Showing posts from November, 2019

Eighty years ago, the Royal Navy shows its capacity for self-immolation, Chamberlain offers a proto-EU as a war-aim and the Soviets attack Finland

The Royal Navy fought one of the sanguinary and futile actions which are the stuff of legend, albeit legend that glorifies pointless self-immolation. The Armed Merchant Cruiser HMS Rawalpindi was an oldish P&O liner capable of 15 knots, which had been requisitioned by the navy and kitted out with elderly 6 inch guns and manned by equally elderly naval reservists. She had the bad fortune to encounter the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau , heavily armoured modern battleships capable of 31 knots and armed with 11 inch guns, even their secondary armament of 5.9 inch guns was superior to Rawalpindi’s . The Germans called on the British ship to surrender but her captain, 60 year old Edward Kennedy, chose to fight in the full knowledge that his ship was doomed. He did not seem to have considered scuttling her and letting the crew take to the boats. Rawalpindi scored one hit on Scharnhorst which caused minor damage. Kennedy and over 200 of his crew were killed when she was sunk; only fift

Eighty years ago, the true nature of Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia becomes inescapable as the Allies continue to go through the motions of waging a war

University students in Prague were unwise enough to demonstrate against German occupation of their country on the day of Czechoslovakian independence. Opletal became an icon of Czech resistance to German occupation. Their protest was peaceful but they found themselves facing the full force of Nazi armed power. The medical faculty was stormed in a full scale military assault. A dozen students and teachers were executed summarily which was exaggerated tenfold in foreign press reports. Over one thousand more were sent to concentration camps. Martial law was declared.   The British and French had done well to get in their replies quickly to the peace initiative of the Belgian and Dutch monarchs. They had left no room for the Germans to depict them as the war-mongers. Von Ribbentrop had little option but to try to bury the episode as quickly as possible by stating that the western responses had killed off the proposal. There was no escaping the German commitment to aggression

Eighty years ago, a lone idealist fails to kill Hitler while Chamberlain's fantasies on a similar theme lure him into a German trap

The Bürgerbräukeller in Munich was one of the holy places of Nazism. It gave its name to the “beer hall putsch” of 1923 which gave the movements its first serious crop or martyrs and Hitler a short prison sentence during which he wrote Mein Kampf . The event was ceremonially commemorated every year. An idealistic young carpenter, Georg Elser, took advantage of this to plant a time bomb set to explode during Hitler’s speech. Sadly Hitler finished his speech early and left the Bürgerbräukeller with his entourage of senior Nazis thirteen minutes before the bomb exploded, killing eight more junior Nazis. Elser had acted entirely alone, but Hitler convinced himself that the British were behind the attack and propaganda posters described Chamberlain as the true author of the attack. By coincidence the British did think that they were involved in a conspiracy by German generals to remove Hitler. Before the outbreak of war they had pooh-poohed a number of approaches from disaffec