Eighty years ago, the opening phase of the war in the south Balkans draws to a close

    After a prolonged but ultimately doomed hesitation, the Bulgarian government bowed to the inevitable and allowed German troops into the country. The promise of territory to be seized from Greece and Yugoslavia was enough to make the Bulgarians accede to demands that they sign the Tripartite pact. This had little immediate practical consequence, but did signal that Bulgaria was aligned with the three main Axis powers. With Germany still formally allied to the Soviet Union, there appeared little risk for Bulgaria. German troops immediately entered the country in force, prior to attacking Greece on its southern border. The British foreign secretary, Anthony Eden, fresh from his failure to interest Turkey in resisting the Axis, found a “changed and disturbing situation” in Athens. The Greek army had even begun its promised to a more defensible line. Eden’s response was to agree to practically anything the Greeks asked, thus committing Britain to full-scale military support. The suc

Eighty years ago, the British army in North Africa enounters Erwin Rommel for the first time

  British commitment to the southern Balkans was signalled unambiguously when the Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden and the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Sir John Dill, visited Turkey then Greece. The duo were rapturously received by the public in Turkey, which provided some consolation when they were told by their hosts that the country was far to weak militarily to intervene against the likely German attack on Greece. The Turks tried to save British face further by accepting that was supplies intended for them might be diverted to Greece. The meetings in Athens formally set the seal on the British decision to send troops to support the Greeks. The British army had already encountered the Wehrmacht (and the Luftwaffe ) in Libya, where the first elements of what was to become the Afrika Korps had arrived under the command of Erwin Rommel, then an unknown name to the British. Operation Unternehmen Sonnenblume (Operation Sunflower) was intended to rescue the Italians from the r

Eighty years ago, war comes to the Indian Ocean and the menace of war comes to Singapore

  The German commerce raider Admiral Scheer continued her highly successful cruise with a few days in the Indian Ocean where she disposed of a number of allied merchant vessels near the Seychelles. This came just after she had sunk at least six ships in a convoy in the South Atlantic. On the strength of this single sortie which lasted 155 days and covered 46,000 nautical miles. Scheer became the Kriegsmarine ’s most effective surface raider, sinking a total of 17 ships of 113,000 grt. Her victims included the armed merchant cruiser Jervis Bay which had sacrificed herself to allow most of the ships in her convoy to escape. Scheer was a sister ship to the pocket battleship Graf Spee , famously sunk after the Battle of the River Plate. Hitler continued to push his pawns into the Balkans. Germany was by far the strongest power in the region but was still moving steadily rather than aggressively. Hitler’s next move was to cover his western flank by bringing Yugoslavia into his orbit