Neville Chamberlain: Appeasement in four ways the Prime Minister helped win WWII | United Kingdom | News


Munich – The Edge Of War: Official Netflix Trailer

“You would never notice him in a crowd and take him for the house painter he once was.” These are the words of Neville Chamberlain after his first meeting with Adolf Hitler in September 1938, in a desperate attempt to avoid war. The pair were locked in tense negotiations during that fateful month. The Führer was desperate to get his hands on a part of Czechoslovakia known as the Sudetenland, which he said truly belonged to Germany, so it would not be an “invasion” in the truest sense.

France, however, had a duty to protect Czechoslovakia, so the situation posed a very serious threat of war.

Amid growing concerns, Chamberlain flew off for face-to-face talks with Hitler, in what became the Munich Accord.

The story is depicted in a new film, with Chamberlain played by Oscar-winning actor Jeremy Irons.

‘Munich: The Edge of War’ tells the story of Chamberlain’s attempts to avoid a war.

Chamberlain was pictured wielding a deal with Hitler after the Munich conference, declaring “peace for our times”.

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Neville Chamberlain leaves Downing Street to discuss the Munich Agreement in Parliament. (Image: GETTY)

World leaders at the Munich Agreement

Neville Chamberlain, Edouard Daladier, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Count Galeazzo Ciano. (Image: GETTY)

World War II began less than a year later, with Chamberlain’s words being deemed naïve, which he has always vilified.

The film is an adaptation of Robert Harris’ bestseller “Munich”.

Mr Harris told the BBC earlier this week that Chamberlain’s “diplomacy” has proven crucial to Britain’s war effort, as it has given the country time to rearm.

This, he argued, was Chamberlain’s eternal legacy.

This was echoed by historian Leo McKinstry, who cited four ways that Chamberlain helped lay the groundwork for Allied victory.

Neville Chamberlain

Neville Chamberlain waves to crowd at Heston Airport and says “Peace in our time” (Image: GETTY)

Front page of the Daily Express.

This newspaper reports on the Munich agreements in September 1938. (Image: GETTY)

Writing on The Telegraph in 2018, he said: “Neville Chamberlain was not a traitor. He was a hero who laid the foundation for victory.

The first, and perhaps the most obvious, was that the deal gave Britain time to prepare for war.

Mr McKinstry added: “In 1938 there was neither the public mood nor the military capability to confront the Reich. “

According to statistics published in The Guardian in 2011, the UK had around 385,000 full-time military personnel in 1938.

By the following year, that number had passed one million. In 1945, it was just under five million.

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Neville Chamberlain announces the declaration of war

Neville Chamberlain announces the declaration of war live on the air. (Image: GETTY)

The second, according to McKinstry, was British air defense.

Chamberlain, unlike many British military strategists, wanted to prioritize combat aircraft rearm programs.

He believed that they could provide an “effective air shield” and were significantly cheaper than bombers.

Mr McKinstry wrote: “Without Chamberlain’s cold pragmatism, it is conceivable that the RAF in 1940 would have had far too many obsolete bombers and far too few Spitfires and Hurricanes.

Allowing Winston Churchill to succeed him as Prime Minister in May 1940 was his third contribution, Mr. McKinstry argued.

Winston Churchill with Neville Chamberlain

Winston Churchill with Neville Chamberlain in February 1940. (Image: GETTY)

King George VI, much of the Cabinet and most Conservative MPs wanted Lord Halifax, then Foreign Minister, as his successor.

Chamberlain thought the opposite. Mr. McKinstry wrote: “But Chamberlain, despite his personal antipathy for Churchill, put the nation’s cause above his own feelings and partisan politics.

“After a series of meetings on May 10 and 11, he decided to tell the king that Churchill was the only choice he could have.”

Chamberlain’s last crucial act was his support for Churchill rejecting a peace deal with Germany.

With France on the verge of collapse at the end of May 1940, Halifax asked Cabinet to begin negotiating with the Axis Powers to reach some form of settlement.

Battle of Britain.

The Battle of Britain could have ended very differently without Chamberlain. (Image: GETTY)

Mr McKinstry said: “His request represented a return to the worst kind of appeasement, and Churchill acknowledged that such a move would shatter any hope of a British challenge.”

In the movie “Darkest Hour”, Chamberlain supports the ideas of Halifax, but Mr McKinstry said that was “completely wrong”.

He wrote: “During the lengthy Cabinet discussions Chamberlain came to reject his old stance on appeasement and instead sided with Churchill and Labor.

“In a meeting, he said that ‘an approach from Italy would be pointless’.

“In another, he described the diplomatic maneuver as a ‘big bet’.”

In the end, the Allies fought. In a few weeks, the evacuations of Dunkirk took place, triggering a revival of British morale.

Months later, the RAF inflicted the Third Reich’s first defeat since its invasion of Poland in the Battle of Britain.

Mr McKinstry said: “Chamberlain deserved a lot of credit for this victory, which ultimately turned the tide of the war.”

Chamberlain died of cancer just over a month after the Battle of Britain.

“Munich: The Edge of War” is in select theaters now and will be available on Netflix from January 21.


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