9th July 1941. The Second Front.
‘There can have been few incidents at Euston Station more extraordinary than the arrival last night of the Russian Army, Navy and Air Force Mission headed by Lt. Gen Golikoff, Deputy Chief of the Red Army General Staff described as short, stout, red-faced and vigorous, and wore a light khaki summer uniform,’ as The Daily Telegraph reported Today, a Wednesday in 1941.
The reception the previous night, saw the heading: ‘Cheers for Soviet Mission in London’, and sub-headed ‘Crowd’s enthusiasm at Station.’
The paper also reported that: ‘Their first greeting was from two small boys, who dodged between various officials’ legs, gave the Communist salute and shouted Heil!’, a situation inconceivable today. However, ‘Military Police quickly restored ‘order’ and the proper civilities exchanged’, it was noted.
‘The military and economic Mission was a counterpart to that sent to Moscow, by Britain the previous month, and they stepped onto the platform into a crowd of singing, cheering and fist-saluting Communists.’
They were received, as the paper fully reported, ‘by Lt. General Sir Henry Pownall, Vice Chief of the Imperial General Staff, and last year, Chief of the British General Staff in France, Air-Vice Marshal, N.H. Bottomley, Deputy-Chief of the Air Staff, and Vice-Admiral T.S.V. Phillips, Vice-Chief of the Naval Staff.
The big issue at that time was the invasion of Russia, by Germany, in Operation Barbarossa in a bid for Caucasian oil and lebensraum, with the allied leaders Roosevelt and Churchill cynically seeing it as means of a weakening of both sides.
It resulted in a policy of ‘scorched earth’ and holocaust against the Slavs, a swift capturing of 3 million Russians and destruction of their air-force.
The Russians in losing millions were regarded as cannon fodder, soaking up naked German aggression.
Stalin it was thought wouldn’t survive and though there was great pressure here by Trades Unions and other sympathizers for a Second Front attack on Europe as demanded by Stalin, nothing happened despite Roosevelt’s promise of one for 1942.
Churchill was certainly against any initiative, fearing a repetition of the slaughter of World War I, preferring the North Africa option.
In the event the Russians repulsed the Germans, helped by ‘General Winter’, and Stalin now having seen the cynicism and bad faith of the Allies, became a dangerous opponent and someone who must be now negotiated with.
Lack of mutual trust was thus the atmosphere at the later 3-power Conferences at Tehran and Yalta where post war Europe was carved up by the victors.
The result after the death of Roosevelt and arrival of a militant President Truman, along with the 1947 Marshal Plan for Germany increased mutual suspicion, the ‘communisation’ of Russian held territories and the Cold War.
Ref: Daily Telegraph 9th July 1941.