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Subject: ‘World War 2’
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Posted in Historical articles, History, Invasions, World War 2 on Friday, 24 May 2013
This edited article about Adolf Hitler originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 267 published on 25 February 1967.
Who said “My patience is exhausted!”?
The answer is Adolf Hitler on 26th September, 1938, in Berlin.
The quotation comes from a speech of Hitler’s which also contained the statement, “This is the last territorial claim I have to make in Europe.” Yet within two years this “bloodthirsty guttersnipe”, as Sir Winston Churchill once called him, had conquered nearly all Europe – but not Great Britain.
By 1938, it was plain to statesmen like Churchill, but not to the vast majority of people, that Germany was bent on conquest. In March, Hitler annexed Austria, then he turned his eyes towards Czechoslovakia. Unlike the Austrians, the Czechs were bitterly hostile to Germany, and Hitler, not yet wishing to start his war, organised disturbances in the Sudetenland area of Czechoslovakia, where there was a large German population.
With riots raging, Hitler threatened invasion. France was pledged to aid the Czechs, but Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister, unwilling to believe what a menace Hitler was to peace, desperately tried to find a solution to the problem.
More trouble occurred along the frontier. Hitler announced at Nuremburg (as he was to again in Berlin) that his patience was exhausted. Chamberlain flew to see him, begging him not to invade. Hitler demanded the Sudetenland, and Chamberlain got the French, who were in a weaker state than anyone realised, to agree. He returned to Germany and was savagely abused by Hitler – despite the fact that the Czechs, deserted by their allies, had given in. Hitler wanted more, and war seemed near. He made the Berlin speech of the quotation, ranting and raving in his usual manner and brutally attacking the Czechs.
Once again Chamberlain flew to Germany – to Munich – and Hitler rejoiced that a British Prime Minister was coming to beg favours. A new agreement was reached and the Czechs were forced to cede more territory. Chamberlain returned home, bringing what he called “Peace with Honour”. The following March, Hitler seized the rest of Czechoslovakia, but by now Britain realised the truth about him and was preparing for war.
Posted in Famous news stories, Historical articles, History, Politics, World War 2 on Tuesday, 21 May 2013
This edited article about Neville Chamberlain originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 261 published on 14 January 1967.
Chamberlain and Hitler after signing the Munich Agreement by Angus McBride
In the late summer and early autumn of 1938, Europe was again on the brink of war. Adolf Hitler, leader of Germany was casting covetous eyes on Czechoslovakia. Czechoslovakia had been artificially created after the First World War and Hitler now claimed that part of it, called the Sudetanland, belonged to Germany, for it sheltered some 300,000 Germans. News leaked out in May that Hitler was planning a military attack and Europe prepared for war. On 15th September, however, Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister flew to Germany and extracted promises from Hitler that seemed to remove the immediate threat of war.
A week later he again flew to Germany: to sign the agreement which had been made the week before.
But, in spite of the official welcome, Chamberlain found that Hitler was bent on increasing his demands. Chamberlain returned to England and began preparing for war – as, indeed, most countries in Europe were preparing. There was little military preparation possible, for England had fallen behind in armaments, but the little that could be done was put in hand. Slit trenches appeared in the parks, sandbags and a few anti-aircraft guns on the public buildings; children were evacuated from London and hospitals emptied.
On Wednesday, 28th September, the Prime Minister was addressing the House of Commons outlining the grave situation, when a message was brought to him. He read it and then looked up, smiling with relief. Hitler, he told the House, was prepared to have another conference. The House went wild with delight.
Chamberlain again left for Germany. This time he met Hitler in Munich and after a gruelling 14-hour session an agreement was reached. Britain and her Allies in effect abandoned Czechoslovakia, but Hitler in return promised that there would be no military action. On the following day Chamberlain had a private talk with Hitler and persuaded him to sign a document saying that the Munich agreement “was symbolic of the desire to our two countries never to go to war with one another again”. Chamberlain intended to give the maximum publicity to this document so that all the world would know what kind of man Hitler was if he broke the agreement. It was this ‘scrap of paper’ which Chamberlain waved to the anxious crowds who awaited him at the airport on his return to England. “I believe it is peace in our time,” he said.
The Prime Minister was greeted rapturously in England but nearly all the countries who would be involved in war shared the relief.
The King of England congratulated him and the British Press was unanimous in its praise.
Just 11 months afterwards, the Second World War broke out – the ‘scrap of paper’ had meant nothing to Adolf Hitler.
Posted in America, Famous news stories, Historical articles, History, World War 2 on Wednesday, 15 May 2013
This edited article about World War Two originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 256 published on 10 December 1966.
Before the United States of America entered the Second World War, she practised a policy of benevolent neutrality towards Britain and her allies. Realising that ultimately America was going to be drawn into the struggle, and that she would enter it on the side of the Allies, Germany sought and obtained alliances with Japan and Italy which became known as the Axis.
The United States watched with growing alarm the belligerent policies of Japan, particularly Japanese encroachment on the most productive areas of China.
To America, Japan was the enemy much more than Germany. Japan aimed to put herself at the head of an East Asian empire which threatened not only America’s trade in that area, but also her influence in the Pacific Ocean. Japan was intent on realising her ambition at all costs.
In the early months of 1941, Admiral Yamamoto, Commander of the Japanese Combined Fleet, saw that, in the event of war with America, Japan would stand no chance of winning unless the United States Pacific Fleet operating in the Hawaiian area was put out of action. Around this truth a daring plan was built.
America was aware that the Japanese were mobilising their forces, but thought that they were most likely to attack the Philippines, or the British and Dutch forces in the East. The Japanese worked on their plan with total secrecy and it was completely successful.
At 7.55 a.m. on the morning of 7th December, 1941, while Japanese ambassadors in Washington were still carrying on negotiations with the American government, and without any declaration of war, Japanese midget submarines, and bombers, brought to the area by aircraft carriers, inflicted a knock-out blow to the United States naval base at Pearl Harbour in the Pacific. Pearl Harbour was completely vulnerable for no precautions had been taken against attack. Even when the radar screen showed that a vast flight of planes was bearing down towards the harbour, there was no alarm.
Pearl Harbour was full of ships, 96 in all. Only the aircraft carriers were at sea. Japanese torpedo planes and dive bombers swept down Battleship Row, where the mainstay of the American Pacific fleet lay two by two, refitting and taking on board stores of guns and ammunition. At first, many of the men on board did not realise what was happening – they thought it was a practice drill with mock ammunition. Slowly the dreadful truth came home: this was the real thing . . .
Little could be done to retaliate. One of the battleships opened fire and brought down two torpedo planes, and men shot at the fighters as they passed by, but Pearl Harbour was horribly defenceless.
Battleship Row was crippled and distorted. The great battleship, Arizona, exploded, and with her died more than 1,000 men. Oklahoma turned on her side with men imprisoned inside her. The Japanese dived over the airfields, destroying aircraft and buildings as they went. Before 10 a.m. the raid was over.
Losing a handful of pilots and aircraft themselves, the Japanese left behind them a trail of wreckage and misery. Nearly 2,500 people were killed, and many more wounded. Eighteen ships were destroyed (including two battleships) and nearly 200 planes. Large numbers of ships and planes were seriously damaged and put out of action for a long time.
America shuddered under the blow, but it welded together political differences in a determination to fight. On 8th December, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared the nation to be at war with Japan and her allies.
Posted in Historical articles, History, Ships, World War 2 on Saturday, 11 May 2013
This edited article about World War Two originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 251 published on 5 November 1966.
On the evening of 17th December, 1939, thousands of Uruguayans lined the harbour of Montevideo as the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee steamed seawards to where three British cruisers waited to resume their fight with her. Then, without any warning, the 10,000 ton battleship blew herself up, and sank to the bottom of the River Plate.
The Graf Spee had taken shelter in Montevideo after a running fight with the British ships that had lasted for fourteen hours. Captain Langsdorff could not face the prospect of another battle, and preferred death to the probability of defeat at sea.
The scuttling of the battleship was a great blow to German naval prestige. But Hitler still hoped to gain some glory from the incident. The supply ship, Altmark, an auxiliary of the Graf Spee, was still afloat somewhere in the South Atlantic. She was reported to have on board some 300 British seamen – the crews of nine British merchant ships which had been sunk in the Atlantic by the Graf Spee. If the Altmark could succeed in taking these prisoners to Germany, then it would be a triumph for the Third Reich.
As soon as Winston Churchill, then the First Lord of the Admiralty, heard of the German intention, he ordered a full-scale search for the Altmark.
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Posted in Architecture, British Cities, Historical articles, History, Religion, Trade, World War 2 on Saturday, 11 May 2013
This edited article about Coventry originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 250 published on 29 October 1966.
The entrance to Coventry's guildhall, St Mary's Hall, in Bailey Lane, where the buildings show the city's division between religion and commerce
The city of Coventry was heavily attacked in the last World War. On the night of 14th November, 1940, German bombs devastated the city. Again, in the following April, air attacks wrought widespread destruction, and the ancient city was almost razed to the ground. But, naturally resilient, it has largely been rebuilt, emphasising modernity especially in the inspired design of the new Coventry cathedral. Yet at the same time it treasures its heritage from the past.
Coventry grew up around a Benedictine monastery erected in 1043 by Earl Leofric and his wife, Godgyfu (known to us as Godiva), on one of their manors. The Earl had control of one-half of the settlement and the prior of the monastery kept control of the other.
This division in the early history of the city encouraged a healthy rivalry between the two halves, and Coventry thrived and became prosperous. As early as the reign of King John, the city had a booming trade in wool and cloth, over which loomed the iron discipline of the various guilds which watched over the standard of the goods produced.
Every length of cloth that went through the gates of Coventry was inspected and then branded with the city’s stamp. Coventry had a high reputation for the quality of the cloth produced, and proudly did its best to preserve its good name.
Coventry derived considerable importance from its favourable position in the centre of the country. During the Civil War in the 17th century, the neighbouring city of Birmingham had a habit of sending any stray Cavaliers that were captured to Coventry, to be kept safely behind that city’s strong walls. It was from this practice that in the present day, when a group of people refuse to associate with one of their number, we say he has been “sent to Coventry.”
In the days when Coventry was such an important centre for cloth weaving, the town also gained a tremendous reputation for the dyeing of cloth, especially in the colour blue. It was very difficult to get satisfactory results with blue dye, chiefly because it was particularly susceptible to fading. The quality of Coventry’s blue was credited to the water of the city’s stream, the Sherbourne, so people wanting to describe the steadfastness of materials or friends, spoke of them being “as true as Coventry blue.” In time, the phrase was shortened to ‘true blue’ and, as a mark of distinction, came to rival ‘good as gold.’
Posted in America, Aviation, Disasters, Famous landmarks, World War 2 on Friday, 10 May 2013
This edited article about World War Two originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 249 published on 22 October 1966.
The Taj Mahal
The pilot of the big American C-87 transport lined up his machine at the end of the heat-hazed runway at Agra near the Jumma River in India.
At the far end of the narrow concrete ribbon lay a patch of trees, and beyond them, on the far side of the river, he could see the tops of the graceful minarets which marked the position of one of India’s most beautiful monuments, the Taj Mahal.
Slowly he increased the engine revs, released the brakes and settled back in his seat as the huge machine began to rumble along the runway.
He needed to reach 120 m.p.h. before he could ease back the control column and lift the plane clear of the ground. Half-way down the runway – to his horror – his dials told him he had reached only 60 m.p.h. He wondered whether to slam on the brakes or hope for a rapid increase in speed.
Eighty miles an hour, and the trees loomed dangerously nearer . . .
Past the point of no return, he glanced anxiously at the airspeed indicator. It still showed only 100 m.p.h. At 110 m.p.h. he eased back the control column and the great mass of metal lunged precariously into the air, bumped, and then rose up, skimming the trees.
The shimmering dome of the Taj Mahal now lay dead ahead. “Full flap!” yelled the pilot. The plane lost speed, then ballooned upwards, barely missing the spike of a minaret. Workmen on scaffolding repairing the monument cowered back in terror, but the last-second manoeuvre by the pilot had saved them – and India’s priceless memorial.
The pilot was American Ernest K. Gann who was one of many U.S. airmen engaged on flying vital supplies to Burma during World War II.
Posted in Aerospace, Aviation, Historical articles, History, World War 2 on Thursday, 9 May 2013
This edited article about aviation originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 248 published on 15 October 1966.
Heinkel HE 178 (top left), Gloster Whittle E28/39 (top right) by Wilf Hardy
On 27th August 1939, on a remote airfield in Germany, a strange, high-pitched whining sound rose above the familiar roar of piston-engined aircraft being tuned up for the day’s test flights. A tiny, shoulder-winged monoplane bumped its way out on to the runway, with a haze of heat coming from an opening in its tail.
The whine rose to a full-throated roar as the plane gathered speed. It lifted a few feet from the runway, flying in a straight line, and then its pilot brought it down again. The Heinkel HE 178 had made the world’s first turbo-jet powered flight.
Three days later, the slim little machine was in the air again, making fast circuits of the airfield. This time the engine gave trouble and the pilot had to make a forced landing, but three months later, the Heinkel jet made a perfect demonstration flight before officials of the German Air Ministry. After that, development began in earnest.
In design, HE 178 was very similar to the British Gloster E28/39, which did not fly until nearly two years later, powered by Sir Frank Whittle’s jet engine. It had a shoulder-mounted wing of wooden construction attached to a duralumin fuselage, and the Heinkel-Hirth HeS 3B turbo-jet engine developed 1,100 lb. of thrust – low by today’s standards.
The Heinkel reached a top speed of 435 m.p.h. and had a wing-span of 26 feet 8 inches.
The first British RAF turbo-jet to become fully operational, was the twin-engined Gloster Meteor.
Posted in Bravery, Heroes and Heroines, Historical articles, History, Royalty, World War 2 on Tuesday, 7 May 2013
This edited article about the George Cross originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 245 published on 24 September 1966.
King George VI inspects the wreckage outside St Paul's Cathedral after another night of the Blitz by Clive Uptton
For over a century, men of the British fighting services performing supreme acts of gallantry in the face of the enemy have been awarded the Victoria Cross. During the Second World War of 1939-45, however, millions of civilians were in the front line of battle, and their acts of gallantry could not be rewarded by the Victoria Cross, which is a military decoration.
On 23rd September, 1940, King George VI issued a proclamation creating the George Cross. The Royal Warrant governing its award dictates that the George Cross is to be bestowed only for acts of the greatest heroism, or of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger.
Although intended primarily for civilians (both men and women), it can be awarded to members of the fighting services for actions for which purely military decorations are not normally granted. The immediate object of the institution of the George Cross was to reward acts of gallantry arising from enemy action in the Second World War, but the cross can be, and has been, given in peace-time.
The first person to be awarded the George Cross was Mr. T. H. Alderson, a civil defence worker, for his devotion to duty during an air raid on Bridlington, Yorkshire, in September, 1940. In April, 1942, the Cross was awarded to Malta in recognition of the gallantry of the Maltese during savage air raids on the island.
The George Cross has a silver medallion in the centre, showing St. George and the dragon. It is worn before all other decorations except the Victoria Cross.
Posted in Aviation, Historical articles, History, World War 2 on Thursday, 2 May 2013
This edited article about World War Two originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 239 published on 13 August 1966.
Nick Alkemade reached for the ripcord and pulled, but nothing happened!
The long pencil beams of searchlights probed the sky, trying to hold the Lancasters and provide a target for the German A.A. gunners. But the bombers were flying too high for the barrage of bursting shells to have much effect. The real danger was from the Luftwaffe’s F.W. 190 night – fighters. Fast and very manoeuverable, piloted by the elite of the German Air Force, the F.W. 190s would come screaming out of the darkness to pour a deadly torrent of cannon shells into the slower and more cumbersome Lancasters, heavily loaded with bombs.
Twenty thousand feet below, blacked out Berlin was lit by a dull glow and sudden flashes. It was February 1944, and R.A.F. Bomber Command was making yet another mass raid on Germany’s shattered capital.
In Lancaster “F for Freddy”, Sergeant Nick Alkemade huddled in the rear gun turret gripping the trigger handles of the four Browning machine guns. He carefully scanned the sky around him and keeping a wary lookout for the F.W. 190s that had already sent three of the British bombers hurtling to the ground in flames.
The Lancaster pilot set his course for the run-in over the target. The bomb-aimer squinted through the bomb-sights as his fingers closed round the bomb-release switch. This was the most dangerous part of the mission. As the bomber flew low over the target, the F.W. 190s had a good opportunity to swoop down and attack from the flanks or rear. The Lancaster’s safety depended on the rear-gunner, if they were attacked. Only accurate firing from Alkemade, squatting in his uncomfortable turret, could save them.
Alkemade was just thinking that F.W. 190s were scarce that night when the captain’s voice crackled through the intercom.
“Fighter, enemy fighter, F.W. 190, green zero ninety.”
Pressing the traversing lever, Alkemade turned his turret round to starboard, his fingers tensing on the trigger controls of the guns.
He was just in time to see the German fighter sweeping up, its tracer shells whipping past the bomber’s tail.
For an instant he had the German in his sights and, pressing the firing lever, got in a burst. The next moment there was a violent explosion and a searing flash of flame. The Lancaster lurched violently.
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Posted in Heroes and Heroines, Historical articles, History, Ships, World War 2 on Tuesday, 30 April 2013
This edited article about the Second World War originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 237 published on 30 July 1966.
The merchant cruiser Jervis Bay fought to the death when a British convoy was ambushed in the North Atlantic by Graham Coton
By the autumn of 1940, the RAF had won the Battle of Britain and saved the country from invasion by the enemy. But the Royal Navy was only beginning the long-drawn-out Battle of the Atlantic. Already losses in merchant shipping had reached the appalling figure of over one million tons lost in three months, with only five U-boats sunk in the same period. The convoy system, so successful in World War I, had been introduced, but as yet protection for the convoys was hopelessly inadequate.
On the evening of Monday, 28th October, 1940, Convoy H.X.84 left Halifax, Nova Scotia escorted by the armed merchant cruiser Jervis Bay. For ten days or more they would face the dangers of the North Atlantic, not only from the enemy, but from the gales and icy winds which took their own toll of ships and men.
On board Jervis Bay there was a mixed ship’s company. Some, like Captain Fogarty Fegen, were regular naval men. The majority were in the Royal Naval Reserve or came from a motley assortment of civilian occupations.
Captain Fegen controlled his crew of 256 officers and men with a sure touch which knitted them together into one of the most efficient and keen ship’s companies in the Navy. They had learned how to fire their seven guns as well as could be expected of them, considering that the majority of these guns were stamped with dates around the 1900 mark!
Of the 37 ships in the convoy, 11 were tankers, and a few were from foreign countries – from Norway, Holland, Greece and Sweden.
Six days earlier, Captain Krancke, commander of the German pocket battleship Scheer, had manoeuvred his ship from alongside the quay at Kiel and sailed for northern waters. Like the Jervis Bay, Captain Krancke had a mixed crew, and among the 1,300 men on board there was a fair sprinkling of reservists.
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