Monday, January 02, 2006

competition in frightfulness

The UK Government National Archives have released the Cabinet Secretaries' Notebooks from World War Two. These notes give a few brief snippets about the views of Churchill and his war cabinet to events of WWII.

Here are excerpts from a meeting on the 15th June 1942, discussing reprisals for German Massacre of a Czechoslovakian Village:
P.M. Conversation with Benes about possibility of reprisal for savage cruelties now being practiced by Germans in Czechoslovakia. Suggested wiping out German villages (3 for 1) by air attack. View of A.D. in C. Bomber Command. 100 bombers wd. be required. Low attack 2/3rds incendiaries. Bright moonlight wd. be reqrd. Objection & reasons shd. be announced aftwds. F.O. in favour. If thought worthwhile, give RAF discretion to fit it in when they can.

L.P.S. Is accuracy of report beyond doubt?

P.M. Germans announced.

S/S.Air. Disliked it. Diversion of effort fr. military objective. Risking aircraft & crews. Wd we not be led on to do it more & more – if Germans knew we wd. answer thus.

S/Doms. Doubt if it is useful to enter into competition in frightfulness with Germans.

H.O. Wd. like to consider – reprisals on English villages, where no shelter, & low scale a.r.p. Public wd. say “why did you draw this down on to us?”

C.A.S. If they came in low & not far inland they wd. run v. small risk.

F.O. Even so, there might be a deterrent element in this.

M/L. German responds to brute force & nothing else.

Bruce. It might lead to even greater atrocities in Czechoslovakia.

General view that it wd. be wise to think this over.

L.P. Danger is that it costs us something & them nothing. Against it.

General feeling of Cabinet – against doing this. (i.e. L.P., M/Inf., CO., H.O.)

PM My instinct is strongly the other way.

F.O. Strongest argument against – waste of a moonlight night. Bigger diversion than I had thought.

Churchill favoured the summary execution of Nazi leaders by Electric Chair at this meeting .
At another meeting there was a discussion of how to come to terms with the American policy of segregation to its 'coloured' troops.

The full versions of the transcripts can be downloaded from here.

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