Monday, April 8, 2013

Book Review: Memoirs of the Second World War (Part 2)

"Winston is back" the British Admiralty telegrammed to the Fleet. As soon as war was declared, France and Britain mobilized and though land and air struggles did not begin at once, naval struggles began immediately.  

Poland fell quickly.  Next, Hitler invaded Norway.  The House of Commons was very angry with the British Government after the fall of Norway.  Chamberlain did not feel he could continue as Prime Minister; he resigned and advised the king to send for Winston Churchill.  The king asked Churchill to form a new government.  A national coalition government was formed, consisting of all parties working together.  On May 13, 1940, Churchill asked the House of Commons for a vote of confidence in the new Administration.  He told them, "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat."  The House gave a unanimous vote of confidence.

Meanwhile, Germany invaded Holland and Belgium on May 10th.  By the 16th, the Germans had penetrated over 60 miles into France.  Britain supported France as long as she could.  But the defence of France was hopeless.  The 28th Belgian Army surrendered, and the British were forced to evacuate from Dunkirk.  The "Deliverance of Dunkirk" was miraculous and 338,000 British and Allied troops safely landed in England.  On June 10th, Italy declared war on the Allies and attacked France as well.  In the east, the Soviet Foreign Minister congratulated the Germans on their "splendid success."  Russia invaded Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia and annexed them to the Soviet Union.  

After Dunkirk, Britain faced a very bad weapons shortage.  The United States helped by sending weapons to both the British and French.  The British prepared for a possible German invasion by arming the populace with whatever guns could be found, as well as sporting rifles, clubs, and even spears.  A "Home Guard" was formed, anti-tank obstacles and ditches were made, and the beaches were mined.  

Paris fell on June 14th and three days later, Petain's government asked the Germans for an armistice.  High French military authorities advised, "In 3 weeks England will have her neck wrung like a chicken."

The French Admiral Darlan agreed to let the powerful French fleet come under German control,  so the British conducted "Operation Catapult"to seize, control, or destroy all of the accessible French Fleet.  Part of the fleet volunteered to join the British, but at other ports the British navy had to fight and destroy the French ships.

The British were now completely alone.  As Churchill puts it, "Certainly we had no lack of foes."

Part 3 is coming soon!

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