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 step in Neville Chamberlain’s programme to appease Germany. Doubtless the Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden would have admitted that his own qualifications in venery – as an occasional gun – were far inferior to his Cabinet colleague’s even though he could fairly claim to know rather more about diplomacy. The Führer was happy to welcome Halifax even though he deplored hunting himself and merely indulged the passion of General Goering, who had been Reichsjagdmeister (Reich hunt master) since early in the regime.

There was every reason to worry about European tensions. Germany was issuing semi-official complaints about the behaviour of both Austria and Czechoslovakia, prompted by little more than generalised aggression. This was especially uncomfortable for Austria in the light of Germany’s newly reinforce friendship with Italy, the one power which had any specific interest in discouraging German ambitions north of the Brenner Pass. Switzerland was beginning to back away from even its half-hearted involvement in the League of Nations. A national initiative to restore absolute neutrality was being prepared, triggered by (entirely unjustified) fears that Article XVI of the League’s Covenant mandating military action against an aggressor. Chamberlain was especially contemptuous of Article XVI which he saw as a dangerous potential trigger of conflict.

The Japanese army continued its remorseless advance against weak Chinese forces following the fall of Shanghai. Landings on the bank of the Yangtze heralded a move on the next major city Soochow with a population of 1,000,000 or so. Japan enjoyed almost complete air superiority.


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