Showing posts from November, 2017

Another prominent Briton visits Hitler at Berchtesgaden

The British government’s attempt to present Lord Halifax’s visit to Germany as an “unofficial” exercise began to look exceedingly threadbare when Halifax travelled on from Berlin to see the Führer at his mountain retreat at Berchtesgaden. Ostensibly Halifax had gone to Berlin to attend the International Hunting Exhibition but travelling the extra 700km or so to Bavaria made plain his journey’s true purpose. Halifax long afterwards claimed to have mistaken Hitler for a footman when he first saw him but there is no sign that he treated him with anything less than the deference due to a head of state at the time. The talks did not produce any immediately practical results, but Halifax did refer to the possibility of boundary changes in eastern Europe, a tacit signal to Hitler that Britain had no objection in principle to revision of the Versailles settlement. Official statements that Maxim Litvinov the Soviet Foreign Minister was a “great and worthy” champion of the regime da

Hunting for appeasement

The International Hunting Exhibition opened in Berlin with great fanfare and high hopes. In those days hunting was unquestioningly seen as a bond between men of all of all countries, a mark of masculine endeavour.  Captain Brocklehurst’s 27,000 mile return journey to Central China to bag a rare Giant Panda with a single shot was considered a great achievement. (The stuffed body can still be seen in Macclesfield Museum). Brocklehurst was praised as a representative of the spirit that sent the British Empire participants to Berlin with no interest in winning any of the prizes; the trophies themselves were sufficient. This year, though,  the Exhibition had a visitor from Britain  with a more practical mission to improve amity amongst men. Lord Halifax, the Lord President of the Council, was attending in his capacity as a Master of Foxhounds, but with the task of meeting the Führer to open a constructive dialogue to address the question of European tensions. It was the first serious st

Duke of Windsor's relaunch as friend of the industrial worker collapses under weight of its own absurdity

The former British Prime Minister Ramsay Macdonald died at sea one month into a three month holiday to South America. He was only 71 but he had already been showing signs of premature senility for over a year. He had stepped down from political office in May at the same time as Stanley Baldwin had stepped down as Prime Minister. Macdonald’s death closed finally two chapters in British political history. He had led the Labour Party into power twice, including its first ever government. He had, though, broken with most of the Party in 1931 to form a National Government to apply what we would now call austerity policies to tackle the Great Slump. It remains an open question as to whether more reflationary policies would have been any more successful. Neville Chamberlain’s government was still “National” in name but in practice it was Conservative. The Duke of Windsor’s attempt to relaunch himself as a public figure collapsed in abject failure when he cancelled plans for a tour

Sling along with max

Even the Royal Navy began to move with the times and to adjust the accommodation it offered to sailors to their requirements. Following the 1936 Review of Service Conditions it made extra long hammocks available for extra tall seaman. Admittedly these were only stocked at the home dockyards and yards abroad had to request them specially. As before it fell to the goodwill of sail-makers to provide hammocks for very small ratings with permanent duties in food preservation and pest control. With remarkably little fuss the Postmaster General announced an innovation that lasts to this day. The BBC was to begin making news broadcasts in foreign languages. He emphasised that this was to be unvarnished news and not propaganda. Indeed the World Service as it was to become soon established itself as a benchmark for reliability in a world increasingly dominated broadcasting so dishonest as to verge on fiction. The congress of the French Radical Party marked the final breach with t