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Lord Halifax becomes Prime Minister. England goes neutral (updated)

Discussion in 'What If - European Theater - Western Front & Atlan' started by British-Empire, Feb 26, 2009.

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  1. Reality

    Reality Member

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    Please note the phrase in my previous post: "in the eyes of the contemporaries"; i.e. not from the perspective of someone with 20/20 hindsight half a century later.

    It came as a huge shock by April 20th that the Royal Navy couldn't control the seas around Southern and Central Norway. As far as the contemporaries were concerned, the distance from Kiel to Norway was much greater than that between Flanders and Britain. Remember amatures talk about tactics, only professionals talk about the logistics (and it was logisticly quite improbable for Germans to organize an invasion of Britain); politicians are amatures as far as the intricasies of wars are concerned. Both Churchil and Fisher as First Sea Lords, a political post with supposed expertise, demonstrated the point aplenty.

    The network of radar early warning system was a secret, and very much untested. The dominant thinking at the time, even among British RAF establishment, was that the bombers could always get through.
     
  2. redcoat

    redcoat Ace

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    You are aware that the total losses of the RN to the Luftwaffe in the Norwegian Campaign was only 1 Cruiser, 2 Destroyers and 1 Sloop.
     
  3. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    Yeah, I read that phrase and wondered which British government or military people looked at the Norwegian campaign and subsequently went about saying, "Oh my God! This means we have no hope of defending ourselves here in Britain." My bet is the answer is nobody that counted.

    A"huge shock" to whom, precisely?

    The RN wasn't exactly driven out of Norwegian waters. It was the British Army and RAF which failed to control their respective situations. And, that, given the Chamberlain government's equivocation about the whole issue is not surprising.

    What mattered about the logistics issue when comparing Germany versus Norway to Germany versus Britain wasn't the distance; it was the amount of force which needed to be supported in each case. In a German invasion of Britain, unlike the German invasion of Norway, the necessary troops couldn't be carried in cruisers and destroyers and landed in convenient ports, or flown in in air transports and landed at deserted airports. There was no comparison between the forces which sufficed to secure the important points in Norway, and the forces necessary to make an invasion of Britain work. Furthermore, the the important leaders of both the Germans and the British realized that the cost of invading a practically undefended country like Norway had been so high in terms of KM losses that there was not a chance in hell of repeating the performance against Britain, a much tougher nut to crack.

    Not to the British leadership it wasn't, and that's who counted. True, it was untested to large extent, but the British had spent a lot of money to build it and expected it to work. The phrase, the bombers will always get through may have had some currency in the 1930's, but by 1940, the British were beginning to realize the cost of the bombers getting through was frequently going to be prohibitive losses.
     
  4. Reality

    Reality Member

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    Let's not forget Glorious and her two escorts (Acasta and Ardent, IIRC). In any case, that's besides the point. The real shock was that the RN CHOSE to stay clear of southern and central Norway! for fear of getting sunk by Luftwaffe. That came as a big surprise for everyone who was not in the RN.
     
  5. Reality

    Reality Member

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    The British military tradition for defending the island was the "wooden wall" and the logical modern steel-built offspring: the RN's steel ships that took so much money to build. Norway showed that RN was afraid of operating under enemy air cover, or even contested air. As far as the British public knew, the Luftwaffe was puffed up to be much much bigger than it actually was. Most people had misconception about just how great the German war machine was. In his speech to the House of Commons in July, Churchill was talking about German panzer divisions with 1000+ heavy tanks having conqured France, whereas in reality Germans actually had no heavy tank at all (therefore nobody ever saw any German heavy tank during the battle!); yet Chruchill was talking about the non-existent 1000+ heavy tanks in battle one month after the battle! That's why I mentioned, what we know for fact today is very different from what the people at that moment thought were facts. Fog of war :)

    Read up on newspaper accounts in early 1940. The public of the entire Western Europe and North America were very surprised that RN did not contest the landings throughout most of Norway.

    Once again, what we know today with 20/20 hind sight is very different from what the men on the spot knew in 1940. Americans were certain that Japanese were going to invade Hawaii, and Patton was certain that the "Japs" would land in Mexico (Baja California) and drive up north. We all know that those scenarios were way beyond Japanese logistic capabilities. That's not how things looked to the men in 1941 or 1940. I doubt anyone would call George S Patton an idiot :)

    Once again, 20/20 hindsight is very different from on-the-spot decision making in war time, with incomplete info. If British knew for fact that the cost of bombers getting through was going to be prohibitive losses, then they wouldn't have a separate bomber command with no fighter escort, would they? They'd have organized their aircrafts and crews into groups like Luftflotte and USAAF combined fighter and bomber groups.
     
  6. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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  7. Reality

    Reality Member

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  8. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    I think weve gone so far off the original question I'm at a loss to know where to join in again.
     
  9. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    Hah, found somewhere to join in...

    Good question.

    This from Wiki, I know Wiki is not the be all and end all, but I tend to agree with this simplified version of events for June:

    In May 1940, when the Chamberlain government fell and a coalition was to be formed there were two candidates for Prime Minister: Halifax and Winston Churchill. Halifax had the support of the great mass of the Conservative party, of the royal family, and was acceptable to the Labour party. His position as a peer was a merely technical barrier given the scale of the crisis. But at the fateful meeting with Churchill, Halifax did not press his claim, presumably recognising in Churchill a set of skills better suited to the challenge. Like Chamberlain he served in Churchill's cabinet, frequently exasperated by Churchill's style of doing business.


    Ambassador to the United States and later life
    Churchill continued Halifax as Foreign Secretary for nine months, but the two men had never enjoyed a close relationship. In the summer of 1940 Halifax in intense Cabinet debates as France teetered towards defeat, energetically participated in the debates for and against a recourse to total war and lone opposition to Germany, whatever the cost to Britain's long-term military and economic standing. The Cabinet believed that Italian offices might open peace negotiations and broadly speaking Churchill argued that playing for time was in Britain's interest, while Halifax was concerned that should the British Expeditionary Force be destroyed Britain would lose its last bargaining chip. Churchill won the argument, and the BEF was saved at Dunkirk.

    In January 1941 Halifax was packed off to Washington on the death in office there of the then Ambassador, the Marquess of Lothian; the last of the appeasers to leave the Cabinet, Chamberlain, Hoare and Simon having already departed.

    But to the question that if there was a chance of Churchill being replaced if those events had gone awry...Would it be Halifax? I still say he could have been persuaded. He was still held in esteem by his own party and members of the opposition, particularly since his half hearted association with Appeasment had been noted by many.

    He was no matter what I think of him, a man of honour who loved his country. He would in my view if things in June had gone differently at Dunkirk, been open to the party and opposition members requests for change and in my own personal view would have though the honour of the country demanded he himself take the reigns.

    We know though it never happened and its speculation. But the history of the man demands he take the action he think necessary to save his country. Whether reluctantly or not he would if enough support had materilised in such a crisis have stepped up tot he plate once more. I think that would have been disasterous.
     
  10. b0ned0me

    b0ned0me Member

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    So that would have been the First Lord of the Admiralty, none other than W Churchill, who also proceeded to poke his fingers into operational planning at every opportunity, driving the military to distraction and setting the scene for a debacle.
    Ironic, huh? If any one politician was to blame, it was actually Churchill.

    Why would anyone discount a peace on terms, at least in that time period? If Germany had e.g. offered to return to it's pre-Versailles borders and call it quits (maybe even keeping a few small provinces here and there), would you seriously expect the UK to turn them down? In fact, neither side ever put an offer on the table that was acceptable to the other (and Hitler's signature was a very debauched currency), but keeping a handful of diplomats talking is cheap enough to keep going even if you don't really expect to get anywhere.

    I agree. Like a lot (in fact, like most) of the political establishment Halifax had bent over backwards to prevent another general European war, but once it became inescapably clear that Nazi Germany was incorrigible he seems to have focused on its containment and eventual destruction, hence the Polish guarantee etc. Appeasement was a failure, and everyone knew it. Even if Chamberlain had remained PM things would most likely have played out to the same end.

    Historically, British policy has always been to oppose whichever power dominates the continent, and even if peace had somehow broken out, it would have been just a pause for recovery. Similarly, I don't see a scenario where France would simply shrug off their third german war in 70 years - after rearming properly, they would want to remove that threat permanently.
     
  11. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    Im glad you agree,with me,that is after all what I am saying, that there were those that had just this in mind, My views were not expressed on the the why nots or why fors, but simply on the fact that they existed.
     
  12. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    I thought I made it quite plain that I am asking for names and specific statements, but I guess you still don't understand. Here in the US, if some strategic decision, involving, say the USAAF, was taken during WW II, it can usually be traced back to Hap Arnold. If the US Navy adopted a far-reaching policy regarding strategy in the Pacific, the person pulling the strings was almost always Admiral King. If something profoundly affecting the US Army happened in Australia, you can bet MacArthur was behind it. And in almost every case historians have been able to identify and quote statements explaining their reasoning in making such decisions. For example the decision making process regarding the use of the atomic bombs and the thoughts of the people who made those decisions are well documented.

    So, what I am asking is, who were the people (names please) you mention, and what statements did they make regarding their fear that Norway meant the RN couldn't defend Britain? You seem to be reasoning from a very tenuous premise; that somebody in the RN chain of command ordered the RN, in a single instance only, to intervene in the Norway campaign, therefore they must have been worried that the Luftwaffe would inflict extreme casualties on the RN (despite the fact that it didn't). From that leap of faith, you infer that these same anonymous people must have concluded that the RN was incapable of defending Britain, and that being true (according to you), they reasoned that the British leadership should be convinced to accept German peace overtures.

    That's a pretty weak argument, even if true. But it's important to know who these nameless people were in order to judge if they had enough political clout to have any effect on the leaders who really counted. That's why I want to know exactly who felt the RN couldn't defend Britain.

    That is probably true. But it doesn't mean that the political/military leadership of Britain were terrified that the RN couldn't defend Britain and that things were hopeless unless the German peace initiatives were accepted. There were all sorts of (in hindsight) ridiculous statements regarding German and Japanese military capabilities made in the media, Congress, and Parliament, and for a variety of reasons. But that doesn't mean that they were believed at the time, or even that the people making these statements really believed them. Churchill, himself, played fast and loose with the truth, often making statements that conflicted with his actions. Are you suggesting that Churchill believed that the RN would not be able to defend Britain in the face of the Luftwaffe? How does this square with his actions at the time?

    Your sarcasm aimed at me, personally is uncalled for. I have not used any personal references in this thread, so far, but I will answer sarcasm with sarcasm, and personal attacks with the same. I will not tolerate personal insults.

    Your citation of a reference is appreciated, but I'm afraid it's off target. Patton may have personally believed that the Japanese intended to invade Mexico, or he may simply have alerted his men as an exercise in meeting every possible contingency. In any case, the JCS and Roosevelt, did not believe in these fairy tales. Comint had identified all of the vessels involved in both the Midway and Aleutians operations; it was known that there were only enough transports in both operations combined, to lift the equivalent of a reinforced brigade, and this was not nearly enough troops to invade Mexico. Furthermore, both Japanese targets (Midway and the Aleutians) were known, they didn't include Mexico. So, either Patton was intentionally misinformed, or he was simply trying to cover all possible bases. If he really believed that Japan had the capability to invade Mexico, it was because he didn't have enough information. That doesn't mean the national leadership believed in the possibility or that Patton could have convinced them of it.

    I meant that you were misquoting me, and probably misunderstanding my reference. You were wrong in claiming that if the British had begun to realize that the bombers might not get through except with prohibitive losses, that they wouldn't have invested in a strategic bombing force. My statement was that they were beginning to realize that the bombers might not get through only after the beginning of the war, long after their decision to build strategic bombers had already been taken.

    Which proves...what, exactly?

    How does that prove that Norway caused the political/military leadership of Britain to believe that the RN couldn't defend Britain?

    That is the vital fact that you haven't established; that people (so far unnamed) who had the power to make the decision to accept the German peace offer, actually believed that it was an acceptable alternative to continuing to fight. Or that there were people with enough influence over the British leadership to convince them to accept German peace terms. You haven't named a single such person nor quoted a single such statement supporting such a conclusion. Patton, BTW, does not qualify.

    That issue has never been in dispute, it is a strawman argument raised by you. And Stimson, if you knew anything about US history was NOT part of the JCS, and I never claimed he was. He was Roosevelt's Secretary of War. And what does it prove that he didn't predict Pearl Harbor, he did predict the ultimate outcome of the war, indicating he grasped the essential weaknesses of the Japanese.

    No, the bottom line is that you claimed that the British leadership believed that Norway demonstrated (your word) that the RN could not hope to defend Britain in the face of the Luftwaffe, and that they concluded that it would be better to seriously consider peace with Germany. The fact that the RN intervened only once in Norway, in no way proves anything about what it would or would not do in the defense of Britain. The situation, and the stakes involved, were quite different in Norway and in Britain, that is what you can't seem to grasp. It does not follow that what the RN decided to do, or not do, in Norway would have any bearing on what it would do in the defense of Britain.

    My question is, what were the names of these leaders who arrived at the conclusion you feel certain the British must have arrived at, and what statements have they left to posterity justifying their reasoning? You keep dancing around, citing Patton, the Japanese, and French motives, which have no bearing on the question. It's a simple question and deserves an answer.

    You seem to be arriving at your own conclusion of what the British leadership must have been thinking, based on some very questionable premises. I don't accept those premises. If, in fact, there were British leaders, or senior officers who enjoyed influence with those leaders, who shared your conclusions about the ability of the RN to defend Britain, they must have left some accounts of their thoughts, and the process by which they arrived at their conclusions? Where are they?
     
  13. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    I am certainly not disputing the facts you have presented, they seem to be readily documented and the statements you have made seem reasonable and logical conclusions.

    But, I think the question remains; would Lord Halifax, in the summer of 1940, have argued for the acceptance of Germany's peace terms?

    Another poster has already posted sources and statements by Halifax to the effect that he no longer felt an accommodation could be made with Germany. Did Lord Halifax, in fact, try to convince Churchill, while he was a member of Churchill's cabinet, that it was better to negotiate with Hitler than continue fighting? I certainly don't get that impression from Lord Halifax's comments posted in other messages on this thread.
     
  14. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    In fact the whole cabinet never ruled out an accomodation, that too is detailed. Halifax being one of the main conversors of that view.

    I'll find the detail. Ive posted it before somewhere too. But I'll find the detail and come back.
     
  15. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    Of course, the cabinet isn't going to foreclose any possible options unnecessarily, but that doesn't mean they're actually seriously considering them either. Leaving a course of action on the table is a long way from advocating it, or even considering it as a logical or desirable alternative.

    The actual verbiage of any statements, resolutions, and/or memoranda of decisions would be helpful, if available.
     
  16. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    I seem to remember coming across the minutes of cabinet and such in Churchill the poliitics of war1940 41..Lawler I think, didnt have own copy was reading from library..contains mix of views revisionist for some but not in the way of revisionism of Iriving etc...I have though just orderd a copy of Halifax's diary on Ebay, so I'm not expecting my answer to come withing the next day or two. But I'm sure I remember from the first book the machinations of Butler a close compatriot of Halifax. But agreed these seem more to be talks about talks, rather than direct face to face process of enemies. The suggestion is with the machinations that Halifax was aware of others doing such and turned the proverbial British blind eye. His own views were changing rapidly at the time as he realised the situation was not as grave as first thought.
    But without referring to this lot which I will shortly I cant be sure of who and when. But one thing I am sure of is that no there was no peace party. And 2 for the benefit of a what if scenario and the whole substance of this thread, Halifax was capable of taking the reigns. It never happened, but the what if is an acceptable what if.
    It does though bring up the case forgetting the what if here, of was Halifax actively involved in any machinations and also if so was he also prepared to usurp Churchill in those 2 critical months.

    But the answer is in the detail as agreed, I hope to answer that for my own requirement.
     
  17. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    It may come down to something like. Theoretically Germany could come up with a peace plan that would be acceptable but no one expected them too. In the highly unlikely event that they did come up with anything approaching acceptable the British would consider it. Such a position seams to cover most if not all the facts posted.
     
  18. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Did Hitler give in summer 1940 away any "real peace terms"? Did he just talk meaningless promises or was there also a "reasonable" promise behind his talk. I do recall reading about these but I´d like to see if anybody else has,too. Personally I think making peace would have been a bigger victory to Hitler than anybody else.
     
  19. redcoat

    redcoat Ace

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    The only known 'peace' message to Britain by Hitler during 1940 was a speech he made at a political rally which was broadcast over the radio, in which he stated that it was time for Britain to seek peace before it was too late.
    At no time was Churchill ever confronted with a German peace offer which laid out the terms that were required for Britain to accept, in order to end hostilities.
    This, of course, made it easy for Churchill to persuade both his cabinet and the British public that the war should continue, as he could argue that the terms the Nazi's would demand would be totally unacceptable ( as they probably would have been ).
     
  20. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    I recall remarks about messages sent from Germany via contacts in nuetral Spain. Cant locate any confirmation on my shelf today, but... Canaris made a brief vist to Spain that year, but again I have not found the details of when & why.
     
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