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RE: Did Neville Chamberlain do the right thing?

 
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RE: Did Neville Chamberlain do the right thing? - 9/20/2019 5:13:30 PM   
warspite1


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quote:

ORIGINAL: loki100


quote:

ORIGINAL: Crossroads
...

So, anyone with a good book to recommend on the topic of pre-WW2 Czechoslovakia?


Mary Heimann's 'the state that failed' has some good reviews and seems to be a comprehensive study from 1918 to 1992.
warspite1

This has a very mixed reception on Amazon. 13 reviews average 3/5. I may dip my toe in after How War Came....


< Message edited by warspite1 -- 9/20/2019 5:14:24 PM >


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RE: Did Neville Chamberlain do the right thing? - 9/20/2019 9:43:32 PM   
loki100


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aye, bit hard to interpret as the negatives all seem to come from a very specific take on events. Since I don't claim to be able to interpret the views expressed, I felt it maybe had value as at least trying to cover the internal dynamics up to 1938?

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RE: Did Neville Chamberlain do the right thing? - 9/21/2019 8:47:29 AM   
Crossroads


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Meanwhile, I thought to check Max Jakobson's The Diplomacy of the Winter War, which, despite of its name, covers the years of 1938-1940, and also discusses in quite some detail how the great power politics were aligning at the time.

One interesting tidbit related to topic of this thread is the discussions between the US Moscow Ambassador Davies and the Foreign Minister of USSR Litvinov in March 1938, where Litvinov says he's personally certain that Czechoslovakia will face a most difficult situation in next summer (1939). He also declares that in his opinion they will agree to Hitler's demand because there's no reason they should trust the French to be able to offer any assistance to them. He was also certain that USSR does not need to follow their agreement to aid Czechoslovakia, because France will never do so (as mentioned earlier in this thread, USSR had agreed to aid Czechoslovakia only once France ha already done so). Also: "France does not trust Soviet Union, Soviet Union does not trust France, League of Nations is dead", and "Soon, in Hitler occupied Europe, only the UK in the West and Soviet Union in the East shall survive".

Another interesting anecdote from early 1938 is Komintern's secretary Dimitrov publisihing an article stating "Hitler's Roadmap" of "attacking Austria in Spring 1938, Czechoslovakia in Autumn 1938, Hungary in Spring 1939, Poland in Autumn 1939, Yugosloavia in Spring 1940, Romania and Bulgaria in Autumn 1940, France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark and Switzerland in Spring 1941, and USSR in 1941." Not a bad estimate.

With this type of diplomatic discussions taking place at the time, Chamberlain's attempt to prevent the war seem again not that out of place as what could have been achieved diplomatically. The other options would have been to do nothing, or to try to achieve a military solution. And with this, I am now in the camp that Chamberlain indeed did the right thing with the Munich Agreement. Meaning, with the voting in the video per the Opening post, I moved from Don't Know to For.

Let us see if "How War Came" changes my take on things.

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RE: Did Neville Chamberlain do the right thing? - 9/21/2019 9:45:23 AM   
Zovs


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Maybe he was in the wrong environment?

Just read this article from a completely different kind of world but thought I’d share for food for thought.


I've been in London this week, at a conference, and thinking about ducks.

In the story of the ugly duckling, a young duck compares themselves to the rest of their family and notices how different and ugly they are. This goes on for some time, the duck believing that they are simply a very ugly duckling. Then the duck travels, and ultimately meets some swans, and realizes that they weren't an ungly duckling all along, but instead a beautiful swan.

This story is often used to help us when we feel different, or inferior to our peers, to understand that we're all unique, and at some point we'll find our inner beauty and realize that we were wonderful and amazing all along.

This is a good moral to this story. But there's one aspect of this story that is usually overlooked by those who hear it.

That is considering the effect of the environment. The ugly duckling only thought they were ugly when they were in the wrong environment. Once the environment was fixed, they suddenly saw themselves in the right light. The truth came out because of WHERE they were.

Winston Churchill should never have become Prime Minister. He was a wild cat. He was an alarmist at a time when nobody wanted that. They wanted to be told everything was alright. He wasn't a politician who came from "the system". He was an outsider. In just about ANY other age, he would never have found success. His achievements did not come just because he had that "never quit" attitude, like some Hollywood story about the athlete who never gives up and eventually finds success.

He only achieved what he did because he was suddenly the right person when the environment changed. As the inevitability of war became apparent, the environment was suddenly right for him. But not before that. He needed the right environment to flourish. Just like the ugly duckling.

Winston Churchill was not a conformist. He was unabashedly himself. But his success didn't come until the environment became right. His predecessor, Neville Chamberlain, was a man most would probably admire. He was dedicated to doing everything he could to preserve peace. Unfortunately, the environment wasn't right for him. But it was for Winston Churchill.

Now I'm not trying to denigrate perseverance, something we all probably need more of. But we also need to be in the best environment for us.

I've had a couple jobs as a programmer that I just sucked at. I got fired from one job, and nearly fired from the other. They were simply the wrong environment. When I found the right environment, I flourished.

So what about you? Are you in the right environment to succeed? Are you in "the right seat on the right bus"? Are you trying to make things work in the wrong environment? Trying to make yourself into a "pretty duckling" by doing what all the other ducks are doing?




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RE: Did Neville Chamberlain do the right thing? - 9/23/2019 5:41:00 AM   
warspite1


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Crossroads

Let us see if "How War Came" changes my take on things.

warspite1

I'm just itching to get to this but I know if I pick it up before Gorbachev is finished, I won't finish the latter.....

I am particularly interested in understanding more about Franco-Belgian discussions, and hope that there is something about this in the book.


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RE: Did Neville Chamberlain do the right thing? - 9/23/2019 3:49:32 PM   
Crossroads


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quote:

ORIGINAL: warspite1

I am particularly interested in understanding more about Franco-Belgian discussions, and hope that there is something about this in the book.


Indeed! Max Jakobson, understandably due to topic of his book, provided more detail about Soviet diplomats and what they had talked before the war. He repeats a good few times how Soviets were certain they'd not need to follow up on their promise of protecting Czechoslovakia, for they were certain France would not follow up on their promise, first.


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RE: Did Neville Chamberlain do the right thing? - 9/23/2019 10:30:25 PM   
philabos

 

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Litvinov was one of the more enlightened members of the Soviet leadership, low bar as that may be. He actually had some talent dealing with the west and had good relations with the western media as well. He was certainly right about the French, and that contributed to his replacement by Molotov. Apparently the Soviet leadership came around to Litvinov's point of view by fall of 1939.

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RE: Did Neville Chamberlain do the right thing? - 9/24/2019 5:38:47 AM   
warspite1


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quote:

ORIGINAL: philabos

Litvinov was one of the more enlightened members of the Soviet leadership, low bar as that may be. He actually had some talent dealing with the west and had good relations with the western media as well. He was certainly right about the French, and that contributed to his replacement by Molotov. Apparently the Soviet leadership came around to Litvinov's point of view by fall of 1939.
warspite1

I was always under the impression that Litvinov's 'problem' was that he was seen as being behind the collective security failure earlier in the decade. He was also Jewish and anti-Nazi, so when the landscape changed and Stalin was approached about getting into bed with Hitler, Litvinov was not the man for the job and exited stage left.

I would have thought the autumn of 1939 was when Stalin was patting himself on the back that Molotov had done a grand job and was delighted with Litvinov's removal. The NS Pact was proving its worth, Eastern Poland gobbled up and more to come....


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RE: Did Neville Chamberlain do the right thing? - 9/24/2019 10:30:40 PM   
philabos

 

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Right on all counts.
The only nuance was Litvonov had concluded France would not fight. One does not deliver bad news to Josef. He was out.
Molotov did the NS pact, which admittedly Litvinov would never do.
Not sure how happy Stalin was in 1941 with the accomplishment, but Molotov did hold onto his head.
That itself was an achievement.
The point is the NS pact was doable because an alliance with the European land power was not.
Litvonov got the second part right.

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RE: Did Neville Chamberlain do the right thing? - 9/26/2019 4:19:44 PM   
warspite1


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How War Came

Okay so up to chapter 4 and so far so.... okay.

The authors writing style isn't my favourite - although not the worst I've ever come across. More to the point, the story seems to have whistle-stopped through much of the appeasement story which seems a bit of a shame.

So 1939 it is....


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RE: Did Neville Chamberlain do the right thing? - 10/3/2019 7:33:20 PM   
warspite1


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I'm learning some new stuff here so definitely pleased I bought this book - but I continue to find the author's writing style somewhat trying.

For example he makes clear when he doesn't like someone - and that is fine as an intro to the character - but then makes this clear everytime the character appears. The faintly ridiculous 'von' Ribbentrop is perhaps on the receiving end the most. Don't get me wrong I'm not suggesting he doesn't deserve a good verbal kicking. But every time?....

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RE: Did Neville Chamberlain do the right thing? - 10/3/2019 10:32:46 PM   
philabos

 

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Glad to hear you are enjoying the book, I was afraid I led you astray.
Nearly every page contained something new for me. He really did a detailed comb through those two years.
He is opinionated , but I found the information provided far outweighed the Ribbentrop hysteria.

I will not give away a spoiler, but I found the end quite good even though we know what happened.

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RE: Did Neville Chamberlain do the right thing? - 10/4/2019 6:29:48 AM   
Orm


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quote:

ORIGINAL: warspite1

I'm learning some new stuff here so definitely pleased I bought this book - but I continue to find the author's writing style somewhat trying.

For example he makes clear when he doesn't like someone - and that is fine as an intro to the character - but then makes this clear everytime the character appears. The faintly ridiculous 'von' Ribbentrop is perhaps on the receiving end the most. Don't get me wrong I'm not suggesting he doesn't deserve a good verbal kicking. But every time?....

That is just bad writing. In my humble opinion, that is. However, I suspect that the young readers like it since it becomes more, and more common. Again, in my humble opinion.

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RE: Did Neville Chamberlain do the right thing? - 10/11/2019 9:06:51 PM   
warspite1


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quote:

ORIGINAL: warspite1


quote:

ORIGINAL: Crossroads

Let us see if "How War Came" changes my take on things.

warspite1

I'm just itching to get to this but I know if I pick it up before Gorbachev is finished, I won't finish the latter.....

I am particularly interested in understanding more about Franco-Belgian discussions, and hope that there is something about this in the book.

warspite1

Glad to see mention made of this in the book (albeit very briefly so far) and the Low Countries don't get off lightly. So essentially it was good enough for France and Britain to further wreck their already fragile economies in order to be in a position to stand up to Hitler... but those smaller countries that would be in the firing line, if Hitler proved to be as bent on war as was actually the case, could sit back and do little - but expect to be liberated in due course.....

It's an interesting topic.


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RE: Did Neville Chamberlain do the right thing? - 10/11/2019 10:27:23 PM   
philabos

 

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50 years later and nothing has changed.

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RE: Did Neville Chamberlain do the right thing? - 10/12/2019 5:17:44 AM   
warspite1


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quote:

ORIGINAL: philabos

50 years later and nothing has changed.
warspite1

I know where you are coming from but I won't comment further as that takes us into modern day politics.

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RE: Did Neville Chamberlain do the right thing? - 10/13/2019 7:51:41 PM   
Crossroads


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quote:

ORIGINAL: warspite1


quote:

ORIGINAL: warspite1


quote:

ORIGINAL: Crossroads

Let us see if "How War Came" changes my take on things.

warspite1

I'm just itching to get to this but I know if I pick it up before Gorbachev is finished, I won't finish the latter.....

I am particularly interested in understanding more about Franco-Belgian discussions, and hope that there is something about this in the book.

warspite1

Glad to see mention made of this in the book (albeit very briefly so far) and the Low Countries don't get off lightly. So essentially it was good enough for France and Britain to further wreck their already fragile economies in order to be in a position to stand up to Hitler... but those smaller countries that would be in the firing line, if Hitler proved to be as bent on war as was actually the case, could sit back and do little - but expect to be liberated in due course.....

It's an interesting topic.


I just picked a (Kindle) copy of Robert Forczyk's Case Red, which he intended in part to fill a gap of the latter phases of Germany's attack to France in 1940. Most books cover the initial phase, Case Yellow as we all know, of which there are several books, or where most, more generic books use their page count mainly.

He writes a scathing analysis of everything that went wrong during the pre-war years, with France in particular of course, but also with the Franco-British relations, and indeed, on the smaller countries who selected neutrality as the all saving grace.

It is still early days (pages) with the book, but so far quite interesting! ("When War Came" second hand copy I ordered has not yet arrived, so I picked something else).


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RE: Did Neville Chamberlain do the right thing? - 10/16/2019 3:40:39 AM   
warspite1


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Crossroads


quote:

ORIGINAL: warspite1


quote:

ORIGINAL: warspite1


quote:

ORIGINAL: Crossroads

Let us see if "How War Came" changes my take on things.

warspite1

I'm just itching to get to this but I know if I pick it up before Gorbachev is finished, I won't finish the latter.....

I am particularly interested in understanding more about Franco-Belgian discussions, and hope that there is something about this in the book.

warspite1

Glad to see mention made of this in the book (albeit very briefly so far) and the Low Countries don't get off lightly. So essentially it was good enough for France and Britain to further wreck their already fragile economies in order to be in a position to stand up to Hitler... but those smaller countries that would be in the firing line, if Hitler proved to be as bent on war as was actually the case, could sit back and do little - but expect to be liberated in due course.....

It's an interesting topic.


I just picked a (Kindle) copy of Robert Forczyk's Case Red, which he intended in part to fill a gap of the latter phases of Germany's attack to France in 1940. Most books cover the initial phase, Case Yellow as we all know, of which there are several books, or where most, more generic books use their page count mainly.

He writes a scathing analysis of everything that went wrong during the pre-war years, with France in particular of course, but also with the Franco-British relations, and indeed, on the smaller countries who selected neutrality as the all saving grace.

It is still early days (pages) with the book, but so far quite interesting! ("When War Came" second hand copy I ordered has not yet arrived, so I picked something else).

warspite1

Blitzkrieg (Clark) contained a couple of chapters on Fall Rot. I guess the interest in the Battle for France was pretty much over by that point. I've considered getting this but am put off a little by Forzyck's We March Against England. This was a decent read but contained a few lazy, poorly researched areas that took the gloss off the book.

I'd be interested to read your thoughts once you've finished it and what attention to detail there is e.g. is there a detailed of Order of Battle?


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RE: Did Neville Chamberlain do the right thing? - 10/16/2019 4:10:45 PM   
Crossroads


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I haven't read his We March Against England, the two previous books I own by him are his two Tank Warfare on Eastern Front, out of which the first one, covering the first two years, really caught my attention. I did not think there'd be a fresh look to Eastern Front, yet his reasoning for the success of the blitzkrieg there to how it all turned around was quite enjoyable.

I'll post my thoughts once I am done here, I am about one third done at the moment. To answer your question, there's a high level June 5 1940 OOB available for both sides, down to division level, with French Independent tank battalions thrown in for good measurement.

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RE: Did Neville Chamberlain do the right thing? - 10/20/2019 2:10:04 PM   
Crossroads


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I finished Forczyck's Case Red today, quite liked what it had to offer. Similar to his Tank Warfare books covering the Eastern Front, I enjoy how he gives background to armies facing each other, how they were armed, what limitations were in place, and why it was so. And while the actua Case Red begins only at halfway through the book, there's a lot of detail about the latter part of battle for France.

The first half was quite enjoyable as well, his observations how the Franco-British alliance was an alliance mostly in name, how the French did not foresee how little help Britain at the end was willing (and capable) to deliver, but having said that, he points his finger mostly at France herself, and for her state of not being prepared at all to hold off Hitler. As were most all other western democracies as well, as he observes.

He does a review in hindsight as well, deducing the only military opportunity for France to prevail would have been a pre-emptive strike in 1936 (edited, had the wrong year first) during the Rhineland Crisis. That would have had the most effect on deterring Hitler towards a more cautious approach, while encouraging both Poland and Czechoslovakia to have more faith in French support and co-operation, per the agreements.

Finally, he names there military leaders, whose subordinations made the historic outcome possible: Guderian, for his continuous subordination in keeping the advance goiing, Brooke, in removing the second BEF from play while insisting the French are no longer fighting, and finally Weygang for first his catastrophic decisions without any plan B in place (namely ordering a stand at Somme and Aisne while both fronts were already compromised), and his defeatitst attitude in road towards armistice.

A recommended read.

< Message edited by Crossroads -- 10/22/2019 7:43:11 AM >


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RE: Did Neville Chamberlain do the right thing? - 10/21/2019 8:38:46 PM   
warspite1


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Crossroads

Finally, he names there military leaders, whose subordinations made the historic outcome possible: Guderian, for his continuous subordination in keeping the advance goiing, Brooke, in removing the second BEF from play while insisting the French are no longer fighting, and finally Weygang for first his catastrophic decisions without any plan B in place (namely ordering a stand at Somme and Aisne while both fronts were already compromised), and his defeatitst attitude in road towards armistice.

warspite1

Thank-you for the precis. I am a little surprised by a couple of things here though.

The British are blamed for not providing sufficient troops for Case Yellow. But if they did not provide sufficient troops in the first BEF how can the author possibly asset that the 2nd, much smaller, BEF could have done anything to affect the outcome of Fall Rot - a campaign fought with the Allies all but defeated?

It seems a little harsh blaming Weygand for losing the battle as, even by the time he replaced Gamelin, the battle was essentially lost thanks to his predecessor's woeful performance.

I agree on Guderian though. Some people treat the German General Staff as paragons of military virtue, but it was only the willingness of Guderian and Rommel in particular to ignore orders, that allowed the drive to the sea before the Allies had any chance to recover. It would have been interesting to know what would have happened had Guderian stayed sacked and the armoured drive to the sea slowed.




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RE: Did Neville Chamberlain do the right thing? - 10/22/2019 7:52:36 AM   
Crossroads


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Frieser's "The Blitzkrieg Legend" does a great job describing the prelude to war and Fall Gelb in particular from German point of view. Recommened reading to anyone interested on this. What the name of the book implies, the blitzkrieg in France is a legend, it was not planned as such. "France was an unplanned blitzkrieg that succeeded, while Barbarossa was a planned blitzkrieg that failed.".

As for Brooke and Weygand, I might have been too terse. Here's a quotation from the book. First and foremost, his opinion was that he does not see how France could have prevailed, nor how France could have continued the fight from Africa. The moment to strike was the Rhineland crisis, after that, too late.

Then, the three subordinate commanders:

The operational outcomes in the French campaign were shaped by the insubordination of three general officers: Guderian, Weygand and Brooke.

Guderian repeatedly disobeyed orders from his superiors, Kleist and Rundstedt, during the breakout from the Meuse and essentially ignored a halt order that had been approved by the Führer. Had Guderian followed orders, the pace of the German advance would have been significantly slower in the advance to the Channel, giving the Allies more time to react. Guderian’s reckless advances, heedless of risks to his flanks, were not part of the Fall Gelb plan. To a lesser extent, Guderian also ignored orders to slow down during Fall Rot, which enabled his Panzers to reach the Swiss border before anyone expected. In France, Guderian’s gambles paid off, which led him and others to believe that they could be repeated elsewhere. However in the advance to Moscow in 1941, Guderian would discover that operations based on gambles and a belief in the enemy’s innate incompetence could end in disaster.

Weygand adopted an insubordinate mind-set from the moment he assumed command from Gamelin and ignored all guidance from Reynaud’s government. It is fair to say that Weygand displayed outright contempt for the idea of civilian oversight over the military, which made him unfit to lead the army of a constitutional democracy. Weygand’s pig-headed decision to make his stand on the Somme and Aisne – which were already compromised – was suicidal and he compounded it by continually rejecting consideration of any other courses of action. Reynaud’s cabinet wanted to make a last stand in Brittany and then flee to North Africa, but Weygand did everything in his power to prevent these policy decisions from being enacted. He also ensured that Paris was prematurely lost and that other front-line cities were declared ‘open’ just as the enemy arrived. Then, when the disaster he had helped to orchestrate arrived, he gave the legitimate government the final push it needed to collapse by openly disobeying Reynaud in front of his cabinet. Had Weygand simply been a good soldier and done his duty to the Republic, resistance in France would probably have lasted for another month and the legitimate government would have moved to Algeria to continue the war.

Finally, Brooke’s off-the-cuff decision to pull the Second BEF out of France and cease military co-operation with the French ran completely against the guidance he received from Churchill. Brooke compounded this insubordination by lying to the War Cabinet about the actual situation in France, in order to get approval for his unauthorized evacuation. Even once approval was granted, Brooke was directed to conduct a fighting withdrawal to the ports and hold them long enough to evacuate the mass of equipment that Britain had landed in France. Brooke ignored this guidance as well, pushing the Second BEF to a precipitate and chaotic retreat that abandoned valuable military property and resulting in the tragic loss of the Lancastria. Brooke’s behaviour added credibility to the cynical aspersions of Pétain and Weygand about the untrustworthy behaviour of the British, which helped to sway the French Cabinet against Reynaud. If Brooke had simply obeyed orders, the 52nd (Lowland) Division and the Beauman Division would probably have been lost, but the willingness of France to stay in the war would have been increased.


Copyright: Forczyk, Robert. Case Red (pp. 403-406). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.

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RE: Did Neville Chamberlain do the right thing? - 10/22/2019 8:26:36 AM   
warspite1


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I have to say from just those paragraphs - thanks for copying - that the author's conclusions are a little muddled.

Gamelin totally screwed the defence of France. From what Forzyck is saying, Weygand then compounded this by 'suicidal' plans for defence in phase II of the campaign.

The French had shown overall an unwillingness to fight (Reynaud and many, many brave soldiers notwithstanding) throughout the whole campaign, he declared open cities, he ignored the wishes of Reynaud, but he wants us to believe that if a few British divisions remained in France then the French would have stuck around for longer?



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RE: Did Neville Chamberlain do the right thing? - 10/22/2019 10:07:20 AM   
Crossroads


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I rather enjoyed the book, I do recommend it in particular for the more detailed description of Fall Rot, the latter half of the book.

As he writes, the operational outcomes were shaped (but not necessarily decided, although it can be said Guderian did have a decisive role) by these three subordinate commanders.

Brooke was the final nail in the coffin of the French (unrealistic) expectations on British help. All along they were asking and expecting a lot more than what Britain was able or willing (emphasis on both) to provide, with defense of UK as the reason of course.

So when Brooke more or less bugs out, it played a role in Weygand and Petain being able to first influence and then take over the French civilian government. In a way, Brook at that point of time personifies how the French came to expect the worst of UK in help France in her defence against Third Reich. In the first half, the book does catalogue the troubled Franco-British coperation from the prewar yesrs quote well, so this should not (imo) be taken out of the overall context how the two nations never really, it seems, looked eye-to-ey. It was never a close co-operation, with both sides having a role to play in that. That is how I interpret his comment on Brooke, at least.

Weygand's all or nothing (literally) approach for the last stand played a role, too. He ensured that once Fall Rot got out from their jump off areas, all was lost, as he did not allow for any contingency plans. Based on this book alone, he comes out as a rather despicable character to say the least.

All this in the context that France could not have prevailed, anyhow.

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(in reply to warspite1)
Post #: 114
RE: Did Neville Chamberlain do the right thing? - 10/23/2019 5:36:32 AM   
warspite1


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The relationship between the UK and France during the inter-war years is hugely interesting – but as far as I’m aware it’s only really written about in terms of the political dealings with the Germans and Italians, appeasement, adjusting Versailles etc. What I’ve not seen is a more detailed focus on just what was going on between the two at a military level.

As ever it’s so easy to bring hindsight into any look back at what happened, but of course that is totally pointless and so that needs to be separated out. The two countries are usually viewed as being joined at the hip during that period – which of course was far from the case – and that decisions were made jointly with a common purpose and a common goal.

But the simple fact is, the French and British were far from being joined at the hip, there’s was a marriage of convenience, of two empires whose golden ages had past them by, of two countries that each thought of the other as the natural enemy, that had fought each other over hundreds of years with the result that there was a lot of mis-trust if not downright hostility.

As the First World War had shown – the two countries needed each other but, for the reasons given above, had no wish to admit to that fact. And while on the one hand needing each other, they were also countries in their own right looking out for themselves – and of course a government’s first duty is to look after its people. It seems too often forgotten that it was France’s responsibility to defend France (her army and air force), just as it was the UK’s job to defend her empire (the navy).

Both countries had suffered enormously in WWI; both had lost their wealth and an awful lot of young men - either dead or disabled physically or mentally. The great depression and the rise of other industrial nations meant a new financial reality for both; money for the military was scarce, and the experiences of WWI meant that any thought of another war was abhorrent.

So both Britain and France, not unnaturally, pursued a defence policy that suited themselves – as a continental power France needed an army, and as an island and an imperial power with vast overseas responsibilities the UK needed a navy. But of course threats evolve over time – no one has a crystal ball. The French decided that defence was the key and built the Maginot Line. The British continued with their tiny peacetime army – no more really than a glorified imperial police force while trying (and failing) to keep the Royal Navy as up to date as possible.

As the threat from Germany developed in the 30’s – and particularly after Munich - I’d love to know what conversations were had between the French and British about what each would be bringing to the party should war break out. Now of course we know what happened and so – with hindsight - the obvious point to make is that Britain should have provided a bigger army to assist the French. And frankly we (French and British) all wish they had. But those who say that need to look at situation at the time. The UK’s primary need was for a powerful Royal Navy – and we know now that despite having on paper the largest navy quantitatively in 1939, qualitatively it was in big trouble – and WWII would go to show just how big its problems were.

The size of Britain’s professional army should not have been a surprise to the French. I can only assume (but aren’t confident) that there were detailed discussions between the general staffs about what would constitute the BEF, what aircraft could be made available prior to the actual declarations of war. Equally the condition of the French army and what it was capable of offensively and defensively should have been known to the British.

In the end France was defeated. When someone loses the natural reaction is to seek reasons for that happening – and its always useful to have someone else to blame – for France it was convenient to blame ‘perfidious Albion’ for not providing enough aircraft or troops, for pulling out too quickly or for being happy to fight to the last Frenchman etc etc. But let’s be clear here. The French were responsible for the defence of France. Yes they could expect assistance from the British, but that assistance was limited. That should have been known. The BEF were subordinate to the French – this was France’s show, their country being defended and their responsibility. The plan for the defence of France was Gamelin’s. The plan was a total disaster. There is so much that can be written about Gamelin and his failures but only one needs to be mentioned here. So keen were the French to keep the war away from French soil that they came up with the Breda variant. Why was that a disaster? Well because when the Germans broke through across the Meuse, the strategic reserve which should have been in place to counter, was rushing toward Holland…… As the German armoured forces rushed over the Meuse and then headed north there was nothing to stop them.

Removing hindsight, even the Germans had absolutely no idea that Case Yellow could pan out as it did. The Germans original goal was to take territory in Holland and Belgium from which it could wage aerial war against the UK. With the French centre collapsing like a house of cards, the British (rightly as it turned out) could not afford to lose aircraft and pilots for what appeared pretty early to be a hopeless situation. One can argue about the size of the BEF, but rightly or wrongly, this was Britain’s only professional army (save a couple of divisions in the Middle East and India (sort of)) and its defeat would mean the defeat of Britain. Given this, how was Gort supposed to react to the situation unfolding; the Germans had broken through the French lines at Sedan after less than a week, they were now rushing up toward the coast and the French were seemingly unable to stop them – and moreover not making much in the way of attempts to do so. So the only army the British had was about to be surrounded. I don’t think the decision to evacuate can be criticised in such circumstances. The same arguments apply to the 2nd BEF – particularly as Forzyck makes the point that Weygand stuffed up the defence when the Germans launched phase II (although I have a little more sympathy for Weygand given the mess he inherited).

This isn’t some anti-French rant (when it comes to mucking up in WWII the French hardly had a monopoly on that, and the British were to endure their own embarrassing failures). At the end of the day I feel very sorry for the ordinary Frenchmen and women in WWII (though not the likes of Petain, Darlan and co). The French wanted war no more than the British, but found themselves at war because, like Britain, ultimately they tried to do the right thing. Many Frenchmen (and their colonial troops) fought bravely and fought well. But the army leadership was woeful.

The French were unlucky that they bordered Germany (while the UK had a big moat around her) but at the end of the day Case Yellow and Case Red was about France, the defence of France and that was the responsibility of the French. To blame Britain – anyone - is natural in such circumstances (this was after all a calamitous defeat) but that doesn’t make it right. Gort and Brooke pulling out rather than risking the only army Britain had for no good purpose was NOT the reason the Germans defeated France.

This wasn’t some stupid game whereby Petain only decided to take his ball back and stop playing because they thought the British had let France down. The French could have continued the fight from North Africa, because if fighting the Nazi’s was right in September 1939 then it was still right in June 1940. They chose not to – they chose to sign an armistice with the Nazi’s (whether Britain under Halifax would have done so is thankfully something we’ll never know). Forzyck wrote: If Brooke had simply obeyed orders, the 52nd (Lowland) Division and the Beauman Division would probably have been lost, but the willingness of France to stay in the war would have been increased. Sorry but that imo is fantasy.

My GBP £0.02


< Message edited by warspite1 -- 10/23/2019 5:49:50 AM >


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(in reply to Crossroads)
Post #: 115
RE: Did Neville Chamberlain do the right thing? - 10/23/2019 6:51:48 PM   
Crossroads


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I am not disagreeing what you write there, at all. In a way, Forczyk agrees pretty much in what you wrote, either, par perhaps how he picks up those three commanders at the end. Would be interesting to learn about your thoughts about the whole book.

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(in reply to warspite1)
Post #: 116
RE: Did Neville Chamberlain do the right thing? - 10/24/2019 6:52:09 AM   
warspite1


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Crossroads

... Would be interesting to learn about your thoughts about the whole book.
warspite1

I have three books on the go at the moment but you've piqued my interest and will buy Case Red when I've got the first of those three finished.


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Post #: 117
RE: Did Neville Chamberlain do the right thing? - 10/25/2019 7:44:01 PM   
Capt. Harlock


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quote:

ORIGINAL: warspite1

At the end of the day I feel very sorry for the ordinary Frenchmen and women in WWII (though not the likes of Petain, Darlan and co). The French wanted war no more than the British, but found themselves at war because, like Britain, ultimately they tried to do the right thing. Many Frenchmen (and their colonial troops) fought bravely and fought well. But the army leadership was woeful.

The French were unlucky that they bordered Germany (while the UK had a big moat around her) but at the end of the day Case Yellow and Case Red was about France, the defence of France and that was the responsibility of the French. To blame Britain – anyone - is natural in such circumstances (this was after all a calamitous defeat) but that doesn’t make it right. Gort and Brooke pulling out rather than risking the only army Britain had for no good purpose was NOT the reason the Germans defeated France.

This wasn’t some stupid game whereby Petain only decided to take his ball back and stop playing because they thought the British had let France down. The French could have continued the fight from North Africa, because if fighting the Nazi’s was right in September 1939 then it was still right in June 1940. They chose not to – they chose to sign an armistice with the Nazi’s (whether Britain under Halifax would have done so is thankfully something we’ll never know).



And that point about ultimately trying to do the right thing brings us back to the opening question of the thread. What *was* the right thing? The simplistic answer is that one should choose peace rather than war, but IMHO in this extraordinary case it was the wrong choice. As civil rights leader Stokely Carmichael pointed out, non-violence only works if the other side has a conscience that can be appealed to. The French committed quite possibly the greatest lost opportunity in history when they failed to invade Germany after Hitler's violations of the Versailles Treaty.


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(in reply to warspite1)
Post #: 118
RE: Did Neville Chamberlain do the right thing? - 10/25/2019 8:05:28 PM   
warspite1


Posts: 40144
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quote:

ORIGINAL: Capt. Harlock


quote:

ORIGINAL: warspite1

At the end of the day I feel very sorry for the ordinary Frenchmen and women in WWII (though not the likes of Petain, Darlan and co). The French wanted war no more than the British, but found themselves at war because, like Britain, ultimately they tried to do the right thing. Many Frenchmen (and their colonial troops) fought bravely and fought well. But the army leadership was woeful.

The French were unlucky that they bordered Germany (while the UK had a big moat around her) but at the end of the day Case Yellow and Case Red was about France, the defence of France and that was the responsibility of the French. To blame Britain – anyone - is natural in such circumstances (this was after all a calamitous defeat) but that doesn’t make it right. Gort and Brooke pulling out rather than risking the only army Britain had for no good purpose was NOT the reason the Germans defeated France.

This wasn’t some stupid game whereby Petain only decided to take his ball back and stop playing because they thought the British had let France down. The French could have continued the fight from North Africa, because if fighting the Nazi’s was right in September 1939 then it was still right in June 1940. They chose not to – they chose to sign an armistice with the Nazi’s (whether Britain under Halifax would have done so is thankfully something we’ll never know).



And that point about ultimately trying to do the right thing brings us back to the opening question of the thread. What *was* the right thing? The simplistic answer is that one should choose peace rather than war, but IMHO in this extraordinary case it was the wrong choice. As civil rights leader Stokely Carmichael pointed out, non-violence only works if the other side has a conscience that can be appealed to. The French committed quite possibly the greatest lost opportunity in history when they failed to invade Germany after Hitler's violations of the Versailles Treaty.

warspite1

So if I marry up the first and last parts of your post you are saying that the Western Allies should have allowed absolutely no amendment to the Versailles Treaty whatsoever?

This was a treaty that many felt unreasonably harsh when negotiated and signed at the end of the war. The feeling that Germany had been unfairly treated then grew stronger and stronger during the 20's and 30's. But are you saying that public opinion all over the globe - and where it then mattered in Western Europe and the US - should have been ignored? Was the Anschluss really such a crime that the French should have the right of veto over - why? Was the Rhineland - part of Germany - really to remain verboten to the German military for ever more? Was Wilson's 14-points really only meant for some and not others - the right to self determination was paramount.... unless it wasn't?

I would be interested to hear more on this thought process.


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Post #: 119
RE: Did Neville Chamberlain do the right thing? - 10/25/2019 8:06:40 PM   
Orm


Posts: 17719
Joined: 5/3/2008
From: Sweden
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quote:

ORIGINAL: Capt. Harlock


quote:

ORIGINAL: warspite1

At the end of the day I feel very sorry for the ordinary Frenchmen and women in WWII (though not the likes of Petain, Darlan and co). The French wanted war no more than the British, but found themselves at war because, like Britain, ultimately they tried to do the right thing. Many Frenchmen (and their colonial troops) fought bravely and fought well. But the army leadership was woeful.

The French were unlucky that they bordered Germany (while the UK had a big moat around her) but at the end of the day Case Yellow and Case Red was about France, the defence of France and that was the responsibility of the French. To blame Britain – anyone - is natural in such circumstances (this was after all a calamitous defeat) but that doesn’t make it right. Gort and Brooke pulling out rather than risking the only army Britain had for no good purpose was NOT the reason the Germans defeated France.

This wasn’t some stupid game whereby Petain only decided to take his ball back and stop playing because they thought the British had let France down. The French could have continued the fight from North Africa, because if fighting the Nazi’s was right in September 1939 then it was still right in June 1940. They chose not to – they chose to sign an armistice with the Nazi’s (whether Britain under Halifax would have done so is thankfully something we’ll never know).



And that point about ultimately trying to do the right thing brings us back to the opening question of the thread. What *was* the right thing? The simplistic answer is that one should choose peace rather than war, but IMHO in this extraordinary case it was the wrong choice. As civil rights leader Stokely Carmichael pointed out, non-violence only works if the other side has a conscience that can be appealed to. The French committed quite possibly the greatest lost opportunity in history when they failed to invade Germany after Hitler's violations of the Versailles Treaty.



Or that the French failed to invade saved the world from atomic winter.

< Message edited by Orm -- 10/25/2019 8:07:14 PM >


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