LAST HOPE ISLAND: Britain, Occupied Europe, and the Brotherhood that Helped Turn the Tide of War.

AuthorSmith, Anthony
PositionBook review

LAST HOPE ISLAND: Britain, Occupied Europe, and the Brotherhood that Helped Turn the Tide of War

Author: Lynne Olson

Published by: Scribe, Melbourne, 2017, 553pp, $49.99.

Former White House correspondent Lynne Olson has written a series of excellent books on the Second World War from various trans-Atlantic perspectives. (Her gripping account of pre-Pearl Harbor America entitled Those Angry Days outlines the struggle between Franklin Roosevelt and Charles Lindbergh's isolationist America First' movement--a bitterness which was quickly forgotten once the American public got behind the 'good war' of opposing the Axis powers.) In Last Hope Island Olson puts the spotlight on the fact that the United Kingdom hosted the exiled governments and armed forces of six occupied nations (Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Norway, Czechoslovakia and Poland) while also playing host to France's General Charles de Gaulle. These nations would serve as a force multiplier in the war effort. The volume acknowledges that it leaves aside Yugoslavia (whose King escaped to England, but was not central to events in his homeland) and the government-in-exile of Greece as it re-located to Cairo and not London. (Perhaps as a minor quibble it is a shame to have left Greece out, as, amongst other things, it was quite significant to Churchill's plans to restore Britain's naval reach and access to the Empire in the immediate post-war period.)

This is a story of coalition politics during wartime. These comrades-in-adversity were not entirely able to overcome pre-war suspicions and mistrust. Failures to build confidence and inter-operability prior to the onset of the Second World War would take its toll. Britain, France and Belgium all pointed the finger at each other for German divisions overrunning Belgium, and then the shock of a fairly quick French capitulation. There is a lot of blame to go around. Exile governments were not always consulted on military initiatives, while attempts to keep the forces of General de Gaulle away from the frontline in the Africa campaign would reinforce for the future French president that he could not trust his wartime allies--both during the war and well after it. But suspicions went even deeper still. Poland and Czechoslovakia attempted to forge a protective federation in the face of the spheres of influence carve-up between the Soviet Union and the United States. This deal would go nowhere, and partly because Poland had earlier taken...

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