There was a time, before socialism became the culture of Great Britain, when troops loyal to the Crown were among the most intrepid in the world, and had a government worthy of their esprit.
The beginning of June 1942 was perhaps the nadir of the Allied effort against the Axis powers.* Virtually every Allied effort to stem the flood of the Axis tide had met with disaster. Vast swaths of the Pacific lay under the heel of the militaristic Imperial Japanese Boot. Tripolitanian North Africa was the scene of brutal battles between Britain, Italy and their German allies. Russia was being bled white by the enormous Wehrmacht assault in the East. And of course, virtually all of Western Europe was under the heel of the Nazi boot. Most famously, France, just two years before considered the greatest power on the continent, had suffered a humiliating military and moral catastrophe in their defeat by the Blitzkrieg of the Germans.
America had entered the war some 7 months before, but for now, Great Britain, alone among the Western powers, struggled to hold the line. Britain knew that eventually, to defeat the Nazi’s, it would take more than they alone could provide. More even than they and the Americans could muster. And for moral reasons, if no others, if France was ever to stand shoulder to shoulder with the other nations of the world, its citizens would have to fight alongside the Allies to reclaim their own soil.
So while the battle to reclaim France was still two years in the future, the fight to inspire even the smallest amount of national pride in the Frenchman in the street, to inspire hope that someday the French could indeed return to independence, was very much in the forefront of British thinking. And with that goal in mind, the RAF ordered a daring daylight raid on Paris. A massive fleet of Lancasters or Stirlings? Mosquitoes swirling? Nope…
*As of the day of this raid, 12 June 1942, while the Battle of Midway had been fought and decisively won, the full scope of that victory was still generally unknown to the public.
Thanks to Craig for the head’s up on this.