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Memorial to Great Britain

by Helen Sun Jun 6th, 2021 at 01:46:26 PM EST

There was a sitcom on UK TV back in the 70s called "Whatever happened to the Likely Lads". A revival of an early 60s comedy show, showing how the 2 original young men were adjusting to early middle age and their changing responsibilities.

The Theme song went;-


Oh, what happened to you?
Whatever happened to me?
What became of the people
we used to be

Tomorrow's almost over
the day went by so fast
the only thing
we look forward to's
.....the past

Frontpaged with minor edits - Bernard


Today a new memorial to the dead of the Normandy invasion from WW2 will be commissioned. It's a splendid thing and I'm sure all the relatives of both the surviving and the fallen are grateful they have a place to go, remember and, probably, shed a tear. Just as the Menin Gate in Belgium commemorates those with no known grave from WW1.

Without wishing to detract from the sacrifices involved in WW2, I can't help but wonder why we have these new memorials.  Alan Bennett once suggested that these big memorials were about guilt. France and Britain were global empires. They were expected to win WW1 & 2 easily (yes, really). Instead they suffered disaster after disaster. Especially in WW1. Guilt is a part of it. How else to excuse such martial incompetence ? Except to say the sacrifice was (somehow) worth it, look at the big memorial we built.

Yet, we are selective in our memorials. We mostly no longer think about the dead of the Korean War, even the waste of the Gloucester regiment (Glorious Glosters) is barely thought of today. We also tend to glibly airbrush those who died in the futile end-of-empire struggles. Possibly because they died for an unjustifiable cause (which we rightly lost). Nor are we too bothered about the dead of Ulster, ours or theirs.

However, WW2 burns brightly in English minds. The first war on film, the first mass reported war. The last justified war. The last justifiable victory, Battle of Britain, el Alamein but not Market Garden, not Norway, not Singapore, not Crete. Just the ones we make films about. Yet, it's hard to avoid concluding that these (now) selective commemorations of those who died for the victories we choose to celebrate have little or nothing to do with events in the past, but are all about the politics of now. We barely cared even 15 years ago. However the manufactured rise of right wing tabloid nationalism, this  need to see ourselves victorious over everybody, requires untarnished victories. Wembley '66, The Battle of Britain, Operation Overlord.

It's a good job we have Normandy cos otherwise it'd be Waterloo or Agincourt.

In circumstances like this, I am reminded of Germany pre-WW1. As an industrial trading nation, it was super-productive. Indeed it was on the cusp of overtaking both the UK and the USA as an exporter. It was a truly rich country.

But Kaiser Wilhelm, brought up in an era of colonial exploitation, couldn't see it. And in his attempt to create a 19th century colonial empire, he destroyed the potential of 20th century Germany for 60 years.  The world would have been very different if he hadn't been a fool.

And a century later, England has been no less foolish. No wars, but self-destruction nevertheless. I fear this memorial is part of the illusion created to sustain that path.

Truly, the only thing we can look forward to is the past

Display:
Agreed ... a selective choice to commemorate and camouflage the foolish undertakings of the last two decades. Before Schwarzkopf Jr. and the succes of routing the Presidential Garde of Saddam Hussein, the American nation carried the stain of the loss SE Asia and flight from Saigon. In addition the savagery in support of Southern American dictators. In the aftermath of the fall of Communism, the irrelevance of NATO and military might, the attacks of 9/11 changed the western world and military build-up forever. Two decades of warmongering and wars of choice has left the world broken into bits and pieces. Fortunately Trump is gone and Netanyahu on his way out. France and Germany have elections ahead, Great Britain the choice is yours.
by Oui on Sun Jun 6th, 2021 at 11:26:46 AM EST
Some pictures:

by Bernard on Sun Jun 6th, 2021 at 01:42:58 PM EST
Not sure what any of this would mean to the fallen or their surviving relatives, but then that may not be the point.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jun 6th, 2021 at 05:14:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think a recurring trend is to see the previous generation as heroic and the current generation as degraded. WW2 was the war of the fathers of the generation currently in power, therefore they are the "greatest generation."
by asdf on Sun Jun 6th, 2021 at 04:13:34 PM EST
Yea, any generation that hasn't been stuck into uniforms and sent out to kill people can hardly have a claim to greatness...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jun 6th, 2021 at 05:23:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Because after all, what's great and glorious about living in peace and prosperity? Who builds statues to or writes books about national leaders who merely keep their countries out of wars and ensure everyone is fed and housed? Certainly not English public schools!

England's toffocracy really is a disease.

by IdiotSavant on Sun Jun 6th, 2021 at 11:32:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Helen:
However, WW2 burns brightly in English minds. The first war on film, the first mass reported war. The last justified war. The last justifiable victory, Battle of Britain, el Alamein but not Market Garden, not Norway, not Singapore, not Crete. Just the ones we make films about.

Not gonna happen anytime soon.

by Bernard on Sun Jun 6th, 2021 at 05:47:35 PM EST
Ha fucking ha !!

68,000 British troops didn't make it back to the UK, 3,500 died, whilst over 100,000 French troops were evacuated.

Most of those 100,000 were packed onto French ships, sailed back to Brest just in time to surrender.

I know the French have concocted a mythology that the British abandoned them. However, when the Germans reached the coast after they crossed the Meuse at Sedan, the British expeditionary force was left isolated in Belgium and N France. By that point the shambolic French defences were already collapsing and the French govt had cut and run from Paris. There was no plan, no French co-ordination, no French airforce cover.

God alone knows there's enough blame to hang on the British army for fuckups elsewhere in the war, but the collapse of France isn't one of them.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sun Jun 6th, 2021 at 07:23:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A study in British colonial arrogance.
They KNEW a heavy Japanese squadron was coming, but "Hey there are only Japanese, couldn't REALLY threaten the British Navy. Of course, Singapore can never fall, only an idiot would make evacuation plans ..."
by StillInTheWilderness on Sun Jun 13th, 2021 at 12:45:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I did mention singapore as having been a disaster.

However, being fair, it really was down to the Army Commander, Arthur Percival, who had been refusing the pleas of his staff to build defences against a land invasion since the end of 1938. His response had been that it would "demoralize the civilians".

A comprehensive plan had been created by the Royal Engineers, invovling a range of defences and airfields for defence in depth. By the time Percival could be persuaded it was needed, it was al ready far too late.

It wasn't helped by the sinking of the Royal Navy capital ships based in Singapore, HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse, in a foolhardy adventure of no strategic use whatsoever.

But this loss was Percival's and Percival's alone. One man. One bloody fool. Even Churchill was astonished that there were no land defences.


keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Jun 22nd, 2021 at 12:33:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To be fair, the amount of movie footage should be proportional to the number of people who died. That means there would be a LOT of movies about Russia and China, some about Germany and Japan, a few about the UK, and hardly any about the US of A.
by asdf on Mon Jun 7th, 2021 at 02:03:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Howard Zinn editorial...

1974

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sun Jun 6th, 2021 at 06:56:28 PM EST
""The shell had his number on it. The blood ran into the ground...Where his chest ought to have been they pinned the Congressional Medal, the DSC, the Medaille Militaire, the Belgian Croix de Guerre, the Italian gold medal, The Vitutea Militara sent by Queen Marie of Rumania. All the Washingtonians brought flowers .. Woodrow Wilson brought a bouquet of poppies."

Those are the concluding lines of John Dos Passos angry novel 1919. Let us honor him on Memorial Day."

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sun Jun 6th, 2021 at 07:01:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I am ever appalled by the pathetic response of France to the German invasion, again through Belgium. France had made a diplomatic decision NOT to fortify the French-Belgian border as that would demonstrate a lack of confidence in Belgium! And Clemenceau's intransigence on the reparations issue, designed to cripple Germany, predicted to fail by Keynes in 1919, used by France to justify the occupation of the Rhur in 1922, with the resulting inflation destroying the German middle class, paving the way for the rise of Hitler, and subsequently NOT followed by major investments in the French Army, especially armor and air are just confounding and painful to contemplate.

It was NOT that they could not afford it. The French had been sufficiently astute about going back on gold, they had slightly undervalued the Franc so that gold flowed into France and the '30s were relatively prosperous there. Then their situation led them to ship that gold to the USA for safekeeping.

The truth was that a significant portion of the French upper class was virulently antisemitic and, therefore, sympathetic to Hitler's Germany. Hence Vichy. With that national history there should be no surprise at the postwar emergence of French Existentialism.    

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Jun 8th, 2021 at 06:52:19 PM EST
Good comment, but I don't understand the link to French existentialism... It was a response to antisemitism and complicity in Nazi atrocities?

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jun 8th, 2021 at 08:01:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Just trying to find ground upon which to stand, especially for leftists and Jews, was a major challenge. Trying to formulate a way forward given the recent past and the fragmented post WW II political and social present was also challenging. That was, IMO, the 'existential' situation.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Jun 8th, 2021 at 11:39:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If I remember correctly, France had one of the largest tank forces in the world in 1939. But it was planned to be used in a re-run of world war I, with slow heavy tanks dispersed among infantry. And that reflected the whole war plan, which was to re-run world war one, and this time avoid the front going through France. Thus France would be spared, so no revolution in France, but Germany would be blockaded again like in world war I. And eventually Germany would fall.

A Swedish historian I read argued rather convincingly that the war in Denmark and Norway was to a large extent caused by the Allied attempts to cut Germany of from the Swedish iron ore supply, which in turn was motivated not only by starving Germany of iron, but also by creating a northern front to in advance take the load of the French-Belgian front. The attempts to get an Allied force to occupy the ore fields in northermost Sweden failed when the pretext of sending it to Finland wasn't believed. Closing the Atlantic Sea route form Norway by the UK placing mines in neutral Norway's waters triggered a crisis, but the German attack on Norway and Denmark was to fast to really serve. This should have been a warning that the strategy was flawed.

So I see the fall of France mainly in terms of a failure of imagintation within the organisation. Then again, one needs to remember that the German army was also lucky. The German high command and Hitler worried about exposed flanks during the fast advance, and had the advance stopped, or had the French been able to use the expose flanks and knock out the fast moving tanks, then the story would have been different.

by fjallstrom on Wed Jun 9th, 2021 at 12:37:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm currently reading "The Fall of France" by Julian Jackson.
France had the largest, most modern, tank force in the world on paper.
Unfortunately, despite the orders being placed in early 1938 (at whihc point they were added to regimental numbers), French military mobilisation in the beginning of '39 massively depleted the skilled workforce needed to build the tanks just as the production lines were really beginning to work. Delays due to worker disruption, corruption and plain incompetence had prevented much production in 38. It was May before manufacture began again. Indeed, most of the new tanks were eventually re-deployed by the nazis, straight from the factory, on the Russian front.
You are right about flanking attacks. de Gaulle (yes him) led one such attack that knocked the german advance back. However, this was at the cost of nearly his entire company. If he had been succesfully reinforced at that point, it's quite likely that the advance could have been halted in its entirety.
Sadly, the lack of co-ordination by the French high command and their unwillingness to talk to the British except to lie to them about the forces available meant this was impossible.
At the beginning of the campaign Billotte had been tasked with the co-ordination role between the high command (who lived in a castle with only carrier pigeons for communication - no phones, no radio) and the entire French and British effort in N France. A classic case of the separation of authority and responibility. Bilotte apparently burst into tears because he knew he could not make it happen. It took him 4 days to pull a staff away from reluctant superiors.
When he was killed in a car crash, a British commander darkly suggested that his absence, even if not replaced, would only improve things.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Jun 9th, 2021 at 02:56:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Helen: Sadly, the lack of co-ordination by the French high command and their unwillingness to talk to the British except to lie to them about the forces available meant this was impossible.

This is where there has been considerable change since 1940: today, the British and French militaries are both among the largest and the closest ones in Europe; they have been cooperating in joint exercises regularly over the pas twenty years (actually, I think one such exercise is ongoing right now with two aircraft carriers).

by Bernard on Wed Jun 9th, 2021 at 05:37:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
All of which is useless, because WWIII is a propaganda and cyber war. And also a war of political and social subversion.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Jun 12th, 2021 at 06:57:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The sheer audacity and breakneck speed of the German advance was completely off the map for the French military. And indeed it could have come unstuck : the Germans could hardly believe their success themselves.

As for the fundamental tactic of co-ordinated infantry, armour and air forces, De Gaulle of course claimed to have written the book on it (Vers l'armée de métier, 1934). He spent all his spare time in the 30s lobbying the army's commanders, and politicians, to modernise the army. He claims in his autobiography that Hitler had his book translated, and that it directly inspired the blitzkrieg doctrine.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Mon Jun 14th, 2021 at 04:26:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"a significant portion of the French upper class was virulently antisemitic"

One does not imagine that this was limited to the French.

by asdf on Wed Jun 9th, 2021 at 03:31:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You only have to look at all the countries around the world who welcomed the jews on the ship MS St Louis as they fled nazi Germany to gauge the levels of anti-semitism at the time.

So that would be EVERY country stuffed with anti-semites

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Jun 9th, 2021 at 05:38:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]

by Bernard on Mon Jun 14th, 2021 at 06:31:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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