“History is not the average Briton’s strong point. Indeed, of warlike history he is almost entirely ignorant, the teachers in our national schools having a prejudice against it. Hence, the man in the street has had next to no reason to doubt that Germany was the sole aggressor both in 1914 and 1939.” ~ CAPT. RUSSELL GRENFELL, Royal Navy (1953)
England Wanted and Instigated Two World Wars!
In January 1930 Robert Vansittart, was appointed Permanent Under Secretary at the Foreign Office, where he supervised the work of Britain’s diplomatic service.
Reading Vansittart’s unspeakable propaganda leaflet the “Black Record”, it becomes evident that, for London, it was a matter of removing Germany as as a power factor in Europe, something that the prudent armistice proposed by the Germans in 1918 had prevented at that time. Germany’s mere existence as a state with a political agenda of its own was a serious threat and had to be fought.
Seen in this light, London’s behavior in the 1920s and 1930s takes on a certain rationality. Gerd Schultze-Rhonhof (‘The War That Had Many Fathers’) explained that London’s aim was one of cornering the Reich in such a way that it would invariably end up fighting, only to be defeated once and for all and, as Churchill said, “gutted and dismembered”.
Vansittart’s own words were:
“The enemy is the German Reich and not merely Nazism and [certain people]… would let us in for a sixth war even if we survive the fifth”.
The meaning is, at first, totally obscure because Britain and Germany fought each other only once, in WW1, but it becomes clear if we read another statement in the same note:
“… the German Reich and the Reich idea have been the curse of the world for 75 years…”.
“…the German Reich … has got to go under, and not only under, but right under”.
The above article excerpt serves as a very fitting introduction to the main feature:
Lord Vansittart and the German Butcher-Bird
Chapter 2 of “Unconditional Hatred, German War Guilt and the Future of Europe” by Capt. Russell Grenfell RN (1953)
When someone is ill and does not respond to the treatment prescribed, either the treatment may be wrong or the ‘diagnosis’ of the malady. It is quite possible for a wrong treatment to be given for a right diagnosis. But if the diagnosis be wrong, the treatment is almost certain to be wrong with it. In re-examining the patient, it is therefore more sensible to begin with the diagnosis. I propose to apply this principle to the European problem.
First, I will take the “symptoms” relating to Germany’s war guilt.
The bulk of the British people believe that Germany started the last two world wars, and have good reason to believe it. They were told so repeatedly by Mr. Churchill during his wartime Premiership; and his statements to this effect have been supported on innumerable occasions by other politicians, by lawyers, church dignitaries, editors, and letter-writers to the Press. History is not the average Briton’s strong point. Indeed, of warlike history he is almost entirely ignorant, the teachers in our national schools having a prejudice against it. Hence, the man in the street has had next to no reason to doubt that Germany was the sole aggressor both in 1914 and 1939.
But the masses have been led to believe more than that. They were subjected during the war to intense and officially approved propaganda to the effect that Germany has been the master trouble-maker throughout recorded history. Of this propaganda, one of the most important examples was Lord Vansittart’s Black Record, a pamphlet which appeared in 1941 and went into four impressions in its first two months. Black Record was not the fervent outpouring of an ardent patriot more enthusiastically anti-German than historically knowledgeable. It was written by a career diplomat who was holding the highest post then available in the British Foreign Service; that of Chief Diplomatic Adviser to His Majesty’s Government. A trained diplomat is supposed to have a sound working knowledge of the history of foreign countries, the more important foreign countries especially.
Lord Vansittart’s pamphlet consequently went out with a prima facie hall-mark of complete accuracy stamped on it. Actually, the influence on the public mind of the pamphlet’s message must have gone far beyond its many thousands of readers. For the pamphlet itself was a recapitulation in print of a series of broadcasts previously given by the author, so that his views must have reached millions of people.
For the following reasons it can be stated without fear of contradiction that the Government, whether or not they inspired Lord Vansittart’s broadcasts and pamphlet, did not disapprove of them: As a serving official, Lord Vansittart (or rather Sir Robert Vansittart as he was at the time) was forbidden by the regulations to make public any matter without the permission of his departmental superior, in this case the Foreign Secretary. Nor is it conceivable that a man of his high position and distinction would have dreamt of taking such a step, regulations or no, without assuring himself of Cabinet approval. But if, by some mischance or misunderstanding, the broadcasts, when begun, had proved distasteful to the chief Ministers of the Crown, we can be quite sure that a diplomatic illness would have overtaken Sir Robert Vansittart to prevent the completion of the series. It is therefore a reasonable assumption that what Sir Robert Vansittart said, His Majesty’s Government thoroughly approved. Hence, the pamphlet is worthy of close study as showing what the inhabitants of the United Kingdom were encouraged to believe during the war, and what millions of them did believe and do to this day.
Lord Vansittart’s main theme was simple. It was that Germany had been the constant and sole international trouble-maker from the beginnings of European history onwards; the one and only warmonger in a world otherwise inhabited by honest, trustful, peace-loving dupes of the German aggressor. The pattern had never altered. The Germans had always been the breakers of the peace; the rest of the world invariably the innocent and unsuspecting victims of German trickery and villainy.
Lord Vansittart, who is an excellent journalist, led off with a graphic illustration of this theme in his first chapter (and broadcast). He said that he happened to be at sea in a German ship in the Black Sea in 1907, when he noticed that the rigging was full of birds of different kinds being carried peacefully along with the ship. Or so he thought at first. But soon he discovered that the birds had among them one seriously malignant element which was completely ruining the harmony. This was a ‘shrike’ or ‘butcher-bird’, fierce, heavy-beaked, murderous. One after another, it was attacking and killing its fellow-travellers, the single aggressor in the feathered company, the one gangster-slayer.
Lord Vansittart went on to say that the conduct of this butcher-bird immediately reminded him of Germany; for was not Germany, he thought to himself, the butcher-bird of the nations? Was she not, just like the shrike, the arch destroyer of international concord by unprovoked, predatory, and homicidal attacks? And had she not ever held this unique and hateful position? He knew she had.
This was the argument that Lord Vansittart developed over and over again in six broadcasts and six chapters of pamphlet. Germany was the butcher-bird of the world. Germany was the brutal destroyer of the peace. Germany was the international criminal; bloodthirsty, treacherous, and shameless. Here are three examples of Lord Vansittart’s theme and of the style in which it was set forth.
Thus: On page 2:
“Well, by hook and by crook – especially crook – the butcher-bird got three wars before 1914 (each war) carefully planned and provoked by the butcher-bird.”
On page 16:
“Hitler is no accident. He is the natural and continuous product of a breed which from the dawn of history has been predatory, and bellicose.”
On page 21:
“Charlemagne had the lust for world-domination so he had a war every year. . . . Eight hundred years [sic] have passed, but in this respect the German instinct remained constant.”
Typical also of Lord Vansittart’s summing-up of the German character is a statement on page 39 that:
“Germans have pledged no word without breaking it, have made no treaty without dishonouring it, touched no international faith without soiling it.”
As a matter of fact, there is at least one exception to that sweeping condemnation which it is incumbent on the British, if no one else, to acknowledge. When the old Prussian Marshal Blücher was taking his army by forced marches towards the field of Waterloo, where the decisive battle with Napoleon was already in progress, he kept urging on his tired and hungry troops with the words, “I have given my promise to Wellington, and you would not have me break my word.”
I cannot tell what motive Lord Vansittart had in writing (and speaking) about Germany in this strain. Whatever it was, his general historical argument about her was open to serious question. If the Germans had really been vile “butcher-birds” from the days of the Roman Empire onwards, the English had shown a frequent unawareness of that historical phenomenon. A hundred and thirty years before Lord Vansittart’s Black Record appeared, they were saying just the same ugly things about a foreign nation; but not the Germans that time. In the first years of the nineteenth century, it was the French who were the “pests of the human race,” in relation to whom no accusation was too bad and no language too strong. So it had been all through the eighteenth century, during the whole course of which our chief enemy in every European war had been France, whom we had fought in the reigns of Louis XIV, Louis XV, and Louis XVI; and, after the latter’s execution, under the Revolutionary juntas and Napoleon. The young Nelson, growing up in the 1760s, learnt at his mother’s knee that she “hated the French,” and proceeded to hate them himself to the day of his death in 1805. This sentiment, widespread among the English, did not subside with the final defeat of Napoleon. Throughout the nineteenth century, France continued to be regarded as England’s “hereditary enemy” and principal danger; and when plans for countering invasion were under consideration in London, it was always a French invasion that was in mind. Even the author, who is younger than Lord Vansittart, can remember being told in his boyhood about the French as the hereditary enemy.
Nor was Germany even the runner-up to France in popular antipathy. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, a certain and subsequently rather famous refrain was a music-hall favourite in England, which went as follows:
“We don’t want to fight,
But by Jingo, if we do,
We’ve got the ships-
We’ve got the men-
We’ve got the money, too.”
Who was it that we had the ships, the men, and the money to fight? The Germans? Not at all. The last three lines of the refrain went:
“We have fought the bear before,
We can fight the bear again,
For the Russians shall not have Constantinople.”
Against whom did Britain conclude the Anglo-Japanese Alliance of 1902? Against the Germans? Not so. Once more, it was against the Russians.
The mental connection that the young Vansittart formed between the butcher-bird and the German nation on that Black Sea trip in 1907 was, indeed, a very extraordinary one. For at that date, the Prussians were the only important European people against whom his country had never fought, whereas it had fought beside them on several occasions, notably the Seven Years’ War of 1756-1763, and the wars against Revolutionary and Napoleonic France. In the campaign of the Hundred Days in 18l5, the mainstays of the alliance that eventually overthrew Napoleon at Waterloo were the British and the Prussians, and one of the best-known pictures in military messes and clubs is that of Wellington and Blücher shaking hands on the field of battle.
If the Prussians were the butcher-birds of history, what were the British doing aiding and abetting them by fighting alongside them, and by granting them large subsidies to prosecute their own wars? To consort with and act as partners to international criminals was surely criminal conduct itself. Yet, somehow, we did not think of it like that in those days. Far from regarding the Germans as “butcher-birds,” we were only too glad to have them at our side. Indeed, the Elder Pitt used to say that he had conquered Canada in Germany; another way of saying that the British Empire was built up on the German Alliance.
Nor was it only at our side that we British were happy to have German soldiers; we welcomed them in our ranks as well. In 1759, German troops to the number of 55,000 were taken into British pay. In the War of American Independence, Lord Howe’s Army was largely composed of Hessians and Hanoverians; and at Waterloo Wellington’s army contained nearly as many German troops as British, in the proportion of 19,700 to 23,900. If there was any merit in the overthrow of Napoleon on that occasion, Britain unquestionably owes no small degree of gratitude to those Germans, and to Blücher’s 120,000 men for their help in bringing it about.
Lord Vansittart expresses no such sentiment. But perhaps his argument is that the Germans were only fighting the French because they could not get on for long without fighting somebody. ‘This is the implication of his remark on page 29 that every time
“you give the butcher-bird another chance, he will give you another war.”
On this assumption, we ought to find that the Germans were the first to break the general peace that came to Europe with the final fall of Napoleon in 1815. Do we find this? Well, let us examine the facts.
1823 A French Army crosses into Spain to support the King of Spain against his parliament.
1826 Russia goes to war with Persia and annexes two Persian provinces.
1827 A combined Anglo-French-Russian fleet attacks a Turko-Egyptian fleet at Navarino and destroys it.
1828 Russia invades Turkey in support of the Greek insurgents.
1830 France commences the conquest of Algeria, which is not completed until 1847.
1831 The rebellion of Mehemet Ali of Egypt against Turkey brings in Russia against Mehemet Ali.
1839 Britain attacks Afghanistan (a failure).
1840 The “Opium War” by Britain against China. British occupation of New Zealand, resulting in years of warfare against the Maoris.
1848 Piedmont declares war on Austria.
1854 Crimean War between Britain, France, Piedmont, and Turkey, on the one side, and Russia on the other.
1856 Britain goes to war with Persia.
1857 Britain begins a new war against China. Indian Mutiny against Britain.
1858 France (initially assisted by Spain) begins the conquest of Indo-China, which is not ended until 1863.
1859 Austria declares war on Piedmont, and France on Austria. The Anglo-Chinese war having been interrupted by the Indian Mutiny, it is now reopened, with the French helping the British, resulting in the sack and destruction of the Summer Palace, near Peking.
1862 French expedition to Mexico, initially supported by England and Spain.
Thus, in the first 48 years after Waterloo, we find the British involved in six foreign wars, one Colonial conquest, and the suppression of one major mutiny; France involved in four foreign wars, and two Colonial conquests: Russia involved in five foreign wars, without mentioning her eastern expansion in Asia and the suppression of revolts in Poland (1830 and 1863) and elsewhere; and Austria involved in two foreign wars, and the suppression of various revolts among the heterogeneous populations forming the Austrian Empire.
And what of the “butcher-bird” during this period, the butcher-bird of whom Lord Vansittart said in his pamphlet, “if you give him another chance, he will give you another war”? There were plenty of chances during these particular years. What advantage did the butcher-bird of Prussia take of them? The answer is, none at all.[*] Prussia was the only important State of Europe that remained at peace with her neighbors during all this long span of years, a near half-century of exemplary behavior that no one else, including Britain, could show.
However, before one begins to think that Lord Vansittart may have confused butcher-birds with doves, it is necessary to go on a few years from 1863. And if we do that, we find Prussia breaking her peaceful record and indulging in three wars in the short space of six years. In 1864, she went to war with Denmark, in 1866 with Austria, and in 1870 with France. Yet even with these three, Prussia was not up to the post-Waterloo standard of Britain (6), France (5),[**] Russia (5), and no worse than Austria (3).[**] But were Prussia’s three wars particularly bad examples of vicious, unprovoked attacks on unsuspecting neighbors? It is clear that Lord Vansittart thinks so, since he describes Prussia as having “crushed and plundered little Denmark,” then bringing off a further “carefully contrived” war against Austria, and a similar war against France. [***]
However, as our examination of the 48 years after 18l5 have hardly made Prussia look as wickedly aggressive as the oft-repeated epithet of butcher-bird would have led us to suppose, the cause of objective investigation calls for impartial scrutiny before accepting Lord Vansittart’s verdict.
* The temporary Prussian occupation of Schleswig-Holstein in 1848, which is dealt with in the next chapter, did not lead to hostilities.
** Including their respective wars with Prussia.
*** Black Record, p. 24.
The book was first published in 1953 and re-published in 1988 but is now out of print, but you can download a pdf copy for free at the above link. I will be posting several other significant chapters soon. There is, however, a very good book review still posted at Amazon where you might also find a used copy of the book and very cheap too.
It is interesting to note that within only one year after publishing this book, the author suddenly died, and more strangely, his obituary does not mention this book, nor the cause of his death. Nor is there is a Wikipedia entry for his name. Indeed, I found no other online encyclopedia references that could shed any light on his death. Apparently the British establishment would rather nor remember this honourable gentlemen.
GRENFELL, CAPT. RUSSELL (1892 – 1954), naval officer and author, was born on April 10th 1892, the second son of Capt. Hubert Henry Grenfell RN and his wife, Eleanor Kate Cunningham. [snip]
Captain Grenfell, who was formerly Naval Correspondent of the Daily Telegraph, died on Sunday July 4th 1954 at the age of 62.
Excerpt from Obituary in The Times July 8th 1954: Frank Grenfell.
Read the full obituary at this link:
If there were a significant Briton deserving a statue being erected on German soil, and whose name should be common knowledge; taught in schools and mentioned on history related TV shows, it would be this man. Sadly, I fear very few in England and even less in Germany have heard of him.
I say, thank you Sir for your courage and integrity! God bless you! Rest in peace.