A fascinating question of history is what might have happened had Neville Chamberlain not resigned in May 1940 but continued on as British prime minister, with Winston Churchill never taking command. What would have happened during the blitz as bombs and rockets exploded all over London, killing and maiming men, women and children?
After careful consideration, the following is a virtual history of the London blitz without Churchill:
As the rockets begin to land and explode around London, Chamberlain announces that he recognizes the German Reich and the right of Germany to set up its own state in areas released from Czech and Polish occupation. Britain appeals to Hitler to arrest those enemies of peace who are launching rockets at London. Chamberlain appeals to the political leaders of the Reich to denounce the rocket terror and begin negotiations to end the attacks.
Hitler insists he is trying his best to stop the violence but is having trouble controlled the radicals who have taken over the German parliament. The British foreign minister agrees. To help calm the situation, the British government agrees to send food and medicine to Germany. The RAF targets and assassinates some Luftwaffe pilots and base personnel, but several German civilians are killed; Britain is denounced for this by the international community and by the British Labor Party.
Hitler speaks at a large rally in Nuremberg and exhorts the masses to remember the martyred German pilots who were killed while dropping bombs on London, and to strive to continue their mission. Chamberlain praises Hitler’s speech for exhibiting moderation and restraint. He begins sending small arms to the Germans to help control the anti-peace German underground opposition groups.
During a lull in the bombings, Chamberlain makes a speech in which he says he is more concerned about the invasion of Britain by Hollywood movies than he is by buzz bombs (to be echoed decades later in an Oslo-era speech by Shimon Peres in which Peres would say he is far more worried about the infiltration into Israel of cable television than the infiltration of terrorists).
When more bombs explode, the calls increase inside Britain to strike back at Germany. The British Union for German Human rights denounces this as racism and bigotry.
Chamberlain points out that massive retaliation would be the very worst option possible. Britain must endeavor to make peace with its German peace partners, not feed the fires of hatred. This is the only way to achieve a New Middle Europe, he insists. And besides, if Hitler is not supported and strengthened, an even more radical and violent leader will emerge in Germany.
As more rockets fall, Chamberlain points out that the dead are simply martyrs for peace and Britain must carry on with its peace process, since there is no alternative. A pro-German member of the British parliament travels to Berlin and calls for Britain’s annihilation. Chamberlain allows Oswald Mosley’s fascist party to run in the election. Mosley’s people exercise hegemony over the British universities and the media.
After more rockets explode, Chamberlain loses his temper and decides to take action at last. He assigns extra police to guard the Underground stations in London. He orders British critics of his peace process to be arrested for criminal incitement against the government, accusing the critics of undermining peace efforts and endangering security. Chamberlain meets with British antiwar poets and writers and they issue an appeal to the British public to remain firm in the face of adversity and continue to strive for peace. Stiff British upper lip and all that.
Chamberlain again appeals to President Hitler, as the legitimate leader of the Teutonic peoples, to arrest those responsible for the rocket aggressions. But he reminds British citizens that the unbearable alternative to negotiations with the Reich would be to send British soldiers back into the territories of Central Europe. Teams of pro-German professors from British universities tour the world demanding a boycott of all commerce and trade with Britain.
More rockets land. Chamberlain proposes speeding up the peace process and disarming the Royal Navy as a show of good will. The representatives of Vichy France come for a state visit, congratulating Chamberlain and the British and German peoples for their devotion to peace in the face of provocation.
Some more rockets land. Chamberlain proposes, as a retaliatory measure, arresting some pro-German spies inside Britain, but British civil rights lawyers appeal to the Court of Appeals and the ruling is overturned. The government considers proposals to turn Stonehenge over to the Germans as a goodwill gesture, since it is a holy shrine for all pagans.
Even more rockets land. The British Peace Now movement notes that there would be no violence at all if the British would just disarm altogether and stop making Hitler feel insecure. Besides, they say, the British should not be occupying Scotland and Wales at all, lands in which they don’t belong. Chamberlain opens secret negotiations with Germany to transfer London’s East End, Greenwich and Docklands areas to German sovereignty.
Many more rockets land. That’s it, yells Chamberlain. The proverbial camel’s back is broken. It is time to fight German terror with all means at our disposal. This is the Moral Equivalent Of War, he yells – MEOW, for short. There is no alternative.
We must, he declares, initiate talks with Germany at once so that we can conduct unilateral withdrawal as quickly as possible from Devon and the Midlands.