'CONTEMPORARY REVIEW' – 1 July 2003
Changing Direction: British Military Planning for Post-war Strategic Defence, 1942-47, by Julian Lewis (Frank Cass, 2nd edition, ISBN: 0714653993)
This study was first published in 1988 but was based on research conducted seven years earlier. As the author points out in a lengthy introduction to the new edition, much has changed. Documents that were closed in the 1980s are now open, especially as the opening of secret files has been speeded up in recent years.
As in the earlier edition, the author, a Conservative MP and Shadow Defence Minister, argues that
“British military planners adjusted to the looming breakdown in Anglo-Soviet relations with foresight, prudence and exceptional rapidity”.
By the summer of 1947, the basic framework for Britain and the Commonwealth’s defence policy was in place and survived until the ending of the Cold War through the collapse of the Soviet empire.
How the Chiefs of Staff and their assistants set about creating this policy, when first asked to do so in February 1942, is the story told here with great clarity and objectivity.
Mr Lewis also shows that the military saw the Soviet threat for what it was when diplomats in the Foreign Office convinced themselves that Stalin’s regime was other than is really was. It was not the first, nor, sadly, the last time that the military had a clearer grasp of reality than Foreign Office mandarins.
This remains an invaluable source for recent British history.
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