Grease_Spot wrote:A question Tony: if you had been in a position to do so, what course would you have urged on Chamberlain on 1 Sept. 1939 in light of the previous commitments the British had made to support Poland's independence?
Hi Grease, an extremely difficult question to answer and one I have asked myself from time to time. Actually its rather impossible to answer, as I know the course of the war as it played out.
But trying to put myself in the shoes of a cabinet member, I probably would have tried to broker some sort of meeting between Hitler and the Polish Government over the issues that Hitler was persuing. Danzig and a connecting "corridor" for access. What I certainly would not do would to support Chamberlains ridiculous about face regarding Poland, as that would certainly guarantee a conflict situation between the two Countries.
Bare in mind, though, that I am of the opinion that even if such a course of action had been brokered, Hitler would probably have had to a. either invade anyway or b. come to some sort of pact with Poland. Unfortunately for Poland, she Geograhically lay in the way of Hitler's goal...Russia. Hitler did actually contemplate approaching the Poles with an aggreement of some sorts, as he was well aware that the Poles shared the same fear/hatered of the Soviet Union. But this is beside the point as would have not been aware of such a situation in 1939.
Also, even if Germany invaded Poland, I would have urged the PM not to declare war. In situations like ths one in 1939, Countries can either do nothing, play and indirect part, minimise a situation or escalate a situation. Britain's action in 1939 only escalated the war and in the end involved a large number of Countries than would have been originally involved. But whats truely dispicable about Britain's precipitation of the war in the West was that it was done for purely selfish reasons..........not to stand up for what was right...not to defend Poland....and not to fight for democracy. Britain declared war because she feared a shifting balance of her power on the European continent.
Unfortunately for Europe, a disaster of some kind was on the cards. With two incredibly opposite ideologies facing each other, some sort of confrontation was almost inevitable. Germany and Russia would come to a head. Now...if Britain had held her tounge in 1939 and not worried about her "top dog" position within European affairs, the war would have been confined to Eastern Europe, with a big showdown between Germany and Russia. With the initiation of Britain's war on Germany in the West, the war was expanded far beyond its projected scope. Both outcomes are a disaster, don't get me wrong. But one is less a disaster than the other.
What SHOULD have been done before 1938 and well before 1939, was to express in the straightest terms possible that any expansion of Hitler's reich would not only mean condemnation from Britain, but threatened active war, between the two Nations. That should have been made known to Hitler after the Anschluss, which was after agreed upon by the majority of both Nations, so it remained none of Britain's business anyway. The pussyfooting attitude of both Eden and Chamberlain was of no use at all and served only to foster a certain impression in the German government.
Instead, Britain gave every encouragement they could have to Hitler and the smiles and nodding set the scene for the coming disaster in the West and the catastrophic about face from Chamberlain was the worst possible action by 1939.
As Basil Liddel Hart wrote..
"The answer is to be found not merely, nor most, in Hitler's aggressiveness, but in the encouragement he had long received from the complaisant attitude of the Western powers coupled with the their sudden turn about in the Spring of 1939. That reversal was so abrupt and unexpected as to make war inevitable".
Both Eden and Chamberlain let Hitler away with far too much for too long and in the case of Poland actively encouraged Hitler to a certain degree regarding Danzig. All of Britain's actions gave Hitler a green light. In 1938 Neville Henderson met with Hitler (after the Hitler meeting with Halifax) and aggreed with Hitler's desire for "changes in Europe" to Germany's benefit.
After this Hitler's opinion was fixed. Britain would not go to war and would probably resort to simple posturing regarding Germany, as she had done for several generations ever since 1870. It was too late to suddenly change ones mind in mid 39 and say to Hitler that you actually didn't agree with his plans after all.
Liddel Hart also states...
"If you allow anyone to stoke up a boiler until the steam-pressure rises beyond danger-point, the real responsibility will lie with you. That truth of physical science applies equally to political science - especially in the conduct of International affairs".