Today in History, May 10, 1940:
Sir Winston Churchill is made Prime Minister of England, a post he had long desired, but not necessarily under these circumstances. Churchill had been a member of the British government since the turn of the century, as his father had before him.
Due to politics, he had been abandoned to the political “wilderness” in the early 30’s…still a member of the House of Commons, but not of HMG…Her Majesty’s Government.
Throughout the 30’s he repeatedly called for beefing up the military to prepare for German aggression…and was repeatedly denied…cast as a crank looking for attention. It wasn’t until the Germans actually took France that his countrymen realized that Neville Chamberlain was the crank and that “Winston” knew what he was talking about.
On this date they cast their lot with him…and he did not disappoint.
Today in History, March 7: 1936:
“If you French had intervened in the Rhineland in 1936 we should have been sunk and Hitler would have fallen” – German General Heinz Guderian, interviewed after WWII.
On this date, Germany “remilitarized” the Rhineland with a token force. It had been de-militarized after WWI to protect Germany’s neighbors.
In some skullduggery, Hitler claimed the people of the Rhineland were German peoples, and wanted the military presence. Now it was just a matter of seeing if anyone would call his hand.
In his memoirs, Hitler agreed with Guderian, saying that he had been very nervous in the 48 hours after the move.
Except for a few unheeded voices (Churchill), the governments of Europe refused to act, mostly for financial reasons. Bet they wished they could have had a “do over” on that decision.
Today in History, August 20: 1940 – “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” British Prime Minister Winston Churchill gives the fourth of his famous WWII speeches to Parliament, inspiring his countrymen and women to fight on. The German Luftwaffe had been very effective in smashing the military and war making abilities of the other European nations; now Britain stood alone against the onslaught. Waves of Nazi bombers and fighters brought the Blitzkrieg across the English Channel, bombing civilians and military targets alike. The RAF had few fighters, but they did have drive and radar, which they used to target the enemy bombers without wasting precious flying time. “The Few”, RAF Fighter Command, flew their Supermarine Spitfires and Hawker Hurricanes almost continuously throughout the Battle of Britain, and eventually dashed Hitler’s hopes for an invasion of Britain.
“We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”
– Winston Churchill, June 4, 1940. (77 years ago tomorrow)
This was in response to the evacuation of Dunkirk a few days earlier, during which every British boat that could float responded to rescue hundreds of thousands of soldiers from the French coast.
The British people also survived the Blitz, during which Nazi bombers carried out an extended bombing campaign dropping tons of bombs nightly on British civilians…also terror tactics meant to cause surrender. They failed.
British and Americans have experienced bombings and attacks long before the war on terror (anarchists, IRA, etc).
Different faces on the attackers. But Britain, America and our Allies will survive and win.
Today in History, June 3: 1937 – British Duke of Windsor, formerly King Edward VIII marries American double divorcee Wallis Simpson Warfield in France. In what is usually described as the ultimate romantic tale, the King had abdicated the throne in 1936 so that he could marry the American woman. However…the rest of the story. She had already married and divorced an American Naval pilot, and carried on her affair with Edward during her second marriage. Once she obtained her divorce and married the now former king (his family wanted nothing to do with her), they settled in France. The only Parliament member that had supported Edward, Winston Churchill, soon became Prime Minister. Now he had to “handle” the problem of the Duke and his spouse, who had, in the interim, become Nazi sympathizers. In the mixed up politics of Europe in thirties, this was not necessarily as odd as it seems. Nonetheless, the Duke and his wife were now a dangerous embarrassment to the crown. A saddened Churchill convinced Edward to sneak out of Spain and accept a post as Governor of the Bahamas…what amounted to banishment. He accepted and spent the war years talking badly about his own country from a distance. Not quite the romantic figure portayed.