Eighty years ago, France's new leader embraces unqualified alliance with Britain and the Canadians (unknowingly) embrace a leader in touch with the spirit world
The new French prime minister, Paul Reynaud, began his term in office with a bold commitment to the Anglo-French alliance. At a meeting of the supreme war council he made a commitment that France would not enter a peace with Germany separately to Britain. The catch was that this promise had not been discussed in advance with his cabinet, still less approved by the Chamber of Deputies which was left unaware. It is barely surprising that a few weeks later Reynaud's de facto successor, Marshal Petain, did not consider himself bound by the promise.
At the same meeting Briain and France agreed to launch Operation Wilfried, the mining of the Norwegian ports from which iron ore was exported to Germany. It was fondly imagined that deprived of Norwegian ore, Germany's arms industry would be brought to a standstill. Insofar as the British government was thinking clearly about policy in Scandinavia, this was the strategic goal that had prompted the abortive plans to intervene in the Winter War. It was a project that Winston Churchill had long cherished.
The Liberal prime minister of Canada, Mackenzie King, scored a huge victory in the country's general election, increasing his majority dramatically. King had been the country's leader and dominant politican for many years, but he was an uninspiring figure, at least publicly. In private he was a dedicated spiritualist who believed that he was in contact with Adolf Hitler through the spirit world; all this only came to light after his death. He had been confronted by a number of politicians - notably French Canadians - who had only a tepid commitment to Canada's particpation in the war. His Conservative opponent, Dr Manion, was not noticeably anti-war but he seemed to be a divisive figure. He was a Catholic in a country with a deep sectarian divide (some areas have been described to this day as Belfast lite). King's victory ensured that Canada never wavered in its commitment to the fight for the remainder of the war.