Lead book review

The facts behind France’s most potent modern myth

In Fighters in the Shadows, Robert Gildea dares to suggest that the struggle in France against the German Occupation — so central to French identity — was too disparate even to be called ‘the French Resistance’

29 August 2015

9:00 AM

29 August 2015

9:00 AM

Fighters in the Shadows: A New History of the French Resistance Robert Gildea

Faber, pp.593, £20, ISBN: 9780571280346

In Marianne in Chains, his last book on Occupied France, Robert Gildea offered an original view of life in that country between 1940 and 1944, arguing that outside the cities it had not always been as bad, nor had the Vichy regime always been as reactionary, as was subsequently claimed. Confining his research to three departments in the Loire valley, Gildea also suggested that for most people most of the time the Resistance was a dangerous irrelevance, to be avoided wherever possible. These conclusions were presented at a conference in Tours where they caused a minor uproar among French specialists.

Gildea, professor of modern history at Oxford University, now turns to a much bigger subject. Fighters in the Shadows covers the whole of the wartime period and the whole of France and concludes with an analysis of the role that post-war myths have played in the history of the Occupation.

The history of the French Resistance is usually concerned with a movement inside France that was disorganised and isolated, composed of numerous mutually hostile groups struggling against the occupying forces. They were united in nothing except a determination to carry on the fight and defeat the German invaders. The main currents within this movement were the FTP — a communist network intent on starting a national insurrection — three centrist movements — Combat, the largest non-communist organisation; Libération; and Franc-Tireur — and on the right the ORA, formed by army officers who were sympathetic to Marshal Pétain, the Vichy head of state.

The ORA resisters accepted the armistice of 1940 but were reactivated by the German invasion of the unoccupied zone in November 1942. For the purposes of liberating France, all these groups eventually agreed to unite in support of the Allied landings. They accepted the leadership of General de Gaulle — who had succeeded in imposing a degree of authority on the ‘resistance of the interior’ through the action of his personal delegate, a retired departmental prefect called Jean Moulin.

In place of this familiar picture Gildea proposes a different model. He defines Resistance as ‘refusing to accept the French bid for armistice and the German Occupation, and a willingness to do something about it that broke rules and courted risk’. This definition allows him to include in the ranks of the Resistance the ‘Free French’ in London, army officers in the French empire who rejected Vichy orders and signed up with the Allies and even the Pétainiste leaders of the ‘Army of Africa’ who changed sides in 1943 after the Allied landings on the north African coast. Among the many squabbling bands making up the ‘resisters of the interior’ — who regarded themselves as the only ‘real’ resisters — he identifies Catholic groups, German Communists, non-Communist Marxists, Spanish Republicans, other assorted foreign networks and, importantly, immigrant Jewish resistance fighters. The last were organised by the FTP into an affiliated network, the FTP-MOI, which —unlike most communist resistance organisations — took heavy casualties. In 1985 survivors of this force accused the wartime communist leadership of first allocating the most dangerous operations ‘such as attacks on German columns and German generals’ to the Jewish fighters of the FTP-MOI, and then betraying them.

Gildea rightly emphasises the importance of women in the Resistance and the way in which their role has frequently been overlooked or undervalued. Of the 1,038 holders of the Order of the Liberation, the highest Resistance honour, only six were women. Initially, women resisters were sometimes spared immediate punishment and were occasionally released or deported when they were caught, rather than being shot (though when one considers the slow death that frequently followed deportation into the Nazis’ ‘Night and Fog’, this was not much of an advantage). Women in France during the war had more immediate problems than blowing up the odd electricity pylon. In July 1940 over a million mothers became single parents overnight with 1.5 million French soldiers taken as prisoners of war. Children and elderly relations became their sole responsibility; they often faced shortages of food and fuel and none had any military training. They did not even have a vote. Nonetheless, they were frequently among the earliest volunteers.


One of the novel aspects of Gildea’s account is his decision to accord equal legitimacy (or illegitimacy) to Gaullist patriots and Communist rank-and-file resisters, even though the latter were not fighting in defence of France but were intending to use insurrection as a means of establishing a revolutionary order under the direction of Moscow. He writes of the Gaullist ‘seizure of power’ — intended to re-establish the authority of the French state — and the opposed Communist desire for national insurrection, ‘to usher in popular government and far-reaching reform’.

In a life of Jean Moulin (published in 2000 and recently reissued as Army of the Night) I suggested that the ultimate aims of the Communist resistance were so different from those of the patriotic movements that the Communists should not be regarded as part of the Resistance at all. Gildea takes this argument further. He concludes that the disparity of the component parts of the ‘resistance of the interior’ suggests that ‘it may be more accurate to talk less about “the French Resistance” than about “resistance in France”.’

The second novelty in Gildea’s approach is his use of sources. He traces the methods employed over the years by French historians to establish an official history of the wartime period. Distinguishing those who relied on documentary sources from those who preferred written and oral testimony, he writes: ‘This study is squarely based on testimony.’ He adds: ‘Only first-person accounts can lay bare individual subjectivity, the experience of resistance activity and the meaning that resisters later gave to their actions.’

One of the disadvantages of this preference for testimony is that the ‘memoirs’ of a serial fantasist like the resister Lucie Aubrac, who was once implored by her husband Raymond to ‘stop telling lies’, is here taken at face value, side by side with the verified stories of women who were tortured and shot, such as the Jewish student Jeanine Sontag, or others who suffered atrociously and nearly died for their beliefs, such as Geneviève de Gaulle, the general’s niece.

Another example of the unreliability of testimony is Gildea’s account of the first shooting (called ‘the execution’) of an unarmed German serviceman. The killing was carried out as FTP policy in Paris in August 1941, following the ending of the Nazi-Soviet pact. Gildea reproduces the assassin’s report, obtained from the archives of the (pro-Communist) Musée Nationale de la Resistance at Champigny-sur-Marne, without comment. In this Gilbert Brustlein claims that on the platform of a Métro station he and his companions ‘spotted a magnificent naval commandant (i.e. naval captain) strutting on the platform’. They shot the German in the back as he boarded a train and then ran away. Gildea adds that the killing of this ‘naval warrant officer’ had a huge impact, which is true. But the victim, contrary to Brustlein’s report, was not a naval captain or a warrant officer; he was an aspirant — a young naval cadet working as a clerk, a fact that was widely publicised at the time.

‘The story of the French Resistance,’ Gildea writes, ‘is central to French identity.’ In a brilliant Conclusion he traces the way in which the narrative of Resistance has been disputed by rival interest groups throughout the post-war period. The original Gaullist myth of 1944, that the whole of France had resisted, was succeeded by the Communist one, that the Party had provided the unchallenged leadership of the armed struggle. The inaccuracies and exaggerations in the Communist account eventually gave way to a tendency to emphasise the ‘foreign’ contribution to the battle.

This provided the remarkable spectacle in 1982 of President François Mitterrand inaugurating a statue in honour of the Spanish Republicans who had died for France. Whether those brave men and women were ‘dying for France’ is a moot point. But had they been able to attend the ceremony they might have been surprised to see that they were being honoured by a man who had spent much of his time during the Occupation blacklisting Gaullists, Communists, freemasons and other opponents of the Vichy regime.

Following a series of trials in the 1980s of wartime collaborators, the dominant narrative became one of Jewish suffering and resistance, since when both Gaullist and Communist narratives have made a comeback.

Gildea’s decision to narrow the complex politics of French Resistance down to a struggle between Gaullists and Communists provides an interesting new perspective on the liberation period. But his consistent preference for the Communist narrative over the Gaullist version is the least convincing aspect of his ‘New History of the French Resistance’. The success of the Allied military chain of command in stifling the Communist-led insurrection in the late summer of 1944 robbed France of nothing, except the same glittering post-war future that awaited the people of the German Democratic Republic. This would probably have been preceded by a horrifying civil war, as happened in Greece. Anyone who doubts this need only consult the record of the five-month reign of terror that broke out in Marseilles in September 1944, presided over by the regional commissar and Communist Raymond Aubrac.

The real story of the French resistance is that of ‘the little soldiers’ who frequently had no idea which organisation they had signed up with, and who risked their lives out of courage and sense of common humanity. Gildea provides the example of Jeanine Sontag, among others. They could also be represented by the medieval historian Marc Bloch, a member of Combat, arrested by Vichy police and shot on the orders of the Gestapo on 16 June 1944. In his ‘Last Testament’ he wrote:

I was born Jewish… I have never been tempted to deny it…I have loved and served France with all my strength…and I die as I have lived en bon Français.

Available from the Spectator Bookshop, £16.50 Tel: 08430 600033

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10


Show comments
  • Steve Larson

    Britain has its own myths, a ” sense of fair play” and all that. Do people read history at all. Internationally Britain was renowned across the globe for its lack of fair play and honesty.

    All nations believe their own myths, human nature.

    • Iamreplete

      Mr. Larsen, my sense of fair play and all that, plus a little honesty, compels me to enquire of you the evidence you have for your statement.

      • right1_left1

        Serious myth : Believing Dunkirk to have been a victory.

        More serious myth: refusal to accept that the German footbal team runs rings around the Brits.

        Fair play and myth together : Heroic (?) Brit troops , armed with Gatling guns, mowing down 1000’s of Zuluis, armed with shields and spears.

        Biggest myth of the lot: we won WW2 !!!

        • Y&B Stuart-Hargreaves

          Tactical retreats are victories. Dunkirk saved the main cadre of the BEF and a total of 332,000 UK, French and Belgian troops. It was a successful evacuation other than abandoning much equipment.
          It also sent a very clear signal about British morale and ability.

          • Roger Hudson

            Moral: enforced by acts like unrequired loss of aluminium pots.
            Ability: stooping to any act against the laws of war.
            But, as someone born in 1949 my very existence is predicated on every act of WW2 as it was, including the sinking of HMS Hood , so I feel it’s wrong to criticise any stupidity however unpleasant.

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            For reasons still not fully explained, Hitler pulled back and let the British Expeditionary Force escape.

          • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

            The reason was the stark reality that he could not win. Could never launch an invasion of Britain and really was hoping we would leave the conflict before he turned on Russia.

          • montyburns56

            Wasn’t it partly because he admired the Brits and our Empire and so he didn’t want to militarily embarrass us?

          • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

            Brilliant. That’s it. Old Hitler was so full of compassion and empathy he couldn’t bear to embarrass us. The fact that they had no plans ready for an invasion as late as 17th July 1940 and had given up on the idea by September 16th sort of confirms they simply were not up to the task. Militarily they were punching way above their weight.

          • Lawrence James.

            No. Hitler’s objective then and afterwards was the Soviet Union. He thought that Britain could be checkmated in the MIddle East and North Africa, where the greater part of Britain’s and the Empire’s strength was concentrated from the autumn of 1940 onwards. Further, neutralising pressure could be applied in by the U-boats to deny Britain supplies from the United States.

          • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

            Well he thought wrongly. To his nation’s immense cost. Hitler was a poor leader, poor decision maker and abysmal judge if character.

        • Franny

          Dunkirk was an operational success – no one ever called it a victory. It was spectacularly lucky compared to what the outcome could have been.

          Fair enough about the football team.

          Rorke’s Drift could definitely qualify as heroic (regardless of whether you think we should have been there in the first place or not) – not a single Gatling gun in sight, and stupidly outnumbered but held out. The Zulus themselves thought that it was a heroic defence. Moreover, people think that the Zulus were in the right simply because of skin colour, which is utter rubbish. The Zulus had arrived in the region from an area further north on the back of genocide which killed up to 2 million locals. That was the context in which the British were caught up in.

          It is actually a myth that we didn’t win WW2, or so I have found. Of course, it was a team effort and we were never going to invade Berlin by ourselves, but our contribution was almost certainly vital. Our intelligence work (not just code-breaking and Bletchley Park, but also our deception operations, sabotage missions and reconnaissance flights) is estimated to have shortened the war by 2 years. Similarly, our strategic bombing campaign (with help from the Americans, but directed by and dominated by British planes) is said to have shortened the war by 2 years – imagine the bloodbath that France would have been had we not knocked out Germany’s capacity to deploy aircraft and large armoured formations beforehand. Likewise, if German industry had been left alone to produce its technically superior tanks and if German offensives had not been pre-warned to the Soviets by the Western allies, the Eastern Front could have turned out very differently as well. Moreover, it will not do to belittle the contribution of troops – we had more men mobilised than the Americans right up until 1945 (including Imperials). Finally, in terms of equipment and materiel, most of it was carried and ferried on British ships. There is also our contribution to technology (the A-bomb, radar/sonar, bunker-busters, perfecting the fire-storm bombing, anti-U-boat techniques.

          • WalterBannon

            How did you win if you now live in a province of the Fourth Reich?

      • WalterBannon

        one word – Rotherham

      • omgamuslim

        Balfour and Palestine, a legacy of deceit, by Anthony Nutting

  • JabbaTheCat

    An interesting read by the sounds of it, but oh so much cheaper to buy from Amazon.

    For those interested in this subject, MRD Foot’s history SOE In France is worth checking out for the layout and composition of the various networks dealing with F section, as well as George Millar’s Maquis and Horned Pigeon, the former recounting his experiences dropped by parachute into SW France before D-Day, the latter covering his time as a POW and subsequent escape through occupied Europe, via France and Spain and back to England.

    As a prewar Paris based foreign correspondent, Millar records his observations of the occupied territories and peoples well, such narrative adding coloured and textured background to the more sombre analysis by historians…

  • John Carins

    “French resistance” – a well known oxymoron.

    • red2black

      I’ve only read a few books about the French Resistance, including what happened to people when they were handed over to the Gestapo, including British civilians and Special Forces who operated in Occupied France.

    • Morseman

      Cruel and unfair comment; an affront to the memory of those who sacrificed their lives for France.

      • John Carins

        I don’t mean to be cruel and unfair. There would have been no need for a French resistance had they not capitulated to the Germans in the first place. Life for Britain would have been a lot better if the French had at least stopped the Germans. Also, having been defeated why were the French so reticent in joining their naval fleet with the Royal Navy. I’m sorry but misplaced French pride got in the way and Churchill have to decapitate the French fleet.

        • right1_left1

          “There would have been no need for a French resistance had they not capitulated to the Germans in the first place”

          Preposterous

          Of course the ruthless brutal efficiency of the Wehrmacht had nothing to do with anything.

          I wonder what armchair chickenhawks would have done when, upon looking away from their keyboards, they had seen the German army appearing over the horizon ?

          • John Carins

            Wrong. The French outnumbered the Wehrmacht and had modern equipment. They simply lacked the will and having capitulated it allowed the Germans to operate their submarines from the West coast of France. The French navy could have carried on but it didn’t – it too like the rest of France failed.

          • Franny

            No, they prepared for the last war. In the inter-war period, the Germans adapted their armed forces so that had huge armoured formations supported by mechanised infantry, creating a Blitzkrieg. French and British armoured divisions were not concentrated, rather divided along the front, envisioning attacks in the mould of WW1. Also, our tanks were deeply inferior (the British especially), made for advancing through a battlefield at an enemy trench at 10mph, not for charging through open countryside. Moreover, the German Luftwaffe was larger and had better planes which were also more suited to the ground attack/support role – ours were more for general bombing and reconnaissance). If you added up total resources, then yes, we had the edge, but wars are not won by having more stuff than the other person. Notice I said Germans not Nazis – Hitler started a stupid war that he shouldn’t have won – he did win because of the foresight and genius of the German inter-war army planners.

          • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

            The Germans built weapons of attack and assumed they would win. Big mistake neglecting the defence. They had no answer to the Royal Navy.

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            Make that the Royal Air Force,

          • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

            That too.The Germans could never match us in technology, productive capacity, military skill or endeavour.

          • Tamerlane

            I wonder, if Edgerton told you to jump off a cliff you’re so weak willed and easily influenced you might just. This is the same Edgerton that declared the country full of abundant food during the war years whilst those who lived through it glared in wonder at so naive and stupid a statement. The man who gabbled about the superiority of the British tank over the German while former tank drivers and commanders wondered which planet he was on.

            Edgerton is a man of limited intelligence, much like you, easily influenced by the thunder of statistics and numbers, figures and data that seemingly override the accepted thesis because he thinks (and so do you) it makes him look clever. But like all unintelligent people, such as yourself, he understands the price of everything and the value of nothing. These facts, figures, data are nothing more than dust to the men (and women) who lived those times and are quite correctly the origin of the traditional and true story. The real story is well known and Edgerton’s story is one for the weak minded, easily impressed and unintelligent seeking their ‘fool’s gold’ in a world that otherwise ignores them.

            Edgerton’s book is fanciful rubbish written for the stupid and you are his most eager disciple.

          • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

            Your desperation just got a lot sadder Tammy. You seek to pretend that you speak with authority on a book you have clearly never read and a subject you know next to nothing about , other than the trite received wisdoms of the papers you choose to have your ignorance moulded by.
            In your despair you have resorted to some unsubstantiated criticism of Edgerton to say he is unintelligent. The man is the Hans Rausing professor of History at Imperial college and very well respected.
            I love the dribbling idiocy about the thunder of statistics and facts. How completely ludicrous of you to dismiss facts and data that may interfere with what you yourself call a story. Stories are nice. Reassuring for the timid and serve a purpose for those who seek to lie. That would be you. But some of us prefer facts and the unique ability to make up our own minds free from the brow beating of those that wish to misrepresent the past .
            It must hurt to be so wide if the mark and poorly informed. I can see why youbarecso cross you have to resort to insulting me and those I reference. But at least come up with some reasoned argument beyond “he is unintelligent”.
            For instance the UK produced 3 million artillery pieces in the war to Germany’s 1.4 million. We produced 70,000 bombers to their 45,000.
            20,000 cargo ships to their 8,000. What a shame these facts led an idiot to conclude that the story we have been spun by the Tories is a bloody lie.

          • Tamerlane

            More stats. Like I said – you know the price of everything and the value of nothing. It’s meaningless drivel in the heat of battle, the soldiers knew that well. You don’t because you’re weak minded and easily influenced and Edgerton doesn’t because he’s a fool looking to make a mark by being ‘different’, which is his attraction to you, you think it makes you look clever.

          • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

            You would make an abysmal witness in court. You seem to micro analyse people based on very thin evidence. But then you are not very keen on facts, data or statistics as you have mentioned many times. Partly of course due to laziness in actually understanding what you rant incoherently about , but more because you fear that facts will reveal just how much of a liar you are.
            One stat is quite important. The Germans lost 7.4 million people in that war. The UK lost 450,000. Lacking in technological know how and wealth meant Germany lost 17 times as many people. Britain won a cheap victory when all is considered.
            By 1941 WW2 was the War equivalent of holding a midget at arms length and repeatedly kicking him.

          • Tamerlane

            You sound like American Generals in the Vietnam war. Statistics, statistics, statistics, meaningless, meaningless, meaningless save for the third rate mind easily overpowered by them.

          • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

            That’s right Tammy bloomin’ facts and statistics. Always confirming the reality in that annoying way the truth does. So difficult for a charlatan to get any purchase when he has to deal with facts and data.
            I suppose you would agree then that no migrants are coming to the UK as the media just report statistics and bloody facts.
            You really are a monumental clot. But I feel sure the Spectator readers are still entertained by your random gobs of moronic speculation.

          • Tamerlane

            That’s the problem Yvonne/Barry statistics aren’t facts and don’t prove them hence Mark Twain’s quote. They are what they are – one degree worse than damn lies. So no Yvonne/Barry, not facts, just opinions based on skewed stats. Hence the book is now discredited, much like you.

          • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

            We sank 800 U boats in the ear and drowned 30,000 crew. We dropped 965,000 tons of bombs on Germany ( the USA managed 620,000) and killed ,600,000 .
            Those are statistics.
            We won. That is a fact.

          • Tamerlane

            By ‘we’ you mean the USA, USSR and Britain I think. Good effort though.

          • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

            Well before the US joined the War Britain destroyed 75 U boats. The Royal Navy destroyed over 60% of another 700 thereafter, so 500 in total. I have given the UK and US total bomb tonnages dropped. We bore 61% of that effort too.
            Interestingly the Germans only reached the necessary target for shipping tonnage destroyed (for Britain to be suffering) in 4 of the 68 months of the War.

          • Tamerlane

            More infantile selective statistics with absolutely no regard for the reality experienced by those who lived the times. As I’ve said before, fortunately you have no audience, neither does Edgerton any more, so your idiotic views, although you think you’re being all clever and feel smug and gooey inside, mean the rest of us can laugh at you.

          • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

            Having soundly defeated them in WW1, why would we not repeat the feat in WW2? You simply dislike me because I dared to challenge you in the past. You now sadly spend your life monitoring my posts and searching Wikipedia to try and gainsay them with a modicum of credibility. When you fail, yo revert to type and your usual pompous insults.
            I’ll give you credit for something thoughTammy, you manage to sound as though you know a few things when clearly the extent of your knowledge is to stand on the shoulders of other intellectual midgets.

          • Roger Hudson

            If the French had done a replay of 1871 they would never have been in a mess in 1914 and the war of 1940 would never have happened.

          • Lawrence James.

            I thought the French were trounced in 1870-1871.

          • Roger Hudson

            Yes, trounced but not occupied (except Alsace ) and definitely not slaughtered at Verdun.

        • Roger Hudson

          How Churchill ever managed to holiday mere miles from Toulon during the 50s always amazes me, if I had lost someone at Oran he would have been toast.

          • John Carins

            Perhaps because the locals knew in their heart of hearts that Churchill had been right.

          • Roger Hudson

            The majority yes, i was thinking of ,for example, a brother of a dead French sailor.

          • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

            I thought Churchill holidayed in St Paul de Vence near Nice. Toulon is about 150 miles away near Marseilles.

        • Lawrence James.

          Just before the RN opened fire at Mers-el-Kebir, the turncoat Darlan ordered the French squadron to prepared to engage.Reading these remarks, what is mosr conspicuous is the absence of any reference to French colonial troops, especially the Senegalese and Algerians who put up some of the stiffest resistance in 1940. Admittedly, they also fought for Vichy in Syria and Madagascar. Like their masters, many switched sides and fought alongside the Allies between 1943 and 1944.

    • JabbaTheCat

      “Estimates of the casualties among the Résistance are made harder by the dispersion of movements at least until D-Day, but credible estimates start from 8,000 dead in action, 25,000 shot and several tens of thousands deported, of whom 27,000 died in death camps.”
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Resistance#Role_in_the_liberation_of_France_and_casualties

      • John Carins

        These figures on the face of it look as if France was fully engaged. The truth is France escaped rather unscathed in comparison to other countries. How many died alone in Bomber Command? The French lost little in manpower and infrastructure.

        • Tom M

          Quite so John, just have a look at their war memorials in the town squares. WW2 doesn’t usually figure much at all.
          Having said that WW2 and “the occupation” have left a deep scar on France even to this day. They are much more tuned into what is meant by losing your freedom than we are in the UK.
          In the UK we lost a lot of people but gained an immense sense of national survival against the odds. The French only have a sense of humiliation to live with.

          • Y&B Stuart-Hargreaves

            You have forgotten their massive losses in WW1.

          • Tom M

            No I didn’t we are discussing WW2 and the French resistance.
            As for your WW2 figures you correctly point out there were many who died in the service of Hilter. My next door neighbour’s father being one. The local population have visited the sins of his father on him. It’s the first thing they tell a newcomer.
            All this has to be tempered with the attitude of the rest of the French military during the war whereby they fought against the allies, middle east and North Arfica being examples (if memory serves I seem to remember that the French Government in exile actually declared war on Great Britain at one point).
            All that is in the past though but the part that irks me of the French and WW2 today is that there are many who blame the British for their misfortunes in 1940. This coupled with an agreeable attitude to the Germans and a violent dislike of the Americans leaves me mystified.

          • Y&B Stuart-Hargreaves

            I well recall going to dinner in Oldham in the 1980s with a lady whose dad was Russian. She asked us if we wanted to see pictures of her dad in the War? Odd I thought that he had fought in Italy. Until I saw him in his Wehrmacht uniform.
            This explained why he could not return to Russia in 1945.
            A lot of the fighting in Europe was a bigger continuation of the Spanish Civil war divide twixt left and right.

          • Tamerlane

            In other words her father was Prussian. So no surprise at all he fought in the Wermacht. Many of them did from the old Teutonic states, so too a lot of flotsam from the old Austro-Hungarian Empire (Ukrainians etc). Nothing to do with divide ‘twixt (pompous?) left and right’. Just the standard allegiances along ethnic lines.

          • Y&B Stuart-Hargreaves

            No. He was a Russian anti-communist from Belarus. I have an Ukrainian friend whose dad did the same. Joined the Nazis.

          • Tamerlane

            Aha, so both Austro-Hungarian Galicians then.

          • Y&B Stuart-Hargreaves

            I am not sure if Belarus is in Galicia. I thought that was Poland, Tatry mountains etc..

          • Tamerlane

            And south west Belarus. Pinsk – Brest. Soz.

          • Y&B Stuart-Hargreaves

            It is reassuring that you alone know the birthplaces of sundry Russian Nazi collaborators. It makes it easier for you to form some sort of story.

          • Tamerlane

            Just saying Yvonne/Barry there are better explanations than drivel about dividing between left and right. It’s just people fighting along ethnic lines. Way it’s always been and always will. Sorry if it doesn’t fit your narrative but it does fit Toby Young’s – Saxons on train put up a fight, Latins on train hide or run. Not much has changed over the centuries after all.

          • Y&B Stuart-Hargreaves

            What ethnic lines were the Spanish fighting on in their civil war? The ” Saxons” on the train were Greek and Armenian. What about those French who fought for Hitler, which ethnic line did they choose against their fellow French?

          • Tamerlane

            I’ve already caught my fish for the day Yvonne/Barry.

          • Y&B Stuart-Hargreaves

            Aah so your complete failure to grasp basics and your willingness to accept simplistic explanations was all a cunning ruse to annoy for the sake of it.
            As I said before, nitwit.

          • Y&B Stuart-Hargreaves

            I’ m sorry to have unsettled your loosely thought through conventional wisdom.

          • Lawrence James.

            A minnow.

          • Tamerlane

            He certainly is.

          • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

            For you I tend to think of a gigantic door. You remind me of the furniture on such a huge door. Not so much the massive bell, more the colossal knob.

          • Lawrence James.

            But more than you can digest.,

          • Tamerlane

            And you’re still smarting. Sweet.

          • Lawrence James.

            Over simplification to the point of gross distortion, a common fault in your contributions. World War II was far more complex than a tribal conflict. Ideology played an obvious part; some Indians fought for the Raj, others for the Japanese. Both believed that they were helping to achieve self-government. And then there was duty, which was why French Senegalese soldiers in Syria fought on the side of their pro-Nazi Vichy officers against the British. Italians fought for Mussolini and after 1943 for the Allies and other Italians who still believed in Fascism.

          • Tamerlane

            Gee thanks for the history lesson there Einstein. Luck for you old Max Hastings and Anthony Beevor don’t dare send anything to print until you’ve okayed it. I wonder just how up your own backside do you have to be to lecture people on your opinion of something, and bare in mind it is just that, your opinion. It is not fact, it is not so because you say so, it is your irrelevant opinion based on selective and distorted exempla. As with all second rate minds it is fitting the facts to suit your prejudiced and regressive argument rather than doing what intelligent people do and fit their arguments to the facts. But at least you can see the back of your teeth from up there.

          • Lawrence James.

            Rudeness is no substitute for evidence and argument. How fitting that you hide behind the name of a barbarian.

          • Tamerlane

            You don’t have an argument, you have an impartial interpretation for why French colonial troops (for example) fought for Vichy France, fast forward post war and I think you’ll find there’s a v different story in the French colonies. But then that doesn’t fit your narrative does it? Like I said LJ – fit argument to evidence and not vice versa and stop presenting opinion as fact. Otherwise you just come over the same as any of the pompous charlatans that like to knock about here.

          • Lawrence James.

            Non-white troops fought for the French in Indo-China, Madagascar and Algeria; many of the latter fled to France after Algerian independence. You may see their descendants in Paris and other cities.Senegalese soldiers were also used in strike-breaking in France just after the war. Loyalties are always complex things. Your resort to insult further undermines your arguments, or should I say, prejudices.

          • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

            Nicking my comments now Tammy. So short of ideas and bereft of vocabulary. I just described you as a Charlatan, now you use it to insult Lawrence. Along with a serious lack of general knowledge and an oafish self importance ,you now add being unoriginal.

          • Roger Hudson

            Calm down.

          • Roger Hudson

            I see many Western Ukrainians still revere Bandera.

          • Roger Hudson

            I still think of Lviv (Lvov) as Lemberg.
            Changing central European place names will not hide the great ethnic cleansing of ethnic Germans (13m 1945-50) from history.

          • John Carins

            Agreed. It seems to me that the focus on the French resistance is an attempt to revise history and restore some French pride. It is also worth noting that the French resistance and all subsequent French action (de Gualle) was dependent upon British support.

        • Y&B Stuart-Hargreaves

          Hmmmm, 220,000 dead , about half the losses of the UK.

    • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

      Never been to Verdun then. Never seen the Ossuary there or the vast cemeteries at Areas. The one at Notre Dame de Lorette contains so many graves you cannot see from one end to the other. Have you seen 140,000 dead all in one place?Can you visualise 38,000 headstones?

      • John Carins

        You clearly have no sense of humour.

        • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

          It is not a laughing matter.

  • Sunset66

    That’s a cruel remark. The penalty of men or women resisting was torture and death and their families too.
    The communists were far more willing to fight the Germans when Hilter invaded Russia than the other networks

    You really should try to curtail your smug Brit arrogance. It was only going to be a few brave souls when Germany dominated Europe.

    • Hilter? Didn’t he end up in Minehead?

      • right1_left1

        I think you mean Mein Kopf ?

      • Y&B Stuart-Hargreaves

        Taunton is a part of Minehead already. Ron Vibbentrop.

        • Jackthesmilingblack

          Shouldn’t that be Ron Bibbentrop?

          • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

            No, definitely Ron Vibbentrop at the North Minehead by-election.
            I don’t like sound of those boncentration bamps.

  • Morseman

    Incidentally the weapon being demonstrated in the photograph was the British Sten gun, a submachine gun chambered for the 9mm parabellum pistol round.
    It was cheap to make and was produced in the millions and dropped to resistance groups in several countries.

    • right1_left1

      and was wildly inaccurate lol
      i do recall Victor Mature shooting somebody from about 2 – 300 hundred yards but that was an exception.

      Yes know is was designed for very close quarter probably guerilla combat.

      • revkevblue

        The STEN was a remarkable weapon, it began it’s life as a necessity – a weapon with which to rearm a mauled British army after Dunkirk But it evolved to fit many roles. It took up much the same roll as the US M1 Carbine did within the regular army, giving support troops; tank crews and officers a reliable personal defence weapon. It found another niche with European partisans and resistance networks as a robust and easily concealable weapon; the STEN’s compact size made it ideal for dropping by parachute in occupied territories. It’s size and firepower made it ideal for clandestine tasks and the revolutionary integrally suppressed Mk2 and Mk5 were extremely successful and were the envy of allies and enemies alike.
        It was designed as a close quarter weapon and used in that role it was very accurate.
        On single shot a grouping of 2″ is expected and normal at 25 yards.

        • chump23

          ^^this. I trained on the L2A3 smg in the early 1980s. Our instructors derided the weapon which was essentially a sten with minor modificatins. I loved it. 25 meters was about the right range. it double tapped beautifully and was quite accurate enough. If I’d ever had to fire in anger it would have come in on the rule of 3s – 3 metres range, 3 shots fired and over in 3 seconds.

    • Roger Hudson

      That Sten ! no wonder the person it’s pointing at looks frightened, that cocking sear is rubbish.

      • Morseman

        Yeah, but the mag isn’t inserted if I remember right.

    • Toy Pupanbai

      It was improved and manufactured by the Tri-ang toy company, amongst others.

      Churchill said, ‘I have had many crosses to bear during the war but the heaviest was, the “Cross of Lorraine!”.

      We suffered much opprobrium for attacking the French fleet.

      What has been largely suppressed is the resistance to “Operation Torch”!
      Not just a few machine gun rounds!

      “Lunch Box Lecture: “Operation Torch” by Rick Jacobs. (Youtube)

  • davidofkent

    When their country has been invaded, the ordinary folk try to get on as best they can. When William I, ‘The Bastard’ (sometimes known as the Conqueror) invaded England, he laid waste to large parts of the country and dispossessed everybody. In fact we have had to live with this misappropriation ever since because all land is held by the ‘subjects’ in fee simple from the sovereign. Who can blame the French for trying to survive from 1940 to 1945? I doubt that many Frenchmen and women were actually part of the Resistance, but I wouldn’t criticise them for that.

    • Robert Gildea should visit Oradour-sur-Glane and look into what the Nazis did to villages suspected of harbouring Resistants. Or farms like the one where the SS butchered the farmer, raped and mutilated his wife, and crucified their child to the farm gate. Alternatively he could look into the contributions levied by the Nazi Germany, or the methods that angels such as Klaus Barbie (the butcher of Lyon) used on suspected Resistants. Does Jean-Marie Le Pen’s not so unrecent and shameful claim that the Occupation “wasn’t so bad” truly merit endorsement by an Oxford scholar, on the basis of “three départements in the Loire valley”?!

      Or he could actually show some respect for the men and women who were members of the Resistance, whatever their reasons for being united in a common cause (which, on principle, one is tempted to point out, is a most noble one) against the Nazi Occupation. Or is he claiming that without De Gaulle, FDR, who planned to create a state called Wallonia, made from the French-speaking part of Belgium, Luxembourg and north-eastern France, would not have carved up France after D-Day? What did Stalin, FDR, Churchill and De Gaulle have in common, except for their common enemies? Were they then, in Gildea’s view, “too disparate to be called Allies”?

      • omgamuslim

        Considering that the French have been employing similar methods in suppressing the Vietnamese and others, it all seems quite unremarkable.

    • mdj

      ‘..because all land is held by the ‘subjects’ in fee simple from the sovereign..’

      Actually, even that’s only since the 1920’s! But you’ll find in every polity that if the state really wants what’s yours, it’ll find a way of taking it.
      I’ve come to wonder how many people, apart from the Saxon aristocracy, really felt that much change after the Conquest. If you look at the chaos and bloodshed of the preceding century, William probably seemed just another of those dam’ things that came along and had to be got through.

      There was indeed valiant resistance, as in France, but had the German occupation in France lasted as long how much attention would be given by historians to the Resistance?

  • You could at least have started the piece with “listen very carefully, I shall say this only once”.

  • John P Hughes

    “Gildea rightly emphasises the importance of women in the Resistance and the way in which their role has frequently been overlooked or undervalued.”
    They included Juliette Gréco, her sister and her mother. They were arrested and her mother and elder sister were sent to Ravensbruck, the concentration camp in which the Nazis held women. Julietté born in 1927, was 16 and was released. She has described in a TV programme about her life how she went to meet their train when they were returned to France in 1945, and how they looked thin and exhausted after a year in Nazi hands.

  • polistra24

    The Army and Navy forces in Africa and elsewhere have been forgotten by modern historians, who have rewritten the entire war to be solely about the Jews. But those forces were covered consistently by American radio news during the war. It’s an eye-opener for modern minds to hear casual mention of French divisions working with our army in Morocco or Tunisia.

    The women of the resistance were also covered at the time, both in news and in dramatic features.

    Now that our historians are rewriting WW2 again with Russia as the aggressor, the brave French will fade even more into the background. Why were they fighting against Germany? Germany was always our good friend and ally.

    • Hegelman

      “Germany was always our good friend and ally.”

      They were pretty friendly to Jews, too, don’t forget.

    • Franny

      Do you know that the Allies struggled to find enough white French soldiers to make up 10,000 men to re-enter Paris with? Huge parts of the Free French were solely colonial troops. While I doubt that Britain would have resisted that much more, France’s fighting prowess should not be over-emphasised to help with sensibilities.

      • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

        That’s a lie.

    • red2black

      Perhaps ‘had been’ is rather more befitting than ‘was always’ our good friend and ally.

  • Hegelman

    If you want to believe the French are all cowards I can’t stop you. Have it your way.

    I think they were actually all said and done rather brave during World War II – at least in Western European terms.

    It is no easy thing in a civilised country to make a guerrilla war against a powerful occupier. That sort of thing can be done with success only in backward countries among hardy peasants and mountain folk. It is no accident that the only places in Europe where the Germans faced serious mass resistance by the population was in Russia, Yugoslavia, Greece, parts of Eastern Europe. The rest of Europe they controlled with little trouble and inferior, back-area troops – a paunchy, red-faced, short-winded forty year old was likely to be the dreaded Wehrmacht man.

    Had Britain been occupied I have no doubt most of the population would have proved far tamer and collaborative than the French ever were. The Channel Islands were the one bit of British territory the Germans did occupy. There was no resistance there: the Nazi gauleiter took tea with vicars.

    • right1_left1

      “Had Britain been occupied I have no doubt most of the population, with
      its long history of sheep-like political docility, would have proved
      far more tame and collaborative than the historically rebellious French
      were.”

      I’m inclined to agree with this.
      I would have been amongst sheep so I’m not trying to boost my ego.

      The quote challenges the view a very large number of Brits have about themselves.

      • Y&B Stuart-Hargreaves

        It is just that there was never any chance of Britain being occupied. Despite all the heroism and importance of the Battle of Britain most folk overlook the massive Royal Navy. Just how would Fritz have landed sufficient men and materiel? A parachute drop may have taken the Isle of Wight. But then…?
        Plus the Nazis would still be at war with the entire British Empire from whence came the resources to literally pulverise Germany to defeat.

        • Tamerlane

          ‘literally pulverise’…figuratively I think Yvonne/Barry. V difficult to ‘literally’ pulverise a country I would have thought. Besides, suspect the real resources came from the US not the fabulous British Empire (there’s a cue for you), pretty sure that’s what all those ships were doing crossing the Atlantic and how we came to need those pesky code breakers.

          • Y&B Stuart-Hargreaves

            Bomber Command was hammering the Hun well before the US joined the War. We were dropping fifteen times as much ordnance on them as they did on us.

          • Tamerlane

            Okay, yes Yvonne/Barry we ‘literally’ pulverised a country with all those bombs produced by the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. You’re absolutely correct how silly of me.

          • Y&B Stuart-Hargreaves

            Silly you indeed. You need to read David Egerton’s book Britain’s War Machine. You have fallen for the Churchillian propaganda about a plucky underdog. Britain won a relatively cheap (in lives) victory by placing machines, resources and experts at the heart of a global production system. Once the other great power of the USA joined the effort the foregone conclusion was accelerated.

          • Tamerlane

            Yes Yvonne/Barry. A small brain is quickly impressed by the reading of one well written book, especially if it appeals to their innate prejudices. You need to read more widely Yvonne/Barry, step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself with literature that doesn’t merely indulge your prejudices. You will make less of a fool out of yourself and that would be good for you, although less fun for me.

          • Y&B Stuart-Hargreaves

            I have read widely. That is how I am unimpressed the plucky underdog story. It was precisely this that I challenged in my University dissertation in 1984. There was never any question of Germany winning WW2 and no possibility of the UK being defeated.

          • Tamerlane

            It was still a Polytechnic in 1984 Yvonne/Barry, don’t try pulling the wool over my eyes.

          • Y&B Stuart-Hargreaves

            No. A University. My tutor was one of the most respected historians of WW2 and its causes. Andrew Crozier.

          • Tamerlane

            And you clearly lapped it all up verbatim and never questioned any of it. What a waste of an education. But then I guessed that already.

          • Y&B Stuart-Hargreaves

            You miss the point of “challenged”. Crozier and I disagreed. Just like I do with you. You are wrong.

          • Tamerlane

            You are certainly ‘challenged’.

          • Y&B Stuart-Hargreaves

            I think you are a bore. But then that is your intention. Dumb ignorance.

          • Tamerlane

            Hey, that’s the same noise the line makes when the fish takes the bait. Some places offer some fine, fine fishin’!

          • Y&B Stuart-Hargreaves

            Glib bore.

          • Lawrence James.

            The outcome of the war was far from a forgone conclusion in December 1941: it was by the beginning of 1943 after victories at Midway, El Alamein, and Stalingrad.

          • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

            A simple look at the material wealth of Britain and its Empire would tell you that Germany was on a hiding to nothing even in 1939. Hitler himself did not expect Germany to be capable of a successful war in Europe until 1943. The famous Hossbach memorandum. The Nazis were chances. Full of bluff and bluster like todays Tories. Thing is the UK establishment knew this. Germany was finished as soon as its piss poor leaders opted to fight the UK.

          • Weaver

            Germany outproduced Britain in most classes of military equipment and industrial goods throughout the war. Britain had the advantage in shipbuilding throughout (obviously) and aero engines in the later war, but Germany dominated the land systems. Germany also had more and cheaper manpower.

            There wasn’t a huge gap between the two powers, but Germany had a slight production advantage throughout vs a vs Britain alone. Obviously, with the respective allies added on to both sides, the Allies had a large advantage.

          • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

            You are either very ill informed or simply a cynical liar. That is nonsense. Germany out produced the UK in submarines, coal and iron and for the year 1940 only, tanks.
            Britain outproduced Germany on every other metric and with the Dominions and Colonies added massively so. For instance the UK launched 40 carriers, 108 battlecruisers and 290 destroyers between 1939 and 1944. Germany managed 17. Mainly because our vastly superior airforce was pummelling their shipyards.
            Britain produced 46,000 landing craft during the War, Germany managed to build four.
            The GDP of our Empire rose from £690 million to £750 million during the War. That of Germany went from £375 million to £465 million. We outspent them from day one. Germany was on the back foot from the spring of 1941.

          • Chris Whiteside

            I suspect most of your figures are right but the last battlecruisers Britain launched were Hood, Renown and Repulse which were all built well before 1939. Is your figure of 108 supposed to be for Battleships plus Cruisers ?

          • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

            Yes . We produced 6 Battle cruisers and the 5 King George V class were started before 1939. We produced 102 Cruisers , 291 Destroyers and 209 Frigates. The total for all ships by Germany was 20. Not only was Germany unable to project its limited strength overseas it was massively out produced.

          • Tamerlane

            Meanwhile Germany produced 100 u-boats to the Royal Navy’s 15 subs.
            Idiot.

          • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

            Which bit of “Germany outproduced the UK in submarines….,” did you not understand? They produced 1,150 to our 240. But we produced 4,300 MTBs to their none. Plus once we knew all their submarine movements we could hit them at will. 800 were destroyed along with 30,000 crew.
            As I said before Germany made the strategic mistake of only producing weapons of attack. They neglected their defence. We needed far fewer sub’s to blockade their tiny coast and miniscule merchant fleet.
            But thanks for the know nothing bolshy comment. Idiot.

          • Tamerlane

            Funny that, a country with multiple international borders and a short coastline focusing on its army over its navy. Whatever next? An island building lots of warships! Hey… now run to your copy of Edgerton and find a statistic to help you out quick…tick…tock…

          • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

            In your clumsy keenness to pretend to understand you have perfectly described Germany’s fundamental weakness. Multiple borders and not much coast.

          • Tamerlane

            Congratulations. You have finally grasped something.

          • Weaver

            Oh dear, the data agrees with me;

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_production_during_World_War_II

            Did you even read what I said? I said Britain produced a lot more ships, and a few more planes (in late war, but these aggregate figures show that), and Germany produced considerably more land systems. German steel and heavy industrial production was higher too. But you probably know this.

            My figures for GDP show (1938) Germany at $375B 1990 IUSD, Britain at $280B and another $115B or so from Dominions and $285 for the rest of empire. So we agree on ~$680 for Britain + dom + empire. .

            But you’re not counting other resources under Germany’s direct control or tightly allied; occupied France, Alsace Lorraine, Sudetenland & Czecholslovakia, and western Poland. Add those in and you get another $200B for Gemany. And then Italy, that’s another $140B. I won’t even bother with small fry like Yugolavia and Greece and the minor Balkan allies…

            http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/staff/mharrison/public/ww2overview1998.pdf

            So circa autumn 1940 the balance of GDP stands like this:

            Britain + dominions+ empire = $680B
            German + allies + conquests = $715B

            Very closely matched, with a slight axis advantage. Obviously this all changes with Russian and US and Japanese entry (Didn’t you mean Summer rather than Spring ’41, btw?), but it rather makes your contention that Britain had a large advantage throughout the war false, I’m afraid. But I agree that Britain was stronger than is popularly believed. We also haven’t considered financial assets and repression properly here, but let those slide for a moment.

            What we see is that both sides have comparative advantage in different areas; with Germany GDP being more “heavy”; in terms of types and quantity of steel and chemicals, whilst Britain has more light metal industry, “electronics”, and shipbuilding. This is reflected in the earlier production figures.

            You’re not the only econ & history post graduate around, you know.

          • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

            So you want to add all of Germany’s allies to its figures but ignore Britain’s allies.
            I am using the same figures as you. Can you not read charts? That link clearly shows The British Empire outproducing Germany in all classes of plane and ship other than sub’s. Also vastly outproducing them on artillery and MTBs.
            I accept that for the period June 1940,the defeat of France and June 1941 when they invaded Russia Germany had a slight advantage in GDP, but was bereft of international trade and goodwill. Britain still traded with the US.
            I see the figures also confirms Britain produced 1,580,000 vehicles and tanks to Germany’s 570,000. But accept Germany produced more mortars.

          • Weaver

            Well, I note the British figure includes Britain + Dominions (allies) + Empire/Colonies. It seems entirely reasonable to compare with Germany (inc Austria) + Allies + Conquests. Right? It’s the sum amount of resources both sides can bring to bear that’s important…

            Really we should be looking at war at an entire Allies vs Axis level to get a “fair” measure of the balance of power at any moment. Not country X vs country Y. I entirely agree the Allies start with a substantial advantage, slip to a slight disadvantage with the fall of France, and recover to a massive advantage from mid 41 onwards. The point of disagreement is your contention that the Axis were overmatched throughout, rather than at beginning and end, which is not true.

            Right, that said; lets sumarise review the detailed production figures and force structure for just Germany and UK;

            Navy: For the third time of stating, I entirely accept that Britain has a massive naval production advantage. Jeez. Not contentious, right?

            Air Forces. A closer match. Germany produces more fighters, while Britain has more of other types. Britain is actually under-scored here; as Britain produces more engines. Possibly a small British advantage overall, if we took engine numbers rather than airframes.

            Land Forces: The Germans have the advantage here. The vehicles figure is an amagamation which hides important details. Germany produces substantially more tanks, SPGs, and AFVs; where most fighting power in concentrated. Unfortunately the data doesn’t show ATG’s and AAA but Germany has an advantage there too, I believe. Britain produces vastly more unarmoured vehicles; this is reflected in the structure of the forces they field. Britain is strong in artillery, especially at divisional level, but the Germans have a modest edge in mortars and company level firepower. The Germans also field more divisions, obviously, given Britain’s manpower constraints and size of the RN.

            Overall, Britain and Germany are a reasonable match for each other, but specialise in different areas. The balance of power between them varies depending on the entry and exit of their allies and conquests.

          • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

            We are at cross purposes. You want to compare Germany and the UK. But all along I have been citing Britain and its Empire. Those are the resources Hitler chose to confront, not just the UK. My point is Germany could never hope to defeat Britain and the Empire. The Germans lacked the resources even to invade Britain, let alone neutralise and take over the Empire.
            Their production of some extra tanks and submarines are irrelevant if the tanks could never be landed in Britain.They could only hope to interrupt trade. That is not enough.

          • Weaver

            No, I’m with you, I’m fine taking Britain + Dominions + Colonies + Empire (and mandates etc) all together. It’s entirely reasonable to sum all the resources that both sides can muster.

            I would argue that we’re on the wrong level of amalgamation though; we should really compare total axis and allied strength at any one time, not just a pair of countries on either side (this actually strengthens your early war claim), The numbers aren’t meaningful at a national level, only at alliance level.

            I would not like to run the British position from Aug 40′ onwards if there is no US or Russian entry in the next year or two. Britain is, as you say, in no immediate danger of invasion, but Germany can continue to degrade the British position in the med and the western approaches if they concentrate on it and make some force structure adjustments. There’s little Britain can do to Germany in return at that time.

          • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

            The point is the US and Russia shortened the War. Britain would still have beaten Germany. We controlled the sky over Germany and we would still have pulverised it. We broke their codes too. It would just have taken a year or so longer and more people would inevitably have died, far more so in Germany and occupied Europe.
            Britain stood alone for 53 weeks, 1940 to 41. Germany did nothing. Italy entered the War, invaded N Africa and we destroyed their land forces and decimated their navy. Even with Italy they could do nothing but watch and wait for the whirlwind.

          • Lawrence James.

            ‘We’ controlled the skies above Germany- what about the USAF ?

          • Weaver

            Could I ask, gently, if your speciality is economics rather than military? I’ve got a foot in both camps, but I’m getting a sense you’re more comfortable in the former?

            I’ll just have to say I don’t agree about the military balance of power and prospects from Aug 40 onwards without US / Russian entry. I do agree the Italians are not a problem by themselves. Historically, Germany basically leaves the med to them (mistake), moving its forces east from Sept 40, for Barbarossa. As you imply; Germany and Britain mostly ignore each other in this period.

            However, counter-historically, if Germany doesn’t go east in ’41, they are capable of putting a LOT more force against Britain, both in the med and to a lesser extent in the western approaches. Where they do put in a serious effort; in Greece and Crete, Britain is bloodied.

            Another luftflotte or two in Italy / Libya would be a serious problem and overmatch the DAF, which was already strained. Another, say, 4 German divisions in Libya, if they can supply them, would probably be enough to break 8th Army by late 41, given its lacklustre leadership of the period. The Battle of the Atlantic is also finely balanced in this period. Germany’s scope for action is more limited here but could have modestly increased U-boat production and development, perhaps complemented by more maritime strike aircraft.

            Respectfully, I really find your assesment of the air situation here especially puzzling. Bomber command capabilities in 40/41 are minimal. See the Butt report for a fair assesment. Britain does not have air parity over occupied France, let alone Germany in 40/41. Offensive sweeps from 1941 onwards do not fare well. The Luftwaffe, as you well know, is mostly destroyed by daylight engagements with US escort fighters through 1943/44, following attrition in the east. I really don’t see Germany being “pulverised” by Bomber Command alone against a reinforced night fighter defence anytime soon.

          • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

            I am an historian. I do not accept that economics is a legitimate discipline. It is a failed pseudo-science. As regards the US assistance, they did declare war on 8 December 1941 but it was August 1942 before they were seriously bombing Germany. The UK bore the brunt for two years after the fall of France, including in the Far East.
            I fully agree that Russia won the War. My point is Germany could not win it, even if only fighting the British Empire.

          • Weaver

            Sorry for a rather delayed reply; your post was interesting.

            I think we are mostly in agreement, about the relative strengths of the combatents. I think we differ only on Britains long term prospect’s without Russian/US involvement.

            I suppose my beef is that I’ve seen enough serious wargame playthroughs, and I’m talking about with military officers and senior analysts, of “Britain alone” variants (i.e. no US, Japan, Russia) from June 40. Generally, if Germany doesn’t have to worry about the Ostfront, it can make Britain’s life quite miserable. Germany has a choice of strategies, from developing its strategic bombing properly, a renewed Z plan and U-boats, or more effort in the Med (starting by taking Malta). Brtiain doesn’t really have much to hit back with, and is solidly on the defensive thoughout.

            Generally, the mediterranean strategy seems to work best for Germany in the short to medium term, and Britain has a hard time. But Britain doesn’t usually collapse/get invaded, at least not before ’44.

            Now as regards laurels in the real war, I always like to think it was a team effort. I’m not wholly convinced Russia could have won by themselves. All the allies needed each other to a very great extent.

            (I think you are far too unkind to economics. I have always found it a strongly quantitative discipline, and numbers are an excellent antidote to cant and handwaving which is all too prevalent in the humanities. As a guide to large scale human behaviour its methods have greatly improved my understanding of history….)

          • Tamerlane

            Just total crap. Nothing of the sort could be further from the truth. Germany smashed itself over the USSR, all Britain ever did was contain it. You’re an idiot. Fortunately an idiot with zero audience and so therefore can’t do any damage to anyone with your imbecilic, thick views. Stick to beating off in front of the mirror. Christ, there are children that understand this material better than you.

          • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

            How very constructive and informative again. Tammy’s argument boils down to you’re an idiot.

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            Now if only Hitler had attacked the Soviet Union rather than Europe in 1939. And the US hadn’t embargoed Japan. The West’s enemies would have been neutralised. And Israel wouldn’t have been around to stir up the ME.

          • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

            The fact Hitler could never win was clear by 17 September 1940. The outcome was inevitable by June 23rd 1941.

          • Lawrence James.

            Only with hindsight: during the summer of 1942 things looked very different to Allied leaders and staff planners. Rommel was advancing towards the Suez Canal, a Japanese battlefleet cruised unopposed in the Indian Ocean, Japanese forces had occupied Malaya and Burma. the Nazi/Vichy takeover of the Levant was going ahead, and German army was heading towards Rostov, and its ultimate goal, Persia and its oilfields. A desperate situation was reversed by what turned out to decisive battle: the US navies victories at Midway and the Coral Sea, the British at Al Alamein and Russia’s at Stalingrad. One might add the Anglo-American invasions of North Africa which consigned Vichy France to the dustbin of history.

          • Roger Hudson

            East Africa, later stabbed in the back.

          • Lawrence James.

            Very silly indeed, for there was no Central African Federation at that time. There was however an abundance of Northern Rhodesian copper and an even greater abundance of warships, tanks and aircaft manufactured in Canada. Do not underestimate the imperial effort.

          • Tamerlane

            Do not overestimate either.

      • Hegelman

        “There was no resistance there: the Nazi gauleiter took tea with vicars.”

        That would have summed up British Resistance had the Nazis actually occupied Britain.

        Mind you, I would not blame the British for this unheroic response. I pointed out above that armed popular resistance to any strong regime requires social and economic preconditions which would simply not have existed in the British case:

        “It is no easy thing in an industrialised, economically advanced, country to make a guerrilla war against a powerful occupier. That sort of thing can be done with success only in backward countries among hardy peasants and mountain folk not dependent on machines to survive. It is no accident that the only places in Europe where the Germans faced serious mass resistance by the population was in Russia, Yugoslavia, Greece, and parts of Eastern Europe.”

      • Hegelman

        “The quote challenges the view a very large number of Brits have about themselves.”

        The view large numbers of people have of themselves is rarely accurate.

    • Athelstan

      ” long history of sheep-like political docility”

      Ever heard of Oliver Cromwell?

      • Morseman

        …or Sir Oswald Mosley?

        • Lawrence James.

          And absurdity.Wodehouse’s ‘blackshorts’ sum up the man and his brainsick followers

        • Athelstan

          When asked about what name Mosley should of called his followers, Hitler replied “Ironsides” in reference to Cromwells troops.

          • Morseman

            Maybe Iron Brains would have been more appropriate.

          • Athelstan

            Indeed, what sort of idiot wants a coherent, peaceful and prosperous Europe…

          • Athelstan

            Mass gang rapes, third-world ghettoes, beheadings, political disenfranchisement. At least you were never called a Fascist…

      • Lawrence James.

        The Peasants Revolt, Jack Cade’s rebellion and so on through to the Chartists and beyond to the Poll Tax riots.

        • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

          All the above, plus The Pilgrimage of Grace, the western Rebellion, Ketts rebellion , the Monmouth rebellion, the Jacobite risings all failed for lack of rebelliousness.

          • Lawrence James.

            We have a good eye for a lost cause.

    • revkevblue

      How do you hide and vanish on a small island?

      • red2black

        People who resist on islands pay a high price for doing so; Crete for example, along with many others.

        • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

          The Cayman Islands is another example. Question the corruption and brass plate tax fiddles and it is concrete boots meet the Atlantic time.

      • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

        Ed Miliband managed it.

    • JimHHalpert

      The French had a chance to demonstrate their bravery on that train in Arras a few days ago. I think they acquitted themselves in pretty much the way the rest of the world expected them to.

      • red2black

        Toby Young has already had his fesse kicked good and hard over the issue of French involvement. My grand-dad fought alongside French infantrymen at Arras during WW1 and thought very highly of them.

        • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

          Correct. The French story in WW1 is nothing but heroic.

        • JimHHalpert

          Was he similarly impressed by Vichy in WW2?

          • red2black

            What my grand-dad thought about French infantrymen was told to me by my dad, but that was all there was to it.

    • omgamuslim

      As far as I know Channel Islands people were instructed by Gov on the mainland to be peaceful and not to give the Germans too much aggro.

  • Hegelman

    “…I suggested that the ultimate aims of the Communist resistance were so different from those of the patriotic movements that the Communists should not be regarded as part of the Resistance at all. Gildea takes this argument further. He concludes that the disparity of the component parts of the ‘resistance of the interior’ suggests that ‘it may be more accurate to talk less about “the French Resistance” than about “resistance in France”.’

    Rather a pompous pedant, aren’t you, Patrick?

    How heroic were YOU in the Resistance?

  • James Chilton

    The story of the French resistance is a necessary national myth.

    • Roger Hudson

      I hate national myths, we should de-bunk them in Britain as well as France.

      • Y&B Stuart-Hargreaves

        Apparently the latest myth debunked is that French cuisine is any good. France has rather lost the culinary baton now held by Italy.

        • Jackthesmilingblack

          It was always a close run thing between French and Japanese cuisine. But I hate to think of you conservative Brits discovering Japanese food. Prices go up, service goes down.
          Jack, the Japan Alps Brit

          • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

            Bits of Britain have discovered Japanese food. Hence the shortage of crayfish tails and eel.

  • Zalacain

    What is shameful is the way Spaniards were written out of history by the victorious allies. Spanish republicans (many of them not communist) started fighting fascists in 1936, to defend the democratic government, no help from France of the UK for these people. When they lost the war over 100,000 escaped to France were they were put in internment camps. When the war started many Spaniards joined the French army and especially the French Foreign Legion. Others, started fighting with the resistance, as they had real war experience they taught many of the French to fight. Tens of thousands of Spaniards fought and died.
    When Colonel Leclerc marched into Paris a large number of Spanish Republicans took part. Of course the films showing the liberation of Paris, have “photo-shopped” the pictures to delete the names of the Spanish units.
    After the war, in 1946 Spanish republicans hoped for help in bringing down Franco, but again were let down by the allied powers. These people fought Fascism from 1936 to 1946 with no help from allied countries, except when it suited them.

    • Weaver

      The Spanish Republicans were their own worst enemy…

      Military incompetence and political division cost them. If they could have held on until Sep 39 it might have been different, but it wasn’t.

  • Liberanos

    The French became allies of the Germans. Not all occupied countries did. A handful came to Britain and helped the fight. But those who stayed were very willing partners.
    It became necessary after the war to ignore this duplicity in the new war against Communism.

    • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

      The Free French Army numbered close to a million by the end of 1944. But after the War the Foreign Legion offered a no questions asked safe haven for many Nazi officers.

  • Hegelman

    One should defend the French from Marnham’s vulgar charge of cowardice during the war.

    The level of resistance to a powerful occupation force like the Nazi is not a function of a population’s courage but also the socio-economic conditions. In a modern country where people cannot survive without machines and where the roads are good it is suicidal for civilians to take up arms against a strong army.

    That is why the Russians, the Yugoslavs and the Greeks put up such fierce guerrilla resistance to German and allied occupying forces while Western countries occupied by the Germans generally accepted their lot peacefully. In fact we have to credit the French with unusual valour for the level of their resistance in a modern society.

    In case you have still not understood: the Germans, renowned for the ferocity of their soldiers in every front of the war, did not put up a peep when occupied in 1945. Why was that? Because they loved the Allies or really rejected Hitler all of a sudden? No. Because they realised that in an industrialised country you cannot fight a partisan war.

  • Maurice_Gosfield

    Marnham really does have it in for the Aubrac’s, having previously fingered Raymond as the man who shopped Jean Moulin. He may be right but it’s most likely we’ll never know. But can he tell us what lies he is certain Lucie Aubrac told? And are they any different from the kind of self-mythologizing that’s pretty much de rigueur in personal testimony of any conflict?

  • Duncan McGibbon

    What a shame we no longer have Jean-Louis Cremieux-Brilhac’s moderate witness to refer to. Anyone who stood up against Vichy could only have done so in the name of France.

Close