British Strategy and Politics during the Phony War: Before the Balloon Went Up


The so-called Phony War from September 1939 to May 1940 occupies a peculiar yet distinct place in popular memory. All the sensations of war, except the fighting, were present; yet, instead of massed air attacks and great land battles, very little happened. The British government was said to be complacent, and the people downright bored. Then, France fell to German attack, and the small British army was evacuated (minus its equipment) from Dunkirk. Reaction to this major strategic catastrophe was naturally to blame the men deemed guilty for bringing the nation to the verge of humiliating defeat. In sharp contrast to previous studies, Smart argues that there was more to the phony war than governmental complacency, that the period was more than a foolish or frivolous ante-chamber to a later more heroic phase.


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