The Test of War: Inside Britain, 1939-45

By Robert Mackay | Go to book overview

Chapter Six

Defending the land and the people

Bombing and invasion represented the extremes of official predictions about the course a war against Germany would take: at the very least the enemy would launch a mass bombing assault, at worst he would invade. He would be hoping to subdue Britain by the former, making the latter a simple matter of occupation. A third possibility was a naval blockade designed to starve Britain into submission. As it turned out, none of these materialized quickly, or in the anticipated order.

By the time Hitler had decided on invasion, and the necessary ships and barges were being assembled in the Channel ports, measures had been taken to consolidate the pre-war preparations to meet this threat. These measures assigned roles for all the armed services and for the civilian population as a whole. It should be added that there was a point, just before Dunkirk, when Churchill had felt it necessary to ask his chiefs of staff about the prospects of Britain being able to continue the war alone. “Not for long” was their view. The final retreat from France made them gloomier still. Churchill, however, took great comfort from a crucial fact, demonstrated at Dunkirk: Britain still controlled the air, and as long as that remained true, no invasion could succeed.

For the Royal Navy the anti-invasion role it took on in the summer of 1940 consisted largely of constant patrolling of the coastal waters from Harwich to Portland. It used a rotating 200-300 out of over 1,000 light vessels, backed by flotillas of destroyers ready to engage enemy vessels and break up any attempted landing. Its other task was the laying of minefields in western coastal waters to enable

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The Test of War: Inside Britain, 1939-45
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Chapter One - Going to War 1
  • Chapter Two - Britain on the Eve of War 15
  • Notes 47
  • Chapter Three - Politics 49
  • Notes 66
  • Chapter Four - The Economy at War 68
  • Notes 94
  • Chapter Five - Aliens, Dissenters and Outlaws 96
  • Notes 112
  • Chapter Six - Defending the Land and the People 113
  • Notes 136
  • Chapter Seven - Morale 137
  • Notes 162
  • Chapter Eight - Adapting, Enduring, Escaping 164
  • Chapter Nine - Time for Change: the General Election 192
  • Chapter Ten - Taking Stock: Britain in 1945 204
  • Bibliography 236
  • Index 241
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