Showing posts from June, 2020

Eighty years ago, Hitler celebrates triumph over France in two stages but one is oddly perfunctory

Hitler celebrated Germany’s triumph over France by staging a mirror image of the 1918 armistice talks that had brought the First World War to an end in German defeat. The railway carriage in which the armistice had been signed was returned to the same spot in the same clearing in the forest at Compiègne. The procedure was almost the same: the terms were set out to the delegates of the vanquished who then signed them; there was no serious discussion. Hitler sat in the same chair as Marshal Foch had done, gloating over his defeated enemies before departing abruptly, leaving juniors to accomplish the formalities. According to the preamble to the armistice Germany was not seeking to use armistice or peace talks to humiliate France, as the allies had done to Germany at Versailles. In reality the terms of the armistice were far more severe than the 1918 edition. Germany was to occupy all of northern France including Paris and its whole western seaboard, more territory than the Wehrmacht

Eighty years ago, the Battle of France ends in utter defeat and an act of heroic resistance

After less than forty days the Battle for France came to an end with the total defeat of the allies. It was the most decisive and rapid conclusion to any conflict between major European powers of modern times. It was an utter humiliation of Britain and France, leaving left Germany dominant on mainland Europe with the dubious assistance of Italy. The French army had withdrawn from the defence of Paris, allowing the Wehrmacht to march in unopposed. The French government had fled to Tours and then to Bordeaux to escape the advancing Germans. Paul Reynaud resigned as prime minister when he was overruled by the Cabinet which wanted peace. He was replaced by Marshal Petain who immediately called for an end to fighting and opened peace talks with Germany and Italy. A short-he British side did not take it specially seriously either; the man charged with working out the details was Sir Horace Wilson, civil service right-hand man to the recently unseated prime minister Neville Chamberlain

Eighty years ago, the battle of France is as good as lost before it's even named

Hardly had Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of British and French troops from Dunkirk come to an end when the Germans unleashed the next phase of their attack on France. Their right wing reached the Seine with relatively little opposition. In the north the Wehrmacht’s thrust toward Paris faced greater resistance but the French army was forced to withdraw across the Marne.  The French political response to the military crisis was a cabinet reshuffle. Edouard Daladier, the architect of France’s appeasement, was removed entirely. Prime Minister Reynaud brought in the then almost unknown Brigadier Charles de Gaulle as junior war minister almost direct from the battlefield. De Gaulle had been a notable advocate of armoured warfare in the late 1930s. He had also been a protégé of Marshal Petain, who, ominously, kept his place in the cabinet. Reynaud broadcast to the nation in a distinctly downbeat tone. His claim to “confidence in our arms” rang distinctly hollow. He spoke of the “ba