Book Review-‘Towards a Wider War: British strategic decision-making and military effectiveness in Scandinavia, 1939–40’ by J. Moretz

By Derek G. Law, published November 2020


Typically, the Phoney War of 1939–40 is covered in a few sentences, before histories get on to the more serious business of the German assault in the west in 1940. This book, however covers the period leading to war and the first nine months of that war in great detail in a substantial and very well researched piece of work.

It begins with extended coverage of the strategic thinking which influenced policy and practice. Firstly, this covers the relationship with the Scandinavian countries and the wish to deny Germany access to raw materials. There are very full accounts of how policy was developed, and then overtaken by events, and the need to deal with the Russian invasion of Finland and the seesawing fortunes of the Winter War. It is particularly strong in analysing the background politics which saw both cabinet and military factions interact and compete and the associated internal power struggles – the description of this internal bickering is interesting and timely in terms of current dealings with Europe! The shadow of the First World War and experience notably on the Western Front and at Gallipoli coloured thinking, while the need to be seen as an ethical world power, for example attempting to deny access to raw materials to Germany while maintaining the rights of neutral powers, was a political imperative. It is also strong in examining the alternative options which had to be considered, such as attacks on the Baku oilfields…

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Filed under: WW2
Subjects include: Battles & Tactics | Shipbuilding & Design

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