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What was Neville Chamberlain really thinking?

Discussion in 'WWII General' started by Frank Natoli, Aug 22, 2020.

  1. Frank Natoli

    Frank Natoli New Member

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    Lately, some people insist that Neville Chamberlain signed the Munich Agreement entirely because he wanted to buy time for Britain to rearm, not because he had any trust in Hitler or faith in his own ability to accomplish "peace in our time".
    Am re-reading Churchill's first volume of WW2 history "The Gathering Storm".
    He makes it very clear that he had to fight everyone in government, first PM Baldwin, then PM Chamberlain, to rearm Britain as quickly as possible.
    But today came across this quote, page 250:
    That is not the thinking of someone concerned about rearmament.
     
  2. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    I believe Chamberlain thought he bought time. I guess this is proven after the munich pact Hitler said 'He will never let any idiot stop him from starting a war. ' although it was Mussolini who created the meeting.
     
  3. green slime

    green slime Member

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    I think you are misinterpreting Churchill. There were more than one plot afoot.

    1) The UK still had a massive debt after WW1.
    2) Hitler only came to power in 1933.
    3) Chamberlain was already by 1935 convinced of the need for rearmament. During the 1935 campaign, deputy Labour leader Arthor Greenwood attacked Chamberlain for spending money on rearmament. The rearmament policy was "the merest scaremongering; disgraceful in a statesman of Mr Chamberlain's responsible position, to suggest that more millions of money needed to be spent on armaments." No matter how much gets spent, there is always someone else wanting more.
    4) In 1938 he made trips to Paris and Rome, hoping to persuade the French to hasten their own rearmament and Mussolini to be a positive influence on Hitler.
    5) None of the dominions were guaranteed to follow Britain's lead in a continental war.
    6) Churchill beats his own drum quite well. He himself even stated "This is not history, this is my case." on exactly his volumes on WW2.

    Contrary to what Churchill supposes, Eden was not opposed to appeasing Germany, but resigned in Feb 1938 because of a differences in how Italy should be handled.

    Judging actions through the lens of hindsight is easy. Remember, however, that Britain was rearming. The RAF was becoming significantly improved. RN had to wait a little due to the treaties of Washington (1922) and London (1930).

    In these circumstances, I think I'd tell a whining Eden to take a chill pill and lie down too.
     
  4. wm.

    wm. Well-Known Member

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    Chamberlain said:

    How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas-masks here because of a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing.

    And he was right, the reason for war was way too trivial to send hundreds of thousands of British men to death.
    It would be like the ww1 - fought because some guy was killed in Sarajevo.

    Some suspected that Hitler had larger and dangerous designs but first peace had to be given a chance anyway.
    Nobody wanted war, except Hitler and Ribbentrop.
     
  5. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    There is an excellent book called the Dark Valley a panorama of the 1930s by Piers Brendon Published by Random House (2001) ISBN 10: 0712667148ISBN 13: 9780712667142 It was a recommendation by James Holland and Al Murray. Well worth a read.
     
  6. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    One issue that influenced Baldwin and Chamberlain's thinking was the popular mood. In a democracy the government needs to be able to carry the public with them. It is possible that before Munich there was no public appetite for a war. After Hitler gobbled up Czechoslovakia in March 1939 the British public accepted that they would have to fight Hitler. One example is the story of the Wartime Wanderers which started in March 1939. Harry Goslin, the captain of Bolton Wanderers football team addressed the crowd and urged them to join up. http://www.theobservationpost.com/blog/?LMCL=MT3e8b&p=1348
     
  7. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    .....it's like today's political/etc problems - it's real life--not a movie ...there are many aspects and complications to political/etc decisions
    ...some people wanted to rearm..some didn't..some had various options for rearming.....etc
    ...many, many more aspects to it
     
  8. wm.

    wm. Well-Known Member

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    It's rarely mentioned but Roosevelt played an almost decisive role in the success of the Munich Agreement.
    His appeal for peace convinced Chamberlain it's the only way, and convinced the Czechs that resistance is pointless.

    For the next few days Chamberlain hardly stopped thanking Roosevelt, by one means or another, for his intervention.
    He had reason to be thankful. ...
    Quite apart from that, Roosevelt's appeal helped to create the right public atmosphere for further talk and so for Munich.

    Just to quote Kennedy on 27 September: "not only did last night's papers ploy up tremendously his message but again this morning with very praiseworthy editorials. As a matter of fact it helped offset a good deal of bitterness that had arisen as a result of the terrific blast from the American news-papers on the question of the betrayal of Czechoslovakia".
    Roosevelt's appeal helped to still the British conscience - that swan of such high moral principle should back up Chamberlain's efforts... '.

    "What ... words", wrote Templewood, "could better show his full approval of Chamberlain's efforts?". What ... words, he might have added, could have been of greater assistance to Chamberlain? He went off to the Munich Conference, in his pocket Roosevelt's blank cheque for peace, ...

    And of course, if Roosevelt's appeal for an actual conference had some influence on Hitler, it was really just more support for Chamberlain. It impelled Hitler to accept appeasement for the gain he could make out of it and to steer clear of the war that would have buried appeasement. Roosevelt came in at the last to save the bargain.

    Roosevelt and British Appeasement in 1938 by William V. Wallace

    Roosevelt "even ordered for himself [similar] statements from ... South American republics."
    There are additional records of interventions by diplomatic representatives of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Iraq, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela.
    They contained the same message for President Benes: Mr. President, please find a peaceful solution.

    Czechoslovakia Between Stalin and Hitler by Igor Lukes
     
  9. ARWR

    ARWR Active Member

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    At the end of WW1 British ordnance factories (shell filling stations, powder mills etc etc) had begun to shut down and most were demolished to avoid spending money on maintaining the sites. By 1936/7 what was left was almost all located in the SE and well within easy range of bombers from the continent. At the beginning of 1938 plans were drawn up to build between 30 and 40 new factories, wherever practical located where bombing would be less easy. At the time it was assumed that the bombers would be coming across the North Sea and the very idea of German bombers based in France was unthinkable. The factories would for the greater part be built away from major population centres, especially if they made or handled explosives so that, whilst some might be located adjacent to county towns, they were usually planned in former rural areas. The intention was that each factory would draw workers from a 25 mile radius catchment area. Most of those in the SE would be closed and the work transferred.

    In a peacetime liberal democracy building a new armaments factory is not something that can be done overnight. Detailed plans have to be drawn and agreed. Various local government bodies have to be consulted. Objections overcome (NIMBYism is not a modern phenomenon). Land bought. Utility companies brought on board. Contracts agreed and awarded. A work force (both for construction and manning) has to be hired, and in peacetime there is competition for this with normal industry and munitions plants are not everyone's first choice. Buildings have to be erected, Access roads and rail links built or upgraded. Machinery has to be acquired and installed. The new work force has to be trained. In peace none this is quick - there are many potential choke points. By the outbreak of war seven new Royal Ordnance Factories (ROF) had been completed well away from the London area.

    In wartime many such constraints are removed. Land can be requisitioned and firms and labour directed. Objections either melt or are overridden in the national emergency. Between the outbreak and the end of 1941 a further thirty seven ROF were opened and by VJ day there were ninety six ROF.

    The point is that rearmament takes time to ramp up. It has to gather pace and, whilst the Chamberlain administration was committed to rearmament unless it transformed itself into a totalitarian regime overnight, time was needed to build up a head of steam. Whilst totalitarian economies are usually less effective and efficient in the longer term they can exhibit a sprint start.
     
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  10. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    good call..well put.....I call it ''realistic'' thinking...''real'' life....''realism''--not a movie or book
     
  11. Frank Natoli

    Frank Natoli New Member

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    Indeed in "The Gathering Storm", Churchill directly quotes PM Baldwin stating essentially your first sentence above.
    Churchill then proceeds to condemn Baldwin for giving sole priority to elections and not to what Britain needed for its own safety.
    As for your second sentence, I suggest there never was a "public appetite for a war", not even after the German invasion of Poland.
    Indeed, although as usual some people on this forum have to complain about "hindsight", one could make a reasonable argument that had Britain and France not declared war, and instead had publicly declared that they had no concerns regarding German right to lebensraum, Germany might have concentrated all its forces against Russia and not invaded France.
    In such a scenario, it's quite possible even the United States would have never become involved in the European war.
     
  12. ARWR

    ARWR Active Member

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    It's clear from Hitler's second book (written but not published) that he intended to deal with the Western democracies after the Soviet Union, probably in 1944 as this was when it was intended to reach some sort of naval parity with Britain and Mussolini had stated that Italy would have completed a proper rearmament by 1943. Conflict with the USA was envisaged but much later and possibly by his successor. What Britain and France's declaration of war did was force a reordering of the planned sequence and telescope everything so that Germany faced a conflict that it did not have the long term resources for.
     
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  13. Frank Natoli

    Frank Natoli New Member

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    We are obviously compounding the "what ifs" [and annoying the "hindsight" people] but I suggest that even had Britain and France not declared war on Germany, and Germany not preemptively invaded France before invading Russia, the Germans would still have failed to conquer Russia, and the Russians would have still rolled the Germans back, but in this case at least to the Rhine.
    Britain and France and the United States would have heavily supported the Russians in terms of logistics.
    As for Russian ultimate objectives, see "The World At War" episode "Reckoning" where Averell Harriman asks Stalin at Potsdam "marshal, this must be a great satisfaction, standing here victorious in Germany".
    Stalin replied "Czar Alexander got to Paris".
     
  14. ARWR

    ARWR Active Member

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    No I did not talk about any what ifs but what was in Hitler's own written future plans. You are doing the what ifs
     
  15. Frank Natoli

    Frank Natoli New Member

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    Thank you for taking any joy from a good discussion.
     

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