Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Churchill Factor by Boris Johnson

A new book, which explores the impact upon history of Winston Churchill. Nicely written, by a Brit, who isn't afraid to use Britishisms (prang, hop it) in his writing.  Without Churchill the Brits probably would have caved to Hitler in 1940.  The British establishment, the aristocracy, the press, the professoriat, the business men, Parliament, the general staff, everyone who counted in England, was convinced that the Germans had overwhelming strength.  They had gobbled up Norway, kicked the Allied intervention force out of Narvik, crushed France completely, occupied all the low countries, and driven the BEF into the sea at Dunkirk.   Germany had  twice the population of England, and a bigger industrial base.  And England was still licking the wounds of the first world war.  Nobody in England wanted to go thru that again, ever. 
   Hitler offered a deal that summer, broadcast it over German radio.  It ran roughly like this.  "I will let you Brits keep your Fleet and your Empire, in return you let me keep control of the continent."  Had Britain accepted, the war in the west would have ended right there.  The Americans were still paralyzed by isolationism, when (and if) Pearl Harbor happened, they would have gone off into the Pacific and ignored Europe.  Hitler would have doubtless attacked the Russians, and without the Brits harrying his rear, the Germans might have crushed Stalin's regime that first summer.  As it was, they nearly did it.  Guderian's panzers got close enough to Moscow to capture a few stations on the trolley line to Moscow.  Just a little bit more, and Moscow would have fallen to the Wehrmacht. 
   Johnson describes the key meeting between Churchill, newly elected as Prime Minister, and his war cabinet, the top five guys in the British government.  Churchill was for fighting on.  Everyone else was against the idea.  Finally Churchill adjourned the meeting until 7 PM, and called a larger meeting of the entire cabinet, some 25-30 people.  Churchill made the case for continued resistance to the larger group.  Somehow, his words caught fire with his audience, the full cabinet applauded.  When the five man war cabinet reconvened at 7 that evening, they proceeded to plan for war.  And the Brit rank-and-file was made of tougher stuff than their establishment, they backed Churchill all the way.
   I think Boris Johnson's analysis is just about right.  If the Brits had caved to Hitler in 1940, the Nazi's would probably still be there, running all of Europe. 

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