I bought this postcard reproduction of a World War One poster in London and thought it was extremely funny.
Battlecruiser HMS REPULSE, painted in a dazzle camouflage scheme, while escorting the last troop convoy to reach Singapore. The ship was sunk a few days later with great loss of life on 10 December 1941 by Japanese torpedoes. (Photo and caption courtesy of Imperial War Museum)
So wrote Captain William Tennant, RN, Commanding Officer of HMS Repulse when she was sunk off Malaya by Japanese planes on 10 December 1941. In an amazing demonstration of ship handling capability (and a bit of luck), Tennant managed to conn his almost 800 foot long battlecruiser to outmaneuver 19 Japanese torpedoes dropped from torpedo bombers. Eventually, planes came from every direction of the compass and sank the Repulse. Tennant survived to become a Knight Commander of Bath (KCB) and a full Admiral.
source: “Alarm Starboard!” by Geoffrey Brooke. As a young sub-lieutenant, RN, Brooke was aboard HMS Prince of Wales and witnessed the destruction of HMS Repulse. Captain Tennant was a family friend. In his memoir, Brooke says he saw Tennant on several occasions after the war but they never discussed the dreadful day of 10 December 1941.
Stern of HMS Repulse in Haifa, then part of the British Mandate of Palestine. July 1938. (Photo courtesy of the US Library of Congress)
PBY Catalina landing at NAS Jacksonville during WWII.
(official US Navy photo)
PB stands for “Patrol Bomber” and Y is the designation assigned to the manufacturer: Consolidated Aircraft. The PBY Catalina was the most widely used amphibious aircraft in World War Two. Manufactured in the US, many planes went via Lend-Lease to our allies.
While the US Navy called it the PBY, the British called it the Catalina and the Canadians called it the Canso. You often see this in aircraft names in World War Two. Our Allies would call planes received from Lend-Lease a different name than Americans used.
From the official website of the City of Hastings in the UK. http://www.1066online.co.uk/hastings-history/ww2/world-war-2.htm
New York Times headline 9.21.31
In my previous posts on the Invergordon Mutiny of the Royal Navy, I wrote only about the effects on the Royal Navy. Like so much in life, the mutiny didn’t take place in isolation from other events nor was it pushed off the front page by more sensational news. That crews on some of the storied ships of the Royal Navy had mutinied was the most sensational front page news around the globe.
The world was in the middle of the Great Depression and news of instability in the largest, most admired navy on the globe caused people to worry—a lot. As hard as it is to picture this now, in the 1930s the British Empire stretched around the world. It was the largest empire in history and Great Britain was the most influential country in the country in the world. While the United States had the larger economy in spite of the Depression we pursued a policy of isolationism so we were not nearly as engaged around the world as the British. Hence what went on in London was far more important than what went on in Washington or Berlin or Paris. Then, as now, London was the center of global finance.
Since the Royal Navy was thought of as one of the bedrock institutions which underlay the power and prestige of the monarchy and the British government, for its main fleet to be in the hands of mutineers was shocking. I think a good analogy in our time would be if the US Marines refused to follow orders to simply carry out their everyday duties.
New York Times 9.20.31
Financial markets do not like uncertainty. The mutiny caused the London stock market to sell off and forced the British Empire off the gold standard. Prior to what was then known as the Great War, all British currency had been backed by gold, a policy which minimized inflation and made for “hard money.” And being backed by gold, you could actually exchange your paper currency of the British pound into gold. (The United States dropped the gold standard in 1932)
Because the British Empire was the leading economic force in the world, they dictated this exchange rate system which pegged all the major currencies in the world to a fixed rate exchange relative to the price of gold. This system broke apart because of massive deficit spending by Great Britain and other Western governments during the First World War.
Winston Churchill as Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1924
Twelve years later, in 1924, Churchill entered the cabinet of Conservative Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin as Chancellor of the Exchequer. In 1925, the Baldwin government decided to re-instate the gold standard–a disastrous economic decision. Often the re-institution of this policy is blamed on Winston Churchill.
In actuality, Churchill was vehemently opposed to this action and was supported by much of British industry and several of the major commercial banks. Senior officials in the Exchequer, the Governor of the Bank of England and the “establishment” in general demanded this return to the gold standard.
On 21 February 1925, Churchill wrote one of the senior officials in the Exchequer:
“The Treasury has never, it seems to me, faced the profound significance of what Mr. Keynes calls ‘the paradox of unemployment amidst dearth.’ The Governor [of the Bank of England] shows himself perfectly happy in the spectacle of Britain possessing the finest credit in the world simultaneously with a million and a quarter unemployed.”
As strong a personality as he was, Churchill could not stand alone against the wishes of the powerful officials of the Exchequer, the Governor of the Bank of England, the upper classes in general and his colleagues in the Cabinet. So the British government re-instated the gold standard and the system of fixed exchange rates in 1925. This policy tightened the money supply at the beginning of England’s slow economic recovery from the war.
Tightening the money supply slowed the growth of the British economy relative to the economies of the other major powers such as the US. Over time this policy resulted a slow strangulation of the British economy. One of the worst problems caused to the economy by the return of the gold standard was it overvalued the British pound by as much as 25% against other currencies and made British exports more expensive.
This caused the British industry to lose a number of key markets throughout the world. For an economy dependent on exports, this was calamitous. The policy was even more foolish since it blunted the other main economic policy of the government which was to re-capture export markets lost during the war.
Winston Churchill well understood that tightening the money supply through the re-imposition of the gold standard would strangle the British economy. His tutor in this matter was none other than the economist John Maynard Keynes. It is Keynes who advocated an increase in the money supply in a recession/depression. Whenever you hear or read the expression “Keynesian policy” or “Keynesian stimulus,” this is a reference to the British economist John Maynard Keynes.
The massive expenditure by the US Government during World War Two, a classic Keynesian stimulus policy, is what finally dragged the United States out of the Great Depression. (Obviously not everyone agrees with Lord Keynes as he was later known after his elevation to the peerage).
As the years went on, the re-imposition of the gold standard at its parity to the British pound prior to the war, inflicted major deflation in Great Britain. This forced the Baldwin cabinet into cutting in government spending—much of it taken from social welfare programs which were keeping more than a million members of the British working class from absolute penury.
In 1929, the Great Depression struck, causing a massive dislocation of the economies of the industrialized world. In spite of this, the British government refused to drop the gold standard so as to maintain their high credit rating in international markets. The Baldwin cabinet was forced to make more cuts in government spending—including severe reduction of the military and naval budgets— or estimates as the British call them. This was done to balance the budget without thought as to how and get out of the slump caused by the re-imposition of the gold standard. At this time, Churchill resigned from the Cabinet.
New York Times 9.20.31
In 1931, the crisis came to a head. Gold was flowing out the country and the British government had been forced to borrow from the US and the French to defend their currency at parity to gold. Government expenditure on pensions, unemployment, benefits to veterans rose while revenue declined. A balanced budget would be almost impossible to create. Yet Baldwin was determined to do so because he felt it would damage Great Britain’s prestige to go off the gold standard. This was not a wise decision.
To maintain the gold standard the British had to reassure foreign creditors in order to stem the outflow of gold–which they could not afford to continue for much longer. So against all sensible advice, government released a balanced budget in 1931. This was accomplished by increased taxes and massive cuts in social spending. This exacerbated the iniquity of the British class system and just as bad, cut military estimates to the bone and more. The budget passed and the savage cuts took effect. This worsened the Depression in Great Britain.
These massive cuts made in military budgets were never made good nor were military expenditures increased until the mid-1930s. Because of the foolish decision to cut the military budgets of the services so much, critical measures such as rebuilding and enhancing the defenses of Malta, of Singapore and even of the Royal Navy fleet anchorage at Scapa Flow, were all to have painful and bloody consequences to the British in the Second World War.
What makes these decisions so damning to the government of Stanley Baldwin is experts at the time predicted the under investment in the military, especially the Royal Navy, would have bitter consequences.
Said Churchill of the Baldwin government after he had been pushed out of the cabinet:
“The government cannot make up its mind, or they cannot get the Prime Minister to make up his mind so they go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all powerful to be impotent.”
This smiling girl, dirtied but apparently not injured, was assisted across a London street on October 23, 1940, after she was rescued from the debris of a building damaged by a bomb attack in a German daylight raid. (AP Photo)
Beginning on 7 September 1940, the German Luftwaffe bombed London fifty-seven nights in a row. By the time the Blitz ended in May of 1941, London had been bombed seventy-one times. German bombs destroyed or damaged more than a million homes in Metropolitan London and killed more than 20,000 Londoners.
A shopkeeper in London displays famous British stiff upper lip by chalking “business as usual” on a piece of what appears to be corrugated paper or tin on the front of his shop. The windows have been blown out by a concussion wave from a bomb blast nearby. The two men in helmets are from the Air Raid Precaution (ARP), a largely voluntary group of Air Raid wardens. They would have been a familiar sight to Londoners during the war. (photo courtesy of AP)
Determined to show the world they would not succumb to Hitler, Londoners carried on in spite of all the destruction. Photographs such as the one above show their spirit of defiance which won them sympathy throughout the free world. And while many Londoners did carry on no matter what the Luftwaffe did, a goodly portion of those with the financial means decamped to hotels in provincial cities to get away from the bombing.
Those who stayed suffered from a loss of sleep, of energy. People displayed nervous symptoms of various sorts, drank a lot and were very scared. Yet there was a feeling during the Blitz that “we are all in this together” which united Londoners of all classes. That feeling did not outlast the Blitz.
Even during the bombing, however, class barriers remained strong. While shelters were theoretically open to anyone, that was not the case in actual practice. So, as you might imagine, there was a great difference in spending nights in the bomb shelters of the Savoy or the Dorchester, than spending them on cement platforms in tube stations–which often smelt like latrines.
Firemen spray water on damaged buildings, near London Bridge, in the City of London on September 9, 1940, after a recent set of weekend air raids. (AP Photo)