Showing posts from March, 2021

Eighty years ago, an icon of Royal bagpiping goes to the bottom

  As Prince Paul, the anglophile Regent of Yugoslavia, twisted and turned to escape unremitting German attempts to bring the country into the Axis, his British friends came to his assistance to improve his freedom of movement domestically. For long the strong man of Yugoslavian politics had been Milan Stoyadinovitch, who was broadly friendly towards Hitler and Mussolini, although he was chiefly interested in his own power and was widely thought to entertain hopes of making himself dictator. Prince Paul had Stoyadinovitch arrested and handed over to the British army in Greece. He was then interned in Mauritius as (in Churchill’s words) “a potential Quisling and enemy”. Churchill insisted the Governor of Mauritius, “should be informed he [Stoyadinovitch] is a bad man …Food and comfort should be appropriate to the scale of a Colonel.” The British foray into internal Yugoslav politics did not help ward off the diplomatically inevitable. In spite of growing popular opposition, in particul

Eighty years ago, the next Balkan domino wobbles

    The Luftwaffe scaled up its bombing raids on British cities, even though its forces were being redeployed from France to the Balkans. Some crews were flying multiple sorties in a night. The Germans had developed tactics to defeat the first methods that the British had used to frustrate the electronic beam navigation systems such as setting false targets, but their most effective practice was to bomb port cities which were far easier to identify visually at night. Inland cities were only attacked on moonlit nights. Cardiff, Clydebank, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Merseyside and Bristol all suffered badly. Casualties were mercifully light but huge damage was done to the housing stock. The   effectiveness of the bombing was due in part to the deployment of heavy bombs up to 2,500kg with a far higher explosive fill ratio than the RAF used. With British land intervention in support of Greece and German intervention in support of Italy imminent, Mussolini ordered a final attempt by the Ital

More of Snakehips

Eighty years ago, Churchill christens his second battle of the war and the Blitz claims a famous victim

    Churchill christened his second battle of the war and it may well have been the more important one. In the Battle of Britain the Germans had failed to gain air supremacy over England; had they won it would have made an invasion possible, but not necessarily inevitable or inevitably successful. If the Germans had won the Battle of the Atlantic, as Churchill named the conflict between German U Boats and long range bombers on one side and merchant shipping to Britain and its air and sea escorts on the other, Britain would have been unable to go on fighting. Unlike the very public designation of the Battle of Britain, the term Battle of the Atlantic first appeared in a confidential directive, which Churchill signed as Minister of Defence. The Directive gave full priority in supplies of anti-aircraft weapons to the ships and promoted catapult-armed merchant vessels to provide air cover, but otherwise it was light on detail. One public result of the directive was to give the Admiralty fo

Eighty years ago, the opening phase of the war in the south Balkans draws to a close

    After a prolonged but ultimately doomed hesitation, the Bulgarian government bowed to the inevitable and allowed German troops into the country. The promise of territory to be seized from Greece and Yugoslavia was enough to make the Bulgarians accede to demands that they sign the Tripartite pact. This had little immediate practical consequence, but did signal that Bulgaria was aligned with the three main Axis powers. With Germany still formally allied to the Soviet Union, there appeared little risk for Bulgaria. German troops immediately entered the country in force, prior to attacking Greece on its southern border. The British foreign secretary, Anthony Eden, fresh from his failure to interest Turkey in resisting the Axis, found a “changed and disturbing situation” in Athens. The Greek army had even begun its promised to a more defensible line. Eden’s response was to agree to practically anything the Greeks asked, thus committing Britain to full-scale military support. The suc