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British war aims following the collapse of France

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Parnell View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Parnell Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: British war aims following the collapse of France
    Posted: 16 Jan 2012 at 01:44
I recently watched the two HBO/BBC biopics on Churchill (Which were excellent by the way, as a HBO/BBC programme is inevitably going to be) and something struck me as very odd.

I was aware that certain elements within the British cabinet were eager for a peace deal following the fall of France. Britain could have conceivably ended their war with a minimal cost (Possibly a straight forward white peace) Western Europe was at this stage in the hands of the German-Italian axis; the balkans would soon be under their command too. French North Africa would fall under their influence, as would large parts of Africa. At this stage, a decisive British victory, without any help from the Americans or the Russians, was all but impossible. The Brits might have been able to stem German/Italian aspirations in Africa and the colonies, but a conventional victory in Europe was utterly beyond their capabilities. Although the Americans were providing material help, a direct intervention in the war seemed like a very distant possibility indeed. A Russian front also seemed unlikely for the forseeable, given the previous non aggression pacts and the carving up of Poland. (Leaving aside the Nazi desire for Lebensraum)

So why did Britain hold out? Was it merely because Churchill was such a cool dude? Was it because no British politician had an iota of trust in any agreement with the Germans?

It struck me that a much better course for the Brits would have been a ceasefire. In the meantime they could have prepared their defenses and their army (particularly their air force) for a renewal of hostilities.

Or am I missing something very obvious?
http://xkcd.com/15/



Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it. ~George Bernard Shaw
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warwolf1969 View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote warwolf1969 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Jan 2012 at 01:56
The reason was in a word Churchill.  From the start he was against any appeasment with Hitler.  Being a constant arguer against Chamberlines path of avoiding war at all cost.  From early on in the nazi regime Chruchill was saying that they were a danger and should be halted.  Once he became Primeminister he never considered any peace treaty.  He saw the war as basically a conflict between good and evil, one that had to be fought to the bitter end.  One of the reasons why he is seen as such a great war leader, was his ability to sum up how dangerous the Nazi's were and stand up to them.
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pikeshot1600 View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote pikeshot1600 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Jan 2012 at 02:15
Britain considered, quite rightly, that there was no reason to concede to Germany for I would say four reasons:
 
First, surrendering control of the continent to Germany would have been a disastrous precedent economically and politically.
 
Second, electoral politics aside, the US understood reason number one the same way.  Timing and then mobilization of North American resources would have to wait until after the elections in the US that year.
 
Third, I do think policy makers and military Intel understood that the USSR was not going to be able to avoid war with Germany - Russia was an obvious second front.
 
Last, Great Britain still had advantages in both geography and in access to material and manpower resources that Germany could only marginally threaten - if at all....empire territories and naval capabilities.
 
Communications through the Mediterranean were so critical for Britain that they could not be compromised, let alone surrendered, to the Axis.  It is inconceivable that Italy would not have required that the RN reduce or evacuate their presence in the Med.  Absolutely unacceptable.  That alone was worth contesting.
 
While survival appears the order of the day after France fell, Britain and her imperial resources still had the chops to hold their own for a year and a half to two years.  Bully for them.  Smile
 
 
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Al Jassas View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Jan 2012 at 03:03
Originally posted by warwolf1969 warwolf1969 wrote:

The reason was in a word Churchill.  From the start he was against any appeasment with Hitler.  Being a constant arguer against Chamberlines path of avoiding war at all cost.  From early on in the nazi regime Chruchill was saying that they were a danger and should be halted.  Once he became Primeminister he never considered any peace treaty.  He saw the war as basically a conflict between good and evil, one that had to be fought to the bitter end.  One of the reasons why he is seen as such a great war leader, was his ability to sum up how dangerous the Nazi's were and stand up to them.
 
Chamberline wasn't appeasing Hitler, he was trying to delay the war as possible and better prepare Britain for it. The UK began rearming the moment Germany began and was earnestly building its forces and positioning them strategically across the globe in case of a future war.
 
Indeed while he was shaking Hitler's hand in Munich he was also signing off on more money for tanks, airplanes and capital ships. Indeed the UK was rearming faster than Germany did and as the battle of France showed, the BEF was at that time the best trained best equipped force in the entire world but what would 300k do against 3 million and with defeatest French generals in the lead?
 
Chamberline was smarter than Churchill. He knew that european allies could never be trusted. Didn't Poland join the gutting party of Czechoslovakia? Only a tiny minority in France actually recognised the German threat for what it is lead by Reynaud. The right indeed loved Hitler and cooperated with him first in Munich and then in Vichy while the left didn't want a war period.
 
Churchill's leadership although important was not decisive in the decision to continue the war. Britain's survival depended on ending Germany's dominance. Remember that Egypt was for Italy to take whether the UK settled or not. The UK also had to give up the Suez and of course access to the gulf's oil for free. Also the UK would have handed over much of its navy and was probably going to be forced to make concessions in the far east and even join the war against the USSR. Not to mention full Irish independence for the entire Island.
 
All this was simply too much and no one in the whole country, not even Lord Haw Haw himself would have agreed for such terms.
 
Al-Jassas 
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gcle2003 View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Jan 2012 at 05:26
I agree with most of what has been said, apart from Chamberlain where I agree with al Jassas. Chamberlain's success in readying for war (going back to when he was at the Treasury) has only recently I think been properly recognised. He suffered of course from being about the least charismatic politician possible: the switch to Churchill was necessary: warwolf is right about Churchill.
 
However the biggest single thing that gets overlooked by people puzzled as Parnell is, is the Empire. The Mediterranean was 'our sea' (and to make sure we destroyed the French fleet). With the exception of Ireland, all the dominions declared war from the very beginning (even South Africa) With the Empire Britain had far more resources (in particular money and population) than the Axis powers.
 
A stalemate in Europe was therefore an ideal thing for Britain to achieve until the Imperial resourcess were all brought to bear. The only thing that mattered immediately was to achieve that stalemate through the Battle of Britain plus Jarvis' old maxim 'I do not say they will not come. I only say they will not come by sea.'
 
It's not a coincidence that the same stalemate ended up with defeat for Napoleon.
Citizen of Ankh-Morpork.

Never believe anything until it has been officially denied - Sir Humphrey Appleby, 1984.

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