Thursday, 22 July 2010

Some Summer reading for Cameron

In 1940 Britain stood alone against the menace of Nazism. The US was still in peace mode, its coasts lit up so brightly that German U-boats picked off British merchant shipping with ease. It would be almost another two years before the US entered the war. US industry was asleep, US manpower dormant. For another year and a half, Nazi Germany and Stalin's Russia would still be best buddies. In 1940 it truly was ourselves, alone.

Even on D-Day in 1944 British and Empire forces outnumbered US troops. It was only after the French ports had been opened, the bridgehead established, that the US became the senior partner. Then, the products of America's massive industrial economy flowed across the Atlantic in Liberty ships, themselves often built in just a few days, and the US' vast manpower soon dwarfed our own armies in Europe.

Cameron's comment was a howler of epic proportions. So I'd suggest some Summer reading to sort those difficult dates out; first, the best of the readable correspondents - Alan Moorehead's classic trilogy on the Desert War 1940 - 1943 takes us from the end of the beginning to the beginning of the end, and 'Eclipse' remains one of the best accounts written of the end itself. William L Shirer, one of Ed Murrow's 'boys', broadcasting regularly from Berlin through 1940 and only leaving in December of that year, gives us 'Berlin Diary'. Ernie Pyle's quartet of books, though only started in 1942, is a useful addition.

Then the 'heavies' - Ian Kershaw, of course, but not forgetting Alan Bullock's early work nor Trevor-Roper's account of the end, to give perspective to exactly what we faced alone in 1940.

Readers may suggest several others, but the above should be a decent enough selection for the obligatory week in Rock and later in Tuscany for longer.


Anonymous said...

Thats right David, spend your summer wallowing in nostalgia about the good old days of the war when GB was important and heroic rather than investigating the difficult questions of where our interests lie today and in what direction we should move as a society...

Anonymous said...

Indeed, in 1940 FDR was still pleading with Congress to allow the US to assist the European war effort; the American isolationists were still on top at this time. It wasn't until 1941 (before Pearl Harbour) that the Lend Lease scheme was initiated, which was probably the least that they could do.

Elby the Beserk said...

We used to go to Rock whilst on family holidays down between Padstow & Newquay'50s & '60s. Those days, it was very quiet, with a small sailing school, and a super baker, run by a Swiss guy, which made superb pasties.

All long time before the Steinisation of Padstow. And even before Rick S, the Hoorays up from the smoke made the wonderful May Day celebrations less enticing.

Thanks for the heads up on the Alan Moorehead book on the North Africa campaign. My father was out there as a tank commander, and sadly, I didn't find out as much as I should have done in terms of what he did. I know he lost friends, I know he respected the enemy, citing Rommel as a superb soldier.