Showing posts from July, 2016

Republicans Are the Early Losers in the Propaganda War over Atrocities in Spain

Friday 31st July 1936

The Spanish Civil War was rich in atrocities committed by both sides. On balance the rebels were rather more guilty than the Republicans; the professional colonial army imported from North Africa had a particularly ugly reputation. It was widely recognized that the army had already blackened its name by its behaviour in the Asturias disturbances  in 1934, when it had conducted a full scale military campaign against the striking miners as though they were a foreign invader, but there was little understanding of how thoroughly the same policy was pursued even more rigorously after the attempted army coup.
The Republicans lost the propaganda war on this score and it is clear from early foreign coverage of the war that they had the harder task. Naked class hatred, notably in Catalonia, made it all too easy for the international press to taint the entire Republican movement as a Communist-inspired movement dedicated to the extermination of the established order. Atroc…

D'un Chateau au Bateau

Thursday 30th July 1936

The King rapidly made new arrangements to replace the aborted plan for his holiday at the Chateau de l'Horizon on the Cote d'Azur. He would charter Lady Yule's modern and luxurious yacht, the Nahlin, for a cruise on the Dalmatian coast and the eastern Mediterranean, comfortably remote from civil war in Spain and civil unrest in France. In keeping with tradition two Royal Navy destroyers would escort the Nahlin and the King would be in constant touch with Britain.
It would be a private holiday, conducted under the formal incognito of Duke of Lancaster, so the names of the other guests would not feature in the Court Circular. British journalists instantly guessed that these would include Mrs. Simpson, but their employers still kept total silence on the question. They were similarly discreet about one hasty refit of the Nahlin to meet the needs of her new passengers: the entire library was removed to make way for drinks.

Kings and Battleships

Wednesday 29th July 1936

Sir Samuel Hoare, the First Lord of the Admiralty, announced in Parliament the order for the first two of the Royal Navy's new generation of battleships, the King George V class. They were to be built by Vickers-Armstrong and Cammell Laird. Their design was compromised by British adherence to treaty limitation on main armament to 14" guns, which led to the use of two unsatisfactory four gun turrets.
Despite these problems, King George V went on to give good service and played major parts in the sinking of Bismark in 1941 and Scharnhorst in 1943.Her first sister had a less happy record. She was to have been named King Edward VIII but she was renamed Prince of Wales before she was even laid down, as it was not felt appropriate to honour the, by-then, Duke of Windsor. She failed to score any hits damage on either Bismark or Prinz Eugen in the Battle of the Denmark Strait, in which Hood was sunk. Along with Repulse, Prince of Wales was sunk by Japanese ai…

Rehabiliation by Deputation

Tuesday 28th July 1936

One Parliamentary practice that has fallen into disuse in modern times is the Deputation, in which groups of peers and/or MPs could secure the Prime Minister's time to put a particular issue before him, provided they were senior or numerous enough. They could not force the Prime Minister to do anything but listen. As part of his campaign in  favour of accelerating rearmament, Winston Churchiill brought a deputation of Conservative peers and MPs to see Baldwin. He failed to persuade the opposition parties to join them.
Predictably enough, the meeting had no effect. Baldwin simply said that enough was being done and that the public mood was against rearmament. The political significance of the episode lies in the fact that Churchill was able to attract high level support from his own party, such as Lord Salisbury and Sir Austen Chamberlain KG, the benchmark grandees of the upper and lower houses respectively, and distinguished military men, such as Lord Trench…

Royal Holiday Plans Trimmed by Unrest in France

Monday 27th July 1936

Buckingham Palace announced that the King had abandoned his planned holiday in the South of France at short notice. He had been due to leave at the end of the week and to spend the month of August at the vast, modernist and luxurious Chateau de l'Horizon rented from American socialite and former actress, Maxime Elliot. The outbreak of the civil war in Spain was given as the risen, even though the nearest point on the Spanish border was about 500km away. In reality, the British Foreign Office was concerned at the disturbances provoked in France under the Front Populaire.
This blow fell hard on the French tourist industry, which was already reeling from the news that Stanley Baldwin would not be taking his traditional holiday at Aix-Les-Bains and would holiday in England instead. The question was debated in the Chamber, where the true reason for the King's decision was clear. Disquiet was appeased by the grant of easy credit to small businesses such as hote…

King Happy with Churchill as Speech-Writer but not his Advice on Mrs. Simpson

Sunday 26th July 1936

The King inaugurated the memorial to the 60,000 Canadian dead of the First World War. It is sited at Vimy Ridge, where the Canadian Army had fought hard and, by the standards of the Western Front, successfully  in 1917. He thanked France for the gift of the land on which the monument is built and affirmed that it would forever be part of Canada.
Winston Churchill, who had known the King since 1911 when, as Home Secretary, he had arranged his inauguration as Prince of Wales, had written much of the speech. He had also advised the King on the topic of Mrs. Simpson, arguing against her divorce and the idea of inviting her to Balmoral. Neither piece of advice was congenial to the King, and he practically cut off communication with Churchill until the crisis was in full swing.

France Stands Back From Spanish Civil War

Saturday 25th July 1936

The first significant international  response to the outbreak of the civil war came from France. The Cabinet emphatically rejected an appeal from the Spanish government to supply it with arms. As there was no possible legal or moral objection, this was purely a piece of political calculation. It was the first, and perhaps defining, step in the policy of "non intervention" in the civil war  conducted by the democracies and, in name, the Soviet Union. It doomed the Spanish Republic and helped to condemn the country to three years of warfare and atrocities
Leon Blum's motives for making the choice are uncertain. Siding with the Republicans would have been deeply divisive in an atmosphere where the Front Populaire was already facing savage opposition from the Right. Concern that French support for one side might inspire the Fascist powers to intervene on the other, may also have played a part. They intervened anyway. Blum might also have calculated th…

Spanish President Appeals for Mass Uprising against Insurgents

Friday 24th July 1936

The military situation in Spain was deeply confused, but there was no doubt that a full-blown civil war was in progress. The President of the Republic likened the insurgent forces to Napoleon's troops, who had provoked a near-universal uprising of the Spanish people in 1808 famous as the dos de mayo, which produced a highly effective guerrilla resistance to the invaders. It was a defining moment in modern Spanish nationhood.
The heaviest fighting was to the north of Madrid and it inspired an orgy of claim and counter-claim. According to the rebels, the fall of the capital was imminent. In fact it was to remain in Republican hands until almost the end of the war. Most of the south of the country was in rebel hands.

All Night Commons Sitting Shows Passions over Means Test

Thursday 23rd July 1936

MPs enjoyed the longest continuous sitting of the House of Commons since 1881, when the new unemployment assistance regulations were debated. Little of any substance was discussed - government victory was anyway never in doubt - but there was an orgy of posturing, chiefly concentrated amongst members of the left wing Independent Labour Party.
Two ILP MPs were suspended for calling the Home Secretary a liar in breach  of Parliamentary rules. It was unsure exactly what he was supposed to have lied about, but what counted was the unparliamentary insult. A third ILP MP made the same accusation, and was annoyed to be treated merely as an irritation. he was obliged to repeat it several times until he, too, was suspended. The newish Labour leader, Clem Attlee, could be observed attempting to restrain his MPs from joining in. Eventually the opposition benches contented themselves with singing the Red Flag. The opposition Liberals backed away from their earlier pledge t…

Secret Trial in Ulster

Wednesday 22nd July 1936

In April thirteen men had been arrested at a club dedicated to Gaelic dancing and billiards at Crown Entry in Belfast. They included senior members of the I.R.A. including Sean McCool, at one point its chief of staff. According to an R.U.C. officer they were conducting a "court martial", although it is unsure who was being court-martialled or for what. The ensuing  trial was held in camera so details were not made public. Indeed it does not appear that any information on what those arrested were accused of has ever reached the public domain.
The defendants were tried in Belfast under the "Treason Felony" act of 1848, which should not be confused with the Treason Act of 1351. The older legislation carried a mandatory death penalty, as two defectors to Nazi Germany later discovered to their cost. This deterred juries from convicting defendants and the 1848 act allowed custodial punishment. Under the milder Victorian law the defendants were se…

Rain Spoils Parade of Debutantes

Tuesday 21st July 1936

Six months after the death of George V, the Court moved out of full mourning and into half-mourning. This meant that more-or-less the full range of social functions could resume. The first of these was a large garden party at Buckingham Place. It was the traditional occasion for new presentations at Court.
300 debutantes were there to make their formal curtseys to the King, but the event was marred by the weather. Only half of the debutantes had passed through the Royal presence, when it began to rain heavily. The girls were having to queue in the open, and, to save them from getting drenched, the King ordered the ceremony to be stopped. The Lord Chamberlain later announced that those ladies, who had missed the cut would still be deemed to have been officially presented at Court.

Hidden Significance of Appointments to Edward's Court

Monday 20th July 1936

In keeping with the usual timetable for such things, the list of appointments to the various Royal Households for the new reign was published formally. As usual, the courtiers of George V's reign had stayed in place for the first few months of Edward's. Only to those very deep in the know, would it have been possible to recognize the significance of, and the background to, one of the key parts of the announcements.
Major Alexander Hardinge, who had been assistant private secretary to George V since 1920, moved up to become the Private Secretary. His predecessor, Lord Wigram, remained at Court as the Keeper of the Royal Archives and Deputy Constable and Lieutenant Governor of Windsor Castle. The choice of Secretary had not been an easy one. Wigram had declined to remain because of his concern at Edward's behaviour and Edward's own first choice, Sir Godfrey Thomas, had refused the post, recognizing just how difficult it would be. The chief duty of t…

Baguettes Point the Way Up for Prices in France

Sunday 19th July 1936

The Front Populaire government in France found itself struggling with the unfortunate tendency of wage rises to translate themselves into upward pressure on retail prices. The impossibility of managing an economy by decree was, of course, not unique to a government of the left. Laval's government had tried to fix the price of bread unavailingly and it had risen in 1935. Now, it was set to rise again, by 6%, to FF1.70 per kilogram.
The government was meeting to set the terms of a bill to prevent "illicit increases" in the price of food and other necessities and Prefects had been instructed to monitor what shopkeepers were up to. The government was also trying to control the coal industry by legislation. At the best of times, France's coal mines were uncompetitive and now faced higher wages and labour friendly measures. In despair the government was looking for a price-fixing and marketing structure that would share the costs of massive subsidies …

Nazi Screw Tightens in Danzig

Saturday 18th July 1936

Under the guise of new "security measures" the Nazi government of the supposedly Free City of Danzig passed a slew of measures bringing its powers in line with that of Germany itself. It made use of the "Enabling Law" passed after the Reichstag fire in 1933. The new laws spelled the end for any form of opposition and also began direct oppression of the Jews by banning the slaughter of animals according to their rite.
These were the first fruits of the recent exchange at the League of Nations in Geneva, where Poland had backed away from protecting non-German minorities in Danzig. They had accepted the transparently specious claim by the head of the Danzig government, Greiser, that he had nothing far-reaching in mind. The Polish government had acceded to "minor constitutional changes". This is what they got.

Military Coup Attempt Opens Spanish Civil War

Friday July 17th 1936

image by NordNordWest
Political violence had been gathering pace in Spain. In response to the murder of a Socialist member of the Guardia de Asalto riot police, a prominent monarchist parliamentarian Calvo Sotelo was arrested by the Guardia de Asalto and summarily killed. In turn a number of army generals decided to mount a coup to displace the agreement with the monarchist and anti-Republican Carlists under Manuel fal Conde.
The coup was carried out ruthlessly, but in mainland Spain was only very partially successful. Many troops remained loyal to the government and the only major city of which the coup's supporters took control was Seville. It was a different story in Spanish Morocco, the main part of the colonial empire, where the 30,000 strong operational elite of the professional army was stationed. Officers there loyal to the government including a senior general were killed and the colonial army provided the backbone of the rebel forces in…

King Shows Courage Under Armed Attack

Thursday 16th July 1936

The King showed impressive courage and sang-froid, when he was the target of an attack by an armed man as he returned from presenting new colours to three battalions of the Guards in Hyde Park. As he rode down Constitution Hill, a man in the crowd wearing a brown suit drew a revolver as though to shoot him. There was a scuffle with other people in the crowd and the gun was knocked from his hand, flying towards the King's horse. The King thought it was a bomb, but rode on without giving any sign that anything untoward had happened.
The attacker was immediately arrested. He proved to be an unstable Irish journalist called Jerome Bannigan, going under the alias of George McMahon. His motives were obscure and he claimed that he was merely staging a protest. He was at the fringe of the Fascist movement and had some contact with MI5. He  received the remarkably lenient sentence by today's standards of six months in jail. The King was chiefly annoyed that the …

Labour Party Resolutely Resists CPGB Balndishments

Wednesday 15th July 1936

It was a comparatively easy job to keep the British Labour Party to a broadly centrist course in the 1930s. The far left in British politics was dominated by the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB)  which took its  orders from Moscow. The Independent Labour Party was fading rapidly into insignificance. The crucial issue was the relationship between Labour and the CPGB.
In contrast to France, where the Socialists were in a de facto albeit uneasy alliance with the Communist Party, the Labour Party had set its face against any form of collaboration with the CPGB, which it recognized would become merely a platform for communist domination. In response to CPGB proposals for a "united front" against Fascism and war, the National Council of Labour issued a pamphlet entitled The BritishLabour Movement and Communism: An Exposure of Communist Manoeuvres. The pamphlet was uncompromising in its denunciation of communist efforts over the previous twenty years…

Marseillaise and the Internationale at the Front Populaire's First National Day

Tuesday July 14th 1936

France's first national day under the Front Populaire passed off reasonably quietly, although there were scuffles between extremists on both sides. The Garde Mobile riot police were much in evidence. The traditional military parade on the Champs Elysee featured an impressive array of hardware. The newly introduced Dewoitine low-wing monoplane fighter was particularly admired, but in truth it was already obsolescent: little more than a First World War pattern biplane with no upper wing.
In the iconography of French politics, there was one major departure from tradition. The government held a rally on the Place de la Nation in the afternoon. The address was, and still is, a venue for demonstrations of the left. The crowd sang both the Marseillaise and the Communist anthem, the Internationale. The colour red predominated on flags, scarves, button-holes and even miniature phrygian bonnets in allusion to the Revolution.

More Inclusive Minutes!

Monday 13th July 1936

The Postmaster General enjoyed the rare experience of a warm reception from all sides of the House when he announced a number of drastic reductions in the cost of making telephone calls. He was pursuing a policy initiated in 1934 of stimulating the number of users by cutting prices. Since then the rate at which new subscriptions had been taken out had doubled. Telephones were becoming a feature of everyday life and not an exclusive luxury.
Private users were to be given an inclusive  allowance of 200 one old penny (0.42p) local calls so their total cost would probably be no more than the 6d weekly subscription (£1.30 per year). But the real target of the cuts, were small businesses whose subscription charge would be cut by 10/- (50p) annually.

Sombre Commemoration Of The Battle Of Verdun

Sunday July 12th 1936

Tens of thousands of veterans gathered on the battlefield of Verdun to commemorate the defining bloodbath of the First World War for the French nation twenty years before. The centre-piece of the event was the procession of a symbolic torch, lit at the the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, to the vast ossuary at Douaumont, which holds the bones of tens of thousands of unidentified dead. The torch was used to light a lamp at the top of the steps leading to the memorial.
The veterans dropped a flower on the grave nearest to him and recited  "For the peace of the world". One disabled veteran pronounced an oath, repeated by all present, "Because those who rest here and elsewhere have gone to the peace of the dead only to establish the peace of the living and because it would be sacrilege for us to allow what the dead abhor, we swear to safeguard and to will the peace which we owe to their sacrifices." A night vigil followed. 

Tactical Softening Of German Stance Towards Austria

Saturday 11th July 1936

After three years of tense relations, Germany made a major symbolic concession to Austria, which it had been resisting for some time. It recognized Austria as a fully sovereign state and promised not to interfere in its local politics. Austria made a reciprocal - and entirely meaningless - promise and, on a more concrete, level announced the appointment of a pro-German minister and the professional head of the Austrian ministry of foreign affairs changed. More remotely, the idea of an amnesty for imprisoned Nazis was floated as was, by way of counter-balance, a law forbidding  any attempt to undermine Austrian independence or bring about Anschlu╬▓ with Germany.
According to the German Propaganda Minister, Goebbels, who announced the agreement over the radio, this was all aimed at promoting European harmony and appeasement. In reality it was simply a diplomatic manoeuvre. Germany was testing out Poland's resolve over the Danzig corridor at the time and Italy ge…

Even-Handed Policing?

Friday 10th July 1936

The House of Commons was treated to a vigorous, purely once-off debate on the policing of demonstrations. Under the guise of proposing a reduction of £100 in the vote for the Metropolitan Police, a Labour MP accused the government of a lack of even-handedness in how legal powers were used. The upsurge in violence created by British Union of Fascist marches and rallies had triggered moves to extend the range of legal tools available. Whilst Fascists were the proximate cause, there was a strong, and not wholly fantastical, suspicion that Communist and other left wing demonstrations were the true object.
Criticism focused on the legal basis or lack of it for the "Trenchard ban" under which protests near to Labour Exchanges had been forbidden. Opposition MPs were rather inclined to an excess of balance in their sentiments. The former Labour leader, George Lansbury, merely appealed of equal administration of the law and the barrister, comic-writer and divorc…

The Search For Reform Of The Means Test

Thursday 9th July 1936

One of the most bitter legacies of the Great Slump  had been the introduction of means-tested benefits for the unemployed. In practice the successor to the Poor Laws of earlier centuries, their distribution was controlled by a national Unemployment Assistance Board (UAB), albeit with with considerable local discretion in calculating them. The resulting near-chaos had led to a Standstill being brought in 1935, freezing the level of payments.
The appointment of Ernest Brown as Minister of Labour in 1935 gave fresh impetus to moves to end the impasse. Brown was a Liberal MP, but came from a working-class background. He had served both in the ranks and as an officer during the in First World War, and had been decorated for gallantry in both capacities; he had the rare distinction of being awarded the Military Medal and the Military Cross. The new regulations proposed for the UAB would have increased total expenditure by a modest net 2% in existing cases with another…

FDR Disclaims Political Capital From The Dust Bowl

Wednesday 8th July 1936

Just as the US economy and financial system was struggling to escape the effects of the Great Slump, a natural catastrophe ravaged a large area of the country. Since 1933 drought and dust storms had devastated agriculture in the plains states, bringing destitution to hundreds of thousands, and forcing huge shifts in population towards the West. A heat wave in 1936 made things even worse. These were the Dust Bowl years, which marked US culture from John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath to Dorothea Lange's photographs.
President Roosevelt announced a series of measures to alleviate the effects. A quarter of a million families were to receive assistance of some kind, including job creation programmes. He himself would tour the worst-hit areas and, in a prime example of Rooseveltian double-think, promised that he would not make any "political" speeches there as the situation was too serious." There was no promise to exclude journalists from th…

Arms Industry Nationalization in France

Saturday 8th August 1936

The French National Assembly voted through the Front Populaire's bill nationalizing the arms industry. Aircraft plants had been especially hard hit by the wave of strikes in the weeks after the election. The defence minister also promised that the government would also take measures to prevent the export of raw material with potential military uses. This was prompted by by a story that iron ore had been exported to Germany.

Like Britain's Labour Party, the French left was moved by a combination of pacifism and anti-capitalism to try to bring the arms industry under control. Ultimately these were more powerful forces than hostility to Fascism, which demanded rearmament if it was to be taken to its logical conclusion. This was another factor in France's doomed advocacy of an embargo on arms supply to either side in the Spanish Civil War.

The King Receives A Modern Relic Of His Father

Tuesday 7th July 1936

In the 1930s the public mark of royal patronage was the emblem of a successful and prestigious business. So much so, that the members of the Royal Warrant Holders Association were sufficiently well-off to afford to build a (small) country house as a gift for the sovereign. The £50,000 (perhaps £5m in today's money) needed was raised by open subscription. Sadly, the intended recipient, George V, died before the house could be completed, and it fell to his son, Edward VIII, to take possession.
The King's House at Burhill in Surrey was built using materials entirely sourced from the British Empire, including Canadian silkwood panelling, Maltese marble floor-tiles and Indian silver door handles. Somewhat tactlessly, the master key still bore the cypher "KGV" albeit bearing a crown set in rubies and diamonds. The uncomfortable generational sandwich was completed by the anme of the second guest room: "Margaret Rose" after the King's niec…

Britain's Roads To Be Dragged Into The Modern Age

Monday 6th July 1936

The hyper-active minister for Transport, Leslie Hore-Belisha, announced another measure to the House of Commons designed to move Britain more fully into the age of the motor car. A bill would be introduced into Parliament in the autumn that transferred control over 4,500 miles of trunk (main) roads from county councils to the Ministry of Transport.
The comparison was discreetly avoided, but Britain was lagging Germany's investment in motorways by a long way. Only one third of the Great North Road from London to the Scottish border was in anything like a satisfactory condition for modern motor traffic. A five year programme for road modernization would call for the colossal expenditure of £139m. It was clearly beyond the ad hoc, local efforts of the counties to co-ordinate such an effort.

High Court Checks High Handed Security Forces In Palestine

Sunday 5th July 1936

The recent lull in the disturbances in Palestine proved to be short-lived and there was an outburst of incidents across the territory, notably a number of bombs were thrown, including one at the Public Works Office in Jerusalem that seriously injured two. An Army outpost came under organized attack.
The security forces did not enjoy an entirely free reign in their programme of public-order driven town-planning. The High Court support an appeal by by a resident of Jaffa against an order to demolish his house to allow the construction of a new road, designed to give security forces better access. The judges severely criticised both the form and the intention of the order, which sought to use by subterfuge rules designed to quite different ends in an quite unaccountable fashion. 

Lutyens Memorial To The First Windsor Sovereign Would Be Inaugurated By The Third

Saturday 4th July 1936

The King and his mother Queen Mary approved the design for a cenotaph to King George V at Windsor. It was to bear the legend, 'First Sovereign of the House of Windsor.' It was designed by the great architect Sir Edwin Lutyens and took the form of a fountain. A public subscription paid for it.
In contrast to the national memorial to George V, which had been the object of a barely discreet dispute between the Archbishop of Canterbury and the the late king's sons, it was entirely uncontroversial. Few, however, expected that it would be the third sovereign of the House of Windsor, who inaugurated it the following year.

Rearmament And Penny-Pinching

Friday 3rd July 1936

The Select Committee on Estimates of the House of Commons was doing its bit to ensure that the armed forces and their respective ministries did not get too carried away with the idea increasing the pace of rearmament was to be allowed them to drain the public purse by unwise spending. Unlike Germany, where the notion of sound finance had been entirely discarded as a consideration in military expenditure, conservative budgetary planning remained the norm in Britain.
Staff numbers were too high at Army training establishments, most especially at the Army School of Equitation. The MPs did not go quite so far as to question whether training for mounted warfare still had a place in the modern army. The same unconsidered penny-pinching was directed at the makers of planes for the RAF; the MPs were more concerned at the danger of their making excessive profits than anything else.

Idealistic But Fateful Nationalization Of France's Arms Industry

Thursday 2nd July 1936

Leon Blum's Front Populaire government in France published the bill nationalizing the entire national arms industry. It was a drastic measure, which outlawed the manufacture of weapons by anyone other than the state. It combined idealism with anti-capitalism; the private sector arms makers, notably those linked to the steel sector, had long been a bugbear of the left.
Nationalization had the unintended consequence of disrupting the aircraft industry at exactly the wrong moment. France's plane makers were, admittedly, ill-organized and fragmented, but at the best of times, it would have taken some while to wring efficiencies from a single, state-owned industry, even supposing this was practical. As it was the French air force was much slower than Germany or Britain to reequip itself with modern machines, embodying the crucial developments of monoplane and monocoque construction, retracting undercarriages and enclosed cockpits. The French air force found i…

Naval Arms Race Accelerates But Heads For The Wrong Finishing Post

Wednesday 1st July 1936

The London Naval Treaty, signed earlier in the year as supposedly another great step in arms control, was proving to be an embarrassing dead letter. Its formal rejection by Japan had deprived it of any value anyway, and the specific considerations thrown up by that rejection served, if anything, to flag up a new arms race, albeit one that proved to well behind the reality of military technology.
The US Navy was probably the most directly concerned by Japanese naval development and took the opportunity to revisit the crucial question of the calibre of battleship armament. The lead time required for the design and production of large calibre guns was actually greater than for the ships that mounted them. The Treaty had fixed a conditional limit of 14 inches, but the US Navy was having second thoughts and now wanted to mount 16 inch guns on its new battleships to match what it thought the Imperial Japanese Navy was doing. The Japanese went on to produce guns of 18…

Italy Intervenes in Support of Spanish Rebels

Saturday 1st August 1936

The policy of non-intervention in the Spanish Civil War, established by Leon Blum's Front Populaire government in France, quickly proved to be entirely one-sided. France's first diplomatic act was an appeal to Britain and Italy to support its stance. Whilst the democracies fought shy of supporting a government tainted by extreme left-wing action and atrocity, the Fascist powers had no such hesitation in supporting the rebels.

Italy had already given a fair clue as to line it would actually take with the dispatch of 21 military aircraft to the rebels in Spanish Morocco. Three of them crashed en route in French territory, but the remainder arrived safely. The surviving crew were formally charged with various air navigation and arms supply offences, but were permitted to attend the funerals of their comrades, who had lost their lives. In part this was the mark of an earlier age of conduct and in part an indication of where the sympathies of the French colo…