Eighty years ago, the French prime minister pays the price for equivocation in the Winter War and Hitler goes through the motions of recruiting Mussolini for the imminent offensive in the West



The Winter War claimed a major political victim. The French government submitted itself to a vote of confidence in the Chamber of Deputies. Such was the discontent at the failure to give military assistance to the Finns against the USSR that only its firmest supporters voted for the government; the remaining deputies abstained with one exception. Whilst Daladier formally won the vote, he recognised that his government could not continue and he immediately resinged along with his entire cabinet. He was replaced by the finance minister, Paul Reynaud, who had been far less of an appeaser than Daladier.

A Luftwaffe air raid on the British naval base at Scapa Flow killed the first civilian to die by bombing in the war. This compares with the hundreds of thousands of deaths within the first weeks of combat that the government and the Home Office had been expecting.   James Isbister had not taken shelter and was watching the air raid from the doorway of his house in the tiny village of Bridge of Wraith. In response the government ordered an air attack on Germany and fifty RAF bombers were sent to attack the seaplane base on the island of Sylt at night. In common with almost all RAF bombing operations of the time it inflicted only very minor damage.

Hitler met Mussolini on the Brenner Pass at the border between their two realms. Hitler tried, but not very hard, to secure Italian assistance in the imminent offensive in the West.  Italy had run out on Germany when war had been declared the previous  September and the German general staff was never going to shape its plans around such an unreliable potential ally. Mussolini was unsurprisingly non commital.

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