Cabinet Terrified That France Will Drag Britain Into War

Wednesday 11th March 1936

Anthony Eden, the Foreign Secretary, and Lord Halifax had hoped to fly back from the talks in Paris but bad weather forced them to use train and boat so it was only at 6pm that the Cabinet could meet to hear their report and discuss it. They had received a nasty shock in Paris when it became clear that France did not intend to fall in with the British idea of "condemning the German action and then developing a constructive policy to re-establish the European situation" in other words doing nothing and hoping things would get back to normal. At least to the British the French expressed the view that it would be better to get Germany out of the Rhineland then rather than in two years time.

If the French stood firm, the League ordered a German withdrawal and then Germany refused, the Cabinet was petrified of being dragged into war.  All three service ministers had reported that Britain was at a military disadvantage and public opinion was opposed to military action against Germany in the Rhineland. Baldwin "thought at some stage it would be necessary to point out to the French that the action they proposed would not only result in letting loose another great war in Europe" but lead to Germany "going Bolshevik." The Cabinet fell in with Eden's proposal to tell the Germans privately that very evening that if they showed their good faith by withdrawing from the Rhineland, they would get a fair hearing for their proposals. The kindest explanation for this is that the Cabinet had a genuine if deluded confidence in Britain's reputation as an honest broker.


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