Defending Island Britain In The Second World War

Defending Island Britain In The Second World War

Author
David Rogers
ARRSE Rating
4 Mushroom Heads
"In conclusion it is suggested that our traditional system of doing things in this country is by 'trial and error'. In the case of invasion the trial must be good because we cannot afford the error."

The above is taken from Admiral Oldham's presentation of The Invasion Defence Scheme to the War Cabinet Chief Of Staffs Committee on 18th October 1940 and neatly encapsulates the position that the country found itself in. The Germans were on our doorstep and had unfettered access to the Channel ports as well as the resources to construct an invasion fleet. Advances in technology meant that an invasion could be coordinated across a broad front so as to confuse and stretch British defences to the maximum. No longer could the Channel be regarded as an unassailable moat.

Given the growing unease with Germany's increasing militarism under Hitler, it will probably come as no surprise to learn that in March, 1936, the post of Minister for Coordination of Defence was established. Part of his remit was the preparation of a War Book, which was a summary of all the measures which had to be taken by all government departments to enable the smooth transition from peace to war. This resulted in there being a sound bureaucratic infrastructure in place when war was finally declared, including plans for dealing with a German invasion.

Using documents from the National Archives and his own collection, the author provides a comprehensive insight of the planning process and the areas that were addressed. Given that any invasion would be largely sea-borne, it was relatively easy to identify potential landing sites and their hinterlands, whilst also making plans to counter an air landing and parachutists.

What was needed was a coordinated response at local and national level. Those living in or close to likely invasion zones needed to know what to do in the event of invasion, and, similarly the country at large needed to know what part it would play. Close liaison between civil and military authorities was essential so that one did not hamper the other and where possible provide mutual support.

This is a well-researched book which will fill a gap in the history of the Second World War. It will be invaluable to those with an interest in the bureaucratic processes of preparing a country for war. That said, it is a niche book which will not enjoy a wide readership but will prove rewarding to those who are prepared to make the effort.

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