"We didn't win the Second World War" - Peter Hitchens

#1
A thought-provoking WWII article (and advert) for Peter Hitchens' book in the Mail Online: We DIDN'T win the war! PETER HITCHENS writes a provocative book challenging all we think about WW2 | Daily Mail Online

It will be interesting to read the book reviews when it is published. Hitchens states very clearly from the outset that this is not a slight at those who fought, but questions the facts used by those who wrote the history.

For me, there are some quite obviously provocative statements within the article but in some respects I find myself agreeing that the accepted British version of the conventional history of the Second World War is flawed.

Let's face it, we got strategically battered until about 1944, despite the incredible bravery of those who fought and supported the war effort. We just don't like to admit it.

The British history, written in the aftermath of the victory from the perspective of those who still believed the morale-boosting propaganda of the day. Compare that to the public opinion of the recent wars with Iraq.

At the time, immediately post war, the UK was gripped by austerity and the propaganda films continued to be churned out. The Great Escape, The Colditz Story, Bridge Over the River Kwai, Dunkirk and many more. They all told the tale of the undeniably brave British and Allied servicemen and women - ignoring the back-story which was they were either retreating or being held as Prisoners of War.

A thought-provoking article. Do his facts stand-up to scrutiny?
 

Sixty

ADC
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Book Reviewer
#2
While I'll never forgive you for making me read a Daily Mail link; I can't disagree with any of his 10 myths.
 
#4
A thought-provoking WWII article (and advert) for Peter Hitchens' book in the Mail Online: We DIDN'T win the war! PETER HITCHENS writes a provocative book challenging all we think about WW2 | Daily Mail Online

It will be interesting to read the book reviews when it is published. Hitchens states very clearly from the outset that this is not a slight at those who fought, but questions the facts used by those who wrote the history.

For me, there are some quite obviously provocative statements within the article but in some respects I find myself agreeing that the accepted British version of the conventional history of the Second World War is flawed.

Let's face it, we got strategically battered until about 1944, despite the incredible bravery of those who fought and supported the war effort. We just don't like to admit it.

The British history, written in the aftermath of the victory from the perspective of those who still believed the morale-boosting propaganda of the day. Compare that to the public opinion of the recent wars with Iraq.

At the time, immediately post war, the UK was gripped by austerity and the propaganda films continued to be churned out. The Great Escape, The Colditz Story, Bridge Over the River Kwai, Dunkirk and many more. They all told the tale of the undeniably brave British and Allied servicemen and women - ignoring the back-story which was they were either retreating or being held as Prisoners of War.

A thought-provoking article. Do his facts stand-up to scrutiny?
You ignore the Films that were made at the same time where we 'won' and also the message that we were not war mongers and battled on despite losses which would have made others give in - which what the films you mention portray.

As for the rest of the link?.....hmm? no doubt he makes some valid points - but even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

and for you all you lonely losers out there, even Hitler had a girlfriend :)
 
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#5
The lesson we never learn is that NO ONE wins a war......it's just one side looses a bit more .........unless you happen to be involved in the armament industry or rebuild of course .....many make their fortunes from war
 
#7
It seems to be a gloomy, cynical view espoused with the benefit of a ladle full of hindsight.
The opening stages of the war came at a time of global turmoil and shifting power and alliances.
Japan in Manchuria, Japan fighting Russia, Britain and France on the cusp of war with Russia on the side of the Finns at one stage, The US becoming pre-eminent, Colonial powers facing multiple independence movements etc. etc.
IIRC there is an interview with Stephen Ambrose in the last episode of the world at war where he gives his views on what the victors gained, he opined that Britain got the rubble of Northern Germany, virtual bankruptcy, the moral high ground and little else. Could things have been different? Of course. Should things have been different? That’s another story.
 

smeg-head

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#8
While accepting some of this as a hypothesis designed to assist the author with the sale of his books, one has to question his motives. Firstly, Hitler intended to rule Europe initially and then fan out to rid the world of "die untermensch". Secondly, Britain were in no condition to go to war in 1939 and were paying catch up until the U.S. decided to lend us a few tons of martial aid.
True, a lot of British victories had more to do with the fighting spirit of the frontline troops rather than the tactics of our leaders.
At the time of the second world war, Britain's military leaders were all geriatrics who last saw active service fighting the fuzzy-wuzzies in the 1800's! As an example to that; Montgomery, the darling of Africa, made a complete balls-up over his handling of Operation Market Garden! He believed the hype surrounding him that he was invincible.
Despite that though, the combined might of the allies forced Germany to surrender unconditionally in 1945. Later that summer, Japan followed suit. So effectively, we did win the war. However, we were in no great shape ourselves and we took longer to get back on our feet than the losers.

Ultimately, Germany and Japan had nothing and so rebuilt from the ground up. Britain was beset with economic problems, including strikes and labour shortages. They voted Churchill out of office and put a Labour government in power that that were more concerned with spending money the country didn't have.
Militarily we won, economically we died.
 
#9
While I'll never forgive you for making me read a Daily Mail link; I can't disagree with any of his 10 myths.
You concur that all 10 myths are true?
Jesus, I bet you believed the 'Vote Remain' balls too..
 
#10
What a load of utter rubbish. He may make a few valid observations, none of them really new, most of what he says is either delusional or contrary to fact when taken in broader context.
 
#11
The lesson we never learn is that NO ONE wins a war......it's just one side looses a bit more .........unless you happen to be involved in the armament industry or rebuild of course .....many make their fortunes from war
As the profligate spunking of resources in the Vietnam war did. As all those Phantoms, Hueys,and other jets and helicopters written off and replaced proves. The US arms industry must have made a killing out of Vietnam, oh and also the second world war. Trebles all round old boy?.
 

overopensights

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#12
At wars end Britain still had the remnants of a Merchant Fleet, they will never admit to it but in addition to the Marshall Plan Britain fed Europe for about three years after the war, as such Germany came off food rationing before the UK. Such things as Sugar, exotic fruits, chocolate, sweets etc and other non essentials were not seen here until 1954.
 

Wordsmith

LE
Book Reviewer
#13
It a pile of steaming horse manure. For example,
MYTH 1: WE WERE FORCED INTO WAR BY THE GERMANS

Britain actively sought a war with Germany from the moment Hitler invaded Prague in March 1939. Even before then, there were powerful voices in the Foreign Office urging the need to assert ourselves as a Great Power.
Britain was not actively seeking war in 1939, it was actively trying to deter Germany from starting one. Both Britain and it's main ally France thought themselves militarily weaker than Germany and unlikely to match her military strength until 1942 at the earliest. Not the best of reasons to go to war in 1939.
MYTH 4: CHAMBERLAIN WAS NOTHING BUT AN APPEASER

The Left still like to think that it was their outrage at Hitler which finally drove the appeasers, including Chamberlain, into action.

But it was Chamberlain’s Tories who rearmed the country and manoeuvred Britain into its first People’s War. Despite the Munich Agreement of 1938, when Chamberlain returned to London to rapturous crowds following a negotiated peace with Hitler, he had already begun an ambitious programme of rearmament, including the development of radar capabilities.
Britain began rearming in 1934, alarmed by the rise of the dictatorships. Progress was slow because the UK was well behind the research curve. The RAF (for example) realised there were no modern aircraft in immediate prospect, so started to rearm with the obsolescent Hawker Hart and Hind. They didn't want to build anything else in large numbers because they didn't want to clutter up the RAF with outdated aircraft. The bomber force didn't start to seriously rearm until 1936, when the Blenheim, Battle and Whitley came along. And even they they were regarded as a deterrent force force, intended to threaten Germany with mass bombing of its cities if the Germans started doing it to UK cities. And the fighter force didn't start to rearm until 1938, when the Spitfire and Hurricane came along.

By 1938, the RAF had realised that the Whitleys, Hampdens and Wellingtons in service were not capable of delivering a knockout blow to Germany - that would not be possible until the planned 1942 generation of bombers came into service. And Fighter Command/radar showed increasing signs of being able to blunt a German attack.

Which goes back to Myth 1 - the RAF was not equipped, trained or with the numerical strength to fight an offensive war in 1939.

Wordsmith
 
#14
A new book AND controversy?! Say it ain't so.

As an aside, today I saw a Lancaster taking off from East Mids airport just as I was driving past on the M1.
 

Helm

MIA
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#15
I am in the disagree camp for some of his myths, a lot of it is revisionist tosh and the usual hand-wringing.
 

jrwlynch

LE
Book Reviewer
#16
A thought-provoking article. Do his facts stand-up to scrutiny?
I'd say "no" as an amateur historian (and I am at least qualified in international relations...)

MYTH 1: WE WERE FORCED INTO WAR BY THE GERMANS
Given that we declared war on Germany rather than vice versa, not sure where that came from. That said, we'd made a deal at Munich that was Hitler's "last territorial demand in Europe", he broke it and grabbed the rest of Czechoslovakia, then he made moves on Poland who we'd made guarantees to: it's not as if puir wee Adolf was minding his own business at Berchtesgaden and mean Mr Chamberlain declared war on him.

MYTH 2: POLAND WAS A BASTION OF DEMOCRACY
Never heard that claimed overmuch - Poland was a pretty autocratic military regime if memory serves, but the issue was Germany was going after them next. At what point was anyone going to say "seriously, Adolf, stop that, m'kay?"

MYTH 3: WE FOUGHT TO PROTECT THE JEWS
Nope, never heard that advanced at the time - the industrial mass murder of Jews (plus other disfavoured groups) didn't get underway until well into the war, and they were running out of victims by the time they were beaten.

MYTH 4: CHAMBERLAIN WAS NOTHING BUT AN APPEASER
Nope, it's pretty well documented that Chamberlain was rearming in some style while trying to negotiate peace: Britain was spending 12% of GDP on defence by 1938 in the middle of serious rearmament.

MYTH 5: WE STOOD ALONE AGAINST THE NAZI MENACE
Well, from June 1940 to June 1941 it actually was the British Empire alone against Nazi Germany (and Italy), with Vichy France compliant, the US officially neutral and the USSR shipping Germany major quantities of oil, rubber and grain. (The US Army was smaller than the Venezuelan Army in 1940!) While the Dieppe fiasco proved any landings on the Continent were going to have to be well-prepared and lavishly resourced, we had a serious and underrated impact in North Africa: an overlooked point is that the Germans lost something like a quarter of their motor trucks in North Africa, with a major strategic impact on Barbarossa.

MYTH 6: THE LOOMING SHADOW OF INVASION
Hitler certainly seemed to be planning one, until the difficulties and issues became too intractable to ignore or play pass-the-parcel with. That it would have failed, doesn't mean he wasn't serious about the preparations.

MYTH 7: WE CAN THANK THE ‘SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP’
Probably the least incorrect of the lot; Chester Wilmot (The Struggle for Europe) also documented the US naivety in their efforts to contain "British imperialism" while trusting that nice Uncle Joe to allow democracy and freedom in his part of Europe.

MYTH 8: BRITISH BOMBING OF GERMANY WAS JUSTIFIED
Revisionist twaddle: Adam Tooze (Wages of Destruction), Richard Overy and others have demolished the "bombing was ineffective" claims peddled post-war. British bombing of German war industry brought Albert Speer's "production miracles" to a screeching halt.

MYTH 9: HEROIC BRITAIN WON THE WAR
Don't think anyone claims we did, but we didn't lose it at a point where everyone else was either beaten or staying out.

MYTH 10: WE WERE GLORIOUS IN VICTORY
No, we were broke and bankrupt with a disintegrating Empire and lots of rubble where homes and factories used to be. Still better than losing, though.


Still, it'll get clicks for the article, and controversy and sales for the book, so mission accomplished for the author...
 

W21A

War Hero
Book Reviewer
#17
There is nothing new in the 10 'myths'. Some of them are known debatables, others formerly widely acknowledged but since forgotten about by modern schooling and society.
 
#18
The lesson we never learn is that NO ONE wins a war......it's just one side looses a bit more .........unless you happen to be involved in the armament industry or rebuild of course .....many make their fortunes from war
I think you could positively say the Nazis in Germany lost, as did the Italian fascists and Japanese militarists/nationalists. Is Hitchens saying the allies did not win the war, or that Britain did not win by ourselves?

Hitchens is an opinionated fool. If Britain had not continued fighting until 1943/1944 and the build up of forces for the Normandy landings, which including things like denying the Germans control of the air over Britain and defeating the U boat Wolfpacks in Atlantic, could Western Europe have been freed from Nazi occupation (except perhaps by Stalin)?
 
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#19
At wars end Britain still had the remnants of a Merchant Fleet, they will never admit to it but in addition to the Marshall Plan Britain fed Europe for about three years after the war, as such Germany came off food rationing before the UK. Such things as Sugar, exotic fruits, chocolate, sweets etc and other non essentials were not seen here until 1954.

I'd heard that the UK was the largest recipient of aid under the Marshall Plan getting quite a lot more than Germany. Is this true?
 

Auld-Yin

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#20
If that book is given to 'Auld Yin' to review on arrse, it then I would like the job!
I will ask the publishers for a copy and if we get it then it is yours. The book is called The Phoney Victory BTW.
 

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