On June 4, 1940, Winston Churchill gave the greatest speech of the 20th Century, his ‘darkest hour’ speech which girded the British people for the travails that were to come to the ancient nation. Hitler had already invaded Poland and accordingly, but not expected by all, the British government had declared war on Nazi Germany but this ‘phony war’ as it was described was made very real after the British Expeditionary Force was stranded on a beachhead in Dunkirk after Germany invaded and defeated France, but miraculously the British Army evacuated as Churchill exclaimed, these hard and heavy tidings revealed that wars were not won by evacuation, this feat of escape after a lost battle, but he went on to declare exactly how the British people would go on to win the war: “We shall fight on the beaches…” and asserted:
[W]e shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.
That speech wasn’t just directed at the British people but also at Adolph Hitler (and also to the world), but at the time Churchill was governing as part of a wobbly coalition, with Lord Halifax (Edward Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax) and other weak-kneed appeasers, but another appeaser was all done with appeasing Hitler by the name of Neville Chamberlain and although Prime Minister Chamberlain did give Hitler the free pass he desired to begin his inevitable march to war, fecklessly waving the ‘non-aggression’ pact for the rolling film cameras (that wasn’t worth the paper it was written on), Chamberlain later recognized and regretted his error and reversed course, none too soon, and went on to strongly support Winston Churchill for Prime Minister when Churchill needed Chamberlain’s vote of confidence the most.
The biggest appeasers in Britain both before and during WWII also happened to be US Ambassadors: Lord Halifax and Lord Lothian (Philip Kerr, 11th Marquess of Lothian), both of whom also came around as Chamberlain had and reversed the error of their ways, but it was the British Royal Family which proved the be the most frustrating of appeasers to Hitler’s aggression, after all they were Germans themselves, descended from the House of Hanover (the family name Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, hastily changed to Windsor because of WWI), and it was the Royal Family which would provide a most significant impediment to keeping the small island nation a parliamentary democracy.
This year, on February 6th, Queen Elizabeth began a year-long celebration of 70 years as sovereign, yet in 1936, her grandfather King George V had died and his eldest son took over as King Edward VIII, just as Europe was in the midst of a sea-change of political realignment. His reign lasted less than a year (shortest in British history) after he famously abdicated the throne because he wanted to marry a twice-divorced American lady named Wallace Simpson, (ever met a lady named Wallace?) who was also a Nazi sympathizer, cuckolding a king out of his rightful throne. Eddy was succeeded by his younger brother, styled George VI, pegging Edward’s stunted reign at just 326 days.
Democracy was being challenged all over Europe in the ‘30s as Nazi Germany’s autocratic, economic ‘miracle’ seemed invincible compared to the bruised fruits of free election and Hitler’s policies appeared to be working out well for most Germans. Edward, the love-struck, deposed British king ended up visiting Germany on a ‘state’ visit after he was ousted, (even though he had promised to stay out of politics) he, along with his Nazi-saluting wife, traveled to Germany to grovel, prostrating themselves before Hitler (when he needed it the most). After this, with the obvious fear that Edward might actually side with Germany in the war, he was shipped off to the Bahamas with his new wife to serve out the war for the next five years as Governor. Kind of like if Trump became Speaker of the House. Ten years later, the German government had to admit that over four million of it’s citizens were eventually killed in the war they started, and of course over six million Jews were also killed by Nazi Germany in the Holocaust, so the lives of ten million people were sacrificed on German soil for the inhuman vanity of one sick man, in addition to over 70 million additional souls the world over, or about 3% of the world population.
However back in the ‘40s, Germany was advancing all across the entire Continent, as the secret First Washington Conference (code-name Arcadia) was convened, top British and American military leaders (including Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt and their aides) met from December 22, 1941 through January 14, 1942, where it was agreed that the prosecution of the war against Japan would be postponed in order to permit the Allies to concentrate their entire force in a major offensive against the Nazis starting on D-Day. The only part of the conference that was revealed to the public was a Declaration by the United Nations committing the Allies to make no separate peace with the enemy and to employ full resources until victory. Operation Bolero was the code-name for the initial American military troop buildup in the UK in preparation for a cross-channel invasion plan (code-named Operation Roundup), however in November 1942, Dwight Eisenhower, then only a lieutenant general, told Churchill that no major operation in Europe could be carried out before 1944. Eisenhower’s diplomatic and organizational skills were brought before senior civil and military leaders for the first time in the US and Europe, preceding his rise to Supreme Allied Commander for the eventual Allied invasion of France.
Operation Roundup, Operation Sledgehammer and Operation Roundhammer, all pressed for by the US military, but rejected by the British government and Eisenhower (who concluded that a landing in France before 1945 was premature and impractical) was therefore never carried out and instead, the British-led invasion of North Africa took place in November, 1942 under the code-name Operation Torch. The British then incorporated their European invasion plan into Operation Overlord, a 1,200-plane airborne assault before an amphibious beach landing involving more than 5,000 ships and 160,000 troops would cross the English Channel on June 6 and more than two million Allied troops were deployed in France by the end of the summer, 1944. Overlord ended on August 30 with the retreat of the last German military unit across the Seine. Operation Dragoon was originally to serve as the the ‘Anvil’ for Operation Sledgehammer, Dragoon was originally timed for D-Day, but the plan was delayed until August 15; Sledgehammer became Overlord and Anvil became Dragoon, another highly successful, refashioned operation which removed the entire German military from French soil in under a month, preserving D-Day as a total victory.
All through it, the King of England thought that Hitler was a fairly reasonable dude who could be dealt with, so spare the talk of Neville Chamberlain’s weakness if you’re not also willing to discuss the British Royal Family’s implicit support of Hitler before the war; the last King’s brother, Prince George (Duke of Kent), the heir apparent to the throne, was also a Nazi appeaser (and sex/drug addict) before his military plane mysteriously crashed into a big rock in Scotland and even though his niece, now the Queen of England, had flashed a Nazi salute when she was just a little princess, she was crowned Queen at 25 years of age on June 2, 1953, eventually becoming a stalwart of European democracy, (Irish Republican objection: noted) Queen Elizabeth II, 95, will become the longest-serving, most admired monarch in modern British history, celebrating her coronation and Platinum Jubilee in June, she reversed the family’s wrong-headed course on appeasement and is now ranked among the greatest Britons of all time, joining King Alfred, King Edward I, Queen Elizabeth I and Winston Churchill among the most-admired leaders in British history, who gave everything for the preservation of Old England. God save the Queen. On June 6, she will mark the longest reign in British history.
January 30, 2022