THE SECOND WORLD WAR 1939 to 1945
British politician Winston Churchill and American General John Pershing stated, at the end of the Great War, that we would have to fight this war again in twenty years hence. They were both right but for different reasons. Churchill was concerned that the financial constraints would impose terrible hardship on the German nation and lead to a harsher form of administration. Pershing believed if Germany did not surrender unconditionally on German soil they would not consider themselves to have been defeated. It was to be a different type of warfare and would last six years instead of four years as did the Great War.
The Opposing Armies
Britain was totally unprepared for war. The British Army of 1939 was a volunteer army with limited conscription only being introduced in early 1939. Full conscription was brought in after the declaration of war with Germany. During the early years of the Second World War the British Army suffered defeat in almost every theatre of war in which it was deployed. However, by 1943 the British had begun to take on an offensive role. The German Army were the land forces component of the Wehrmacht, (the regular German Armed Forces) from 1935. Included in the Wehrmacht were the Kriegsmarine (Navy) and the Luftwaffe (Air Force). The German military had battle experience whilst participating in the Spanish Civil War. They developed the Great War lightning-fast war or Blitzkrieg to occupy their enemies territories.
At the beginning of the Second World War the Royal Navy was still the strongest navy in the world, both in numbers of ships and naval bases across the globe. During the course of the war the US Navy expanded rapidly as America was forced into a war on two front on the seas, the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. By the end of the war the US Navy was larger than any other navy in the world. The main German naval expansion was the submarine. It was realised that only a strong U-boat flotilla would have any hope of Germany winning a naval war. During the Great War some seven hundred allied escort vessels had been occupied defending against a maximum of sixty U-boats deployed at any one time. Throughout the Second World War when allied shipping losses soared, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill confided that the U-boat threat was the only thing that seriously worried him .
Power in the Air
At the outbreak of the war, the Luftwaffe had four times the number of aircraft as the Royal Air Force (RAF). Both sides had been developing aircraft during the Inter-War Period, but after Adolf Hitler came to power, Germany had been aggressively building and acquiring an effective air-force. Germany had another advantage because of the battle hardened Luftwaffe pilots who had fought in the Spanish Civil War. On the other hand, Britain was desperately trying to appease Hitler, until eventually the British government began to realise the potential danger and began the expansion of the RAF. Germany and Britain continued aircraft development during the course of the Second World War.
The Great War established the validity of the tank concept and Britain and France were the leaders in tank design. Between the two world wars, many nations needed to have tanks but only a few had the industrial resources to design and build them. The early lead was gradually lost to the Soviet Union and to a lesser extent Nazi Germany during the course of the 1930’s. Other European countries and America followed by designing and adapting their own versions of the tank. For much of the Second World War, the British Army was saddled with a succession of tanks that ranged from the bad to just adequate. Some were rushed into service too quickly and proved to be unreliable. Others spent too long in development or only achieved a degree of usefulness after numerous modifications. Nearly all were under-gunned and most lacked the armour to resist anti-tank weapons. However, Nazi Germany developed numerous tank designs during the Second World War. In addition to their own designs, Germany employed and adapted various captured and foreign-built tanks. By doing this they saw their tanks grow from “tiny 5 ton packages to 100 ton monsters.”
As far as the artillery was concerned it would take five years to complete what was needed in terms of new equipment plus the training and formation of gun crews. At the beginning of the war the Royal Artillery modernised a large number of vintage guns from the Great War. Over 60% were lost in France when the British Army were to retreat and evacuate from Dunkirk. German artillery was considered to be useful but behind the times, because it was really a perfection of the Great War artillery. Despite all this their artillery was probably one of the most lethal weapons the Germans had, with the assorted variation of the 105mm and 150mm being the most common.
Reparation Payments from Germany for the Great War
With the exception of the Hitler era Germany fulfilled her obligation to the 1919 Treaty of Versailles and paid the reparation bill in full on the 3rd October 2010. The settlement closed the final chapter on the Great War that had shaped the twentieth century. The reparation payments had bankrupted Germany in the 1920s and the emerging Nazi Party seized on the public resentment of the deep sense of injustice of the 1919 treaty. Foreign bonds had been issued to Germany in 1924 and 1930 allowing them the chance to raise the cash, plus the interest, required to fulfil the reparation demands the allies made after the Great War. As Germany was deemed to be the perpetrator of the Great War they bore the sole responsibility for the war and were forced to pay crippling reparations.