Chamberlain Betrays Czechs & Countdown to War Begins

“You were given the choice between war and dishonour. You chose dishonour and you will have war.”
WInston Churchill to Chamberlain in 1938 on the munich agreement.
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“…a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing.”

Chamberlain (centre, hat, and umbrella in hands) walks with German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop (right) as the Prime Minister leaves for home after the Berchtesgaden meeting, 16 September 1938. On the left is Alexander von Dörnberg, German diplomat, and SS officer, Chief of Protocol Foreign Office of Nazi Germany. (German National Archive)

 

From left to right, Chamberlain, Daladier, Hitler, Mussolini and Italian Foreign Minister Count Ciano as they prepare to sign the Munich Agreement. German National Archive.

This agreement was then forced on the Czechs by Britain and France.

[Ciano was Mussolini’s son-in-law who later played in role in overthrowing him. There are several versions of how Ciano came to be shot. This is my favorite although apocryphal:  Hitler told Mussolini to have Ciano shot. Musso said Ciano was the father of his grandchildren. He could not have him shot. Hitler replied that Musso was not tough enough to be a dictator. “I will have him shot.” Shortly thereafter the SS in the Salo Republic shot Ciano.]

In the fall of 1938, Hitler had made a fool of Prime Minister Chamberlain through his sham negotiating in Berchtesgaden. The PM had returned to England after betraying the Czechs and forcing both them and the Skoda Works, the finest armament works in Europe, into the hands of a madman.

“I believe it is peace for our time.”

Commentary from the Imperial War Museum: “Neville Chamberlain holding the paper containing the resolution to commit to peaceful methods signed by both Hitler and himself on his return from Munich. He is showing the piece of paper to a crowd at Heston Aerodrome on 30 September 1938.

He said: “…the settlement of the Czechoslovakian problem, which has now been achieved is, in my view, only the prelude to a larger settlement in which all Europe may find peace.

This morning I had another talk with the German Chancellor, Herr Hitler, and here is the paper which bears his name upon it as well as mine…

….(waves paper to the crowd – receiving loud cheers and “Hear Hears”). Some of you, perhaps, have already heard what it contains but I would just like to read it to you …”.

Later that day he stood outside Number 10 Downing Street and again read from the document and concluded: ‘”My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time.” (Photo and caption courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)

Charles McCain: Except, of course, it wasn’t.

Hitler was hardly going to keep his word and anyone who had observed him for a time knew that. The Czechs had been betrayed by Chamberlain.

Said Chamberlain in a radio broadcast, “How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas-masks here because of a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing.” 

Chamberlain (left) and Hitler leave the Bad Godesberg meeting, 23 September 1938. German National Archive)

Czechs had been supplying steel of the highest quality to the Royal Navy

Yet many in Great Britain did know something about Czechoslovakia including this most critical fact: the Czechs had been supplying steel of the highest quality to the Royal Navy, steel of the quality required for warships no longer cast in sufficient amounts in Great Britain. *

The Admiralty knew this. Men of industry and finance knew. Chamberlain and the cabinet knew–but persisted in lying to the people of Great Britain as well as deluding themselves. They continued to live in what Aristophanes referred to as “Cloud-cuckoo-land”

*(Source: “Engage the Enemy More Closely: the Royal Navy in te Second World War” by Correlli Barnett)

Lord Halifax revealed as guilty of high treason–tried to negotiate peace with the Nazis without disclosure to war cabinet.

Neville Chamberlain, Benito Mussolini, Lord Halifax, and Count Ciano at an opera in Rome, Jan 1939

Daily Telegraph of London, 2008:

“Lord Halifax, Britain’s Foreign Secretary at the outbreak of the Second World War, secretly met with an Old Etonian who tried to broker a peace deal with the Nazis, according to newly-declassified security files.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/2650832/Lord-Halifax-tried-to-negotiate-peace-with-the-Nazis.html

Charles McCain: A sordid spectacle. History has rightly judged  Chamberlain harshly along with his crony, the leading appeaser of Hitler next to Chamberlain, Foreign Secretary, the arch-schemer, Lord Halifax. Documents released in last 10 years prove Halifax committed treason by carrying on peace negotiations through dubious second parties without informing the war cabinet.

In November of 1937, while Lord President of the Council (a cabinet position), Halifax paid a private visit to Herman Goering, the obese kleptomaniac and drug addled C-in-C of the Luftwaffe. Since Halifax was a member of the Cabinet, the Germans thought of this as an “unofficial” official visit. This was done with Prime Minister Chamberlain’s knowledge and approval.

Lord Halifax with Hermann Göring at Schorfheide, Germany, 20 November 1937 (German National Archive)

Although Halifax was not then Foreign Secretary, he informed Adolf Hitler and “the evil gang who work your wicked will” * that the British government did not oppose Nazi Germany’s stated policy to incorporate Austria, half of Czechoslovakia and several former Imperial German provinces of Poland into the Third Reich.  However, the honourable gentleman, Lord Halifax, loftily said this must be done peacefully.

(*Churchill in a speech during World War Two describing Hitler’s murderous and evil myrmidons.

Lord Halifax with Hitler on 19 November 1937

This interference in foreign affairs by Chamberlain and his trusted fellow appeaser, the noble Lord Halifax, led to the resignation of Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden. Would Halifax take the position? Certainly, if the Prime Minister asked him then naturally it would be his duty to accept the position which he did.

A deeply religious man was Halifax. Hence, a good man said his acolytes. Not one to dirty his hands with common politics or common people. (As a peer of the realm, he was a member of the House of Lords). There were few among the elite who attended divine service on a more frequent basis then Lord Halifax. Presumably, God was on his side, it was said.  Many who knew him referred to him behind his back as the “Holy Fox.”  It wasn’t a compliment.

CHURCHILL STATES THE TRUTH

Only a few both saw and were willing to state the truth. One of those was Winston Churchill, roundly condemned for what he said in Parliament after Chamberlain returned from Munich waving the piece of paper signed by Hitler which meant “peace in our time.”

Adolf Hitler and Neville Chamberlain reviewing German troops during Chamberlain’s visit to sign the Munich Agreement.

Winston Churchill on chamberlain’s capitulation in Munich to Hitler, house of commons, 5 October 1938.

I will, therefore, begin by saying the most unpopular and most unwelcome thing. I will begin by saying what everybody would like to ignore or forget but which must nevertheless be stated, namely, that we have sustained a total and unmitigated defeat, and that France has suffered even more than we have.

The utmost my right hon. friend the Prime Minister… has been able to gain for Czechoslovakia in the matters which were in dispute has been that the German dictator, instead of snatching the victuals from the table, has been content to have them served to him course by course…”

He was heckled by other Conservative members of Parliament during this speech. Churchill’s judgment on Chamberlain after the signing of the Munich agreement:  “You were given the choice between war and dishonour. You chose dishonour and you will have war.”

Chamberlain having a sincere handshake with Adolf Hitler.

You can read Churchill’s entire speech to Parliament on the Munich agreement here:       winstonchurchill.org/resources/speeches/the-munich-agreement

 

3 September 1939, Great Britain and France declared war on Nazi Germany for attacking Poland, whose territorial integrity had been hastily guaranteed by those two countries. After the craven conduct of the British on Austria and Czechoslovakia, Hitler was stunned. He turned to his vacuous Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, who had assured him the British and the French would do nothing, and said, “now what?”

Ribbentrop was an opportunistic, immoral, evil toad of man along with being stupid. At the Nuremberg Tribunal, an American interrogator asked him several questions about German foreign policy during the Third Reich. Ribbentrop said he did not know the answers. Are you telling me, the American interrogator said, that as Foreign Minister of Nazi Germany you did not know what the foreign policy was? “I am sorry but I must say ‘yes'” (As in ‘yes he did not know). him on four counts: crimes against peace, deliberately planning a war of aggression, war crimes, and crimes against humanity

He was rightfully convicted of crimes against peace, deliberately planning a war of aggression, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, and hanged 16 October 1946.

This iconic photograph of Churchill was taken by famed photographer Yousuf Karsh on 30 December 1941 immediately after a speech Churchill had given to the Canadian Parliament. This photo came to represent Great Britain’s defiance of the Nazis.

On 10 May 1940, Germany attacked France who surrendered within six weeks. On that same day, 10 May 1940, two days after Chamberlain had suffered a humiliating defeat in Parliament, his majority dropping from 280 votes to 80 in a vote of confidence, Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of Great Britain and led the British Empire to victory over the Nazis.

His speeches as Prime Minister rang with defiance against the Nazis and continue to inspire those who value individual freedom.

“He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle to steady his fellow countrymen and hearten those Europeans upon whom the long dark night of tyranny had descended.” 

Edward R. Murrow on Churchill in 1954.

 

Death of a Battleship

Lest We Forget

25 November 1941

HMS Barham, torpedoed and sunk with the loss of 55 officers and 806 ratings.

This vid clip is one minute and eleven seconds long. In these 71 seconds, the Royal Navy battleship, HMS Barham, rolled over on her beam ends, explodes, and then sinks. At the end of the vid clip, the ship is gone, disappeared beneath the sea.

In the time it takes to watch it, fifty-five officers and eight hundred six ratings died–men who were fighting against “a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime,” as the Nazis were so aptly described in their evil by Prime Minister Winston Churchill on 13 May 1940 in his first speech to Parliament as Prime Minister.

Incredibly, the sinking and explosion was caught on film by a news reel cameraman from Gaumont News. The cameraman who caught the sinking and explosion, John Turner, was standing on the deck of the nearby Royal Navy battleship, HMS Valiant, which was on station close to Barham.

You can read accounts by the crew members who survived here:

http://www.hmsbarham.com/ship/accounts.php

HMS Barham in the Royal Navy fleet anchorage of Scapa Flow circa 1917. (US Navy photograph)

Churchill Right on Dardanelles

Minister of Munitions Winston Churchill meets women war workers at Georgetown’s filling works near Glasgow during a visit on 9 October 1918. Churchill came into Lloyd George’s cabinet, known as the Second Coalition, as Minister of Munitions. 

Churchill was forced out of the cabinet by H.H. Asquith since the Conservatives would not come into a coalition with the his Liberal Party if Churchill remained in the Cabinet. This was painful, to say the least, for both men. Asquith is actually responsible for the launch of Churchill’s career. He appointed him to a series of powerful cabinet posts from Home Secretary to President of the Board of Trade to First Lord of the Admiralty.

Although the decision to force the Dardanelles was made by the entire cabinet under the leadership of Prime Minister H.H. Asquith, Winston Churchill is somehow given the entire blame for what became a disaster. In spite of their later denials, the First Sea Lord, Admiral Jackie Fisher, and the Secretary of State for War, Field Marshal Kitchener, were in favour of this plan. After the war, a Royal Commission cleared Churchill of blame for the Dardanelles/Gallipoli campaign.

As you can see from the map above, Churchill’s plan was for the Royal Navy to use old battleships to force their was from the Aegean through the Dardanelles into the Sea of Marmara. From there they would have easily taken Istanbul and opened up the Black Sea to maritime traffic. The Turkish Navy was too small to have stopped them although at that point all Turkish warships were being commanded by German naval officers. (Clash of Fleets: Naval Battles of the Great War, by Vincent O’Hara).

The best and shortest explanation of why this was a sound idea and what it was could have achieved is given by Violet Bonham Carter, Baroness Asquith. Violet Asquith was the daughter of Prime Minister H.H. Asquith and in spite of her youth, he often discussed complex matters of state with her because of her brilliance and keen understanding of British politics. She was one of the most extraordinary women of her time.

Portrait of the brilliant and perceptive British politician and author Violet Bonham-Carter, neé Asquith, 1915.   In December 1964, she was elevated to the peerage in her own right as Baroness Asquith of Yarnbury (15 April 1887 – 19 February 1969).

She met Winston Churchill when she was 18 and they remained friends for rest of their lives. In the last several years of his life, she was one of the few people who would be invited to sit with him and  her presence cheered him. She herself was an extraordinary woman and the only female friend he had. The last telegram Churchill sent in his life was one congratulating Violet on her elevation to the peerage. She was brilliant, thought by many to be almost as good a speaker as Churchill and had a personality of steel. All of this appealed to Churchill.

“Winston Churchill As I Knew Him” is her memoir about the early years of friendship between them from 1906 until 1915.  She describes the rationale behind the campaign. “Once the fleet had broken through the Straits (the Dardanelles) into the Sea of Marmora the Greeks and the Bulgarians, hungry for spoils, might join us in attacking Turkey (at that time allied with Imperial Germany); Italy might be weaned from her neutrality; Rumania would not stand alone. The Balkan States might form a united front to sweep the Turks from Europe. But what mattered most was to help Russia in her desperate need. When Constantinople (now Istanbul) fell we could release her shipping bottled up in the Black Sea. She could export her grain to us ad we could send her arms and ammunition.”

It was a bold plan. But for the lack of will of the British Admiral commanding the task force of old battleships assembled to run the Dardanelles, it probably would have worked and would have changed history. Certainly Baroness Asquith believed this to her dying day. She thought this was the worst mistake made in the 20th century.

No question that Admiral David Beatty would have successfully forced the Dardanelles. At this point there were no Turkish soldiers on the small spit of land known as Gallipoli. Unfortunately, it didn’t work because the Royal Navy’s fighting instinct had atrophied over a century of ruling the waves without challenge.

I am convinced that Admiral, the Earl Beatty of the North Sea, would have forced the Dardanelles had he been in command. In spite of his errors in command in his many engagements with the Germans, he certainly never lost his nerve. In fact, if anything, he went at the Germans too quickly without waiting for his other ships to come up in support.

 

 

 

 

Baldwin Eviscerated by Churchill

War_Industry_in_Britain_during_the_First_World_War_Q84077

Minister of Munitions Winston Churchill meets women war workers at Georgetown’s filling works near Glasgow during a visit on 9 October 1918. Photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum.

“…they go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent…”

 

Stanley_Baldwin_resize

The incompetent Stanley Baldwin in the 1920s. He served as Prime Minister of Great Britain on three occasions: 1923 to 1924, 1924 to 1929 and 1935 to 1937. 

Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin was a wealthy man, quite out of his depth, entirely out of touch with his times, and possessed of a foolish rigidity of thought which ill-prepared Great Britain for the coming war. His nickname, “the Vicar” will give you an idea of how he was seen. (And it was a compliment). Worse, his personal and his campaign slogan was ‘Safety First.’  This actually meant, ‘don’t do anything which might rock the boat’ which was manifested by his not doing anything.

Baldwin still saw England as a nation of small villages, inspired by the narrow values and philosophies of small villages. He did not understand and could not understand the threat Hitler and other totalitarian states were to Great Britain and the British Empire.

churchill11

Winston Churchill in full cry on the campaign trail during a speech in Uxbridge, Middlesex, during the general election campaign on 27 June 1945. (photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum).

On 12 November 1936, in a debate in the House of Commons over what Winston Churchill believed was a far-too-casual and much-too-small initial rebuilding of the armed forces of the Crown, he excoriated Baldwin and his cabinet for their timidity and indecision about rearmament.
“The Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence has argued as usual against a Ministry of Supply. The arguments which he used were weighty, and even ponderous… But then my right hon. friend went on somewhat surprisingly to say, ‘The decision is not final’. It would be reviewed again in a few weeks. What will you know in a few weeks about this matter that you do not know now, that you ought not to have known a year ago, and have not been told any time in the last six months?….
The First Lord of the Admiralty in his speech the other night went even farther. He said, ‘We are always reviewing the position. Everything, he assured us is entirely fluid. I am sure that that is true. Anyone can see what the position is.

The Government simply cannot make up their minds, or they cannot get the Prime Minister to make up his mind. So they go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent.”

 

churchill from NPR

Churchill speaking during the General Election campaign of 1945 which took place after the surrender of Nazi Germany on 8 May 1945.

Churchill,_uniform resize

21 year old Winston Spencer Churchill of the 4th Queens Hussars. 1895

One of the reasons so many of Churchill’s speeches are remembered is he rarely spoke off the cuff. He always carefully prepared his remarks, usually spending hours and hours of labor upon the drafts.  He dictated his speeches to a secretary then revised then over and over before delivering them.

A fascinating article about Churchill’s speeches can be found here:

www.winstonchurchill.org/his-speeches-how-churchill-did-it

 

Churchill Halts Cat Deserting Royal Navy

Atlantic Conference August 1941: Prime Minister Churchill restrains ‘Blackie’ the cat, the mascot of HMS Prince of Wales, from joining the USS McDougal, an American destroyer, while the ship’s company stand to attention during the playing of the National Anthem.

(photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)

cats aboard heavy cruiser HMS Hawkins circa 1918

the following is from US Naval Institute

“Sailors and cats have a special relationship that dates back thousands of years. It is likely that the ancient Egyptians were the first seafarers to realize the true value of having cats as shipmates. In addition to offering sailors much needed companionship on long voyages, cats provided protection by ridding ships of vermin. Without the presence of cats, a crew might find their ship overrun with rats and mice that would eat into the provisions, chew through ropes and spread disease. The more superstitious sailors believed that cats protected them by bringing good luck. It was also common for crews to adopt cats from the foreign lands they visited to serve as souvenirs as well as reminders of their pets at home.”    text in quotes from:

 https://www.usni.org/news-and-features/cats-and-the-sea-services

Tiddles, the ship’s cat of HMS VICTORIOUS, at his favourite station on the after capstan, where he can play with the bell-rope. Tiddles now serving on board HMS VICTORIOUS as Captain’s cat, has spent his whole life on board aircraft carriers. Born on the high seas on board HMS ARGUS he has 30,000 miles to his credit.

Photo by Lt. C.H. Parnall, Royal Navy official photographer, courtesy of the  Imperial War Museum.

Sir Winston Churchill in his uniform as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. The Lord Warden and Admiral of the Cinque Ports and Constable of Dover Castle was once one of the most powerful officials in the Kingdom. The office dates to the 12th Century.

This holder of this office was responsible for the defense of five critical ports in southeast England. Once an important office, it is now an honorary appointment.

http://cinqueports.org/lord-warden-officials/

Her Battlecruiser Scrapped Before New Zealand Repaid Loan

 

Indefatigable class battle cruiser HMS New Zealand berthed at Outer Harbour, South Australia. HMS New Zealand, carrying Lord and Lady Jellicoe, arrived at Outer Harbor, Port Adelaide, on 25 May 1919, having sailed from Fremantle via Port Lincoln. HMS New Zealand sailed for Melbourne in the early hours of 28 May 1919.  Photo and caption courtesy of the State Library of South Australia.

“In March 1909, New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Sir Joseph Ward announced that ‘the Dominion’ (New Zealand) was offering ‘the Motherland’ (Britain) the ‘free gift of … a first-class battleship’. ‘Should later events show any need for it,’ Ward continued, ‘New Zealand will offer again a second warship of the same class.’

Parliament authorised the expenditure of up to £2 million, spread over 18 years, on the ‘gift ship’. The ship’s construction began in early 1910, and was completed in November 1912, she having been given the name HMS New Zealand in 1911. The ship participated in the Battle of the Dogger Bank on 28 January 1915, took part in the great Battle of Jutland.”

Unfortunately, warship design had proceeded far ahead since 1912  and HMS New Zealand was obsolescent by the end of the war. In December 1922, she was sold for scrap and broken up in Scotland.

“Long after her scrapping, New Zealand continued to pay for her, with the last payment on the loan raised to build her not being made until the 1944/45 financial year.”

text in quotes from website of the  Museum of New Zealand

 

HMS New Zealand steaming during the Battle of Heligoland Bight  

                         (official Royal Navy photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)

“Two symbolic garments had been presented to the ship by a Maori chieftain, after a suitable war dance, with the warranty that the great grey canoe would come to no harm in battle as long as her captain we wearing them. The items were a greenstone pendant known as a tiki, and a sort of rush mat apron, called a piu piu, to be worn around the waist…”

 

While not the one presented to HMS New Zealand, this is photo from the National Museum of New Zealand of a typical Maori piu piu 

Prior to the Battle of the Dogger Bank the captain of the New Zealand had worn both items and the ship sustained no damage. At Jutland, Captain Green, newly in command wore the tiki pendant “but was too stout to wear the piu piu without discomfort, so he just kept it close at hand ‘ready to put on if things became too hot.’ ” (text in quotes from: The Rules of the Game by Andrew Gordon).

The ship was hit once at Jutland by a German shell which caused no casualties. The piu piu is now in the Museum of the Royal New Zealand Navy.

Photograph of assembled officers of HMS New Zealand (1911-1922) together with HM King George V and Mr. Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty. Source unknown.

 

http://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/topic/1049

 

 

Elder Brother of the Trinity

9 August 1941.  Churchill in the uniform of an Elder Brother of Trinity House aboard USS Augusta with US President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

When asked by a senior official of the French government in a hurried meeting in June of 1941 what uniform he was wearing, Churchill explained to the amazement of this man that he was wearing the uniform of the Elder Brother of the Trinity. Churchill insisted on speaking in French but his skills in that language were not on par with his skills using the English language which often caused confusion. His actual words describing his uniform were: “Frère Aîné de la Trinité” which translates as “Elder Brother of the Trinity.”

Another view of Churchill in the uniform of an Elder Brother of Trinity House taken aboard HMS Prince of Wales during the Atlantic Conference.

Churchill often wore the uniform of an Elder Brother of Trinity House, an organization chartered by the British Crown in 1514 to oversea harbour pilots and aids to navigation. He was made an Honorary Elder Brother upon being appointed to the cabinet position of First Lord of the Admiralty in 1913.

 

Trinity House in London. Chartered in 1514 by Henry VIII, the organization has had multifarious functions related to navigation and pilotage over the centuries.

The official website of Trinity House describes the organization thus:

“Today, it maintains In their capacity as Master Mariners, the duties of the Elder Brethren began with the examination and regulation of Pilotage (initially restricted to the River Thames area), and have grown to take on other powers and responsibilities, including the siting and erecting of various aids to navigation (such as lighthouses, buoys, beacons and light-vessels), attendance at Admiralty Court to advise on maritime disputes and affairs, and of course to govern the multi-faceted Corporation of Trinity House, including the administration of the Corporation’s charitable function – the financing and upkeep of the UK’s largest-endowed maritime charity.”

www.trinityhouse.co.uk/about-us

 

Source: Churchill by Roy Jenkins

 

Another view of Churchill in his uniform as an Elder Brother of Trinity House while sitting next to President Roosevelt during the Atlantic Conference. As an aside, if you look closely at FDR’s feet you will see the steel braces he had to strap onto his legs to stand. With these braces holding him up, and with one or two of his military aides or children providing support, he pretended to walk.

This photograph was taken during the Sunday service with equal numbers of Royal Navy and US Navy personnel on 12 August 1941 held aboard HMS Prince of Wales. 

(Left to right, behind FDR and Churchill, are Admiral Ernest King, USN, then Commander-in-Chief US Fleet, US Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshal, General Sir John Dill, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Admiral “Betty” Stark, USN Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral of the Fleet  Sir Dudley Pound, First Sea Lord of the Royal Navy (the professional head of the Royal Navy with the First Lord of the Admiralty, a member of Parliament, having the ultimate authority. This was reorganized in decades after the war. (photo USNA)