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Eighty years ago, the British play the imperial card in phony war propaganda

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Flushed with its success in the Battle of the River Plate, the Royal Navy received another boost to its morale when the submarine HMS Salmon encountered a flotilla of German warships on a mine-laying operation in the North Sea and attacked them. Her torpedoes damaged two cruisers: Leipzig very severely and N├╝rnberg rather more slightly. In an excess of enthusiasm the navy reported that one of the cruisers had been sunk, but had to retract the claim the following day. Notwithstanding the propaganda embarrassment two significant Kriegsmarine units had been put out of action for some months. The British Expeditionary Force in France suffered a prime ministerial visit when Neville Chamberlain arrived after a hot and uncomfortable flight; to his great irritation,  imaginative newspaper reporters reported that he looked extremely cold on landing, but that might just have been his personality. He met military commanders from both Britain and France and inspected troops without

Eighty years ago, the League of Nations expels the USSR and the Royal Navy redeems its embarrassments of the autumn

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The League of Nations expelled the USSR for its unprovoked invasion  of  Finland in arguably the last significant act of its increasingly  shadowy  existence. Some observers  were  surprised  that  Stalin  had  not imitated Hitler  and withdrawn before  his country  was  thrown out. The most likely  explanation  is that this allowed him to stick to the  ludicrous  pretence  that the USSR was innocent. This show of  resolution  by the League contrasted  with its more muted  response to German  or Italian  aggression  over  the four  preceding  years.  The British  delegation  was  led by Rab  Butler,  the ultra  appeasing Foreign  Office  minister, who swung Britain  firmly  behind the expulsion, with a concern  for the preservation  of independent  democracies, which  had been notably  absent  from his handling of Nazi expansionism. The Soviet  invasion  failed  to break through  the Mannerheim line across  the Karelian isthmus despite  its superiority  in numbers of tanks.  A

Eighty years ago, the League of Nations enters its death throes, and the Germans unintentionally lay the foundations of a pro-Chamberlain myth

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The League of Nations was in its last throes in Geneva. By a quirk of its procedure, the League’s Council had still been under the presidency of the Soviet representative, Ivan Maisky who was doubling as ambassador to London. As the main, if not only, task for the League was to respond to the Finland’s request for protection against the Soviet invasion, this was rather anomalous. In the normal course of events a new Council would have been elected the previous September but the outbreak of war intervened. Under the default procedure of applying alphabetical order, Belgium succeeded the Soviet Union in the presidency which papered over the cracks. The Soviet Union declined the League’s proposal of mediation in its dispute with Finland as it claimed to have no quarrel with the nation of Finland or its people, only against its – implicitly – illegitimate government. The Argentine tabled a motion for the expulsion of the Soviet Union. Germany published its “White Book” on the

Eighty years ago, the weather comes to the assistance of the Finns as the Soviets optimistically install a puppet "government"

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The Soviet attackers were so confident of conquering Finland that they established a Communist puppet “Finnish Democratic Government” in the small corner of Finish territory at Terijoki they occupied under their stooge Otto Kuusinen, who had fled to the Soviet Union after the failure to establish a Communist regime after the First World War. Kuusinen would supposedly sweep away the corrupt and exploitative regime and replace it with a worker paradise such as that enjoyed by everyone under Stalin. The Germans were giving signs of discomfort at the Soviet   expansionist genie that they had released from the bottle with the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact. Formally they claimed that it was no business of theirs to interfere in an area where proven Soviet interests had come under threat. Privately the invasion was labelled a Schweinerei and blamed on the British for having made the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact necessary offering a guarantee to Poland. In what was to be almost its last