Since local elections generally take place between the 1st and 7th May, it’s been quite a time for my Labour Councillor friends, celebrating their anniversaries as Councillors. And why not? Available every waking hour and seeking to implement a free society with no unjustifiable inequalities to help the many rather than just a few from a council and ward level. On Friday, we were invited to celebrate the 75th anniversary of VE Day, but the signs are that we’ll be invited to think of in terms of veterans from the armed forces rather recalling the wider efforts of the people, their long hours, low rations and extra duties that put more of them in jeopardy. Through experience of a planned economy and consideration of the previous inequalities in health care, and wealth and employment (especially in the ’30s), people came to want more; and voted for it on 5th July. So on Sunday, 26th July, we can celebrate the 75th anniversary of Clem Attlee and the Labour government coming to power. The day when Britain “won the peace”. And as a friend recently pointed out, we overlook the contribution of Labour to organising the delivery of victory.
So this Sunday, we can celebrate the 80th anniversary of Clem Attlee and Arthur Greenwood joining the government. Viewers of the “Darkest Hour“, broadcast for the first time on BBC tv, can be forgiven for wondering who Clem was, if they didn’t ready know. The dialogue he had was for a debate that Arthur led on, and in which Churchill gave the government case – instead the film showed an empty seat with a hat on (laughable).
VE-Day; telegram from Eisenhower; front page of Nottingham Evening Post.
Hard to celebrate during the lockdown, but the television broadcasts are also a bit safe and dull. Perhaps I’ve read too much Spike Milligan, but I thought there was a great deal of irreverence around. Socialists have of course been keen to emphasise the victory over fascism. Keir Starmer’s video was broader than that. But it appears we all might have been trumped by Germany’s SPD party and also by the speech by the German President.
I wonder what some were hoping the message was going to be today as they made the 75th anniversary of VE Day a public holiday. Perhaps – that Britain at its best can be the best and doesn’t need anyone else. Well, watch the history and know, we absolutely did need others; know that the WWII spirit in facing down a crisis lasted as long as the panic buying for toilet rolls; and realise, that Britain, despite the efforts of our key workers, is nowhere near its best, just when we needed to be. – We can do better; we can be better; no more lions being led by donkeys.
Happened across this on my exercise walk; a simple display of paper and cardboard and gaffer tape; a member of a tank crew, that a descendant wanted to celebrate; not only for his service, but also for his politics. Of course, so many could be celebrated in this way today. But I happened across this one, so here it is.
An unpleasant film to watch cos it brings life to horrible atrocities by the Nazis in Eastern Europe during WWII. The film is well made and well shot, but just horrible cos of what it shows. So it becomes a duty to watch. A reminder at how the mass executions started through mass shootings. I think the film didn’t go on general release cos another film on the same events came out just before it. Currently available on BBC i-player. Wiki.
Nearly 3 hours. Or have I missed the point? “The film depicts the life of Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian farmer and devout Catholic who refused to fight for the Nazis in World War II. The film’s title was taken from George Eliot‘s book Middlemarch.” – from Wikipedia. Yeah, but 3 hours. You see how beautiful the higher parts of Austria are; and some of their villages and churches; and the mountains, fields and rivers; and the rural railways int the age of steam. The film certainly conveys the. religious beliefs of Franz Jägerstätter and his wife. And conveys the authoritarianism of Austria under the Nazis, and how Austrians changed under Fascism.
“But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”
Will anyone remember the defiance demand the interrogators? Well, the film itself says ‘they will now’. But the Catholic Church has already beatified him. The couple are heroes, but of the suffering kind. (I wonder if films exist to celebrate those who struggled and campaigned against Nazism in Austria? At least Herr von Trapp’s defiance resulted in a Nazi motor car being disabled.) This is a worthwhile film. Just be mentally prepared for the 3 hours. Guardian.
The movie. And again I’m awarding top marks. For a romance. Apparently I’m going soft. The movie it seems is predictable and too long. Chintzy. World War twee. And worse – Guardian review – 2 out of 5. But I was never bored and never felt the movie tried to heighten the tension in a false way. Clearly the structure of the source book gives the spaces for each of the characters’ stories to be told.
I wonder if the tension was heightened instead for me by not watching any reviews of the film, and the knowledge of the Jersey lad sent to a concentration camp cos the Nazis confiscated his motorbike so he borrowed one of theirs (he was to die of TB in Nottingham a few years later). Perhaps I filled in for the film for fighting oppression, and took too much from the celebration of coming together to discuss art.
(r:9.6; e:5, s:5, t:5).
There was a time when I would repeatedly watch the repeat episodes of “World at War”, until I got fed up with the Allies’ failures. (Norway, France, Singapore, North Africa, Dieppe.)
The interview that stuck was from episode 2 by Jock Colville, a civil servant, who explained how Chamberlain, Halifax and Churchill met in the Cabinet Room and Chamberlain asked Churchill if he saw any reason why a Lord couldn’t be Prime Minister and Churchill just stared out of the window, cos he knew it was a trap.
In the same episode, Boothby explained the “Norway debate” and how in essence, many MPs had been frustrated with Chamberlain not wanting to take the war with the Nazis. Labour played a key role in pushing the issue once the problems with the British operation in Norway had been grasped, despite Churchill putting up a big defence of his operation in the debate. They pushed for a vote and too many Conservatives did not support Chamberlain.
So the dramatic start “Darkest Hour“, with Churchill not attending the “Norway debate” was annoying, and the film kept taking these kind of liberties.
Fighting over the leadership after Churchill had been made P.M., the military chiefs having no plan on the Dunkirk evacuation, the King giving Churchill the backbone to carry on refusing to make a deal with the Nazis, Churchill holding a focus group in a London Underground carriage, Churchill meeting with MPs in a large stairwell, Chamberlain wiping his forehead being mistaken for a signal.. Regarding the history, one example of the criticism – by The National Review.
I never doubted Gary Oldman as Churchill, or his interpretation of Churchill as a livelier character than other clichéd portrayals of him as miserable.
But in this movie, politicians are quick to dispute, rather than talking things through.
So what to take from the movie? The performances. The scenery, especially the high tiered Commons chamber of the time. The importance of Parliament. Bringing form to the “Blood, toil, tears and sweat” speech.
But the movie is probably unfair on Churchill cos he did know his own mind, and hey, I don’t rate Churchill – Taff Vale, Gallipoli, the 1926 strike, the Gold standard, famines in India, and the foul-ups in WW2. Graphic from wiki.
A war movie, without the distracting love stories and over poignant speeches.
A war movie that doesn’t worry about what Churchill is saying.
A war movie that doesn’t show an enemy face until the final seconds.
A war movie that doesn’t show blood or gore.
A war movie that shows Spitfire Mark 1s in 70mm IMAX.
A war movie that shows what it was like to try to return home and try to help the evacuation.
On land, on sea and in the air.
Compelling action. Bullets zinging. Bombs exploding. Torpedoes hitting. Ships sinking. Planes duelling. combattants bracing.
A war movie, not a survival movie, even if the Director says so.
So go see Dunkirk.
The surprise – what limited dialogue there is can’t be heard very cleary – a mistake not made since “The Patriot”. Understandable maybe if the background is explosions, but when reading a newspaper article on a train back in Blighty?
Some of the storylines are a bit misjudged (the trawler, one event on the little ship) and there’s no celebration of French efforts.
Promotional interviews for the movie Dunkirk keep stressing how Churchill thought the operation to bring British and allied forces out of the trapped pocket might ony save 30,000 when 338,000 were to be relieved says more about our willingness to buy such stories rather than what was actually said by British senior officers.
And the story of the little ships being brought over by their owners was also something that took off after it was penned by an American author – they were mainly sailed by Royal Navy personnel.
Worst about it all is how the role of French soldiers in enabling the evacuation is underplayed.
Then ideas that Hitler was being kind to the British – more a judgment of a British army returning home was never going to come back and there were other objectives to meet.
Nor did the Luftwaffe particularly fail – they were asked to do too much from bases too far away.
And of course there are records of British servicemen poor discipline.
As it happens, the British were planning an evacuation a few days previous and a major operation after Dunkirk brought another 190,000 personnel to Britain.
The Allies were out thought and outmanoeuvred in the Battle of France.
And debacles were to follow elsewhere, notably in Singapore.
But enough already.
Cos the point is that even once we cut through the myths and hear more of the reality, the Dunkirk evacuation was still an extraordinary effort, including the French. Something to be proud of and to draw inspiration from.