Posts

Showing posts from February, 2019

Eighty years ago, another week, another budget busting battleship is launched

Image
Fiscal conservatives quaked in their boots as the Chancellor of the Exchequer sought authorisation to double his borrowing powers to £800m to finance Britain’s rearmament programme. It had only been in 1937 that the original figure had been set. Spending for the next three years was projected at the astronomic figure of £1.17bn on the armed forces with the cost of air raid precautions coming on top. The reaction in the City was muted to say the least. In proof of what all this money was being lavished, Britain’s first battleship for 17 years was launched on Tyneside. King George V was the name ship of her class and her first sister, Prince of Wales , would soon be launched too. It all seemed an appropriate response to the launch of Nazi Germany’s Bismarck the week before. The KGV’s were a somewhat flawed design with a quadruple and a twin turret forward and a quadruple aft, dictated by difficulties in gun development. Both the first KGVs fought against Bismarck . The Prin

Eighty years ago, Nazi Germany flags the continuity from one Reich to another, a Papal doubter of Nazism dies and a British bureaucratic tolerator of it rises further

Image
In brilliant sunshine (“Hitler weather”) Germany’s largest battleship ever was launched by Hitler in the company of the entire leadership of the country. The Bismarck was named after the founder of the Second Reich and clearly intended to emphasise the continuity of the two Reichs and to extend the reach of the Third. The intervening Weimar Republic could be skated over in silence. She was christened by the Iron Chancellor’s grand-daughter Dorothee von L รถ wenfeld. Her displacement supposedly respected the (by then obsolete) treaty limit of 35,000 tons but in reality exceeded it by a wide margin. There was a moment of concern during the ceremony when she initially failed to move down the slipway as the chocks were knocked away but she did. Some brave souls (probably mainly foreign journalists) allowed themselves the joke that the notoriously bulky Herman Goering had been obliged to give her a push to get her going. Pope Pius XI died at the age of 81. His papacy had begun in

Eighty years ago, signals that Stalin's Great Purges had come to an end, FDR flags military support for European democracies, hundreds of thousands flee Franco and Chamberlain achieves temporary immortality

Image
Stalin’s Great Purges in the Soviet Union drew to a close although, of course, there was no formal announcement. The first slight indication of change was ambiguous: the inauguration of a “discussion” of proposals to alter the rules of the Communist Party, the nearest thing that existed to a constitution. These were to be put before the Party’s 18 th Congress due in March. Under the existing rules a Congress was to be held every other year but as five years had elapsed since the last one, even formal obedience had been suspended as Stalin murdered hundreds of thousands of people. The launch of previous “discussions” had served simply as a trap to entice individuals foolish enough to entertain opinions of their own to advertise the fact and thus volunteer themselves for liquidation. On a more concrete level, the powers of the political commissars in the Red Army were reduced. They remained in place, co-equal with the operational commanders, but they lost the right to expose seni