October 10, 2017

1942. Soviets Accuse British Leaders of Delaying a Second Front

Urgent Need for Relief on the Eastern Front Sparks Tensions
"The Prime Minister Winston Churchill leaves the old Roman amphitheatre at Carthage, Tunisia, with Lieutenant General Kenneth Anderson after addressing British troops on 1 June 1943" (source)
Bill Downs

CBS London

October 22, 1942

For the past week the British public has been reading with concern the thinly-veiled charges from Russia that the British government has been "holding out" on the question of a second front.

It started with the Russian demands that the British leaders should prove their full alliance with the Soviet Union by putting Rudolf Hess on trial immediately. The Russians said Hess had come to Britain in an attempt to form an anti-Communistic front against the Soviet Union and therefore Britain should do something about it.

However, Foreign Secretary Eden's statement in the House of Commons yesterday clearly indicated Hess would not be tried until after the war.

Now today come more direct statements from Russia. One Russian writer baldly states that the "Munich-eers" in Britain and America are deliberately holding up the second front in order to protect territorial and economic interests in Africa and the Pacific.

These statements from Moscow are cause for much concern and worry to the British man-on-the-street. Tommy Atkins believes that the hesitant and fumbling "men of Munich" have been cleared out of his government. He feels that he wants a second front as much as the Russians do. But he also feels that he is not qualified either as a statesman or a military expert to say when and where a second front should be started.

This morning's Daily Express tackled the problem frankly. The leading editorial in the Express said the British should exert themselves to destroy utterly any vestiges of misunderstanding there may by between England and Russia.

The newspaper added that every step possible should be taken toward achieving a complete measure of trust between Britain and Russia. The editorial said this could be achieved first by seeing that everything promised in the way of war materials should be delivered on time. And secondly, it added, "we should try to satisfy the Russians about our strategy."

If it involves a second front, the Express went on, "we must persuade them that there will be no delay and no difficulty in delivering against the Germans a thrust so strong, a blow so vigorous, a defeat so severe as to bring relief to the hard-pressed Russian troops."

Similar assertions have been given time and again by many members of the British government, from Winston Churchill on down. It was repeated again yesterday by General Smuts.

Russian pressure for a second front is likely to increase as the winter progresses. However, unless public clamor becomes politically unbearable, it is unlikely that either British military or political leaders will be able to give any more assurances than in the past.

General Smuts' answer to these second front demands was only a little more definite than past assurances. "Soon" is the only thing the British are saying about their impending military plans.