War Minister Leslie Hore-Belisha says 158,000 BEF troops are now in France. Of course, none of them are close to combat.
In Berlin, a false radio report of the British government’s fall and declaration of an armistice leads to open rejoicing.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt gets from financier and adviser Alexander Sachs, and reads, a letter from Nobel Laureate Albert Einstein, which FDR finds too long for reading. Too bad, it’s an important letter. It’s about the possibility that an atomic bomb could be a reality, and worse, made in Germany.
The key passage is that “extremely powerful bombs of a new type may thus be constructed. A single bomb of this type, carried by boat and exploded in a port, might very well destroy the whole port, together with some of the surrounding territory.” Sachs begs for another meeting, and FDR agrees to see him next morning. Sachs has trouble sleeping that night.
France’s leader, Edouard Daladier, formally rejects Hitler’s proposals for peace. Daladier is a man of proven heroics, holding a Croix de Guerre and the Legion d’Honneur from the Great War. Short and broad, he exudes determination and courage. Born in Caprentras in 1884, he entered national politics after the Great War when he was elected to the Chamber of Deputies as a Radical Socialist. He later becomes a minister in six different governments before becoming prime minister.
With Gneisenau clearly back home, the Home Fleet also heads back to its bases. Forbes orders his ships to sail for various bases in Scotland to refuel. The only ship sent back to Scapa Flow is Royal Oak, an R-class battleship and Great War veteran, displacing 30,000 tons, armed with 15-inch guns. The sole effect of Gneisenau’s sortie, then, has been to empty Scapa Flow of warships. Gunther Prien will find Scapa Flow a “target-poor” environment when he sails there.
Goebbels writes in his diaries that the German Army field post system needs re-organization, and “We have captured an English propaganda balloon. A very complicated thing that costs a lot of money to very little effect.” He orders “the press to be warned once more about illusions and pessimism. We cannot have the German people being pulled in one direction or the other.”
He also comments on that sarcastic article by George Bernard Shaw, saying that the British should get rid of “Churchillism” instead of “Hitlerism.” Goebbels writes, “Many other witticisms. Causes a big stir, surely because he is expressing the thoughts of a section of British public opinion.”
At lunch Goebbels meets with Hitler, as usual. Hitler is pleased with Bernard Shaw’s article, but “the Fuehrer still has no clear idea of what England intends to do. For the moment one can only wait and let things take their course. Everything is in flux. What will come out of it? In any event, it is the English who must decide whether the war is to continue.”
That evening, Goebbels and Hitler launch the Winter Aid Fund at the Sports Palast in Berlin. Goebbels delivers “a short progress report,” and then Hitler speaks: “very quiet, precise, and self-assured. Peace or war, which ever our enemies care to choose. He is ready for either. The crowd cheers wildly…”
The French struggle with a new problem – having outlawed the Communist Party, they have unseated 74 members of the Chamber of Deputies and disenfranchised a half-million voters. Luckily for the government, the Communist Party itself is disintegrating under the twin shocks of the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact and the German invasion of Poland. The determined Communists go underground.
The French also find themselves setting up internment camps for Communists, aliens, and refugees, many of them veterans of the losing side of the Spanish Civil War. The camps are not very successful, with ditches for latrines and drafty huts for 250 men, and only cold food for quite some time. But at least they lack the brutality of Dachau. Still, one exile who has been at Dachau observes that things at the Nazi camp were “clearer and simpler. The Nazis were our enemies. We were on one side, they were on the other. We couldn’t show our weakness in their presence, and that gave a man courage and strength. Here our friends and allies are – our jailers.”
In New Zealand, 27th Machine-gun Battalion receives its regimental badge – a crossed-gun emblem. The battalion is already training on their Vickers machine-guns. The Vickers is a powerful weapon. It has a rate of fire of about 500 rounds a minute, is water-cooled, weighs about 40 pounds with water in the barrel casing, is mounted on a tripod weighing about 50 pounds, and is fed by a belt containing 250 rounds. The normal rate of fire is one belt in about two minutes and rapid fire one belt in about a minute. Introduced in 1915, used until 1957, the Vickers is more reliable mechanically and half the weight of its predecessor, the Maxim.
27th Battalion’s machine-guns have not come far – they are manufactured by the Lithgow works in Australia, and arrive covered in pounds of grease packing. The task of getting them into working order is accepted with enthusiasm, and soon the men are learning their trade from the basics, stripping, and re-assembling the machine-guns over and over again.
That determined Swede, Birger Dahlerus, wires the British a slightly amplified version of the vague concessions from Hitler’s latest speech, promising “a new Polish state within German orbit. Extent of territory to be considered, but that in Soviet occupation not subject for discussion.” No concession on Czechoslovakia, and a final ominous note, “If His Majesty’s Government is not prepared to negotiate with present regime in Germany, proposals fall to the ground.”
Sir Alexander Cadogan writes: “Dahlerus rang up from The Hague. I think he has nothing, and this confirmed by telegram just received. If we insist on change of regime in Germany, nothing doing. Then nothing is doing, and we must look forward to air raids tomorrow night.”