Modern British History

Palgrave master series

by Norman Lowe

Chapter 27

Munich and appeasement

Study Sources A to C and answer the questions that follow.

Source A:

The memoirs of Hugh Dalton, a Labour MP in 1939 and a supporter of rearmament.

There has been much propaganda on behalf of Chamberlain that ‘he gained a precious year’, that Britain was much stronger in September 1939 than in September 1938. I have little doubt that we lost a precious year.... First we lost the Czechs who had a million and a half men behind the strongest fortress line in Europe, and equipped by a highly organized and powerful industrial machine. They also had a formidable Air Force. An attack on Czechoslovakia would have aborbed a large part of the German Army and Air Force, in addition to which, considerable German forces would have been needed on the French and Polish frontiers... At that time the Germans were not well equipped with tanks and other armour. All that came later, much of it taken from the Czech Army and some produced in Czech arsenals.... The machines with which the Germans overran Poland and France were captured or constructed in the year ‘gained’ by Chamberlain at Munich or in the eight months of the ‘Phoney War’.... Though the weakness of the British Air Force compared with the German was a terrible fact, yet the Germans were farther away in 1938 than in 1940 when they overran Holland and France. Their bombers attacking Britain would have had much farther to fly in 1938, and without fighter escort.

Source: H. Dalton, The Fateful Years, Muller, 1957.

Source B:

The memoirs of Lord Halifax, Foreign Secretary 1938-40.

Once the Austrian Anschluss had taken place, it was no longer possible to defend Czechoslovakia.... When all has been said, one fact remains unchallengeable. When war did come a year after Munich, it found a country and Commonwealth wholly united and prepared, and convinced that every conceivable effort had been made to avoid war. And that was the big thing that Chamberlain did.

Source: Lord Halifax, Fulness of Days, Collins, 1967.

Source C:

Letter from Neville Chamberlain to Stanley Baldwin, 17 October 1940.

Never for one single instant have I doubted the rightness of what I did at Munich. Nor can I believe that it was possible for me to do more than I did to prepare the country for war after Munich. I still further increased the programme for a larger Air Force and I began all the Air Raid Precaution measures which have developed since. I also introduced Conscription. In Sept. '38 we only had 60 fire pumps in London, which would have been burned out in a week. Some day these things will be known. My critics differed from me because they were ignorant, it is only fair to add, deliberately ignorant in many cases. So I regret nothing in the past.

Source: Quoted in K.Feiling, The Life of Neville Chamberlain, Macmillan, 1947.

Questions

  1. From the evidence in Source B and the information in Chapter 27, explain why Lord Halifax thought it was no longer possible to defend Czechoslovakia. (3 marks)
  2. On the basis of the evidence in the sources and your own knowledge, how valid is the judgement expressed in Source A that ‘we lost a precious year’ because of Munich? (10 marks)
  3. What do you think are the main strengths and weaknesses of these three sources for the historian? (6 marks)
  4. To what extent do you think appeasement helped to cause the Second World War? (11 marks)
(Total 30 marks)