Batterie Mirus was an artillery gun emplacement built in Nazi occupied Guernsey, disguised as a cottage to fool aerial surveillance.
(Background: During World War II, the Channel Islands were the only part of Britain captured by the Nazis. During a long and brutal occupation the Nazi’s essentially turned the islands into stationary battleships, pouring more concrete into fortifications and gun emplacements than was poured in the rest of the Atlantic Wall combined. The largest guns in The Channel Islands were situated in Guernsey, at the Batterie Mirus. They had a range of around 51km, meaning they could theoretically hit the coast of France.)
The loss of Franklin and his men was a huge mystery, how could so many men and two state of the art ships just disappear? Search parties scoured the arctic (and in the process charted most of the up til then unexplored regions of the arctic archipeligo, and McClure even technically made it through the passage in his “search” for Franklin) for more than a decade before any real traces of the expedition turned up. Many other expeditions suffered and lost men in the same era of arctic exploration, but none disappeared completely! To this day, there’s a lot we don’t know about how such a well equipped and large expedition could fail so completely and quickly.
Here’s what we’ve found and what we know at this point: The ships spent their first winter at Beechey Island, and all seemed well. The next summer, they travelled south, and were frozen in near King William Island that Fall. They wintered here, and the next summer the ice failed to melt, trapping them for a second winter on King William Island. This alone is not out of the ordinary for arctic expeditions, many ships were frozen in for several years without a great loss of life.
In the summer between the first and second winters at King William Island, in 1847, the crew leave a note in a cairn on King William Island saying “all is well”. After the second winter stuck in the ice, the note is dug up and in the margins someone writes that 24 men have died, including Franklin, and that the crew is abandoning their ships and marching south towards the mainland of North America. It’s important to point out this second note contained several errors, but we’ll get to that.
The crew’s march is a death march, the local eskimo later report seeing dozens of white men dying in their tracks. Some men may have made it all the way to the mainland, but none survive. By the early 1850s it’s likely that all or almost all of the expedition is dead.
McClintock in 1859 finds the note in the cairn on King William Island, a single skeleton, and finally a life boat with two skeletons in it. The contents of the lifeboat add to the mystery- “a large amount of abandoned equipment, including boots, silk handkerchiefs, scented soap, sponges, slippers, hair combs, and many books, among them a copy of The Vicar of Wakefield.” The lifeboat was being man-hauled, but was pointing north, not south. A decade later Hall finds more graves and campsites, all on the King William Island. This is pretty much the extent of the evidence known up until contemporary scientific expeditions.
So, the mysteries- Scurvy, starvation, and cold had killed men on previous and subsequent expeditions, but many expeditions had survived much longer than Franklin’s without anything so catastrophic. In all, the Franklin’s men had spent only three winters in the arctic before abandoning their ships. They were equipped for five.
The mysterious contents of the lifeboat and the inconsistencies in the note point to a deteriorating mental situation. Why would dying men man-haul heavy books and silverware? Why was the boat facing north, were the men trying to return to the abandoned ships?
So, what could the ships tell us?
When scientific autopsies were conducted on the bodies on King William’s Island, it was found that lead poisoning contributed to the deaths of those men. It’s believed the solder on the tins of food was the source, but there are other theories- perhaps the ship’s water system was the source. The men also were suffering from TB and Pneumonia.
Finding the ships could finally help resolve the issue, for instance if there are more bodies on or near the ships then we know some men may have turned around from their march and made it back. Plus finding more bodies would inevitably help our understanding of what killed the men. We could also get more insight into why the men were carrying such strange items in their lifeboat, by seeing the things they chose not to take. And obviously examining more of the food tins, as well as the ship’s water system, might better explain the presence of lead.
More than anything, we don’t know exactly what the ships might tell us, but there’s so little we know as it is, it’d be amazing to find any new bits of evidence.
The first abdication was originally conditional. Tsar Alexander had then proposed that Napoleon be exiled to Elba. Even after the unconditional abdication, the marquis de Caulaincourt convinced Alexander to keep the proposition open. Napoleon wasn’t seen as a criminal, an upstart perhaps, but his rule was legitimate and the wars were often declared by the Coalition.
There wasn’t widespread support for Elba, and most diplomats and politicians had their own ideas on where to send him. The United States, Corsica, Sardinia, and the British fort of St. George on Beauly Firth were other possibilities. Alexander insisted on Elba as it would put him at an advantage to Austrian interests, and the other nations went along with it due to the other choices not being entirely pleasing — along with some threats from Alexander that were Napoleon not sent to Elba he would rescind his support for the Bourbons.
When Napoleon escaped, he was declared as much as an enemy of humanity and that he would banished from Europe if captured. He could, in theory, be executed. After Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, the Prussians stated that he would be executed if captured by them. For personal reasons, Napoleon refused to surrender to the Austrians and Russians — though they were unlikely to execute him. Napoleon made his way to Rochefort where he planned on embarking to the United States, though he delayed in doing so and the British blockaded the port in the meantime. Napoleon sent his aides to the captain of the HMS Bellerophon to see what terms he might get for surrendering to them. Captain Maitland suggested that asylum in England may be possible, but would have to clear it.
After some deliberation, Napoleon decided to surrender himself to the Bellerophon. When it arrived at Torbay, Napoleon was kept on board — an amusement for sight seers to come and see. The British government debated what to do with him. The three main figures (being the Prince Regent, Prime Minister, and Secretary of War) all hated him and previously instructed the Bourbons that they should execute him. They declared Napoleon a prisoner of war, which put Bonaparte in a grey area of legality. He couldn’t technically be a prisoner of war since Britain and France were no longer at war. Napoleon was no longer considered to even be a citizen of France. The possibility of him being tried and executed as an outlaw or pirate was raised, but then he couldn’t have been detained as a prisoner of war.
The government’s response to this scenario was to exile Napoleon to St. Helena as a retired general on half pay. Napoleon’s response to this was bewilderment and confusion, stating that if his coming aboard the Bellerophon was simply a trick to make him a prisoner, Britain had shamed itself. One of his remarks was, “They may as well call me Archbishop, for I was head of the Church as well as the army.” The Allies approved of the action, though the British Parliament later admitted that the government had no legal basis for Napoleon’s exile.
So, specifically as for why Napoleon wasn’t executed basically comes down to the unique position he was in. The concept of war criminals wasn’t yet around, and Napoleon was neither a figure that could simply be executed nor given asylum. If Napoleon had been given a *writ of habeus corpus, he could have been put on trial. However, the British government didn’t want the possibility for Napoleon to be let off, so they quickly decided to exile him. Even that was outside of their legal jurisdiction, but it caused a lot less fallout than an execution would have.
[*Napoleon technically had received a writ of habeus corpus. A sympathetic former judge came up with an excuse (an admiral failing to perform his duties) to have Napoleon appear as a witness in a trial. The writ was obtained, but Napoleon was whisked away before he could set foot on land.]
This photo was taken at the funeral of British King Edward VII, May 20, 1910.
Standing from Left –
Haakon VII, King of Norway Ferdinand I, Tsar of Bulgaria Manuel II, King of Portugal Wilhelm II, German Emperor George I, King of Greece Albert I, King of the Belgians
Seated from the Left –
Alfonso XIII, King of Spain George V, King of Great Britain Frederick VIII, King of Denmark
The Wipers Times was a largely satiric British newspaper famously published in the trenches during the First World War on a printing press that had been “liberated” from the ruins of a French town. It was by the infantry and for the infantry, and much of it was marked by a very dark streak of humor indeed.
Nevertheless, there were contributions that were amazingly sad and touching, too. The poem “To My Chum”, written by an infantry private of the Sherwood Foresters who had lost his friend, is impossible to read without at least a twinge of sorrow. I say this charitably — for my own part, at least, I can barely get through it at all without tearing up.
To My Chum
No more we’ll share the same old barn
The same old dug-out, same old yarn,
No more a tin of bully share
Nor split our rum by a star-shell’s glare
So long old lad.
What times we’ve had, both good and bad,
We’ve shared what shelter could be had,
The same crump-hole when the whizz-bangs shrieked,
The same old billet that always leaked,
And now – you’ve “stopped one”.
We’d weathered the storms two winters long
We’d managed to grin when all went wrong,
Because together we fought and fed,
Our hearts were light; but now – you’re dead
And I am mateless.
Well, old lad, here’s peace to you,
And for me, well, there’s my job to do,
For you and the others who are at rest
Assured may be that we’ll do our best
Just one more cross by a strafed roadside,
With its G.R.C., and a name for guide,
But it’s only myself who has lost a friend,
And though I may fight through to the end,
No dug-out or billet will be the same,
All pals can only be pals in name,
But we’ll all carry on till the end of the game
Because you lie there.
Men of the 8th Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment going up to the line near Frezenberg during the Third Battle of Ypres; ca. 1917
“See that little stream—we could walk to it in two minutes. It took the British a month to walk to it—a whole empire walking very slowly, dying in front and pushing forward behind. And another empire walked very slowly backward a few inches a day, leaving the dead like a million bloody rugs. No Europeans will ever do that again in this generation…This western-front business couldn’t be done again, not for a long time. The young men think they could do it but they couldn’t. They could fight the first Marne again but not this. This took religion and years of plenty and tremendous sureties and the exact relation that existed between the classes. The Russians and Italians weren’t any good on this front. You had to have a whole-souled sentimental equipment going back further than you could remember. You had to remember Christmas, and postcards of the Crown Prince and his fiancée, and little cafés in Valence and beer gardens in Unter den Linden and weddings at the mairie, and going to the Derby, and your grandfather’s whiskers…This kind of battle was invented by Lewis Carroll and Jules Verne and whoever wrote Undine, and country deacons bowling and marraines in Marseilles and girls seduced in the back lanes of Wurtemburg and Westphalia. Why, this was a love battle—there was a century of middle-class love spent here…All my beautiful lovely safe world blew itself up here with a great gust of high explosive love…”
-Dick Diver (Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald)
The Battle of Broodseinde was fought on 4 October 1917 near Ypres in Flanders, at the east end of the Gheluvelt plateau, by the British Second and Fifth armies and the German Fourth Army. The battle was the most successful Allied attack of the Battle of Passchendaele. Using “bite-and-hold” tactics, with objectives limited to what could be held against German counter-attacks, the British devastated the German defence, which prompted a crisis among the German commanders and caused a severe loss of morale in the German Fourth Army. Preparations were made by the Germans for local withdrawals and planning began for a greater withdrawal, which would entail the loss to the Germans of the Belgian coast, one of the strategic aims of the British offensive. After the period of unsettled but drier weather in September, heavy rain began again on 4 October and affected the remainder of the campaign, working more to the advantage of the German defenders, who were being pushed back on to far less damaged ground. The British had to move their artillery forward into the area devastated by shellfire and soaked by the return of heavy rain, restricting the routes on which guns and ammunition could be moved, which presented German artillery with easier targets. In the next British attack on 9 October after several days of rain, the German defence achieved a costly defensive success, holding the approaches to Passchendaele village, which was the most tactically vital ground.
“People shelter and sleep on the platform and on the train tracks, in Aldwych Underground Station, London, after sirens sounded to warn of German bombing raids, on October 8, 1940.”
October 8th would have been at the height of the Blitz, which is considered to have started just over a month prior, so this is day 31 of nightly raids on London. A total of 71 raids on the city would happen over the 8 month period considered to be “The Blitz”, with about 20,000 killed in the city – about half of the total 40,000 civilians killed in the UK during the period.
Although Germany had shown no inherent compulsion against bombing civilian population centers, not only in their bombing of Warsaw the year prior, and Rotterdam earlier in the year, but also with the Condor Legion in Spain in the 1930s, it is thought that the beginning of the bombing of London started by accident when a flight of He 111s dropped their load over the city by accident on August 24th, having limited visibility in the night and screwed up navigation. The RAF returned the favor over Berlin the next night, leading Hitler and Goering to retaliate against London. Although the bombings of London began that August, it wasn’t until September 7th, when the first of 57 consecutive night raids on London commenced, that “the Blitz” is considered to have started.
The beginning of the Blitz coincided with the Battle of Britain, and the shift by the Luftwaffe from the bombing of military installations to population centers is considered by some to be an important factor in the RAF’s triumph over the Germans in the fall of ’40.
Basically, Britain ruled Ireland like a colony – like they ruled in America or in India. The Irish didn’t like this but it was much harder for them to win their independence due to Britain being right the fuck there. There were also many loyalists in Ireland, further muddying the situation, as well as Irish men in the British army fighting against the IRA.
Initially Britain decided to give them representation in parliament instead of their independence, like what N. Ireland has now. That gave rise to a conflict within the IRA, with some of the rebels wanting to end the war and accept the offer of being represented in the legislature, and some of the rebels wanting to continue to fight until Britain gave them complete independence. The separatist faction of the IRA tended to be socialists who wanted independence from England so they could make significant changes to the political and economic workings of Ireland. The others were not exactly loyalists but were capitalists who thought that home rule would be good enough to turn things around without seizing the means of production from private owners and whatnot.
Somewhere along the line, religion came into it, with England being an officially Protestant nation and Ireland being officially Catholic.
So now you had Protestants being attacked in the Republic, Catholics being attacked in the North, the IRA blowing up everything British on both sides of the line, an argument within the IRA about socialism vs. capitalism leading to them to split into to the National Army (the official standing army of the Republic of Ireland) and the irregulars and thereafter into several different factions, with the British army trying to suppress all of the above from all directions.
The West Bank situation might be pretty comparable to this in about 20 or 30 years. Currently Israel is trying to settle loyalist families in the area, displacing the Palestinians. Eventually they might reach an uneasy peace with Palestinians and Israeli living side-by-side but still hating each other. Eventually the Palestinians start to want independence but Israel is reluctant to give up the tax income that the area represents so they offer the Palestinians self-government as long as they continue to pay taxes. Some Palestinians are OK with this, but some want to evict the Israelis entirely, who they see as the cause of the Palestinians’ suffering, and seize their land and incomes and distribute them among the Palestinians as reparations… do you see where this is going?
The fatal impact impression of Zeppelin commander Oberleutnant-zur-See Werner Peterson who chose to jump to his death rather than burn up with his ship, the L 32, 1916.
From the Wikipedia Article “Zeppelin“, under the category “History”:
L.31 approached London from the south, dropped a few bombs on Kenley and Mitcham and was picked up by a number of searchlights. Forty-one bombs were then dropped in rapid succession over Streatham, killing seven and wounding 27. More bombs were dropped on Brixton before crossing the river and dropping 10 bombs on Leyton, killing another eight people and injuring 30. L.31 then headed home. Also coming in from the south was L.32, running late due to engine problems, it dropped a few bombs on Sevenoaks and Swanley before crossing Purfleet at about 01:00. The Zeppelin then came under anti-aircraft fire as it dropped bombs on Aveley and South Ockendon. Shortly thereafter, at 01:10, a BE2c piloted by 2nd Lieutenant Frederick Sowrey engaged L.32. He fired three drums of incendiaries and succeeded in starting a blaze which quickly covered the entire airship. The Zeppelin crashed to earth at Snail’s Hall Farm, Great Burstead. The entire crew was killed, with some, including the commander Oberleutnant-zur-See Werner Peterson, choosing to jump rather than burn to death.
German Army and Navy hydrogen filled Airships began their bombing raids over Southern England with varied success on the 19th January 1915. Their bomb load consisted of both high explosive bombs and incendiaries. The incendiaries consisted of simple metal canisters filled with a mix of thermite, tar, and benzol; then being being wrapped in tarred rope and fitted with a simple fuse.
British aerial defences had up until 1916 proved ineffectual. In February 1916 the British Army took over full control of ground defences and a variety of sub 4-inch calibre guns were converted for anti-aircraft use. Searchlights manned by Police were also introduced, initially manned by police. By mid1916 there were 271 anti-aircraft guns and 258 searchlights across England.
Aerial defences against Zeppelins were haphazard, with the Royal Navy Air Service (RNAS) engaging enemy airships approaching the coast and the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) taking responsibility once the enemy had crossed the coastline. Due to the lack of an interrupter gear (to enable machine guns to fire forward) in early fighter aircraft the basic technique for downing Zeppelin airships was to simply drop bombs on them. Initial trials of incendiary bullets in mid-1915 had unfortunately shown unimpressive results.
New BE12 fighters now fitted with interrupter gear and Lewis machine guns firing a mix of explosive, incendiary and tracer rounds were slowly introduced from mid 1916. But the German’s were also further developing their airships. Their new Q-class Zeppelin with an additional 100,000 cubic feet of gas enabled the length to be extended to 585 feet, improving both ceiling limits and bomb-load.
But the turning point came on the night of the 2nd September 1916 when Lt. William Leefe Robinson, firing three drums of bullets from his Lewis gun, managed to set alight German Army Airship SL.11 commanded by Hauptmann Wilhelm Schramm. Built by Luftschiffbau Schütte-Lanz (and therefore not actually classed as a ‘Zeppelin’), it carried four Maybach engines developing an impressive 960 hp capable of propelling the airship at 91.8 kph. The airship, which quickly became enveloped in flames, crashed at Cuffley in Hertfordshire. Propaganda possibly intentionally misidentified the airship as one of the already feared “Zeppelins”. The crew (listed at the bottom of this page) were initially buried at Potters Bar Cemetery but in 1962 were re-interred at Cannock Chase German War Cemetery in Staffordshire.
For downing the first rigid airship on British soil and for the first ‘night fighter’ victory Robinson received the Victoria Cross. Robinson, his health being badly affected during his time as a Prisoner of War in 1917-18, succumbed to Spanish Influenza during the Pandemic and died on the 31st December 1918.
The loss of SL.11 ended the German Army’s interest in Airship warfare over England but the German Navy continued to aggressively pursue this form of aerial combat. On the night of the 23rd September three M-class airships, including L.32, attacked London. L32 was the second of the 650ft M-class “Super Zeppelins”, being powered by six engines and capable of operating at 13,000 ft (with another 5,000 ft to its maximum ceiling) while carrying up to four tons of bombs.
At 1.10am a BE2c fighter plane piloted by 2nd Lieutenent Frederick Sowrey attacked L.32. Despite fire being returned he fired three drums of explosive bullets until a fire finally took hold, possibly helped by a burning petrol tank. Flames swiftly spread throughout the airship, bursting through the outer envelope in several places. An eye-witness recalled that “The flames crept along the back of the Zeppelin, which appeared to light up in sections… until it was burning from end to end.” The great airship finally crashed to the ground near Great Burstead in Essex. Again, there were no survivors, the Commander, Oberleutnant-zur-See Werner Peterson, choosing to jump rather than burn to death in the inferno. Sowrey survived the war and died in 1968.
The same night L.33, despite being at 13,000 feet, was hit by anti-aircraft fire, thereafter being forced to the ground, landing near Little Wigborough. The crew set the Zeppelin alight but sufficient of the wreckage remained to be of valuable use to the British in their own rigid airship research.
There were a total of 23 Zeppelin raids in 1916 in which 125 tons of ordnance were dropped, killing 293 people and injuring 691. British anti-aircraft defences were becoming tougher but still new Zeppelins were introduced with an increased operating altitude of 16,500 feet and a maximum ceiling of 21,000 feet. Airships raids continued to be feared and to do great damage. It was only by 1918 that Zeppelin raids markedly decreased, primarily as a result of supply issues and the allied bombing of Zeppelin production lines and sheds in Germany.
The Zeppelin attacks had a profound psychological impact on the Allies. In total there were 159 Zeppelin attacks against England during World War I which resulted in the deaths of 557 people, mainly civilians. Under the Treaty of Versailles Germany was ordered to hand over all their airships, but as with their Navy, the crews attempted to destroy as many of them as they could.
The Zeppelin’s greatest achievements were undoubtedly to tie up numerous squadrons in home defence and for their psychological value but as an effective weapon of war they proved themselves unsatisfactory and were ultimately not a military success. Of the 115 Zeppelin Airships employed by the Germans, 53 were destroyed and a further 24 were too badly damaged to effectively carry out their missions. The Airship crews suffered a 40% loss rate. Additionally, the cost of constructing those 115 Zeppelins Airships was approximately five times the cost of the actual damage they inflicted.
The crew of both SL.11 and L.32 (listed below) are now buried at Cannock Chase German War Cemetery in Staffordshire, England.
The Crew of SL.11
Wilhelm SCHRAMM Hauptmann
Jakob BAUMANN Obermaschinist
Hans GEITEL Leutnant
Rudolf GOLTZ Vizefeldwebel
Karl HASSENMULLER Feldwebel-Leutnant
Bernhard JEZIORSKI Gefreiter
Fritz JOURDAN Untermaschinist
Karl KACHELE Untermaschinist
Fritz KOPISCHKE Obersteuermann
Friedrich MODINGER Obermaschinist
Reinhold PORATH Obermaschinist
Rudolf SENDZICK Obersteuermann
Heinrich SCHLICHTING Unteroffizier
Anton TRISTRAM Unteroffizier
Wilhelm VOHDIN Oberleutnant
Hans WINKLER Untermaschinist
The Crew of L.32
Werner PETERSON Oberleutnant Zur See
Adolf BLEY Obersignalmaat
Albin BOCKSCH Obermaschinistmaat
Karl BORTSCHELLER Funkentelegrafieobermaat
Wilhelm BROCKHAUS Oberheizer
Karl BRODRUCK Leutnant Zur See
Paul DORFMULLER Maschinistenmaat
Richard FANKHANEL Obermaschinistenmaat
Georg HAGEDORN Obermaschinistenmaat
Friedrich HEIDER Oberbootsmannsmaat
Robert KLISCH Funkentelegrafieobergast
Herman MAEGDLFRAU Obermaschinistenmaat
Bernhard MOHR Obersegelmachersgast
August MULLER Matrose
Friedrich PASCHE Bootsmannsmaat
Karl PAUST Obermaschinistenmaat
Ewald PICARD Obersignalmaat
Walter PRUSS Maschinistenmaat
Paul SCHIERING Obermatrose
Bernhard SCHREIBMULLER Steuermann
Karl VOLKER Obermaschinistenmaat
Alfred ZOPEL Oberbootsmannsmaat
Firstly a little bit of leadership theory to put Churchill into context, specifically that of Transformational Leadership.
Transformational leaders inspire their followers to achieve more than would normally be expected by a combination of:
- Looking after followers’ individual needs, acting as a coach or mentor and developing them.
- Challenging followers intellectually. Asking them to consider complex problems and come up with solutions by conducting their own research.
- Providing inspirational motivation. Articulating a vision of the future, setting lofty goals and being optimistic about the team’s ability to achieve them.
- Being a role model. Exemplifying everything they want their followers to be, setting high ethical and behavioral standards thus gaining respect and trust.
Whenever Churchill took charge of a government department, the work rate would increase considerably. He was a man of energy and ideas who was always keen to understand the latest innovation or cutting edge technology. For example, by the time the neutron had been discovered, he had already written about the potential of nuclear power, especially in the military context.
This energy was most apparent when he became PM in May 1940, coincidentally on the day that the German Invasion of Belgium and France was launched. Thus the first six weeks of his premiership saw one of the worst strategic set backs in British military history as the BEF was defeated and forced to abandon France. In the face of exceptional pressure form the French to stay in France and to commit further reserves, he trusted his commanders and accepted that a withdrawal was the best option. Throughout this period he did as best a job as he could to placate the French (possibly even lying to them) in order to give his commanders the space they needed to effect the withdrawal. He moved between the tactical, operational and strategic levels of command on an almost hour by hour basis in order to understand, support and decide.
Whilst all this was going on, he took the time to familiarise himself with Britain’s air defences knowing all too well that this was the next line of defence. He trusted Hugh Dowding and Charles Portal, he trusted the air defence system and he supported Dowding’s recommendation not to send any more spitfires to France, knowing it was a lost cause. He then set about instilling his confidence into the British public. The “finest hour” speech is not simply a masterpiece of rhetoric, it is the cornerstone of a concerted effort to reassure Britain that its Air Force, by this point untested in any major campaign for 22 years, was up to the job of defeating a highly capable, more numerous and more experienced Luftwaffe. Whatever went on behind the scenes, he maintained the high vision of victory and portrayed an almost relentless optimism, whilst reminding everyone of the gravity of the situation.
Deep down he knew that the Royal Navy would be the deciding factor in case of invasion, but the opportunity to stop the enemy before he even reached the shores was one he seized upon and a cause he triumphed as if it were his own.
This pattern repeats itself throughout Churchill’s tenure: the frenetic activity surrounding him, the detailed interest in an important area of responsibility, the campaign (supported of course by excellent speeches) to reassure the public that everything would be OK and then exploiting successes. Note too that he took very little credit for himself, instead focusing the public’s attention on the men and women fighting the war and crediting them with success.
So we can see that WSC was highly adept at challenging his followers intellectually and providing inspirational motivation, but what of the other two elements of Transformational Leadership?
Churchill’s weakest suit, in my opinion, was looking after individual followers. He had a terrible habit of befriending people, using them for what he needed and then dropping them. He could even do this to entire organisations and has been heavily criticised for abandoning Bomber Command in the face of criticism about the strategic bombing campaign which he had supported.
He was, however, an excellent role model. The pugnacious, stoic face of defiance in adversity, portrayed famously as the archetypal British bulldog, he set the tone for the British public to adopt – he was the archetype for the stereotype of the down-trodden but bloody-minded blitz victim. His military experience, including some remarkable individual heroics as a young subaltern and command of a battalion during the Great War, set him in good stead and enabled him to wear the uniform and rank of a commodore/brigadier/air commodore credibly.
He was not, however, perfect. He was a contrary character who wouldn’t ordinarily have become Prime Minister, let alone a successful one. He was prone to flights of fantasy and was prepared to allow incredibly risky activities. He would often be reeled in by the likes of General Hastings Ismay, his chief military assistant for most of the war, who maintained a well-informed, realistic brief and was able to recover him from his more audacious fantasies. He was also prone to depression, his “black dog” and there is immense credit to be found in his ability inspire people as he did despite his own personal demon. These two quotes do a good job of reflecting on WSC:
In 1940 the American journalist Ralph Ingersoll reported:
Everywhere I went in London people admired [Churchill’s] energy, his courage, his singleness of purpose. People said they “didn’t know what Britain would do without him.” He was obviously respected. But no one felt he would be Prime Minister after the war. He was simply the right man in the right job at the right time. The time being the time of a desperate war with Britain’s enemies
Field Marshal Alanbrooke, Chief of the Imperial General Staff from 1941, wrote in his memoirs:
…..And the wonderful thing is that 3/4 of the population of the world imagine that Churchill is one of the Strategists of History, a second Marlborough, and the other 1/4 have no idea what a public menace he is and has been throughout this war ! It is far better that the world should never know, and never suspect the feet of clay of this otherwise superhuman being. Without him England was lost for a certainty, with him England has been on the verge of disaster time and again…….Never have I admired and despised a man simultaneously to the same extent. Never have such opposite extremes been combined in the same human being.
True genius treads a fine line between triumph and disaster. Churchill knew this line all too well.
Bass, B.M. & Avolio, B.J. (1994). Improving organizational effectiveness through transformational leadership
Bungay, S. (2009), The Most Dangerous Enemy: A History of the Battle of Britain
Jenkins, R. (2001), Churchill: A Biography
Storr, A. (1997) Churchill’s Black Dog and Other Phenomena of the Human Mind
Thompson, J. (2009), Dunkirk: Retreat to Victory
An Imperial German Army Lancer, carrying a M1893 Lance with steel eyelets. A pennant would have normally been flown from these, indicating the soldier’s home providence. (Sometime during the First World War, Western Front)
Something tells me he’s not going to survive that charge against the British machine gun.
Europe had a long standing culture of regarding war as glorious and honorable Together with a complicated set of alliances that essentially broke most of the world into two camps war was really inevitable. Unfortunately iindustrializationallowed mass production of soldiers and material which meant the war was far larger than the people who started it envisioned.
So the trigger was an Austrian Archduke being shot by a Serb, Gavrilo Princip. Austria declared war on Serbia. Russia considered itself the protector of the balkans and declared war on Austria. Germany declared war Russia, and to avoid fighting a war on two fronts declared war on France in the hopes on knocking them out before the technologically backwards Russians could mobilize.
France had an excellent defensive line but it didn’t extend as far as Belgium and so Germany invaded Belgium. Britain was a guarantor of Belgium neutrality and so declared war on Germany.
Britain, France and Russia were known as the Triple Entente, while Germany, Austro-Hungary and later the Ottoman Empire were referred to as the Central Powers.
The early war had movement on both east and west fronts. Germany did well in the west and poorly in the east, but nowhere was decisive. The war dragged on, with most of the professional armies being destroyed and large conscript or volunteer forces replacing them.
1915 – Italy entered the war on the side of the Entente and the Ottoman empire joined the central powers. The last great cavalry charges occurred. The western front stagnated and trench warfare solidified. Hindenburg and Ludendorff distinguished themselves on the eastern front.
Britain attacked the Ottomans at Gallipolli, it was a catastrophic failure.
1916 – The new armies were ready to use on-masse. Faulkner attacked Verdun not to take ground but to kill as many enemies as possible, a new and terrifying tactic. It had mixed success causing huge French casualties but giving them a morale boost.
The British attacked on the Somme to relive pressure on France, it was the worst military affair In British history. The tank was used for the first time.
Germany was under blockade, but managed to blockade Britain through the use of submarines. This caused diplomatic problems with neutrals.
Hindenburg and Ludendorff became de facto leaders of Germany.
1917 – Russia had a civil war due to the extremely poor conditions for their soldiers and civilians. The communists took control (with the help of Germany). Russia left the war seeding large amounts of land and resources to Germany.
America joined the war. The stated cause was Germanys submarine usage (in particular the sinking of the Lusitania) but really America had been funding the entente and it now looked like they might lose (and hence America would lose alot of money). This had huge implications. America had been isolationist, focusing instead on gaining hold of their massive new territory. But now they became an extremely powerful world player.
Western front was a stalemate. Britain started a campaign to make Arabs rise against their Turkish masters.
1918 – Germany was starving. This year had the most casualties of the war. Germany launched a last ditch offensive which was a surprising success. However the advance outran communication lines and stalled. The Entente counter attack was successful, the German people lost the will to fight.
The Arab uprising was successful and destroyed the Ottoman empire.
A poorly thought out peace treaty was signed and the guns finally fell silent.