The Third Reich Advances

Jun 1, 2020 | World War II

In May, 1940, the Germans advanced rapidly through Holland, Belgium, and France, using a combination of swift Panzer attacks on the ground and deadly Stuka bombing raids from the air. The combined armed forces of Holland, France, and Belgium, supported by the 400,000-strong British Expeditionary Force, although numerically superior, were completely incapable of stopping them—or even slowing them down. Among many, many disasters, the ancient city of Rotterdam was destroyed by bombers in an afternoon, causing Holland to surrender lest it face another such calamity.

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:

26th May, 1940

Dear Aunt Charlotte,

Thank you so much for remembering my birthday and sending such a beautiful card. It’s the one bright spark in an otherwise grim time. Goodness, I’m twenty-two! That seems so old!

The news from across the channel continues to be terrible. The Germans seem to be unstoppable. Our poor soldiers are being pushed back to the sea. The French seem to be doing nothing to help, or, to be fair, seem to be incapable of helping. The Admiralty has issued a call for everyone who can to sail across the Channel to try to bring our boys home. Let us pray they’ll be able to. I think of all the chaps I knew at Oxford and all the fun we all had together, and now a lot of them are over there in desperate danger.

Meanwhile George’s squadron has not been transferred to France after all, because the Germans are overrunning all the airfields. Instead he’s somewhere on the south coast, I don’t know where, ready to fly across to France if necessary. I haven’t heard from him so I just have to cross my fingers and hope for the best.

You may remember that I went to Holland on holiday a couple of years ago. We docked in Rotterdam. Now Rotterdam has almost ceased to exist! They published a photograph of the main railway station, where we caught the train to Amsterdam. Today the station is just an empty shell, open to the skies. There are no words to describe the barbarism of modern bombing and the wanton murder of innocent men, women and children.

We just have to hope that our Spitfires and Hurricanes can stop the Luftwaffe from doing the same thing to England.

I’m very busy at the Air Ministry, but I feel that I’m not really pulling my weight. I wish I could think of something that would really help us against the enemy.

I hope I’ll be able to come and see you soon. Thank you again for the wonderful birthday card.

Take good care,
Your affectionate niece, Eleanor