The 31 Years War


second cousin of  F/O WJM Moorcroft, Navigator of DS690




economic warfare, the air war,

and civilian morale as a target for RAF Bomber Command


In many respects, it is easier to understand the Second World War if it is considered together with the First World War. There are very many parallels between the two wars.

Many of those in decision-making positions in 1914 – including British Prime Minister Winston CHURCHILL (from May 1940) and United States President Franklin ROOSEVELT – were also in positions of authority in 1939, with their attitudes or allegiances influenced by their experiences of twenty five years previously.



Part 1: facts


Versailles 1919 – disenchantment

The treaty was a “betrayal of hope” which had been negotiated “by the “same old men who were responsible for setting fire to civilisation in 1914”.

Poet Siegfried Sassoon described it as “a peace to end all peace”. [1]

His bitterness was raw in “Suicide in the Trenches”:

         “............pray you’ll never know,

         The hell where youth and laughter go”.

Cynthia ASQUITH, daughter of the Prime Minister, remarked as she approached her thirtieth birthday, that she knew more who were dead than those who were still living [2]. Journalist on the Manchester Guardian, CE Montague, wrote in “Disenchantment” in 1922 that “the most determined peace party that ever existed in Britain” were the five or six million ex-soldiers [3]. And Poet Robert Graves wrote of the Versailles Treaty: “they knew it was destined to cause another war.......yet nobody cared”. [4]

This is the story of the betrayed generation of 1919, the soldiers, the poets and women who were determined that another war should not be fought on European soil.



1870, 1914, 1939 and Plans in 1945 for concluding the Thirty One Years War – ending the threat of German militarism

As the Second World War drew to a close, attitudes were influenced by the fact that Germany had prosecuted three wars on European soil within seventy years – in 1870, 1914 and 1939. During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, Paris had been besieged for four months, the winter months of October 1870 to January 1871, when the German army had attempted to starve the city’s inhabitants into submission. Prussia was now dominant over Bavaria, Saxony, Württemberg and thirty-five smaller entities. [5] As a consequence, France was forced to cede the territories of Alsace and Lorraine and pay 5000 million Francs “War Damages”, which poisoned French-German relations for decades.

In January 1943, ROOSEVELT had announced – to CHURCHILL’s surprise – that only an unconditional surrender from Germany would be accepted. Later in the war, with still a war against Japan in the Pacific to win (the Americans considered Japan to be their principle enemy, not Germany), ROOSEVELT was telling his Secretary of War Henry Stimson: “It is of the utmost importance that every person in Germany should realise that ...... Germany is a defeated nation....[so] that they will hesitate to start any new must be driven home to them that the whole nation has been engaged in a lawless conspiracy against the decencies of modern civilisation” [6]. Plans for post-war Germany included CHURCHILL’s Danubian Confederation, comprised of the south and west of the country, where Prussia would be split off to be dealt with harshly [7]. US Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau suggested closing down the industrial region of the Ruhr, turning Germany into a pastoral society, ploughed under by the victorious Allies like a modern-day Carthage [8]. As it was, Germany was partitioned from 1945 until 1989 by what CHURCHILL named the “Iron Curtain”, with the north –east (Prussia and Saxony) under the control of the Russians.


CHURCHILL and ROOSEVELT – their formative years of 1914 to 1918

Winston CHURCHILL, who ordered the Royal Navy blockade in August 1914, was again the First Lord of the Admiralty in September 1939. Immediately, US President Franklin ROOSEVELT, who was Assistant Secretary to the Navy in Washington in 1917, had begun secret communications with CHURCHILL since he considered that the situation in 1939 was “not very different” to that of two decades previously [9]. In 1918, ROOSEVELT, as Assistant Secretary to the US Navy, had ordered the construction of a mined submarine net between Scotland and Norway, to prevent U-boats entering the Atlantic where they could have disrupted American supplies to Great Britain. As President, he wrote in 1944 of what he considered to be his finest achievement: “ doubt in my judgement ..... that the North Sea mine barrage ....... had something definite to do with the German naval mutiny, the subsequent Army mutiny, and the ending of the World War” [10]. After the attack on Pearl Harbour in December 1941, when the Americans entered the war, CHURCHILL had to dissuade them from a premature invasion the Continent in 1942 and in 1943, before German resistance in Occupied France had been severely weakened. First Lord of the Admiralty CHURCHILL instigated the amphibious operations of Gallipoli in 1915, so had direct experience of the difficulties of landing armies on defended beaches [11]. For five months, from November 1915, CHURCHILL served on the Western Front as an officer with the Oxfordshire Hussars, later as a Colonel with the Royal Scots Fusiliers [12]. Prince Leopold witnessed his father, Albert 1st King of the Belgians, rousing the parliament in Brussels to resist the German invasion of August 1914. As King Leopold III, he surrendered to the invaders in May 1940 [13]. Others had fought in the trenches of the Western Front, or had lost many close relatives and friends there, so were anxious to avoid another war of slaughter and attrition – hence the appeasing of HITLER by politicians in Britain during the 1930s, namely Prime Ministers Stanley BALDWIN and Neville CHAMBERLAIN and Foreign Secretary Lord HALIFAX (Edward Wood). Sir Charles PORTAL, Chief of the Air Staff from October 1940, was studying law at Oxford when he volunteered as a motorcycle despatch rider in 1914, but transferred to the Royal Flying Corps in July 1915, serving as a fighter pilot over the Western Front from November 1915 [14]. In August 1914, Sir Arthur HARRIS joined the 1st Rhodesian Regiment [Rhodesia is now Zimbabwe] as a bugler in campaigns in German West Africa (Cameroon and Togo), later serving in anti-Zeppelin defences with the Royal Flying Corps in London. HARRIS referred to the RAF bombing campaign in terms of the economic blockade of the First World War [15] [16]. The memories of that the Western Front in that earlier war were profound, since HARRIS wrote of the RAF’s bombing: “ saved the flower of the youth of this country and of our allies from being mown down by the military in the field, as it was in Flanders...”


Breaking Germany’s connections to the world – economic warfare and code-breaking, Submarine warfare 1915 - 1917 and the Battle of the Atlantic 1943

In its first action of August 1914, the Royal Navy cut the five undersea cables that ran from Germany through the English Channel, to France, Spain, Tenerife and New York. This forced German communications to be broadcast from a powerful radio transmitter near Berlin. All these signals could be intercepted by London. A capture of a German code book in August 1914 by the Russian navy assisted the Royal Navy code-breakers in Room 40 to decipher German messages, paralleling the construction (“reverse engineering”) of an Enigma encrypting machine by Polish Intelligence in 1939, work which was then continued in Bletchley Park [22]. From 18th February 1915, the Germans declared that U-boats would treat the waters surrounding the British Isles as a war zone. Vessels in these waters would be liable to be attacked without warning. Unrestricted submarine warfare was declared from 1st February 1917, an action that almost starved Great Britain into negotiating a peace settlement which was offered by Germany in July 1917.

By then, in Berlin, there was a coalition of Social Democrats, the Zentrum Party and Progessives holding power. The aim of the coalition was the establishment of a parliamentary monarchy and a negotiated peace “without victors or vanquished” [23]. Unrestricted submarine warfare meant that all merchant vessels, from both belligerent countries and neutral nations, would be sunk without warning, should they be found in the war zone. This action was a step towards bringing the United States into the war in April 1917.

A generation later, in March 1943, the worst losses of the Battle of the Atlantic occurred; when 38 U-boats attacked two convoys. However, by May 1943, aided by Bletchley Park’s ability to read coded Enigma messages, the U-boats suffered heavy losses. Consequently, the U-boats in the Atlantic were ordered by Admiral DONITZ to break off operations. CHURCHILL said that the Battle of the Atlantic was the one conflict that gave him the most worries, firstly because the final outcome was uncertain, but also that a defeat would mean that that the Allies would lose the war and be forced to negotiate with HITLER.


Drang nach Osten – Germany’s food supply in the East

For the Germans, strategic decisions such as the Non-Aggression Pact with the USSR during the summer of 1939 – and then the invasion of the USSR in June 1941 - were based on the need for food, materials, coal and oil, since the Royal Navy blockade of 1914 – 1918 had crippled their economy. This blockade caused the deaths of some 800,000 German civilians from starvation, caused food riots in Vienna, provoked mass strikes called by Workers Councils in Germany (40,000 strikers and their families were arrested by the army), contributed to stopping the military advances of the March 1918 Kaiserschlacht in its tracks, leading to the capitulation of the Central Powers in October and November 1918 [24] [25]. This was the very collapse in civilian morale, presaging a military defeat, which the British hoped to achieve by strategic bombing from 1940 onwards. Early in 1918, in an attempt to circumvent the shortages of food and famine brought about by the naval blockade, the poor harvest of 1916 (the “Turnip Winter” of 1916/17) and the fall in agricultural output owing to fertilisers being used to make explosives [26], Germany had wrested the Ukraine from Lenin’s Bolshevik Russia in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. The summer harvest did not stave off military collapse on the Western Front in November 1918 [27], but the lesson of needing to secure food supplies from the east was not forgotten by HITLER in 1939.

HITLER was determined to win an empire in the east, a Lebensraum ruled by Germans, served by Slavic slaves: the rich agricultural lands of the Ukraine and – most especially - the oil of Baku, on the Caspian Sea, since the Allies had in 1918, in the words of Lord CURZON, “floated to victory upon a sea of [American] oil” [28]. Nor was the lesson of the blockade lost on Allied strategic thinking, since “most historians still maintain that the “hunger blockade” contributed hugely to the outcome of the First World War.” Shortages caused looting and food riots in Germany and in the Habsburg cities of Vienna and Budapest. The energy value of the average daily diet was 1,000 calories, far from the perhaps 6,000 or 7,000 calories required to carry out heavy manual labour. By 1917, scurvy, tuberculosis and dysentery; disorders related to malnutrition were common. In addition to the official number of 763,000 German wartime deaths caused by starvation from the Allied blockade, there were 150,000 victims of the 1918 influenza pandemic, in a population that had already been weakened by malnutrition [29]. 467,000 civilians died in Austria-Hungary of famine that was “attributable to war”. 50,000 civilian deaths in Belgium were caused by the Royal Navy blockade, largely due to seizures of food by the Germans. Approximately 15,000 additional deaths were caused by epidemics. Food was shipped under Red Cross protection, aided by Foreign Relief Committees which were organised by industrialist Ernest Solvay [30].


1914 – German use of terror against “brave little Belgium”: Schrecklichkeit and 1915’s Genocide of the Armenian minority in the Ottoman Empire

What hardened attitudes against German aggression around the world in August 1914, attitudes that endured into the political policies of the 1940s, was what happened in Belgium: German Schrecklichkeit - “Frightfulness” – deliberate terror was enshrined in their military doctrine in the Kriegsbrauch, “.... destroy the total material and intellectual resources of the enemy.” Clausewitz had prescribed terror as the proper method to war, including attacks on civilians. On 6th August, nine civilians were killed by a Zeppelin dropping bombs on Liège; the city was shelled by field artillery that night, in an attempt to cow the population into surrender [31]. In small towns and villages, civilians were executed by the German army. Burnt to ashes was the University Library of Louvain, which had been founded in 1426 and contained 230,000 volumes as well as 750 medieval manuscripts. Also damaged was the façade of the Town Hall, a “jewel of Gothic art”, and the church of St Pierre, with its altar panels by Flemish masters. The headline of the New York Tribune read, “Germans sack Louvain; Women and Clergy shot”, echoing press condemnations around the world [32]. The residential area of Antwerp was bombed by Zeppelins on 25th August 1914, killing civilians and narrowly missing the Palace where the Queen had just moved with her children [33].

In September 1939, in reference to “resettlement” programmes in Eastern Europe, and to the Poles in particular, Adolf HITLER posed a rhetorical question to his generals: “Who after all is speaking of the destruction of the Armenians?”. In April 1915, the Turkish government ordered the genocide of the Armenians. This occurred after the failure of the purely-maritime aspect of the Gallipoli Campaign, the attempt by the Royal Navy and the French navy to force a way through the Dardanelles Straits to Constantinople [Istanbul]. German officers of the Kaiser’s army, who had been seconded to their ally Turkey, to help to reorganise the Ottoman military, were witness to the brutal massacres of Armenian men, women and children. As a Christian minority in an Islamic empire, the Armenians were an easily-identifiable scapegoat for the Turkish government to order exterminated. The world knew of these events as soon as they began. American missionaries, German railway engineers, American and European diplomats all gave eye-witness statements. Armin Wegner, a German second lieutenant, disobeyed orders to photograph the victims. The New York Times ran daily reports of the slaughter, rape, dispossession and extermination. 1,5 million Armenians died in 1915 [34].

1917 – the USA enters the war – The ZIMMERMAN Telegram decoded

In January 1917, the Royal Navy code-breakers in Room 40 deciphered a “Most Secret” message from the Germany’s Foreign Minister, Arthur ZIMMERMAN, which proposed an alliance with Mexico and Japan (an ally of the Britain, France and Russia in 1917). In return for declaring war on the USA, Germany proposed helping Mexico “to regain by conquest her lost territory in Texas, Arizona and New Mexico”. Unrestricted submarine warfare would be waged from 1st February 1917; even neutral vessels – including American ships – would be sunk without warning. ZIMMERMAN was gambling that breaking the supply chain across the Atlantic would compel Britain and France to sue for peace before any American troops arrived on the Western Front. On 6th April 1917, the United States Congress declared war on Germany [35].

Summary - and how the air war of 1940 – 1945 would be waged

As war loomed closer in 1939, these were the past events, “the barbarian’s gesture of anger against civilised things”, that had formed attitudes towards Germany in the minds of the decision-makers in Britain and America. As noted above, in September 1939, US President ROOSEVELT had appealed to all belligerents to refrain from “the inhumane barbarism” of bombing civilians.

By 1942, ROOSEVELT was telling Congress that the Allies intended to hit Germany “from the air heavily and relentlessly...[those] who bombed Warsaw, Rotterdam, London and Coventry are going to get it” [36]. Attitudes formed a quarter of a century earlier against how the Central Powers waged war on civilians were now influencing how the air war of 1939 – 1945 would be conducted.

[1] Davis; p 200 /[2] Fitzherbert; p 217 /[3] Montague; p 228/[4] Davis; p 200/[5] Winzer; pages 138 and 139 and Grant and Temperley; pages 272 – 278/[6] Miller; page 416/ [7] Gilbert; Road to Victory; page 592/ [8] Gilbert; Road to Victory; pages 691 - 692/ [9] Gilbert; Finest Hour; page 52/[10] Morgan p 189 – 190/[11] Moorehead/[12] Jenkins; page 288/[13] Tuchman; The Guns of August; page 125/[14] Richards; Portal/[15] Harris; pages 16 and 17/[16] Harris; pages 176 and 177/[17] Verrier; pages 97 and 99/[18] Jones; page 303/[19] Jones; page 288/[20] Overy; The Bombing War page 257/[21] Jones; page 14/[22] Tuchman; The Zimmerman Telegram and Smith;/[23] Fragen an die deutsche Geschichte; Deutscher Bundestag 1984/[24] Pitt; pages 37 – 39 and pages 107 - 108/[25] Overy, “World War l – The Definitive Visual Guide”; page 279/[26] Overy, “World War l – The Definitive Visual Guide”; p 198/[27] Chasseaud p 252/[28] Yergin p 167/[29] National Archives  – The blockade of Germany [1914 – 1918]/[30] email from Pierre MICHIELS/[31] Tuchman “The Guns of August” p176 - 178/[32] Tuchman “The Guns of August” pages 314 to 321/[33] Tuchman “The Guns of August” p339/[34] Fisk; pages 390 – 407 and 423/[35] Tuchman; The Zimmerman Telegram/[36] Miller; page 416

European alliances in 1914 – how treaties facilitated war in 1939

Being a maritime, global Great Power with only a small army, Great Britain had always avoided Continental “entanglements”. “Splendid Isolation” was the policy or perhaps associating with smaller nations to ensure that no country could dominate Europe. In this way Napoleon Bonaparte had met his Waterloo. Discussions had been held with the Kaiser and his advisors during 1899 and 1901 about more-formal understandings or a mutual defence policy, but these came to nothing. The death of the pro-German Queen VICTORIA in 1901 allowed King EDWARD VII to pursue a personal Francophile policy, despite the fact that the two countries had almost gone to war in 1898 over disputes in their African colonial possessions in the Nile Valley. Edward’s charm won over the French public during a visit to Paris in 1903.  Foreign Secretaries Lord Lansdowne and Théophile Delcassé signed the Entente Cordiale on 7th April 1904, which merely signalled “two colonial powers securing peace between themselves by eliminating colonial frictions”. No-one at the time foresaw that the ending of Britain’s Splendid Isolation would lead to a military relationship with France and one with Russia in 1907.

Prior to these accords, Kaiser Wilhelm II and his advisors had forged the Triple Alliance between Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Italy, a power grouping that was resurrected during the 1930s against France and Britain once again.

Sources: Tuchman; “The Guns of August” and Robert K Massie; “Dreadnought”


CHURCHILL and ROOSEVELT Aristocrats and patricians

With the fall of France in May 1940, Britain was alone against an enemy – Germany and Italy - that dominated the continent of Europe. Britain stood “alone” but commanded an empire that comprised a quarter of the world’s surface and the same proportion of its population.  From the very start of the Second World War, from September 1939, ROOSEVELT was in secret, private communication with the new chief of the Royal Navy, First Lord of the Admiralty Winston CHURCHILL. ROOSEVELT was convinced that the defence of the United States began at the English Channel [i]. Both men were had been senior officials in their respective navies during the First World War, meeting briefly in 1918 when CHURCHILL was Minister of Munitions [ii]. Arrangements for them to meet in 1929 were unfulfilled, when ROOSEVELT was Governor of New York and CHURCHILL was visiting Wall Street [iii]. Seeing the financial difficulties of The 1929 Crash first hand – and having his personal finances devastated as a result of it – CHURCHILL was drawn to ROOSEVELT’s vision for the future. One weekend in 1933, a guest at CHURCHILL’s home of Chartwell in Kent was ROOSEVELT’s son, James [iv]. On a personal level, the two men had much in common beyond a love of naval affairs.

Born in 1874 in Blenheim Palace near Oxford, CHURCHILL was an aristocrat with an American mother, an ardent champion of co-operation among what he termed “the English-speaking peoples”. Transatlantic unions in the marriage market were not uncommon for the English aristocracy in the late 1800s: young English men supplied titles such as “Duke”, “Earl” or “Lord” that implied good “breeding” and, in return, American fathers-in-law provided cash to hard-up English landed gentry for the maintenance of expensive country residences, houses in London and social position.

ROOSEVELT was from a wealthy patrician family in the Hudson Valley in New York State, although his mother had complete control over his finances until three years before his death in 1944.

Before becoming crippled by polio at the age of thirty-nine, ROOSEVELT had played polo, a sport which CHURCHILL had enjoyed from when he was a young army officer in India.

Both men were Freemasons.


CHURCHILL’s “bad blood” – a distrusted family history of ambition and his determination and resolve to fight on

Seen as an unreliable adventurer since he was a young man, a traitor to the Conservatives when he defected to the Liberal party in 1904, author of the Gallipoli fiasco in 1915 and the worst-ever Chancellor of the Exchequer, CHURCHILL and his cronies were seen as “gangsters” by his own Conservative party in May 1940. His term as Prime Minister was only expected to last for a few months, perhaps even weeks [v]. CHURCHILL became Prime Minister in on 10th May 1940, against the disaster of the fall of France. Convinced that all of Europe – and eventually Russia – would descend into a “new Dark Age” under Nazi rule, CHURCHILL vowed that the British Empire would fight on: “HITLER knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war” and “We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be” [vi] [vii]. CHURCHILL also realised that the consequence of the war would be the decline of his beloved British Empire and the rise of the United States and the Soviet Union.


ROOSEVELT’s narrow scope for action in support of Great Britain’s war effort until the 1940 election victory

The President was constrained politically by an Isolationist American public who wanted no part of what was then a purely-European conflict. Many were of German or Irish ancestry, with no sympathy for the British. ROOSEVELT sanctioned supplies of materials to Great Britain as far as his constitutional powers and the Neutrality Act would allow, manoeuvring cautiously within the tiny political scope that he possessed: “the arsenal of democracy” (which brought great profits to American companies), Lend-Lease, an exchange of fifty old, rusty destroyers for eight leases on land for US bases on British territories in the Western Hemisphere [viii]. In May 1940, a year when German aircraft production totalled 10,000, ROOSEVELT had called for an increase in American aircraft production from 2,000 per annum to 50,000, which the British were able to purchase [ix]. In order to avoid violating the precise terms of the Neutrality Act, where aircraft could not be delivered directly to a belligerent nation under their own power, American manufacturers resorted to subterfuge. Some aeroplanes were dismantled, packed in crates, then shipped across the Atlantic. Lockheeds flew aircraft from California to a large field in the far north of North Dakota, where the farmer hitched a team of horses to the undercarriage and the aeroplanes were pulled a few metres across the border into Canada, from where they were flown to Britain. [x]

Aside from the need for Britain to build up its armed forces, those of the United States were also in a poor position. As a military power, it ranked twentieth in the world, so time was required for the mass production techniques of American manufacturing to equip its army, navy and air forces [xi] [xii]. In supporting CHURCHILL’s defiance of HITLER in 1940, ROOSEVELT was unsure whether British resistance would survive into 1941 and whether its huge debts to American companies would ever be paid [xiii] [xiv].

The nightly CBS radio broadcasts by Ed Murrow told of the London Blitz, as Luftwaffe bombs rained down on the beleaguered city and other cities on the island. Bringing the European war – and the British resolve to resist – to American homes turned public opinion and sympathy slowly towards a people and their leader who were defying tyranny [xv].

Winning re-election at the end of 1940 gave ROOSEVELT more room to move politically. He was – as ever - prepared to interpret the American Constitution to suit his needs. Needing to defend the Atlantic convoys, British forces had occupied had occupied the Danish dependency of Iceland from when Germany had over-run Denmark in April 1940. By agreement, American marines relieved the British garrison in July 1941, extending the US Navy’s responsibilities for protecting convoys eastwards as far as Iceland. U-boats attacked US Navy vessels in September and October 1941, so ROOSEVELT authorised counter-attacks. The attack on Pearl Harbour, the Japanese and German declarations of war were still two months in the future, but in the autumn of 1941, with only Presidential approval, the US Navy was already at war with Germany in the Atlantic Ocean [xvi].


Appeasement – when Britain could have negotiated a peace treaty in June 1940 and Placentia Bay, the Atlantic Charter – ROOSEVELT and CHURCHILL plan the war and afterwards

Resistance was one matter, but the fight still needed to be taken to the enemy to win a war. The populations of Occupied Europe – France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Poland, Czechoslovakia – together with the American public, still needed to be shown that Britain had the will and the means to fight back. As historian John Lukacs wrote, in June 1940, after the fall of France, the British government could have sought a temporary compromise with HITLER [xvii]. From the appeasement camp of the 1930s former Prime Minister Neville CHAMBERLAIN and Foreign Minister Lord HALIFAX still held influence in CHURCHILL’s cabinet of May 1940. HALIFAX was discussing with the Italian Ambassador, Giuseppe Bastianini, the possibility of Signor Mussolini acting as a mediator with HITLER, if the British offered the Italians concessions in the Mediterranean, possibly Malta, Gibraltar and Suez [xviii]. CHURCHILL’s resolve ensured that HITLER would lose the war: “At best, civilisation may survive [fifty years], at least in some part due to CHURCHILL in 1940” [xix].

ROOSEVELT and CHURCHILL met for the first time as leaders in August 1941 for the Atlantic Charter discussions at Placentia Bay, Newfoundland. CHURCHILL had arrived by battleship, HMS Prince of Wales which was sunk in the South China Sea by Japanese aircraft three days after the attack on Pearl Harbour. CHURCHILL was disappointed that ROOSEVELT was unable to declare war on Germany – the Isolationist America First movement still held sway – a statement of joint war aims was published instead, indicating America’s determination to see HITLER defeated. In turn, ROOSEVELT distrusted CHURCHILL’s long-term motives, believing that CHURCHILL wanted to see the Empire enlarged and more influential after victory. The Americans were interested in breaking Britain’s dominance of world trade, shipping and raw materials through the policy of Imperial Preference. The Atlantic Charter expressed the United States’ plans for the post-war world, which the British had to accept. Emotional ties and friendships were deepened, symbolised by a service on the quarterdeck of the Prince of Wales. CHURCHILL chose the hymns, the crews shared hymn books and the order of service was from a shared culture, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer [xx].

Britain had survived thus far. RAF Fighter Command ensured the defeat of the Luftwaffe during the summer of 1940, so that an invasion could not take place. In June 1941, HITLER had turned his attention to securing by conquest the material resources that the Soviet Union offered: wheat, coal, metal ores, oil, minerals, Lebensraum territory and slave labour. But the war to defeat HITLER had to continue with attacks on Germany itself. The means to commence CHURCHILL’s – and ROOSEVELT’s - salvation of Western Civilisation was RAF Bomber Command.

Footnote 1: CHURCHILL had an opportunity to meet Adolf HITLER in 1932, but HITLER chose to avoid him. CHURCHILL’s son Randolph had travelled in HITLER’s aeroplane with other journalists during the elections of July 1932, when the Nazis won 230 seats but did not have an absolute majority in the Reichstag. During that time Randolph had enjoyed the company of one of HITLER’s friends, Ernst “Putzi” Hanfstaengel, a Harvard graduate, who was also a friend of Franklin ROOSEVELT. In August 1932, CHURCHILL was staying in a hotel in Munich whilst carrying out research for a biography about his ancestor, the Duke of Marlborough. Randolph asked “Putzi” to arrange the meeting with HITLER, who visited the same hotel daily, but stayed away whilst CHURCHILL was there, dismissing him as someone whom no-one listened to. Gilbert; The Wilderness Years; pages 50 and 51.

Footnote 2: In September 1936, another friend of CHURCHILL’s, David Lloyd-George, was charmed by HITLER, calling him “...a great and wonderful leader....The Saviour of Germany” after meeting him in Berchtesgaden in the Bavarian Alps. Significantly, when talking about the autobahn construction, programmes which had reduced unemployment, HITLER confessed that Germany was short of both petrol and rubber. Lloyd-George had been Prime Minister of Great Britain during the latter half of the First World War. He and CHURCHILL had been colleagues and friends in ASQUITH’s Liberal Cabinet from 1908 to 1915. Owen; pages 734 – 735

[i] Gilbert; Finest Hour; page 52/[ii] Dimbleby and Reynolds; page 135/[iii] Jenkins; page 427/[iv] Gilbert; The Wilderness Years; pages 44 - 45/[v] Lukacs; page 14/[vi] Gilbert; Finest Hour; page 570/[vii] Bungay page 390/[viii] Arnold-Forster; page 198/[ix] Miller p 45/[x] Dimbleby and Reynolds p 124/[xi] Arnold-Forster chapter 11 pages 197 to 200;/[xii] Dimbleby and Reynolds p 126/[xiii] Dimbleby and Reynolds p 126 – 127;/[xiv] Lukacs p 207/[xv] Dimbleby and Reynolds p 130/[xvi] Arnold-Forster; pages 77 and 78/[xvii] Lukacs p 189/[xviii] Lukacs p 116/[xix] Lukacs p 219/[xx] Dimbleby and Reynolds; pages 135 and 136


Economic warfare – the plans of the Royal Navy in 1914 to collapse the world’s financial system and the Telegraph cable communications – the world’s first internet, constructed from 1866 and the importance of shipping

RAF Bomber Command waged an economic war against Germany during the Second World War, in an attempt to destroy the means of industrial production and supplying armaments to the fighting forces. In some ways, the Royal Navy’s plans of disrupting German industries and raw material supplies were even more ambitious than those of the RAF. What was planned from 1908 was nothing less than the complete paralysis of the world’s financial markets, in an attempt to force Germany to an early defeat. If materials and food could not be ordered and paid for via the systems of credit, then the Kaiser’s armies would quickly be stalemated [a]. As noted above in “Breaking Germany’s connections to the world”, once war had been declared on 4th August, the Royal Navy immediately imposed an economic blockade on Germany and cut the five undersea cables that ran from Germany, through the English Channel to the rest of the world. This action forced German communications to be broadcast from a powerful radio transmitter near Berlin. All these signals could be intercepted by London, to be decoded by the Admiralty’s Room 40, the fore-runner of Bletchley Park and the later GCHQ. Just like the modern-day internet, disruptions to a fragile telegraphic communications network could be catastrophic. In 1914, British firms controlled 70% of this cable system [b]. Interception and de-coding of The ZIMMERMAN Telegram by Room 40 (see “1917 – the USA enters the war – The ZIMMERMAN Telegram decoded”), with its suggestions to Mexico of an alliance and recovery of former territory, finally overcame President Wilson’s objections. The United States declared war on Germany in April 1917, ensuring victory for the Allies [c].

In 1914 more than half of the world’s seaborne trade was carried by the British merchant navy. Two-thirds of all Britain’s food was imported – 80% of wheat requirements were imported, mostly on a “just in time” basis. Stocks of food were low. Steamships had allowed the costs of carrying goods across the oceans to decrease dramatically and delivery times to be reduced. The British merchant fleet was by far the most modern; the country’s shipyards constructed more vessels (60%) than the rest of the world combined. The Royal Navy’s maritime supremacy was essential to keeping the sea lanes open so that this supply of food and materials could flow unhindered. As First Sea Lord of the Admiralty, Winston CHURCHILL had mobilised the fleet on 1st August 1914. The German Navy Law of 1900 acknowledged, “A naval war of blockade.........even if lasting only a year would destroy Germany’s trade and bring her to disaster.” In 1914, Russia was the world’s largest food exporter. Supplies reached Germany via Odessa, the Mediterranean and the English Channel. The Russian and German rail systems had insufficient carrying capacity for this trade and the extra costs would have increased food prices (to frustrate an invading force, the Russian rail system ran on a different gauge) [d].

[a] Lambert, Nicholas A; “Planning Armageddon – British Economic Warfare in the First World War”; Harvard University Press 2012; page 23; page 102; pages 111 – 115; pages 123 – 126./[b] Chew and Wilson; “Victorian Science and Engineering Portrayed in the Illustrated London News”; Alan Sutton Publishing 1993/[c] Tuchman, Barbara; “The Zimmerman Telegram”; Macmillan 1958/[d] Sources: Lambert pages 23 – 25; page 107; page 240; Tuchman “The Guns of August” pages 325 to 340


Blockade, the global finance network and the international credit system

The Entente Cordiale between France and Great Britain had been agreed in 1904.

The Royal Navy had first considered Germany to be a likely enemy in June of that year. Consequently, strategic plans were developed to use disruption of trade as a weapon of war. In 1908 in London, a conference was held to supplement the Hague Conference of 1907, in an attempt to codify the rules on blockades. The resulting Declaration of London – which was never ratified – favoured a neutral’s rights to trade. Goods were classified in three categories: absolute contraband (military use only); conditional contraband (dual use); and a free list, which included food. The first could be seized by a belligerent; the second only if an enemy destination were proved; the third could not be seized. The carrying capacity of steamships, submarines, accurate rifled naval guns and floating mines had made the Admiralty’s traditional policy of a close blockade obsolete. Ships no longer carried manifest papers because business transactions were carried out by telegraph cable. The bank financing the cargo was often the consignee, not the purchaser. The original Bill of Lading conferred ownership on the goods, but this was sent ahead of the merchant vessel by fast mail steamer. Consequently, the Committee of Imperial Defence in 1911 – 1912 had proposed that the ultimate destination of the goods should determine whether they were contraband or not. The controversial doctrine of “continuous voyage” was to be applied in future distant blockades (despite distant blockades being illegal), a concept that the British had invented during 18th century wars with the French, which was issued by ASQUITH’s cabinet as an Order in Council on 20th August 1914 (on exactly the same day, a century before, the British had burned Washington). Food shipped by neutrals to the Netherlands was contraband, if it could be determined that the ultimate destination was the German army of occupation in Belgium based on “any sufficient evidence”, a phrase which allowed a great deal of flexibility of interpretation. No one foresaw the consequences of a long war of economic attrition: ASQUITH dismissed the decision as a Cabinet meeting about “all sorts of odds and ends about coal and contraband”.

Chief of German General Staff Helmuth von MOLTKE replied to an aide, “Don’t bother me with economics – I am busy conducting a war.” However, MOLTKE was far-sighted enough in 1908 to realise that it would be in Germany’s interests not to invade the Netherlands in a future war. It was vital that Rotterdam remained a neutral port for goods to flow through to Germany.

The Royal Navy seized ships that were carrying contraband goods or ships under the German flag. To the German shipping line of Norddeutscher Lloyd, the daily cost of vessels bottled up in American ports, unable to complete their voyages to home ports, was $50 000 per day. The fees were paid on loans issued by American banks, using the value of the ships as guarantees. For Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey, who had foreseen that protests would be voiced in the “Great Neutral” (“freedom of the seas” for trade!) that this naval action would provoke. Grey’s daily policy was, “to secure the maximum blockade that could be enforced without a rupture with the United States.” American trade with the Central Powers dwindled from $169 million in 1914 to $1 million in 1916, whilst trade with the Allies rose during the same period from $824 million to $3000 million. The Americans might have been angered by the Royal Navy’s blockade but growing orders for factories in the USA, the burning of Louvain, Zeppelin attacks on residential areas in Antwerp and unrestricted German submarine warfare gradually eroded impartiality and neutrality.

What followed over the years in the Central Powers of Germany and Austria-Hungary until the armistice in November 1918 – food riots, naval mutinies, the deaths of 800,000 people, the stopping of the Spring offensive of the German army in 1918 - was a slow breaking of civilian and military morale by an economic means, where international law held no clear authority. Germany depended heavily on imported fertilizers; harvests suffered from 1915 as a result of the blockade. (German chemists Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch had to develop the synthesis of ammonia from nitrogen and hydrogen, under conditions of high temperatures and high pressures, for the production of explosives and fertilisers from nitrates). Copper and rubber were added to the list of contraband goods in September 1914; cotton was included from August 1915, since cotton was the most sensitive commodity politically, because of the economy of the Deep South of the USA. The exercising of strategic might, the breaking civilian morale by economic means, leading to a collapse of military power – these were lessons that were learned in 1918, to be reapplied in 1940 by the very man who had ordered the blockade in 1914: Winston CHURCHILL.      
The vulnerability of the international credit system was pointed out to Royal Navy strategists on 28th March 1908 by Sir Robert Giffen, a political economist and an advisor to the Committee for Imperial Defence. Goods could be paid for by credit drawn on a London bank. By this system, a textile firm in the north of England could buy cotton from a grower in Mississippi. The grower would be paid by a bill of exchange on a bank in the USA; the textile manufacturer would be sure that the raw cotton was despatched. The entire system, of course, depended entirely on telegraph communications through transatlantic cables, which had been laid successfully since 1866, freight-forwarding contracts in Lloyds Baltic Exchange and on maritime insurance in the London markets. The system also depended on the credit-worthiness of Sterling; in global financial markets Sterling was “as good as gold”. Giffen warned that the effect of a major war on international credit would cause “unprecedented calamities and dangers”, a disaster equivalent to a major failure of the internet nowadays. Germany was particularly susceptible to a banking panic and a paralysis of credit (for comparison: the worldwide Credit Crunch of 2007) since, more than any country, its trade relied on credit. War would have an immediate effect, aside from any disruption caused by the Royal Navy. In 1910, these ideas were popularised in “The Great Illusion” by journalist Norman Angell. Some chose to interpret his work as saying that a war was impossible because of interlocking financial system; others concluded that he had highlighted just how vulnerable this system was to dislocation and how catastrophic the results would be.

But British banks were also vulnerable to war-driven panic. They had not increased their capital holdings in proportion to their loans, but relied on “cheap” money from other banks (cf the Credit Crunch of 2007). Their holdings of bills of exchange were used as collateral to guarantee these borrowings. Banks in the City of London, were on “a pyramid built on credit”, over-leveraged and over-exposed in German bills. During the last week of July 1914 there was financial panic of “unparalleled severity”, as credit markets became paralysed from an absence of liquidity. By mid-September 1914, the war was costing the British government £1.5M per day, which was a serious drain on resources. Unemployment rose to 0.5M people. There was still the belief – that persisted in government until 1915 – that the war would soon be over. As a consequence of this, the Bank of England, in a form of “quantitative easing”, printed money in excess of its reserves of gold. As the Bank of England is the lender of last resort, and also to maintain British credit-worthiness, it bought up the “toxic debt” of surplus bills of exchange. All stock exchanges around the world closed; assets were frozen; bank failures were possible; workers were laid off and farms loans were fore-closed in the USA. In August 1914, the British government – via the Bank of England – underwrote the entire stock of outstanding bills of exchange in London, some £350M to £500M, when the national debt of the time stood at £625M.

The war also precipitated the USA into a financial crisis. The New York Stock Exchange closed for months, fearing that Europeans would convert their dollars and securities into gold, then repatriate their wealth. In 1914, the USA was viewed to have a poor economic history, the dollar a second-class currency. Short term debt to British banks ran to $500M due before the end of 1914, far in excess of any reserves that America possessed. Cotton was still the most important export commodity ($550M annually, 25% of all US earnings). Steel sales ran to $220M pa, wheat and grains $120M. The crisis in Europe coincided with cotton being ready for export; as a consequence of the blockade, fear of bales remaining unsold, the price on the New Orleans exchange collapsed from 13 cents per pound to 6 cents. The potential of bankruptcies of growers and banks loomed across the southern USA. Lloyds refused to insure transatlantic shipment of cargoes; American insurance companies followed suit. By late August 1914, American pressure forced the British to relax their policy of economic warfare. By the end of that October, the policy had been effectively suspended. This decision was soon to be seen as a mistake but, by then, the chance to exert a stranglehold on the German war machine had passed.

As a substitute, a blockade was hastily improvised, a measure that was largely ineffective until 1916, when a Ministry of Blockade was constituted.

Sources: Tuchman; The Guns of August; pages 325 to 340;/Lambert pages 38 and 48; page 63; page 82; page 105; page 240; page 271/Asquith “Letters to Venetia Stanley”;/Pitt; pages 37 – 39 and pages 107 – 108/Tuchman; The Guns of August; pages 325 to 340;/Lambert page 6; page 109; pages 111 – 126; pages 171 – 173; pages 185 – 190; page 236; page 499.


The ineffectiveness of the Royal Navy blockade 1914 – 1915

The list of non-contraband articles made enforcing any blockade impossible.

The French did not restrict exports of aluminium, which could then be used in the manufacture of Zeppelins. Equally, the British did not restrict sales of high-grade cotton fabrics from Lancashire. Unfortunately, a Zeppelin found to be made from this precise textile was shot down over London. Until December 1914, a tangled bureaucracy and vested commercial interests allowed unrestricted sales to the Germans – through third parties or neutral countries - of nickel from Canada (for military steel alloys), tin, wool and Chilean nitrates (for fertilisers and explosives manufacture).

The City of London banks granted credits to undertakings in the neutral countries of the Netherlands and Denmark, which were then used to finance purchases of contraband goods for Germany. Contraband goods also passed through ports in Norway and Sweden because prices in Germany for commodities were several times higher than those in London. Nickel and meat were double the price; aluminium three times the London price; copper and antimony quadruple the price. The opportunity to make considerable profits was enticing. But during the summer of 1915, being anxious not to risk damage to the political relationship with America - since the USA was a prime supplier of materials, food and armaments – and taking into account how easily the blockade could be circumvented through neutral ports, the British Foreign Office proposed abandoning the policy, but without support from other government departments in London.

Although at first not especially effective, the blockade enforced by the Royal Navy slowly strangled Germany’s ability to wage war. The Americans entered the war as a co-belligerent in April 1917, removing any objections to disruption of trade and freedom of the seas.

Economics dictates military strategy 1915 – Russian wheat, Turkey and the Dardanelles (Gallipoli) and 1918 – Russian wheat and Germany

The closure of the Dardanelles by the Ottoman Empire after joining the Central Powers of Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1914 blocked the main trade route for the Russians. The alternative, arctic Archangelsk, was ice-bound for much of the year, although the port was the destination for British supplies and American Lend-Lease goods in the Second World War, until a route through Persia/Iran opened up.

In consequence, Russia, as the world’s largest exporter of wheat, was unable to ship its harvests through the Black Sea and into the Mediterranean to earn foreign currency with which to buy war materiel. Russia’s credit in financial markets had never been solid, but now it had been damaged. With the lack of supplies from Russia, the price of food in Britain rose by an average of 24%, the price of wheat by 72%. With prices on world markets rising, wheat was exported in greater quantities from India, which caused a famine in the Punjab.

From January 1915, plans were made for an Anglo-French naval expedition to force a way through the Dardanelles channel, from Gallipoli to Constantinople, “a great experiment” according to Prime Minister HH ASQUITH. The aims of this attack were to knock the Ottoman Turks out of the war, to change political and military alliances in eastern Europe and also to free up the maritime route for Russian wheat exports. Economics – the price of food – was leading military strategy. In December 1917, an armistice was signed at Brest-Litovsk between the Germans and the new Bolshevik government of Russia. Two months later, a separate peace was concluded between Germany and the Ukraine. Denuding the Western Front of troops – thus weakening the March 1918 Kaiserschlacht offensive that made significant territorial advances against the French and the British – in February 1918, the Germans attacked Bolshevik armies in White Russia (present-day Belarus), in the Crimea and in the Ukraine, with its wheat and agricultural produce to feed a starving German civilian population. The German armies advanced to the River Don by May 1918, moving towards the Caspian Sea, Baku and the oilfields, which were to be an economic objective for another German army in 1942.

Within Germany, the blockade had caused food riots and, inspired by the Bolsheviks, fomented the declaration of Soviet Councils in many cities. The Hohenzollen monarchy was under threat.

Sources: Lambert pages 326 to 337; /Asquith: “Letters to Venetia Stanley”, pages 390 and 421 - 423/Churchill page 213/Chasseaud; Pages 252 to 256

German reliance on the East for resources and food: the economics of war in 1939 and Poland in 1939: German destruction of its society, invasion by the USSR and non-combattants in war

To put into human terms what precisely the Nazi aggressive war of conquest from 1939 meant, some details of the plans for the western parts of the Soviet Union may be useful. Poor in resources – food, oil, iron ore, fertilizers, metals for steel alloys – Germany was reliant on sources of these materials from Sweden (iron ore) or Russia, hence the signing of the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact in September 1939. This Pact secured supplies of phosphates for fertilisers (74% of Germany’s requirements), asbestos and 34% of its imported oil. For steel alloys, Russia supplied chromium (67% of requirements), manganese (55%), nickel (40%). Germany was also entirely-dependent on foreign ores for copper for the manufacture of electrical equipment [a]. Rather than the far-flung – and worthless - colonies of Imperial Germany before 1918, HITLER planned the conquest of contiguous Lebensraum in the East, the Drang nach Osten. Wresting territory from the fledgling revolution of the Bolsheviks in Moscow, Germany had tried to create a similar empire through the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in 1918. In HITLER’s plans, this European empire posed no threat to the maritime, global empire of the British, but it would create a German realm that could counter the challenge of the United States, which HITLER saw as being controlled by Jews. This German empire would, self-evidently, be racially pure. Jews and Slavs had no place there, although the latter peoples – reduced in number – would serve as slaves to their Aryan masters [b]. At the time of the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, leading Nazis were speaking of Russia’s “surplus population” – Slavs and Jews – of between 20 and 30 million people, who would die either from military action or starvation [c]. To create this self-sufficient empire, which could not be blockaded, Generalplan Ost was approved by Himmler in July 1942. This set out the plans that the SS had for Eastern Europe and it entailed the removal of 85% of the Polish population, of 64% of the Ukrainian population and 75% of that of White Russia. The SS envisaged the expulsion of up to 45 million people, together with the deaths by starvation of many of these people. As economist-historian Adam Tooze writes: “Any moral considerations had long ago been set aside. The question was one of practicalitie.” [d]. What the Nazis intended for the rest of eastern Europe was evident in Poland from September 1939, although the Poles had shot or killed two thousand ethnic Germans at the start of the invasion, for fear of sabotage behind the military lines. Ethnic German “Self-Protection” Militia were established by an order from HITLER, to murder – along with the SS, the police and Wehrmacht – 65,000 Polish civilians by the end of 1939. The names of professionals, priests, Jews, aristocrats and intellectuals had been collected before September 1939. The intention was to kill the leaders of Polish society and destroy the country’s culture. Over five hundred towns and villages were burned to the ground, often with the inhabitants still in their houses.

On 17th September 1939, the Red Army, under the secret clauses of the Non-Aggression Pact, attacked the eastern provinces of Poland. Twenty thousand professionals and land-owners were shot; 1.5 million people were deported to Siberia. Parts of western Poland were incorporated into Greater Germany, to be settled by over 400,000 Germans. The General Government (Warsaw, Lublin, Krakow) created a colony of eleven million people who were stateless and without rights. One million of these people were conscripted for agricultural work in Germany; children were removed from families to be “Germanised”, but never to return; use of the Polish language was forbidden.

[a] Tooze; pages 312 and 321/[b] Tooze; page 9/[c] Tooze; pages 479 and 482/[d] Tooze; page 467/Evans; pages 8 to 45

Non-combatants have always been victims in war and violence: from the plundering of monasteries for gold by 9th Century Vikings and the taking of Irish men and women to be sold as slaves; to the killing of peasants in 14th Century France (with no-one to work the fields, the land of enemies was worthless); to brigandage in France during the Hundred Years War; to inhabitants of besieged Medieval cities being put to the sword by the victors (HARRIS; “Bomber Offensive”). In 1899 – 1901, in an attempt to negate the effectiveness of free-ranging Boer bands over the Veldt in South Africa, the British created “concentration camps” for their women and children. More than two thousands of these civilians, mostly children, died in one month alone, August 1901, in these “Camps of Refuge”, provoking a wave of protests across Europe [i]. “War is hell”, said Union General William Tecumseh Sherman of the United States army, who waged total war on the non-combatants of the Confederacy in 1864 by burning Atlanta, then destroying everything in the paths of his armies – railroads, homes, towns, farms, plantations – in his “March to the Sea” through Georgia to Savannah.

In Sherman, Abraham Lincoln had found the means to break the spirit – the morale – of the Rebel soldiers and the civilians of the Confederacy, as a means to end the American Civil War [ii] [iii].

Sources: [i] reprinted Manchester Guardian article; from 27 September 1901/[ii] Miller; page 482/[iii] Ward; pages 321 to 327 and 342 to 345


Strategic bombing – the Ministry of Economic Warfare and civilian “morale” as a target

As Richard Overy writes, those crafting a strategic bombing campaign would understand “morale” in political terms: a collapse in social and political order would be brought about, perhaps even a revolution. Morale could also be described as: “a people’s support for the war and confidence in victory”, as indicated by attendance at work, compliance with wartime restrictions and faith in leaders. However, research into the “Blitz” of British cities, notably those of London, Liverpool, Coventry, Hull and Birmingham, concluded that reducing the output of industrial workers could also be an aim of strategic bombing. Morale would be lowered by deaths, injuries, absenteeism, dislocation and reducing the will to work, as services, amenities and housing were destroyed, food supplies reduced [and sleep disrupted]. In May 1941, a Ministry of Economic Warfare memorandum recommended that major industrial concentrations or “whole cities” should be the focus of strategic bombing, as a form of economic attrition and industrial blockade [44]. “Morale” of the industrial workers would become a specific objective for RAF Bomber Command from July 1941. This directive was modified on 14th February 1942, when the “morale” of these workers replaced communications (roads, rail, canals) as the primary target of Bomber Command: Area bombing – carpet bombing – deliberate attacks on civilians had been authorised. However, under the ruthless regime of a police state, it is difficult to see, as was acknowledged by HARRIS in ”Bomber Offensive”, how the RAF could possibly undermine the morale of German civilians, to bring about “a collapse in social and political order” to a point where German military force failed. HARRIS was breaking the means of German war production, to end supplies to the Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine.

Source:  Overy; The Bombing War; pages 257 - 258


Morale in Germany – the dislocation of a society after 1919

Following the abdication by the Kaiser, with a starving population and defeated by the Allies, in 1918 Germany was a disunited country, divided by religion, a political spectrum ranging from an historically- strong Social Democratic Party to Monarchists and wealthy right-wing Junker estate owners, twenty-five separate regional states (that enjoyed particularly strong affinities, from history and dialects) and with a Marxist Revolutionary Council in power in Bavaria. Territory was ceded under the Versailles Treaty of 1919. The Weimar Republic was constituted in July 1919. Disaffected right-wing officers attempted a coup in Berlin in March 1920. Munich was a hotbed of Rightist agitation (HITLER’s beer hall putsch was in 1923). Young men with combat experience formed the Ruhr Red Army. There was a communist revolution in Hamburg in 1923, the year of hyperinflation which destroyed savings and investments for millions of people. Political murders and street violence were commonplace. The 1929 Wall Street Crash brought to an end the superficial prosperity of the 1920s that had been funded by mostly American short-term debt which was being called in. German exports fell by two-thirds during the period 1929 – 1933, causing crippling unemployment. This was the scene of demoralisation against which the Nazis came to power on the promise of a national revival. In July 1932 the Nazis – National Socialists – were the largest party in the Reichstag. On 30th January 1933, HITLER was appointed Chancellor and from there he moved quickly to remove all opposition. The Reichstag fire at the end of February 1933 allowed HITLER to rule by emergency decree. Communist members of the Reichstag were arrested along with 10,000 other anti-Nazis. The Enabling Bill gave the Nazis unlimited power for four years; in May 1933 trade unions were disbanded; that July Social Democrats were deprived of their seats in the Reichstag and Germany became a one-party state; regional parliaments were dissolved in January 1934; the upper house of the ReichsRat was abolished in the February; the press fell under the authority of Joseph GOEBBELS.

On 30th June 1934, The Night of the Long Knives, leaders of the SA – the Stürmabteilung – the paramilitary wing of the Nazi party, were murdered along with other political opponents from the army and the Catholic Church. With HITLER as head of state from August 1934, the armed forces were required to swear an oath of allegiance to him personally. Thousands of priests were arrested; the Nazis dominated education; the Hitler Jugend prepared young men for military training; there was a departure of scientists, writers and academics, many of them Jewish [48].

Source: Childs


Resistance in Germany to the Nazis – the futility of dissent in a police state and the refusal of the Allies to recognise German resistance initiatives – the trap of the policy of “unconditional surrender”

In the summer of 1938, various Germans had travelled to London and Paris to warn of HITLER’s intentions to invade Czechoslovakia, seeing Prime Minister Neville CHAMBERLAIN, the Foreign Office, Foreign Secretary Lord HALIFAX and Winston CHURCHILL. All their approaches were rebuffed with accusations of acting treasonably towards their own country, since CHAMBERLAIN had already decided to yield to HITLER’s demands [e]. Should there have been any serious opposition to the Nazis, then President Franklin ROOSEVELT had removed any incentive for moderate politicians or army officers to risk their lives in forming a resistance movement by his demand for unconditional surrender, a phrase first used by ROOSEVELT at the Casablanca conference in January 1943 [a]. There was political disaffection in Germany, but the left-wing parties had been torn apart by the arrests and imprisonment in concentration camps from 1933. The only individuals who could have resisted with any effectiveness - and did – were the army officers, but many felt honour-bound by their oath of personal allegiance to HITLER. As many as fifteen assassination attempts were made on HITLER’s life, which failed owing to poor timing, inadequate planning, bombs failing to explode, insufficient resolve or the actions of the Gestapo. Groups from the Weimar period were still active: the Solf Circle helped those in hiding; the Stürmer Group; militants who were associated with “Beppo” Römer (150 were tried during 1942 and 1943); Beginning Anew; The Socialist Front; the Saekow Group; the Internationalist Socialist Fighting League; the Rote Kapelle [b]. Social Democrats and Communists distributed leaflets, organised “go slow” work and strikes, sabotaged industry, helped POWs and slave workers to escape. A three-man group in the navy, the Kriegsmarine, in Paris supplied the French Resistance with arms and information [c]. In the month of August 1942 alone, when Germany was still nominally in the ascendancy, the Gestapo files list almost seven thousand political offenders: 1761 arrested for downing production tools; 1583 arrested for illegal contact with POWs and foreigners; 1210 as “Marxists”; 1267 as “reactionaries”; 1007 as “resisters” [d]. By 1943, the courts were issuing death penalties at the rate of one hundred per week, for the offences defeatism and sabotage. Himmler and the Gestapo were determined to make examples of middle-class offenders: that autumn, two senior branch managers of the Deutsche Bank were executed for making defeatist remarks, as was a board member of electricity producer RWE [f]. Time and time again, the overtures of resistance groups – churchmen, bureaucrats, army officers, businessmen – were dismissed by the Allies, who merely reiterated the demand of “unconditional surrender”; no German politician or military officer could surrender their homeland - their Heimat - to bitter foes, especially to those from the East [g]. After the 20th July 1944 Valkyrie attempt on HITLER’s life, when almost five thousand conspirators were executed, many in horrific circumstances, CHURCHILL referred to the conspiracy merely as “a murderous internecine power struggle” [h]. The “Weiße Rose” [White Rose], a student group who were based at the university in Munich, together with their professor and also fellow-students who were serving on the Eastern Front, distributed leaflets against the regime. The leading five members – Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl, Christoph Probst, Alexander Schmorell, Professor Kurt Huber – were executed in February and April 1943. Ten others were imprisoned for treason [i].


Winning over hearts and minds – the Nazi Party provides relief in the bombed cities, the most-potent threats to the Nazi regime – army officers, aristocrats and Weimar era politicians

As Joachim Fest writes: “...the psychological warfare waged by the West...the bombing campaign....contrary to expectations ...did not demoralise the German people but rather tended to rally them around the Nazis in a gesture of defiance.....heed[ing] the instinct to stand together in times of mortal danger......meanwhile the opposition grew even more isolated...” [j]. To counter its reputation for corruption and privilege, in the disarray after a bombing raid the Nazi Party revived its fortunes by stepping in to offer help. The HITLER Youth and People’s Welfare extinguished fires, cleared rubble, identified and buried the dead, supported reconstruction. However, the rumours of the construction of superior personal air raid shelters for Nazi officials ran strongly through those who were forced to share inadequate communal facilities [k]. Only three groups were cohesive enough to develop strategies that posed a threat to the Nazi regime, although from their places in society they were generally socially isolated, partly by the aristocracy of some of the army officers, but especially since they were unable to communicate with rest of the population owing to GOEBBELS’ control of all the media.The first was a conservative circle around Carl Goerdeler, the former mayor of Leipzig, and Ludwig Beck, the former army Chief of Staff. The Kreisau Circle was perhaps more of a philosophical discussion group led by Count Helmut von MOLTKE. Hamburg lawyer Adam von Trott zu Solz in the Foreign Office pursued contacts with intermediaries in neutral and Allied countries, although with increasing desperation after the Casablanca insistence by ROOSEVELT on unconditional surrender. The third group, the army officers posed the greatest threat to the regime, although the Nazis had the military force to crush any armed insurrection in the SS, the Schutzstaffel (protection squad, originally HITLER’s body guard). Resistance culminated in the failed Valkyrie assassination attempt on 20th July 1944. The leading figures here were Beck, Major-General Henning von Tresckow (Chief of Staff, Army Group Centre, Eastern Front), Lieutenant-Colonel Count Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg (who planted the bomb), Brigadier-General Hans Oster, Lieutenant-General Friedrich Olbricht (who launched Valkyrie on 20th July 1944), SS General Count Heinrich von Helldorf, General Erich Fellgiebel (Chief of communications for the armed forces). With both the East and the West fronts disintegrating, in the aftermath of the 20th July bomb a group of protesters had dared to put up a banner in the Berlin railway station: “We want peace at any price” [l]. Around and amongst these groups moved lawyers, former trade union officials, churchmen (Dietrich Bonhoeffer; Martin Niemöller), businessmen, state bureaucrats (Ernst von Weiszäcker in the Foreign Office) and the enigmatic figure of Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, Chief of the Abwehr (Military Intelligence) [m] [n].

Note: The fanatical Nazi Peoples Court judge, Roland Freisler, who had condemned the Weiße Rose students and the Valkyrie 20th July bomb conspirators to death, was killed in the USAAF bombing raid on Berlin on 3rd February 1945. Freisler was also a participant in the Wannsee Conference on 20th January 1942, which had been called by SS-Obergruppenführer and Chief of the Security Police Reinhard HEYDRICH to clarify “the Final Solution of the Jewish question”.[o]

[a] Gilbert; The Road to Victory; page 642/[b] Fest; pages 1 to 5/[c] Childs; pages 107/[d] Childs; page 108/[e] Fest; page 72/[f] Tooze; page 603/[g] Fest; pages 204 – 212 and 336/[h] Fest; page 321/[i] Scholl/[j] Fest; page 336/[k] Burleigh; pages 764 – 765/[l] Beevor; page 5/[m] Fest/[n] Shirer; pages 1014 to 1036/[o] Roseman


Morale – reports from the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) and the US Strategic Bombing Survey (USSBS), psychological effects of bombing and Contrary views on “morale” as a military target for RAF Bomber Command

The Sicherheitsdienst, the SD, was the Security Service of the SS and Nazi Party, a companion organisation to the Gestapo, the Secret State Police, the Geheim Staatspolizei. Reinhard HEYDRICH, the first director of the SD, intended to bring every individual in the Third Reich under continuous supervision. The Sicherheitsdienst compiled “mood” reports: morale fell after the bombing of cities began in earnest during 1943 and accelerated after D-Day. As late as February 1944, the party was successful in supporting morale after the raids with the practical means of providing food, accommodation, warmth, paying for repairs, hospital treatment, paying for burials and clearing away rubble. Owing to the scale of the campaign later, the party’s relief operations were insufficient compared to the needs of the roofless population. Party officials who had private bunkers fuelled discontent and gossip; fatal heart attacks were named “shelter deaths”; absenteeism increased and the morale of workers in early 1945 was at a “low ebb” according to the Berlin Chamber of Commerce. Terrified children screamed uncontrollably; there were deep psychological wounds; sleep deprivation; nightmares; terror suffered in one attack was added to during the next; fear was constant and it was impossible to adapt to it. According to the medical research teams of the US Strategic Bombing Survey (USSBS), more than one-third of the population who had endured a bombing raid suffered “relatively permanent psychological effects” such that the feeling of terror was relived and added to during the next alert. The USSBS Morale Division concluded that “Bombing seriously depressed the morale of German civilians.....defeatism, fear, hopelessness, fatalism and apathy”. War weariness, willingness to surrender, loss of hope in victory, distrust of leaders, feelings of disunity and fear were all more common amongst those who had been bombed compared to those who had not.

Anxieties for home and family depressed the morale of troops at the front [i]. However, former Bomber Command advisor Freeman DYSON disagreed, stating that “the notion that bombing would cause a breakdown of civilian morale turned out to be a fantasy” [ii]. HARRIS himself was dubious about the value of the strategy that he had not instigated, but only inherited in 1942: “that ‘morale’ bombing was comparatively ineffective against so well organised a police state as Germany” [iii].

On the other hand, the United States Strategic Bombing Survey (USSBS) was established under a directive from President ROOSEVELT, publishing its report on 30th September 1945. Its teams were comprised of 300 civilians, 350 officers and 500 enlisted men, being so close to the advancing military front that several survey personnel were wounded and four were killed. The teams inspected several hundred German plants, cities and areas; amassed statistical and documentary evidence; and interviewed thousands of Germans, including interrogations of virtually all the surviving political and military leaders. Two hundred individual detailed reports were made on specialised topics [iv].

[i] Miller page 482/[ii] Miller pages 471 to 476/[iii] Harris; page 79/[iv] USSBS Summary Report


The United States Army Air Force – USAAF – strategic bombing of economic targets

Following Billy Mitchell’s doctrine on the future strategic role for the bomber, the Maxwell Field Air Corps Tactical School, Montgomery, Alabama was the place where theorists planned for the next war. This culminated in the advent of the Boeing B-17 “Flying Fortress”, which was to lead the daylight precision bombing. Where the theorists, the tutors at Maxwell Field – Wilson, Walker, George, Fairchild and Hansell – diverged from Mitchell was in their rejection of his belief that breaking morale was a more important war aim than the enemy’s means of production. Colonel George and the staff at Maxwell Field analysed the American industrial system, concluding that certain “choke points” made a modern economy vulnerable to air attack: steel production, electric power plants, ball-bearing manufacture, oil and rail networks. On a more technical matter, the invention in 1931 by Dutch engineer Carl NORDEN of a gyroscope-stabilised bomb-sight made precision bombing possible and also “more effective and more humane”. During the course of the Second World War, at a total cost of $1.5 billion (two-thirds the cost of the Manhattan Project), 90,000 top-secret Norden bomb-sights were ordered by the US military.

Please note: “precision” bombing is a misnomer: during the attacks on Dresden in February 1945, disorientated USAAF aircraft bombed Prague by mistake. Schaffhausen was twice “precision” bombed by the USAAF, despite the city being in neutral Switzerland. Author’s note.

Source: Miller; pages 39 to 42


Synthetic oil production plants and the Romanian oil wells: Spring 1944, The chemical process – from Braunkohle or lignite, the oil wells of Romania – Ploesti and the oil fields in the Caucasus - Baku

Whereas coal was the main source of energy in Europe and particularly in Germany, oil was a business and a technology that was dominated by America.

German chemistry led the world in synthetic fuels. In 1913, via hydrogenation (Bergius), liquid fuel had been extracted from coal. A rival process – Fischer-Tropsch – was developed during the 1920s, although this route could not synthesise aviation fuel. Chemical giant IG FARBEN held the rights to the Bergius hydrogenation process. In June 1932, seven months before he became Chancellor, the company persuaded HITLER to support their unprofitable production with continued government tariffs. Their financial rationale was that this would reduce purchases of foreign oil, so relieving pressure on Germany’s foreign exchange problems. By 1939, there were fourteen hydrogenation plants, with a further six in construction, producing 95% of Germany’s aviation fuel and 57% of its total needs [a]. Rather than “cracking” or breaking down crude oil molecules to form useful fuels, the starting carboniferous material in the Bergius coal-liquefaction process was lignite. Lignite is a soft brown coal Braunkohle – a form of compressed peat, of which there are extensive deposits in Germany. Later, hard black bituminous coal – Steinkohle – was also used (“the inexhaustible raw material reservoir”) [b]. The main synthetic oil plants were located in central or eastern Germany, adjacent to lignite deposits, at Leuna, Böhlen, Magdeburg and Zeitz, with Leuna being by far the most important facility and the most heavily-defended place in Nazi Germany.

Plants in the Ruhr were at Scholven, Gelsenkirchen, Bottrop-Welheim and Wesseling. Leuna was defended by a highly-effective smoke screen and one of the heaviest flak concentration in Germany. The plant was attacked twenty-two times between May 1944 and the end of the war. Production averaged 9% of capacity during this period. The campaign against synthetic oil manufacture also had an effect on nitrogen production (used in fertilisers and explosives) and on synthetic rubber production (for tyres, oil-resistant seals in vehicles etc). As a consequence, ammunition was in short supply in 1945 on all fronts, including the shells needed for flak guns. [d]

Crude Oil could be found in nearest countries, particularly Roumania. Laying mines in the River Danube by Allied aircraft disrupted shipping, reducing the volume of refined oil delivered from Ploesti in Romania, as did attacks on directly on the refinery itself, until the Red Army overran Romania in late August 1944. As a source of crude oil, the oil fields at Ploesti in Romania had already been a major German objective during the First World War. Based on poor intelligence that it was lightly-defended (it was actually had the highest concentrations of anti-aircraft guns in Europe), in August 1943 the USAAF had conducted a “suicidal” attack on Ploesti from North Africa. [c]

During his interrogation in May 1945, Albert SPEER had said “the need for oil was a prime motive” in HITLER’s decision to invade the USSR. By 1944, one-third of the work force in the synthetic oil plants was slave labour. Despite dispersals and repairs, by September 1944, synthetic oil production had collapsed, effectively grounding the Luftwaffe for the rest of the war [e]. In his memoirs, HARRIS had to confess that the “offensive against oil was a complete success” and that oil was “an outsider that happened to win the race” [f]. The oil shortage was a major cause of the Red Army’s victories in Silesia (Poland) during February and March 1945 [g]. For HITLER, to whom war was about economic conquest, oil was the vital commodity of the industrial age and of economic power. Daniel Yergin has written that the capture of Baku and the other Caucasian oil fields would have ensured that Germany had the material resources to make the Reich invulnerable to action by its enemies [h]. Capturing Baku on the Caspian Sea would knock the Russians out of the war and beyond Baku were the oil fields of Persia (Iran) and Iraq [i]. HITLER even stated that, “Unless we get the Baku oil, the war is lost” [j]. In Italy, SPEER was a witness to the effects of the lack of oil when he saw a convoy of 150 motorised vehicles, each being pulled by four oxen. There was no fuel. [k]

[a] Yergin; pages 311 – 314 and 327/[b] Bäumler; page 140/[c] Miller pages 186 - 192/[d] The United States Strategic Bombing Survey – Summary Report/[e] Yergin; pages 329 and 330/[f] Harris page 220/[g] Harris pages 225, 231 and 233/[h] Yergin; page 317/[i] Yergin; page 319/[j] Yergin; page 320/[k] Yergin; page 332


Oil vs Transport vs Area bombing – strategic decisions 1944- and second battle of the Ruhr – RAF bombing campaign against transport (canals and railways) with 10.000lb and 20.000lb bombs

At the Quebec Octagon conference in September 1944, PORTAL had suggested to the Combined Chiefs of Staff that the strategic air forces be removed from Eisenhower’s control at SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force).

Consequently, Arnold and PORTAL issued a new joint directive, re-iterating the Pointblank priority “to bring about the progressive destruction and dislocation of the German military, industrial and economic systems”. Oil was the sole First Priority in the orders issued by Sir Norman Bottomley, Deputy Chief of Air Staff; transport links, tank and vehicle production ranked as Second Priority. Mention of area targets was “perfunctory”. Eisenhower’s deputy, Sir Arthur TEDDER – supported by Professor Solly Zuckerman, Scientific Director of the British Bombing Survey Unit (BBSU) - [had campaigned for the air attacks to concentrate on Germany’s rail and water transport links [i]. General SPAATZ, with Eisenhower’s support, had won the argument over target priorities in May 1944, when – in addition to destroying the oil plants – the Luftwaffe fighters had been victims to the USAAF’s Mustangs and Thunderbolts [ii].

Sources: [i] Hastings; pages 328 to 330/[ii] Hastings; page 277


HARRIS dismissed the Dortmund-Ems and Mittelland canals as yet more “first-class panacea” targets from the Ministry of Economic Warfare. Accurate and devastating destruction of embankments, which were virtually impossible to repair in realistic times, was only possible by the improved radar guidance systems and the 5-tonne Tallboy bombs [1]. Yet, when the Dortmund-Ems Canal was breached in September 1944, iron ore could not reach the Ruhr by barge from Sweden. Coal, as Germany’s critical source of energy and heating, could not be shipped out by either canal or rail from the mines in the Ruhr, nor could finished armaments be delivered to the fighting fronts on the east and the west.

In October 1944, production of steel ended at Krupp’s Gusstahlfabrik in Essen when the RAF destroyed the electricity supply. By November 1944, SPEER was reporting to HITLER that the Ruhr was effectively sealed off from the rest of the Reich [2]. By Spring 1945, Rhine water was clean for the first time in generations: there were no factories left to pollute the river [3].

In the opinion of German historian and economist Gregor Janssen, the decisive blows by the RAF and the USAAF were on the transportation network. Operations during the Battle of the Ruhr in the Spring of 1943 had systematically destroyed the rail links on which coal deliveries and the armaments industries depended. In May 1944, Transport Minister Ganzenmüller reported to SPEER that the carpet bombing had had appalling results (9000 people were constantly repairing the junctions at Hamm) [4]. Whereas previously, as HARRIS himself conceded, attacks by conventional bombs on railways and canals could be repaired within a very short time, the 5-tonne “Tallboy” and 10-tonne “Grand Slam” bombs could destroy infrastructure permanently [5]. At the end of 1944, the Hamm/Osnabrück/Münster triangle of canals and railways to the north and east of the Ruhr was “completely paralysed”. By February 1945, SPEER was giving priority to feeding the population, rather than maintaining transport for military supplies [6].

Sources:  [1] Harris page 240/[2] Tooze page 650/[3] Tooze page 651/[4] Janssen/[5] Harris pages 46 and 47/[6] Janssen; Volume 5; page 2206


Effects of bombing campaign on level and means of production and how the Bombing Campaign shortened World War II – and the Second Front

SPAATZ and TEDDER were correct in their respective beliefs that oil and transport were the vulnerable aspects of the German war economy. When officials from SPEER’s Ministry of Armaments assessed 1944 production levels, to compare what could have been produced against what was actually manufactured, they found that the bombing had depressed production levels by approximately one-third:

  • 36% fewer trucks were produced compared to the theoretical capacity;
  • 31 % fewer military aircraft were produced;
  • and 42% fewer tanks.

According to SPEER, “The losses inflicted by the American and British air fleets constituted for Germany the greatest lost battle of the war”.

The bombing campaign was an economic blockade, similar to the one imposed by the Royal Navy in August 1914, which treated materials as contraband. The bombing campaign – in contrast to the blockade of 1914 – 1918 – was a blockade not only of materials, but of production processes and of transporting goods. The only resource that Germany was naturally rich in was that of coal. CHURCHILL wrote in July 1940, “the blockade is broken”, because Nazi Germany had secured supplies of materials from its Non-Aggression Pact with the Soviet Union – wheat and manganese (both from the Ukraine), steel alloys and also oil from Baku on the Caspian Sea. Iron ore came from Sweden; oil from Romania; bauxite was shipped from France, Croatia and Greece to be smelted in Norway using hydro-electricity; Norway was also a source of molybdenum for high-grade steel alloys. The area bombing of the RAF was also a restriction on production levels in an indirect way, in the sense of disturbing – demoralising - the human element, the industrial workers themselves.

Tooze regards Bomber Command’s Battle of the Ruhr as the turning point in the destruction of the German war economy and that the effects of the campaign are grossly under-estimated, since it stopped SPEER’s armaments miracle in its tracks. The area bombing disrupted the production and the transport of coking coal (for steel production and energy), steel and intermediate components, which halted assembly lines all across Germany. Ammunition production was curtailed and the shortage of key components limited aircraft production between July 1943 and March 1944. The Zulieferungskrise (sub-components crisis) disrupted production throughout the armaments supply chain, a stagnation that lasted for the second half of 1943 [a]. In the opinion of German historian and economist Gregor Janssen, the decisive blows by the RAF and the USAAF were on the transportation network. Operations during the Battle of the Ruhr in the Spring of 1943 had systematically destroyed the rail links on which coal deliveries and the armaments industries depended [b].

At Casablanca in January 1943, ROOSEVELT and CHURCHILL agreed that an invasion of the European mainland would, despite Stalin’s impatience, have to be delayed until 1944, when success would be more likely. During 1943, the U-boat menace would be defeated in the Battle of the Atlantic, where code-breaking was essential, so that military supplies and troops could be built up.Immense resources were devoted by the germans to dispersing manufacturing sites, which were then subject to the disruption that was caused by Allied bombing of rail and canal links.

Almost 100 million square feet (9.3 million square metres) of underground manufacturing space was planned for aircraft, tanks, vehicles, V-weapons, ships and SS projects. Only 13 million square feet (1.2 million m2) of space was actually constructed by May 1945, but resources were diverted which otherwise would have gone directly into weapons production. [many lives of enslaved labourers were lost in the brutal conditions of these facilities] [d].

[a] Tooze; pages 597 and 598/[b] Janssen; Volume 5; page 2206/[c] Janssen; Volume 5; page 2206/[d] Overy; “Bomber Command 1939 – 1945”; page 214


Part 2: Analysis


Morality - the Allied bombing campaign

“War is Hell”, William Tecumseh Sherman, Union General, American Civil War.

The economic blockade of Germany during the 1914 – 1918 war is largely forgotten. There are no visible effects from the quiet deaths of so many civilians, no burnt cities, no horrific photographs. Finding references in history books is not easy; they deal mainly with the brutality of trench warfare, the mud in Flanders, the machine guns, the barbed wire and the shelling at Verdun. It is difficult to convey the food riots that were widespread across the Central Powers; the mutinies in naval bases to form Soviet committees; the political violence. The ultimate collapse of the German army’s willingness to fight on the Western Front in October 1918 seems to stem from a mystical force, not a simple one of basic human needs – food – on the home front. Even that particular collapse of military morale was brief, but long enough to convince Hindenburg and Ludendorff that the war was lost and that the Kaiser should abdicate.

In his characteristically blunt approach, HARRIS had no qualms about expressing an opinion on what he was commanded to do, through a strategy that he carried out, but did not devise.

In 1947, it was easier to express harsh sentiments towards an enemy that had, just a few years before, threatened to subjugate all of Europe and beyond. He considered that bombing was a “comparatively humane” way of attacking the means of industrial production. His comparison was with the Royal Navy blockade of 1914 – 1918, which had killed, by slow starvation, 800,000 German civilians and 467,000 in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The memories of that the Western Front in that earlier war were profound, since HARRIS wrote of the RAF’s bombing: “ saved the flower of the youth of this country and of our allies from being mown down by the military in the field, as it was in Flanders...”. HARRIS writes further that all the inhabitants of ancient besieged cities were put to the sword if the city had resisted, so civilian deaths had always been an aspect of warfare [i].

In July 1940, CHURCHILL ordered the creation of the bomber fleets as the only way to take the war to the enemy, assured by the Air Chiefs that the theory of strategic bombing would win the war with an “....absolutely devastating, exterminating attack by very heavy bombers ... without which I cannot see a way through” [ii]. The best-educated of the Empire’s young men were trained to fly and to navigate these sophisticated weapons and – according to the United States Strategic Bombing Survey – perhaps as much as 50% of Britain’s war production was devoted to air power, mostly of the four-engine heavy bombers. For comparison: Germany 40%; USA 35%). Much was invested in strategic air power and much was expected from it. HARRIS saw his target of the area bombing as destroying the German war economy and its capacity to wage war, not the civilian population [iii].

The German armies surrendered unconditionally in May 1945. However, in the What If? world of parallel histories or alternative histories, had German resistance continued, then the targets of atomic weapons and the B-29s would not have been Hiroshima or Nagasaki, but Berlin and other German cities [iv].


Historian and economist Adam Tooze considers that RAF Bomber Command was a “truly war-winning weapon” during the Battle of the Ruhr in 1943, that its effect has been under-estimated. SPEER acknowledged that the RAF was hitting the right target in its area bombing.

The question is not so much what Bomber Command destroyed in 1943 and later, but of how much it prevented being manufactured. The planned increases in production levels of coal (energy), materials (steel; metals), components, weapons, ammunition and aircraft had been frustrated. SPEER’s armaments miracle “had been stopped in its tracks” [iv].

Note: Accounts of the significance of the fire storm at Kassel in October 1943 differ. According to Tooze (page 602) production of Tiger tanks (which would have been destined for the Eastern Front) and the 88mm anti-tank/anti-aircraft guns “was set back for months”. Richards notes (page 206) that the fighter assembly plants, where the Henschel V-1s were being built, was damaged. However, Overy (page 342) comments that production levels recovered to 90% of the pre-raid output after two-to-three months.

[i] Harris pages 176 and 177/[ii] Hastings; Bomber Command; page 116/[iii] Overy, Richard; “Bomber Command 1939 – 1945 – page 80/[iv] Cowley/[v] Tooze; pages 597 to 601


Recent blockades, UN economic sanctions and air wars

The NATO air attacks on Serbia during the Kosovo Crisis of 1999 and the fall of MILOSEVIC in 2000, after a disputed election [i]. According to historian John Keegan, the capitulation of Yugoslavia in the Kosovo War marked a turning point in the history of warfare. It "proved that a war can be won by air power alone", (although Keegan seems to have forgotten the surrender of Japan after the dropping of two atomic weapons). By comparison, diplomacy had failed before the war, and the deployment of a large NATO ground force was still weeks away when MILOSEVIC agreed to a peace deal [ii]. Keegan

The blockade of Iraq from 1990 until 2002. 500,000 children died of disease and malnutrition, a price that Madeleine Albright, Clinton’s Secretary of State, thought “worth paying”. [iii] Fisk [iv] Keegan

More visible than the deaths of half-a-million children in Iraq have been the television pictures of dead children on Greek beaches during the Summer of 2016, as their families fled the attacks in Syria – and especially on Aleppo – by Russian jets.

Iran – UN economic sanctions that destroyed the economy until Iran agreed to limit its nuclear programme. [v] New York Times – various articles

Libya – NATO and French air raids in support of the opponents of Colonel Kaddafi.

Putin’s Russia – economic sanctions for Russia’s military activities in Syria and involvement in The Ukraine.


It’s a small world…




November and December 2016 and July 2017






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Koch, HW; The Strategic Air Offensive against Germany; The Historical Journal/Cambridge University Press 1991; online: - lists the targets, tonnage dropped and number of deaths caused by the Allied bombing.

On the 1914 – 1918 blockade of Germany:

On civilian and military deaths during the First World War, from the REPERES education programme:

Austria-Hungary: “A study published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in 1940 estimated civilian 467,000 deaths "attributable to war", the primary cause being famine.”


Synthetic oil plants and technology: (Air University Review)