Sunday, 19 May 2013

France signs Armistice

Sunday Express dated Sunday June 23rd 1940

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What doesn't show on these scans is that between the top and bottom halves of the front page there are a couple of lines of text missing due to the fold being badly frayed and split. This is what happens when old papers, particurarly broadsheets, are stored folded.

Launched in October 1936, the Scharnhorst battleship was doing a lot of damage to allied shipping in the North Atlantic having sunk the aircraft carrier HMS Glorious on June 8th. The Scharnhorst survived the attacks described above and was finally sunk on December 26th 1943 with the loss of over 1900 lives.

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Cont'd from page 1
The German Army had marched into Paris on June 14th 1940 and on the 22nd an armistice was signed and France was divided into the Occupied Zone and the so-called Free Zone under the control of Marshal Philippe P├ętain. The occupied zone covered most of Northern and Western France, which brought the German Army to within 22 miles of the English coast and a cross-Channel invasion was thought to be inevitable.


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Not as poetic as Henry V’s Agincourt speech but stirring words at a very dark time for Great Britain.

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Ernest Bevin was the Minister for Labour in Churchill’s all-party coalition government from 1940 until 1945. Due to the wartime special powers he had absolute control over the British workforce and he used it to concentrate the labour effort towards supporting the War. 

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The Krupp industrial empire dates back to 1810. Leading up to and during World War II they concentrated on military supplies including Panzer tanks and U-Boats. At the end of the War the company’s executives were put on trial for their use of slave labour in their factories. 

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His Majesty’s Trawler Moonstone was part of the 4th Anti-Submarine Group in the Mediterranean before moving to Aden where she captured the Italian submarine Galileo Galilei, which was then re-christened HMS X2 and was then used mainly for training.

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Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s USSR had signed a non-aggression treaty in August 1939 but by June 1940 the cracks were beginning to show and twelve months later Germany invaded the USSR.


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Anderson shelters were made out of corrugated steel panels and they had to be buried in the ground and covered with soil to be effective against bomb blast damage. After the War many gardens, my parents’ included, sported sheds made out of dug up shelters. 

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If you want to know whether Hitler would have made a ‘good boss’ or not, read CJ Sansom’s latest novel ‘Dominion’, which uses the idea that Churchill turned down the offer to lead the country in 1940 and consequently Britain surrendered to Nazi Germany.

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I can see why the football and horse-racing stories were suppressed, presumably any mention of the current weather might help the enemy who might be listening in, but what was the problem with the Italian ship story and the, albeit over simplified, account of Churchill becoming Prime Minister. The Duke of Kent may have received a white feather but was actually an active member of the RAF and was subsequently killed in a Short Sunderland flying boat crash on his was to Iceland in 1942.

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In May 1940 Anthony Eden the Secretary of State for War announced the formation of the Local Defence Volunteers and in July 1940 Churchill had them renamed as the Home Guard.

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Somerset Maugham had lived on the French Riviera since 1926 but when the Nazi’s invaded France he sought refuge on a coal barge. It took him 20 harrowing days to get to England. After a short recovery he moved to the USA for the rest of the War.
Mary Borden was an American author and a quick look at Amazon shows only one book currently in print - The Forbidden Zone: A Nurse's Impressions of the First World War. In both World Wars she ran volunteer Ambulance services in combat zones. She died in 1968.
The other, and probably most famous, author to have been trapped in France at this time was P G Wodehouse as a recent TV play and a documentary showed.

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I’m not sure the headline is accurate- the families weren’t lost. They knew where they were – living in the Andes but cut-off from the civilised world, which given the situation at the time, was no bad thing. 

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Canada had its own fascists to worry about so I think the furthest West our internees travelled was to the Isle of Man. Sir Oswald Mosley was held in Brixton and then in a special co-habitation wing of Holloway with his wife, Diana Mitford.

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The Sunday Express showing its right-wing credentials with its choice of quotes about Conscientious Objectors. Unlike in the Great War the C O’s didn’t face automatic imprisonment but were given a choice of non-combat roles and many served as front line medical support and in bomb disposal units as well as essential war work on the Home Front. See the Peace Pledge Union website for historical and current information.  









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