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

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. There was another reminder of the ex-King’s delinquency when the Lord Provost of Aberdeen welcomed the royal couple at the station and the conversation had turned to, yes, the opening of the Infirmary the previous year. The list of guests invited to Balmoral that year was not published in advance but few expected it to include any American divorcees.

In a massive and well-publicized exercise the RAF staged a series of air raids on London and the surrounding area over two successive evenings, aimed in part at testing the effectiveness of air defence measures. It is unlikely that the population was reassured. The oil depots at Thameshaven were attacked no fewer than six times. The attackers had the better equipment, notably Bristol Blenheim light bombers capable of 240 mph and faster than most of the defending fighters. The latter were mainly obsolescent biplanes; the modern Hurricane fighters just entering service do not appear to have been used. The part-time spotters of the Royal Observer Corps detected the attackers but only once they were nearby. It all seemed to bear out the dictum so memorably quoted by the former Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin that “the bomber will always get through.” The near-certainty that London could be almost obliterated by air-attack in a matter of hours was to dog British policy for the next three years until the Battle of Britain showed just how wildly exaggerated these fears were.

British diplomacy had not quite switched to full appeasement mode and the government felt able to order the expulsion of three German newspaper journalists from London. Perversely the move played into the hands of the appeasers as the Germans retaliated by expelling the long-standing Times correspondent Norman Ebbutt from Berlin. Ebbutt was an acute observer and hostile to the Nazi regime. He was already having difficulty getting his reports published by The Times’s pro-appeasement editor Geoffrey Dawson and his removal ensured that the paper’s policy of avoiding any risk of provoking the Nazi regime was even more deeply entrenched.


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