"The Vengeful Lion" - What if Churchill is killed in 1941 and Jan Smuts is appointed Prime Minister? Apr 5, 2020 18:41:31 GMT lordroel, stevep, and 1 more like this
Post by gilliex on Apr 5, 2020 18:41:31 GMT
The end of war was proclaimed on the 16th February 1946. It was a blood stained victory built from the darkest of hours. Perhaps none more for Britain than 10th May 1941. It was that night the Luftwaffe launched their greatest assault upon their capital. As the British Museum and the Westminster Palace were set ablaze by Germany’s bombs, and some 1,500 souls perished, the fate of Britain and her Empire was forever changed. For amongst the deceased lay one man whose death would echo throughout the rest of the century. Winston Churchill, aged 66, had been killed. While many have debated what caused atypical lapse in his security, an untimely delay to entering the bunkers or an unrealistic sense of invincibility from years of surviving under fire; all that is certain was the man whom Britons had centred their hopes on was no more.
The news broke at midday. “Winston died for Britain. The fight goes on!” was the headline. The public mourned and the politicians panicked. In Germany, Goering triumphantly proclaimed that the British spirit was broken, and the war was nearing its timely end. Rudolf Hess, recently airdropped into Scottish Highlands, put forward the ceasefire terms - Britain could keep her Empire, but Berlin would keep Europe. He was shortly arrested. Yet, it was the King, who would ultimately dictate proceedings. And George IV, King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, Emperor of India, summoned one Jan Smuts to Buckingham Palace.
Smuts, an elderly man of 70 years, was undoubtedly shock as the choice to fill Churchill’s shoes. Yet, to Smuts this was no surprise. He was well aware of his unofficial role as the man succeed Winston. This former enemy of Britain was, in the eyes of the King and Sir John Colville (Churchill’s Secretary), the perfect blend of military and political experience. Summoned from his London quarters to the Palace, flanked by army motor bikes, at the behest of the King, Smuts recorded a broadcast to the Empire.
“From the ashes of London will rise a vengeful lion. From all corners of the earth and with the unity of a thousand nations we shall stop at nothing till the blackened scourge of Nazism is forever banished. In the presence of God, I swear we will be ceaseless in our pursuit of triumph over evil. Under the banner of Britannia and cheering the cries of liberty, we shall be victorious.”
- Prime Minister Smuts, 2:40pm, 11th May 1941
May 1941, an overview of Smut's month in office
Smuts transition into the premiership was swift and effective. He largely kept the same cabinet as Churchill and maintained a degree of cross-party support. Much of this may be attributed to the vocal support of the King who, despite convention dictating that the monarch refrain from politics, was seen as a bastion of stability following Churchill’s death. One political problem that did become apparent was Smuts’ lack of personal connections to the US in contrast to the relationships that Churchill had built up. Nevertheless, American Industry was still resolute in supporting the war effort so, for now, this was seen as less of problem.
What was truly pressing was how to prevent the Luftwaffe from being able to inflict such damage in one night again. Proposals ranged from a large-scale evacuation of the capital to relocating the British political infrastructure to Canada. However, Smuts shot these ideas down. Drawing from his experience as a Boer Commando, he reasoned that the best solution was to engage in an all out “War of Attrition” with the Luftwaffe whereby the loses the RAF would inflict would outnumber the aviation production capacity of the German Reich. Furthermore, the British moral was considerably stronger than Goering believed, and the cities were providing welcome distraction as a target as opposed to the far more fragile British industry and airfields. Smuts reasoned too that Bomber Command was slowly becoming a far more potent force than anything Goering could muster, and if the number of Mosquitoes, Wellingtons and Halifaxes increases then Britain could begin a campaign of truly crippling German industry.
It is not confirmed but it is assumed that it was shortly after being appointed Prime Minister that Smuts began to plan in earnest methods of reorganising the British Empire into more effective force in Global politics. In letters from the time, Smuts indicates a desire to reinvigorate the Empire and increase its relevance within British society. As part of this, Smuts held regular correspondence with diverse minds from throughout the Empire regarding how to better mobilise the Dominions and Colonies whilst at war. One prominent meeting of note was with the Oxford scholar Sir Alfred Eckhard Zimmern, whose work on international relations and the dynamics of the Empire are arguments to have shaped Smuts later policy.
In Germany, Smuts was portrayed as a foolhardy farmer whose rise to power manifested nothing less than a pathetic attempt to prevent Britain’s inevitable decline. However, behind the shield of propaganda, there is evidence of much frustration on the part of the Reich’s leadership at the swiftness Churchill’s replacement was integrated into British leadership. Yet, Hitler was becoming more and more impatient at dealing with Britain and the focus was pulled Eastwards towards planning for the invasion of the Soviet Union. A major blow was dealt to Britain nonetheless in the Invasion of Crete where a German Airborne assault quickly overrun the strategic island. With Allied forces almost immediately on the back-foot, it seemed the possibility of British ships someday supplying the Soviets through the Black Sea would never manifest.
However there was good news for the new Prime Minister. Operations successfully continued in the Kingdom of Iraq. The German backed Government had began to collapse and British influenced would soon be re-established in the region. Smuts, although glad that hostilities wear diminishing in the Kingdom noted in a letter to Sir John Colville that the Middle East and North Africa could not be taken for granted in the wake of British victories against Italian forces in Libya and Vichy French forces in the Levant. Smuts opinion that the region "would forever be a thorn in our interests" and that the Axis powers may continue to exploit the region to disrupt British supply lines.