Is Winston Churchill grossly overrated?

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Post by Ivan on Mon Dec 12, 2011 12:35 am

First topic message reminder :

In a BBC poll a few years ago, Churchill was voted the greatest ever Briton, but I wonder if Churchill’s contribution to Britain has been overrated. Spare me the froth of indignation, I know the standard interpretation as well as anyone. Churchill is supposed to be the man who won the war for us, an inspiration, someone who impressed the ladies by making remarks such as “it will be long, it will be hard and there will be no withdrawal”.
Embarassed

Churchill was a dunce at school, and a political turncoat who switched from Conservative to Liberal and back to Conservative again, swaying with the prevailing wind whenever it suited his career prospects. As he explained: "anyone can rat, but it takes a certain ingenuity to re-rat”. In 1910, while still a Liberal, he was made Home Secretary and used troops to maintain law and order during a miners’ strike in South Wales. He also used a detachment of Scots Guards to assist police during a house siege in Sidney Street in East London in January 1911. He used the military against private citizens, when it would normally have been something for the police to sort out.

At the start of the First World War, Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty and was the chief proponent of the invasion of Turkey, now known as the Gallipoli campaign. The idea was to create a southern link to England and France's eastern ally, Russia, and provide the struggling Russians with material assistance. It was a total failure. Although not solely responsible for the tactical defeat on the ground, the campaign was nevertheless, Churchill’s baby, and it cost the lives of 44,092 Allied troops, including 21,255 from the UK. Over 86,000 enemy soldiers also died. Churchill was forced to leave the War Cabinet after this debacle.

Churchill became Colonial Secretary in January 1921, which meant he was in charge of drawing the map of much of the Middle East, from which the Turks had been forced to pull out. Churchill made yet more mistakes, of which the most enduring was his failure to establish Kurdistan, a state for the Kurds, among the other new nations.

By the time Churchill became Prime Minister at the age of 65, his career had largely been a disaster. During the Second World War, his poor judgement continued. Churchill was responsible (at least in part) for the decision to occupy Norway. The invasion of Norway (or perhaps "military occupation" is a better term) was challenged and defeated by the Germans. Perhaps the main reason for this failure was the defeat of British naval surface power by German air power. Just like Gallipoli, it could be said of Norway that it was "a nice idea but it didn't work".

As Prime Minister, Churchill must take some of the responsibility for the foolish raid on the heavily fortified port of Dieppe in 1942, which incurred heavy Allied casualties. Churchill was also a proponent of the invasion of Italy, hoping to reach the German Reich via the southern route, through "Europe's soft underbelly" as he said. Thanks to the German Army under Albert Kesselring, and the natural defensive terrain, Italy turned out to be, as American soldiers fighting there put it, a "tough old gut".

During the Second World War, Wladyslaw Sikorski took command of the Polish army in France and thereafter became the head of the Polish government in exile in London. He died mysteriously in a plane crash in July 1943, while he was returning to London from the Middle East where he had been inspecting Polish troops who were about to join the allies. British investigations in the aftermath of his death concluded that it was an accident. New investigations in 1992 revealed, however, that, at the height and speed at which it was travelling, the plane could technically not have crashed. Some claimed that the pilot had deliberately brought the plane down. The mystery of Sikorski’s death remains and has since been subject to various theories: a murder planned by the Soviet Union or by the British government. One theory is that the murder was ordered by Churchill in an effort to maintain good relations with Stalin, at a time of increasing tension between Poland and the Soviet Union.

By 1944, the saturation bombing of dormitory towns in Germany had given up any pretence of choosing military targets. This always happens with long drawn-out bombing campaigns (compare the end of the Kosovo war), but in 1944 we went further and began attempting massacres. We only really succeeded at Dresden, but not for want of trying.

The later years of the war were years of Soviet and American ascendancy. The strategy for the final conquest of Germany was largely decided by these powers. It could reasonably be argued that the USA and the Soviet Union won the Second World War, with British support. Ostensibly, Britain had gone to war to try to save Poland from being taken over by Germany. At the end of the war, Churchill promptly handed over Poland to the Russians.

Churchill was unscrupulous enough to campaign in the 1945 general election using the smear that, if elected, Labour would “set up a Gestapo”, an appalling thing to say at any time, but especially so close to the end of the war. It didn’t do him much good. However, an electoral quirk in the 1951 general election (Labour won the most votes but the Tories won more seats), returned Churchill to Downing Street at the age of almost 77, where he had a stroke, but with customary deception, the Tories hid that from public knowledge. He was eventually eased out of office in 1955 (to be replaced by the disastrous Eden), but he stayed on as an MP until three months before his death in January 1965 at the age of 90.

Britain survived the Second World War, and was on the winning side, not because of the platitudes of Churchill, but because of those brave people in small boats who went to Dunkirk, those heroic Spitfire pilots, and the many servicemen, anonymous to most apart from their families and friends, who gave their lives to preserve our freedom from Nazi tyranny. Don't you think they were the great Britons who deserved accolades, not Churchill?
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Post by Chivnail on Tue Apr 24, 2012 6:20 pm

I still can't take the notion seriously. Barely a third of Germany's planned invasion barges were powered at all, and some of them for puttering around at a couple of knots on smooth canals, and though they could have got across the channel they couldn't have done it quickly or with a lot of men, vehicles, and supplies. Many of them would have to be grounded to unload at all, which would be a pain in an unpowered vessel under fire and facing mines and burning oil. By late 1940 only a few dozen large and effective barges for deploying tanks were available, along with two hundred odd light and medium tanks able to swim or effectively wade, while any other vehicles would have taken an age to get ashore after grounding and erecting ramps etc. Presumably the defenders would have given them all the time in the world to do that, though! It was going to take days just to get a few -mostly infantry- divisions ashore.

After the initial landing, it's unlikely that the Germans could have got even close to half the supplies they needed to sustain the initial -rather small- invasion force for even a few days, even assuming that the RAF had somehow evaporated and the RN sat on its backside in Scotland. Faced with the invasion of the country and total defeat, I don't think the risk of heavy losses would serve to discourage the Admiralty all that much. And hey, if the Luftwaffe's attacking scores and scores of warships across hundreds of square miles of sea, at least it's not attacking airfields any more, eh?

For the invasion to even last beyond a few days we do have to assume the total collapse of the RAF, and unless we really are crediting Churchill with primary responsibility for its survival I don't see how we can claim that he's responsible for Britain's freedom. But even without the British ability to contest enemy air superiority over the Channel, I can't really see the Germans getting past the major stop lines with much of their mobility intact, and by the time the regular (British) army was mobilised the invaders would have been running on fumes and enormously outnumbered. Particularly so if even a small portion of the RAF was kept back out of range of most French bases, while being still close enough to reach the south coast, or at least GHQ stop line etc to provide support/cover.

(Erm. Anyway, on the main thrust of the thread, I still don't care for Winston.)

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Post by Chivnail on Tue Apr 24, 2012 6:21 pm

RockOnBrother wrote:
Trevor,

Interesting article. What’s striking is the attitude of no surrender exhibited by these courageous civilians.

During discussions of the United Kingdom’s pivotal role in determining the fate of the world during the period between the capitulation of France and the US entry into the fray, about one and a half years, it is often mentioned that there could never have been a Vichy UK. The unsung heroes spotlighted in this article provide more evidence of the truth of that statement.

Well, I certainly agree with you on these points, at least Smile
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Post by oftenwrong on Tue Apr 24, 2012 7:23 pm

Chivnail wrote:I still can't take the notion seriously.....

(Erm. Anyway, on the main thrust of the thread, I still don't care for Winston.)

That was well concealed Herr Obersturm-Führer.
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Post by trevorw2539 on Tue Apr 24, 2012 10:58 pm

Chivnail quote.

After the initial landing, it's unlikely that the Germans could have got even close to half the supplies they needed to sustain the initial -rather small- invasion force for even a few days, even assuming that the RAF had somehow evaporated and the RN sat on its backside in Scotland.

We did at Normandy. The difference is that our scientists and planners etc. had the initiative to make it possible with Mulberry harbours, etc, and a massive deception ploy. The difference between 2 leaders. One who would listen to his commanders. The other who believed he knew better than his.

Churchill wasn't the greatest politician, the greatest Prime Minister, the greatest planner, but he was the right man for the right time. He was inspirational in terms of his outward determination, though often privately having doubts, and was able to inspire others. He risked his own life often in his leadership, so much so that King George VI had to stop him at times. Churchill was in the habit of going to the rooftops when the German bombers came over. When the King found out he told Winston that 'if you continue I shall do the same'. Winston stopped. He often went to conferences in North Africa etc knowing full well that the German's were aware of where he was and what he was doing.

It was his determination, friendship and pleading with FDR that prompted FDR to recommend to the US Congress LendLease on the grounds that 'the fall of Britain would threaten the USA'. A ground that allowed LendLease.

No. Not the greatest, but a great man who, for years, had warned of the probability of impending war with a Germany which had modern arms. He was ignored.

But then I am biased, having been born near Chartwell, his Kent home, and listened as a child to his speeches on the green of the local town.


Last edited by trevorw2539 on Tue Apr 24, 2012 11:00 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Grammar)
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Post by ROB on Wed Apr 25, 2012 5:58 am

Chivnail wrote:
Barely a third of Germany's planned invasion barges were powered at all, and some of them for puttering around at a couple of knots on smooth canals, and though they could have got across the channel they couldn't have done it quickly or with a lot of men, vehicles, and supplies. Many of them would have to be grounded to unload at all, which would be a pain in an unpowered vessel under fire and facing mines and burning oil. By late 1940 only a few dozen large and effective barges for deploying tanks were available, along with two hundred odd light and medium tanks able to swim or effectively wade, while any other vehicles would have taken an age to get ashore after grounding and erecting ramps etc. Presumably the defenders would have given them all the time in the world to do that, though! It was going to take days just to get a few -mostly infantry- divisions ashore.

After the initial landing, it's unlikely that the Germans could have got even close to half the supplies they needed to sustain the initial -rather small- invasion force for even a few days, even assuming that the RAF had somehow evaporated and the RN sat on its backside in Scotland. Faced with the invasion of the country and total defeat, I don't think the risk of heavy losses would serve to discourage the Admiralty all that much. And hey, if the Luftwaffe's attacking scores and scores of warships across hundreds of square miles of sea, at least it's not attacking airfields any more, eh?

For the invasion to even last beyond a few days we do have to assume the total collapse of the RAF, and unless we really are crediting Churchill with primary responsibility for its survival I don't see how we can claim that he's responsible for Britain's freedom. But even without the British ability to contest enemy air superiority over the Channel, I can't really see the Germans getting past the major stop lines with much of their mobility intact, and by the time the regular (British) army was mobilised the invaders would have been running on fumes and enormously outnumbered. Particularly so if even a small portion of the RAF was kept back out of range of most French bases, while being still close enough to reach the south coast, or at least GHQ stop line etc to provide support/cover.


  1. Destruction of Fighter Command’s six hundred sixty Hurricanes and Spitfires equals absolute Luftwaffe air superiority over the channel and southern England.

  2. Absolute Luftwaffe air superiority over the channel and southern England equals unchallenged Stukas prowling the skies over the channel and southern England.

  3. Unchallenged Stukas prowling the skies over the channel equals Royal Navy battleships, cruisers, and destroyers at the bottom of the channel.

  4. Unchallenged Stukas prowling the skies over southern England equals dead British soldiers littering the fields of southern England.

  5. Unchallenged Stukas prowling the skies over the channel and southern England equals absolute German control of the channel and southern England.

  6. Absolute German control of the channel and southern England equals absolute control of Portsmouth and Plymouth.

  7. Absolute German control of the channel, southern England, Portsmouth, and Plymouth equals Luftwaffe takeover of southern England RAF bases.

  8. Luftwaffe takeover of southern England RAF bases equals absolute Luftwaffe air superiority over the whole of England, Wales, and Scotland.

  9. Absolute Luftwaffe air superiority over the whole of England, Wales, and Scotland equals game over.
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Post by Shirina on Wed Apr 25, 2012 12:49 pm

Operation Sea Lion, Hitler's planned invasion of Britain, was sabotaged by the Nazi regime's own internecine back biting. Admiral Donitz and Hermann Goering hated each other which meant there would never be cooperation between Donitz's U-boat forces and Goering's Luftwaffe. Modern warfare is all about combined arms tactics which the German's understood in relation to air power supporting the Wehrmacht, but it failed abysmally when it came to the Luftwaffe supporting the Kriegsmarine.

The end of the battleship came with the sinking of the HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse by Japanese bombers as the two ships raced through the Pacific to support Singapore. At that point, the submarine and the aircraft carrier became the queens of the seas. In 1940, however, no one knew that yet, and had Donitz and Goering worked together, Britain would have been strangled by Donitz's U-boats while simultaneously invaded by the Wehrmacht. The other epic blunder involved Hitler's obsession with capital ships like the Bismarck despite being told Germany could never build a surface fleet powerful enough to rival the Royal Navy. Donitz never had more than 100 U-boats at sea at any given time; he tried to convince Hitler that U-boats could win the war, and if Donitz had had the 300 U-boats he had asked for instead of Hitler sinking money into battleships, that could have happened long before an invasion took place. Even America's entry into the war wouldn't have changed things since Admiral King of the USN absolutely (and stupidly) refused to corral US shipping into convoys, allowing German U-boats to pick off lone American ships with ease.

What really decided Britain's fate was the inability for the Luftwaffe and the Kriegsmarine to coordinate a comprehensive strategy coupled with Hitler's refusal to give Donitz the U-boats he wanted. Of course, none of that mattered after Germany lost the Battle of Britain.
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Post by ROB on Wed Apr 25, 2012 1:33 pm


Shirina,

All true. Additionally, had Dowding bowed to pressure and allowed his assets to be sent over with the BEF, Fighter Command’s Hurricanes and Spitfires would have been lost during the six week Wehrmacht-Luftwaffe blitzkrieg through the Low Countries and France and thus unavailable for the Battle of Britain.

Also, had Goering not switched targets and gone after London, RAF southern England airfields would have become unusable, forcing Fighter Command’s short range Hurricanes and Spitfires to operate at a distinct distance disadvantage.
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Post by Chivnail on Sat Apr 28, 2012 3:24 am

Not that it impacts on the thrust of the argument, but, for future reference, "absolute air superiority" is more properly called, "air supremacy".

A Stuka, operating from France or Belgium, carrying a useful bomb load can 'prowl' the south coast of England for about as long as it'll take me to pour my next glass of home-brew from a keg under pressure. Okay, Kent may be in useful range, but even Plymouth is seriously pushing it. While this may allow the Germans some cover over the beaches -assuming they attack the beaches they'd be expected to attack, which will defintiely end well for them, right?- it's of little value in attacking fighter bases further from the front, or offering close air support. At some point, the Germans have to start taking British airbases... but how do they achieve this with RAF aircraft coming at them from further north and west, out of effective range of their continental aircraft? How is it that they knock-out 10, 12, and 13 Groups, and Bomber Command et cetera?

What was it Halder said about not being particularly keen to send his men into a sausage grinder?

I think we must be discussing two different hypothetical situations, now. One assumes that, in early/mid 1940 the Nazis invent magic, and mine doesn't Razz No, more seriously, though, what are we trying to get at? Operation Sealion couldn't have succeeded without going back years and massively altering what both sides did, and I can't imagine that anyone disagrees. I'm not sure what else we're trying to discern.

(Oh, by the by, the reason I tacked on that direct mention of Churchill, the other day, was that I'm new here, and I kinda felt like I was maybe pulling the thread off topic, from Churchill specifically to how LOL-FAIL was Operation Sealion generally.)
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Post by ROB on Sat Apr 28, 2012 5:06 am

Chivnail wrote:
Not that it impacts on the thrust of the argument, but, for future reference, "absolute air superiority" is more properly called, "air supremacy".

Absolute air superiority is also properly called air supremacy; however, the phrase “more properly called” presumes a contrasting “less properly called”, and air supremacy is not less properly called absolute air superiority. And is the F-15C Eagle an air supremacy aircraft or an air superiority aircraft?

Chivnail wrote:
A Stuka, operating from France or Belgium, carrying a useful bomb load can 'prowl' the south coast of England for about as long as it'll take me to pour my next glass of home-brew from a keg under pressure.

Stukas did in fact prowl southern England with useful bomb loads during the initial phase of the Battle of Britain. Air Marshall Dowding’s Hurricanes and Spitfires rather than range limitation forced Goering to withdraw his Stukas. Had the Luftwaffe achieved absolute air superiority, Stukas would have been free to prowl southern England and the channel at will. The significance of this denial to the UK’s survival is the difference in accuaray. Prior to modern smart bombs, dive bombing wa the only way to achieve bombing accuracy. Two years later, at Midway, antiquated USN dive bombers took out how many Japanese aircraft carriers?

Chivnail wrote:
Okay, Kent may be in useful range, but even Plymouth is seriously pushing it. While this may allow the Germans some cover over the beaches -assuming they attack the beaches they'd be expected to attack, which will defintiely end well for them, right?- it's of little value in attacking fighter bases further from the front, or offering close air support. At some point, the Germans have to start taking British airbases... but how do they achieve this with RAF aircraft coming at them from further north and west, out of effective range of their continental aircraft? How is it that they knock-out 10, 12, and 13 Groups, and Bomber Command et cetera?

Remove Fighter Command’s six hundred sixty Hurricanes and Spitfires (the whole shebang on 15 September 1940) and all this changes, since there are no RAF aircraft in existence to come at them from further north and west. And though Plymouth may be a bit far, Portsmouth is much closer. Once Portsmouth is secured, breakout results in takeover of nearby RAF airfields, which moves Stukas closer to the fray.

Chivnail wrote:
I think we must be discussing two different hypothetical situations, now. One assumes that, in early/mid 1940 the Nazis invent magic…

Air superiority is not magic.

Chivnail wrote:
… more seriously, though, what are we trying to get at? Operation Sealion couldn't have succeeded without going back years and massively altering what both sides did…

This is not a massive shift. 15 September 1940, even after the unintentional break afforded Fighter Command by Goering’s sudden obsession with London, there were but six hundred sixty Hurricanes and Spitfires available. They held on, just barely, and in this case, just barely was just enough.

Now jump back a few months, and envision Dowding bowing to pressure to send to France with the BEF the Fighter Command assets he held back. Dunkirk now becomes a killing field as Luftwaffe Stukas, fighters, and bombers roam unopposed overhead during the evacuation. Then the bombing campaign begins, and the only Luftwaffe losses are to ground anti-aircraft fire.

Not massive shifts; had either (a) Dowding bowed to pressure, or (b) Goering kept his focus, the Battle of Britain is lost, and English skies become the Luftwaffe’s playground.
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Post by Chivnail on Thu May 03, 2012 3:49 am


Absolute air superiority is also properly called air supremacy; however, the phrase “more properly called” presumes a contrasting “less properly called”, and air supremacy is not less properly called absolute air superiority. And is the F-15C Eagle an air supremacy aircraft or an air superiority aircraft?


'Less properly called' because you called it so, not because anyone else ever did. Irrelevant to the argument, but if 'air supremacy' is not 'less properly called absolute air superiority' I wonder why you ever said it so in the first place. Meh, moving on...


Stukas did in fact prowl southern England with useful bomb loads during the initial phase of the Battle of Britain. Air Marshall Dowding’s Hurricanes and Spitfires rather than range limitation forced Goering to withdraw his Stukas. Had the Luftwaffe achieved absolute air superiority, Stukas would have been free to prowl southern England and the channel at will. The significance of this denial to the UK’s survival is the difference in accuaray. Prior to modern smart bombs, dive bombing wa the only way to achieve bombing accuracy. Two years later, at Midway, antiquated USN dive bombers took out how many Japanese aircraft carriers?


Stukas attacked the south coast of England with useful bomb loads, when they knew where they were going, yes. They did not 'prowl' as if to suggest that the Nazis could maintain a constant air patrol of dive-bombers over the south coast. I don't contend that it was the range limitation that forced the Stukas out. I just suggest that your point #4 from a few posts back is a bit OTT. Stukas could come over and attack specific targets, as they indeed did... but they couldn't provide close air support to invading German ground forces.


Remove Fighter Command’s six hundred sixty Hurricanes and Spitfires (the whole shebang on 15 September 1940) and all this changes, since there are no RAF aircraft in existence to come at them from further north and west. And though Plymouth may be a bit far, Portsmouth is much closer. Once Portsmouth is secured, breakout results in takeover of nearby RAF airfields, which moves Stukas closer to the fray.


Removing those six hundred is in itself an act of magic, right? Even if southerly 11 Group had been wiped out, somehow... why are you assuming that 10, 12, and 13 groups, largely out of range of Luftwaffe bombers, are completely erased? I might be missing the thrust of your argument here. Some of those fighters -and most of the light bombers and other ground-attack aircraft further north- were always going to be held back to meet an invasion.


This is not a massive shift. 15 September 1940, even after the unintentional break afforded Fighter Command by Goering’s sudden obsession with London, there were but six hundred sixty Hurricanes and Spitfires available. They held on, just barely, and in this case, just barely was just enough.

Now jump back a few months, and envision Dowding bowing to pressure to send to France with the BEF the Fighter Command assets he held back. Dunkirk now becomes a killing field as Luftwaffe Stukas, fighters, and bombers roam unopposed overhead during the evacuation. Then the bombing campaign begins, and the only Luftwaffe losses are to ground anti-aircraft fire.

Not massive shifts; had either (a) Dowding bowed to pressure, or (b) Goering kept his focus, the Battle of Britain is lost, and English skies become the Luftwaffe’s playground.


Okay, it was possible that we could have sent hundreds more/better fighters to France, and lost a lot of them (and their pilots, which would have been more significant) (while destroying scores more German aircraft in the process). Is it Churchill who made sure that wasn't so (given the point of the thread)? And why do you assume that every single fighter would have been sent, apparently without exception? Seems like a bit of a straw-man... either the restrained way it was, or absolutely no restraint what so ever? Is that the only alternative?

Even unchallenged in the sky, as I say, most of Germany's aircraft lacked the range -and with it endurance- to be so effective as we may now think of air-power. When we hit back across the Channel after D-Day, our fighter-bombers had a range pushing 200 miles greater than the Stukas that Germany had in 1940, thus they were able to loiter and respond to the situation on the ground. No suck luck for a prospective German invasion in 1940.
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Post by oftenwrong on Thu May 03, 2012 11:17 am

There has been more than one book relating the history of the Second World War, and whenever a German plan to invade Britain is mentioned, the author usually points out that it was never Hitler's intention to do so prior to Chamberlain's Declaration of War in September 1939.

It may have been that Herr Hitler was content to have a Continental European Empire as counterweight to the British Empire which so impressed him. Certainly he was well aware that in taking on Britain he would also be taking on Australia, Canada, India and the rest.

So WW2 is our fault really.
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Post by ROB on Thu May 03, 2012 1:54 pm

oftenwrong wrote:
So WW2 is our fault really.

Nope. Responsibility for World War II must properly be laid at the feet of Uncle Adolf and Uncle Tojo and his Emperor, all of whom selfishly walked over the unalienable human rights of many countries’ inhabitants in quest of what they wanted.

For the United Kingdom, it was the sea change event that transformed Britain from the great Imperial overlord of locales that today contain damn near half the world’s non-Chinese inhabitants (well over one quarter including Chinese) into the savior of world decency.

Churchill said, “This was their finest hour”, and he was correct. The actions of British troops during the Zulu Wars inspire no one save those who worship British Imperialism and long for its return. The Battle of Britain, of which Churchill said prior to its inception “if necessary, for years; if necessary alone”, inspired Black Texans two years later than to join their brothers in demanding that Black Americans be trained as fighter pilots to protect bomber crews across the pond. Look up Tuskegee Airmen and Red Tails.

“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few” (Winston Churchill, 20 August 1940).

Is Winston Churchill grossly overrated? - Page 3 161px-Never_was_so_much_owed_by_so_many_to_so_few
This World War II poster was taken from the uploader's own collection. A lower resolutio version of the same poster is available at https://www.mplib.org/wpdb/index.asp?exact=MPW00376 where the publisher information is provided as follows "Printed for H.M. Stationery Office by Lowe & Brydon Printers, Ltd". This implies that the copyright holder is HMSO or, in other words, it is Crown Copyright. As this poster is more than 50 years old, it is now in the public domain.

By the way, on 15 September 2010, the 70th anniversary of the date that changed the world, I asked my congregation to join me in a prayer of thanksgiving for the sacrifices willingly endured by those courageous men of Fighter Command who strapped on their Hurricanes and Spitfires and rose into the southern English skies time after time to turn back Goering’s Luftwaffe. There wasn’t a dry eye in the auditorium.

Afterward, a lady who had been working the fields with her mother during that time told me this story. Seems this Luftwaffe Me-109 pilot had the utter audacity to parachute from the sky after a brave RAF Spit aviator blew his invasive behind out of the sky. As the German alit, this dear lady’s mother joined several other English ladies who drew near to the Bosch invader and beat/stabbed him to death with pitchforks, hoes, spades, shovels, and whatever other farm implements they had at hand. “We will fight in the fields; we will never surrender.”

As of 16 September 2010, I’ve been on a personal campaign to make 15 September a US National Day of Remembrance. I don’t want school kids to be let out of school tha6 day, I want school kids to learn of those few to whom those school kids owe so much today. I’ve gotten a few “nibbles”, including one from a junior high teacher who, sick and tired of this Cinco de Mayo foolishness, now during September has her students create artwork commemorating the British victory in the Battle of Britain. One person at a time…
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Post by oftenwrong on Thu May 03, 2012 5:04 pm

15 September 2010, the 70th anniversary of the date that changed the world

Unfortunately followed by sustained strategic bombing of Britain and Northern Ireland by Nazi Germany's Luftwaffe between September 1940 and May 1941.
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Post by ROB on Thu May 03, 2012 7:03 pm

oftenwrong wrote:
15 September 2010, the 70th anniversary of the date that changed the world

Unfortunately followed by sustained strategic bombing of Britain and Northern Ireland by Nazi Germany's Luftwaffe between September 1940 and  May 1941.

It was in fact fortunate in a strange twist of history. Since I wasn’t alive and certainly wasn’t cognizant in 1940-1941, I must needs rely upon historians’ works and journalists’ first-hand accounts for my information. Based upon that information, Goering’s sudden but timely obsession saved Fighter Command just at the time that its airfields, aircraft, an airmen were succumbing to unrelenting Luftwaffe pressure.

This was an impatient, egotistic, and ultimately stupid move on Goering’s part, based upon the fallacious notion that shifting Luftwaffe bombing raids from southern England Fighter Command facilities and Chain Home early warning radar installations to metro London would break the back of British resolve and hasten a capitulation like that of the oh so proud French who held out all of six weeks. Unfortunately for Goering, Hitler, and the rest of the Nazi beasts who yearned for a compliant Britain. “Vichy” ain’t in the UK English dictionary, while “We shall never surrender” is featured on Page 1 right before “aardvark.”

Given that much needed respite, Fighter Command came back with more resolve, while Brits on the ground, in the words of William Ernest Henley, lived these words:

In the fell clutch of circumstance,
I have not winced nor cried aloud,
Under the bludgeonings of chance,
My head is bloody, but unbowed

(William Ernest Henley, 1875)


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Post by oftenwrong on Thu May 03, 2012 7:34 pm

RockOnBrother wrote:
oftenwrong wrote:
15 September 2010, the 70th anniversary of the date that changed the world

Unfortunately followed by sustained strategic bombing of Britain and Northern Ireland by Nazi Germany's Luftwaffe between September 1940 and May 1941.
[color=black]
It was in fact fortunate in a strange twist of history. Since I wasn’t alive and certainly wasn’t cognizant in 1940-1941, I must needs rely upon historians’ works and journalists’ first-hand accounts for my information. Based upon that information, Goering’s sudden but timely obsession saved Fighter Command just at the time that its airfields, aircraft, an airmen were succumbing to unrelenting Luftwaffe pressure.

I don't wish to pull rank simply because I was alive during the Blitz, but it was very definitely uncomfortable. Whether Goering was a posturing fool or not, his Luftwaffe Officers knew their job, and had prepared for it by photo-reconnaissance during the 1930s which meant that they had detailed images of British targets. They very nearly succeeded in removing British Industry from the map. Something which had to await the appointment of Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister to complete.
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Post by Shirina on Thu May 03, 2012 11:39 pm

Something which had to await the appointment of Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister to complete.

lol!
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Post by Shirina on Thu May 03, 2012 11:56 pm

If Britain had lost the Battle of Britain, I think the biggest threat for invasion wasn't a cross-channel invasion but rather airborne units being dropped into Britain using aircraft based in Norway. These units would undoubtedly be tasked with taking the nearly empty airfields in northern England and Scotland (as most RAF aircraft based in those areas would have been moved to southern England to fight the Luftwaffe there). It is possible as well for these airborne units to disable the Chain Home radar nets operating there. Once the airfields were secure, they would begin ferrying shorter ranged Stukas and Me-109s and base them in the UK itself.

I think the question in this case is: What would Roosevelt do? He could simply throw up his hands and allow Britain to fight her own battles; he may even stop Lend-Lease shipments fearful that they may fall into Nazi hands.

But I don't think that's what would have happened. Roosevelt knew better than anyone in America the importance of Britain staying sovereign and the evils of Nazi Germany. I think Roosevelt would have told the pacifistic American people where to stick it, would have declared war on Germany, and Operation Torch would have been an amphibious landing on the shores of Western England instead of North Africa. Even if the Nazis managed to get tanks across the North Sea (which would have been a riskier but far more sneaky strategy than invading across the Channel), a few divisions of Shermans and Grants ... led by none other than George S. Patton ... would have sent the Huns packing. At this early stage of the war, the Sherman and Grant were more than a match for any German tank. It wasn't until the Panther hit the battlefields in 1943 when US tanks began feeling the pinch.

I'm also surprised that Churchill did not authorize the US to begin manufacturing Spitfires and Hurricanes to be sent to Britain should Britain's industry fail. The P-40 wasn't a bad plane against the Japanese - if you used the right tactics - but wasn't all that great against the Germans. Sending Britain hundreds of P-40s didn't help much. In fact, Britain gave all of its P-40s to France and, later, to the Soviets. But if the US started rolling out Spitfires and Hurricanes, Britain would never be without aircraft and Donitz would be tearing his hair out trying to stop those shipments.
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Post by ROB on Fri May 04, 2012 12:42 am

Chivnail wrote:
Stukas attacked the south coast of England with useful bomb loads, when they knew where they were going, yes. They did not 'prowl' as if to suggest that the Nazis could maintain a constant air patrol of dive-bombers over the south coast.

Had Goering’s Luftwaffe ever achieved absolute air superiority over southern England and the channel, Stukas would have been free to prowl. Stukas did prowl over southern England as they had done over Poland for a quick moment. Goering quickly withdrew the already antiquated design after Dowding’s Fighter Command blew them out of the sky. Thank Dowding’s stubbornness in refusing to omit Hurricanes and Spits to the six week battle of France for that.

Chivnail wrote:
Stukas could come over and attack specific targets, as they indeed did... but they couldn't provide close air support to invading German ground forces.

Stukas could come over and get blown out of the sky. That’s why Goering withdrew them. Had there been no Hurricanes and Spits, Stukas could have in fact provided close air support as they were designed to do.

Chivnail wrote:
Removing those six hundred is in itself an act of magic, right?

Nope. Had Dowding’s assets been sucked into the mess in France, Hurricanes and Spitfires would have been in the Nazi “virtual reserve inventory” along with French fighters in Vichy France. That’s not magic; that’s capitulation.

Chivnail wrote:
Even if southerly 11 Group had been wiped out, somehow... why are you assuming that 10, 12, and 13 groups, largely out of range of Luftwaffe bombers, are completely erased?

Thank you for the Fighter Command group designations. Had 11 Group been wiped out, 10, 12, and 13 Groups would have sent their assets into southern England where they also would have been wiped out. That’s assuming that Goering could have stayed the course and not let his impatience, hubris, and gross underestimation of understated but absolute British resolve move him to bomb London instead of southern England Fighter Command and Chain Home assets.

Chivnail wrote:
I might be missing the thrust of your argument here. Some of those fighters -and most of the light bombers and other ground-attack aircraft further north- were always going to be held back to meet an invasion.

If one’s aircraft are destroyed, one has no choice but to throw everything left into the fray. Goering’s hubris and consequent stupidity endured against that scenario.

Chivnail wrote:
Okay, it was possible that we could have sent hundreds more/better fighters to France, and lost a lot of them (and their pilots, which would have been more significant) while destroying scores more German aircraft in the process. Is it Churchill who made sure that wasn't so (given the point of the thread)?

It was Air Marshall Sir Hugh Dowding who made sure that it wasn’t so.

Chivnail wrote:
And why do you assume that every single fighter would have been sent, apparently without exception?

Because every single fighter would have been sent without exception.

Chivnail wrote:
Even unchallenged in the sky, as I say, most of Germany's aircraft lacked the range -and with it endurance- to be so effective as we may now think of air-power.

Range ceases to be a game-changing issue when one’s aircraft are based close to the front.
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Post by oftenwrong on Fri May 04, 2012 12:02 pm

Hindsight is much more accurate than the contemporaneous variety, and it does now seem that during the Battle of Britain the Luftwaffe did not fully comprehend the difference being made to the outcome by British Chain Home Radar (cunningly concealed on towers which were 360 feet tall).
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Post by ROB on Fri May 04, 2012 4:51 pm

oftenwrong wrote:
I don't wish to pull rank simply because I was alive during the Blitz, but it was very definitely uncomfortable.  Whether Goering was a posturing fool or not, his Luftwaffe Officers knew their job, and had prepared for it by photo-reconnaissance during the 1930s which meant that they had detailed images of British targets.  They very nearly succeeded in removing British Industry from the map.  Something which had to await the appointment of Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister to complete.

Providing first person testimony is not pulling rank; first person testimony is the finest primary source. My place, or “rank”, is at your “feet”, listening to your stories as I “sat” at the “feet” of the English lady and listened as she provided first person testimony of the Luftwaffe fighter pilot’s demise.

I’m ready to listen further. I invite you to tell me as much as you can about your experiences during that time and place.
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Post by oftenwrong on Fri May 04, 2012 5:23 pm

Forgive me, but it was not a happy experience for anyone that was involved in the bombing of British cities, and as a child I may have seen almost as many corpses in the rubble of British buildings as my Dad would have encountered in the front line a couple of years later. The detail is readily available elsewhere for those who wish to dwell upon it. The pity is that it's a scenario that has been re-played many, many times since 1945 all over the world.

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Post by ROB on Fri May 04, 2012 6:45 pm


Often Wrong,

No asking for forgiveness is necessary. You’ve earned the right to say or not say whatever you choose to say about an experience about which I can only read and listen.

During the summer of 1972, I spent two or three hours per day four days per week (Mon-Thu) in the periodical section of a university library reading back issues of five magazines in chronological order. The magazines were Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report, all weeklies, Life, and Look, both monthlies. The time period was January 1936 through December 1945.

I read every article that in any way pertained to WWII. I traced the aggressions of Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, and Tojo’s Empire of Japan throughout the period leading up to full scale war, went on through the Battle of Britain, the Battle of the Atlantic, the conflicts in North Africa, Sicily, Europe, the South and Central Pacific, SE Asia, China, whatever was printed. I saw the photo of Neville Chamberlain waving that piece of paper over his head his return from Berlin. I saw photos of US soldiers as they deployed to Iceland prior to US official involvement. I tried my best to “live” through the experience as if I had actually been there.

Since then, particularly since the advent of The Military Channel, The History Channel and The History International Channel (now History 2), the Military History Channel, and the like, I’ve taken in as much as I could access of and about that time and those events.

I mention this because, throughout this now forty-year-long quest for understanding, the few details you’ve provided are new and fresh information to me. It never occurred to me that a child in England could see what you’ve described. Any further details you may choose to tell me will be appreciated more than I can express in words.

Hindsight sometimes is better than 20/20. If Goering had possessed the foresight to see the importance of radar, Chain Home would have been among the Luftwaffe’s highest priority targets.
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Post by oftenwrong on Fri May 04, 2012 8:02 pm

It's an English joke to say we're going to write a book entitled, "HITLER - MY PART IN HIS DOWNFALL!" but it took an Irishman, Spike Milligan, to get it published. Radar probably saved Britain from invasion, but it was America that defeated the common enemy. In the build-up to the assault on the Normandy coast of France, thousands of American GI's were flown into Southern England together with their weapons materiel, and were accommodated in the manorial houses left vacant when the English middle-classes scarpered to Africa or the Bahamas in 1940. Resort towns Hotels were requisitioned, the ones with the sea views going to Officers, naturally. Stately Homes were taken over for Commanding Headquarters, and DC Comics became the currency of the schoolroom. 1944 and 1945 were exciting times for a boy, but I do remember newspaper accounts of conflict between White and Black soldiers in the blacked-out English lanes that defied belief, at a time when we all faced a common foe.
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Post by ROB on Fri May 04, 2012 9:17 pm

oftenwrong wrote:
1944 and 1945 were exciting times for a boy, but I do remember newspaper accounts of conflict between White and Black soldiers in the blacked-out English lanes that defied belief, at a time when we all faced a common foe.

I would appreciate hearing more about this.

My uncle was a captain (O3) in the United States Army in WWII. During operations in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy as a chaplain with a Negro transportation unit, he received a Purple Heart and Silver Star. At Anzio, in harm’s way with his troops, he saved one soldier from German 88 artillery fire and was wounded trying to save another soldier. His story was recorded on old, thick 78 rpm records and sent to radio stations across the USA to be played during War Bond drives. My aunt, his wife, received a copy of the record and played it for me on an old Hi-Fi sometime in the late 1950s. My uncle never talked about it; he mourned the death of the soldier my uncle was injured trying to save.

Few people have the honor and privilege of knowing a true hero. Yet, solely because of skin color, my uncle was intentionally disrespected by his own countrymen even when in uniform. One evening in late 1945, my uncle, in uniform, captain’s bars visible on his collar, was walking with his brother on a downtown street. Two white (lowercase intentional) enlisted soldiers, in uniform, walked past without so much as a glance at my uncle. His brother told me what happened next.

My uncle said in a commanding voice, “Hup! Back up, soldiers!’ The two white soldiers backed up. My uncle pointed to the captain’s bars. “What do you see?” They answered “Captain’s bars.” The two soldiers then saluted and tried to walk off. My uncle called them back, commanded them to salute again, and mad them hold the salute until he was satisfied. He then returned the salute and said “Carry on.”

While the drama unfolded, angry white men gathered round. My uncle’s brother told me that he was getting a bit anxious, but my uncle never acknowledged the angry bystanders’ presence.

I’ve said to you before, “I’ve been told.” Whenever I say that, the person or persons who’ve told me are/were persons with first hand knowledge of the events. Your stories and the details thereof will be amongst those things of which I’ll say “I’ve been told.”


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Post by Shirina on Fri May 04, 2012 10:37 pm

but I do remember newspaper accounts of conflict between White and Black soldiers in the blacked-out English lanes that defied belief, at a time when we all faced a common foe.
One of the more shameful events in WWII history occurred here in the States. The city of Philadelphia was one of the most important - if not THE most important - city for the war effort. Most of the workers arrived to work using street cars and trains. The problem was that there was a labor shortage as more men were being shipped off to war. So the company that owned the public transportation network in Philadelphia decided to give certain positions - such as conductors and drivers - to black men. Well ... many of the workers threw a fit that eventually led to a strike. With the public transportation network shut down, so too did Philadelphia's industry.

This was a direct threat to the war effort, something FDR knew too well, so he sent in troops to deal with it. At first the troops simply worked the jobs left vacant by the strikers, but eventually FDR had had enough and the strike was put down and people went back to work.

But it is extraordinarily shameful that, even during a crisis like WWII, racial hatred was more important than supporting our troops fighting Hitler and Tojo. I mean, where was our patriotism? Is hatred for blacks more important than our love for our country ... and our troops fighting and dying overseas? I mean, racial hatred is ignorant all by itself, but when people are so consumed by it that they are willing to put the entire war in jeopardy just to keep blacks from working in white jobs, well ... I personally think every one of those strikers should have been charged with treason and giving aid and comfort to the enemy. If I had been president, that's exactly what I would have done. Then I would have given all of those jobs to women since there weren't enough men.
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Post by bobby on Sat Jan 31, 2015 11:51 am

Had Churchill had his way just before the war, the likelihood is that "we would have lost.
When a purpose built fighter plane was needed in the build up to the war, of all the designs looked at, Churchill wanted the RAF to purchase the Bristol Beaufighter, a twin engine Fighter/bomber and the Boulton Paul Defiant a single engined
fighter with a gun turret behind the pilot. Thanks to Air Chief Marshall and Lord Nuffield (of Austin Motors), wanted the Supermarine Spitfire and the Hawker Hurricane.
Had we have entered the war and fought the Battle of Britain with the planes of Churchill's choice, there is absolutely no way RAF fighter command would have defeated the Luftwaffe, and operation Sea Lion would have been a reality as opposed to a plan, England could no way defend against such an attack at this time and the war would have been lost.
Hugh Dowding's thanks was to be sacked/gotten rid of by Churchill for no other reason that he went against Churchill's wishes and stood by the Spitfire and Hurricane. This is how Churchill thanked the man who IMHO saved us from certain defeat, As Ivan pointed out Churchill made many cock ups and cost many lives unnecessarily. The man was driven by ambition not patriotism and heaven help anyone who stood in his way.








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Post by boatlady on Sat Jan 31, 2015 4:41 pm

Seems to me he was a typical Tory - a dilettante, with only the interests of his own social class and their 'superiors' at heart.

Played at government, played at writing, played at art - universally 'admired' for being a bully and a snob
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Post by oftenwrong on Sat Jan 31, 2015 5:47 pm

Churchill was no friend of socialism, but without his oratory throughout WW2 we might now be conducting this exchange in the German language.

Suitably censored, of course.
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Post by Ivan on Sat Jan 31, 2015 7:10 pm

Does oratory win battles, or is that achieved by the bravery of Spitfire pilots and tens of thousands of foot soldiers?

Did the UK win the Second World War, or did the Russians and Americans (with our support) win it? (In a similar vein, would we have been on the winning side in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 without the Prussian army led by Gebhard von Blücher? I wonder how many Brits have even heard of him?)

But yes, if the Nazis had won the war the UK would have been a very different place. Corporations would probably have been running the country, trade unions would have been emasculated, the sick and disabled would have been persecuted, followers of a minority religion would no doubt have been used as scapegoats for the country's ills, and the media would have supported the government as it pursued these policies. Weren't we lucky that none of that transpired?
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Post by boatlady on Sat Jan 31, 2015 8:04 pm

afraid lol! put like that ----
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Post by bobby on Sat Jan 31, 2015 10:48 pm

oftenwrong said:  "Churchill was no friend of socialism, but without his oratory throughout WW2 we might now be conducting this exchange in the German language"
Churchill's oratory may have worked wonders for those at home, but it was those in the air, sea and fighting on the land who made the difference and would have made that same difference if Churchill kept his mouth firmly closed.
My Dad who spent six and a half years overseas had absolutely no time for Churchill, and he didn't know too many of his mates who did.
When the troops returned at the end of hostilities. at the first opportunity they voted against Churchill, certainly not the act of a military that held him in any esteem.
Anyway as I said in my earlier post had Churchill had his way re-aircraft choice, it would have been his oratory that would have been in a different language.
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Post by boatlady on Sun Feb 01, 2015 11:50 am

There was a TV programme some years ago with Sue Perkins and someone else whose name I should remember but don't.

The premise of the programme was that they would spend a week living on the diet of a particular period of history.

On the week they did WW2, she lived on the normal rationed diet, while his diet was based on the one Churchill enjoyed throughout the war.

She had Woolton Pie and the National loaf - he had roast grouse, fresh cream, smoked salmon wine, spirits, cigars, products at the time that had to be brought into the country at the risk of many lives - said it all, for me.

Consoling thing was, after the week - her weight had dropped and general fitness improved - he had put on several pounds and had some liver and heart concerns - needed to go on a strict diet
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Post by oftenwrong on Sun Feb 01, 2015 5:36 pm

Churchill was not a likeable man, and certainly had no sympathy whatever with notions of a welfare state. He was born here:

Is Winston Churchill grossly overrated? - Page 3 Th?&id=HN.608039499798348126&w=300&h=300&c=0&pid=1

which might have tended to a certain set of beliefs, including the key one of always being confident that one was right. At the start of WW2 by no means everyone in Britain thought it was worth fighting. Numbers of the establishment, including royalty, believed we should have settled with Herr Hitler. The bulldog Churchill thought otherwise, and was determined to oppose the fascist Nazi dictatorship.

Ultimately it could not have been done without Empire and Commonwealth contributions plus the clout of the USA, but Churchill's eloquence enabled the essential "Home Front" to remain onside despite considerable personal discomfort for the non-combatant population. He was hero of the hour, and thoroughly deserved whatever favourable comments have been made about his conduct of the war. Though I would never have voted for someone like him at any time during my life.

Perhaps you have to have been there, in order to feel grateful.
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Post by boatlady on Sun Feb 01, 2015 5:54 pm

I wonder how a socialist PM would have handled it?

We'll never know of course, but it is an interesting question
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Post by oftenwrong on Sun Feb 01, 2015 10:38 pm

There was a (coalition) Government of National Unity throughout WW2. Socialist members included Attlee, Morrison and Bevin.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_Morrison
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Post by Mel on Mon Feb 02, 2015 6:47 pm

Hitler was desperate for Germany and Great Britain to remain as friends. If we had not declaired war on Germany at the invasion of Poland and the war had been diverted against Russia, could we have ended up with a better less greedy world that we now have to endure? Perhaps the extermination of the Jews would not have taken place for one thing and millons of fighters would not have died along with all those civillians.
Don't get me wrong, I am no supporter of the Nazis, nor Hitler.
By the same token, I had little time for Churchill, because he was and had always been an avid war monger. As it happens, there is no doubt that the wonderful orater, held this nation together, but IMO that's about it.
Thatcher and Cameron both good orators and look where that's got us.

Perhaps my learnrd friend would care to put a slant on my question.
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Post by oftenwrong on Mon Feb 02, 2015 10:53 pm

I suppose the answer lies in the question, "Yeah, sure, but what have the Romans ever done for us?"
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Post by Ivan on Sun Apr 09, 2017 11:49 pm

This is from an article written in 2013, just after the first use of chemical weapons in Syria.

Winston Churchill's shocking use of chemical weapons

As a long-term advocate of chemical warfare, Churchill, was determined to use them against the Russian Bolsheviks. In the summer of 1919, when he was secretary of state for war, he planned and executed a sustained chemical attack on northern Russia.

The British were no strangers to the use of chemical weapons. During the third battle of Gaza in 1917, General Edmund Allenby had fired 10,000 cans of asphyxiating gas at enemy positions.


https://www.theguardian.com/world/shortcuts/2013/sep/01/winston-churchill-shocking-use-chemical-weapons
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Post by oftenwrong on Mon Apr 10, 2017 12:29 pm

Ten more weapons are available here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-29701767

I think somebody once said something along the lines of, "Show me a man who's never done wrong, and that's probably because he's never done anything."
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