What did allied bombing missions do when they ran out of bombs?
In 1944, Alkemade;s Lancaster was attacked by nightfighters and caught fire, it began to spiral out of control which caused the tail gunner somewhat of of problem. Trapped in the plane, the flames moving towards him, his parachute charred embers, Alkemade had the choice of a deaths, either a Joan of Arc or a 9/11 jumper. He chose tha latter and lept from the plane at a height of 5500 metres, fingers crossed this was the less painful death of the two, but instead of becoming a blob of strawberry jam he had the good fortune to hit the canopy of several pine trees that cushioned his fall and landed on a mastress of soft snow. The poor guy though did sprain his leg. The Gestapo made the pretence they were a bit miffed with his story at first when he was captured but in truth were probably getting used to it by then…….. read on.
In 1942 in the middle of a raging air and land battle and while his plane was being attacked by several German fighters, the Soviet Pilot decided to take a stroll out the door of his plane at 7000 metres. If you think that was rather eccentric he then decided to not to open his perfectly functioning parachute strapped to his back thinking it may attract machine gun fire and it could kill him, unlike falling 7000 metres. Ivan then lost consciousness by the time he was out of machine gun range, so unable to open his parachute but fortunately still had the good aim to hit the side of a snowy ravine sliding and rolling down the side till he came to a safe halt right at the feet of of a troop of Soviet cavalry who whisked him unharmed from the battlefield to safety.
Not to be outdone the Americans quickly got one of their pilots to throw himself into the skies. Alan Magee was in a Flying Fortress over France in 1943 when a clumsy German pilot shot one of the wings off at 6700 metres. The plane started spiralling toward the ground and the wounded Magee, his parachute shredded had the choice going down with the plane or just beside it, he chose the latter. Losing consciousness after he bailed out he miss the horror movie that follow. In an act of precision bombing he managed to break his fall by crashing through the glass roof of St Nazaire railway station sustaining several broken bones, a partially severed arm, lung, kidney, and face damage. How many train passenger suffered heart attacks from the surprise is unrecorded. Fortunately the Germans had the technology to rebuild him and create the world’s first 6 Million Deutschemarks man, and he lived to ripe old age.
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.
I was curious how Britain got Hong Kong back from the Japanese and CHinag Kai Shek didn’t so did a little research.
During the war Hong Kong was designated part of the Chaing Kai Shek operational control zone. US presidental general order no1 stated all Japanese troops had to surrender to general Chiang Kai Shek. Shi Ju’s corps was located 300 miles from Hong Kong and sent of to occupy the island and take the Japanese prisoner. Meanwhile a second elite corps of Burma veterans under Sun Liren was ordered to Canton, giving the Chinese 60,000 troops heading south.
Meanwhile on the day Japan surrendered Britain sent a naval task force to Hong Kong. Britain not wishing to have to ask Chinag Kai Shek for the return of Hong Kong. Britain informed Chiang Kai Shek the force was steaming there who responded by formally asking the British government to obey presidental order no1, however he didn’t order his troops to try and beat the British to Hong Kong.
The Americans tried some diplomatic mediation and after discussing things with the British, they informed Chiang Kai Shek Britain would not give up Hong Kong without a fight.
Chinag Kai Shek saw the wisdom of allowing Hong Kong to go. He did not wish to tie up 60,000 of his best troops in the south, when he needed them to fight the communists. Also he needed British cooperation against the communists.
The Chinese tried a diplomatic solution instead, assuring the British they had no intent of keeping Hong Kong and would return it after the surrender. Britain didn’t believe China. Britain asked Truman to tell the Japanese on Hong Kong to surrender to the British instead. Truman agreed.
Now it was turning into a major loss of face for Chiang Kai Shek. He tried to salvage some dignity and tried to pusuade the British and Americans to let him not the Americans be the one to authorise the japanese to surrender to the British and that the British should not ask the Japanese to surrender on Hong Kong until they had surrendered to him in the rest of China first. He was turned down.
On the 30th of Augsut a powerful fleet of 2 aircraft carriers, a battleship, 3 cruisers and several frigates and destroyers arrived at Hong Kong and took control.
With one bullet the Holocaust need never have happened, Hitler wouldn’t have come to power and WWII never have taken place. This is not some hyperthetical game of what one thing would you change from the past but a real event.
Henry Tandey one of the most decorated British soldiers of the age had Adolf Hitler in his sights in the trenches of Ypres in WWI. Tandy took pity on the young German Corporal and didn’t fire, the corporal nodded his thanks to Tandey.
Both men remembered the incident and it was when British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was in Berlin in 1938 for the signing of the Munich agreement Hitler asked Chainberlain to thank the famous Tandey for not shooting him.
Upon his return to England Chamberlain kept his promised and Tandey got the strangest phonecall of his life as the Prime Minister conveyed Hitler’s thanks to him and for the first time he learnt the identity of the man he had saved all those years ago.
The full amazing story here.
Or Argh! Argh! We’re all gonna Die!
One aspect of World War Two history not taught at schools and the government doesn’t seem to want to talk about much even though it’s alive and kicking today is the largest bomb in history sitting at the bottom of the Thames and primed to explode.
The SS Richard Montgomery was a World War II Liberty Ship jam packed with 6,127 tons of explosive and bound for France. She was ordered to berth off Sheerness to await orders and ran aground on one of the Estuaries notorious sand banks. Three days later a Stevedore company began to unload the munitions from the stricken ship, but after three days the hull began to break apart and soon the operation had to be abandoned.
The wreck of the ship lies beside the Isle of Sheppey and about 2.5 km from Sheerness. Only about half the munitions were removed and it’s estimated 3,173 tons of explosives are still aboard the wreck.
Whether it will blow with time is a contentious issue some experts feel that deteriorating detonators could eventually explode. Most experts agree if the ship blows it will be the largest non-nuclear explosion ever. The BBC states,
“In 1970, government tests on the site showed a blast would hurl a 1,000ft wide column of water, mud, metal and munitions almost 10,000ft into the air. The explosion would also generate a 16ft high wave that could sink a small craft. “
On the other hand some experts think attempting to remove the explosives could potentially be more dangerous than leaving it.
It has been a shipping hazard since the war there have been 20 near misses involving the ship and one collision. And even worse the hull is now apparently breaking up with only a few years left.
However since the war each successive government has had the policy of ignoring the problem and this doesn’t seem like it’s going to change soon.