The History of British Fascism tends to be dominated by Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists, itself a very a-typical fascist organisation. However Baronet Mosley’s (touted as future British Prime Minister during his tenure in both the Labour and Conservative parties) conversion to Fascism didn’t occur until 1931 when he visited Mussolini in Italy and the British Union of Fascists wasn’t formed until 1932 a full ten years after Il Duce’s march on Rome and 6 years after Hitler had published Mein Kampf.
Mosley wasn’t Britain’s first taste of Fascism then, by far, few appreciate long before Mosley Britain had a flourishing right wing scene of would be Nazi’s and Fascists all trying to work out what these strange ‘continental’ ideologies were with varying degrees of quirkiness. By the 30’s such names as ‘Imperial Fascist League, the British Empire Fascists, the Fascist League, the National Fascisti, the Kensington Fascist Party, the Yorkshire Fascists, the Empire Fascist League, the Social Credit Greenshirts, the British Fascisti, the British United Fascists, the National Worker’s Party, the National Socialist League, the Nordic League and the Right Club.’ (1) Would have been common place in the right wing scene. It was one of these aforementioned groups, The British Fascisti, to whom the honour of being the first British fascist group falls.
Illegal Girls Scouts
In 1908 Baden Powell formed the Boys Scouts, girls were forbidden to join Baden Powell feeling the activities too unladylike. However 2 years later at the first scout rally held at Crystal Palace he was surprised to see a troop of girl scouts march past him.
One of the scout mistresses responsible for this was Blanche Lintorn-Orman and one of the girls her 15 year old daughter Rotha Lintorn-Orman. The girls had got away with joining by only putting their first name’s initial on the application form and their deception had escaped notice by them being them located in rural Liphook far from any other scout organisation. The act forced Baden Powell’s hand, shortly after he formed a female version of the scouts and a year later young Rotha was leader of the only troop in the country with royal patronage, Princess Louise’s Own Bournemouth troop.
This act of female defiance seems to have been the first step in a life of breaching male social convention for the young Rotha Lintorn-Orman and gives us insight into the unique upbringing she had at the hands of her mother. We can also guess from the experience she developed a love of uniforms as for the rest of her life Lintorn-Orman was to either wear a British Army uniform, Red Cross uniform or the uniform of her own personal adult scout troop, to the ranks she would attract such figures as William Joyce (Lord Haw Haw) and Maxwell Knight who Ian Fleming would include in his James Bond novels as ‘M’.
Rotha was the daughter of a British army major, but her grandfather was Field Marshall Sir John Lintorn Arabin Simmons and she grew up in a minor gentry household able to afford a servant. When World War One broke out like many women Rotha went to work, but unlike most she did it by joining the army as an ambulance driver serving in the Reserve Ambulance Corp and later the Scottish Women’s Hospital Corps with whom she won Croix du Chairite twice for bravery, serving on the Drins Front in Serbia. In 1917 she was invalided back home with malaria where she joined the Red Cross and became commandant of the Motor School at Devonshire House in charge of training ambulance drivers.
In 1922 Mussolini marched on Rome at the head of his own troop of boy scouts, in Britain it caused heads more to shake than to turn at this strange form of foreign mysticism called Fascism, it was to have an a lasting effect on Rotha. Legend goes that Rotha was in her garden in her Somerset home planting vegetables and alarmed by the Labour Party, the growing influence of the trade union movement and Vladimir Lenin, when an epiphany struck her, to start a fascist party in Britain.
In early 1923 just a few months after Mussolini’s march to power Rotha placed several adverts in the right-wing journal, The Patriot, which read “Seeking Anti-Communists” and within a few weeks and most likely much too her surprise had over 200,000 anti-communists signed up and her mother signed over £50,000 of the family fortune to Rotha to run the movement
Rotha’s then does not only enjoy the unpresidented curiosity of being a woman who founded and lead a fascist party; in 1923 Britain was still months short of its third ever woman MP, women at that time only had limited suffrage (limited by age, wealth and education level) and only had that for 5 years. She was the first woman to found and lead a political party of any kind.
A Very British Fascisti
Rotha started the British Fascisti, but what exactly was a British Fascist? 10 Years later Oswald Mosley was to wrestle with this realising German and Italian forms were not really suited to Britain but it could be said at least Mosley understood what fascism was and why he was modifying it, what Rotha seems to have built is anything but a Fascist movement.
It’s often taken by modern readers as a derogatory put down that at the time many people said what Rotha wanted to create an adult scout troop. However early scouting was quite different to its modern counterpart. Scouts carried Union Jacks and Badon Powell had based the movement not on the militaristic Boy’s Brigade but the individualist thinking cadet corps he was in command of during the 2nd Boer War, scouting was about bushcraft, frontiersmenship and survival skills.
Film Footage of British Fascisti
Rotha’s idea of the role of the movement is perhaps the most unique thing about it and explains its unusual methods. She had a millenarian vent believing in the coming communist revolution in Britain and the Fascisti role was not so much to become a political force or take power but to try and create trained, disciplined, self sufficient people to get the country running again after a communist revolution. In this respect the image Rotha Lintorn-Orman’s had of her British Fascisti was akin to that of the survivalist movement in the US preparing for the post-holocaust.
The role of women in the Fascisti was equal to that of men, even training wise, female members complained they were expected to change the tyres on vehicles the same as men. While the suffragette movement had ended before Rotha grew up this didn’t stop her having strong opinions on equalising the voting rights for men and women. In fact while most of the suffragette movement had died the one area of radicalism old suffegettes continued in right wing politics, such as the Pankhurst’s Anti-Socialist League, in fact several former suffragette far right groups existed. Membership of the fascisti didn’t just attract proto-feminists but perhaps the most reactionary element of society, the legions of middle aged, middle class, reactionary military wives and widows. It’s unclear by how many the women in the British Fascisti outnumbered the men, but it was quite considerable. Perhaps the most lasting legacy of the British Fascisti was fascist feminism, as later Mosley’s Blackshirts had to tone down the sexist elements of British Fascism much to the derision of leading German Nazis on his visits, in fact 25% of Mosley’s Blackshirts themselves were female and so many women marched with him he had to ban female members form wearing matching black coloured skirts to stop the press dubbing his movement ‘the Blackskirts’.
Politics wise was another curiosity as the British brain at that time didn’t really comprehend fascism, other European countries had the advantage of centuries of absolute monarchies, centralised governments or dictatorships in their recent history. Rotha later was to dislike Mosley’s calling him a communist. It’s quite ironic when the first fascist in Britain sees a man who does actually understand what fascism is and immediately thinks him a communist. The British Fascisti itself spent much of its efforts providing stewards for Conservative Party meetings which in those days were known to come under disruption from communists and socialists. The Fascisti also openly encouraged its members to vote Conservative and it’s two main political lines seem to have been the government should pass anti-union legislation and equal votes for women. In Feminine Fascism Julie V. Gottlieb even suggests the British Fascisti was a feminist response to the Primrose League. The club run since the 19th century for women Conservatives, whose entire leadership and committee were men. Also that Rotha who had seen how women had equal treatment during the war had decided uniforms was another way of female emancipation.
Perhaps then the British Fascisti can be considered an early vision of feminism. A uniformed, marching, tyre changing, Ju Jitsu fighting, millenarian, survivalist, Conservative voting, union jack flying, girl scout troop.
The British Fascisti was more a paramilitary group than a political party, while it stood candidates, the pinnacle of its electoral success was winning just two local council seats. However on the professionalism of paramilitary side it put the British Union of Fascist to shame.
Fearing an imminent communist revolution the British Fascisti had adopted both paramilitary and intelligence wings. Its intelligence wing was run by Maxwell Knight who upon leaving the Navy had become impressed by Mussolini and joined the British Fascisti. Knight’s organised the intelligence wing of the British Fascisti so well he was noticed and recruited by MI5 to become Britain’s top spymaster and the figure ‘M’ in the James Bond movies is based upon him. Knight was said to have members of the Fascisti infiltrate the Communist Party, trade union movement and the Labour Party. Ironically just over a decade later as spymaster he would be sending his agents out to infiltrate the British Union of Fascist and other right wing groups, it was Knight who was responsible for the internment of many British Nazis and Fascists during the war, including Mosley and many of his former British Fascisti comrades. Knight was also the first member of MI5 to suspect the communist leanings of some of its members, however he wasn’t believed by his superiors, perhaps because his earlier membership of the British Fascisti had made them wary of any anti-communist claims by him. Finally it was Knight the former member of a political group lead by a woman who introduced women into MI5 on equal status to men. There had been a few before but he was seen as the man who did most to liberate the service.
The paramilitary wing of the British Fascisti run on strict military principles, members wore uniforms based upon Italian Blackshirts, it was divided into regional ‘troops’, district and county commands, a central command in London presided over by a chief of staff. Both men and women received the same military training including Ju Jitsu and survival techniques.
It was claimed there were 800 commands, with 200 to 500 members in each. When the commands took to organising street patrols from 1924, the highly unusual sight for the time of militaristic, marching and drilled groups of uniformed women was unleashed on the bemused British public. These women’s street patrol according to inteviews with x-members seem to have been one of the main draws for women members. During the general strike of 1926 the Fascisti’s female members were expected alongside the male to engage in violence if needed.
Alumni & Fall
Some quite notorious historical figures also passed through the ranks of the Fascisti, some who left to form of join more genuine Fascist or Nazi organisations such as William Joyce and Arnold Leese.
William Joyce, who defected to Germany at the outbreak of World War Two and became the infamous Lord Haw Haw got his facial scare while at a British Fascisti parade, he believed a Jewish Communist responsible and the incident is said to be the source of his fervant Nazism. Arnold Leese was a vet and militant vegetarian, teetotaller, animal rights activist perhaps the most fanatical anti-Semite Britain has ever produced, despite not believing Nazi racial theory and having no objection to Jews other than Kosher food. Leese who left the British Fascisti in 1924 and formed the Imperial Fascist League in 1928 claimed he found no Fascism in the British Fascisti, but “conservatism with knobs on”
The demise of the Fascisti came from being both too moderate for some and too extreme for others. A large section broke away in 1926 to join the male dominated, non fascist, Organisation for the Maintenance of Supplies, the dispute being sex and politics based. Moderates feeling the Fascisti too extreme defected, but a lot women members not wanting to be under a male organisation stayed. Much more of the membership was lost to newer genuine fascist organisations disillusioned by the tame fascism, groups like the National Fascisti, Imperial Fascist League and a dozen more were to whittle away members.
When Mosley formed the British Union of Fascist, Union, was an idealistic term as he didn’t really have ideas of giving the other groups choice, those Fascist groups that refused to choose to unite with him, he would force to or destroy. The last large section of the Fascisti defected to Mosley lead by Neil Francis Hawkins in 1932, the remaining anti-Mosley Fascisti was down to 500 members and found themsleves under constant violent attack from the Blackshirts. Britain’s first Fascists were ultimately killed by Britain’s last.
Rotha received much criticism personally for her masculinity, never married, doing a man’s job and never being seen out of uniform. She herself would play Santa Claus at the Fascist Children’s Club Christmas parties and won a fancy dress contests dressed as a grandfather. Rotha also after World War One had increasingly become dependant on drugs and alcohol, like so many men who saw similar service she was most likely suffering shellshock and paranoia, the later of which may have fuelled her communist takeover scenario. Shortly before her death in 1935 at just 40, her mother cut off her allowance as she believed British Fascisti members were supplying her with drugs for cash.
Had she lived, unlike other prominent British Fascist leaders it’s doubtful she would have been interned during World War Two, a Home Office report in the 1930′s assessing the dangers to national security of the various organisations in Britain, reads it considered her a “harmless lunatic”.
(1) British Fascism and the Measures Taken Against It by the British State – David Botsford
Feminine Fascism: Women in Britain’s Fascist Movement – Julie V. Gottlieb
A century of British Fascism – John Hope
The War of Three Kingdoms famous to most as a bloody series of revolutions and civil wars fought across Britain and Ireland in between 1638 and 1651 where dozens of factions all fought, allied, betrayed and re-allied against one another, where religious fanaticism married political radicalism and blatant opportunism, and a million people lost their lives. It all ended at the battle of Worcester in the west of England in 1651 when Oliver Cromwell defeated the invading Scottish Army of Charles II…………..Or so we’re told.
With Britain exhausted from over a decade of strife Cromwell’s regime was faced with the daunting prospect of re-igniting the economy. At that time the wealthiest place in the world was the West Indies and it was to the New World where Cromwell envisioned the restoration of Britain’s fortunes. Of course there was a problem, the West indies were mostly under the control of Spain, still the main enemy, not France since the days of Elizabeth. But now at last Britain finally possessed a land army to rival Spain: the New Model Army Europe’s finest fighting machine and the first modern army in the world since Roman times made up entirely of grizzled veteran soldiers and officers worked up through the ranks entirely on merit.
In 1654 Cromwell fired the first shot against Spain by occupying Santo Dominigo and then taking Jamaica soon after that and thus the Anglo-Spanish War of 1652-60 began at Cromwell’s instigation. Britain wasn’t alone in fighting Spain, as France was already at war with her, so quickly to two countries formed an alliance with 7000 New Model Army (or Ironsides as they had become known) troops were to France to bolster French armies fighting the Spanish, 3000 of these were included in the army of Vicomte de Turenne giving perhaps the finest general of the age the finest soldiers.
In 1658 Turenne was given the task of invading Flanders and seizing it from the Spanish, taking with him taking 15,000 troops including 3000 Ironsides he laid siege to the city of Dunkirk. The Spanish response was swift and within a few weeks an army under Don Juan of Austria with the Prince de Conde another great French commander as his military chief arrived to break the siege. Conde’s force also numbered 15,000 men and included a British contingent of 2000 Royalists in exile led by Charles II’s younger brothers, the Duke of York and Duke of Gloucester consisting of three regiments, two of English royalist and one Irish, though there were a good many Scots in all three.
Turenne seeing his siege about to be lifted decided to attack despite having only equal numbers. Conde caught somewhat by surprise by the haste in which Turenne marched on him elected to defend and sought out a viable defensive position, eventually settling upon almost flat area of beach. The position was sound with his right flank anchored by the sea and his left to a canal on the shore, only one notable terrain feature sat upon this otherwise completely flat battlefield. This was a large 150 foot tall sand dune, he saw this would give him some advantage over the enemy and deployed his line across it. He deployed his best Spanish infantry on top of it and considered it would be too costly for Turenne to attack as both armies were even in infantry and cavalry. Conde was confident in his position, with no way to flank the army and the right a strongly defensible position, Turenne would have to assault his centre and left where he could mass his troops in depth. Or so he thought.
Any ordinary commander would have been perturbed by the seemingly superior position of the Spanish, but Turenne was no ordinary commander and came up with one of the most cunning battle plans in history to defeat them. He knew the tide would go out in a few hours and he could charge his cavalry around the right flank of the Spanish through the retreating waves. But he also knew a great commander like Conde would quickly see this and expand his line to accommodate, so he had to prevent this. He elected to this with madness by doing the one thing Conde couldn’t have thought he was stupid enough to do, assault the dune. He would launch an attack across the centre and impenetrable right leaving his left weak against Conde’s strong left. This would look not only look incompetent to the Spanish tie up all his troops but it would tie up all their troops on their right and centre too so they could not fill the gap on their flank from the retreating tide. Then at the right moment he could strike. It was a hell of a gamble, but that’s maybe the only way one great commander can break an almost perfect defensive position of another.
Turenne began his assault tasking the Ironsides with the job of mounting the slope and assaulting the Spanish troops on the dune. Comde had deployed the British Royalist troops just to the left of the Dune, it seemed the two British contingents would be within sight of each other but not actually engage. Half the Ironsides began firing vollies into the Spanish at the top of the hill while the other half began to make their way up the Dune coming under withering fire from the Spanish defenders as they did, the casualties were horrendous but the Ironsides didn’t buckle and after upon reaching the summit both pike and musket launched a ferocious charge at the Spanish. For several minutes brutal hand to hand combat took place between the Spanish defender and Ironside attackers. Seeing this the Duke of York personally commanding the Royalists lead reinforcements up the hill to aid the Spanish and once again 7 years after the Battle of Worcester Roundhead fought Cavalier. However even with Royalist reinforcements it wasn’t enough and Ironsides fighting like tigers smashed through the Spanish and Royalist lines sending them fleeing down the dune in confusion. Ironside commander Morgan then rallied the Ironsides and managed to stop them pursuing, instead reforming them on top of the dune.
As the dune fell Turenne judged the sea was shallow enough launching his horse around the Conde’s right and to the rear of the bemused Spanish and Wallons. Almost instantly the right and some of the centre of the Spanish army facing infantry to the front and cavalry to the rear broke or surrendered without a fight with three notable exceptions, the three Royalist regiments who continued fighting, the reason being they were engaging the Ironsides that hadn’t assaulted the hill, for the second time that day Roundhead was meeting Cavalier, old scores were being settled and a ferocious musket and pike duel was ensuing, and aprivate battle taking place oblivious to events around them.
Meanwhile in an attempt the save the day Conde counter attacked on the left with everything he had and very nearly broke though, personally leading three cavalry charges and having his horse shot beneath him he broke through the French right and almost looked like doing the same the Turenne’s right as had been done to his, but for one stubborn regiment of French guards who held ground in porcupine formation firing vollies into his cavalry foiled him.
Conde knew when he was beaten and set about saving what remained of his army and personally organised the retreat saving half his army. Meanwhile the only remaining formed units of his force on the field, the Royalists, were locked in bloody battle with the Ironsides, finally realising the situation they were now surrounded, alone and facing the entire French army they agreed to surrender, but not to the Ironsides, instead to the French regiments that had now moved up on them and that they become French not Ironside prisoners.
Two of the great generals of French history had met, Conde and Turenne, in an almost even battle where one of the great tactical manoeuvres in history was executed to perfection, both these forces with a small contingent of British troops fighting old grievances that spanned two decades and were still boiling strong. How strong this was and how much more ferociously the British troops engaged one another than the French and Spanish can be illustrated by the battle figures. Of the 1000 Spanish casualties over half came from the 2000 Royalists, two of the three regiments were completely destroyed. Of the 400 French casualties most of them came from the Ironsides. For the French and Spanish it was almost a delicate eighteenth century battle of manoeuvre where one army outwitted by another and seeing the position futile gracefully retreated or surrendered. For the British it a was a blood curdling enraged slaughter session where two hated foes tore shreds out of one another as part of a 20 years long vendetta.
After the battle Dunkirk fell to Turenne, who was criticised later by Napoleon for not using this victory as momentum to march on and capture Brussels. Some of the Ironsides stayed to garrison Dunkirk while the rest campaigned on in Belgium for another year, though never to meet another Royalist. Dunkirk and Mardyke became part of Cromwell’s Commonwealth until sold to France in 1662. The Anglo-Spanish War along with the Franco-Spanish War were the conflicts that finally broke the Spanish Empires back, never again would Spain be a force. Britain annexed Jamaica and used it as springboard to control of the Caribbean, the richest prize in the world for the British Empire before India.
WWII two still isn’t an entirely historical subject. Many of the records are still classified by governments. Telling of the events are still highly political and the way children are educated about it interfered with by states. People who theorise about it in the wrong way are even jailed in certain countries. WWII is not just history it is still current affairs and what comes in hand with that, propaganda. So we can never necessarily take the mainstream view read without the appliance of a lot more scepticism than other more historical subjects. In this piece I’m going reassess one such subject. One promoted so much by the media and education system you would think it can’t possibly be challenged, but here I will challenge it. The topic is Appeasement, that most reviled of pre-war practices and I am going to ask if the appeasers got it right and Churchill wrong.
Britain’s actions in the early part of the war and are usually portrayed in one way, something we are taught to regard with reverence that being Churchill’s defiance in face of the Nazis and his accompany patriotic speeches about beaches and white cliffs. Even to ask if this was a mistake smacks of heresy and the metaphorically bonfires are lit minds before the speaker has even finished talking. But I’m going to persevere and propose Churchill was a mistaken and not only that but the thing we are religiously evangelised to disbelieve such as Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement, was a good thing.
What is Appeasement?
First when people think of appeasement, they think of simpering spineless politicians giving in to Hitler demands of weakness. If they give him a little, he won’t take more. This is the way we have been told to think of appeasement and few of us have questioned if this is actually what it was. Did the politicians really believe Hitler wasn’t an Oliver Twist and wouldn’t ask more? Even the most naive mind when asked to explain these facts couldn’t but wonder the absurdity of how could people with such simplistic views ever come to rule a superpower. But people don’t wonder this but accept a distortion they have been fed by the disciples of Churchill instead.
So what is appeasement really? Simply put it is Machiavellian politics. In the political Realpolitik, the situation in Europe was quite clear to Anglo-French politicians. Two evils not one existed, the USSR and Nazi Germany. These two powers had an intense and seemingly irreconcilable dislike for one another. Hitler had proclaimed in Mein Kampf he intended to invade the Soviet Union and everything that was happening in Germany seemed to confirm this.
So face with this reality, what would the good Machiavellian do? Harry Truman before he was president provided probably the best answer. He proposed supporting and supplying whichever country the war was going worse for until that country got on top then swapping sides, and continue doing this until both countries are completely ruined. Appeasement then was two things, doing nothing to stop the inevitable war between Germany and Russia and if possible doing everything in your power to promote it.
The doing nothing to get in the way involved doing many Machiavellian things, such as turning a blind eye to Hitler’s domestic and international policies, even the betrayal and sacrifice of Czechoslovakia. This was the game Chamberlain was playing, hardly a wimp out, instead utter cold blooded ruthlessness.
Appeasement Goes Wrong
So where did it go wrong? There were a number of factors. While one can be laid directly at Chamberlain’s feet, he lost his nerve, many others were beyond his control.
The intelligence agency Abwehr, Germany’s pre-war security service, anti-Nazi, and out of Himler’s control, answering directly to Hitler was able to report that they had successfully spied on the Russian government and were able to ascertain the Russians were completely aware of the aims of British appeasement and determined to thwart them by avoiding war with Germany. This lead to Hitler dispatching von Ribbentrop to Moscow to meet Molotov and the German/Russia treaty was signed, prompting Hitler upon hearing the news to declare, “I’ve got them”.
It’s been pointed out that Hitler was the least trustable treaty breaker in Europe, and Stalin a sufferer of extreme paranoia. So why did Stalin ever trust Hitler? In fact Stalin trusted Hitler so much that when the Germans built up three armies on the Soviet border, Stalin had some of his reconnaissance aircraft crews sentenced to death for reporting the built up as traitors for lying about his ally, and when the invasion took place for the first few hours orders came from him directly to front line troops not to fight back as it was a mistake and Germans would never attack them.
So a chain of unexpected events that could never have happened in the wildest imaginings of the Machiavellian British appeasers. The fact was no-one in Britain or France could even conceive of the Germans and Russians signing a treaty and it came as such a shock to them it panicked them, the whole Machiavellian strategy they had been pursuing seemed to crash about their ears.
It was at that point Chamberlain lost his resolve and drew a line in sand in Poland and was swept to war by the country, rather than sacrifice the Polish pawn too as he should have done. As history shows, it turned out the be a rather futile and misconceived gesture. If we think for a moment, what would have happened had Chamberlain kept his nerve? What if he hadn’t drawn a line in the sand in front of Poland, rather whispered in Hitler’s ear, it’s yours if you want it?
British ears had not heard Hitler say upon Ribbentrop’s news “I’ve got them” and they faced for the first time the idea the two countries would not go to war. This was a mistake but was it a mistake Talleyrand or Richelieu would have made, two men who would have been appeasers themselves and had a healthy disdain for Churchill. Would they have held their nerve, written off the German/Russian treaty as meaningless or even read it as the Machiavellianism it was, most likely.
Had the appeaser kept their nerve, Poland sacrificed history tells us Hitler would have attacked Russia a year earlier, a stronger Russia as many note and Truman’s utterly divisive scenario could have been enacted and 4 years later the British and French armies could have marched unopposed from Berlin to Moscow trampling on the putrid rotting corpses of 80 million German and Russian men, women and children and the charred tundra that is all that remains of two countries utterly eviscerated back into the stone-age.
Appeasement Goes Right
As much as appeasement failed diplomatically, lost to the public is its success militarily as it won the Battle of Britain. While chamberlain was holding off fighting Hitler one thing not even his worse critics deny is he put the British economy on a war footing, something Germany didn’t do until 1943. He also did it well, recognising the importance of the air wing over other arms all eager for to be the major recipient. It was this emphasis on planes that saved Britain in the Battle of Britain.
The military importance of the delaying can’t be emphasized than in these statistics. Chamberlain is often criticised over Czechoslovakia 1938, but these figures should make the ludicrous of this apparent.
In 1938 the time of Czech invasion, all UK fighters were biplanes until December 1938 when the first 4 Hurricanes were delivered. By mid 1939 500 were delivered.
Combat Aircraft production
1939……. 3,161……… 1,476
1940……. 7,771……… 6,201
1941……. 11,732……. 7,624
1942……. 16,102……. 11.266
Total Modern Combat Aircraft in airforces.
Year……… Britain……….. Germany
Sept 39…… 1,660………… 2,916
Aug 40……. 2,913………… 3,015
Dec 41……. 4,287………… 2,561
Dec 42……. 5,257………… 3,440
In 1938 Britain wasn’t capable of conducting an air war with Germany. By 1939 the RAF was half the size of the Luftwaffe but building planes at twice the rate. By the end of 1940 both sides were even and after that the RAF left the Luftwaffe behind.
Appeasement the Sequel
After the fall of France the supporters of appeasement raised their voices again in support of an armistice with Germany. While first wave appeasers like Chamberlain are misrepresented as gullible fools not Machiavelians who lost their nerve, the second wave of appeasers are reviled in modern history books that idolise Churchill’s unwavering self righteousness, as traitors. It’s certainly true but disproportionately publicised a few who argued for the armistice had Nazi leanings, many more though less publicised had more nationalistic British sentiments than Nazi arguing why should we let an ideologue like Churchill destroy and bankrupt the empire to save a bunch of inferior foreigners. Many of the appeasers were just pragmatists advocating sensible realpolitik who saw the wisdom of a regrouping and unmolested arms build up.
Hitler of course had a completely unrealistic view and even imagined Britain supporting him in his invasion of Russia, so why not play on this. So I ask what if our Machiavellian appeasers not Churchill gained control of the country? Could they not have signed the peace treaty, patted Hitler on the back and said we’ll be right behind you all the way to Moscow, even nudge him forward in that direction, said here we’ll even sign a treaty saying so…….. All the time holding a poisoned dagger behind his back and knowing the moment the first German troops set for on Soviet soil the alliance treaty to becomes used in the next Downing Street bowel movement.
When I began this piece I hoped to show that if the appeasers had kept their nerves or run the war not Churchill, it would have gone better for Britain. Certainly not in a noble way. No glorious sacrifice of the empire on history’s last great crusade, but an “et tu brute” or rather “et tu Großbritannienon” on the ides of April.
Appeasement these days is portrayed as the strong Churchill vs. the weak appeasers, this is a terrible misrepresentation, it is a much more familiar contest that took place, one taking place in the parliaments of all nations on earth today, one between the ideologues and the Machiavellians. The dreamers blindly and deafly targetting what they believe and those who manipulating their way to what they realistically can get.
Let mediocrity have its day…. (just somewhere else)
First I’d like to make clear I’m not against the Olympic Games per say. Every dog has its day, so why shouldn’t every irrelevant sport?
I’m not un-appreciative of the cleverness of the idea of gathering up every pointless, inane, boring, banal, mundane and trivial sport on the planet that alone could not attract a crowd let alone command an entrance fee or god forbid a television audience then lumping them together into a single stadium, a kind of temple to human folly, for a few weeks of forgettable voyeurism.
The problem is where do you hold this event? It’s like a prison halfway house or care in the community home for the mentally handicapped. Every intelligent liberal minded person agrees they are necessary and great benefit to the less fortunate, just not next door to me. And unfortunately in 2012 we Londoners have been charged with the job of giving charity to the world’s less able sports by hosting the games.
That we Londoners are less than enthusiastic about the games is no secret, the International Olympic Committee recently showed concern that the UK Government hadn’t been entirely forthcoming in telling them about just how strong the initial opposition was to the games when the bid was announced and continuing ill will as the games draw closer. 2012 could possibly be the most unpopular Olympics ever in the city they are held.
We Londoners are of course famously cynical and unlike many other cites did not succumb to a wave of nationalistic pride sweeping the country when the bid was announced but more pragmatically asked who will be paying for this? When it became clear it was not the rest of the country who were embracing the Olympic spirit so readily we were far from happy little bunnies. Quickly the government issued figures showing how little it would cost us, which once again the hard headed London irreverence didn’t believe, correctly, as the figure gradually went up and today stands at double the government’s initial pledge.
Then there’s the small matter of the economic crash which has hastily ended a lot of investment in the games causing the woefully insufficient Olympic fund to dry up, so the games is already cost cutting. This ironically has warmed much of the country to the idea the games could be really paltry affair, a typical British farce of organisation, especially in comparison to the well funded flagship China version. How bad the London Olympics will be in comparison to China has become somewhat of a national joke and source of quite sardonic material for comedians. It has many people hoping it will fail out of a sense of national pride in how disorganised we really are as a people. We even did our little bit in London by voting a clown as mayor to lead the games.
It is unfortunately too late to do a Mexico and plead poverty and have the games transferred to another city, instead perhaps we have to apply self healing therapy and constantly comfort ourselves with the thought, we were lumbered with the games by a government that wanted to bask in their success but instead will be in opposition in their failure.
Pytheas was an ancient explorer from Marseilles in southern France who in 330bce wrote the oldest known record of life in northern Europe.
There was nothing unique about sailing this far north, there had been a regular tin trade route between Cornwall and Europe as far back as 1500bce and African Carthaginian ships were sailing the Baltic as Pytheas set out. Pytheas’s journey is remarkable not just for fact he recorded it but because he was a true explorer chronicling the people he met and places he visited, giving an inciteful account of pre-historic northern Europe and its people.
For over a century before Pytheas set out on his adventure the Carthaginians had closed the pillars of Hercules off to the Greeks to guard their monopoly on trading with northern Europe. Pytheus’s motive for travelling was undoubtedly on a search for the Carthaginians elusive source of tin.
It is unsure how Pytheas managed to get past this blockade. One theory is he used the Viking trick of dragging/carrying a boat overland between rivers to get past Gibraltar. Also there’s a story he travelled over land to Mauretania and either transported a boat with him or built one there. Another theory on how he travelled is he didn’t have a boat at all. Being from Marseille he could probably speak at least some Gallic and simply followed the established Tin Road. He would have sailed up river with Marseille wine traders exporting wine to the Aquitanii and made his way to the Dordoyne. From there to the west coast and then picked up a trade vessel to Brittany. From Brittany he would have travelled on one of the numerous boats making the trip to Cornwall………. So he may have been the world’s first backpacker.
When he arrived at the English Channel he reported slowly hugging the coast of France, stopping frequently for water and visiting the natives until after 5 days he reached the Kasiterides Islands (Britain). There he encountered an amazing site, a giant fish that squirted water from it’s back. He noted the climate change, and how people worked indoors not out unlike back home, lived in log clay houses. He journeyed to Scotland where he met a tribe called the Pretani (probably origin of the name Britain). The Pretani told him of wondrous sites and lands to the north where the sun never sets.
Travelling further north he encountered dense fogs and began to see ice floating in the water and before discovering a new uninhabited land, Thule (Iceland). Pytheas then set out from Iceland until within site of the mountains of Greenland, a powerful current barred his way and drove him back to the shores of Britain (possibly the Gulf Stream). Greenland being part of the North American continent technically means he beat Leif Ericson and reduces Columbus to a Bronze medal.
Pytheas returned to Greece to chronicle his discovery, but was miffed to discover no-one believed him. Greek science of the day held that the waters were frozen a lot further south than in reality, so there were no northern oceans to sail. Pytheas’s book was lost and his journey exists only in mentions by other writers who used and quoted it when writing their histories.
Pytheas’s journey to discover the legendary Tin Isles and Europe’s only major source of tin was successful and Diodorus in his history quotes Pytheas on British Tin mining.
“Those who dwell near Belerium, one of the headlands of Britain, are especially fond of strangers, and on account of their trade with the merchants they have a more civilized manner of living. They collect the tin after the earth has been skillfully forced to yield it. Although the land is stony, it has certain veins of earth from which they melt and purify the metal which has been extracted. After making this into bars they carry it to a certain island near Britain called Ictis. For although the place between is for the most part covered with water, yet in the middle there is dry ground, and over this they carry a great amount of tin in wagons. . . . Thence the merchants carry into Gaul the tin which they have bought from the inhabitants. And after a journey of thirty days on foot through Gaul, they convey their packs carried by horses to the mouths of the Rhone River.”
Anyone who grew up on a diet of cowboy films will have the image of the US cavalry charging over the horizon guns a-blazing dressed in striking blue uniforms, bandannas, and yellow hats chasing the Indians off at the last moment to save the day. In this little piece of writing I aim to destroy this image, so if you are squeamish please look away.
In 1865 the American Civil War ended the country was in recession and broke, disbanding the huge armies was a priority and the few remaining roles highly sought after. One of these was the worst job in the army, cavalry deployed on the plains.
After the ACW the number of regiments deployed on the plains was increased from 6 to 10, two of the regiments were black and these were arguably the two best.
With there being an overabundance of officers getting in a regiment was incredibly difficult and promotion hopes terrible. After the war an estimated 88% of officers were West Point graduates and 12% enlisted men promoted during the civil war. Between 1866 and 1890 it took roughly 25 years to get promoted from lieutenant to major. It was even more difficult for Confederate officers who often joined as NCO’s or even enlisted men.
If there were too many officers, there was a shortage of enlisted men. The proverbial bottom of the barrel was scraped and nuances in the law used. One such was the fact Indian territory was technically outside of the United States so civil law didn’t apply and men convicted of crimes in the US weren’t criminals on the plains, so on the run criminals proved an excellent source of recruits. Another was recent immigrants. On average half of the troopers were recent immigrants; in numerical order the nationalities were Irish, German/Austrian, Italian, British, Dutch, French, Swiss, other nationalities. Of the 260 who died at Little Big Horn 30% were Irish.
The average age of 23 troopers came from a quite amazing diversity of backgrounds, US recruits could come from good families whereas immigrant motivation tended to be poverty. A company of Custer’s cavalry had 3 Professors, a doctor, a telegraph operator, a printer, 2 lawyers, 4 cooks, 3 schoolteachers, a farm labourer, a book keeper, a farm boy, a dentist, a blacksmith an ivory carver, a young man of position trying to gain a commission and a salesman ruined by drink.
The main problem the cavalry faced was not the Indians but desertion, roughly 1/3 of all soldiers deserted and companies were often as low as 50% strength. A special kind of professional deserter even emerged called ‘snowbirds’ they would join the army to see themselves through the winter, then desert in summer.
From the 60’s to the late 70’s the cavalry received no training other than basic drill. This is quite amazing when you consider most recruits had never seen a horse let alone ridden one. No riding training was provided whatsoever. When a trooper was went on patrol this was the first time he rode his horse. Hopefully he would have the luxury of weeks of uneventful patrolling in agony from saddle sores to learn horsemanship skills, but if he was unlucky enough to see trouble right away he had big problems, new recruits had little hope against the skilful Indian riders. From 1880 proper training procedures were established. Recruits learnt shooting, marching, physical fitness exercises, riding, mounted and dismounted sabre drill.
Equipment too was not standardised. Cavalry were given a single uniform when they enlisted but the uniform was so poor quality it quickly fell apart, it was also useless to in winter cold so most cavalry unlike in Hollywood movies reverted corduroy, buckskin or flannel scouting suits.
Cavalry horses differed from Indian ponies in that they lacked both the speed and stamina but were superior in that they could be ridden in winter unlike the Indian ones.
Up until 1870 there was no standardisation of weapons, a cavalry troop would have carried a mixture of Sharp muzzle loading carbines, short range Spencer repeating rifles, Springfield muzzle loading rifles, Remington’s and others, pistols were similarly mixed, the only standard weapon was the 1860 cavalry sabre which was not carried on campaign. In 1870 a standardised breach loading Allin Springfield’s were issued to all troops.
Warfare involved mostly long rides, hunger and exhaustion but little fighting, encounters tended to be ambushes with one side heavily outnumbering the other. Catching Indians on the run was almost impossible due to their superior horsemanship skills. Taking prisoners was rare for the cavalry and being captured meant slow torture and death so suicide was common if an action was going badly. Ironically the second biggest killer after the enemy was men falling off their horses.
Patrolling miles from civilisation the prospects for the wounded were grim, 5 out of every 1000 men died form wounding, however disease was to prove the biggest killer of all. Twice as many cavalry died from disease as were killed by Indians.
Life in the cavalry was harsh and not remotely romantic like in movies, it was mostly for the dispossed; criminals, the empoverished or people who couldn’t adjust to normality after the ACW. Pay was poor and propsect virtually zero, fights ended either in death or victory, but despite this it wasn’t very dangerous with a death rate of only 0.13 percent.