NEWSLETTER No 396
The programme this evening differed from the usual. First Charles Whiting showed a power point presentation of the Kehlsteinhaus [Eagles Nest] above Bechtersgaden.
This was then followed by three short presentations looking back over the 70 years to the Munich agreement of 1938. Followed by a year end cocktail social get together.
Bill Brady took us through the political maneuvering that led to the agreement of 30 September, 1938 and finally to the inevitable declaration of war by Great Britain in September 1939.
James Trinder described the little-known but critical influence on the Oxford by-election of 27 October, 1938.
Mike Laing then spoke of Neville Chamberlain's three flights to Germany in September 1938.
The Munich Crisis arose from Hitler's territorial claims to regions with large German populations. An issue for which he was prepared to go to war. A war the Anglo-French were determined to avoid war at all costs. Czechoslovakia had been created out of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. Hitler claimed the treaty was unjust and demanded that all Germans come into one Reich. In 1938 he ordered his generals to plan for the invasion of Czechoslovakia. War seemed more and more likely. Chamberlain, realising the gravity of the situation and desperate to solve the crisis without war, proposed to meet with Hitler. Three meetings were to take place. The 1st meeting was at Berchtesgaden on September 15 1938 where Hitler agreed not to take any military action against Czechoslovakia.
Chamberlain agreed that Sudetenland should be ceded to Germany and promised to persuade the French and Czechs to accept this decision. The 2nd meeting took place in Godesberg on September 22. Chamberlain expected the agreement to be formally signed by Hitler. Instead, Hitler presented Chamberlain with an "Ultimatum." Sudetenland was to be occupied by the German Army and all Czechs evacuated. This was tantamount to a declaration of war and was rejected by the British and French.
The RAF at this time was undergoing conversion from bi-planes to monoplanes which were still not ready for combat. Chamberlain had a further dread; his military chiefs advised that over one million civilians would be killed by bombing raids in just two months. Mass graves would be needed, there simply was not enough wood for coffins.
Taking all of this into consideration, it is not surprising that many people supported Chamberlain in his efforts to achieve a negotiated settlement. But, at the second meeting Britain and France felt compelled to reject Hitler's new demands and prepared for war. On 24 September, the French ordered a partial mobilization, their first since World War I. Britain mobilised the Royal Navy, Europe was on the brink of war.
Mussolini intervened in a last attempt to avoid war and proposed that a four-power conference be convened immediately to settle the dispute. On 29 September Chamberlain flew to Munich. Germany, Britain, France and Italy were represented, Czechoslovakia was not. Neither was the Soviet Union, which greatly angered Stalin.
Without consulting the Czechs, the four powers agreed that the Sudetenland should be given to Germany immediately.
The Munich Agreement, as it was known, was agreed to by the Western Powers on Hitler's terms. The German army was to complete the occupation of the Sudetenland by 10 October. After the agreement was signed, Chamberlain went to Hitler and asked him to sign a peace treaty between Britain and Germany. Hitler happily agreed to sign what he later derided as Chamberlain's "scrap of paper." Chamberlain returned to London as a hero; triumphantly delivering his famous "peace in our time" speech to ecstatic crowds. Imminent war had been avoided. He was recognised as the man who had saved Europe. A wave of perverse optimism swept across the country.
Some quotes from key participants.
Neville Chamberlain, announcing on his return: "The settlement of the Czechoslovakian problem, which has now been achieved is, in my view, only the prelude to a larger settlement in all Europe. 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. I believe it is peace for our time."
Winston Churchill, on denouncing the Agreement in the House of Commons: "We have suffered a total and unmitigated defeat. It is a disaster of the first magnitude...we have sustained a defeat without a war. "
Adolf Hitler, in a speech to his generals;"Our enemies are little worms, I saw through them at Munich. Now Poland is in the position I desired. I am only afraid that some fool will again present me with a mediation plan at the last moment."
On 15 March 1939 Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia and drove through Prague in triumph. Chamberlain felt betrayed, and finally realised his policy of appeasement towards the dictator had failed. He immediately began to mobilize the British armed forces on a war footing. France did the same. On April 1939 the British gave a public guarantee to Poland that were she to be attacked by Germany, Britain would go to war. The belief that security can be obtained by throwing a small state to the wolves is a fatal delusion.
James Trinder presented his viewpoint. The Munich agreement dominated the Oxford City by-election, 27 October 1938. Quintin Hogg, Dennis Healy, and Harold MacMillan all took part. The Conservative party candidate [who supported the Agreement] was 31 year old Quintin Hogg [later to become Lord Hailsham]; a distinguished scholar and fellow of All Souls. The Labour candidate, Patrick Gordon-Walker and Liberal candidate Ivor Davies withdrew to allow the master of Balliol, Dr Stanley Lindsay to become a Popular Front candidate to represent all those opposed to the Munich Agreement. The by-election soon became the most spectacular and widely reported contest in British politics in the last century.
Quintin Hogg never doubted that when it was signed, the Munich Agreement was justified although he believed that Chamberlain's Downing Street declaration of "peace for our time"... "peace with honour" was a terrible error. It is important to remember that Britain was not prepared for war in 1938, neither morally nor militarily; and could not at that time rely on Russia, the USA, Denmark, Belgium or Holland. The Agreement gave Britain 12 months to rearm and to prepare for the war that would come. The relaxation of tension and widespread feeling of public euphoria which resulted from the Agreement was soon followed by a strong reaction against the government. Dennis Healy opposed the government and publicly supported Dr Lindsay. He was convinced that Chamberlain's policy was politically and strategically disastrous as well as morally contemptible. He believed that Hitler made far better use of the time that he gained to build up his military power.
Harold Macmillan, although a Conservative MP, spoke publicly in support of the opposition candidate. He declared that the policy of the Government had been one of retreat.
The vote was counted; Hogg won by a majority of 3000, considerably reduced, but not insubstantial. One must ask the big question: If Chamberlain had stood firm, would Hitler have backed down or invaded the Sudetenland and risked war? No one will ever know. Healy believes that: "the judgment of historians is no more reliable than that of politicians on such matters".
Mike Laing started with the famous shot of Chamberlain holding up the paper on 30 September 1938. Then he pointed to the fuselage and tail of an airplane in the background. Mike systematically hunted down the identity of this airplane that had carried Chamberlain back from Munich to the cheering crowds and to stand with the King and Queen on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. The aircraft was an American-built Lockheed L-14 [Super Electra], G-AFGN, owned by British Airways, a private company. Then we saw another picture, but it was different: the aerial was on a long pole, the registration letters were G-AEPR, and the fuselage had only 5 windows, while G-AFGN had 7. It still had twin rudders; this was a Lockheed L-10, Electra. We had just witnessed the flight of 14/15 September to Berchtesgaden. A comparison of performance: L-10, range 800 miles, speed 200 mph. L-14, range 1500 miles, speed 250 mph. The two planes and the crowds were photographed at Heston Aerodrome [now gone under the M4 motorway to Heathrow]. Why should Chamberlain, the leader of the greatest Empire in the world, fly in an American-built Electra? Electras were already in service with KLM and in Canada. Howard Hughes had flown one around the world in 4 days in July 1938. One had flown non-stop from London to New York in 1937 to deliver photographs of the coronation of King George VI. The Electra was beautiful, sleek, all-metal and faster than most of the RAF fighters.
What could Imperial Airways, the state airlines, offer its prime minister? We saw a photograph of Winston Churchill arriving in Paris in October 1938, having flown in a Handley-Page HP-42, "Horatius" A ponderous biplane with fixed wooden propellers and rigid undercarriage, with a range of 500 miles and speed of 100 mph. Such an airplane would be unlikely to impress Adolf Hitler, since his airline had the Focke-Wulf 4-motor, all-metal "Condor" which had just flown non-stop Berlin-New York in 25 hours during August. A "Condor" carried von Ribbentrop to Moscow and back to sign the Treaty in August 1939.
Ken Gillings, acting chairman for the evening, thanked Charles for his excellent pictures, and the three speakers for such interesting and unusual aspects of the Munich crisis and agreement. One should remember the words
of Marshall of the Royal Air Force Sholto Douglas: In September 1938, of 660 aircraft, only 93 were modern
Hurricanes. There were no Spitfires. In 1939 Britain produced the Spitfires and Radar defences that saved us in 1940.
The members and guests then met for snacks and high octane refreshments, completing a most enjoyable end to a very successful year for the Society.
For 2009 are now due R175 per single and R185 per family.
ISANDLWANA/RORKE'S DRIFT 130TH ANNIVERSARY COMMEMORATION - 16TH - 25TH JANUARY, 2009 PROGRAMME.
FRIDAY 16TH Evening of Fellowship at MOTH Shellhole
SATURDAY 17TH 11 a.m. Natal Carbineers exercise their right to the Freedom of Dundee with march-past and band together with other invited regiments.
At the Oval in Union Street -
Food Stalls, home crafts and African craft market
Wheels Thru' Time Cars on show
Re-enactment by Dundee Diehards & Zulu Warriors
St Nicholas' School Steel Band
6.30 Cocktails and Sundowners followed by -
8 p.m. Commemoration Ball at Battlefields Country Lodge with live Band
SUNDAY 18TH Early morning Walk along the Bridle Path (15 km)
p.m Social evening at Battlefields Country Lodge
MONDAY 19TH International Conference on Zulu War with eminent International Guest Speakers.
Tavern evening, Sibongile Township
TUESDAY 20TH a.m. Tours to Helpmekaar, Cannibal Rock, Iron Age site, Fugitives Drift, Fort
WEDNESDAY 21ST Camp at Rorkes' Drift Zulu Cultural Village - tours, campfire and overnight. Star Gazing (weather permitting)
THURSDAY 22ND 10 a.m. Wreathlaying at Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift with Zulu iButho as Guard of Honour.
Tavern Evening at Sithembile.
FRIDAY 23RD Tours to Isandlwana & Rorke's Drift, Fugitives Trail, Hike to Anstey's Stand
Social Evening at Ngudlane Game Lodge
SATURDAY 24TH David Rattray Memorial Half Marathon from Isandlwana to Rorke's Drift
Tour to Spionkop - 109th Anniversary
SUNDAY 25TH MOTH parade at Rorkes Drift, Tour, Display and Lunch
Further information obtainable from: ENDUMENI TOURISM, DUNDEE Phone 034 2122121 Ext 2262
P/bag 2024 Dundee 3000 e-mail email@example.com www.tourdundee.co.za
CONFERENCE TO COMMEMORATE THE 130th ANNIVERSARY OF THE ANGLO-ZULU WAR
JANUARY 2009. To be held at the Battlefields Country Lodge, Dundee, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa on Monday 19th January 2009
(Arranged Ken Gillings, KwaZulu-Natal Branch, South African Military History Society - Tel: +27 (0)31 702 4828 / +27 (0)83 654 5880)
HOSTED BY ENDUMENI TOURISM, Tel +27 (0)34 212 2121 extension 2262; Fax +27 (0)34 218 2837; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org ; Website www.tourdundee.co.za
08h00 - Tea, 08h30 Official Opening by Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, maternal great grandson of King Cetshwayo and paternal great grandson of his Prime Minister Mnyamana Buthelezi - Commander-in-Chief of the Zulu Army in 1879 and grandson
of Mkhandumba Buthelezi who participated in the Anglo-Zulu War.-
Session 1: (Chairman - Ken Gillings (South African Military History Society).
Dr Damian O'Connor (Military Historian, United Kingdom): "The Causes of the Anglo-Zulu War";
Prof John Laband (Professor of History at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, and an Associate of the Laurier Centre for Military, Strategic and Disarmament Studies): "An Examination Of The Battle-Readiness Of The Zulu Forces That Fought In The Anglo-Zulu War Of 1879, And An Assessment Of The Comparative Military Effectiveness Of The Amabutho And Irregulars Engaged; Session 2: (Chairman - Dr Stephen Badsey (Reader in Conflict Studies, University of Wolverhampton).
Dr Mark Coghlan (Museum Human Scientist (Military Historian) KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Museum and Heritage Service, Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal and Regimental Historian, Natal Carbineers): "Trooper Fred Symons, Natal Carbineers";
Mr Arthur Königkrämer (Chairman, Amafa aKwaZulu-Natali / Heritage KwaZulu-Natal and KwaZulu-Natal Heritage Foundation): "Are Battlefields worth battling for?"
Session 3: Chairman - Lt Col Mike McCabe RE (Fellow of the Institution of Royal Engineers).
Lt Col Mike Rowe (commanding officer, Natal Mounted Rifles) and Maj Edric Pascoe (acting commanding officer, Natal Carbineers): "The history of the NMR / NC during the Anglo-Zulu War and the Regiment's future role in the South African National Defence Force".
Dr Stephen Badsey: "The Anglo-Zulu War and British Imperial Defence Policy".
Session 4: Chairman - Ken Gillings (SAMHS).
Prof John Laband: "Lord Chelmsford - A General Caught Captive By His Social And Professional Environment".
Maj Martin Everett (Curator, The Royal Welsh Museum, Brecon, Wales): "Lt W. W. Lloyd - a Soldier Artist in Zululand".
The chairman and committee wish to express their gratitude to all members for their support during the year. We wish all and families a most joyous festive season and a prosperous 2009.
South African Military History Society / email@example.com