Luxembourg, Belgium and Holland lasted barely a week before surrendering. The BEF, the British Expeditionary Force sent to defend them, lasted less than a month before collapsing back on Dunkirk. France capitulated shortly afterward. It was Hitler’s greatest triumph—blitzkrieg, ‘lightning war’ unmatched in military history, brilliantly planned and ruthlessly executed.
For the allies it was, in the words of Churchill’s report to the House of Commons, ‘a cataract of disaster.’
Eleanor, my fictional protagonist in my novel Breaking Point and the forthcoming sequel Infinite Stakes, wrote to her great-aunt Charlotte Oxborough.
From the papers of the Oxborough Family Estate:
15th May, 1940
Dear Aunt Charlotte,
I hope this letter finds you well and that you able to find everything you need despite all the shortages. I can’t believe that they’ve rationed meat! Let me know if you need anything and I’ll try to find it for you and bring it next time I see you.
Between us I’ve fallen into a really in a miserable mood. George’s squadron is in Lincolnshire for final training before being posted to France. Now that the Germans are attacking, I expect he really will have to fight. Hawker Hurricanes are very fine aircraft, I am assured, but so are the German aircraft and George is definitely not the fighting type, if you know what I mean.
Therefore, I’m all alone in this huge flat surrounded by George’s possessions, fussed over by his elderly minions. I still can’t get used to the idea that I’m actually married to him; it seems like a silly daydream. However, I made my decision and I must stick to it, and I must support him in every way I can now that he’s in harm’s way.
While I’m feeling sorry for myself, I must confess I also find myself wondering what I’m doing in the Air Ministry. I’m still down in the bowels of the filing section counting things, like how many Spitfires we have, and things like that. I have to brief the Minister before he attends cabinet meetings so that he has the facts at his fingertips. I suppose it’s important, but I don’t need a degree in mathematics to do it! The men do much more interesting things, discussing strategies and tactics. I asked to participate, because they were having difficulty with some calculations, but my boss, a Wing Commander, told me in no uncertain terms that strategy and tactics are men’s work.
Well, enough moaning and groaning—sorry, but you’re the only person in the family I can really tell what I feel, because everyone else just starts criticizing me.
I am shocked, like everyone else, at how fast the Germans are advancing. ‘Blitzkrieg’ they call it. I don’t understand why we can’t stop them, because we have far more men and tanks than they have.
I do hope Mr. Churchill can do a better job of being Prime Minister than Mr. Chamberlain, although Mr. Churchill isn’t the obvious choice. He seems a bit too erratic to me. They say Lord Halifax would have been better, but Mr. Atlee wouldn’t allow it. We’ll just have to cross our fingers and hope we can push the Germans back out of France.
Take good care,
Your affectionate niece, Eleanor