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Showing posts from October, 2018

Eighty years ago, the end of a titanic battle in China, beautiful friendship amongst Fascists and a record changes hands

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Three cities in China - Guangzhou (then known as Canton), Hankow and Wuhan – fell to the Japanese invaders in rapid succession. Guangzhou had been the largest major port left in Chinese hands and Wuhan was the inland communications hub that it fed. This marked the end of what remains one of the largest land battles ever fought which had begun in the spring of the year. About 1m Chinese soldiers had been engaged against some 400,000 Japanese. Like so much else to do with the Sino-Japanese war casualty figures are still uncertain but the Japanese army suffered up to 70,000 casualties. There is no reliable figure for Chinese losses especially as the human cost included hundreds of thousands killed in the Yellow River floods when river dykes were deliberately breached in a vain attempt to halt the Japanese. The Japanese succeeded in occupying territory but failed in their goal of annihilating the Chinese army, which was able to withdraw to central China and continue resistance.

Eighty years ago, the dust settles after Munich but an air of unreality pervades

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After the high drama of the Czech crisis affairs were slowly returning to normal although an air of make-believe floated around much of what was going on. Via Goebbels’s propaganda machine Germany was trying to paint British rearmament as an unjustified provocation designed to achieve huge superiority over Germany rather than a desperate attempt to catch up. Britain was accused to breaching the spirit of the Anglo-German “peace for our time” declaration. A supposed war-monger clique was blamed and Winston Churchill was ritually denounced. Stories were also floated that Britain and France were dragging their feet over disarmament proposals from Germany; these proposals were essentially imaginary. Germany held out an equally imaginary carrot in the form of a desire for a trade agreement which would allow British firms access to the German market, which was closed because of Nazi autarkic economic policy. Against this background of low-grade offensive, docile British newspapers cla

Eighty years ago, the Munich debate writes the future of British politics, Mussolini smudges the ledger of appeasement and bloodshed in Palestine is dripped over the Nazi score sheet

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Over three days Parliament debated Neville Chamberlain’s diplomacy that led to the Munch agreement. The first was only noticeable for the restrained resignation speech of Duff Cooper, the only member of Cabinet to give up his position in protest. There was some concern in the government that there might be a significant rebellion in its ranks but in the end only a handful of MPs abstained and Chamberlain secured an overwhelming victory. The abstainers, though, were writing the future of Tory government for the next quarter century. They included the next three Conservative prime ministers, Churchill, Eden and Macmillan. It marked the moment that the first two, each heavyweights in their different ways, moved into internal opposition to the prime minister. Chamberlain had enjoyed a huge triumph at Munich but, invisible for nearly another two years, the tide of history had turned against him. With perfunctory explanation the withdrawal of 10,000 Italian “volunteers” (in reali