Category Archives: Britain

France, 1940 – debunking the ‘Halt Order’.

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Up until last year and the release of Dunkirk (2017), it was generally assumed by the layman and amateur historian that the successful evacuation of Dunkirk was due to the lax, complacent attitude of the German Army, this a direct order from Hitler to halt the armoured divisions as a benevolent peace offer to the British. Only now has consensus gathered amongst us part-time carnage bookworms that this is nothing but a fallacy. Myths are embedded within official military narrative and it happens because they are convenient, an easy answer to overwhelmingly complex logistical and political issues. The laziness, with exceptions, of the modern historian is so rampant that contemporary sources are taken as gospel, i.e., works by peers. It’s as if the archives don’t exist.

James Holland’s recent digging into this seemingly forever contentious event now appears to have silenced the Hitler apologists (that he didn’t want to intensify war with Britain, bla, bla). The order quite simply came from the frontline generals, and Hitler’s subsequent involvement was as an intervention between competing branches of the German military. For an in-depth anatomy of the whole mess, I highly recommend this piece on Holland’s own website: http://www.griffonmerlin.com/2016/07/17/dunkirk-1940-hitlers-halt-order/

Fittingly, the Russians just this past week let forensic experts analyse Hitler’s teeth, dispelling, one would hope, the belief that he fled to Argentina in a U-boat or emigrated to the Moon.

Further reading:

http://www.griffonmerlin.com/2016/07/17/dunkirk-1940-hitlers-halt-order/

https://skeptoid.com/blog/2013/04/15/no-hitler-did-not-let-the-british-escape-at-dunkirk/

https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-07-24/why-the-germans-blew-it-at-dunkirk

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/sep/06/the-war-in-the-west-review-james-holland

 

 

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Operation Market Garden – A Bridge Too Far.

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I first saw A Bridge Too Far (1977) on VHS in 1998 midway through a glorious summer mostly spent playing Mortal Kombat on a dilapidated SNES. I purchased the film with Dante’s Peak (1997) from an electronics store on Dalry Road, Edinburgh. The latter movie, some gibberish about a volcano starring James Bond and Sarah Connor, was garbage on tape. The former, featuring the first incarnation of James Bond and a who’s who of star names, was a revelation. It had carnage, a British-American Pro Bowl of acting talent, a surfeit of bridges, an addictive theme tune, and some thoroughly nasty Waffen SS units.

More so than El Alamein, the Battle of Arnhem was the last gritty swansong of the British Army, and nothing like it was seen until the Falklands War in 1982. The movie was one of the first to shed light upon the deficiencies in military leadership that plagued the later ‘successful’ campaigns of WWII, the myth of Montgomery as peerless grand master demolished here. It’s fitting the film was made in the late ’70s, that rotten era of excessive inflation, industrial action, uncollected garbage, and three-day work weeks. Britain was seemingly on its last legs, and it’s almost as if a splatter of tragic nostalgia was needed to top it all off.

Anyway, it’s online now and of decent quality:

Further reading/viewing:

https://www.historyextra.com/period/a-bridge-too-far/

https://www.warhistoryonline.com/world-war-ii/bridge-far-true-story-behind-xxx-corps-market-garden.html

 

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The Great War – YouTube channel.

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YouTube is littered with pointless garbage (cat videos, webcam rants, ‘best fails’) that perplexingly garner millions of views; this, however, is one of the gem finds. A week-by-week account of the First World War told in ten-minute (or thereabouts) episodes, what impresses is the sheer volume of research and breadth of detail. As far as I know, the programme makers are not professional historians in the traditional sense or have emerged from the academic field, but everything is painstakingly researched and just as accessible as your weekly Gangnam Style and all that.

Perhaps this is the New History, online sources our breadcrumbs trail to books.

https://www.youtube.com/user/TheGreatWar

 

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Black Friday in the UK.

00831808Black Friday, yet another ghastly import from our transatlantic cousins. We now have peasants scrapping at the crack of dawn every late November for electrical equipment made by malnourished Chinese children.

We used to fly Spitfires and storm heavily defended beaches; these days it’s fisticuffs over a 4K TV.

Britain is fucked.

Further horror:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/picturegalleries/uknews/11259740/Black-Friday-hits-Britain-in-pictures.html

https://www.theguardian.com/business/gallery/2016/nov/25/black-friday-around-the-world-in-pictures

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George Orwell on constitutional monarchy.

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As a lifelong ‘Republican’, I’ve always looked upon the so-called ‘Royal Family’ with scorn – how dare such unelected lizards enjoy a ridiculously vaunted position of prestige and privilege. I thought some more and figured the current inhabitants of this role shouldn’t really even be there, for they are the descendents of noble houses who’ve supplanted others from the Plantagenets up (see basic British history). Something else vexes me terribly – the flag-waving masses who quite simply have nothing else to do but congregate in gargantuan packs and kowtow to said lizards waving on a balcony. It’s quite pathetic, really. You live on a council estate. Why are you cheering someone who has a servant prepare the toothbrush? This may explain a lot of election results (the working classes voting against their own interests).

However, George Orwell completely blew my mind yesterday. I’d never before even considered what he put forth here, and his level of socio-political thought – written in 1944 just before Operation Overlord – shouldn’t be of any surprise considering his oeuvre. What he’s saying in totality is that people need syntax, a continuity of tradition (immovable objects) linking change. The British Monarchy exists as a living Mount Rushmore, an indexical *constant*. Perhaps I’m swayed easily, but Orwell seemed to make perfect sense.

‘The function of the King in promoting stability and acting as a sort of keystone in a non-democratic society is, of course, obvious. But he also has, or can have, the function of acting as an escape-valve for dangerous emotions. A French journalist said to me once that the monarchy was one of the things that have saved Britain from Fascism. What he meant was that modern people can’t, apparently, get along without drums, flags and loyalty parades, and that it is better that they should tie their leader-worship onto some figure who has no real power. In a dictatorship the power and the glory belong to the same person. In England the real power belongs to unprepossessing men in bowler hats: the creature who rides in a gilded coach behind soldiers in steel breast-plates is really a waxwork. It is at any rate possible that while this division of function exists a Hitler or a Stalin cannot come to power. On the whole the European countries which have most successfully avoided Fascism have been constitutional monarchies. The conditions seemingly are that the Royal Family shall be long-established and taken for granted, shall understand its own position and shall not produce strong characters with political ambitions. These have been fulfilled in Britain, the Low Countries and Scandinavia, but not in, say, Spain or Rumania [sic]. If you point these facts out to the average left-winger he gets very angry, but only because he has not examined the nature of his own feelings towards Stalin. I do not defend the institution of monarchy in an absolute sense, but I think that in an age like our own it may have an inoculating effect, and certainly it does far less harm than the existence of our so-called aristocracy. I have often advocated that a Labour government, i.e. one that meant business, would abolish titles while retaining the Royal Family.’ — George Orwell, Spring 1944 Partisan Review.

article-2657820-1EC1616700000578-507_964x517They are ghastly beings, but they do perhaps serve a noble purpose.

Further reading:

https://www.indy100.com/article/george-orwell-explains-why-leftwingers-should-actually-be-grateful-for-the-monarchy–WyYcUGaDbZ

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Dunkirk (2017) – a brief appraisal.

Dunkirk (2017) is a new kind of war movie.

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There are no gratuitous blood-and-guts sequences, nor are there any overtly saccharine attempts to sentimentalise the drama (think Spielberg). It was wound like a spring, and shot with such precision and clarity of vision. The film is a non-linear impressionist snapshot of the evacuation, and it was so refreshing to see a picture made of that great escape bereft of nonsensical German accents or extended scenes of generals and statesmen at conference tables. It’s the anti-genre constraints war movie, more akin to a peak Michael Mann picture – Heat (1995), The Insider (1999) – than your generic battle flick.

Operation Dynamo - men wait in an orderly fashion for their turn to be rescued.

Fear predominates – fear of being smothered by a relentless enemy, this claustrophobia reflected in sometimes mere facial expression and the economy with which Nolan employs the classic close up. And in small acts of heroism characters occasionally perform, the film explodes with such unexpected emotion that it occasionally reaches the cinematic heights of the transcendental. The last twenty minutes of Dunkirk (2017) are among some of the most prolongedly intense in modern cinema, hope (and home) the against-all-odds outcome. Masterpiece.

Further reading/viewing:

http://www.historytoday.com/patrick-wilson/dunkirk-victory-or-defeat

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/jul/23/dunkirk-review-terrifyingly-immersive-christopher-nolan

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