The on-going gatherings by European Leaders only in Europe and the conspicuous exclusion of African Leaders smacks of the perennial practice of the marginalization of Africa and the discount of the role of the continent in the war in the defeat of Nazi Germany.
In this and follow-up articles we will spotlight the role played by Africa and in particular, the Gambia. However in discussing the Gambia's case that cannot be done in isolation. It has to be done within the global network of Britain's strategic plan to strengthen her hand in the prosecution of the war. In involving its colonial territories, Britain was determined to share the burden of the war, to make it lighter on the shoulders of each of her allies and hoped with all joining hands, it would put an early end to the war. Thus, save lives3 cost and properties. None of these had happened. The war took six long years but would have taken much longer if it was Britain alone that was facing the German army, called the Wehrmecnt.
To give our readers an insight of the war situation, circumstances, and events before and during, it is considered a common sense to try to present an overview, however skeletal and general of events to its run-up.
1939 was the year widely published and official recognized as the year of the outbreak of the World War II, disregarding facts and events flying in the face of all. That war had been raging in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. France long before 1939 invaded Germany to enforce its claim of reparation.
General Franco started a civil war in Spain which turned international.
Italy invaded Albania, Ethiopia, Libya, Japan and China embroiled in a life and death struggle. Australasia threatened from the Far East. Britain involved in a civil war with the Boars of the Union of South Africa.
Do we have to treat all these developments as no wars? To declare 1939 as the beginning of World War II could be true if it refers only to the entry and the participation of Britain and her vast empire. The other giants, Washington and Moscow did not yet throw in their hats, continuing to keep their powder dry. This shows that the guns had started to talk long before 1939.
On the basis of the above stated facts, glaring enough1the author of this article believes the 1914 war, officially declared closed in 1918 was actually closed de-jure but not defacto. Admittedly the guns were temporarily silenced.
Did the Germans accept the terms and conditions imposed on them? They did not. So it is therefore reasonable to say 1939 was an extension of 1914/18 war. The flame of 1914/18 was never extinguished. It kept simmering and smoldering mainly because the victors did not stay in Germany to enforce the peace terms, departing hurriedly, and leaving behind an unfinished business, the job of destroying totally German capacity to start immediately another war. The German army was left intact, its war machinery also left intact. This was one of the many reasons why the German army did not accept defeat.
The German army, and their hawk allies -began a crusade of making statements of bellicose nature, threats and denunciation of the peace treaty, and the German politicians decried as sell-out and betrayers of what they called the fatherland (DEUTSCH- land), for agreeing to surrender. And nothing was done to silence the hawks and all sorts of crackpots, parading themselves as the ones to be trusted to liberate Germany and claim more land from countries in Central Europe for a living space for the settlement of German nationals.
These sentiments were sweet in the ears of the German hawks, and their allies in the army, for this group had an agenda. Their hands itching, apparently to have an opportunity for another round of engagement with Britain to run a vengeance.
In this rough and tumble state of affair, a little known fellow that began his political agitation in Munchen, firing a gun admit a political rally, shouting "This is a Revolution" for which he was imprisoned, was the one later identified through the fiery nature of his language and his mental mechanism as the person at that point in time Germany needed to restore its true image. This fellow has a blink. He is reported to have said if and when a lie was to be told. The lie must not be a small lie. A small lie, he continued is often greeted with a laughter easily dismissed and fails to stick. A small lie disappears easily as water squeezed out of a sponge. "So, he said, if a lie had to be told, it should be a big lie for it is the big lie that penetrates and breaks the heart".
The person that made this assertion was the one that answered to the name of Adolf Hitler. Catapult into power, combining the office of the chancellor and leadership of the Reichstag, wielding unlimited powers and acting like a hurricane wind, eliminating and destroying all the government and state infrastructures, imposing his own dreams, first targeting the Jews, comparing them wit-h dogs, then the slavs, communist etc. preaching the supremacy of the German people.
The atmosphere globally at the time of his ascension to power was murky rough and bleak, a situation of survival of the fittest. This however, suited his temperament, obsession for violence, ambition and expansionist tendency. To actualize his own ambition, he quickly put in place a plan for the rearmament of Germany, the speed of which he realized could only be undermined by Germany's incapacity to deliver immediately all his requirement of iron/steel notwithstanding Germany was a steel/iron producing country. He opened up a trading enterprise on a global scale, even London and The Gambia used as markets for German agents to purchase, no matter however rusty, scrap metal and shipped to Berlin.
The metal scrap bought and what the German industries were able to produce combined, provided enough materials for the acceleration of arm production for the rearmament process. By so doing, he with the greatest speed rearmed Germany and built up war machinery at the time unequalled in strength to any thing ever.
That done, he was ready for a showdown, starting his campaign to defy the League of Nations, seized lands and countries. Firstly, occupying the Saarland, originally declared by the League of Nations as a demilitarized zone, and the league failed to stop him. From thence, it was all smooth sailing, marching his troops, entering and occupying Memel, Estonia, Lithuania and Austria without tiring a shot and not meeting resistance.
The one voice of protest at the time was that of Britain led by Sir Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister. The protest could not stop Hitler. By this time he had a new title, fondly called the Fuhrer, whatever that may mean invented a fake land dispute and crisis with Czechoslovakia, causing its dismemberment, part absorbed by Germany. The corridor to the polish seaport of Danzig was claimed and surrendered to him.
The situation was tensed, unacceptable and revulsive to British public opinion. And the British Parliament was increasingly getting incensed by the day, urging Sir Nevilie Chamberlain to take strong action; prompting his visit to the Fuhrer and the signing of a paper at Munchen which upon the return of the former to Britain was brandished in the face of all as a document that had saved the peace.
It did not. He was placated. The Fuhrer did not mean a word in that paper. And as criticism of the Fuhrer mounted in the British Parliament, he countered by launching a campaign of verbal attacks on a number of British Members of Parliament and some Ministers, prominent among these was the Foreign Secretary1 Sir Anthony Eden, one of Britain's finest Foreign Secretaries ever.
Non-the-less, the Fuhrer's attack on Eden yielded some dividends for it did not take long for the Prime Minister, Sir Neville Chamberlain to push Eden out of the Government, causing a row in and out of Parliament and the papers went to town; one editorial said "The world was upside down". Despite protests and condemnations, Eden remained temporarily out of the government. This was pleasing to the Fuhrer. He continued his crusade of making trite speeches, hoping for some more concession" from Britain. This was not forthcoming) rather the British position got hardened. Then came the hour of destiny, to be or not to be? Friday 1 September 1939 was a significant day in the Fuhrer's birth day calendar, being his 50th birthday anniversary.
Having established himself as a world leader and with about half Europe under his occupation was now a leader to be reckoned feared. On the 50th day of his birth, he wanted a birthday gift to Deutsch land and that gift was the entirety of Poland, and immediately ordered the
Wehrmecht to cross the border and occupy Poland that was the act that broke the back of the camel.
Britain acted swiftly decisively and uncompromisingly by ordering her Ambassador, Sir Neville Henderson to demand the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the Wehrmecht. Stipulating time within seventy-two hours, a total of three days, Friday to Sunday, both days inclusive, failing a state of war would exist between Great Britain and Germany.
Apparently, this ultimatum was not a worry to the Fuhrer, and even if it did, it was not reflected in his mood, for this is the situation he had been catapult in office to create to promote a war with Britain and has achieved that, apparently, wearing a smug smile and having grit in his teeth, he replied, "Today, Friday 1st September1939. I am celebrating the 50th anniversary of my birth. And I would not like to go to war, one year, one month, one week after; I would very much relish the opportunity of going to war today. Go and say this to your Prime Minister? The message was instantly conveyed to London. The Fuhrer in this waiting period continued a barrage of denunciations, seeking to split the British people and create anarchy, civil strife that would give him the opportunity to intervene as he did in the case of all countries in Central Europe.
The British remained united and loyal to the King and the country.
The issue, now joined, the world went through a nail biting wait.
The days, the hours and the minutes went by and there was no change in either position, each digging in his heels. As the hand of the clock moved tick tock by the minute, Sunday 3rd September 11a.m., Sir Neville Chamberlain, British' Prime Minister true to his word, went on the air to make an announcement to the British subjects, giving a graphic account of his tireless efforts, all ending in vain to prevail on the Fuhrer to abandon aggression and passion for war and to pursue the path of peace.
He then informed the British people that at that very moment a state of war had existed between Britain and Germany. He then urged all able bodied Britons to enlist in the armed forces, informing them the Depot they should visit to pick-up their kits and uniforms of their choice of service. He ended his speech in prayers.
The speech was addressed not only to the British subjects, but also to the people of the Colonial Territories, countries of old Dominion status and of course the Fuhrer and his Nazi cliques.
Reaction was simultaneous; Australia, Canada and New Zealand expressed allegiance and loyalty to the Monarch in Britain and pledged solidarity with the British people.
The Union of South Africa vacillated, initiating fruitless debates as to whether to join Britain or maintain a position of neutrality. The Boars of South Africa had just emerging from a defeat from a war with the British and were still licking their wounds, and nursing bitterness for the British, wanted to side the Germans. This however did not go through and later decided to fight on the side of Britain.
France too declared war on Germany. Thenceforth, diplomacy gave way to the language of the cannon guns, fired on land, sea and air
Though forced into1var without having made adequate preparation, Britain did not waste time in putting together a fighting force, dispatched to mainland Europe, through France to confront the WEHRMECHT in their own area in an attempt to contain the Germans and confine the war there. Britain's allies including France, a senior partner in the alliance and others were empty cells with no stomach to tight and surrendered at the wehrmecht's first push, endangering the lives of the British soldiers who at great cost had to hastily withdraw through Dunkirk and the English Channel to England.
This was a serious setback to Britain and for a while, there was no engagement on land. But sea and air engagements were in full swing.
Again, Britain suffered at sea, infuriating the British who had since early days been a nation of sea power) dominating the sea, and now its forces becoming inferior and being beaten by the German navy. This was unacceptable to the British, causing a row in the British Parliament. At this time, the head of the British Navy, Admiral Lord Louise Mountbatten was thought not to have been delivering the goods.
And Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, considered a pacifist, had now been replaced by the dynamic Sir Winston Spencer Churchill Who made no apology for ruffling the feathers of any one, however high on the hierarchy, if deemed not to have been delivering the goods. And since the Royal Navy was doing badly at sea, its head was considered to have been under-performing and should go. And he did go, handing his letter of resignation to Churchill who lost no time in making the announcement in the Commons, much to the relief of the British.
The lull that followed the Dunkirk fiasco was used by the new prime minister to restructure the civil and military establishments bringing back Sir Anthony Eden and other notables in a national government.
The fall of France was naturally a major booster to the Fuhrer, inciting countries like Italy, originally maintaining a neutral position to change, coming on the side of the fuhrer. Italy had thought the west, in particular Britain too was about to fall and she should share with Germany the booty. That belief was like buying a pig in a poke, a gamble whose cost to Italy was immeasurable.
Meanwhile, Germany was finishing the final touches on the plan for the Victory celebration of the fall of France. A celebration the vibration of which sticks and continues up to this moment to echo in our ears. It was a glorious and the greatest moment for the people of the Deutsch-Land. Germany beefed the size of its Army by drafting in soldiers of occupied territories, including France, to fight for it. A handful of French soldiers, led by General de-Gaulle fled to Britain calling themselves free French.Britain in the meantime sticked together with Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa to face the mighty wehrmecht.
Thenceforth, the United Kingdom bore the brunt of the barrage of the bombardment and incendiary bombs from the German. The Luft waffe, hundred of which hourly hovered and continued to dominate the British air space, threatened the total destruction of Britain. This, however, was averted by British fortitude1discipline, good leadership and a galvanished and invigorated handful of air men of the Royal air force. These men, included Flight Officer Peter Townsend, later drafted to join Buckingham palace as an equerry to King George the Vi.
Peter subsequently proposed to Princess Margret. He however did not succeed.
Flight Officer Peter and other airmen flew British planes and presented an effective challenge, driving away German planes some crashing in flame and others shaken, returned to their base in France. This was how Britain started having breathing space, much needed at the time. In a spirited speech in appreciation and tribute to the victory of the Royal air force, Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill said, "Never in the Field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few"
In a further attempt to inspire an instill confidence, again, He said "The British will fight the enemies in the beaches, in towns, streets, houses and even in the bed rooms but Britain will never surrender" In another occasion, whilst talking about the war he said, "We are fighting to save the whole world from the pestilence of the Nazi Tyranny and in defence was sacred to all men. This he said is no war of domination or imperial gains. It's a war inherent in its own quality." - -
Churchill kept the pressure on Germany not only through his fighting forces, but also through the power of his rhetoric's, inspiring awe in the enemies. Stopping them from crossing the channel as all their soldiers would end up in bags. Meanwhile, two events of world wide dimension took the world by surprise all to the advantage of Britain. They helped to remove pressure from the British, and changed the conduct of the war. The Fuhrer in his unpredictable and unguided style attacked Russia, diverting manpower and hug resources, military as well as logistic from the Western front to the East, to fight major wars in two fronts. Stretching to the limit his ability to fight a good war. The other events that happened were announcements from America's president Franklin Roosevelt that his country would join the war against the Axis. This was after, receiving a wake-up slap from Japan's attack of Pearl Harbor.
Russian and America, two giants. The latter, with its inexhaustible resource in manpower, wealth, money, equipment and materials of all kinds, initiated a loan scheme called Lend lease, allowing all ally countries to benefit themselves from the scheme. The Russians opted for food and iron steel from the loan scheme. These and several other factors war strategist claimed helped turn the tide of the war in the East. The other factors are figuratively called the eight generals of Russia (1) General Winter (2) General Mud (3) General Vast land (4) General inexhaustible manpower (5) General Red army (6) multitude of generals in army uniforms etc. As expected, the Fuhrer threw in almost all resources in the Eastern Front, in his own word, kick the door, and the building will come tumbling dawn, and in his belief will finish Russia and then turn to Britain for its final settlement.
Whilst the war was raging in the East, Britain took advantage of the lull in the West by applying the finishing touches on a planned invasion of Ethiopia and Libya, both countries occupied by axis forces. The Germans again responded by dispatching under general Rommel troops to defend those two countries. Whilst the ally forces were led by General Montgomery. Two generals, each the pride of his country, both with world wide fame1now1 pitched against each other in a little known place called Alamein, the border of Libya and Egypt. At the height of the battle, General Rommel was often sighted with admiration moving from one part of his front line to the other displaying skill and ingenuity in directing his forces, earning him description of the desert rat. The intensity of the battle made sand dust from the area to come all the way to West Africa, blanketing for days the cloud over the Gambia. The German general however could not withstand the pressure and the barrage of bombardment from the side of General Montgomery and Rommerl fled back to Europe, escaped being capture. Monty! Monty! Monty! Was on every lip being the victor and a new description added to his name that was General Montgomery of Alamein.
Being a major victory, the ally forces did not lose time using Egypt, Libya and Epthopia in landing forces in southern Italy, described by Sir Winston Churchill as the soft under-belly of Europe. The British people and government felt so appreciative and elated and in celebrating the victory, someone brought in the desert to visit the ally soldiers, originally tagged, 'John'. Whilst wading through the midst of a crow of soldiers. Someone, undoubtedly originally given the low-down, broke - - - out into singing "God save the King" and chorused by all the soldiers. This was how they knew that their visitor was no one other than King George the Vi of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and the old dominions.
At the end of world war 11, General Montgomery of Alamein was taken on a worldwide tour, visiting The Gambia and appearing at the McCarthy square where school children and officials had assembled and the public to have glimpse of the general. He was greeted with applause and cheers. He turned in all directions for spectators to have good view of him. He was then whisked away by securities.
Next time we will deal with Gambia's role in fighting and defeating Nazi Germany.