Showing posts from March, 2022

Eighty years ago the government cracks down on spivs

  Government control over the economy was given an even sharper edge. Criminal penalties for black market activities were greatly increased. People convicted in magistrates courts could be fined £500 or more and imprisoned for a year and those by higher courts to 14 years hard labour or a fine of £5,000 or even more if the profit on the deal was particularly high. Black market activities were defined simply as anything that contravened government regulations on the supply of goods. In keeping with the near-disappearance of Parliamentary government, the new penalties were introduced by government edict amending Defence Regulations 55 and 90; quoting the correct regulation number was the closest that the government got to demonstrating the legitimacy of the decision. The Home Secretary wrote to magistrates - then still deeply implanted in local life - reminding them of their duty to eradicate the evil of the black market; they were to resist the temptation to condone behaviour that was

Eighty years ago Roosevelt chooses a soft option but creates a politico-military Frankenstein

  The US general who had commanded the failed defence of the Philippines, Douglas MacArthur, reached Australia where he issued his famous declaration, "I came through and I shall return." He had refused President Roosevelt's request to say, "We shall...". FDR awarded MacArthur the Medal of Honor, but this was merely part of a strategy to draw the fangs of MacArthur's seething political ambitions. Had Macarthur been (deservedly) sidelined because of his failure in the Philippines, he would have become a dangerous political opponent. The President, though,  had lumbered US strategy with the need to fulfill MacArthur's personal crusade irrespective of its military value. This left the US Navy and the US Army fighting practically separate wars in the Pacific. The British foreign propaganda machine went through one of its periodic attempts to settle its inner contradications. The system of three-minister control was officially droppped, but this little more t

Eighty years ago a newspaper cartoon touches a raw nerve

    Little better illustrates the strains with which Churchill and his government were having to cope under the combined assault of military defeats and discontent with his premiership, than the wild and disproportionate reaction to a cartoon in the left-wing and immensely popular tabloid  Daily Mirror : one of the most famous of the war. Philip Zec's savage image of a survivor from a torpedoed ship clinging to a raft above the line, "The price of petrol has been increased by one penny - Official", hardly deserves to be considered subversive. Zec's claim that it was an attack on waste might have been somewhat disingenuous; the sailor's suffering is the true price of petrol. But Churchill's assertion that it was an attack on profiteering by petrol companies barely stands up to examination. The Labour Home Secretary Herbert Morrison supported Churchill but, perhaps fortunately for them, the government failed to suppress or punish the Mirror . Labour

Eighty years ago a British raid serves a useful purpose

    Members of Britain's recently formed parachute forces executed Operation Biting at Bruneval in Normandy. In contrast to other British raids on the coastline of German-held Europe which barely rose above morale-boosting military displacement activity, Biting had a clear and useful goal. British low-level photo-reconnaissance and radio wave monitoring had detected a German radar installation at Bruneval, sited close to a cliff and a usable beach. The operation aimed to seize equipment and personnel to gain a fuller insight into the defence measures that British bombers would have to overcome. The raid was a complete success and the paratroopers captured the important parts of short-range Wurzburg radar set and one operator. The hardware confirmed the technical quality of German radar and gave strong clues as to the rate at which it was being produced. The raid also led the Germans into the error of ordering all installations to be surrouned by barbed wire, which made them easy to