|The War That Came Early |
POD: July 20, 1936;
Relevant POD: September 29, 1938
|Type of Appearance:||Direct POV|
|Nationality:||Wales, United Kingdom|
|Date of Birth:||c. 1899|
|Military Branch:||British Army|
(World War I, World War II)
Alistair Walsh (born c. 1899) was a Welsh-born veteran of both the First and Second World Wars. He was a lifer, remaining in the service after the first war, and attaining the rank of sergeant prior to the second. His opinion of the conduct of the second war was informed by his experiences in the first. Walsh was never shy about sharing his frustration and disgust at the British government's conduct of the war early on.
Walsh's unit of the British Expeditionary Force arrived in France in October 1938, shortly after Germany invaded Czechoslovakia. However, they did not invade Germany, as France had, a fact that Walsh and his comrades found frustrating. By November, Germany had subdued Czechoslovakia, pushed French forces out of German territory, and began a drive to the Netherlands.
Now Britain and France were stymied by Belgium's intransigence. Walsh and many of his colleagues were convinced that King Leopold was secretly pro-German. Thus, it was only when the Netherlands fell that Belgium permitted Allied troops into Belgium. Walsh was among those who entered. However, Belgium surrendered after three weeks of fighting, and Walsh found himself retreating again.
For the first months of 1939, Walsh was part of a series of advances and retreats, as Allied forces were slowly driven back to Paris. In April 1939, an Anglo-French counter-offensive succeeded in stopping the German drive once and for all. This in turn stalled, leaving Walsh in the small hamlet of Messy. There the lines stabilized and both sides dug in much as they had in WW I.
Walsh witnessed the failed attack spearheaded by Mark I Cruisers which proved to be horribly vulnerable to German anti-tank rifles and 37mm anti-tank guns. When the Germans invaded Norway, Walsh's company was pulled from the line and sent by train to Brest. There they took a troopship to England and then another train to Aberdeen. From there, they were sent to Trondheim via another troopship and put in the line to try to stop the German advance. These efforts failed, and Britain and France evacuated.
After the evacuation, Walsh went on leave in Scotland. While bicycling near Dundee, Walsh saw German Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess parachute from a plane. Walsh took Hess into custody and escorted him to the authorities. During much of their journey, Hess, who spoke fluent English, tried to convince Walsh of the value of an alliance between their two countries in the fight against the Soviet Union. Walsh finally ordered Hess to be silent. While Walsh was not receptive, the government of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was, despite protests from War Minister Winston Churchill. Churchill even favored Walsh with a visit before Churchill was killed by a drunk driver, which Walsh suspected wasn't an accident.
Disgusted, Walsh resigned from the Army after the "Big Switch", and was quickly drawn into Ronald Cartland's clique. Walsh was soon put under surveillance by Chamberlain's successor, Sir Horace Wilson. A little while later, Cartland and the military staged a coup that deposed Wilson and his supporters and took control into their own hands. They almost immediately declared war on Germany.
While Walsh celebrated the coup, which he had also played a part in, he soon grew bored in Isles and after making a request of Cartland was transferred to the North African theatre of war. After pushing into Italian Libya, the British Army was thwarted by the arrival of the German military, under the leadership of Walther Model. After obtaining some leave, on the way back to the front on a convoy, he was injured in the leg during a German air attack.
After convalescing in Britain, he was shipped back to France when they switched back to the Allied side. He was given command of a company and held a small amount of line, winning over the respect of his men. While in France the war was more like the First World War without the wholesale slaughter, and most advances the General Staff would order would fail because of the entrenched German positions and advanced technology (such as the MG-42 and the Tiger Tank).
When the Committee for the Salvation of the German Nation toppled Hitler in April 1944 and sought peace, British troops were gradually shipped home. Walsh wasn’t sure what he’d do after the war, and hoped to be shipped to the Pacific to fight the Japanese with the Soviets and Americans.