Was 1940 Britain’s finest hour?

In June 1940 after the fall of France we in Britain could not imagine that the war would be lost. Our history showed otherwise. All our recent conflicts; the Napolionic wars, The Crimean, The Indian Mutany of 1857,The Boer War and the Great War had all started badly but finished with a British victory. We felt that the fall of France was just one more obstacle to overcome.

How wrong we were. Rather than a defiant Churchill we should have appointed Hallifax to negotiate the best peace possible. Hitler had offered terms and we still had some bargaining strength.

I know there are strong arguments against. It would mean that Hitler could impose the Nazi doctrines all over Europe. But Germany had the most part of Western Europe to manufacture its weapons and to supply the raw materials. It had a triumphant battle tested army and it would be only a matter of time before it manufactured hundreds of submarines to close the sea lanes and bombers to devastate our cities. We in Britain had no army weapons, after Dunkirk they were now in Hitler’s hands We would starve on the food we could grow ouselves. We could not manufacture the tools of war and produce exports to pay for the raw materials and the food needed even if we could transport them across the submarine invested seas. Our foreign money reserves would disappear in next to no time.

America was in no mood to help. She still felt aggrieved about the slow repayment of the loans made in the Great War, a large amount of which was still outstanding in 1939.. In the 1920’s also, books had been written by British diplomats explaining in great detail how America had been manoeuvered into war. There was a great feeling that they had been tricked into a war that really did not concern them. That is why they decided that this wouild not happen again and passed the Cash and Carry Act which stated that all exports to Britain had to be paid for in cash and carried in British Ships. In any case in the remote possibility that she did enter the war it would be impossible to land in Europe in the face of a large triumphant German army. (It was touch and go in 1944 even when the main part of the army was in Russia.)

The only hope lay in Russia. But she had signed a pact with Germany and was determined not to offend her. Up to the last she supplied Germany with the raw materials promised under the pact. In any case Russia had made very heavy weather with the war against her small neighbour Finland. A large number of her senior officers had been murdered by Stalin. Her weapons seemed primative compared to Germany’s It didn’t seem that she could do much damage to the German army.

But as we now know miracles do happen. The Blitz on London changed American attitudes and they realised they could not afford to let Britain go. This led to Lease Lend. Hitler thinking that Russia was easy game invaded her in June 1941; and in December seized the opportunity of Pearl Harbour to declare war on the USA. One can understand this to some extent. America at this stage was supplying weapons and other goods to both Britaain and Russia She was fighting German submarines in the Atlantic. He thought the Russian war was about over, as the German army had swept all before it and was at the gates of Moscow. Two miscalculations by Hitler and two immense strokes of luck for us.

In 1940 the British were not heros but blind.

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