Autumn 1938 (Age 64)

On the day Chamberlain left for Germany Churchill made the following comments in the Daily Telegraph. “. . . from the moment that German troops attempt to cross the Czechoslovakian frontier, the whole scene will be transformed and a roar of fury will arise from the free peoples of the world, which will proclaim nothing less than a crusade against the aggressor.”

Chamberlain returned to inform his Cabinet colleagues that Hitler’s objective was only the Sudetenland. When French Prime Minister Daladier arrived to explore the possibility of a united front against Germany, he was told by his British colleague that Britain had no army to march to Czechoslovakia and it was a long way to send an air force.

On 20 September Churchill flew to Paris with General Spears to converse with Paul Reynaud and Georges Mandel, members of the French Cabinet who wanted to resist Hitler. On his return to England, Churchill issued a press statement which charged that a surrender to the Nazi threat of force would bring, not peace or safety, but ever-increasing weakness and danger. The loss of Czechoslovakia would free twenty-five German divisions and open a path to the Black Sea.

He personally, considered sending the following telegram to the President of Czechoslovakia but realized that he had no power to ensure the fact: “Fire your cannon, and all will be well.”

As it was, Chamberlain submitted to Hitler’s harangues and the German-speaking majority territories were to be transferred to Germany without a plebiscite. As well, the British Prime Minister now believed he could influence and trust the German Fuhrer.

Churchill was observed at the Other Club “in a towering rage and deepening gloom. ” Clementine wanted to march on Downing Street and throw rocks through the window of Number 10.

In the debate on the terms of the Munich Agreement Churchill noted that all the countries of Central and Eastern Europe would have to make the best terms they could with Nazi Germany.

He also attacked Chamberlain’s cherished dream of influencing Hitler because “there can never be a friendship between the British democracy and the Nazi Power.”

“We have sustained a defeat without a war.” he said, “. . . and do not suppose that this is the end. This is only of beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup . . . “On the division, Churchill remained seated and abstained.

The Munich debate severely strained Churchill’s relations with Chamberlain’s supporters within the Conservative Party and even with his own constituency, where several local party members tried to force him to support the Government. When he appealed for 50 Conservatives to vote for a Liberal amendment calling for the immediate establishment of a Ministry of Supply, only Brendan Bracken and Harold Macmillan supported him.

Adolph Hitler took special note of Churchill. In a speech in Munich on 8 November he said: “Mr. Churchill may have an electorate of 15,000 or 20,000. I have one of 40 million. Once and for all we request to be spared from being spanked like a pupil by a governess.”

The day after his birthday Churchill completed the first section of A History of the English-Speaking Peoples (Woods A138). He had assiduously laboured on this work because “it has been a comfort to me in these anxious days to put a thousand years between my thoughts and the twentieth century.”

Related Story

Join Now

Join NowPlease join with us to help preserve the memory of Winston Churchill and continue to explore how his life, experiences and leadership are ever-more relevant in today’s chaotic world. BENEFITS >BECOME A MEMBER >

WinstonChurchill.org

The International Churchill Society (ICS), founded in 1968 shortly after Churchill's death, is the world’s preeminent member organisation dedicated to preserving the historic legacy of Sir Winston Churchill.

At a time when leadership is challenged at every turn, that legacy looms larger and remains more relevant than ever.