The Man, at the moment, proved to be just that. The world is given only one view, or opinion, of Neville Chamberlain. His return from Munich, waving his ‘piece of paper’ which purportedly gave the promise of peace in Europe, was either the huge mistake which most modern historians hold, or the shrewdest of moves by a natural politician who knew his, and his Nation’s shortcomings from viewpoints both military and politically. Chamberlain knew the deep reservations, as well as the sympathies held by much of the British Establishment regarding the Germans, and the Nazis. Even the abdicated Edward the 8th was know to hold pro-Nazi views, and many in the Establishment were of a similar mind. The Nation’s Army was formidable, but lacked modern equipment and training. The Navy was comparatively well-equipped, but peacetime sanctions on budgets had left large scars on those who manned the Fleet. The RAF was dependent on WW1-styled equipment and thinking, with modern fighters and bombers on the drawing board, but little flesh on the bare bones.
So, did Chamberlain give in to Hitler’s promises and bluster, despite having at his disposal both his own Forces, and his Allies the French? Or did he bide his time, sacrificing Czechoslovakia to the Nazis in the process; because he knew that Britain needed breathing space to re-arm, and re-equip, and mobilise his Nation onto a War footing for the battles he divined were lying ahead? I believe that he grasped the latter, knowing the opprobrium which would descend upon his shoulders for trusting the lies and smooth words of the German dictator. I believe that he gave us that vital year, in which to ready our defences, and in doing that, saved this Nation from defeat. He may have regretted the speech he made on the 3rd of September 1939, but, being the truly honourable man that he was, knew he had no choice!
At 11.15 a.m. Mr.Chamberlain had broadcast to the nation the following statement announcing that a state of war existed between Britain and Germany: 3rd September, 1939.
“This morning the British Ambassador in Berlin handed the German Government a final Note stating that, unless we heard from them by 11 o’clock that they were prepared at once to withdraw their troops from Poland, a state of war would exist between us.
I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received, and that consequently, this country is at war with Germany.
You can imagine what a bitter blow it is to me that all my long struggle to win peace has failed. Yet I cannot believe that there is anything more or anything different that I could have done and that would have been more successful. Up to the very last it would have been quite possible to have arranged a peaceful and honourable settlement between Germany and Poland, but Hitler would not have it. He had evidently made up his mind to attack Poland whatever happened, and although He now says he put forward reasonable proposals which were rejected by the Poles, that is not a true statement. The proposals were never shown to the Poles, nor to us, and, although they were announced in a German broadcast on Thursday night, Hitler did not wait to hear comments on them, but ordered his troops to cross the Polish frontier. His action shows convincingly that there is no chance of expecting that this man will ever give up his practice of using force to gain his will. He can only be stopped by force.
We and France are today, in fulfilment of our obligations, going to the aid of Poland, who is so bravely resisting this wicked and unprovoked attack on her people. We have a clear conscience. We have done all that any country could do to establish peace. The situation in which no word given by Germany’s ruler could be trusted and no people or country could feel themselves safe has become intolerable. And now that we have resolved to finish it, I know that you will all play your part with calmness and courage.
At such a moment as this the assurances of support that we have received from the Empire are a source of profound encouragement to us. The Government have made plans under which it will be possible to carry on the work of the nation in the days of stress and strain that may be ahead. But these plans need your help. You may be taking your part in the fighting services or as a volunteer in one of the branches of Civil Defence. If so you will report for duty in accordance with the instructions you have received. You may be engaged in work essential to the prosecution of war for the maintenance of the life of the people – in factories, in transport, in public utility concerns, or in the supply of other necessaries of life. If so, it is of vital importance that you should carry on with your jobs.
Now may God bless you all. May He defend the right. It is the evil things that we shall be fighting against – brute force, bad faith, injustice, oppression and persecution – and against them I am certain that the right will prevail.”