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Winston Churchill and the years of appeasement

Discussion in 'Prelude to War & Poland 1939' started by harolds, Jul 28, 2012.

  1. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Just finished reading Wm. Manchester's "The Last Lion, Winston Spencer Churchill, Alone 1932-1940". I've got to admit that Manchester makes a good case that Churchill's "Finest Hour" wasn't after becoming PM, but the years before when he stood, practically alone, warning of Hitler's menace, even when it damaged his political career so that he was never offered a position in the government until war was declared and the country literally demanded he be included. (Of course there were other choices that damaged his career such as supporting the British Raj in Parliment as well as Edward VIII's relationship with Wallace Simpson.)

    Manchester's documentaion of the fantastic record of appeasement by Baldwin and Chamberlain makes me astounded. We always hear of Munich, but the appeasement goes way back before that-and afterward too. Both of these PMs had the idea that all they had to do to secure world peace was to find out what Hitler wanted and then give it to him. They even tried to give him colonies that weren't theirs to give. It should be noted that both these Englishmen, along with much of the Tory party, were much more afraid of Communism than with Nazi-ism. In fact, Chamberlain wanted to cozy up with Hitler and abandon the alliance with France. Even when both the British people and many MPs were coming around to the idea that Churchill was right, Chamberlain was oblivious to it all and kept on appeasing Hitler right up to the time he was forced, kicking and screaming, by public opinion to declare war. To my way of thinking, Chamberlain and Baldwin's policies were ALMOST as responsible for WW2 as Hitler's. Since Chamberlain and his pre-war cabinet, refused to read, hear or believe anything that didn't correspond to his/their views, the actions of the most senior leaders of the country rose practically the level of a conspiracy.

    After Munich there was one last chance to stop Hitler short of war and that was when Stalin's envoy to Britain made it clear that they would support a mutual-security treaty with Britain, France and Poland. This would have surrounded Germany and quite easily led to Hitler being toppled by the Heer. Instead, Chamberlain and his close advisors stalled, citing Poland's refusal to allow Soviet troops cross their country. He dithered so Stalin decided to make a pact with his fellow-devil and the Soviet-German Non-aggression Pact was the result.

    I'd always read the Churchill had a good pipeline of information about Hitler and Germany. From what I've read here, he was probably the head of one of the best private intellegence services anywhere, anytime. His contacts were not only men in the British Government giving him intellegence and other documents he had no legal right to have, but also people all over Europe, including many in high positions in Germany that wanted Hitler stopped. He probably knew more about what was going on in Germany than MI6.

    Just as an aside, there were many superficial similarities between Hitler and Churchill: Both were extreme egotists, both needing to be the center of attention in any group. Both entertained their nightly dinner guests with what amounted to long monologs. Both were the supreme orators of their day in their respective countries. Both took immense interest in military affairs. Both wanted to be the head of state in their own country. Oh yes, and both are suspected of having low testosterone levels! Of course there was one slight difference; one was a respecter of laws and morality and one wasn't.
     
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  2. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    I haven't read this book, but much the same conclusion was reached in Burleigh's "Moral Combat". The biggest mistake was thinking that Hitler et.al., were reasonable in their actions. Of course, in hindsight he was not. Churchill and others were not so sure. I think the dictators counted on others treating them in this manner. I continue to be astounded at how mistaken most of the English government was.
     
  3. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    I don´t think many politicians believed that Hitler´s Army would do the things it managed to do in the end. Maginot line would stop the Germans and the war would stay on the continent, and then again actually they were right if the war would have continued for a longer time, the German Army would have been out of ammo so Blitzkrieg was a necessity to the Germans. And one must also recall that Hitler kept on being a liar all the time, he promised he´d be satisfied with this and that, so in the end you either go to war or accept his demands.

    Talking about appeasement it is though interesting to read Edgerton´s "Britain´s war machine": " In 1965 A.J.P. Taylor made the perceptive comment that "if one were to judge British policy solely from the story of armaments ( as Hitler´s policy is...), it would appear that Great Britain was marching consciously towards a war on which she was all along resolved." Starting seriously in 1935, warlike expenditure was hugely increased, and at a rate much faster than in the Edwardian arms race. The 1939/40 planned expenditure (announced at the beginning of 1939) was for defence and civil defence spending of around £580m, just over half of all government expenditure, the equivalent of some 80 percent of all government expenditure in the early 1930´s.The peacetime air estimates for 1939/40, of over £200m, were twice the entire defence budget for 1933. Another measure for preparedness was that during the war 44 overwhelmingly new ordnance factories were in operation.By march 1939 sixteen of these had been authorized and twenty-nine by Decemeber 1939.By December 1940 thirty-one were in operation. After the war the was a tendency to associate the policy of appeasement of dictators with disarmament or at least weak armaments. the policy of appeasement explains, it is suggested, weak rearmament.It is also proposed dy defenders of Chamberlain that weak armaments explained appeasement.In fact rearmament and appeasement went hand in hand. For example, 1935, saw the Anglo-German naval treaty, double-dealing over sanctions on Italy and the start of rearmament.In that year a national government was re-elected with a huge majority on a platform which included a commitment to "do what is necessary to repair the gaps in our defences", which would "undoubtedly bring a considerable volume of work to the depressed areas." The Labour and Liberal Oppositions both attacked what they saw as unilateral British rearmament.
    The end of appeasement in March 1939, did not fundamentally alter the already huge scale of the rearmament programme, except the war became more likely.

    -----

    Seems to me Churchill was not that empty-handed as I thought in the first place when he entered the war scene may 1940 as PM.
     
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  4. harolds

    harolds Member

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    K-P,

    By 1938 it was quite apparant to most Britons, excluding Chamberlain and his inner circle, that war was way more likely than ever before. More MPs, such as Eden, R. Vansittart and others were heeding Churchill's warnings and started to get larger military appropriations approved. In fact, after 1936 Fleet Street was starting to push for including Churchill in the government. However, from what I've read much of this expenditure went into the RAF (radar, airplanes etc.) and some into tanks and whatnot. Certainly after the fall of France, England was begging for any and all old rifles that we could send them. Equally certain was that the money wasn't being spent on convoy escorts. My point of all this is that while expenditures increased, Britain was not even close to being ready for a war in 1939. However, your point is well taken that it could have been a lot worse!
     
  5. steverodgers801

    steverodgers801 Member

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    But Germany was even worse off. It had at least three enemies, and likely to face Poland if things went bad. It had no bombers capable of reaching Britain with any capacity to inflict damage and most of all it's economy would have collapsed in months. There also were few if any ocean going subs to attack merchants. The only time Britain bought was enough to allow Germany to get strong enough to take France and threaten Britain.
     
  6. harolds

    harolds Member

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    You are right Steve, but WW2 didn't have to happen. The Heer was ready to depose Hitler and the nazis if Britain, France and Poland or Russia stood up to him. The Heer needed a good excuse to take such action and Hitler risking a 2-front war was as good a reason as any. A German officer traveling incognito came to Chartwell and informed Churchill of this and he passed the word on to his government. However they probably already had an idea of this from other sources. WW2 could have easily been prevented!
     
  7. Interbellum

    Interbellum recruit

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    Britain was more concerned about her colonies than the Continent until arguably 37/38. Her defence policy reflected this. For an excellent overview of Britain's continual thrashing about for valid defence solutions for Europe, please read Sir Michael Howard's The Continental Commitment. Britain's prewar problems were very complex and were complicated by would-be allies that were just as uncertain as to what lay in the future. Please also keep in mind that nobody got WWII exactly right when it came. Fuller, Douhet, LeClerc and the ever vacillating and shamelessly self promoting (to the point of falsehood) Liddell-Hart all missed the mark to a degree or another.
     
  8. Volga Boatman

    Volga Boatman Dishonorably Discharged

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    The proposed replacement of Hitler by the likes of the Beck clique is so much whitewash.

    If the German officer Korps wished to replace the Fuhrer, their attempts at such in 1938 were half-hearted at best. Timidly blaming their collective lack of action on the Munich Treaty and all that went with it did not change the fact that Beck's people had no plan of action. The whole idea was simply postwar excuse mongering of the worst kind.

    The Army had already backed their man in 1934 before the Rohm Affair. Deep down, the German officer Korps desperately wanted to see Hitler stay in power so that rearmament could stay at the center stage of national politics. The Accord between Hitler, the Army, and the industrial conglomerate was sealed at their meeting on the pocket-battleship "Deutschland". The real path to war was set in stone, and nothing the Allies did was to change this. Stalin was canny enough to play both ends against the middle, and for a while the spector of Germany and Russia chumming up and making war on the Allies reared it's ugly head for real. This Nazi-Soviet Agreement was the real harvest of appeasement. Poor politics produces results that are not conducive to the aims of the nation. Driving Stalin into Hitler's camp, however, was something none of these people negotiating on our behalf could fathom as a happening thing.
     
  9. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    As usual,one is forgetting
    1)appeasement did srart in 1919
    2)The governments of the twenties proclaimed the 10 years rule,and curtailed the navy
    3)Winston was a member of these governments
     
  10. efestos

    efestos Member

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    :eek: More details, please.
     
  11. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    Totally wrong
     
  12. belasar

    belasar Court Jester

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    Yikes! I'm going to have to check my meds, as I'm in agreement with Volga here. A handfull of senior generals thought about toppling Hitler, but the rank and file would never had understood the action, even if it took place.
    Undoubtably Germans of every stripe worried over a possible war with Britain, France, Poland and the Czech Republic all at one time, but not enough to dump their Fuhrer, who to this point seemed a success to them.

    Not sure I (or the German, Austrian and Russian people) could buy the argument that Appeasement begain in 1919. It seems to me that their treatment by the victorious western powers was anything but appeasing. I would agree, however, that some of the choices made then had the unintended effect of making appeasement seem reasonable later.

    It is true that the western powers began to disarm at a rapid rate, but then their democratic economies could not sustain such expenditures any longer and such has been the case in the aftermath of a major war fought by any nation not a totalitarian state.

    Yes Winston was a member of the government of the time, but his influence was in the wane ever since Gallipoli and was heading toward his Wilderness Years.
     
  13. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    Who was the chancellor who was curtailing the navy ? Winston
     
  14. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    See page 3 of "lloyd George and the appeasement of Germany
     
  15. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    Very concise:see P 3 of "Lloyd George and the appeasement of Germany
     
  16. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    Very questionable
     
  17. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    After 1929,Winston was in the wilderness,because
    a) he conspired with the Press Lords to oust Baldwin
    b)he attacked in a personal manner (accusing him of abuse of power) THE Tory grandee Lord Derby
    c)his perception in the public opinion was of a reactionary,fascist and warlover (Winston had the bad habitude to say publicly unwise things:as that general suffrage was a bad thing)
    etc,etc
     
  18. belasar

    belasar Court Jester

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    I would submit that Winston's post WWI duty as 'SecNav' for the RN still forced him to submit to the both the will of the people and the realities of the period. Military spending had to be curtailed or the empire would implode.

    I am reasonably sure of two things,

    First, that nearly every economy he was to embrace caused him a fair amount of heatburn and Secondly that he believed that his presence as 'SecNav' ensured that these cuts were as limited as possible or at least that no one else could have done a better job than he.

    If his public perception due to words and deeds was that of Imperialist of the old school then this would seem at odds with his embrace of appeasement in the post WWI era as a member of government. What seems more likely was that he retained a position in the cabinet to appease the more conservative elements of post WWI body politic.

     
  19. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    Winston curtailed the navy,when he was chancellor of the exchequer(24-29),if this was wise or not,is irrelevant,but,it was not helping him,when,in the thirties,he was advocating rearmament.
     
  20. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    Winston curtailed the navy,when he was chancellor of the exchequer(24-29),if this was wise or not,is irrelevant,but,it was not helping him,when,in the thirties,he was advocating rearmament.
     

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