The excitement of the Scottish referendum is over and it is time to turn our attention to other and, possibly, more important matters: the coming issue of the Conservative History Journal. First things first: if, by some remote chance, you have not subscribed to this excellent publication, you still have time to do so by using this link. As to why you should do it? Well, here are a few answers:
Matthew Francis writing about the search for Constructive Conservatism, which will discuss the idea of "property owning democracy". I must admit that I am particularly looking forward to this as I am in the middle of a book about Noel Skelton, the onlie begetter of that concept. In fact, I may preempt the Journal and write a blog on the subject before that.
Articles by Nigel West on MI5 and the First World War (was it really called that at the time?) and Professor Simon Ball on Prime Ministers in the First World War (hmm, I wonder whose side he will take).
Dr Richard A. Gaunt, an expert on Robert Peel has an article entitled A Power Behind the Throne? Sir Robert Peel, Prince Albert and the Making of the Modern Monarchy and Dr John W. Hawkins on The Queen’s Member: The unregretted life of Colonel Robert Richardson-Gardner.
There is much more but those are enough to be going on with.
On September 17, 1939 the war that is known as the Second World War entered its crucial phase though, possibly, this was not recognized at the time. The Soviet Union, acting in accordance with the Pact that the two Foreign Minister, Molotov and Ribbentrop had signed, invaded eastern Poland, thus squeezing the Polish army and the population of that country between themselves and Nazi Germany.
One cannot really ignore Low's brilliant cartoon on the subject.
Here is a photograph that remains one of my favourites from that period and that region: the jolly meeting at a German military parade in Brest of two tank commanders, General Heinz Guderian and General Semyon Krivoshein who was, as it happens, Jewish. Astonishingly enough, General Krivoshein survived two purges: that of the armed forces in 1938 and that of prominent (and not so prominent) Jews in 1951. As the great Sovietologist, Robert Conquest, said to me when I asked him why he thought Krivoshein survived: "Someone had to".
Both generals were prominent in the Battle of Kursk. Friendships between tyrants have a short life.
I wrote more about that here.
So spoke the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon. Neville Chamberlain at 11.15 BST on September 3, 1939. After the announcement by Alvar Lidell that the Prime Minister would now address the nation, Mr Chamberlain said:
This morning the British Ambassador in Berlin handed the German Government a final Note stating that, unless we heard from them by 11 o'clock that they were prepared at once to WITHDRAW their troops from Poland, a state of war would exist between us.In the end, right did but it took a good many more decades than just the Second World War and the news from eastern Ukraine makes one feel that the battle is not over yet.
I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received, and that consequently this country is at war with Germany.
You can imagine what a bitter blow it is to me that all my long struggle to win peace has failed. Yet I cannot believe that there is anything more or anything different that I could have done and that would have been more successful.
Up to the very last it would have been quite possible to have arranged a peaceful and honourable settlement between Germany and Poland, but Hitler would not have it. He had evidently made up his mind to attack Poland whatever happened, and although He now says he put forward reasonable proposals which were rejected by the Poles, that is not a true statement. The proposals were never shown to the Poles, nor to us, and, although they were announced in a German broadcast on Thursday night, Hitler did not wait to hear comments on them, but ordered his troops to cross the Polish frontier. His action shows convincingly that there is no chance of expecting that this man will ever give up his practice of using force to gain his will. He can only be stopped by force.
We and France are today, in fulfilment of our obligations, going to the aid of Poland, who is so bravely resisting this wicked and unprovoked attack on her people. We have a clear conscience. We have done all that any country could do to establish peace. The situation in which no word given by Germany's ruler could be TRUSTED and no people or country could feel themselves safe has become intolerable. And now that we have resolved to finish it, I know that you will all play your part with calmness and courage.
At such a moment as this the assurances of support that we have received from the Empire are a source of profound encouragement to us.
The Government have made plans under which it will be possible to carry on the work of the nation in the days of stress and strain that may be ahead. But these plans need your help. You may be taking your part in the fighting services or as a volunteer in one of the branches of Civil Defence. If so you will report for duty in accordance with the instructions you have received. You may be engaged in work essential to the prosecution of war for the maintenance of the life of the people - in factories, in transport, in public utility concerns, or in the supply of other necessaries of life. If so, it is of vital importance that you should carry on with your jobs.
Now may God bless you all. May He defend the right. It is the evil things that we shall be fighting against - brute force, bad faith, injustice, oppression and persecution - and against them I am certain that the right will prevail.
On September 1, 1939 German troops crossed into Poland and the Second World War began. Britain and France, having guaranteed Poland's borders, would declare war on Germany in two days' time. The Soviet Union was, at that stage, Germany's ally and would, itself, invade Poland on September 17. Nobody guaranteed the country's eastern borders.
This is a well known picture: German soldiers move Polish border fences to open the road to tanks, armoured vehicles and for the troops to march in.
Below is a more optimistic picture: Poland for years under German and Soviet occupation became independent again in 1989. Today they were commemorating the German invasion and the tragedies that followed for many years.