Winnie and the Balkans

Discussions on WW2 in Africa & the Mediterranean. Hosted by Andy H
User avatar
Kingfish
Member
Posts: 2934
Joined: 05 Jun 2003 16:22
Location: USA

Winnie and the Balkans

Post by Kingfish » 11 Feb 2021 01:19

Can someone please explain the reason for Churchill's fascination with the Balkans and Europe's "Soft Underbelly"?
The gods do not deduct from a man's allotted span the hours spent in fishing.
~Babylonian Proverb

Tom from Cornwall
Member
Posts: 2331
Joined: 01 May 2006 19:52
Location: UK

Re: Winnie and the Balkans

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 11 Feb 2021 20:00

Hi KF,

Can you explain what you mean? Is there a particular time in the war that you are talking about? He wasn't "fascinated" with it for the whole war but there were certainly times when he seems to have "got a bee in his bonnet about it". Huge subject though, so would help if you could narrow your scope down a bit. Are you talking about WW2 only?

Regards

Tom

User avatar
Kingfish
Member
Posts: 2934
Joined: 05 Jun 2003 16:22
Location: USA

Re: Winnie and the Balkans

Post by Kingfish » 12 Feb 2021 02:25

Strictly WW2, and with regards to a time frame I would guess post Torch on, and more specifically the planning stages of Dragoon.
The gods do not deduct from a man's allotted span the hours spent in fishing.
~Babylonian Proverb

Tom from Cornwall
Member
Posts: 2331
Joined: 01 May 2006 19:52
Location: UK

Re: Winnie and the Balkans

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 14 Feb 2021 13:36

Kingfish wrote:
12 Feb 2021 02:25
more specifically the planning stages of Dragoon
So post-D-day?

Regards

Tom

Peter89
Member
Posts: 818
Joined: 28 Aug 2018 05:52
Location: Hungary

Re: Winnie and the Balkans

Post by Peter89 » 23 Feb 2021 09:00

The MTO was a clash zone of spheres of influence. The French, the Turks, the Italians, the Spanish all wanted their share, as well as the Russians wanted to come to the table.

Churchill thought in broad, political terms, and wanted to maintain the Empire. The lynchpin of the said Empire was the Middle East and the Mediterraneum; it provided the best connection between East Africa, India / Raj, the Eastern colonies and the British Isles.

Winning the war alone was not good enough as the Levant crisis and the Persian crisis proved immediately after the war. The French and the Russians had to be kept in bay, and independence movements should be "governed", thus ensure Britain's long term interests.

American strategy was more direct and more sensible, because they took no colonial interests into consideration. Now in our times it seems that Britain was "fascinated" with the MTO, but in fact that was still the age of colonialization, so maintaining colonial interests was imperative.

User avatar
Sheldrake
Member
Posts: 2756
Joined: 28 Apr 2013 17:14
Location: London

Re: Winnie and the Balkans

Post by Sheldrake » 23 Feb 2021 15:24

Peter89 wrote:
23 Feb 2021 09:00
The MTO was a clash zone of spheres of influence. The French, the Turks, the Italians, the Spanish all wanted their share, as well as the Russians wanted to come to the table.

Churchill thought in broad, political terms, and wanted to maintain the Empire. The lynchpin of the said Empire was the Middle East and the Mediterraneum; it provided the best connection between East Africa, India / Raj, the Eastern colonies and the British Isles.

Winning the war alone was not good enough as the Levant crisis and the Persian crisis proved immediately after the war. The French and the Russians had to be kept in bay, and independence movements should be "governed", thus ensure Britain's long term interests.

American strategy was more direct and more sensible, because they took no colonial interests into consideration. Now in our times it seems that Britain was "fascinated" with the MTO, but in fact that was still the age of colonialization, so maintaining colonial interests was imperative.
True. Churchill and the rest of the British government wanted to maintain the empire. The Middle east was a point which attracted enemy threats - in from Napoleon in 1798 and the Kaiser in 1914. It was also a place to assemble troops and resources from Australia New Zealand South Africa and India. So it made sense to look for useful objectives that could be achieved from the eastern med.

Churchill as a historian, former head of the navy and politician believed in the indirect approach. This involved using seapower to launch the army where the enemy was weakest, with attenuated logistics and where British presence could stimulate and support local allies. It worked in Spain 1808-1814. It didn't work so well in the Dardanelles, but whether this was because it was a bad idea or just poorly executed is still debated. He also loathed what he saw as the unimaginative slaughter of the western front. For him wars were won by dashing and cunning rather than by attrition, logistics, prudent planning and material superiority. Churchill also had an instinctive understanding of Hitler's thinking, as Churchill's obsessions with the Balkans and Norway were mirrored by Hitler. Churchill tried until 1943 to persuade the Turks to join the allies.

The American General staff believed in the direct approach - bring the German's main army to a decisive battle as fast as possible. This was in line with the Germany First strategy, which put the US Army in the saddle, rather than the war against Japan which was run by their real enemy the US Navy. Whether the direct approach was the most sensible approach is very debatable. The most plausible scenarios for an Axis victory in WW2 include a premature western allied invasion of France.

The US Army's preference for the direct approach goes back at least to the US Civil War. The main focus of Union army was to defeat Lee's Army of North Virginia on the direct route to the Confederate Capital. This policy failed for four years. Success was only achieved after the CSA had been isolated using Union sea power, with Union landings at New Orleans and around the coast and the army of the west ate its way across the CSA. Were the US Generals any more sensible demanding an early second front than Union Generals John Pope, Ambrose T Burnside or "Fightin Joe" Hooker who sought decisive battles with Robert E lee and lost them? Sure the Union troops would rally round the flag, and the US could replenish losses from a failed D Day - but could their British allies?

it may have been Lincoln who summarised union strategy as "those that aint skinning grab a leg and pull". This was the strategy that emerged from WW2 allied co-operation against a similar weaker but tactically competent enemy.

Churchill was also concerned about the political future of post war Europe. He mistrusted Stalin, By occupying Greece and supporting Tito he may have prevented the whole of the Balkans becoming Soviet satraps.

Aber
Member
Posts: 873
Joined: 05 Jan 2010 21:43

Re: Winnie and the Balkans

Post by Aber » 24 Feb 2021 10:06

Peter89 wrote:
23 Feb 2021 09:00
American strategy was more direct and more sensible, because they took no colonial interests into consideration. Now in our times it seems that Britain was "fascinated" with the MTO, but in fact that was still the age of colonialization, so maintaining colonial interests was imperative.
Up to a point; the US did not consider Hungary part of the European Theatre until February 1943.

The US took a very limited view of where it should be fighting the war (in particular NOT the Balkans), Churchill took a more expansive view.

Peter89
Member
Posts: 818
Joined: 28 Aug 2018 05:52
Location: Hungary

Re: Winnie and the Balkans

Post by Peter89 » 24 Feb 2021 10:58

Aber wrote:
24 Feb 2021 10:06
Peter89 wrote:
23 Feb 2021 09:00
American strategy was more direct and more sensible, because they took no colonial interests into consideration. Now in our times it seems that Britain was "fascinated" with the MTO, but in fact that was still the age of colonialization, so maintaining colonial interests was imperative.
Up to a point; the US did not consider Hungary part of the European Theatre until February 1943.

The US took a very limited view of where it should be fighting the war (in particular NOT the Balkans), Churchill took a more expansive view.
I kind of don't understand your comment; how does Hungary comes into the picture at all? It's not part of the Balkans thus irrelevant to our discussion.

Aber
Member
Posts: 873
Joined: 05 Jan 2010 21:43

Re: Winnie and the Balkans

Post by Aber » 25 Feb 2021 12:55

Peter89 wrote:
24 Feb 2021 10:58


I kind of don't understand your comment; how does Hungary comes into the picture at all? It's not part of the Balkans thus irrelevant to our discussion.
An example of the limited US view of where it should be fighting - see map from Ruppenthal
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

Tom from Cornwall
Member
Posts: 2331
Joined: 01 May 2006 19:52
Location: UK

Re: Winnie and the Balkans

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 25 Feb 2021 18:21

Peter89 wrote:
23 Feb 2021 09:00
Churchill thought in broad, political terms, and wanted to maintain the Empire.
True, and he also wanted to win the war. :D
Sheldrake wrote:
23 Feb 2021 15:24
Churchill also had an instinctive understanding of Hitler's thinking, as Churchill's obsessions with the Balkans and Norway were mirrored by Hitler.
For good economic reasons, mainly oil and mineral resources as I understand it.
Sheldrake wrote:
23 Feb 2021 15:24
This was in line with the Germany First strategy,
I think it was actually called Europe First. And for good reason, the war wasn't being fought against just Germany!
Peter89 wrote:
23 Feb 2021 09:00
American strategy was more direct and more sensible, because they took no colonial interests into consideration.
More direct perhaps but that doesn't make it sensible! Delusional, one could argue. :wink:

Anyway, didn't some famous old German chap write a small book about the primacy of politics in war? :idea:

Regards

Tom

User avatar
Sheldrake
Member
Posts: 2756
Joined: 28 Apr 2013 17:14
Location: London

Re: Winnie and the Balkans

Post by Sheldrake » 25 Feb 2021 19:30

Aber wrote:
25 Feb 2021 12:55
Peter89 wrote:
24 Feb 2021 10:58


I kind of don't understand your comment; how does Hungary comes into the picture at all? It's not part of the Balkans thus irrelevant to our discussion.
An example of the limited US view of where it should be fighting - see map from Ruppenthal
The timings of the boundary changes probably reflects the narrowing of US focus after debating strategy with the British.

EwenS
Member
Posts: 122
Joined: 04 May 2020 11:37
Location: Scotland

Re: Winnie and the Balkans

Post by EwenS » 26 Feb 2021 08:58

Sheldrake wrote:
25 Feb 2021 19:30
Aber wrote:
25 Feb 2021 12:55
Peter89 wrote:
24 Feb 2021 10:58


I kind of don't understand your comment; how does Hungary comes into the picture at all? It's not part of the Balkans thus irrelevant to our discussion.
An example of the limited US view of where it should be fighting - see map from Ruppenthal
The timings of the boundary changes probably reflects the narrowing of US focus after debating strategy with the British.
The maps relate only to the ETO. August 1942 for the first set of boundaries pre-dates the formation of the North African Theatre of Operations (later Mediterranean Theatre of Operations) in Sept 1942.

Return to “WW2 in Africa & the Mediterranean”