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Showing posts from January, 2020

Eighty years ago, South Africa shows its doubts about fighting against Hitler and Labour mines a seam of government weakness, unaware of the hidden gold at the bottom

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At the time of the Sudeten crisis in September 1938 the British Dominions had been deeply concerned that Britain would be drawn into war with Germany. None more so than South Africa, where the Prime Minister, General Hertzog, had advocated neutrality in the event of war. Admittedly he did not go remotely as far as his openly pro-Nazi Cabinet and party colleague Oswald Pirow, who wanted South Africa to fight as Hitler’s ally. Hertzog continued to advocate neutrality in 1939, even as Britain did go to war and he was forced out of office. His position hardened and he tabled a motion calling for the war to be brought to an end, implying that as Germany had been “martyred” by the Versailles Treaty this should be on favourable terms. He found no fault in Hitler. The motion was defeated by 81 to 59, suggesting that South africa was very from supporting whole-heartedly the British Empire's fight against Hitler. Herbert Morrison, one of the leading lights in the British Labour

Eighty years ago, Britain confronts the threat of Unity Mitford and chemical attack on bare, Highland legs

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The British government finally reacted to the huge surge in road deaths caused by the remorselessly enforced black-out. In the first four months of the war 2,657 pedestrians had died as a result of road accidents-an increase of 117% over the previous year. It was announced in the House of commons that the speed limit in built-up areas was being cut to 20mph from 30mph. Fortunately for the government no-one raised the embarrassing fact that there had been negligible Luftwaffe activity over mainland Britain even by daytime and certainly not by night. The same session of the House was confronted with further proof of the gravity of the war situation. So as to save precious resources (money) soldiers in the Scottish Highland regiments of the army were no longer to be issued with kilts. The current inventory was to be withheld so that kilts would be available for ceremonial purposes once peace returned. The reason given publicly that this was in connection with the risk of g

Eighty years ago, evidence that Germany plans to invade doesn't weaken Belgium's delusive neutralityrality

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The Finns scored a major victory over the Red Army in the Battle of Suomussalmi. Soviet forces had driven to capture the city of Oulu which would have cut Finland in half but the attack had run out of steam in the cold weather leaving an exposed salient. Still outnumbered but with far greater mobility thanks to ski troops and sled borne equipment, the Finns counter-attacked over familiar terrain. Two Soviet divisions were annihilated. The battle became an icon of Finland’s performance in the Winter War. A chance incident revealed the German Fall Gelb plan to invade France through Belgium and the Netherlands, both still neutral. Over drinks at a Luftwaffe mess the base commander offered to fly a paratrooper major to Germany the following day and spare   him a tedious rail journey. Perhaps   still   affected by the convivial evening, the pilot lost his way. The weather was so cold that the Rhine had frozen which didn’t help navigation. The Me 108 force landed at Mechelen in