1945: Churchill meets Truman as Trinity is tested

The ‘Big Three’, Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin had been the face of the Allies for the greater part of the war, meeting in several high profile conferences to decide the course of the war. Now President Truman replaced the recently deceased Roosevelt in the line up for the last conference.

German women doing their washing at a water hydrant in a Berlin street, near the wreck of a German light armoured car, 3 July 1945.
German women doing their washing at a water hydrant in a Berlin street, near the wreck of a German light armoured car, 3 July 1945.
British and Russian soldiers on the balcony of the Chancellery, the spot from which Hitler made many of his speeches. Label British and Russian soldiers on the balcony of the ruined Chancellery in Berlin, 5 July 1945.
British and Russian soldiers on the balcony of the Chancellery, the spot from which Hitler made many of his speeches, 5 July 1945.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill inspecting a guard of honour of the Scots Guards at British Headquarters, Berlin, soon after his arrival for the 'Big Three' conference at Potsdam.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill inspecting a guard of honour of the Scots Guards at British Headquarters, Berlin, soon after his arrival for the ‘Big Three’ conference at Potsdam.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill and US President Harry Truman shake hands on the steps of Truman's residence, "The White House", at Kaiser Strasse, Babelsberg, Germany, on 16 July 1945.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill and US President Harry Truman shake hands on the steps of Truman’s residence, “The White House”, at Kaiser Strasse, Babelsberg, Germany, on 16 July 1945.

The ‘Big Three’, Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin had been the face of the Allies for the greater part of the war, meeting in several high profile conferences to decide the course of the war. Now President Truman replaced the recently deceased Roosevelt in the line up for the last conference.

The tensions between the Soviet side and the western democracies were now becoming ever more evident. On the face of it the conference would decide the fate of Germany and the where the new boundaries of eastern Europe would lie. In reality much would be determined by the de facto occupation of territory by Soviet troops.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill leaves the ruins of Adolf Hitler's Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, on 16 July 1945.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill leaves the ruins of Adolf Hitler’s Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, on 16 July 1945.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill sits in a jeep outside the Reichstag during a tour of the ruined city of Berlin, Germany on 16 July 1945.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill sits in a jeep outside the Reichstag during a tour of the ruined city of Berlin, Germany on 16 July 1945.
Scene of destruction on part of the Potsdamer Platz, Berlin.
Scene of destruction on part of the Potsdamer Platz, Berlin.

Whatever hopes those attending the conference might have that they could shape the post war world and prevent further wars, new realities were rapidly outstripping their expectations. Thousands of miles away, on the same day, scientists were conducting an experiment, codename Trinity, that would change the course of world history:

Brigadier General Thomas Farrell described the reaction of Robert Oppenheimer, the scientific director of the atomic research programme:

Dr. Oppenheimer, on whom had rested a very heavy burden, grew tenser as the last seconds ticked off. He scarcely breathed. He held on to a post to steady himself. For the last few seconds, he stared directly ahead and then when the announcer shouted “Now!” and there came this tremendous burst of light followed shortly thereafter by the deep growling roar of the explosion, his face relaxed into an expression of tremendous relief.

Oppenheimer himself later recalled:

We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried. Most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita; Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and, to impress him, takes on his multi-armed form and says, ‘Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.’ I suppose we all thought that, one way or another.

Hitler orders ‘Operation Sealion’ – invade Britain

They are certainly formidable obstructions to most of us especially in the hours of darkness when one is confronted by barriers in the most unexpected places. I am told that Winston is mainly responsible for them and takes the deepest interest in them. He appears to spend a lot of time inspecting our defences all over the country.

Watching out for raiders over London.

There had been some resistance to the appointment of Churchill as Prime Minister within the Conservative party. However his dynamic approach and rousing rhetoric was bringing people round. Senior Conservative Party MP and military insider Sir Cuthbert Headlam observed the new confidence in him even as the physical signs of the threat to the nation became ever more apparent:

16 July

London is rapidly become like a besieged town – or, rather, is being converted into a defended zone.

Whether all the barbed wire defences and machine-gun posts in the Whitehall area are erected to cover the last stand of Winston and the rest of us against the invading Germans, or whether to prevent the government offices being raided by ‘Fifth Columnists’ and parachutists, one does not know. They are certainly formidable obstructions to most of us especially in the hours of darkness when one is confronted by barriers in the most unexpected places.

I am told that Winston is mainly responsible for them and takes the deepest interest in them. He appears to spend a lot of time inspecting our defences all over the country. It is certainly his hour – and the confidence in him is growing on all sides.

See Parliament and Politics in the Age of Churchill and Attlee. The Headlam Diaries 1935-1951

Planning conference at the Berghof, July 1940: Hitler and Admiral Erich Raeder in discussion at a map table. Also present are (l to r) Field Marshal Walther von Brauchitsch, General Alfred Jodl, Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel and an unidentified Kriegsmarine staff officer.
Planning conference at the Berghof, July 1940: Hitler and Admiral Erich Raeder in discussion at a map table. Also present are (l to r) Field Marshal Walther von Brauchitsch, General Alfred Jodl, Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel and an unidentified Kriegsmarine staff officer.

While Britain was gripped by the thought that invasion might come at any day, Hitler was still considering his options. It was only on 16th July that Hitler signed the order for ‘Operation Sealion’:

‘Directive No.16 for Preparations of a Landing Operation against England’.

The preamble ran: ‘Since England, in spite of its militarily hopeless situation, still gives no recognizable signs of readiness to come to terms, I have determined to prepare a landing operation against England and, if need be, to carry it out. The aim of this operation is to exclude the English motherland as a basis for the continuation of the war against Germany, and, if it should be necessary, to occupy it completely.’

[emphasis added]

This was a lukewarm approach to a possible invasion. Most of his military advisers knew very well that it was going to be impossible to carry out the directive that summer. They knew as well as Churchill, who had already made his own assessment of the prospects for invasion, of the immense risks such an undertaking would involve.

Secret Churchill Memo – German invasion unlikely

40 destroyers are now disposed between the Humber and Portsmouth, the bulk being in the narrowest waters. The greater part of these are at sea every night, and rest in the clay. They would therefore probably encounter the enemy vessels in transit during the night, but also could reach any landing point or points on the front mentioned in two or three hours. They could immediately break up the landing craft, interrupt the landing, and fire upon the landed troops

Local Defence Volunteers soon to be renamed Home Guard
The formation of the Local Defence Volunteers was announced on the 14th May, they were renamed the ‘Home Guard’ on the 22nd July at Churchill’s insistence, despite the cost of replacing the million armbands that had been prepared for them. Many did not get proper weapons until much later in the year.

In a memorandum to the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, circulated to the War Cabinet, Winston Churchill set out his views on the practicality of an invasion.

His assessment of the prospects of a German landing placed great weight on the strength of the Royal Navy. He was encouraged by the fact that the battleships HMS Nelson and HMS Barham would soon be ready for sea and would enable the creation of further battle groups that could break up any invasion force.

He also felt that the largest German ships were under the close surveillance of the RAF and would not be able to mount a surprise breakout. His one caveat is the need for ‘strong Air support’ necessary to protect the Royal Navy during daylight hours.

I FIND it very difficult to visualise the kind of invasion all along the coast by troops carried in small craft, and even in boats. I have not seen any serious evidence of large masses of this class of craft being assembled, and, except in very narrow waters, it would be a most hazardous and even suicidal operation to commit a large army to the accidents of the sea in the teeth of our very numerous armed patrolling forces.

The Admiralty have over 1,000 armed patrolling vessels, of which two or three hundred are always at sea, the whole being well manned by competent seafaring men. A surprise crossing should be impossible, and in the broader parts of the North Sea the invaders should be an easy prey, as part of their voyage would be made by daylight.

Behind these patrolling craft are the flotillas of destroyers, of which 40 destroyers are now disposed between the Humber and Portsmouth, the bulk being in the narrowest waters. The greater part of these are at sea every night, and rest in the day. They would therefore probably encounter the enemy vessels in transit during the night, but also could reach any landing point or points on the front mentioned in two or three hours. They could immediately break up the landing craft, interrupt the landing, and fire upon the landed troops, who, however lightly equipped, would have to have some proportion of ammunition and equipment carried on to the beaches from their boats.

The Flotillas would, however, need strong Air support from our fighter aircraft during their intervention from dawn onwards. The provision of the Air fighter escort for our destroyers after daybreak is essential to their most powerful intervention on the beaches.

Churchill’s conclusion was that the Army had the space and time to regroup and reform inland, rather than be dissipated around the coast:

[I hope] that you will be able to bring an ever larger proportion of your formed Divisions back from the coast into support or reserve, so that their training may proceed in the highest forms of offensive warfare and counterattack, and that the coast, as it becomes fortified, will be increasingly confided to troops other than those of the formed Divisions, and also to the Home Guard.

See TNA CAB 66/9/44

In many ways it is a very re-assuring assessment. It was in fact largely in accord with the assessments being made by the Germans themselves, many of whom, particularly in the Navy, thought that an invasion of Britain in 1940 was an impossibility.

Nevertheless this was a secret assessment. Preparations for a possible invasion were proceeding apace across the country. The mobilisation of tens of thousands of men into the Local Defence Volunteers, soon to be renamed the Home Guard, was transforming the outlook of the civilian population. Churchill was not going to undermine the general stiffening of resolve by going public with the notion that invasion was impracticable.

For more on the Home Guard see The Spitfire Site.

HMS NELSON with HMS BARHAM in the background.
HMS NELSON with HMS BARHAM in the background.
1940 or 1941, on board the Battleship HMS Barham -Taking on board 15" shells.
1940 or 1941, on board the Battleship HMS Barham -Taking on board 15″ shells.
Sponging out the 15" guns after being in action.
Sponging out the 15″ guns after being in action.

Churchill’s speech is welcomed

On the other hand there was widespread comment on his delivery and his references to France have brought a recrudescence of anti-French feeling. The latency of anti-French feeling must never be forgotten. A few days ago sympathy swamped it but it found indirect expression in a common phrase ‘At last we have no Allies, now we fight alone’.

There has never been much sympathy with the French point of view but there are some indications that the present wave of anti-French feeling is bringing to the surface antagonism against ‘French politicians’.

The Ministry of information had the difficult task of keeping the public informed without causing unnecessary alarm.

In the early stages of the war the Ministry of Information had shown itself to be helplessly out of touch with the British people. Its earliest propaganda posters were widely considered to be crude and counter-productive. In an effort to get a better appreciation of the public mood at large and the general state of morale the Ministry formed the Home Intelligence department to conduct surveys of public attitudes.

During the dramatic events of the spring and summer 1940 the Home Intelligence department was reporting on a daily basis, drawing on material that was reported from around the country by regional officers. Additional material came from the Mass Observation studies, whose observers some-times eavesdropped on conversations in Public houses and other meeting places, to judge the national outlook. As time went more formal face to face surveys were also introduced, in order to bring more rigour to the process.

WEDNESDAY 19 JUNE 1940

On the whole there is slightly less depression today but people are reluctant to discuss the situation and are awaiting the publication of Hitler’s terms to France.

Churchill’s speech was awaited anxiously and when heard was the subject of varied reactions. What he said was considered courageous and hopeful and the speech was welcomed for its frankness. ‘He gives bad news frankly’, ‘Cool and businesslike”, ‘The sort of facts and figures we want’.

On the other hand there was widespread comment on his delivery and his references to France have brought a recrudescence of anti-French feeling. The latency of anti-French feeling must never be forgotten. A few days ago sympathy swamped it but it found indirect expression in a common phrase ‘At last we have no Allies, now we fight alone’.

There has never been much sympathy with the French point of view but there are some indications that the present wave of anti-French feeling is bringing to the surface antagonism against ‘French politicians’.

See TNA INF 1/264

Churchill ‘The battle of Britain is about to begin …’

Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour’

Winston Churchill: appointed Prime Minister on 10th May 1940

Churchill made another rousing speech to the House of Commons, following his earlier ‘I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat’  and his ‘We will fight them on the beaches’. Single handedly he was changing the mood of the nation with some of the most memorable rhetoric ever to appear in the English language. Now the phrase ‘This was their finest hour’ encapsulated the defiant mood of the nation as it fought on alone.

He did not use the phrase “Battle of Britain” as is commonly supposed, the original text referred to the ‘battle of Britain’. Nor was he referring specifically to the air battle over Britain that was to unfold later that summer. The general term “Battle of Britain” did not become a common reference to the struggle between the RAF and the Luftwaffe over Britain in July-August 1940 until a booklet of that title was published by the Air Ministry in the spring of 1941.

What General Weygand called the battle of France is over. I expect that the battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us.

Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.

Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’

Winston Churchill's speech as reported by the Daily Sketch.
Winston Churchill’s speech as reported by the Daily Sketch.

Meanwhile the remaining British forces in France were being evacuated as quickly as possible.

RAF personnel on the deck of a ship during the evacuation from France, c. 18 June 1940.
RAF personnel on the deck of a ship during the evacuation from France, c. 18 June 1940.

Churchill prophetic as Germans reach the Seine

The French Army put up a fierce resistance along the Seine and had some notable successes against the invading forces. Ultimately they had no answer to the German Blitzkrieg tactics which saw deep penetrating manoeuvres by the Panzers, which outflanked their defensive positions. Rommel was to lead his Division in a hundred kilometre drive forward in just two days.

Erwin Rommel commanded 7th Panzer Division during the invasion of France. They were frequently far in advance of the rest of the German Army and earnt the nickname the ‘Ghost Division’ because their exact location was often unknown.
The German Panzers, deployed in Blitzkrieg tactics had caught the French off balance from the very start.
The German Panzers, deployed in Blitzkrieg tactics had caught the French off balance from the very start.
German motorcycle unit somewhere in France.
German motorcycle unit somewhere in France.

The French Army put up a fierce resistance along the Seine and had some notable successes against the invading forces. Ultimately they had no answer to the German Blitzkrieg tactics which saw deep penetrating manoeuvres by the Panzers, which outflanked their defensive positions. Rommel was to lead his Division in a hundred kilometre drive forward in just two days. The Luftwaffe had by now almost complete air supremacy not just air superiority, giving them complete freedom to support the land forces.

On the 9th June the French Government learnt that German forces were just 50 miles from Paris. They prepared to join the mass exodus of the population themselves.

By this time British were recognising that the French cause was probably lost. Although further British troops were being sent to France and the idea of a Anglo-French redoubt in Britanny was being mooted, the realist in Churchill recognised that France was probably lost. On the 9th June he wrote a remarkably prophetic letter to his friend General Smuts, Prime Minister of South Africa:

9.VI.40

Prime Minister to General Smuts

We are of course doing all we can both from the air and by sending divisions as fast as they can be equipped to France. It would be wrong to send the bulk of our fighters to this battle, and when it was lost, as is probable, be left with no means of carrying on the war.

I think we have a harder, longer, and more hopeful duty to perform. Advantages of resisting German air attack in this Island, where we can concentrate very powerful fighter strength, and hope to knock out four or five hostiles to one of ours, are far superior to fighting in France, where we are inevitably outnumbered and rarely exceed two to one ratio of I destruction, and where our aircraft are often destroyed at exposed aerodromes.

This battle does not turn on the score or so of fighter squadrons we could transport with their plant in the next month. Even if by using them up we held the enemy, Hitler could immediately throw his whole [air] strength against our undefended Island and destroy our means of future production by daylight attack.

The classical principles of war which you mention are in this case modified by the actual quantitative data. I see only one sure way through now, to wit, that Hitler should attack this country, and in so doing break his air weapon.

If this happens he will be left to face the winter with Europe writhing under his heel, and probably with the United States against him after the Presidential election is over.

Am most grateful to you for cable. Please always give me your counsel, my old and valiant friend.

See Winston S. Churchill: Their Finest Hour (The Second World War)

The destruction of war in France, June 1940.
The destruction of war in France, June 1940.
French soldiers as prisoners of war, June 1940.
French soldiers as prisoners of war, June 1940.
German motorcycle combinations contributed to the rapid advance.
German motorcycle combinations contributed to the rapid advance.

Churchill: ‘We shall never surrender’

We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender…

Ships off the beaches at Dunkirk, c.3 June 1940. Smoke billows from burning oil storage tanks.
Ships off the beaches at Dunkirk, c.3 June 1940. Smoke billows from burning oil storage tanks.

Winston Churchill made another of his great speeches on the 4th June 1940. He began by outlining the fears that many people had held when they learnt that the British Expeditionary Force had been encircled:

When a week ago to-day I asked the House to fix this afternoon as the occasion for a statement, I feared it would be my hard lot to announce the greatest military disaster in our long history. I thought — and some good judges agreed with me — that perhaps 20,000 or 30,000 men might be re-embarked. But it certainly seemed that the whole of the French First Army and the whole of the British Expeditionary Force north of the Amiens-Abbeville gap, would be broken up in the open field or else would have to capitulate for lack of food and ammunition.

These were the hard and heavy tidings for which I called upon the House and the nation to prepare themselves a week ago. The whole root and core and brain of the British Army, on which and around which we were to build, and are to build, the great British Armies in the later years of the war, seemed about to perish upon the field or to be led into an ignominious and starving captivity.

He went on to describe the miracle that had occurred, and to praise the Royal Air Force its part in the rescue.

A miracle of deliverance, achieved by valour, by perseverance, by perfect discipline, by faultless service, by resource, by skill, by unconquerable fidelity, is manifest to us all. The enemy was hurled back by the retreating British and French troops. He was so roughly handled that he did not harry their departure seriously. The Royal Air Force engaged the main strength of the German Air Force, and inflicted upon them losses of at least four to one; and the Navy, using nearly 1,000 ships of all kinds, carried over 335,000 men, French and British, out of the jaws of death and shame, to their native land and to the tasks which lie immediately ahead.

We must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations. But there was a victory inside this deliverance, which should be noted. It was gained by the Air Force.

He concluded with these rousingly defiant words:

Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be.

We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the new world, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

Read the whole speech at They Work for You

German troops look out over the English channel with the wreckage of British equipment behind them

Churchill stiffens British resolve

Crossed canal held by Gds and S.H’s. slept in field two or three hours and ate haversack ration. About 4 p.m marched off about one mile and embussed. Very crowded in transport had to take round about way by side roads to avoid aircraft. Were machine gunned and bombed.

German troops were apparently welcomed in some parts of Belgium

In London Lord Ismay had become Churchill’s military assistant and staff officer. He noted in his diary the effects of Churchill taking command:

The change in leadership may have given rise to a few misgivings in Whitehall. There is a type of senior official, both civil and military, who get more and more set in their ways as they ascend the ladder of promotion. These able, upright, worthy men do not like the even tenor of their lives disturbed, and resent dynamic ministerial control. This is precisely what they were likely to suffer at Churchill’s hands.

But whatever misgivings there were in Whitehall, the nation as a whole acclaimed his leadership with enthusiasm. Almost overnight the British public took him to their hearts. Here was a man who they understood and who understood them; a man who would not be content with merely warding off the enemy’s blows, but would ‘give it them back’ with all the power at his command.

See The Memoirs of General Lord Ismay.

Churchill’s made energetic attempts to bolster the French resistance, but was dismayed by their defeatism. Meanwhile the Germans continued to press on in Belgium.

Belgian prisoners of war
German troops examine a Belgian tank

Across Belgium the British Expeditionary Force was still trying to fall back in some order:

From the Diary of Captain R. Leah, 1st Battalion, Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders :

Friday 17th May

Coy H. Q. in stables in racecourse grounds. Did not get back from conference till 2 a.m. and stood to at 3.30 a.m. so not very much sleep. Battalion position on main road round race course. “B” Coy on left near railway and roundabout, “C”in centre, “D” on right, “A” Coy round southern end of racecourse. Started to withdraw about 8.30 a.m. in order C, B, D, A, C.O. arrested 2 suspected parachutists who marched with “B” Coy and were later released at Loth.

Worst and most tiring march so far, only about 12 miles actually, but everybody feeling the effect of the last few days. Heavy enemy bombing Loth area, had to wait outside town about half an hour. Crossed canal held by Gds and S.H’s. slept in field two or three hours and ate haversack ration. About 4 p.m marched off about one mile and embussed. Very crowded in transport had to take round about way by side roads to avoid aircraft. Were machine gunned and bombed.

Got cut off from and lost remainder of convoy in one village. After that took a wrong turning. Caught up Battalion on main road after couple of hours. Had “C” Company behind us. Bought bottle of home made beer from driver in R.A.S.C. wearing L. Scottish rosettes on shoulder. Arrived Lessines 9 p.m. Dark and drizzling. Battalion billeted for night in main street, good billets in very comfortable shop and houses. Slept very comfortably for about 5 hours.

Coy and Self – 13 miles.

[Entry No.8, for the first entry see 10th May 1940]

See TNA WO 217/15

Churchill offers "Blood, toil, tears and sweat"

You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival. Let that be realized; no survival for the British Empire; no survival for all that the British Empire has stood for, no survival for the urge and impulse of the ages, that mankind will move forward towards its goal.

German tanks in forest
German armour was making a surprise advance through the Ardenne Forest that would outflank Allied forces that had moved forward into Belgium.

Events in France were now unfolding very rapidly. The German ‘Blitzkrieg’ was making dramatic progress, unnerving the French government and many in the senior military command. Winston Churchill would make six visits to France during the following weeks, attempting to find a way to help the French keep fighting. There was a danger that those at home would be equally unnerved by the seemingly invincible Wehrmacht.

 

 

Churchill, on his third day as Prime Minister, addressed the House of Commons for the first time as war leader:

To form an Administration of this scale and complexity is a serious undertaking in itself, but it must be remembered that we are in the preliminary stage of one of the greatest battles in history, that we are in action at many points in Norway and in Holland, that we have to be prepared in the Mediterranean, that the air battle is continuous and that many preparations, … have to be made here at home.

In this crisis I hope I may be pardoned if I do not address the House at any length today. I hope at any of my friends and colleagues, or former colleagues, who are affected by the political reconstruction, all make allowance, all allowance, for any lack of ceremony with which it has been necessary to act. I would say the House, as I said to those who have joined this Government: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”

We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering.

You ask, what is our policy? I will say: it is to wage war, by sea, land, and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us: to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.

Let that be realized; no survival for the British Empire; no survival for all that the British Empire has stood for, no survival for the urge and impulse of the ages, that mankind will move forward towards its goal. But I take up my task with buoyancy and hope. I feel sure that our cause will not be suffered to fail among men. At this time I feel entitled to claim the aid of all, and I say, “Come then, let us go forward together with our united strength.”

German troops on road in belgium 1940
German troops continue to march forward into Belgium while disarmed Prisoners of War are sent to the rear

Meanwhile in Belgium some of the British Army had reached their allotted positions and were preparing their defences:

From the Diary of Captain R. Leah, 1st Battalion, Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders :

Monday 13th May.

We spent today digging and made very good progress all round. The position was a good one on the forward slopes of a ridge over the River Lasne. The ground on this side of the river was not so good, being thickly wooded and obscuring the obstacle. 12 Pl [Platoon] were on right, P.S.M. Fleming, Peter 10 Pl. , and P.S.M. Kerr 11 Pl on left. A certain amount of enemy bombing and machine-gunning. Enemy bombing of Ottenburg which we could see from our position. Great difficulty in getting some of the Belgians to evacuate: this was finally done. Spent another night in the woods without any discomfort. Coy. nil marching. Self 4 miles.

Entry No.4, for the first entry see 10th May 1940.

See TNA WO 217/15

 

Hitler attacks in the West

“The hour has come for the decisive battle for the future of the German nation. For three hundred years the rulers of England and France have made it their aim to prevent any real consolidation of Europe and above all to keep Germany weak and helpless. With this your hour has come. The fight which begins today will decide the destiny of the German people for a thousand years. Now do your duty.”

Aerial view of Rotterdam bombed, May 1940
Aerial view of Rotterdam bombed, May 10th 1940

Hitler had launched Fall Gelb, Operation Yellow in the early hours of the 10th. His order to the German armed forces declared:

The hour has come for the decisive battle for the future of the German nation. For three hundred years the rulers of England and France have made it their aim to prevent any real consolidation of Europe and above all to keep Germany weak and helpless. With this your hour has come. The fight which begins today will decide the destiny of the German people for a thousand years. Now do your duty.

Continue reading “Hitler attacks in the West”