Although the The Russo-Finnish war
was the cause of much sympathy on the part of the French and British, it didn't really effect them a great deal, because their adversary - Germany - was not involved. After the assimilation
of Poland into the Third Reich
in early October, it seemed to the countries of western Europe that military operations had ceased. The 'Phoney War' had begun. (The German's refer to this period as 'Sitzkrieg'.)
A somewhat suicidal feeling began to creep over the British people - "Maybe we can get through this war without any actual, like, battle." There had been losses at sea, sure enough, but the people thought the losses of the British fleet were balanced by the destruction of the Graf Spee. Some people even thought the torpedoing of the British passenger liner Athenia several hours after the declarion of war was simply a mistake!
Chamberlain would not allow suggestions of making a deal with Hitler. He thought that by spring 1940, the German people would realise they could not possibly win the war and rid themselves of Hitler. Chamberlain decided that, at this point, a deal could be done with another German statesman. In the meantime, millions of leaflets would be dropped over Germany by the RAF to inform them of the evil deeds of their Fuhrer. The RAF were instructed not to damage German citizens private property, lest it upset them.
The British Expeditionary Force had dug trenches and errected pillboxes along the Franco-Belgian border. Chamberlain didn't think the Germans had any intention of attacking anyway, and this view was shared by the general populace of his country.
No action was taken to aid the Poles in their ordeal on the Rhine, which came as a great relief and surprise to senior Wehrmacht officers. It was revealed by them after the war that a deep push into the Saar at this point could well have sparked the popular revolt against Hitler that the Allies so craved - and that such a push would have gone relatively unopposed.
When the Poles were beaten, the German divisions positioned themselves on the Siegfried Line. The opposing forces here did little but exchange insults daily via loudspeaker.
The British civilians were seeing the war as little more than a discomfort at this point, due to the torrent of regulation hurled upon them by their zealous government. Some suffered accidents in the blackout, some had their children evacuated or had children that had been evacuated put in their homes.
Then, things started to hot up. On April 8th, 1940, Winston Churchill announced that the Royal Navy would be mining Norwegian waters in order to stop iron-ore traffic between the port of Narvik and Germany. This was in total disregard of Norway's neutral stance, and was apparently justified because it was likely to annoy Germany more than Norway, as Norway was a friendly-neutral country. This seemed odd to the British. But not so damned strange as the news the next day.
Hitler's attention was first brought to Norway by the possibility that British and French reinforcements could cross from Narvik to Lulea in Sweden, and thus interrupt Germany's supply of iron-ore. Seeing this danger, and also taking note of the advantages for his Kriegsmarine if he was in possession of the Norwegian ports and the coastline, he ordered planning to commence for an operation to take control of these areas (Exercise Weser was its name.)
By pure chance, the date decided upon for this operation was April 9th. And so, to the world, Exercise Weser looked like a blisteringly fast, direct reply to the mining of the Norwegian waters. Troops poured ashore at Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim and Narvik. German paratroopers seized the Sola airport and Fornebu airport. Soon German troops were 180 miles into Norway, smashing apart the Norwegian defences and poorly-trained, ragged British reinforcements. The Luftwaffe soon secured complete air supremacy. Norway was left totally abandoned of troops to the Germans. The 'Phoney War' was over.
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