WOMEN IN CIVILIAN LIFE DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR

 

WOMEN IN CIVILIAN LIFE DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR

Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon became Queen when her husband King George VI was forced to accept the throne after his brother abdicated in 1936. The King and Queen became the national symbol in the fight against fascism when the Second World War began. It was thought the Queen and Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret would be evacuated to America or Canada. Her reply to the suggestion was: “The children won’t go without me, I won’t leave the King, and the King will never leave”. The first few months were fairly quiet in Britain until the 7th September 1940 when the Luftwaffe began their Blitz of Britain. For the next fifty-seven nights London was bombed consecutively and part of the city was completely destroyed, but the British Monarchy remained intact. At the height of the raids the King and Queen spent their working days at Buckingham Palace and their nights at Windsor Castle. Buckingham Palace was bombed several times and Queen Elizabeth declared:  “I’m glad we have been bombed. Now I can look the East End in the face”. The King and Queen had chosen to stay in London and endure the hardships of their subjects rather than be evacuated to safety. Because of this Adolf Hitler called her the “most dangerous women in Europe”. He considered her to be one of the biggest morale boosters for her subjects during the darkest days and viewed her popularity as a threat to German interests. When the Second World War ended on the 8th May 1945 the King and Queen appeared on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to the rapturous applause of the waiting crowds. Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret had been allowed to wander incognito in the crowds and take part in the celebrations. The Second World War officially ended on 15th August 1945 with the victory in Japan.

Until the last 36 hours of her life, Eva Braun’s relationship with Adolf Hitler went unacknowledged. Only a handful of his most trusted associates knew of her existence. She was born in February 1912 to a devout Catholic mother and strict Protestant father. She developed an early interest in in photography which led her to becoming Hitler’s court photographer. Hitler first noticed her in October 1929 as she was precisely the sort of pretty unthreatening girl to appeal to him. Two years later he began to take her seriously and she gradually consolidated her place in his affections. From 1935 she was the effective hostess at Berghof, Hitler’s Alpine retreat where she established a relaxing atmosphere for him to enjoy. It will never be known whether Hitler’s interest in Eva was paternal or sexual. By being excluded from official functions and Hitler’s increasing absences she was frequently bored but she remained fiercely loyal to him. With Germany almost defeated in April 1945, Eva travelled from Munich to Berlin to be with Hitler at the Führerbunker. She refused to leave as the Red Army closed in on the capital. After midnight on the night of the 28th/29th April 1945, Hitler and Eva were married in a small civil ceremony within the Führerbunker. The event was witnessed by Joseph Goebbels and Martin Bormann. Shortly after Hitler hosted a small wedding breakfast with his new wife. After 1.00 pm on the 30th April 1945, Eva and Hitler said their farewells to staff and members of the inner circle. Later that afternoon, at approximately 3.30 pm, several people reported hearing a gunshot. After waiting a few minutes, Hitler’s valet and SS adjutant entered the small study and found the lifeless bodies of Hitler and Eva on a small sofa. Eva had bitten into a cyanide capsule and Hitler had shot himself in his right temple. The corpses were carried up the stairs and through the bunker’s emergency exit into the garden of the Reich Chancellery, where they were set alight and burned so they did not fall into the hands of the approaching Russians. Eva was 33 years old when she died.

Gabrielle Bonheur “Coco” Chanel was born at the Loire area of Saumur in France in August 1883. She and her two sisters were brought up in a convent orphanage after their mother died of Tuberculosis and had been abandoned by their father when she was aged 12. Her two brothers were sent to work as farm labourers. At the orphanage she learnt how to sew which enabled her to become a future fashion designer and business woman. Aged 18 Coco went to live in a boarding house for Catholic girls and found employment as a seamstress. When not sewing she sang in a cabaret frequented by cavalry officers. She acquired the name “Coco” when singing the song ‘Who has seen Coco’. She moved to the town of Vichy in an attempt to have a singing career but was not successful. She moved back to the Loire area and aged 23 she met a young textile heir and ex-cavalry officer Étianne Balsan and became his mistress. In 1908 Coco had an affair with Balsan’s friend, Captain Arthur Edward Capel, who was a wealthy member of the English upper class. She was installed in an apartment in Paris by Capel and he financed her first shops. She broke free of the convention that women should wear corsets and be subservient to men with her style of clothes she designed and made. Whilst living with Balsan she began designing hats and obtained a milliners licence enabling her to open a boutique in Paris. As an advertising and marketing aid Coco instructed master perfumer, Ernest Beaux to develop a new fragrance to enhance her new dress collection which was being presented on the 5th May 1921.  The new perfume, Chanel No. 5, was named after the fifth day and the fifth month, and it is still called Chanel No, 5. Coco’s fashion industry expanded into a formidable business at the beginning of the Second World War. During the German occupation of France she closed her shops in Paris stating it was not a time for fashion. She resided at the Hotel Ritz and her controversial romantic liaison with Baron Hans Günther von Dincklage made her accommodation arrangements far easier. Dincklage reported directly to Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. The Ritz was the preferred place of residence for upper-class German military staff. Declassified archival documents have indicated that Coco had links to the Abwehr (German military intelligence) and that she was enlisted in the summer of 1941 and working as a spy. There is still some doubt as to whether she was listed as an agent. Her first mission appears to be that she went to Madrid to identify Nazi sympathisers and recruit them as potential spies. In 1943 she travelled with Dincklage to Berlin for the bungled “0peration Modelhutt” (Model Hat) in which she acted as a messenger for Walter Schellenberg, head of foreign S.S. intelligence. The aim was to try to persuade Winston Churchill that elements of the Nazi party wished to seek peace with the Allies.  Coco seemed to be the perfect person to deliver the message to Churchill as they had been friends before the war. The plan failed in because Churchill did not respond to the request. A fortnight after Paris was liberated in August 1944, two French resistance officers escorted her from the Ritz to the offices that dealt with Nazi collaborators. A few hours later she was released and it has been assumed Churchill intervened when she should have been punished as collaborator. She promptly fled to Switzerland with her lover Dincklage and   returned to France in 1949.  Coco’s comeback collection of couture debuted in 1953 and within three seasons she enjoyed new found respect. She lived permanently at the Hotel Ritz in Paris from 1954 until her death at the age of 87 on the 10th January 1971.

Irene Coffee (nee Brann) was a German-Jew born in Dresden in 1912. Nazi Germany was determined to exterminate the Jewish population, and after her father died in 1933 she eventually left for London in 1937. She entered into a marriage of convenience with a man called Aaron Coffee but the couple did not live together. Her new civil status enabled her to bring her mother safely to England. Although Irene found employment she did not feel secure, as she was regarded by her neighbours as being German not Jewish. By October 1941 the Germans had overrun most of Europe, and Irene imagined a German invasion of Britain and consequently the deportation to a concentration camp. In 1941 overcome by despair Irene and her mother took an overdose of sleeping tablets. This proved fatal for her mother but Irene survived and she was brought to trial for the murder of her mother and attempted suicide. She was found guilty and sentenced to death. The presiding judge, although he had passed the sentence had misgivings and wrote to the home secretary recommending commuting the sentence to life imprisonment. In due course King George VI granted this request. As a result of further representations by her lawyers she was released. After being freed she moved to the North of England then to Switzerland and finally to Australia. It is doubtful she succeeded in making a proper new life even though she remarried, and on the 30th September 1968 she again took an overdose of sleeping tablets. This time they achieved the desired effect.

The Diary of Anne Frank, is a book of the writings from the diary kept by Jewish Anne Frank while she was in hiding with her family for two years during the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam the capital of the Netherlands. For her thirteenth birthday Anne received a red chequered autograph book and she began writing in it on the 14th June 1942. Anne’s older sister Margot received an official summons to report to a Nazi work-camp in Germany on the 6th July 1942 and the following day the family went into hiding, together with her father’s business partner and family. Their hiding place was in the sealed-off upper rooms of the annex at the back of the Frank’s company building. The family dentist joined them four months later, making a total of eight in hiding, and they remained hidden for two years and one month with the assistance of the trusted colleagues of Anne’s father. In August 1944 they were discovered and deported to several Nazi concentration camps. It is not known whether they were betrayed or whether a police raid accidently discovered them. Of the eight people who went into hiding, only Anne’s father Otto survived the war. Anne died when she was fifteen in Bergen-Belsen of typhus sometime between February and April 1945. After confirmation of her death the diaries were given to Otto and he duly had them published in 1947.

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Audrey Hepburn and Sophia Loren, both international film actresses were children when Germany had occupied Holland and with Italy’s assistance occupied Italy itself.  Both countries were liberated by the Allies. The two girls went on to international acclaim after the war.

Audrey Hepburn was born near Brussels in Belgium in 1920 and moved with her family to Arnhem in Holland during 1937, as her mother was a Dutch noblewoman. Her father, who was English, was living in Britain and Audrey and her mother joined him, but in 1938 her parents divorced. After two years living in Britain, prior to the outbreak of war, Audrey and mother re-located to Arnhem. After the invasion and occupation of the Netherlands, Audrey attended a local school and continued the ballet lessons she had started whilst living in Britain. It has been rumoured but not confirmed that she participated in the Dutch resistance as she had frequently witnessed the transportation of Dutch Jews to concentration camps. She was especially traumatised by seeing children being taken away from their parents and wearing clothes far too big for them. Living conditions became steadily worse after D-Day and Arnhem was heavily damaged during Operation Market Garden. From her experiences and malnutrition she was to suffer health problems for the rest of her life.

Sophia Loren was an illegitimate child born in Rome during 1934, and before the Second World War started, her family moved and lived with her grandmother in Pozzuoli near Naples. During the Second World War, the harbour and munitions plant in Pozzuoli was frequently bombed by the Allies and during one raid Sophia was struck by shrapnel and wounded on the chin. Distant relatives took the family in when they moved to Naples. After the war Sophia’s family moved back to Pozzuoli where her grandmother opened a bar with Sophia waiting at tables and washing up. The place was popular with American GI’s who were stationed nearby.

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Wallis Simpson, later known as the Duchess of Windsor, was an American socialite whose intended marriage to British King Edward VIII caused a constitutional crisis that led to Edward’s abdication. She was born Bessie Wallis Warfield on the 19th June 1896 and grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. Her first marriage to U.S. Naval officer Win Spencer ended in divorce owing to the long separations entailed in a naval career. During her second marriage to Ernest Simpson she met Edward, Prince of Wales, in 1931. After Edward’s accession to the throne in 1936 Wallis divorced her second husband to marry Edward. Her aim was to be Queen hence her willingness to marry Edward. A constitutional crisis developed in the United Kingdom and the Dominions over the King’s desire to marry a woman who had two living ex-husbands. In December 1936 Edward abdicated to marry Wallis. His brother King George VI created the title Duke of Windsor for Edward and upon their marriage Wallis was formally known as the Duchess of Windsor but did not achieve “Royal Highness” status. Leading up to and during the Second World War the British government suspected Edward and Wallis of being Nazi sympathisers as they had travelled to Germany and met Adolf Hitler. In 1940 the Duke was appointed governor of the Bahamas and the couple moved to the islands until he relinquished the office in 1945. Shuffling between Europe and the United States in the 1950s and 1960s they lived a life of leisure as society celebrities. When the Duke died in 1972 Wallis lived in seclusion and was suffering ill health and rarely seen in public. Aged 89 she died on the 24th April 1986 at her home in the Bois de Boulogne, Paris. Wallis remains a controversial figure in British history as her private life has been a source of much speculation.

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Women’s role in the first half of the Twentieth Century had seen a dramatic change. When the Suffragette‘s first came to prominence women had not been encouraged to show their potential, apart from relatively few women throughout history. The main women forerunners in history were either Royalty or from aristocratic backgrounds whilst the remainder of the female population were looked upon as homemakers and mothers. There were stirrings of the change of attitude in women during the Nineteenth Century, but the Suffragette movement began to alter the public’s attention. Eventually the Suffragette movement secured the vote for women. The First World War provided the opportunity for women to prove what they could achieve. They took on more traditionally accepted female roles such as nursing serving in overseas hospitals administering to injured soldiers. They also filled the vacancies in the factories and on the land that were needed filling when the men went to war to fight. During and after the war, women began to relish the freedom that their experiences had given them. Many women were not prepared to return to the role of servant to aristocratic families as the social system had been eradicated by the war. They realised they could achieve different roles. Women’s lives were to alter dramatically during the Roaring Twenties with the onset of new fashion, new music and more money being available. Most of the population were to suffer during the depression years of the Thirties. With the onset of the Second World War, women again came to the fore in the manufacturing and agricultural industries and generally performing many traditional male orientated roles. In addition there were many more military positions available and women not only took advantage of, but successfully managed to reach a position of authority. Present day women now have the opportunity to succeed where in the past they were frowned on. They excel in universities, become doctors, lawyers and barristers and often run their own companies. There is still a long way to go before women achieve parity and there will always be the problems of acceptance. Both male and female must agree that there are differences between the two genders and total equality is not possible. However, an acceptable compromise can be achieved by encouraging females to be feminine and males to be masculine and allowing both sexes to perform what they are best at. Most of these opportunities have been achieved by the efforts of women throughout the first half of the Twentieth Century.

 

WOMEN OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR

 

SPECIAL OPERATIONS EXECUTIVE

WOMEN OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR

 

The film Charlotte Gray is set in Vichy France during the Second World War. The story is based on the exploits of women in Great Britain’s Special Operations Executive (SOE) who worked with the French resistance in Nazi occupied France. In July 1940 the SOE was set up as a top secret network of undercover agents whose tasks were to “set Europe ablaze”. All operatives were required to be bilingual and possess the ability to pass as a native citizen of the country in which they were deployed. The recruits were required to undergo tough commando training with the emphasis on Morse code, radio operating and proficiency with both guns and explosives. Upon completion of their training they were dropped behind enemy in Nazi occupied territory where they sabotaged supply lines, mobilised resistance and relayed intelligence back to SOE HQ. The work often involved the delivery of packages and women generally did not arouse any suspicion. However, if captured their fate would be terrible. In civilian clothes they were classified as insurgents and not combatants in uniform. They did not have the same protection as prisoners of war as the Geneva Convention did not make provision for women.

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The character Charlotte Gray is a composite agent based on such SOE agents as the following women:-

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Andrée Borrel who was born in a suburb of North West Paris in November 1919. She left school at 14 to help support her family after her father died. Just prior to the start of the Second World War Andrée travelled to Spain to help in the Spanish Civil War against the Nazi-backed fascists but the war was almost over. She returned to France and volunteered for the Red Cross. In October 1939 her mother was advised to move to a warmer area for her health so Andrée and her sister escorted their mother to Toulon on the Mediterranean. Whilst there Andrée enrolled in a crash course in nursing and eventually qualified her to work in various hospitals. Along with Lieutenant Maurice Dufour they started working for the underground resistance after the hospitals had closed down.

In late December 1941 the safe house she and Dufour had established as part of an escape network was compromised they evacuated to London where she tried to join Free French Forces. She was rejected by them but then was approached by SOE. Whilst officially an ensign in the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) Andrée was trained by SOE to become a field agent. In September 1942 Andrée and Lisa de Baissac were the first female agents to be flown to occupied France. With her knowledge of Paris she was employed as a courier eventually becoming second-in-command of the Paris circuit. She helped set up circuits in Paris and northern France including many resistance activities until June 1943 when she was arrested by the Gestapo. She was interrogated but showed stubborn resistance and sent to Fresnes Prison before being transported to Germany with seven other SOE agents including Odette Hallows. On the 6th July 1944 Andrée with three other agent were transported to Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp in France. The women were told to undress for a medical inspection and have an injection for medical reasons. The injections were lethal and their bodies were taken to the crematorium ovens. Andrée was posthumously awarded the Crois de Guerre and Médalle de la Résistance by France in recognition of her heroic defence of her homeland. Britain also awarded her the King’s Commendation for Brave Conduct (KCBC).

Yvonne Cormeau MBE, born Beatrice Yvonne Biesterfield was born in Shanghai, China in December 1909. Her father was a Belgian consular official and her mother was Scottish.  She was educated in Scotland and Belgium and in 1937 she married Charles Cormeau whilst living in London. Her husband was wounded in France in November 1940 after having enlisted in the The Rifle Brigade. He was sent back to the UK and was killed shortly after when their London home was bombed. A bath fell over Yvonne’s head which protected her and saved her life. In November 1941 she joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) in an effect to take her husband’s place in the Armed Forces, where she answered an appeal for linguists. She was recruited by SOE in February 1943 and trained as a wireless operator along with Noor Inayat Khan. She had volunteered to save France from the Nazis, leaving her two year daughter behind who was brought up in a convent by Ursuline nuns in Oxfordshire. Yvonne was parachuted north east of Bordeaux where she worked as a courier and wireless operator under the disguise of district nurse. She successfully made over 400 transmissions to London and assisted in various resistance sabotage activities. She had one narrow escape where she passed her wireless equipment off as an x-ray machine. She worked for thirteen months despite being betrayed and having “wanted” posters of her displayed locally. She evaded being arrested on a number occasions with some narrow escapes. A year after the war ended she was demobilised having attained the WAAF Rank of Flight Officer. After demob she worked as a translator with               SOE at the Foreign Office. She became a leading figure with the SOE veterans and arranged their annual Bastille Day Dinners. After the war she was appointed MBE and decorated with the Légion d’Honneur, Croix de Guerre, Médaille de la Résistance and Palmes Academiques. She was reunited with her daughter after the war and they lived in London. Yvonne was one of the earliest members of the Special Forces Club. She married James (Jim) Edgar Farrow when she was in her 70s and they lived in Derbyshire. In 1989 she was subject of “This is Your Life”. Yvonne had been invited to a cast ‘photo-call’ of the wartime series “Wish Me Luck” and was presented with the famous Big Red Book by Michael Aspell and Jane Asher, one of the stars of the series. After her husband Jim died she spent her remaining years at Fleet in Hampshire where she died on Christmas Day 1997 aged 88.

Christine Granville OBE, as she was known, whose real name was Maria Krystyna Janina Skarbek, was born in Poland in May 1908. She legally adopted the name Christine Granville when she became a British National in December 1946. Christine was the daughter of an impoverished Count and Jewish mother who grew up on a country estate. She enjoyed the active sporting outdoor life of a tomboy until the 1920s when the family moved to Warsaw on account of financial problems. In April 1930 she married a young business man but they were found to be incompatible and the marriage ended in divorce. Christine met her second husband at a ski resort in Poland and after they married in 1938 they set off for Kenya in Africa. Her new husband was a globetrotter and diplomat who had been offered a post of consul in Kenya, but before they actually arrived the Second World War began. Upon arrival at Cape Town they boarded another ship and headed for England. She volunteered to help the British secret services by proposing an occupied-Polish/Hungarian escape route for Polish volunteers to fight in the west together with any other available information. She was then recruited into Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) and given instructions to pass on any information to SOE. In February she made her first trip over the border and by early 1941 she was ordered to leave for Belgrade. The resistance group she was in contact with had been infiltrated as the Hungarians came under more German control. The British provided her a new passport naming her as Christine Granville enabling her to escape. The Polish resistance distrusted her in the circumstances of her escape from the Gestapo. She was prevented from getting involved in any of SOE’s further major missions. She spent nearly three years taking part in second-rate missions until 1943 when she replaced a courier in Southern France for resistance leader, Francis Cammaerts. She was introduced into SOE with extensive training and in July 1944 she was dropped into Southern France and blended in with the local resistance groups.  On the eve of the Allied invasion of Southern France in late 1944, Cammaerts was arrested alongside two other SOE agents. Having sequential numbered banknotes the local Gestapo officer ordered their execution in forty-eight hours. When Christine heard she presented herself as Cammaerts’ wife and the niece of General Montgomery. Informing him of the imminent invasion and the consequences of his actions, the Gestapo officer arranged for the three SOE agents to be released. A few weeks later she managed to convince 2,000 Polish men to dispose their uniforms and revolt against the Germans. She was successful as the Polish men were forcibly enlisted in the German Army. Shortly after Christine’s mission was over as the Allies had liberated France. She was recalled to London for de-briefing and again ordered back to Cairo where she stayed until the end of the war. She found she really wasn’t wanted anywhere after she arrived back in Britain. Poland was under Russian control and she couldn’t go there, while Britain was flooded with Polish ex- servicemen struggling to find work and who now were relegated to second-class citizens. Some SOE commanders managed to assist her in obtaining a British passport although they never employed her again. She had a series of mundane jobs until 1951 when she became entangled with Irishman Dennis Mulldowney. He became obsessed with her and on the 15th June 1951 he stabbed her to death after she told him of her plans to leave England for good. He waited by her body until the police arrived and admitted murdering her. He was tried and executed in 1952. For her wartime work in conjunction with the British Authorities in May 1947 Christine was made on Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE). She was also awarded the George Medal for her bravery in the field. The French awarded her the Croix de Guerre for her contribution in the Liberation of France. Her medals and awards counted for nothing when she was of no further use to Britain.

Odette Hallows (maiden name Brailly) was born in the French town of Amien in April 1912, her father was killed during the Great War. She was convent educated then met Englishman Roy Sansom and they married in 1931. They moved to Britain and had three daughters. At the beginning of the Second World War Sansom joined the army and Odette with the children moved to Somerset for their safety. When Germany occupied France in 1940 she made contact with the Free French forces based in London and consequently was recruited into SOE. When she was recruited into SOE she left her daughters in a convent school.  With orders to help establish a new network in Burgundy she was sent by boat to France in October 1941. She worked as a radio operator alongside Peter Churchill the SOE’s organiser in that district. Radio operation was highly dangerous with the Gestapo constantly monitoring the airwaves. They were infiltrated by German Intelligence and Odette and Churchill were arrested on the 16th April 1943. They convinced the Gestapo they were husband and wife and were related to Winston Churchill which ensured they were not executed. Odette was sent to Fresnes Prison in Paris and was tortured by the Gestapo but did not divulge any information. Along with seven other SOE agents (including Andrée Borrel) Odette was transported to Nazi Germany on the 13th May 1944. She was eventually sent to Ravensbruck Concentration Camp until the end of the war. In 1946 she was awarded the George Cross for bravery and appointed MBE, she was also appointed the Chavalier de la Légion d’Honneur for her work with the French resistance. In 1947 she married Churchill after her marriage to Roy Sansom was dissolved. Churchill and Odette divorced in 1956 and she married Geoffrey Hallows, a former SOE officer. Odette died on the 13th March 1995 at Walton-on-Thames and was outlived by her third husband. Her wartime experience was the subject of the 1950 film “Odette”, in which the title role was played by Anna Neagle with Trevor Howard as Churchill.

Noor Inayat Khan was also known as Nora Baker and was born in Moscow on the 1st January 1914 to an Indian father and an American mother. Her father was a musician living in London and from a noble Indian Muslim family who met his wife during his travels in the United States. Just before the outbreak of the Great War the family left Russia for London. In 1920 they moved to France where she studied at the Sorbonne and began a writing career. When France was overrun by German troops at the beginning of the Second World War the family fled to Bordeaux and on to England thence Cornwall on the 22nd June 1940. In November 1940 she joined the WAAF as a wireless operator before being recruited into SOE. She was the first woman to be sent overseas purely as a wireless operator as all women agents before had been sent as couriers. In June 1943 she was flown to France band made her way to Paris. Sending messages back to Britain she was betrayed, arrested and interrogated by the Gestapo in October 1943. She did not give away any information. In November 1943 she escaped but was soon recaptured within the vicinity of Gestapo Headquarters. She was taken to Germany ‘for safe custody’ and kept in solitary confinement for ten months shackled at hands and feet. She was transferred to Dachau Concentration Camp and at dawn with three other agents on the 13th September 1944 she was executed. Noor Inayat Khan was posthumously awarded the George Cross in 1949 and a French Croix de Guerre avec étoile de vermeil (with Silver Star).

Eileen Nearne was born in 1921 in London to an English father and a Spanish mother and was the youngest of four children. Two years later the family moved to France, and Eileen became fluent in English and French. After the German invasion in 1940 Eileen and her sister Jacqueline made their way to London while the rest of the family remained in France. Upon her arrival in England she was recruited by the SOE and after training, was flown to France in March 1944 working as a wireless operator. Separately Jacqueline was also recruited by the SOE. The first message Eileen transmitted identified the location near Paris where 2000 London-bound V1 Rockets were hidden. She had an acknowledgement that the message was received by the BBC reply “Happy to know the duck had a good trip.” In July 1944 her transmitter was discovered. She survived the discovery, capture and torture by the Gestapo, escaping three times from prison camps to continue her work. By the time the war was over she had sent more than 100 coded messages across the channel. Eileen faded into virtual anonymity after the war, despite having been made an MBE, being presented with the French Croix de Guerre and winning citations for gallantry. She suffered a breakdown because of wartime experiences. After the war Eileen lived with her sister Jacqueline in London and moved to Torquay after her sister died in 1982. At the age of 89, having quietly living alone, she died of heart attack in September 2010 and at her funeral a Eulogy was read with the Royal Marines sounding the Last Post over her Union Flag draped casket.

“The love that I have, is all that I have, and the love that I have is yours” is a simple poem written by Leo Marks. The poem was given to Violette Szarbo as cipher for encoding messages. Marks was a cryptologist who wrote poems for each SOE agent in order to identify them. Violette Szarbo (maiden name Bushell) was born in Paris in June 1921 to an English father and French mother. In early 1940, whilst the family were living in England, she joined the Women’s Land Army but returned to London to work in an armament factory. She met Étienne Szarbo, an officer in the French Foreign Legion. After a whirlwind 42 day romance they married in August 1940. She was nineteen and he was thirty one. After a week’s honeymoon he returned to fight against the Vichy French. In September 1941 she enlisted in the Auxiliary Territorial Services (ATS) but soon realised she was pregnant. Étienne died of wounds received at the Second Battle of El Alemein and never saw his daughter. Violette accepted an offer to become an agent in the SOE and saw this as a way of fighting the enemy who killed her husband. On her second mission into occupied France, Violette was captured, interrogated, tortured and deported to a concentration camp in Germany and executed. Her five year old daughter Tania, was brought up by her grandmother and in December 1941 Tania received the George Cross from King George VI on behalf of her late mother. The film “Carve Her Name with Pride” was a 1958 British war drama where Violette Szarbo was played by Virginia McKenna.

The Gestapo’s most-wanted person was code-named “The White Mouse” because she had the ability to avoid capture, Nancy Wake was the Allies most decorated servicewoman in the Second World War. Nancy was born in Wellington, New Zealand on the 30th Aug 1912 and was the youngest of six children, and she appears to retain her maiden name all her life. In 1914 the family moved to Australia but shortly after her father returned to New Zealand leaving her mother to bring up the children. Using money she inherited from an aunt, she ran away from home at 16 years of age working as a nurse before journeying to New York and finally London where she found employment as a journalist. In 1937 Nancy met Henri Fiocca whom she married in 1939. They were living in Marseille when Germany invaded France. Before the fall of France she worked as an ambulance driver and after the fall she became a courier for the French resistance and the escape network. The Gestapo became aware of her and after the network was betrayed she decided to leave France. Her husband stayed behind but was captured and executed by the Germans but he did not betray her. She was unaware of his death until the war ended. Nancy made her way across the Pyrenees into Spain and returned to Britain where she joined SOE. She was parachuted into the Auvergne region of France in April 1944 where she remained until the Liberation of France. She became the liaison contact between London and the local maquis group which performed many successful attacks on the German forces in the area. With her coiffured hair and make-up she was a glamourous and feminine woman whose looks concealed her deadly ability. During one raid she killed an S.S. guard with her bare hands to prevent him raising the alarm. When her wireless operator had been forced to destroy vital codes during a Gestapo raid she cycled over 300 km (190 miles) through several German checkpoints to get to another group’s wireless operator to inform London of the situation. The total return journey of 380 miles took her 72 hours to complete. After the war Britain awarded her the George Medal, the U.S. gave her the Medal of Freedom and France honoured her with the Médaille de la Résistance, the Légion d’Honneur and the Croix de Guerre three times. Upon returning to Australia after the war she stood as a Liberal candidate in the 1949 election campaign and again in the 1951 federal election but was defeated in both. She moved back to England after the 1951 elections. In 1957 she married John Forward, a former RAF fighter pilot and they relocated to Australia. She had an uneasy relationship with her childhood country which led her to refuse any decorations from the Australian government. However, she did relent in February 2004 and was made a Companion of the Order of Australia. Her husband died in 1997 and Nancy settled for the final time in London and at the age of 98 on the 7th August 2011 she died of a chest infection at a hospital in Kingston. It was in 1999 that Nancy’s story inspired Sebastion Faulks to write the novel Charlotte Grey.

Pearl Witherington was a British subject born in Paris to British expatriate parents in June 1914. When Germany invaded France in May 1940 she was employed at the British Embassy in Paris. With her mother and three sisters she escaped occupied France eventually arriving in London in December 1940. She found work with the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) for the Air Ministry. In June 1943 she joined SOE determined to fight against the German occupation of France. On completion of training she was parachuted into France in September 1943 and joined up with Maurice Southgate, the leader of the SOE Station Network and working as his courier. When Southgate was arrested in May 1944 by the Gestapo Pearl became the leader of the new SOE Wrestler Network. She reorganised the network and fielded over 1,500 members of the Maquis (resistance). During the D-Day landings of June1944 Pearl’s network played an important role fighting the German Army, and were so effective that the Germans offered one million francs for the capture of Pearl. The Germans ordered 2,000 men to attack her small force and after a fourteen hour battle the Germans lost 86 men while the maquis lost 24 out of a possible 40 men. Pearl fled to a cornfield and waited until the Germans had vacated the area before moving away. She regrouped and set-up and launched large-scale guerrilla attacks among the German columns travelling through her operations area. As well as disrupting the marching columns she damaged key railway lines connecting Southern France to the Normandy battlefield. In mid-September 1944 Pearl’s Wrestler network helped to force the 18,000 German troops, who were still in her region, to surrender to the Americans. Having completed her mission at the end of the war she returned to London where she married her fiancée, Henri Cornioley in October 1945 and they had a daughter. France recognised her bravery and awarded her the Légion d’Honneur, the Croix de Guerre and the Médaille de la résistance. After much discussion Britain offered her a civil MBE, which she refused. Her argument being there was nothing civil about her role as a guerrilla leader. On appeal she was awarded the military MBE. The family moved back to Paris and she began a long career in the World Bank. In 2004 her MBE was upgraded to a CBE and two years later the RAF finally awarded her with her most prized possession, her Parachute Wings. As one of only a few women to lead the maquis during the war, Pearl died in February 2008.

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THE SECOND WORLD WAR July 1940

 

 

THE SECOND WORLD WAR July 1940

(Britain)

Brighton beach was closed to the public on the 2nd July 1940 and remained closed until February 1944. The Brighton Blitz as it was known was carried out by the German Luftwaffe with  a total of 56 recorded occasions during the beach closure period. Preparing for a possible German invasion the beaches were mined and guarded with barbed wire. To prevent the Germans using the piers as landing stages both the Palace and West Piers had their decking removed. 30,000 people were evacuated as the town was no longer considered to be a “safe area”.

On the 3rd, 10th and 12th July 1940 the Luftwaffe bombed the Welsh city of Cardiff. The docks were the prime target as they were the biggest coal-port in the world. Consequently, the docks and the surrounding area was heavily bombed.

After his abdication in 1936 King Edward VIII was given the title of Duke of Windsor and he relocated to France with his partner Mrs. Wallis Simpson. He married Mrs. Simpson, after her divorce was finalised, in France in 1937 and stayed until the outbreak of the war then they moved to neutral Portugal. Nazi German agents routinely courted the politically naïve Duke, suggesting he be made a puppet king in the event Germany defeated Britain. Anxious not to allow him to make defeatist statements, which he was prone to do, the British Cabinet proposed he be made the Governor of the Bahamas on the 4th July 1940. The Duke reluctantly agreed to the appointment which denied the Nazi regime their ongoing propaganda opportunities.

The Battle of Britain began on the 10th July 1940 and was considered to be the first military campaign fought entirely in the air. The Luftwaffe targeted mainly coastal-shipping convoys and ports. The Royal Air Force (RAF) fighters defended the attacks of which the prime objective of the Germans was to compel Britain to a negotiated peace. The Battle of Britain, which officially ended on the 31st October 1940, took its name from the speech:  “What General Weygand called the ‘Battle of France’. I expect that the battle of Britain is about to begin”. The speech was made by Prime Minister Winston Churchill on the 18th June 1940 to the House of Commons.

On the 11th July 1940 the British government closed down the Burma Road which was the chief supply line for military equipment for the Nationalist Chinese. The Japanese government pledged to end the war with China by seeking terms with the Chinese General Chiang Kai-shek.

At the Battle of Cape Spada in the Mediterranean on the 19th July 1940 the commander of the Allied squadron, Captain John Collins aboard the Australian cruiser HMAS Sydney had sailed from Alexandria bound for the bay of Athens. Sydney was accompanied by HMS Havock and Collins had orders to support the flotilla of destroyers HMS Hyperian, Hero, Hasty and Ilex who were searching for Italian submarines in the Aegean Sea. Before making contact with the flotilla Sydney spotted two high speed Italian cruisers who were pursuing the flotilla. Maintaining radio silence Sydney hoisted her battle ensign and open fired at the Italians at a range of approximately ten miles catching both the enemy and the fleeing flotilla by surprise at the sudden appearance of support. Now in radio contact the two Allied groups joined forces north of Cape Spada, Crete. After receiving hits the two Italian cruisers attempted to retreat under cover of smoke screens. One of the Italian cruisers was seen to be on fire and losing headway and Hyperian and Ilex were ordered to sink her and pick up survivors. The second Italian cruiser outpaced the following Allied destroyers and the chase was abandoned. The Sydney sustained only one hit during the encounter.

On the 14th May 1940, in his radio broadcast, the Secretary of State for War, Anthony Eden, called for members of the public to join the newly formed Local Defence Volunteers (LDV). By the 23rd July 1940 there were more than 1.000.000 volunteers for the Home Guard, as the LDV became officially known. With the threat of invasion by the German Army, some members of the civilian population began to organise into bands of armed men who were patrolling the countryside. The British government realised they would need to organise the defence of Britain properly. The volunteers were made up of older men who had fought in the Great War and the working force who were in reserved occupation. Initially the Home Guard was poorly armed as the regular forces took priority for equipment. The Home Guard were trained twice a week by the regular Army which developed into a ruthless guerrilla force capable of slowing a German invasion. This would allow the regular Army to regroup and re-establish defensive positions. Though the invasion never came the Home Guard remained on active service until it was stood down in December 1944. However, there were 1,206 members of the Home Guard killed during the course of the war. With the possibility of a new threat of a Cold War with the Soviet Union, the Home Guard was revised in 1952 and again was disbanded in 1957. At the height of the Cold War, the Home Service Force was established in 1982 and was disbanded in 1992 as part of the “peace process”.

On the 23rd July 1940, the British government ordered the evacuation of women, children, the elderly and the infirm from Gibraltar. It had been expected by the British authorities that Gibraltar would not be in the front line of hostilities. With the over-run of the Low Countries in May 1940 and Italy entering the war on Germany’s side in June 1940, the scenario changed. Gibraltar needed to be converted to fully – fledged fortress as it was Hitler’s wish to capture Gibraltar to gain complete control of the access to the Mediterranean. Shortly after the first evacuees landed in French Morocco, France capitulated and the evacuees were ordered to leave as they were technically on foreign soil. Eventually the evacuees arrived in London at the height of the Battle of Britain and the Blitz.

…………

(France)

When France officially surrendered to Germany in June 1940 and the country was divided in two. The northern sector, including Paris was occupied by the Germans while the southern sector collaborated with the Germans. The French government, led by Marshal Phillipe Pétain, moved their operations to Vichy in central France on the 1st July 1940. The government remained at Vichy until the summer of 1944 with the Allied invasion of France, after which it was compelled to relocate to Germany. It continued to exist on paper until the end of hostilities in Europe.

The Battle of Mers-el-Kebir was conducted on the 3rd July 1940 and was one of the strangest and one-sided battles of the Second World War. Three weeks after the French had surrendered to the Germans, the large French navy was anchored at the French-Algerian port of Mers-el-Kebir. On the orders of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill the British Royal Navy, commanded by Admiral Sir James Somerville, fired salvo after salvo on the French fleet, sinking most of the ships that were at anchor. The fleet consisted of two battleships, two battle cruisers, six destroyers and a seaplane fender. Had the French navy fallen into German hands the combined naval would have given them the best opportunity for the invasion of Britain. With the diplomatic discussions between the Vichy and British governments the issues were unresolved by the beginning of July 1940. The French Admiral Francois Darian gave Churchill assurances that the fleet would not sail back to Toulon to join the German navy, but Churchill did not trust Darian. The British government ordered negotiations to be conducted suggesting the French fleet be handed over to the Americans or failing that the ships should be scuttled. The final alternative would be that the Royal Navy would destroy the French fleet. With the French using delaying tactics Somerville reluctantly ordered the attack. Nearly 1,300 French sailors were killed and a further 350 were wounded in what the French considered an attack without a declaration of war. The French considered Churchill to be a traitor.

Following the British attack on the French fleet the Germans agreed to the forming of a Vichy French Air Force, which on the 18th July 1940 half-heartedly bombed Gibraltar but the bombing did little damage. After France surrendered the French air force was split into two factions. Those who escaped from France during the retreat from Dunkirk who joined the Free French Forces and those who stayed on behalf of Vichy government and flew for the French Armistice Air Force.

…………

(Germany)

The German invasion and occupation of the Channel Islands began on the 30th June 1940. The actual occupation was completed by the 1st July 1940 and Alderney surrendered to the Germans on the 2nd July 1940. The occupation was finalised on the 4th July 1940 when the island of Sark was the last to surrender to the Germans. On the 28th June 1940 the Germans bombed the islands unaware the British government had demilitarised the islands. The British government requested the island occupants leave the islands as they did not have sufficient staff to protect them. The islands were liberated on the 9th May 1945 and were the only part of Britain occupied by the Germans.            –

Adolf Hitler concluded that the invasion of Britain could be achieved on condition the Luftwaffe had air superiority and that minefields and U-boats could limit the threat posed by the Royal Navy. Following the fall of France, Hitler hoped the British government would seek a peace agreement and reluctantly he considered an invasion as a last resort. On the 2nd July 1940 he ordered the OKW (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht or “High Command of the Armed Forces”) to begin preliminary planning for an invasion codenamed Operation Sea Lion. By the 12th July 1940 the Luftwaffe attacks had begun on the dock areas of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

………..

(Italy)

Marshal Rodolfo Graziani was Commander-in-Chief of the Italian Regio Esercito’s (Royal Army) General Staff when he took the place of Marshal Ital Balbo on the 1st July 1940. Balbo had been killed in a friendly fire incident on the 28th June 1940. With orders from Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, as the new Commander-in-Chief of Italian North Africa and Governor General of Libya, he was given a deadline of the 8th August 1940 to start the invasion of Egypt.

In an effort to strike at the United Kingdom and Commonwealth throughout the Middle East the Italian Royal Air Force (Regia Aeronautica) began a bombing campaign. On the 1st July 1940 the bombing of the British Mandate of Palestine was primarily centred on Tel Aviv and Haifa with its port and oil refineries. The British were forced to divert other troops in to defend the area in an effort to keep control of the supply of oil. The final Italian bombing on the territories of the British Mandate of Palestine occurred in June 1941.

During the East Africa Campaign, on the 4th July 1940 the Sudanese city of Kassala was captured by the Italian forces who were advancing from Italian East Africa. The British garrison whose 1,300 colonial troops and British officers were easily defeated, despite some initial heavy fighting, by 2,500 Italian soldiers plus one brigade of cavalry supported by 24 tanks. The Italians held the city until mid-January 1941 when the British returned to occupy the city.

………..

(USA)

American President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress for a huge increase in military re-armourment programme on the 10th July 1940. Although officially neutral the American president was aware that America would be drawn into the war although he stated to the American public that he did not want to send its boys to fight in any European conflict. The president’s request for the budget increase was granted on 27th August 1940.

President Roosevelt signed the “two ocean navy” bill on the 20th July 1940. The bill planned for the expansion of the U.S. Navy to meet the German challenge in the Atlantic and the Japanese threat in the Pacific. American companies built 201 new warships including seven battleships.

On the 22nd July 1940, delegates of European colonies in the Western Hemisphere whose mother countries had been over-run by the Germans attended the Havana Conference. The three day conference decided to establish a trusteeship policy applying to Dutch and French colonies in the Caribbean, South America and off the Canadian coast. The trusteeship was implemented to prevent Fascist infiltration into the Western Hemisphere through the colonies.

………..

(Japan)

At the Japanese Army’s request, Fumimaro Konoe was proposed once again, to become the Prime Minister. On the 22nd July 1940 the previous cabinet resigned and Konoe was appointed Prime Minister. Prince Fumimaro Konoe was born into the ancient Fujiwara clan at Tokyo in October 1891. He automatically became a member of the House of Peers in 1916 at the age of 25. His Racial Equality Proposal at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 was rejected by American President Woodrow Wilson on the grounds it was not a unanimous decision. Konoe felt that all white people had humiliated Japan by rejecting the Racial Equality Clause and henceforth held a grudge. Japan had been at full-scale war with China since 1937 when Konoe became Prime Minister for the first time. Although Japan continued to be victorious the Chinese fought on and Konoe stated he was tired of being a ‘robot’ for the military and resigned in January 1939.

———————————

 

(Britain)

Brighton beach was closed to the public on the 2nd July 1940 and remained closed until February 1944. The Brighton Blitz as it was known was carried out by the German Luftwaffe with  a total of 56 recorded occasions during the beach closure period. Preparing for a possible German invasion the beaches were mined and guarded with barbed wire. To prevent the Germans using the piers as landing stages both the Palace and West Piers had their decking removed. 30,000 people were evacuated as the town was no longer considered to be a “safe area”.

On the 3rd, 10th and 12th July 1940 the Luftwaffe bombed the Welsh city of Cardiff. The docks were the prime target as they were the biggest coal-port in the world. Consequently, the docks and the surrounding area was heavily bombed.

After his abdication in 1936 King Edward VIII was given the title of Duke of Windsor and he relocated to France with his partner Mrs. Wallis Simpson. He married Mrs. Simpson, after her divorce was finalised, in France in 1937 and stayed until the outbreak of the war then they moved to neutral Portugal. Nazi German agents routinely courted the politically naïve Duke, suggesting he be made a puppet king in the event Germany defeated Britain. Anxious not to allow him to make defeatist statements, which he was prone to do, the British Cabinet proposed he be made the Governor of the Bahamas on the 4th July 1940. The Duke reluctantly agreed to the appointment which denied the Nazi regime their ongoing propaganda opportunities.

The Battle of Britain began on the 10th July 1940 and was considered to be the first military campaign fought entirely in the air. The Luftwaffe targeted mainly coastal-shipping convoys and ports. The Royal Air Force (RAF) fighters defended the attacks of which the prime objective of the Germans was to compel Britain to a negotiated peace. The Battle of Britain, which officially ended on the 31st October 1940, took its name from the speech:  “What General Weygand called the ‘Battle of France’. I expect that the battle of Britain is about to begin”. The speech was made by Prime Minister Winston Churchill on the 18th June 1940 to the House of Commons.

On the 11th July 1940 the British government closed down the Burma Road which was the chief supply line for military equipment for the Nationalist Chinese. The Japanese government pledged to end the war with China by seeking terms with the Chinese General Chiang Kai-shek.

At the Battle of Cape Spada in the Mediterranean on the 19th July 1940 the commander of the Allied squadron, Captain John Collins aboard the Australian cruiser HMAS Sydney had sailed from Alexandria bound for the bay of Athens. Sydney was accompanied by HMS Havock and Collins had orders to support the flotilla of destroyers HMS Hyperian, Hero, Hasty and Ilex who were searching for Italian submarines in the Aegean Sea. Before making contact with the flotilla Sydney spotted two high speed Italian cruisers who were pursuing the flotilla. Maintaining radio silence Sydney hoisted her battle ensign and open fired at the Italians at a range of approximately ten miles catching both the enemy and the fleeing flotilla by surprise at the sudden appearance of support. Now in radio contact the two Allied groups joined forces north of Cape Spada, Crete. After receiving hits the two Italian cruisers attempted to retreat under cover of smoke screens. One of the Italian cruisers was seen to be on fire and losing headway and Hyperian and Ilex were ordered to sink her and pick up survivors. The second Italian cruiser outpaced the following Allied destroyers and the chase was abandoned. The Sydney sustained only one hit during the encounter.

On the 14th May 1940, in his radio broadcast, the Secretary of State for War, Anthony Eden, called for members of the public to join the newly formed Local Defence Volunteers (LDV). By the 23rd July 1940 there were more than 1.000.000 volunteers for the Home Guard, as the LDV became officially known. With the threat of invasion by the German Army, some members of the civilian population began to organise into bands of armed men who were patrolling the countryside. The British government realised they would need to organise the defence of Britain properly. The volunteers were made up of older men who had fought in the Great War and the working force who were in reserved occupation. Initially the Home Guard was poorly armed as the regular forces took priority for equipment. The Home Guard were trained twice a week by the regular Army which developed into a ruthless guerrilla force capable of slowing a German invasion. This would allow the regular Army to regroup and re-establish defensive positions. Though the invasion never came the Home Guard remained on active service until it was stood down in December 1944. However, there were 1,206 members of the Home Guard killed during the course of the war. With the possibility of a new threat of a Cold War with the Soviet Union, the Home Guard was revised in 1952 and again was disbanded in 1957. At the height of the Cold War, the Home Service Force was established in 1982 and was disbanded in 1992 as part of the “peace process”.

On the 23rd July 1940, the British government ordered the evacuation of women, children, the elderly and the infirm from Gibraltar. It had been expected by the British authorities that Gibraltar would not be in the front line of hostilities. With the over-run of the Low Countries in May 1940 and Italy entering the war on Germany’s side in June 1940, the scenario changed. Gibraltar needed to be converted to fully – fledged fortress as it was Hitler’s wish to capture Gibraltar to gain complete control of the access to the Mediterranean. Shortly after the first evacuees landed in French Morocco, France capitulated and the evacuees were ordered to leave as they were technically on foreign soil. Eventually the evacuees arrived in London at the height of the Battle of Britain and the Blitz.

…………

(France)

When France officially surrendered to Germany in June 1940 and the country was divided in two. The northern sector, including Paris was occupied by the Germans while the southern sector collaborated with the Germans. The French government, led by Marshal Phillipe Pétain, moved their operations to Vichy in central France on the 1st July 1940. The government remained at Vichy until the summer of 1944 with the Allied invasion of France, after which it was compelled to relocate to Germany. It continued to exist on paper until the end of hostilities in Europe.

The Battle of Mers-el-Kebir was conducted on the 3rd July 1940 and was one of the strangest and one-sided battles of the Second World War. Three weeks after the French had surrendered to the Germans, the large French navy was anchored at the French-Algerian port of Mers-el-Kebir. On the orders of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill the British Royal Navy, commanded by Admiral Sir James Somerville, fired salvo after salvo on the French fleet, sinking most of the ships that were at anchor. The fleet consisted of two battleships, two battle cruisers, six destroyers and a seaplane fender. Had the French navy fallen into German hands the combined naval would have given them the best opportunity for the invasion of Britain. With the diplomatic discussions between the Vichy and British governments the issues were unresolved by the beginning of July 1940. The French Admiral Francois Darian gave Churchill assurances that the fleet would not sail back to Toulon to join the German navy, but Churchill did not trust Darian. The British government ordered negotiations to be conducted suggesting the French fleet be handed over to the Americans or failing that the ships should be scuttled. The final alternative would be that the Royal Navy would destroy the French fleet. With the French using delaying tactics Somerville reluctantly ordered the attack. Nearly 1,300 French sailors were killed and a further 350 were wounded in what the French considered an attack without a declaration of war. The French considered Churchill to be a traitor.

Following the British attack on the French fleet the Germans agreed to the forming of a Vichy French Air Force, which on the 18th July 1940 half-heartedly bombed Gibraltar but the bombing did little damage. After France surrendered the French air force was split into two factions. Those who escaped from France during the retreat from Dunkirk who joined the Free French Forces and those who stayed on behalf of Vichy government and flew for the French Armistice Air Force.

…………

(Germany)

The German invasion and occupation of the Channel Islands began on the 30th June 1940. The actual occupation was completed by the 1st July 1940 and Alderney surrendered to the Germans on the 2nd July 1940. The occupation was finalised on the 4th July 1940 when the island of Sark was the last to surrender to the Germans. On the 28th June 1940 the Germans bombed the islands unaware the British government had demilitarised the islands. The British government requested the island occupants leave the islands as they did not have sufficient staff to protect them. The islands were liberated on the 9th May 1945 and were the only part of Britain occupied by the Germans.            –

Adolf Hitler concluded that the invasion of Britain could be achieved on condition the Luftwaffe had air superiority and that minefields and U-boats could limit the threat posed by the Royal Navy. Following the fall of France, Hitler hoped the British government would seek a peace agreement and reluctantly he considered an invasion as a last resort. On the 2nd July 1940 he ordered the OKW (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht or “High Command of the Armed Forces”) to begin preliminary planning for an invasion codenamed Operation Sea Lion. By the 12th July 1940 the Luftwaffe attacks had begun on the dock areas of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

………..

(Italy)

Marshal Rodolfo Graziani was Commander-in-Chief of the Italian Regio Esercito’s (Royal Army) General Staff when he took the place of Marshal Ital Balbo on the 1st July 1940. Balbo had been killed in a friendly fire incident on the 28th June 1940. With orders from Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, as the new Commander-in-Chief of Italian North Africa and Governor General of Libya, he was given a deadline of the 8th August 1940 to start the invasion of Egypt.

In an effort to strike at the United Kingdom and Commonwealth throughout the Middle East the Italian Royal Air Force (Regia Aeronautica) began a bombing campaign. On the 1st July 1940 the bombing of the British Mandate of Palestine was primarily centred on Tel Aviv and Haifa with its port and oil refineries. The British were forced to divert other troops in to defend the area in an effort to keep control of the supply of oil. The final Italian bombing on the territories of the British Mandate of Palestine occurred in June 1941.

During the East Africa Campaign, on the 4th July 1940 the Sudanese city of Kassala was captured by the Italian forces who were advancing from Italian East Africa. The British garrison whose 1,300 colonial troops and British officers were easily defeated, despite some initial heavy fighting, by 2,500 Italian soldiers plus one brigade of cavalry supported by 24 tanks. The Italians held the city until mid-January 1941 when the British returned to occupy the city.

………..

(USA)

American President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress for a huge increase in military re-armourment programme on the 10th July 1940. Although officially neutral the American president was aware that America would be drawn into the war although he stated to the American public that he did not want to send its boys to fight in any European conflict. The president’s request for the budget increase was granted on 27th August 1940.

President Roosevelt signed the “two ocean navy” bill on the 20th July 1940. The bill planned for the expansion of the U.S. Navy to meet the German challenge in the Atlantic and the Japanese threat in the Pacific. American companies built 201 new warships including seven battleships.

On the 22nd July 1940, delegates of European colonies in the Western Hemisphere whose mother countries had been over-run by the Germans attended the Havana Conference. The three day conference decided to establish a trusteeship policy applying to Dutch and French colonies in the Caribbean, South America and off the Canadian coast. The trusteeship was implemented to prevent Fascist infiltration into the Western Hemisphere through the colonies.

………..

(Japan)

At the Japanese Army’s request, Fumimaro Konoe was proposed once again, to become the Prime Minister. On the 22nd July 1940 the previous cabinet resigned and Konoe was appointed Prime Minister. Prince Fumimaro Konoe was born into the ancient Fujiwara clan at Tokyo in October 1891. He automatically became a member of the House of Peers in 1916 at the age of 25. His Racial Equality Proposal at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 was rejected by American President Woodrow Wilson on the grounds it was not a unanimous decision. Konoe felt that all white people had humiliated Japan by rejecting the Racial Equality Clause and henceforth held a grudge. Japan had been at full-scale war with China since 1937 when Konoe became Prime Minister for the first time. Although Japan continued to be victorious the Chinese fought on and Konoe stated he was tired of being a ‘robot’ for the military and resigned in January 1939.

———————————