Sunday, 16 November 2008

Spin doctoring in 1940

In my previous post about killing babies, I attempted to show the mindset that leads the bureaucracy and government to fool itself into thinking that no problems exist - even when one clearly exists. Certain people think that if the official record states that there is no problem, then there is no problem.

Here is a quote from Monty Vol II, by Nigel Hamilton from the period just after Dunkirk. This is England's darkest hour, with a badly defeated army just back from France, lacking all essential equipment (because it had been abandoned and destroyed on the beaches). England is facing invasion, and Monty is back in command of the 3rd Division, which is tasked with holding the area around Portsmouth.

Churchill paid Monty a visit, and Monty wanted his division to be given buses so that he could move his troops around to counter-attack wherever the Germans landed.

Quote starts here:

Churchill agreed to take the matter up. He was as good as his word, and the next day sent a memorandum to the Secretary of State for War, appropriating Bernard's view as his own:

"I was disturbed to find the 3rd Division spread along thirty miles of coast, instead of being as I had imagined held back concentrated in reserve, ready to move against any serious head of invasion."

Moreover Churchill declared himself 'astonished' that the division had not been provided with buses when there were at that moment 'a large number of buses even now plying for pleasure traffic up and down the sea-front at Brighton'. Enquiries were made; not unnaturally GHQ Home Force resented the way a mere divisional commander should voice objection to GHQ policy and practice. 'General Montgomery did not give you quite the whole picture,' General Ismay, the Military Secretary to the War Cabinet, replied to the PM on 4 July: if necessary a divsional commander had authority to hire transport 'for the conveyance of one brigade'.

Churchill was not appeased. In red ink he scrawled across Ismay's letter: 'The 3rd Division above all should be fully mobile in every brigade. Has this been done? When is it going to be withdrawn into reserve?'

So even at a time of great national peril, after a terrible calamity, the shiny bums in head office were writing slimy little memos to the PM that attempted to get themselves off the hook, and to paint Montgomery in a bad light.

Churchill of course saw straight through their shit, and was having none of it. But then he was that kind of guy.

How would our PM respond today? Our thin lipped, pudding-grey faced product of the uber-bureaucracy?

He would endorse the thoughts of GHQ and probably sack Monty for daring to question policy, even if it was stupid enough to make it easier for the Germans to conquer the country.

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