Monday 2 December 2013

Thinking The Unthinkable

Popping up in the inbox were the Christmas offerings from the National Archive.  One is a book by Jonathan Walker titled "Operation Unthinkable" about the possibility of an attack against the Soviet Union in 1945, after VE Day in May.  It raises the issue of whether the atom bomb might have been used.

The blurb on the book is worth seeing for the summary.  As it will not copy this is the link description of subject that hopefully is readable.  It is that Churchill was considering if joint US, British and Polish forces might attempt to push the Soviet Army out of the Eastern European countries it then controlled.

The book is said to have made use of the relevant sources.  It might be that the plans were just an idea, one of several theories about how the post war world might be.  Just how much it might have been feasible is another matter.

Britain had enough trouble with some left wing Trade Unions during the course of the war against Germany and Japan.  Had an attack been made on the Soviets there might have been a good deal of industrial strife at home.

Also, it may be that Churchill did not realise how tired and broken down much of the UK had become.  Neither the economy nor many of the population were in a state to continue war at that level.  Industry, railways, docks and other infra-structure had been pushed to and almost past their limits.

In any case it was almost academic.  It is very doubtful if Roosevelt and the American's would have agreed.  The President, a deal maker, thought he could do a deal with Stalin.  Also, the USA had its own interests in the Pacific to attend to post war.

So the Soviet's held on to their prizes, the USA became dominant in the Pacific and Churchill lost the July 1945 election because the British wanted peace and a new era in social provision.

The picture from July 1945 shows the HQ Squadron of the 7th Armoured Division (Desert Rats) taking the salute on the Berlin Victory Parade from Churchill and Montgomery

It is still frightening to think what might have happened.


  1. Yesterday we were at such a loose end we watched a the Likely Lads film. It reminded me how long it took us to recover from WWII - if we ever did recover.

  2. Invade Russia?
    Surely a much more likely scenario was that thc huge Russian army just kept on rolling to the Channel or more.
    The fighting Americans and othrers just wanted to go home.

  3. The project was misnamed, that was Mission Wishful Thinking.
    Britains capacity to sustain a war after 1941 only existed while it was supported by US and commonwealth financing. Roosevelt wanted no part of anything that sniffed of British empire building and therefore had effective veto power over Churchill's more extravagant projects. There was certainly not enough money to develop nuclear weapons.
    A more likely scenario is the one malpas describes.