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World War II ending year?

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574712.  Thu Jun 25, 2009 9:30 pm Reply with quote

RAF seemed to suffer from a lot of tactical issues during that period. In fact looking at their record over the years, they seemed to have entered every conflict with precisely the wrong tactics.

574713.  Thu Jun 25, 2009 9:30 pm Reply with quote

Oh Puhlease. War is never about military capacity. It's always about politics.

It would (and did) make no difference whether there was a suitable bomber force or a suitable fighter force or even a decent design for such. Nor does it matter what tanks were available.

What mattered (and what always matters) is whether it's possible to mobilise an army of civilians to feed the war machine.

And sorry Mike - but if you believe that the invasion of Poland was the trigger for Britain's declaration of war on Germany then you've been seriously misled. That's the conceit that's been fed to the gullible British ever since but it's a gross lie.

What bothered the British Government at the time was the possibility (not much later realised) that Germany would take control of the Channel ports. What is frequently glossed over is that on the same day that Germany invaded Poland the Soviet Union also invaded Poland. I don't recall any declaration of war against the Soviet Union in 1939?

It was a convenient conceit to pretend that the invasion of Poland was the trigger for the declaration of war - but that's all it is - a conceit.

Sadurian Mike
574720.  Thu Jun 25, 2009 9:47 pm Reply with quote

I've mentioned the Soviet invasion before, and the reason (as I see it) that Britain didn't declare war; essentially the Soviets had a quasi-legal reason to invade and could technically claim that the remains of Poland did not constitute a sovereign state by that stage. Despite some objections, Britain was never going to strong enough to fight a combined Germany and Soviet Union so turned a diplomatic blind eye to the holes in the argument.

Britain declared war on Germany because she had guaranteed Polish autonomy and to protect her from German invasion. When Hitler refused to withdraw from Poland, Britain honoured her agreement and declared war. What she didn't do was actually defend Poland herself; a combination of timescale and the distance and route meant that Poland fell without any foreign military intervention.

Why Britain chose to sign the agreement with Poland is another matter, and has to do with the alarming German expansionism which not only broke the Versailles Treaty but also threatened European stability.

Had, as you assert, Britain been itching for war she could have done so many times before 1939; the retaking of the Rhineland in 1936, the Czech Invasion in 1938, and even the 1938 Austrian Anschluss which was contrary to the Versailles Treaty. This is all in addition to Germany's rearmament which had been openly going on since Hitler gained power, again in contravention of the Versailles treaty.

The fact is, however, that Britain tried to avoid war, to the point of accepting the humiliating Munich Agreement ("I have in my hand a piece of paper") whose only redeeming factor was that it maintained the peace at that time.

As for your dismissal of the weapons of war... sending unarmed civilians onto a battlefield is not generally a recipe for success.

574724.  Thu Jun 25, 2009 10:02 pm Reply with quote

Had, as you assert, Britain been itching for war

Who is the "you" referred to here? Surely not me?

Sadurian Mike
574726.  Thu Jun 25, 2009 10:04 pm Reply with quote

Efros wrote:
RAF seemed to suffer from a lot of tactical issues during that period. In fact looking at their record over the years, they seemed to have entered every conflict with precisely the wrong tactics.

You could say that about every arm of service, unfortunately. Britain's tank development, both the machines and the tactics, were woeful in hindsight.

It wasn't quite as bad as happened in the US, however. After WWI, they decided that tanks weren't really needed any more and suspended development of them! When Europe started kicking off, the US found themselves without any tanks worthy of the name and had to take a crash-course in tank design!

And as for Italy... her main* tank in 1940 (when she declared war and entered WWII) was the L3/33 armed with a couple of machine-guns.

*Other nations had light tanks armed in a similar fashion, but they didn't equip the majority of their tank forces with them!

Sadurian Mike
574729.  Thu Jun 25, 2009 10:06 pm Reply with quote

bobwilson wrote:
Who is the "you" referred to here? Surely not me?

You are Derek Jameson and I claim my five pounds.

574737.  Thu Jun 25, 2009 10:19 pm Reply with quote

Oh dear oh dear Mike.

the Soviets had a quasi-legal reason to invade

No they didn't. This is a longstanding fiction and it is about time it was put to bed. When Germany invaded Poland the Polish Government decamped and continued to decamp throughout the war. Parroting the line that "well, the nasty buggers have smashed Poland therefore Poland no longer exists so any territory we grab isn't technically Poland" was not true then, is not true now, and will never be true. There is no difference between the Nazi invasion of Poland and the Soviet invasion of Poland. There is no justification on moral grounds for Britain not declaring war on Soviet Russia in September 1939.

There is justification practical grounds, but that's a whole other argument.

And as for the Derek Jameson bit - where exactly did I say Britain was itching for war?

We're now 50 years after the event. We could at least try to apply some intellectual honesty without the vagaries of contemporaneous reactions. The simple fact is that the great threat to British hegemony at the time was Nazi Germany. That is why Britain declared war on Germany but didn't declare war on Soviet Russia. To pretend otherwise is dishonest.

Sadurian Mike
574811.  Fri Jun 26, 2009 5:23 am Reply with quote

bob, it is no good simply saying "oh that's not true" without giving reasons. You do it a lot in these arguments. Simply putting your hands over your ears and chanting "lies, all lies" does not alter the facts.

The facts are hard evidence, one of which is this telegram to the German Foreign Office by the German ambassador to Russia, sent on 10th Sept 1939:

Then Molotov came to the political side of the matter and stated that the Soviet Government had intended to take the occasion of the further advance of German troops to declare that Poland was falling apart and that it was necessary for the Soviet Union, in consequence, to come to the aid of the Ukrainians and the White Russians "threatened" by Germany. This argument was to make the intervention of the Soviet Union plausible to the masses and at the same time avoid giving the Soviet Union the appearance of an aggressor.

This course was blocked for the Soviet Government by a DNB report yesterday to the effect that, in accordance with a statement by Colonel General Brauchitsch, military action was no longer necessary on the German eastern border. The report created the impression that a German-Polish armistice was imminent. If, however Germany concluded an armistice, the Soviet Union could not start a "new war."

I stated that I was unacquainted with this report, which was not in accordance with the facts. I would make inquiries at once.



Therefore, Soviet Russia was using a quasi-legal excuse for her invasion. As I said before, it was not swallowed whole by anyone, but it gave Britain a technical let-out clause and allowed her to avoid declaring war on two powerful powers at the same time, something that would have certainly led to defeat.

In addition, of course, Britain had an agreement with Poland to declare war if "a European Power" attacked (and a secret protocol specified Germany at the time). Therefore she was bound by treaty to declare war on Germany, but many did not see the Soviet Union as a European Power. Further justification was that the terms of the treaty were that Britain would only declare war on a foreign power engaging in hostilities with Poland's armed forces. As the Poles had withdrawn from the Eastern border and had orders not to engage the Soviets, the terms of the pact did not require Britain to declare war.

If you want to look for justification for the reluctance of the British to declare against the Soviets (and many wanted to at the time), imagine the scenario of WWII where Germany was not fighting Russia but instead allied to her, the almost inevitable consequence of Britian and France declaring war against Russia as well..

Last edited by Sadurian Mike on Fri Jun 26, 2009 5:47 am; edited 1 time in total

Sadurian Mike
574816.  Fri Jun 26, 2009 5:29 am Reply with quote

bobwilson wrote:
And as for the Derek Jameson bit - where exactly did I say Britain was itching for war?

Just my interpretation of your posts, bob, both these current ones and ones you have made on the same subject in the past.

I apologise if you didn't mean it, but the wandering nature of your posts makes it difficult to pin anything down. You seemed, however, to be suggesting that Britain was simply using Poland as an excuse to go to war (you mentioned colonial interests and a British Nazi regime), rather than the accepted view that Britain was pushed into a corner and only declared war after a long and fruitless diplomatic attempt to curb Hitler's expansionism.

Curious Danny
574824.  Fri Jun 26, 2009 5:41 am Reply with quote

As a A-Level student who has just spent a year studying the runup to the war, i feel my view might help settle this.

a) It is true that Britain didn't want a war, partly due to public pacifism and vast imperial commitments that left Britian vulnerable. This is why appeasement was adopted - short of declaring war, Britain had no other way of controlling events on the continent - France was weak and divided and no counterweight against Germany. It needed British support - we didn't help until the last minute so that was a major failing on our part.
b) Poland was used as justification but this was because by this point Germany was very powerful. Defending Poland was more a symbolic gesture to say "you have gone too far, Hitler". If we were commited to independence of European countries, they would have bothered to have invited a Czech representative to Munich and wouldn't have allowed Poland to be moved miles west after the war and would have declared war on Russia over massacres such as Katyn.
c) Russia had no claims over Polish territory. If anything, the Nazi-Soviet Pact was to make sure Russia didn't intervene in the Polish conquest. Russia would not do anything against the will of Germany, it gained territory because Hitler allowed it.
d) A alliance between Russia and Germany was doomed to fail due to Hitler's fanatical hatred of Russia. Hitler's target was always Russia; indeed, he had spent several years trying to turn Poland into a satellite that could insist in his invasion.
e) Hitler was doomed to lose the war as he made too many mistakes - he didn't knock Britian out of the war before concentrating on Russia, he didn't invade Russia quickly, instead advancing slowly on a genocide that saw his troops freeze to death besieging cities, he swapped from destroying the RAF to bombing London and he transferred troops and equipment to support the Holocaust while D-Day was occuring.

Hope this clears up some of the argument, but i doubt it.

574831.  Fri Jun 26, 2009 5:58 am Reply with quote

Even though we may not always see eye-to-eye, even I know better than to take Mike on when it comes to matters of military history.

TBH, I always thought that the reason we didn't declare war on Russia following the invasion of Poland was because they were on our side.

Then again, if you'd had Hitler and Stalin batting for the same team, they may well have cancelled each out and we'd have been left with an Axis coalition as benign as the Lib Dems.

574849.  Fri Jun 26, 2009 6:23 am Reply with quote

Russia was only ever on Russia's side, they had signed a mutual non agression pact with Hitler, when Hitler launched Barbarossa I believe the Russians were caught on the hop because they were in preparation for their own invasion of German territory. This was not helped by a the purge of the upper echelons of the army by Stalin which had only ended in 1938. The offensive stance of the troop concentrations did not help when Hitler's mensch arrived.

574858.  Fri Jun 26, 2009 6:39 am Reply with quote

I think (part of) bobwilson's point was the same as Curious Danny's b. That is, we did start the war as a direct consequence of the invasion of Poland, but it wasn't because we particularly wanted to help the Polish.

574883.  Fri Jun 26, 2009 7:40 am Reply with quote

I think that point goes without saying as we didn't help Poland by declaring war. The object was to try and curtail Hitler's expansionism.

Sadurian Mike
574891.  Fri Jun 26, 2009 7:54 am Reply with quote

Sure. Nobody saw Poland as some sort of "Golden Child" to be protected at all costs (except possibly the Poles themselves), but a line had to be drawn in the sand and Poland became that line.

The invasion was also the only one that Hitler could not come up with a semi-reasonable excuse for; the Rhineland, Sudetenland* and Austria all had Germanic people sympathetic to Germany and who welcomed unification (as well as plenty who did not), but the invasion of Poland had no such excuse and was an out-and-out act of aggression, the staged "attack" on Germany by Germans pretending to be Poles fooled nobody.

*The Sudetenland was "Germanic" Czechoslovakia, the subsequent move into the rest of Czechoslovakia was almost unopposed because the Sudetenland had contained all the border fortifications required to defend against invasion.


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