Category Archives: History of Czechoslovakia

War in the air Part II: Per Ardua Ad Astra

 

 

A scene from the film The Battle of Britain / omfdb.org

A scene from the film The Battle of Britain / omfdb.org

  The Blizkrieg from Nazi Germany that opened the Second War in 1939 showed that apart from tank power, air power was a vital component of Hitler’s war efforts. Germany pounded the meagre defences of Poland from the air, breaking communications, causing death and chaos on a scale not known by the suffering Poles not even during their centuries of abuse by neighbours. Dive-bombers called Stukas were used by the Luftwaffe, and a malevolent touch was added by their fitted sirens, terrorizing populations as the bombers hurtled almost vertically down from brilliant blue skies, releasing their lethal cargo at the last moment before straightening out. Many pilots, very young and with very little experience, did not straighten out, with the result that the Stuka made a bigger hole in the earth than its bombs. The efficient and very fast Messerschmidt I09 and 110 fighters attacked the ramshackle Polish aircraft without mercy, destroying most of the aeroplanes on the ground even before the pilots could climb into them. Many of these young ill-disciplined but courageous young men escaped to England, and were to take an important part in the air Battle of Britain. Assault parachutists were dropped from heavier German aircraft – a new use of air power pioneered by the Germans and quickly copied by Germany’s enemies. Parachutists were extensively used in the attack and invasion of Crete in 1941. Continue reading

The Treaty of Trianon (1920) and its effect on Hungary

This treaty is another good example of the collateral damage to be expected when states join in wars with the express intention of gaining territory, though the war in question has nothing or little to do with them. In the First or Great War of the 20th century, Hungary, because of its alliances with Austria, fought against the Western allies. Romania, sensing a chance to do well out of it, declared for the allies.

The Treaty of Versailles decreed that Hungary, among the states which fought for the loser, Germany, should share the blame and pay the price. After the four terrible years spent mostly advancing and retreating over the trenches were over, Hungary became a Republic, but a Communist revolt established a Communist administration in 1919. This failed, and a monarchical regime (in name only) was introduced with a new constitution, under the leadership of Admiral Horthy. Continue reading

Appeasement

A bit of a dirty word since 1938 but it shouldn’t be. There is enough appeasement going on now over the disgusting situation in Syria to fill the Golden Bowl with appeasers eager to keep Assad Junior happy. It is all rather puzzling. With one Bush, America went with its cautious allies to war against Iraq because Saddam invaded Kuwait. Firepower won, of course, but Saddam’s government remained! Then Bush Jr. went to war with Iraq with equally cautious allies, beat him up, and permitted the locals to lynch Saddam in a particularly horrible way. Now in Syria the Assad boy kills hundreds of fellow citizens every day, even using poison gas to do it, and the world’s committees sit expensively around asking themselves what to do. Continue reading

1936: The Remilitarization of the Rhineland

Triumphant remilitarization, the Rhioneland 1936 / iwm.org.uk

Triumphant remilitarization, the Rhineland 1936 / iwm.org.uk

The ill-prepared and unfortunate Treaty of Versailles (q.v.) had left the left bank of the Rhine plus an area 50 kilometres deep on its right bank permanently demilitarized by order. This order was made again at the signing of the Treaties at Locarno in 1925. Britain and Italy (!) were to be the guarantors.

German governments since 1918/19 had wished to terminate the demilitarization, for the natural reason that it decreased German authority and, worse, exposed the very centre of German industry (the Ruhr) to a possible French attack. Continue reading

The Thirty Years War

The death in battle of Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden / lookandlearn.com

The death in battle of Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden / lookandlearn.com

The British were involved in this nasty episode, though only on the margins. All wars are horribly wasting, but this one could be taken as the best example. It was about religion, which hardly comes as a surprise. It is amazing that most human conflict since the death of Christ has come about because of differences of opinion and dogma, when Christ taught that all men should love each other. How humans have reacted during the centuries after His death is hardly His fault. Continue reading

Heydrich and the massacre at Lidice

Heydrich /wikipedia.org

Heydrich /wikipedia.org

My new wife and I settled into our new home in a country lane at Santa Úrsula on the island of Tenerife in 1980. In a small cottage on the other side of the narrow road there lived a little old woman who kept her garden well and herself to herself. Still, I managed to make friends with her through my wife’s shared interest in flowers. Continue reading

IG Farben

   

    

I.G. Farben: the factory / frankfurt.nodend.de

I.G. Farben: the factory / frankfurt.nordend.de

This was a cartel formed by the leading chemical companies in Germany after the First World War. ‘IG Farben’ is the diminutive of the rather more tongue-stretching Interessen Gemeinschaft Farbenindustrie which has been translated as ‘Community of Interests of Dye Industries’. Three of the many companies which joined were BASF, Bayer and Hoechst.

It was by far the largest corporation or cartel in Germany between the two world wars, controlling five hundred companies (in ninety-two countries). Corporative arrangements were made between Farben and Standard Oil (USA), Imperial Chemical Industries (Gt. Britain), and Mitsui (Japan), which makes the period 1929 – 39 so interesting. You may have noticed that the nationality of the first two of these commercial giants formed the major part of the Allies in World War II, while the third joined Hitler’s Axis. Continue reading

The Final Solution

  

The beginning of the end / oprah.com

The beginning of the end / oprah.com

   Researchers have tried to find cogent reasons for Hitler’s pathological hatred of the Jews. Nothing in his childhood in Austria happened which might have sown the seeds of that poisonous dislike growing in his innermost soul. His military service during the Great War brought him wounds, but what influence could Jewish people have had on him in the trenches? The enemy was British or French, not Jewish. Continue reading

The battle of Austerlitz

Battle-of-Austerlitz                                                        Map of the Battle of Austerlitz

Anyone living at the beginning of the nineteenth century might have thought that the battle of Trafalgar, fought in October 1805 would be enough to topple Napoleon Bonaparte from his imperial pretensions and intensely Corsican gut-feeling that he should rule the world, starting with all Europe. But Trafalgar as we know was a sea battle, a crucial one too, but it did not take place between armies on land. Austerlitz, however, did, and it was Bonaparte’s greatest victory, planned almost as if on a model of the battlefield though – that field was in his brain. Continue reading

The League of Nations

This preamble to the United Nations has vanished without trace. It was one of the oddest disasters waiting to happen the world has ever seen. It appeared after the Treaty of Versailles (1918 – 25) had sealed the fate of this planet. Indeed its creation was the last and most important of President Woodrow Wilson of the United States’ famous ‘Fourteen Points’. Wilson insisted that it should appear in each one of the peace treaties, covering the Covenent or Constitution of the League. But then the United States itself refused to join. Continue reading