Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

The Political Economy, the Financial Crisis and Anglo-American Strategy

Andrew Roberts
Dr Irwin Stelzer

Irwin Stelzer is a Senior Fellow and Director of the influential American think tank the Hudson Institute. He is also an economic and political commentator for The Daily Telegraph. He is also a columnist for the New York Post.

Irwin Stelzer has written and lectured on economic and policy developments in the United States and Britain. He has written extensively on policy issues such as America’s competitive position in the world economy, optimum regulatory policies, the consequences of European integration, and factors affecting and impeding economic growth. He is the author of The United States, a United Europe and the United Kingdom: Three Characters in Search of a Policy.

Dr Stelzer discussed the US elections, and the financial crisis.


Andrew Roberts is a historian and broadcaster. As well as appearing regularly on British television and radio, Roberts writes for The Sunday Telegraph as well as The Spectator, Literary Review, Mail on Sunday and The Daily Telegraph.

He is the author of a number of definitive histories including A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900 which was presented and discussed at a Bruges Group meeting. Roberts’ latest book examines the Creation of Anglo-American Allied Grand Strategy 1941-45.

Andrew Roberts is also a member of the Bruges Group’s Academic Advisory Council.


Speech by Dr Irwin Stelzer

I know everybody in Britain is very into following the American election, many of you feel you should have a right to vote in the American election since we will either do to you or for you a whole bunch of things but that’s not on the cards. So let me ask you this question, first of all does it matter, does the American election really matter, I mean British people I talk to are all upset because the American election is going to effect their lives in I don’t know what ways they think but they think in major ways, maybe for historic reasons that Andrew will talk about.

Part of me says it doesn’t matter to you partly because whoever gets elected is going to face an enormous financial stringency that’s going to make spending plans obsolete. I mean you can promise anything you want on the campaign trail, that was before $700 billion and if you read the bill it’s a lot more than $700 billion because they’re guaranteeing a whole bunch of other stuff.

By the time the election is over and a new President comes in Iraq will be sorted and thanks to General Patrias we have won as you would reasonably define victory in Iraq. That doesn’t mean they’re not going to keep killing each other to some extent, but then again we are in London and killings are known to happen here. There may be more in Iraq but basically it will be sorted.

And both have pledged to increase commitments to Afghanistan, now McCain would and Obama has promised too, so we don’t yet know what will happen when that promise runs into a Liberal Democratic Congress that will have to fund Afghanistan, but they’re both saying that that’s the next theatre. So in a sense all these pieces would suggest it doesn’t matter, but being an economist I have another hand and the other hand is that it might well matter.

Obama is a protectionist, pure and simple, he would repeal NAFTA if he could, the trade unions are his masters and if Obama is elected there will be no trade agreements, they’ll be no Doha extension, of course that’s made more difficult now because Peter Mandelson isn’t there to offset the French when he’s not sailing on various boats. But he is a protectionist, so that matters because McCain is a free trader really down to his fingertips.

Second it matters because of tax policy, we are going to see in America if Obama is elected, a redistribution programme that would not quite please Gordon Brown but certainly move in a direction that would make Gordon Brown happy. Families with over $250,000 in income will pay more taxes and people who – he says it’s a tax rebate, its not – in America families with incomes of under $50,000 a year don’t pay any income tax, they pay what you call NIC and we call social security but they don’t pay any income tax, but they’re going to get cheques for $1,000. Now the way you make that look not like an expenditure you call it a tax credit but it’s a credit against the zero tax, but you will see a redistribution.

You will see a greater emphasis and this might make – well not in this room – most British people happy. The Democrats will be more multi-lateralist, they think the UN actually can be made to work; I was pleased to hear that it’s so loaded with asbestos that they may have to close it down. I’ve always been for turning it over to Trump for a condominium; it’s got a beautiful view of the river.

Also we will see the first period in which, in my judgement if the election goes anything like it looks, where the Democrats will have control over all three branches of Congress possibly with a veto proof majority in the Senate so that there will be no constraint on a very liberal new President if Obama is the President and he will, I think, find it very difficult to cope with the leftward tendencies of the Committee Chairman, Charlie Rangel and Bonnie ((?Frank)), these guys have been there a long time, they know how Washington works. He has been in Washington for two years or at least that part of two years where he wasn’t campaigning. So I think you will see a much left... and we’re seeing that already by the way, there’s a new stimulus package coming down the road in America somewhere between $150 billion and $300 billion, the Democrats want it to be in the form of infrastructure spending of the thing sort of like what Alistair Darling has in mind, the Republicans want it to be as tax cuts, if you’re going to spend the money give it as tax cuts, if the Democrats are elected it will go into infrastructure spending instead of tax.

And finally there is Iran where it will make a very big difference. One of the complaints about McCain is that he is erratic, slightly screw loose, trigger happy, someone which I think is the perfect description for a President that we need right now, facing Iran and Putin and so on, they should be nervous at what he just might do. Now I know that doesn’t make people in Europe very happy. Obama would unleash diplomacy on people, I don’t know quite how that works, he would talk to them and he would persuade China and Russia that they should go along with more sanctions on Iran. How he’s going to do that I have no idea, I mean that would appeal to Europeans, he’s more a European than McCain is. Witness the fact that what 200,000 people showed up in Berlin, although that is a city known for turning out crowds for dramatic speakers.

I think the more profound issues to be confronted in the next several years and in the American election are four. The first is that we have always organised American economic life around the notion that efficiency and the use of resources is the desirable goal of public policy. I think that’s changing, Gordon Brown in his speech at the Party Conference in Manchester proposed that equity is the ultimate test to which public policy should be put. And that I think is where America is going at the moment.

I think the excessive displays of conspicuous consumption by hedge fund people – birthday parties for $15 million – and the fact that we have had greater inequality because of globalisation, now I’m sort of for globalisation, I’m not as enthusiastic about it as a lot of people but I think its net a very good thing has done two things. If you’re a manager or a deal maker, it spreads your talent across the globe whereas before it was confined to a single country. So you are now more valuable. If you’re a worker making trainers or T-shirts you are now less valuable because of globalisation and freer trade because you’re competing with lower cost labour. Now you’re benefiting as a consumer but your wages are more important to you than your consumption spending.

So I think what we’re seeing is a kind of emerging feeling that there’s something unfair going on in society in America and that we should fix it. And I think where you’re going to see it reflected is in taxes as I mentioned, you’re going to see higher taxes and I think you’re going to see that here too with a skew in the direction of higher taxes on higher incomes. I remember being at no. 10 when there was a brawl over whether or not New Labour would adopt a 50% bracket and I remember Tony Blair absolutely saying, out of the question, it will antagonise middle England and I remember that that led to a very serious blow up.

I think you’re going to see higher taxes, I think you’re going to see more restrictions on trade as people begin to feel that the manipulation of currency by the Chinese and the disproportionate distribution of the benefits of trade are unacceptable, they’re not after efficiency, they’re after equity. And I think you’re going to see it now in really a bad place in bank lending policy. You may have noticed you bailed out your banks, you are all now owners of three banks, which must make you feel really rich. But the fact is that you’ll notice it was on the condition that lending be kept to levels of 2007, which of course was a period of excess lending but never mind, that benefits be given to first time homebuyers who are essentially being asked by the government to catch a falling knife, enter the home market when prices are falling. We’re going to do something for small businesses; Shriti Vadera herself is attending to this matter having taken care of the small shareholders in the national rail re-nationalisation. So you’re going to see a non-efficient but seemingly more equitable use of resources in which you will be trading efficiency for equity.

You’re also going to see a shift from deregulation to regulation. Now there is no such thing as a deregulated financial market, the notion that these markets were deregulated and somehow that that caused all the problems is really just nuts. You had regulation of security issues, you had regulation of banks, you had a whole bunch of regulations, we just got the regulations wrong. So there will now be regulations that are different, they will, if the English model is followed, be essentially hands on, swarms of regulators; we need bigger budgets for the FSA and so on. If the more American approach, which is get the incentives fixed and the then don’t have swarms of regulators all over the place, goes we will go in that direction. I doubt very much whether there will be a uniform approach.

You know Mr Sarkozy went to Washington this week to persuade President Bush to go along with a conference, which was easy to do, I mean the President doesn’t have a lot to do these days actually having turned the government over to Hank Paulson. So there will be a conference and as Mr Sarkozy said, we’re not going to let the Americans stand in our way. I don’t think we’ve stood in their way since at least the days of Patan but Andrew can speak to that better than I can, but the fact of the matter is that there is now – and I want to treat that separately – a battle that’s going to go on between the EU and the US.

I think you’re going to see also a retreat by America from the role of world policeman. There has been no benefit from it to America as democratic politicians see it, they will be in control of the government if Obama wins and in control of both houses in any event and I think Europe is going to get more of the America it now wishes for and less of the America that uses hard power. The Europeans like soft power a lot, mainly because it enables them to maintain the Welfare State and what Americans call free riding on the backs of the United States: you need a helicopter, we’ll borrow it from America, we need a transport, we’ll borrow it from America. We have a rapid, what is it called, a rapid reaction force, its neither rapid nor can react nor is a force and its based on using what are called American assets.

I think you’re going to see America getting a little more stingy with its assets partly because of budgetary considerations, partly because of a philosophic shift in America that is I think becoming somewhat more isolationist than it has been in a long time partly out of disgust with the international institutions, partly out of disgust with what the NATO allies are prepared to do in Afghanistan. The Germans are sending more troops who can’t go out at night lest someone shoot at them. The Danes have some troops there I think, I think the average is 48, most of them are bakers as I understand it and I think the Americans are going to say, hey if you guys have got a problem sort it out, I mean we’ll help, but I think you’re going to see more of that.

But the most important thing perhaps from the point of view of your own interests is that there’s going to be a brawl and there now is a brawl between the EU and the United States in which Britain is going to have to choose sides. The brawl is essentially an EU that wants more global regulation, more power to the IMF, it wants another Bretton Woods not remembering what the first Bretton Woods was, which remember set fixed exchange rates and Lord Keynes spent his whole, through his whole frail body, in an effort to get opt-outs for Britain from almost everything that was agreed at Bretton Woods. I mean everybody talks about him, he got it done because of the compromises but he tried to give Britain the right to do a whole lot of things.

I think this odd couple of Brown and Sarkozy with Sarkozy out to have protectionism, he doesn’t want any more Canary Islands which might offer low taxes and he wants a massive regulatory structure which Gordon wants. Gordon has always wanted a regulatory structure, an international regulatory structure, he wants the IMF for instance to be beefed up so it can have an early warning system in a crisis. Now think about that for a minute, that means that he’s going to have economists who are going to warn if a crisis is coming, these economists somehow being superior to all the other economists who work at the central banks or in the city or in Wall Street, they will be superior because they will be selected from the most risk averse section of the profession because they will want their pensions, I mean they’re going to be government employees, I don’t have to say anymore, I mean maybe there are a lot of them here, I don’t mean to insult anybody but they have a different attitude.

Gordon and Sarkozy want to have an international body regulating major international banks. Now if anybody thinks the US is going to go for that, I really, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you because that’s not going to happen. I don’t care if it’s an Obama administration; it’s not going to happen. So what you’re going to see is a Sarkozy led EU that will want to move towards fixed exchange rates he knows he won’t get at all but he’ll want to move towards fixed exchange rates and protectionism. Gordon Brown who doesn’t like protectionism and I’m sure he doesn’t like fixed exchange rates or he would have joined the Euro, maybe he will now that he’s got new friends over there, I don’t really know, but you’ll have Gordon who wants a big regulatory structure put in place and you’ll have the Americans who are not going to be enthusiastic about this at all.

Now which way will Britain come down in the meetings that will inevitably be held? Sarkozy wants it in New York because that’s where all the trouble started. The UN is delighted to be the host and I hope they all inhale a lot. I think what you’re going to see is Gordon sort of stuck, he will I think in the end go along with the EU.

Gordon is in his Churchill moment, he feels he has saved the world probably from as a dangerous an enemy as Hitler, well maybe not quite but pretty close. If you’ll notice, and I’m sure Andrew can document this, he uses Churchillian language to describe what he’s doing: I was born for this moment, which I’m sure his father was not aware of at the time, but I think he is finding the acceptance of his plan, which was by the way the right one, its what should have been done, they had to recapitalise the banks – Bernanke has been saying this in Paulson’s ear for a very long time and Paulson wouldn’t listen – they had to recapitalise the banks, he had that right and he deserves credit for that, I mean having set the house on fire he found a hose to put it out. So he deserves credit for that and I think that he is going to find the Europeans more congenial allies than he’s going to find the Americans.

He has managed to antagonise America in almost everything he’s done since he became Prime Minister. When he went to meet our President the first time he was borderline insulting, he wouldn’t reciprocate praise, he left behind him the President’s gift. Now it was a bomber jacket and Gordon just wouldn’t look good in a bomber jacket but you don’t leave it behind for an aid to pick up. And then he’s of course blamed this whole thing on America, although I’ve never figured out how American bankers forced British bankers to buy this paper or to give 125% mortgages or stuff, I just can’t figure out what the mechanics is of this happening. So he’s not very popular in the administration, he may be more popular in an Obama administration.

Let me conclude with one thing, the election is still up for grabs. I must tell you about the polls, the polls are not what they look like, the polls are adjusted data, adjusted by the pollsters for the number of Democrats they think are likely to vote for instance, they will adjust the polls by the proportion that they expect. Some expect a huge Democratic turnout and are adjusting them up, so they’ve got Obama up by seven. Some say well those young people always talk but they don’t really show up and so therefore we don’t make that adjustment and the polls show Obama up by two. On average he’s up by four or five, which is about where Kerry was at this point in 2004. I mean for those of you like me who are for McCain, despite his complete incomprehension of anything that we would call economics, no interest, no comprehension. I don’t think economic is that important, I think foreign policy is. So it’s not over yet despite what the polls show. There is also the fact that a lot of people wont vote for a black person, they’re not going to tell a pollster that, so you don’t really know how the ‘don’t nos’ are going to break, they’re not going to break 50/50 in New Hampshire, they all broke for Hilary, which is why she won in New Hampshire, the ‘don’t nos’ went massively for her.

So they’re still worth watching, if you want to be certain of an Obama victory you can watch BBC, if you want to find out what’s really happening you can watch Sky or Fox. Now I know Fox is not very popular in this country but you can get it, all you have to do is subscribe to Sky, which I think would be a good idea actually since I helped start it. I watched BBC in the last election and it took me until the spring to realise that Gore was not president. So let me turn it over to Andrew.

Speech by Andrew Roberts

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a great honour to be invited to address you and thank you very much indeed for those kind words. It’s a great honour also to serve on the Academic Advisory Council of the Bruges Group. The Bruges Group is a cause close to my heart and so thank you for that as well.

I’d like to start if I may, giving you a quotation from Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff from December 1941 and the Chairman of the British Chiefs of Staff from March 1942, speaking seven years afterwards in 1949 to a unionist luncheon in Belfast in which he said this:
‘In 1942, before the battle of El Alamein, Rommel was at the gates of Cairo, German forces were through the Caucasus, Japanese forces were threatening Australia and India, the Mediterranean was closed and Persia had been entirely depleted of forces to save threatened points. The whole of the oil reserves in the Middle East, in Iraq and Persia were at Hitler’s mercy. This loss would have been irreparable as the shortage of tankers due to submarine action made it impossible to supply our wants from the Western Hemisphere and the Burma and Dutch East India oil were lost to Japan. We should have been faced with a crippling paralysis on land, at sea and in the air throughout the Middle East and India. The road would have been open for Germany and Japan to join hands with the dyer results that would have ensued. Its as well that we should avoid unwarranted complacency and remind ourselves that if we did win the last war it was not without moments of extreme peril.’

I hope that’s put the credit crunch in context for Gordon Brown by the way.

My book, Masters and Commanders, tells the story of how we came from that situation to VE-day within only two and a half years, by which time the Nazis lay at the mercy of the Allies. And it is told through the prism of the relationship between these four men, Roosevelt, Churchill, General Marshall, the US Army Chief of Staff and Lord Alanbrooke and the way in which these men interacted and through their interaction created grand strategy. They were all very tough men who completely dominated their own hinterland: Churchill, the War Cabinet, the British Chief of Staff was dominated by first amongst equals, but nonetheless he was the first Lord Alan Brooke.

The American Chiefs of Staff, the joint chiefs, saw titanic battles between Ernest King, the naval Chief of Staff and George Marshall, but nonetheless they are in all of the essential battles that Marshall won and then of course Roosevelt, who dominated his own administration.

And so these four men, each of whom felt, each of whom knew that they had the war winning strategy, had to work with each other in order to create allied grand strategy and as a result needless to say, there were some incredibly tough battles between them. You would have just around the corner from here, just directly over there indeed, down in the Cabinet War Rooms Winston Churchill sitting across a green baize table from Alanbrooke and Churchill at one stage shaking his fist in Alanbrooke’s face and Alanbrooke, this flinty Irishman just sitting there breaking pencils in half saying, no I completely disagree with you Prime Minister.

On one occasion in one of the great conferences, the American General ‘Vinegar Joe’ Stilwell, actually said he wanted to leap across and sock Alanbrooke at one moment. Other moments the people would be talking about the deep depression that they got into, Alanbrooke himself said that about himself and many others said that about Churchill.

A marvellous tale to illustrate quite how aggressive some of these meetings got, at the Quadrant Conference in Quebec in August 1943, Lord Mountbatten who sat on the British Chiefs of Staff, had a giant block of ice brought in on a trolley and another giant block of something called pykrete, which was ice mixed up with wood pulp and already the argument had been so tough that all of the advisors had been ordered out of the room so that just the Chiefs of Staff came to a hard fought, bitterly fought compromise at that meeting. And in order to sort of calm everything down, Mountbatten was going to demonstrate how giant aircraft carrier sized icebergs were going to be lassoed effectively to be brought down from the Arctic and used for D-day to be able to land and take off aeroplanes.

And in order to prove how strong these things could be he took out his revolver and fired into the block of ice and the bullet lodged in and the ice fell to pieces and it was quite clear that they couldn’t use that because what would happen if German dive bombers had done the same thing. Then he took out his second shot and fired it at the pykrete and at that point, according to Lord Alan Brooke’s diary, the bullet shot around the room like an angry bee. And the Secretary of the Chiefs of Staff who was standing outside, ‘Oh my God’ he said, ‘they’re shooting at each other now’.

So that explains quite how tough these meetings could be, but at the same time you have this fantastic use, primarily by Churchill but also by Marshall and FDR – less so in Alanbrooke’s case – of charm. One of the most difficult things as a historian to get over to the reader is humour and charm and charisma and Churchill used all three of those to an amazing degree.

There is a wonderful tale of when Anthony Eden was about to go off to try to muscle Turkey into the war, Turkey which had stayed out from the war, stayed absolutely neutral and resisted all pressure from the Allies to join the Allied side. In fact in the end Turkey didn’t declare war against Hitler until February 1945. But he was about to go off to Turkey and so he wrote to Churchill in November 1943 and said, ‘What should be my central message?’ and Churchill wrote back saying ‘Tell Turkey that Christmas is coming’.

The historian, Ronald Lewin said, ‘there’s no rule of law that says that soldiers can die in battle but Staff Officers can’t be vexed’. They were vexed, the official record shows some extent to which they were vexed with one another, but of course like every official record, especially the War Cabinet meetings records, when you go to read them in Kew at the National Archives, they if anything attempt constantly to be as opaque as possible, to downplay any disagreements and any rows that have taken place. And it was therefore with enormous excitement that I discovered what historians I hope from now on will be calling the ‘Burgis material’, the papers of Lawrence Burgis at the immensely efficient Churchill Archives in Cambridge have not been looked at since they were deposited by Lawrence Burgis’ Executors in 1972.

Purely by chance – I would love to be able to pretend that it was through some special archival diligence or some genius of mind, but it wasn’t, it was serendipity – my train was leaving Cambridge at 5:30 and I had an extra half an hour and I took down the Burgis catalogue simply because I hadn’t heard of him amongst this amazing archive with so many famous people, including of course our President Lady Thatcher, whose papers are there as well. And I ordered up the papers and after a while worked out these thousands of pages, certainly hundreds of pages, of hieroglyphics and acronyms and shorthand, quite what this actually consisted of.

It was nothing less ladies and gentlemen, than the verbatim reports of Winston Churchill’s War Cabinet between 1939 and 1945. They should have been destroyed. The rule was that after drawing up the Cabinet Minutes, you then threw the notes of what every single individual Cabinet Minister said into the fire at the War Cabinet Secretariat. But Lawrence Burgis, a very junior figure, just an assistant secretary didn’t do that, he took them home. He should have been arrested under the Official Secrets Act as I pointed out to his nephew a couple of days ago, but nonetheless fortunately for us historians he didn’t. He took them home and finally his Executors gave them to Cambridge.

And so suddenly we see a panoply of what every individual Minister said during the war and the incredible thing was that Churchill dominated that War Cabinet with charm, charisma as I mentioned, with humour, but when he spoke about these great issues, about the Katyn massacre, about the Hess flight, about the Yalta Accords, about the strategic bombing policy, he was always, always on the most extreme side of any argument right the way down to the ruble exchange rate, he would take the most tough stance. He said some various things, which are all quoted in this book, the Burgis papers form the backbone of this book, some things about Ghandi when he was on hunger strike, he said that he actually thought that it was just really nothing more than a change of diet. He could be pretty politically incorrect needless to say. And this man comes out with an inability ever to say a boring sentence. It was a very moving thing needless to say when I stumbled across these papers and as I say, I’ve made as much of them as possible really.

But it is amazing how many people kept diaries, it was completely against the Government regulations, you weren’t supposed to. If the Germans had successfully invaded in 1940, Goebbels would have made an enormous propaganda coup out of the various diaries that were being kept. In the course of my researches I came across no fewer than 60 senior figures who were keeping diaries completely against the rules. Alanbrooke of course as we know but also the other Field Marshals, the Permanent Undersecretary at the Foreign Office, the Foreign Secretary himself, Anthony Eden, his Private Secretary, the King’s Private Secretary, the King himself. There seems to be very few people right at the top echelons, we all know of course also of the Colville diaries that were kept by the Private Secretary to the Prime Minister and its immensely fortunate again that they were because we can recreate these titanic battles that took place. Because there were massive differences between the overall strategic concept of Lord Alanbrooke and that of General Marshall. Marshall wanted to cross the Channel as soon as possible and strike hard into the heart of Germany, if possible by the autumn of 1942 and certainly in 1943. Alan Brooke considered that this would be suicidal and instead preferred attacks on the North African littoral to expel the Germans from North Africa by May 1943, then to attack Sicily in ‘Operation Husky’ in July 1943 and land on the mainland of Italy down at Salerno and the toe of Italy and push their way up to Italy to capture Rome by the 4 June 1944. And the idea there was to try to draw off as much as possible in terms of the German forces, particularly the Luftwafer as well whilst the Russians took the main brunt of the fighting on the Eastern Front. In May 1943 the Germans had six divisions fighting the Anglo-Americans as against the 186 fighting the Russians.

And so this next question must be what would have happened had an Anglo-American force landed on the continent. There was no Atlantic Wall of course by then; it was only after 1942 that two million tons of concrete was placed into the defensive line known as the Atlantic Wall. But it wasn’t until June 1943 that more shipping was launched in the battle of the Atlantic than was sunk and so any attempt to cross in 1942 laid ourselves open, especially as the Germans had introduced the fourth rotor to the Enigma Machine and therefore we were sailing blind between February 1, 1942 and November 1942. Any attempt to have attacked earlier than that could have been destroyed by the U-boats. Also there had been no significant bombing of the rail and road links down which the Germans could be absolutely certain to counter attack.

As a historian one should never use the world ‘inevitable’ but when it comes to German counter attack in the Second World War you pretty much always can. When you think what they achieved at Kasserine Pass and at Anzio, at Monte Cassino, at Arnhem and certainly of course at the greatest of them all, the Battle of the Bulge. One appreciates that the Germans were always capable of immense counter attack. At the Ardennes Offensive they had complete radio silence, they had search lights that created artificial light off the clouds and they attacked through deep snow and nearly got to the Meuse. It was an amazing 26 division attack which the Allies had absolutely no prior knowledge of.

Another point of course is that it tool 1,600 tons of supplies to supply a single division per day, so the most enormous amount of supplies had to be got over to France, something that was next to impossible in 1942, we didn’t have the Mulberry Harbours, we didn’t have the pipeline under the ocean (PLUTO) ready by that stage and Lord Mountbatten’s aircraft carriers made of ice wouldn’t have worked, we know that now. So all in all it seems to me that although it would have been possibly a disastrous error to have attacked too early in the autumn of 1942 or 1943, by the time that we did attack, by the time that Marshall and Roosevelt at the Trident Conference of May 1943 insisted on a cross Channel attack in 1944, they were right and Churchill and Brooke, who were still trying to hold it off, no longer were because by that stage you also had V2 attacks on London, you had the Russians having broken German Army Group Centre in Russia and they were flooding westwards. You had by this stage to have an Anglo-American armed force in North West Europe.

So I think in a sense when the American historian, Kent Greenfield, says ‘whose strategy was the sounder will never be known, it’ll be the subject of controversy as long as men debate the strategy of the Second World War’, I think he’s creating in a sense a false dichotomy, its not that one set were right all the time and one set of people were wrong, its just that the circumstances changed to mean that an attack which was not advisable in 1942 or 1943 was absolutely necessary by 1944. In a sense it’s a little like the false dichotomy of Waterloo when people say would the battle have been won if the Prussians had not turned up, the question is wrong because the battle wouldn’t have been fought, Wellington wouldn’t have fought had he not known that morning that the Prussians were going to turn up.

In the course of writing this book it has struck me again and again and its taken me to the battlefields of Kursk and Stalingrad and Moscow and others on the eastern front, where I am reminded of this what seems to me the absolutely central statistic of the Second World War which is that out of every five Germans killed in combat, i.e., not by aerial bombardment but soldiers killed in combat, four of them were killed on the eastern front. So in a sense the tremendous battering that the Wermarcht took, over three million killed, had to happen in order to have the guts ripped out of the Wermarcht and the moral destroyed of the German people. That wouldn’t have happened if we had landed too early and been repulsed in the same way that we were in Dunkirk.

And what amazing men each of these four was. The strains, the stresses, over six years in the British case, six years of war, night after night. The way in which they managed, especially Brooke who was prone to deep depression, as was Churchill, but these men who nonetheless managed all the way through to keep up a pretence of certainty of victory. An amazing achievement considering that privately they had their doubts, but they knew how vital it was for the moral of the nation to keep up this amazing pretence and so it seems to me that to sum up, they are all four of them heroes, they are all four of them right and in the words of Winston Churchill, when looking at this book and thinking about whether or not to buy it, may I remind you that ‘Christmas is coming’. Thank you very much indeed.

Contact us

Director : Robert Oulds
Tel: 020 7287 4414
Chairman: Barry Legg
The Bruges Group
246 Linen Hall, 162-168 Regent Street
London W1B 5TB
United Kingdom
Founder President :
The Rt Hon. the Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven LG, OM, FRS 
Vice-President : The Rt Hon. the Lord Lamont of Lerwick,
Chairman: Barry Legg
Director : Robert Oulds MA, FRSA
Washington D.C. Representative : John O'Sullivan CBE
Founder Chairman : Lord Harris of High Cross
Head of Media: Jack Soames