All the winds that blew…
😀 😀 😀 😀 😀
The second volume in Churchill’s massive, Nobel Prize-winning, six-volume history of the Second World War, this one covers two distinct stages – the fall of France and the Battle of Britain. Churchill gives each volume a theme, and this one seems particularly pointed towards our so-called allies who sat on their hands while Britain stood alone against the mighty German war machine:
HOW THE BRITISH PEOPLE
HELD THE FORT
TILL THOSE WHO HITHERTO HAD
BEEN HALF BLIND WERE
Just as in the first volume, this is a wonderful mix of military detail, including many tables showing troop and equipment statistics, and political manoeuvring, as Churchill continued his patient and immensely frustrating attempts to get the US to stand by its supposed allies with something a bit more useful than warm words. Meantime, the rush was on in Britain to intensify munitions manufacture so that the armed forces and especially the air forces would be able to defend against the expected German invasion. We hear much about the many people who were encouraged to use their inventive technical skills to give us any possible military or intelligence edge, and about the support given by the Dominions and Colonies throughout the Empire.
But what makes Churchill such an outstanding Titan in history is that, despite us being forced to stand alone with France fallen and the US procrastinating, despite the massed armies of Hitler gathering on the French shore looking our way, despite the bombs falling devastatingly on our cities night after night, Churchill never considered that we might be defeated. He worked on the assumption that we would win the coming Battle of Britain despite all odds, and so simultaneously made plans for how, our defensive work still ongoing, Britain should move into the offensive stage that would drive Germany and its major ally Italy back, liberating the countries they had invaded and destroying their military might. While all eyes were on the skies above Britain, his gaze was also directed towards Egypt and N. Africa. While all efforts were made to increase production of planes and train pilots to fight the ongoing Battle of Britain, Churchill was also demanding tanks – “Tanks for Africa!”
….The prize was worthy of the hazard. The arrival of our vanguard on the sea at Buq Buq or thereabouts would cut the communications of three-quarters of Marshal Graziani’s army. Attacked by surprise from the rear, they might well be forced as a result of vigorous fighting into mass surrenders. In this case the Italian front would be irretrievably broken. With all their best troops captured or destroyed, no force would be left capable of withstanding a further onslaught, nor could any organised retreat be made to Tripoli along hundreds of miles of coastal road.
….Here, then, was the deadly secret which the generals had talked over with their Secretary of State. This was what they had not wished to telegraph. We were all delighted. I purred like six cats. Here was something worth doing. It was decided there and then, subject to the agreement of the Chiefs of Staff and the War Cabinet, to give immediate sanction and all possible support to this splendid enterprise, and that it should take first place in all our thoughts and have, amid so many other competing needs, first claim upon our strained resources.
It is as thrilling as any adventure story, but so much more than that – his foresight and that of the military men and politicians who worked with him in an attitude of mutual determination didn’t simply save Britain from invasion, but kept hope alive that the spirit of democracy and freedom from tyranny would one day rise again across Europe.
By the end of this volume the Battle of Britain has been won, the threat of invasion is over, the Axis advance in North Africa has been halted, and America has finally signed up to lend-lease which, if it will still not put American skin in the game, will at least provide (for a fee that Britain would still be paying back sixty years later) equipment and the necessities of life to those who are doing the fighting. And here, at the end of 1940, the writing is already on the wall for the eventual defeat of the Axis powers, though it would be many years and see many millions of deaths before that defeat was final.
And now this Britain, and its far-spread association of states and dependencies, which had seemed on the verge of ruin, whose very heart was about to be pierced, had been for fifteen months concentrated upon the war problem, training its men and devoting all its infinitely-varied vitalities to the struggle. With a gasp of astonishment and relief the smaller neutrals and the subjugated states saw that the stars still shone in the sky. Hope, and within it passion, burned anew in the hearts of hundreds of millions of men. The good cause would triumph. Right would not be trampled down. The flag of Freedom, which in this fateful hour was the Union Jack, would still fly in all the winds that blew.