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Showing posts from June, 2019

Eighty years ago, the British Foreign Secretary talks tough but sends mixed signals

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The British Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax, made a much-heralded speech on foreign policy in the august atmosphere of the annual dinner of the Royal Institute for International Affairs at Chatham House. It was broadcast live to Britain and the USA. The bulk of what he said and his turn of phrase carried the message that Britain would resist further aggression by Germany and would fight if necessary. Nonetheless Halifax held the door open to negotiations in stating that British policy rested on “twin foundations of purpose”, explaining at length resolve to hold Germany in check but hinting at a desire to “to remove misunderstanding and reach a settlement.” The Times which was a regular mouthpiece for appeasers, headlined Halifax’s dual policy. The message to Hitler was thus a mixed one. The IRA bombing campaign on the mainland continued. There were four large bombs all aimed at banks in central London and a number of post boxes were damaged by incendiaries. 17 people were

Eighty years ago, modern air raid precautions and village fete combine on Clapham Common

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In something of a festival atmosphere there was a demonstration of various air raid precaution measures on Clapham Common. Regular tennis, putting and kite-flying sessions were not disturbed and blended in a strange variant of the village fete. Using the tethered barrage balloons, whose combat function was to force attacking aircraft higher, to carry the loudspeakers on which public announcements and speeches were made only added to this strange blend. The mayors   of the surrounding boroughs were out in force. The flypast of the Bristol Blenheim fighters of 601 (County of London) (Fighter) Squadron was rather more military   but even here there was a flavour of a visit by the local gentry. The squadron was famously manned by the well-heeled, giving it the nickname “The millionaires’ mob.” The Blenheim was also useless as a fighter aircraft and fortunately 601’s were superseded by Hawker Hurricanes in time for the Battle of Britain. Josef Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda m

Eighty years ago, FDR treats King George VI to culinary diplomacy

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The visit of George VI and Queen Elizabeth to the US achieved great success when it reached Washington. The public gave an enthusiastic welcome and President Roosevelt made it abundantly plain that his guests were being received in the most friendly fashion. At his country retreat Hyde Park, the King and the President swam together in the pool that Roosevelt had had installed. Roosevelt served the King with the first hot dog he had ever tasted in an informal picnic that advertised a warm relationship between the heads of state better than any state banquet could have done. Introducing the British sovereign to US working class food - the gesture was widely publicised - had instant mass appeal; it showed that FDR was over-awed by his guests could impose modern American informality on the heirs to the country's former royal rulers. There would still be immense domestic political obstacles in the way of translating this goodwill into concrete diplomatic or military support, but