“WEATHER, DISTANCE, THE LOCAL BALANCE OF FORCES, ALL THESE SUGGESTED ARGENTINA WOULD WIN”
From 8 May-15 August 2020, the Imperial
War Museum is running its ‘Victory 75’ anniversary programme that retells the story of the end of WWII in a unique way for contemporary audiences. IWM has been marking the 75th anniversaries of VE Day, the dropping of the atomic bombs and VJ Day by bringing voices IWM’S vast sound archive into homes around the world.
The programme began on 8 May 2020 with a four-minute soundscape called ‘Voices of War’ on IWM’S website. This brings together diverse first-hand accounts of VE Day from a Jamaican RAF aircraftsman to a Jewish Berliner who survived Sachsenhausen concentration camp, and even Winston Churchill. ‘Voices of War’ is intended as a focal point that echoes how families heard how the war ended in both Europe and the Far East on the wireless. Following these extraordinary news announcements, people were encouraged to reflect on a time of both celebration and cautious relief in the summer of 1945. They also considered what victory really meant for people in factories, fields, hospitals and homes around the world.
As part of ‘Voices of War’, commissioned contemporary artistic responses to the end of the conflict have also been released on the IWM website and social media channels. These responses, ranging from spoken word performances to music and poetry, will question our understanding of what victory means and reinterpret these pivotal historical moments for contemporary audiences.
This includes its resonance today in these challenging times as well as stories of people standing together during a time of national crisis. Current artists who have responded to the anniversaries include Daljit Nagra, inaugural poet-in-residence for BBC Radio 4 & 4 Extra, activist Amina Atiq, DJ and poet Charlie Dark, and playwright Chanje Kunda.
Diane Lees, director-general of IWM says, “Originally, we had planned to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII in public spaces around the UK. Due to the current situation, this is no longer possible. However, the need to commemorate this national anniversary and to remember the sacrifices made on our behalf by past generations is as pressing as ever. With ‘Voices of War’, we want the public to reflect on this important historical milestone as many others did 75 years ago – in their privacy of their own homes – and be part of this important moment with IWM and the rest of the country.”
The third most visited museum in the Netherlands after the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House is dedicated to the famous WWII diarist. The 17th century building in central Amsterdam was the hiding place of the Frank family and four other people from Nazi persecution in hidden rooms known as the Achterhuis (‘Secret Annex’). Anne did not survive the war but her father Otto helped to establish the current museum in 1957. Open since 1960, the museum preserves the Franks’ hiding place and has a permanent exhibition about Anne’s life story.
Dedicated to educating people about persecution and discrimination, Anne Frank House is an independent non-profit organisation. Its website has a dedicated page for international visitors who cannot currently visit the museum with an extensive range of options. The Secret Annex can be virtually toured online, including in virtual reality with the free ‘Anne Frank House VR’ app. The home that the Frank family lived in before they went into hiding can also be viewed in 360 degrees. In addition to the virtual tours, there is an ‘Anne Frank’ video diary that airs in 15 episodes on Youtube and her life story can also be viewed in 20 languages.
Located inside Carlisle Castle, the Cumbria’s Museum of Military Life covers 300 years of Cumbria’s regimental histories. This includes the 34th Regiment of Foot, 55th Regiment of
Foot, Border Regiment, King’s Own Royal Border Regiment and even the current regiment that serves the county, The Duke of Lancaster’s. The museum aims to reinforce the strong links between Cumbria’s regiments and the local community by sharing their remarkable stories of courage, loyalty and service. Its collections include many medals, weapons, uniforms, unique artefacts, military art and silver that date from 1702 to the present.
Although small, the museum has created several online options for visitors to participate in. This includes a virtual tour of the museum and slide shows. The latter include historic photographs of Cumbrian soldiers in colonial India, the Border Regiment at Gallipoli and vintage photos of Carlisle Castle itself. The museum also runs ‘Virtual Wednesday Workshops’ where families can take part in a variety of arts and crafts activities. Instructions, ideas and templates are provided to make wartime items like bunting, postcards, medals, camouflage, hardtack biscuits and even ‘Make do and Mend’ teddy bears and rudimentary ‘field telephones’.
People were prepared for the end of the war and were relieved when it came. They had been told by the politicians and the press that Nazi rule was coming to an end. But there was not the same euphoria there had been at the end of World War I. When VE Day came in May 1945 it marked the end of the European conflict, but the war in the Far East was to last for another three months.
HOW PREPARED WERE PEOPLE FOR VICTORY? WAS IT WELL KNOWN IT WAS CLOSE AT HAND?
HOW DID PEOPLE PREPARE FOR VE DAY?
Some people laid on street parties for children while others celebrated in town centres. London was busy, with the streets of the capital packed with ex-servicemen, foreign servicemen and women, and young people out to mark the end of the war. Formal celebrations were muted because the country was still at war with Japan.
moved. A number of children found they had no home to go to nor parents to return to.
WHAT WOULD THE EXPECTATIONS HAVE BEEN FOR WOMEN WHO FOUND THEIR AGENCY DURING THE WAR?
Churchill is pictured (inset) departing 10 Downing Street on his way to inform Parliament of the attacks on the French fleet the previous day, as part of Operation Catapult. Addressing Parliament, he declared, “It is with sincere sorrow that I must now announce to the House the measures which we have felt bound to take in order to prevent the French Fleet from falling into German hands.” The Prime Minister recounted how French ships in the harbour of Mersel-kébir, in French Algeria, were entreated to surrender to the Royal Navy, but were subsequently attacked and sunk. This move was condemned by the French government in Bordeaux as well as the Vichy regime. The British attack claimed the lives of 1,297 French sailors, but the removal of the French fleet kept the precarious balance of naval power in the Mediterranean.
A SORROWFUL REPORT
Hitler is greeted by crowds outside the Kroll Opera building, shortly after his return to Germany from recently occupied France. In his speech on 19 July, Hitler addressed Churchill, claiming he should “place trust in me when as a prophet I now proclaim: A great world empire will be destroyed” referring to the British Empire.
RETURN OF THE CONQUEROR
The following month he was wounded when his Hurricane was shot down in action over Kent. Though historians continue to debate the official beginning of the Battle of Britain, by July the Luftwaffe and Fighter Command were engaged in a constant struggle for air superiority over southern England.
Archie Brown’s is yet another book on the end of the Cold War. However, instead of perpetuating the view that the Soviet Union was on the brink of economic collapse, Brown reassess the situation and focuses instead on the role of the key players on the international stage. Looking at the relationship between British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, American President Ronald Reagan and in particular Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Brown draws on interviews and conversations to present a fascinating new viewpoint.
The book is sectioned into three parts, with part one serving as an extended ‘introduction’, part two presenting Brown’s main focus and arguments, and part three serving as both a conclusion and epilogue. As such, part one is best described as a ‘potted history’ of the Cold War and provides biographies of the three key players and their political careers, both domestically and internationally, up until this point. However, it must be stated that this opening section feels far too long. The material outlining the previous careers of Thatcher, Reagen and Gorbachev feels relevant and detailed, littered with the sections of the interviews and conversations which are a selling point of the book. However, the first chapter, which functions primarily as a ‘Previously in the Cold War!’ really does take its time and leaves the reader yearning for Brown to get to the point. However I must urge prospective readers to press on, for when the book gets going it delivers its promise in spades.
Where explores its central premise, of revealing the role of the three leaders’ personalities and relationship in ending the war, is where it proves the most fascinating. Brown uses the aforementioned interviews, conversations and comments (gathered from a range of sources) to chart the changing opinions of the trio on not only elements of foreign and domestic policy, but also toward each other. He explores all the usual avenues (for example the role of The Strategic Defence initiative, or ‘Star Wars’) but charts how these changed or affected personal views and opinions.
The book comes to an intriguing conclusion in the third section, as Brown readdresses his initial points and answers the question posed at the start: would events have occurred differently had a different set of leaders been in charge? It’s a thought provoking point to discuss, especially as Brown takes the time to outline realistic alternatives, who potentially could have been leaders instead.
Even for those who are already deeply aware of the events leading up to the end of the
Cold War, is a fascinating read. It may not necessarily provide you with information you didn’t already know, though the depth and breadth of the book may yield interesting tidbits of information. What
does do and does so well, is provide a fascinating new perspective on already well-tread ground.
A NEW HISTORY OF THE END OF THE COLD WAR, FOCUSSING ON THE INFLUENCE AND PERSONALITIES OF THREE OF THE KEY PLAYERS
The Human Factor
The Human Factor
“WOULD EVENTS HAVE OCCURRED DIFFERENTLY HAD A DIFFERENT SET OF LEADERS BEEN IN CHARGE?”
The Human Factor
When the UK went to war with Argentina over the junta’s seizure of the Falkland Islands, all the signs pointed to a sound defeat for British forces. The war was to be conducted in the South Atlantic, in freezing in mid-winter temperatures. There were also serious concerns about the US administration providing support for the venture. “Weather, distance, the local balance of forces, all these suggested Argentina would win,” says Lieutenant General Sir Cedric Delves in his authoritative account of the conflict.
Delves had been in command of D Squadron 22 SAS since the start of 1982. There was nothing to suggest that within a few months his men would be waging war at the gateway to the Antarctic. Yet in April, D and G Squadron found themselves steaming south to recapture the British dependencies.
The author explains that early on in the conflict, the initial concerns were reversed when they perceived serious defects in the enemy forces. In spite of operating close to home, with a capable navy and modern air force, their arrangements were crude and tactically ineffective, suggesting low levels of military education and training.
Delves take the reader step-by-step though D Squadron’s campaigns up to the Argentine capitulation on 14 June, starting with South Georgia in late April, followed by the operations in Mount Kent, attacks on the Argentine airstrip on Pebble Island and then finally on to Port Stanley Harbour.
One of the most poignant events depicted in the book is unrelated to battle actions. This was the burial of Delves’s SAS comrade-in-arms, John Hamilton, killed on West Falkland a few days before the Argentine surrender. The author says it was decided not to fire a volley in salute “so as not to disturb John’s peace. We were done with all that, for now, until perhaps called upon again. We remembered. Then we left”.
IN MAY 1982, BRITISH TROOPS WENT INTO BATTLE IN THE SOUTH ATLANTIC WITH THE ODDS STACKED AGAINST THEM. THIS IS THE STORY OF THE WAR AS EXPERIENCED BY D SQUADRON, 22 SAS
Justinian I – also known as Justinian the Great – is perhaps the most famous of all the Byzantine Emperors. In his latest book, historian Peter Heather reconsiders the reign and legacy of Justinian, his quest to recover the lands of the fallen Western Roman Empire and whether his conquests ultimately led to the fall of the Eastern Empire.
As Heather explores the political and military history of Justinian’s reign, he disputes two key arguments that have been frequently put forward by other historians. Firstly, he believes that the wars of Justinian were not driven by his desire to reunify the Roman Empire but rather to expand his territory, just like the other rulers of his time. Secondly, he determines that the Eastern Empire became vulnerable to Persian and Arab invaders in the 7th century because of outside influences, not because Justinian had over-expanded his empire and depleted its resources.
By reassessing Justinian and his achievements alongside the wider context of the period in which he lived, Heather offers a deeper understanding of his reign and his arguments are convincing – for readers who already know this period of history well, this book will definitely be thought-provoking.
Heather supports his arguments with a plethora of textual and archaeological sources and he also includes an extensive bibliography. At the same time, he has managed to produce a well-written narrative that is engaging and easy to read, making this book accessible to anybody with an interest in Justinian, not just academics.
A COMPREHENSIVE RE-ASSESSMENT OF JUSTINIAN’S REIGN
Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, Border Regiment cross the Chindwin River in Burma, January 1945. The regimental history is told in the museum
Carlisle Castle is over 900 years old and was the last English fortress to undergo a siege during the Jacobite Rising of 1745-46
Anne Frank pictured in her school photograph in 1941
Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev sign the INF Treaty
An Argentine soldier gives the ‘thumbs up’ in April 1982