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Showing posts from August, 2017

France Decides to Create a National Institution

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The fact that China and Japan were now fully at war was rammed home to Britain when its ambassador to China Sir Hughe Knatchbull-Hugessen was severely wounded when Japanese aircraft attacked his car. The incident was taken as proof of Japan’s dubious and aggressive motives. It is improbable that the tack was intentional but the car was flying a Union Jack but to a public unschooled in the realities of a modern battlefield (as most were) this was presented as a deliberate provocation.
The collapse of the Spanish Republican position in the Basque country continued apace as the city of Santander surrendered to the Nationalists. The Nationalists had overwhelming military superiority but Franco accepted the advice of Mussolini that a negotiated surrender would be a greater propaganda victory. It would also avoid – Mussolini hoped – a repetition of the savage reprisals that had followed the fall of Malaga. Franco promptly reneged on his promises and Republican prisoners were slaughtered whol…

The Nazi way, the British way

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Hans Frick, the Nazi German interior minister, made a speech that practically issued a prospectus for the Sudetenland crisis of the following year that was to lead to the Munich agreements. He stated that the time had come to settle the question of German speaking minorities in eastern European countries, in particular the large Sudeten minority in Czechoslovakia. Ominously he asserted that their future was tied up with Germans of the Reich itself. The German minorities were described as deserving special treatment because they were  “factors of order, constructiveness and loyalty”, which rather begged the question of where their loyalty lay. It also contained the suggestion that they were somehow superior to the majority, essentially Slavic populations.
British policy in Palestine was subjected to detailed questioning by the League of Nations Mandates Commission in Geneva. When it was put to William Ormsby-Gore, the British Colonial Secretary, that there was no clear policy as to the …

The House of Windsor Returns to Business as Usual in its Scottish Heartland

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The arrival of King George VI and the rest of his family, including the highly photogenic "little princesses", for a two month summer holiday at Balmoral Castle marked an emphatic return to business as usual for the House of Windsor. At almost every turn there was a glaring contrast with the brief unhappy reign of Edward VIII. The holiday was to last two months and not a perfunctory couple of weeks. It would embrace the glorious twelfth with its proper dedication to the slaughter of game birds. In a sly variation of normal practice, the Royal family drove from Aberdeen to Balmoral, rather than catching the train all the way to Ballater. This gave the population along the way the opportunity to turn out and show its adulation; it also retraced the furtive journey from Aberdeen station that his brother made having collected Mrs. Simpson from the train, whilst his brother opened the new Aberdeen Infirmary, a duty Edward VIII claimed that Court mourning prevented his undertaking…

Full-Scale War Breaks Out in China

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After years of brutal infighting the government finally delivered a sensible ruling on the question of whether the Royal Air Force or the Royal Navy should control naval aviation. Control had devolved on the RAF when it was formed from the Army’s RFC and the Navy’s RNAS in 1918 but compared to the service’s obsession with “strategic” bombing, it had been treated as only a trivial responsibility. The government overrode the anguished complaints of the RAF and its backers to give control of ship-borne aircraft to the Royal Navy. Land based aircraft involved in naval warfare remained under the RAF’s control, in the eventual guise of Coastal Command. The decision was long overdue but it meant that the Fleet Air Arm went into WWII with obsolete or ill-designed aircraft. Mercifully the US Navy had jealously guarded its own aviation and US designed carrier aircraft were available to make good the woeful inadequacy of British designs.
The Sino-Japanese war which is generally considered to have…