Thursday, 23 February 2017

Hereford1938 AVBCW Spring Game 2017 Scenario

The Scenario for the Hereford 1938 AVBCW Spring Game 2017 has been published on the new, continuation, Hereford1938 AVBCW Blog. The Big Day for the Spring Game is set for 1st April 2017, and already places are filling up....

JP's blog, hitherto the central source for all information on the Hereford 1938 campaign, gives the news of some organisational changes "at the top", but the campaign continues. The continuation blog takes up where the original JP blog leaves off....

Thursday, 16 February 2017

"The Price of Kingship" - The Spectator, 4th December 1936

As set out in the VBCW Timeline, the story of King Edward VIII's relationship with Mrs Simpson only broke in the British press on 3rd/4th December 1936. Here is the full text of a leading article in "The Spectator", published on 4th December 1936, headed "The Price of Kingship":

"NO question, as every experienced journalist knows, is more difficult for a responsible journal to decide than the point at which a loyal reticence becomes a conspiracy of silence. The question has for months past been under anxious consideration in every newspaper-office in this country in a particular connexion. During that period the newspapers of the United States and of some of the Dominions have been printing millions of words on a subject on which the British Press has maintained an unbroken silence. Now silence is possible no longer. A sentence in the address of the Bishop of Bradford to his Diocesan Conference on Tuesday is unmistakable in its implications. Speaking, in reference to the Coronation ceremony, of the King's need for God's grace, Dr. Blunt, having manifestly weighed his words, expressed the hope that King Edward was aware of the need, and added "some of us wish that he gave more positive signs of his awareness."

To those who have lived through the reign of King George V that is surprising and disturbing language, and if the Bishop of Bradford had not specific grounds for his criticism of King George's son condemnation of his temerity would be universal. As things are the Bishop will be generally held to have rendered a public service. That it did not become him in particular to render it may no doubt be argued. There arc higher dignitaries in the Church and State to which the task more properly belongs. But no one who has read the leading articles, admirable alike in their firmness and their discretion, which the Bishop's address has inspired in some of the great provincial papers—most notably the Yorkshire Post— can long retain any doubts of the advantage of elevating discussion of the King's affairs, if discussion there must be, from the chatter of railway-carriages and drawing-rooms and clubs to the responsible columns of serious organs of opinion.

For whatever comment is so expressed will be reluctant, respectful and profoundly sympathetic. The King of Great Britain and the Dominions is the servant of his people. His life is not his own but theirs. It is ceaselessly spread before their gaze, and " the fierce light that beats upon a throne " is pitiless. In his self-sacrificing devotion to public duty King Edward upholds the highest traditions of his father, and with no such support and stay as his father drew from an ideal marriage. Set on his lonely eminence the King has a double claim on the affection and loyalty of his people. That claim, it is fair to add, has been honoured to the full. Never did a ruler of these realms ascend the throne more richly dowered. He succeeded to the privileges and obligations of a father who had been the very mould and pattern of a constitutional king, and a king whose unexampled hold on the loyalty and devotion of his subjects sprang before all things from their admiration of a family life which the highest and the lowest of his people could with advantage take as modeL It is to that tradition that King Edward is called on to be scrupulously true. The life of an unmarried king must necessarily in a measure be a life of solitude. None would dream of grudging him the fullest measure of such friendships as lesser men and women find part of the indispensable substance of a rounded life. None would willingly intrude for a moment into such privacy as the exigencies of his high station leave him. But the King, after all, has obligations that his subjects have not. In transferring to him unabated the confidence and affection bestowed on his father the people of these realms counted, and had a right to count, on that fulfilment of a spiritual and unwritten contract in which King George never faltered nor was capable of faltering. Noblesse oblige. Even in kingship there must be sacrifice. Both as prince and monarch King Edward has shown himself conscious to the full of that—never more than in the last few weeks, when his visit to his storm-tossed fleet and his tireless investigation of conditions in South Wales have identified him as never before with every section of his people. 

But something still further is asked of the King. Nothing more is charged against him than a friendship carried to the point of unwisdom with a lady who, till the decree granted in her favour six weeks ago is made absolute, is still married woman. Nothing need be said of that in itself. If it could be regarded as the King's concern alone every paper that has preserved silence so far would preserve it thankfully still. But what would be a private matter for a private citizen may have grave reactions when it involves a king. The person and personality of the sovereign is a factor of inestimable importance in the British Commonwealth of Nations. He is the supreme link between the Dominions and this country. In India above all, knowledge of the ground for any breath of criticism of the King-Emperor would have disastrous consequences. Demands almost as terrible in their rigour are made on the sovereign of these Dominions. They are not made lightly. There is no stint of generous sympathy with a King called on to observe standards set remorselessly high, which any of his subjects can transgress with relative impunity. But he is not asked for an unrequited sacrifice. If he so sets his course, and orders his associations, as to retain the homage and loyalty which the people of Britain and her Dominions have bestowed in their amplitude on his father, he has a reward as no other living man, and few in any age, could enjoy.

There may be something on which he sets an even higher price than that. If so, his decision would be received on public grounds with deep regret. On private grounds it could command nothing but sympathy and respect. Times change. The creation of new precedents cause no consternation. Restraints on a sovereigns choice of consort become increasingly distateful. But that question can be regarded as one for himself alone, in which his Ministers and his people have no part, is more than can be conceded. That is the price of kingship. The personality of the Queen and the mother of the King's children and heirs is a matter of supreme public concern."

VBCW The Far Right and the Air

Dr. Brett Holman of the University of New England (confusingly situated in New South Wales) and the author of "The Next War in the Air : Britain's Fear of the Bomber 1908-1941" (Routledge 2017) has published an interesting historical piece ("The Far Right and the Air") in his blog (Airminded : Airpower and British Society 1908-1941 (mostly)). It is well worth a read for a background to some part of VBCW aerial affairs, containing this graphic to illustrate the links between air development and a variety of British far-right groups (and individuals): 

Dr Brett Holman : "The Far Right and the Air"

Dr. Holman's article clearly covers the ground only up to the outbreak of our own Very British Civil War, and hence it does not - obviously - identify the notoriously air-minded BUF Captain Arrowsmith and his close relationship with Mussolini's Regia Aeronautica:

Air Support for Captain Arrowsmith's BUF at the Battle of Foy - a sure
sign of his inversely strained relationship with the Royalist RAF

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

What Would They Have Done ? Hereford City Council, November 1935

Hereford City Council (Mayor Philip Gwynne James) 9th November 1935

There is a useful convention amongst gamers of the "Very British Civil War" that "real life" people should not become characters in "the game". That does not stop speculation about the course that well-known individuals of the day, such as a Churchill or an Attlee, may have taken had they been presented with a constitutional crisis in the form of Edward VIII refusing to abdicate, accepting the resignation of Baldwin's Government, and then appointing Mosley as "the King's Prime Minister". The relevant question is always speculative: "What Would They Have Done?"

The same question, for the purposes of the Hereford1938 campaign, can be asked of those who were in local government at the time. Here is a particularly interesting photograph of Hereford City Council on Saturday, 9th November 1935, illustrating those local worthies who would have had difficult decisions to make in the event of a national Constitutional Crisis but a year later, in December 1936. 

1935's Mayor, Philip Gwynne Jones, sits in the centre of the photograph. To his left sits the Town Clerk, whom we know was the long serving Mr Feltham (Town Clerk, 1929 - 1960). The City Sword Bearer is in evidence, as are what appear to be mace or cup bearers (or "Liveried Men") in top hat and long-tailed uniform. Although, no doubt in a concession to "modernity", the City Councillors appear to have abandoned dress bicornes; and otherwise matters seems to have become slightly more "informal", relatively little has changed from a similar photograph of the City Council in 1915:

Although this photograph is labelled "1914-1915", the very large poster on the right (behind another "Liveried Man") calls upon the citizens of Hereford to "Remember the Lusitania", a liner which was torpedoed (with the loss of nearly 1,200 civilian lives) by the German U Boat, U-20, on 7th May 1915. A similar detail can be picked out from the 1935 photograph, taken only two days before Remembrance Day. Most of the Town Council wear "poppies" (probably the vast majority do, but in some cases they are hidden by their gowns), albeit it is clear that such "poppies" have not achieved the standardised design of today's Remembrance poppies. A number of medals are in evidence (particularly by the Sword Bearer), no doubt from the Great War.

As interesting, the faces staring out from the 1935 photograph are all (probably) deeply and immediately involved in a General Election Campaign (it is not known whether City Councillors at this point maintained the old tradition of standing on their own merits, or under a party label; whatever the case, no doubt the vast majority had a party affiliation). The following Thursday, 14th November 1935, the country went to the polls. The National Government, by now lead by Stanley Baldwin rather than Ramsay McDonald, enjoyed a substantial victory, gaining 429 seats in the House of Commons (Conservative, 387; National Liberal, 33; National Labour, 8; Nationalist 1) against a combined Opposition of 186 seats (Labour, 154; Liberal, 21; Independent Labour Party, 4; Nationalist, 2; Independent Nationalist, 2; Independent, 2; Communist, 1). The victory nevertheless masked, in part, a fall in turnout (down 5.3% to 71.1%), a fall in the number of Conservative seats (down 83 seats from 1931) and a swing to Clement Attlee's Labour Party (7.4%). It could not mask, however, the verdict on Ramsay McDonald's decision in 1931 to form a National Government at the expense of the non-Conservative parties - McDonald lost his own seat at Seaham (County Durham - losing by more than 20,000 votes to Emmanuel Shinwell), and the Leader of the National Liberals, Sir John Simon, only won his constituency (Spen Valley in the West Riding of Yorkshire) by a slender 642 votes. Both parties were effectively destroyed in the 1935 General Election (after a short interregnum, Ramsay McDonald's son, Malcolm, assumed leadership of National Labour upon his victory in the Ross & Cromarty by-election in 1936; the defeated candidates included the Unionist, Randolph Churchill, son of Winston) : the National Labour Committee was wound up just before the General Election of 1945, and the National Liberals "merged" with the Conservative Party, at least at constituency level, in May 1947 (the "Woolton-Teviot Agreement"). The "official" or "opposition" Liberals continued after 1935 under Sir Archibald Sinclair; its former leader, Sir Herbert Samuel, having lost his seat at Darwen (Lancashire), while Clement Attlee's Labour Party was confirmed (with a gain of 102 seats) as the Official Opposition.

All this, of course, was about a week in the future for our 1935 Town Council. How they reacted to the 1935 General Election news is unknown, just as how they would have reacted to the VBCW events of December 1936 and following. We do know, however, the names of the Mayors of Hereford during the VBCW period:

Mayors of Hereford during the period 1935-1945

1935 : Philip Gwynne James
1936 : Louise H. Luard
1937:  Frederick William Allcock
1938 : Harry Percy Barnsley
1939 : Harry Percy Barnsley
1940 : Harry Percy Barnsley
1941 : Harry Percy Barnsley
1942 : R.C. Monkley
1943 : R C. Monkley
1944 : T. Powell
1945 : C.G. Marchant

and can only wish them well in their future VBCW dealings with Lord de Braose, appointed "Governor of the Marches" in 1937 by an unrepentant Edward VIII, and particularly Captain Arrowsmith, the notoriously snarling leader of the BUF's Three Counties Legion.

Real Life Notes : notwithstanding a huge amount of (mostly ill-advised) re-organisation over the years since 1935, there remains today a Mayor and Council of Hereford, still operating from the same Town Hall -

January 2014 - The Mayor and Lady Mayoress wait on the inside steps of the Town Hall
for a distinguished visitor, surrounded by the Sword Bearer (who has by now acquired a
fetching busby in place of the former top hat) and  the"Liveried Men", mostly
 with the usual maces/cups (but now one with a halberd). This is the kind of
 uniform detail needed by the Hereford1938 VBCW modeller!
Greeting HRH Princess Anne on the steps of the Town Hall. The very same steps as the 1915 photograph, but a visit that may very well not have taken place had the VBCW actually occurred some seventy years earlier....

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

The Great Constitutional Crisis - and the Press

A notorious "gentlemen's agreement", brokered by Lord Beaverbrook, kept the news of the King's relationship with the twice married Wallis Simpson out of the British press until extremely late in the timeline, i.e. 3rd/4th December 1936. The Continental and American press had displayed no such reticence ("King Will Wed Wally!" predicted The New York Journal on the eve of the Simpson divorce in October 1936; "King's Moll Reno'd in Wolsey's home town!" read another American publication immediately after the event). A sermon on 3rd December 1936 by the Bishop of Bradford (aptly named Blunt) broke the dam of self-imposed censorship, and Fleet Street and the provincial press quickly took up their positions:

"The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Times, The Observer, The Daily Herald (after some equivocation) and The Manchester Guardian all proclaimed for the 'constitutional solution' : that the King had either to renounce Mrs Simpson...or abdicate, as did the entire provincial press, with the exception of The Western Mail, and The Spectator. The Daily Mail (whose lead story was headlined "The People Want Their King"), the Daily Express, the Daily Mirror and, rather surprisingly, the non-conformist News Chronicle plumped for a morgantic marriage, as did the New Statesman, with a difficult to follow argument about Mrs Simpson not being Mrs Simpson at all, since her first husband was still alive, so did The Tablet and the Catholic Herald."
                                                          The Thirties-An Intimate History, Juliet Gardiner