Walter Arnstein / “18. The Age of Churchill” / Britain Yesterday and Today / 1983 (1st ed. 1966)Posted: July 31, 2012
Neville Chamberlain is PM when war begins. Appoints Churchill to First Lord of the Admiralty, same post he held in 1914.
THE “PHONEY WAR.” Post-declaration let down. Evacuation of major British cities. French fortify border and wait. Americans called it the “phoney war.” Meanwhile, Northern Europe: Russia took 3 Baltic States: Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia. “Phoney war” ends April 9, 1940: Germany attacks Copenhagen, Denmark, and all major Norway ports. Here, Britain fights Germany.
CHURCHILL BECOMES PRIME MINISTER. Very low Chamberlain approval. May 10, 1940, the day Germany attacks Holland, Belgium, and France, Chamberlain resigns. George VI asks Churchill to form new government. Churchill, age 65, has repeatedly denounced appeasement and Hitler, as early as 1932: Hitler’s demands would “shake to their foundations every country in the world.” Later, John F. Kennedy: “He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle.”
THE BATTLE of BRITAIN. Britain has no European allies left. Churchill declared they would never surrender, and would not announce defeat. [Why not?] Hitler made plans for “Operation Sea-Lion,” amphibious assault on Britain. 1st, had to secure air power–> “Battle of Britain.” Nightly bombing, as many as 1,800 planes. British countered by bombing Berlin. Enraged Hitler, bombed London more so than strategic targets like airfields. [See England Can Take It, Humphrey Jennings.] Landing barges gathered in northern France. English removed all directional signs from roads in Southern England. Germany couldn’t get air superiority over English channel.
THE WAR ECONOMY. Winter and Spring of 1940-1, England totally mobilizes for war. Ordinary politics adjourned. Labour and Liberals join coalition cabinet. Keynes becomes economic advisor to treasury. Designed national resource allocation system, rationing, price control. Conscription. Economic mobilization far greater than Germany, Italy, or Russia. Churchill subject to Parliamentary control, but essentially became dictator. Urban gardening up. Tower of London moat–> vegetable patch. [See This Happy Breed.] Government anxious not to alienate Labour. Except for one Welsh coal strike, little unrest, especially relative to WW1. Why? 1) Labour believed in justice of the war. 2) Government food subsidies kept cost of living stable, and price index stablr, 1941-5. 3) Earnings up because full employment with overtime pay. Food, clothing, furniture rationed. Gas for cars banned. Only luxuries allowed: alcohol, cigarettes, cinema, with high tax. [DRINK and CINEMA.] Presumably kept morale up, and absorbed spending power. Social welfare spending up and leveling of class distinctions. 1942, Beveridge Report, planning postwar social welfare system. “Cradle to grave” social insurance for all, and commitment to Keynesian unemployment management. To take effect postwar. 1940, Lend-Lease Act. America lends money to Britain, lease naval bases in western hemisphere.
FORGING the GRAND ALLIANCE. June 22, 1941, Hitler invades Russia. Churchill sends Russia aid. Aug 1941, Atlantic Charter signed between FDR, Churchill, establishes Anglo-American war aims: no territory gains for British, Americans, right of self-determination. December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor–> second link in Grand Alliance.
THE ROAD to VICTORY. Autumn 1942, tide begins to turn in favor of Allies. 1942, Final Solution begins. 1942, British scientists move to America, work on Manhattan project. General Montgomery, son of Anglican vicar, boasted to Churchill: “I don’t drink and I don’t smoke and I am 100% fit.” [DRINK] Churchill: “I do drink and I do smoke and I am 200% fit.” New terror, as Germany neared collapse, of unmanned jet planes, “buzz bombs,” that crashed into London, etc. After short-rage V-1 “buzz bomb” launching pads captured, long range V-2 rockets began. May 7, 1945, with Hitler and Mussolini dead, German High Command concedes unconditional surrender. V-E day. 357,000 Britons killed. 60,000 disabled. FOr first time since 17th century, Britain is a debtor country. Naval supremacy -> United States. United Nations formed. Because of survival vs all odds, spirit of hope and enterprise more so than 1920s, 1930s.