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A European War

Stephen Hornsby-Smith

The most recent film concerning the early troubled time of Churchill's leadership is quite insinuating about certain people in the administration at the time. I have a different take on the 'negotiate with Hitler now' and the isolationist policy that President Roosevelt was required to pursue ( the American people were overwhelmingly against getting into a 'European War) until he could pursued his countrymen that war was inevitable. Indeed, I believe that Churchill's very CV of his disastrous masterminding of Gallipoli campaign and his anti-trade unionism would compromise his leadership of the British War effort. Hitler thought he'd found a leaky British ship unprepared for the War that he was forcing upon the world. Instead, Churchill and the British people were Britain's best and most effective team! It would prove the salvation of them both !

History and film making can occupy the terrain of the biographical very easily, but it can omit certain qualities. Let me begin with the abdicated King who remained wholly loyal to Britain and neutral too. I wonder if his 'neutrality' misled the Nazi's, or shuffled the cards of ambiguity? Furthermore, I believe that because Lord Halifax was prepared to negotiate indirectly with Hitler when all seemed lost on the shores of Dunkirk or when Britain was losing the ensuing 'Battle of Britain' actually led Hitler in to a false sense of security or was convinced indulgently that his tour of Nazi occupied Europe would not re-focus Britain's collective minds.

However, there seems to me that both sides of the Atlantic were producing the same isolationist pacification policy under Chamberlain and Roosevelt before the invasion of Poland, but didn't that produce the complete and utter transformation into War Footing that both countries needed, when there was no choice? How much time did Chamberlain also buy us to re-arm too? It seems to me that isolationism had the back-stop of the League of Nations which proved absolutely that Hitler was in contempt of all international institutions seeking to resolve international 'disagreements', and exposed the necessary toothless failure to halt his blitzkrieg. Democracy is never free of having to resolve a dispute by violence.

Indeed, it was clear that the trans-Atlantic policy of isolationism had got a shelf life, and how ironic that Chamberlain was blamed when President Roosevelt was probably pulling the strings? You can understand that Churchill relished any battle, but had his demons that emanated from the tragedy of Churchill's Gallipoli campaign in 1915 that could have got the better of a lesser man. So whilst Churchill was reminded of his Trade Union mutual hostility that had 'history'in Parliament he was also being criticized for his previous war record over Gallipoli !! It was also no small feat that President Roosevelt backed him (Probably unofficially), but it did sort of leave Britain hoping rather than knowing that the best man got the job. I wonder how Hitler relished a war with a 'drunken adventurer' who'd swapped Tory politics for Liberal politics which might be interpreted as a man of inconsistency in the 'feckless world of democracy' !!???? Time to underestimate Churchill!! "Who did you think you were kidding Mr Hitler....." would have done the circuit in Berlin,whilst Churchill had actually achieved the first and most difficult of tasks for a new leader - Churchill had the measure of his opponent already whilst Hitler was in theatrical pose for the camera's. Know your opponents weakness!! For Hitler, it was his self-idolatry, his ideological ego !!

Let's remember the fallen at Gallipoli in 1915 for the moment - my grandfather's regiment the South Wales Borderers died like flies out there. No one can forgive that debacle, but Churchill was destined to never let such trench warfare ever pin-down and kill on such levels again ! It made him cautious and had deeply traumatized him. As a military tactician that was not his greatest hour,not even close!! Of course the brunt of the casualties came from the Australia and New Zealand, and yet 20 odd years later they once again answered the call from Britain. Leaders take strength from everywhere to sharpen their resolve, and I'm sure the Ansacs had never been far from his mind since he failed to provide a winning strategy. But would you trust him as a military tactician if one more generation could be caught-up in another 'Gallipoli'? What trust, what faith and what charisma got him out of that one!!???

So did Hitler feel that Churchill would provide another 'Gallipoli' on the white cliffs of Dover? Hitler would have been briefed that Churchill would be waiting for him to slay that ghost of Gallipoli by being on the winning side and pinning-down Hitler's war machine. did that trouble Hitler? Did it interrupt his thinking? Why did Hitler hesitate? No absolute control of the skies? Or was it that Hitler wanted to 'outsmart' the British by getting them to wait and lose their nerve whilst Hitler toyed with them. Will it be an invasion today? No! Wait? No! All that on tender hooks would have rattled Britain, but it only gave Britain a chance to re-arm.

Gallipoli again! Probably barked Hitler! He would be convinced that the British would be cautious and not attempt an invasion in 1944 on the French coast! So Churchill once again transcended his political profession and his personal trauma and misgivings perhaps against his better judgement, he reluctantly agreed to D-Day in Normandy by handing-over control and military decision-making to the military commanders. When did a politician ever relinquish control when his stomach was turning him inside-out with trepidation?? Perhaps, Gallipoli and 'The Somme', 'Ypres terrified him? But he didn't let it show, because he had to be talked out of being on the Normandy beaches on D-Day by the King no less!

So, when the War was done and dusted, did Churchill realise that in leading Britain to Victory that the personal price and the price for the nation was high :the end of the Empire and the wrecking of his political career as the world statesman that he'd pioneered. There are many issues that go missing in the back waters of history, but Churchill wasn't the only 20th century moderniser of Britain born in the 19th century. he was both prophetic and from a by gone era at the same time, a man who managed to free himself from the demons of Gallipoli in one war by learning to lead from the front in the following war. Gallipoli I'm sure made him a better more rounded man and leader, but the turmoil of Gallipoli never left him.

Yet neither did his loyalty to his King and country and the very 'British Democracy'. But he knew for him to lead wartime Britain, the final test of his leadership was to prove that democracy conquers all after the War ; but he lost the 1945 general election. Democracy had worked ! He'd proved to be a victor in war and in domestic political defeat ! Only crumbs of comfort for the man but a great accolade for the legend. Was Britain fickle and ungrateful or did Brits feel he'd become 'political royalty' that should be elevated from the mud-slinging of the political soap box? Or had he become the zeitgeist of war time transformation that invited welfarism into Britain as a welcome or unwelcome guest? In fact it wasn't until 1989 that 'Churchillian Britain' achieved its legacy :a Europe free of War and the "Iron curtain" where welfarism would be transformed by the nuclear middle-class family and replaced by 'The City' and liberal Capitalism's victory against state control. The artificial map of postwar Europe has been re-drawn in 1945 and after 1989. To make room for an expanded EU in the aftermath of the 'Cold War', the EU needed unity without a Britain that wanted a more liberal economic policy that would alienate other members.Leaving businesses alone free of state and EU continental interference would, it is argued, truly take-up the slack without red-tape. 30 years after Churchill confronted Stalin, the only red tape left in Britain would be the ticker-tape celebrating a Europe more engaged with itself and united more so without Britain. Britain has its own agenda and will take a different path. I think all things being considered, Churchill would have approved a Britain bold enough to stand on its own two feet. That is what Churchill did, only he stood his ground too !!

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