“During this era many other countries, including Japan, Italy, the United States, and even Belgium, set out on an imperial path. What was notable about Germany, however, was the combination of its desire to change the colonial status quo, the immense national power that gave it a chance of doing so, and the strong sense that because it had come late to the table during the rapid partitioning of the globe, it had been cheated out of its rightful due.
“No one embodied this combustible mix of resentment and hubris better than the new German emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II, who ascended to the throne in 1888.”
– pg. 66, DESTINED FOR WAR, by Graham Allison, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017
“The thought that Germany might elbow Britain from the top spot, or at the very least become its equal, gave the Kaiser immense psychological satisfaction. Wilhelm had decidedly mixed feelings about Britain – the birthplace of his mother, Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter – and what he referred to as his ‘damned family’ there. On the one hand, he was fluent in English and devoted to his grandmother Queen Victoria. He was thrilled when she made him an honorary admiral in the Royal Navy, proudly wearing its uniform whenever he could. As late as 1910, he told former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, visiting Berlin on a European tour, that war between Germany and Britain was ‘unthinkable’: ‘I was brought up in England … I feel myself partly an Englishman,’ he said with passion. And then, ‘with intense emphasis,’ he told Roosevelt: ‘I ADORE ENGLAND!’
“At the same time, Wilhelm could not conceal his resentment or his rivalrous ambitions.”
– pgs. 67, 68, ibid.
When I returned to Belize from school in mid-1968, as a black-conscious writer in a society where sympathizers of white supremacy controlled the printing technology, I had to begin learning about printing presses.
After a few years, I became convinced that the Germans made the finest printing presses on planet earth. Norman Bouloy’s Heidelberg presses worked like music. (At Bouloy’s Benex Press, incidentally, is where I met the late Edward Brown, who was a quiet printing genius in his own way.)
I raise the point about German printing technology because, as the years went by, I became more and more impressed with their engineering and technology, so that I began to feel that if it had been merely a case of German engineering and technology versus British engineering and technology in the twentieth century’s two world wars, we “British subjects” in British Honduras might well have become German subjects.
My personal thesis is that the British defeated the Germans in both cases, especially in World War II (1939-45), because the British were able to draw on human resources from their colonies worldwide, countries we now know as the Commonwealth.
Hundreds of Belizeans went to work and fight for the British in World War II, and some of them gave their lives for British “freedom.” –Ditto for many other British colonials. In World War I, we know that there was a racist issue with the British where their black colonials were concerned, so that they had their black colonials do menial and manual work instead of fighting on the battlefield. This was one of the issues which frustrated Belize’s Ex-Servicemen to the point where they took over Belize Town by force for two days on their return home, in July of 1919.
I want to say that when the Guatemalans began making threats against Belize in the late 1940s and resumed their bullying behavior under Ydigoras Fuentes in 1958, and then well into the 1970s under military rulers, Belizeans in London who moved in society circles, such as Nadia Cattouse and the late Clifton Pinks, could remind British parliamentarians that the same Belizeans of color who were being threatened by the Guatemalans had helped white Britain defeat Nazi Germany.
Great Britain is an island which became the greatest imperial power in the world because of her superior navy. English sailors were the best in the world. The English set out from their island home as pirates in the sixteenth century raiding Spanish fleets which were taking stolen treasures from the so-called New World back to Spain, and then the English branched out into slave trading, sugar cane cultivation, woodcutting in the case of Belize, and so on.
In my readings of history, I always note, with interest, that the French and the Dutch were also prominent in pirate attacks against the Spanish, both on sea and on the American mainland. But, I can’t recall ever reading about the Germans as any kind of buccaneers. My sense is that the Germans were primarily land warriors.
The German ruler who provoked World War I was, in fact, the son of British royalty on his mother’s side, and it is said that he was obsessed with building up the German navy in the decades leading up to World War I (1914-18).
As British subjects, we were taught to revere Britain’s Winston Churchill as the savior of freedom and democracy in World War II, and we despised Germany’s Adolf Hitler as a genocidal racist. Well, the evidence shows that Churchill was pretty racist himself, but we’ll let that be for now.
Hitler’s Nazi Germany marched into France in June of 1940 and soon took over the rest of Europe. Then, they began to bomb Britain. Their attacks were devastating, but the British were typically brave and heroic. In early 1941, Hitler decided that he could always crush the British, and that his priority had to be the conquest of the Russian bear. Turning from Britain to invade Russia, Hitler was victimized by the Russian winter and the courage of the Russian people, similarly to how France’s Napoleon Bonaparte had been victimized in 1812. Meanwhile, the United States entered the war late in 1941 on Britain’s and Russia’s side after the Japanese, allies of Nazi Germany, attacked Pearl Harbour.
German scientists were very much in demand both in the United States and Russia after World War II. Apart from that, the speed with which the German people rebuilt their pulverized nation after the war was testament to the brilliance of their engineering and technology.
Germany did not have enough colonials of color to funnel into their war efforts. Britain did, and won both wars. Belizeans were loyal to the British, but the British are loyal to themselves first and foremost.
Belizeans, we are now an independent nation-state. We have to stop thinking like children and colonials and cowards and subjects. When we fought for the British in two world wars, we were still using humiliating “slap pans” at home in Belize and our canals were open sewers. When we “won” the world wars, what did we Belizeans gain?
As a note of interest, especially for Belizean Anglophiles, I would like to end with this quote from the biographical essay on Rafael Carrera in Wikipedia. “In 1840 Belgium began to act as an external source of support for Carrera’s independence movement, in an effort to extend their influence in Central America. The Compagnie belge de colonisation (Belgian Colonization Company), commissioned by Belgian King Leopold I, became the administrator of Santo Tomas de Castilla in Izabal replacing the failed British Eastern Coast of Central America Commercial and Agricultural Company. Even though the colony eventually crumbled due to the endemic diseases that plagued the area, Belgium continued to support Carrera in the mid-19th century, although Britain continued to be the main business and political partner to Carrera’s regime.” (My italics.)
The government of Rafael Carrera, the eighth President of Guatemala, was the one which signed the 1859 Treaty with Great Britain which demarcated the boundaries of British Honduras.
A final note for serious students to pursue. “Frederick Chatfield (1801-1872) was the United Kingdom’s consul in Central America from 1834 to 1852, a key period in the decolonization of the region.” In other words, when Central America was being decolonized, Belizeans, in contrast, were preparing to enter British colonialism in 1862.