I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley
in exchange for an honest review.
1940 – Dunkirk, then the Battle of Britain. When the year opened, Chamberlain was still PM, by the time it closed Churchill had replaced him and appeasement was a dirty word.
This book is not of course aimed at the professional historian, but for the ordinary person who considers herself something of an expert on WW2 (as a result of her grandmother’s stories and, more recently, all the novels she has read set in that period!) it is an eye-opener.
I had never realised just how close Britain came to following France, “appeasing” Hitler, and allowing the invasion to take place uncontested. If Churchill had not taken the reins, that is exactly what would have happened. Throughout most of 1940, the appeasers (Chamberlain until his death in September, Halifax, Butler) kept talking to the Italians (and through them to Hitler) behind Churchill’s back. And meanwhile, on the other side of the ocean, Roosevelt was showing no interest in helping Britain, merely stipulating that if (and he meant “when”) Britain capitulated the British Navy should not be allowed to fall into the hands of the Germans. Churchill’s response to this was that no capitulation would ever occur under him, and that the appeasers who replaced him if things got too desperate would be seeking the best possible terms from the Germans so presumably the Navy would of course be handed over intact. In the end, it was Hitler who declared war on the US, not the other way about. (I never knew that!) If Hitler had limited himself to incorporating the whole of Europe, including the UK but excluding the USSR, into the Third Reich – which is what appeared to be his aim in 1940 when Britain, with the support of Canada and other countries of the British Empire, stood up to him and the Battle of Britain was fought, he might well have achieved this objective. But when the island nation of Britain with its powerful navy and its ring of radar stations proved almost impossible to either invade or bomb into submission, he turned his attention to the USSR. And the USA. Quite mad, of course. Worse than Napoleon, who lost half a million men in Russia before facing the inevitable (slow-but-sure!) response from across the Channel. At least the Germans don’t consider Hitler a national hero, as the French do Napoleon!
There are chapters, like the one recounting the sequence of events at Dunkirk, where the amount of detail seems unnecessary and I found myself skipping pages, but all in all, this was a very enjoyable and very memorable read.