The hazard of aircraft development gives RAF fighters a mercifully large slice of the budget.




At least in terms of finance Britain was getting the bit between its teeth in the struggle to rearm again Nazi Germany. Military spending for 1938/1939 was to increase by 23% to £343m. The prime beneficiary was the RAF where spending was to rise 25%. This was six times as much as had been spent annually before the expansion began. The pattern of new aircraft development meant spending was weighted towards fighter aircraft rather than the bombers adored by the Air Marshals. Development of the Hurricane and Spitfire monoplane fighters was well advanced and they could be ordered in quantity whilst the far more complex four engine bombers that the air staff imagined would win the war lagged years behind. Wisely the air staff preferred to spend money on a smaller number of modern planes rather than larger numbers of obsolescent one. But for this, Fighter Command would have been in much weaker condition in the Battle of Britain.

The replacement of Sir Anthony Eden as Foreign Secretary by Lord Halifax attracted some unfavourable comment, in part because a member of the House of Lords was to hold a great office of state. RAB Butler his under-secretary in the Commons was then a relatively low profile figure. Halifax’s appointment was publicly welcomed by the Nazi regime. Halifax could be counted on to implement Neville Chamberlain’s conciliatory foreign policy and not to risk upsetting  Hitler. The previous autumn he had gone to Berlin and Berchtesgaden as Chamberlain’s unofficial representative.

The latest round of the show trials in Moscow by which Stalin was butchering leaders from earlier phases of the Soviet Union was shaken by the refusal of Nikolai Krestinsky to plead guilty unlike his fellow accused who docilely admitted to Menshevism, contact with the Trotsky family, British or German agents. Krestinsky went on to claim that all his previous statement had been a perversion of the truth. Calm was restored the following day when he retracted these statements, presumably after the NKVD had reasoned with him in its usual fashion overnight.

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