on the conduct of the war were as much to blame as him for the fiasco just related, and the others that followed during WWII.
They could have given him the ultimatum en masse of keeping his interfering nose out of their operations or facing their collective resignation. Churchill would have been forced to back down; but instead they put their own careers before the lives of the men under their command. I suppose these figments of the imagination are telegraphed without consulting his military advisers.
But this did not deter the Germans: they were more militarily competent, efficient, and co-ordinated in their execution of modern warfare and they proceeded to wipe the floor with the Allies. During the ensuing debacle the great man himself crossed the channel to give orders, prompting Chief of Staff Pownall to make the comment which heads this chapter.
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Churchill seemed to think armies were like chess pieces that could be moved here and there at a whim, disengaging from the enemy with impunity and repositioning themselves in a more favourable position while the enemy patiently waited their turn to move. Fortunately for the thousands of ordinary soliders, General Gort ignored Churchill's orders, otherwise British casualties would have been higher and the evacuation from Dunkirk would have been less successful.
In the end, about , British and over , French soldiers were rescued to fight another day. It had taken the German forces a mere month to see off the Allies in what is known as the Battle of France. The 51st Highland Division, the 1st Armoured Division were left behind, along with thousands of administrative and non-combatant staff.
The Highlanders, commanded by Major General Victor Fortune, were placed under French command and were later ordered to surrender. They obeyed with great reluctance only after General Fortune was given written orders to do so. But Churchill had not yet grasped the magnitude of the Allied defeat. He ordered the 52nd Division, a lowland Scottish Territorial Division, and 1 Canadian Division which was in reserve in England, to embark for Cherbourg, sending Alan Brooke ahead to co-ordinate operations. Great military strategist?
It is astonishing to think that these were the times that gained Churchill the reputation as a great man. The only senior British officer to come out of this debacle with any credit was General Gort, the unsung hero of the Battle of France, who disobeyed Churchill's orders and plugged the gap between Belgium and the BEF, thus enabling much of the British forces to reach Dunkirk and be evacuated.
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Of the , French troops evacuated by the Royal Navy, all but 4, opted under international law to return to their defeated country. Only 1, sailors decided to stay and be part of the Free French Navy. It is easy for bourgeois historians to criticize those Frenchmen who opted for repatriation, but it must be remembered that they had wives and children in occupied France to worry about.