The hopes which were raised yesterday by the announcement of a four-power conference at Munich appear to have been justified (Manchester Guardian, p. 11). An agreement has been reached between Britain, Germany, France and Italy that the Sudetenland will be transferred in stages to Germany between tomorrow and 10 October. The installations in these areas are to remain intact. An international commission will decide if any other areas should hold plebisicites to decide whether they should also be transferred to Germany, to be held by the end of November. France and Britain guarantee the new Czech borders; Germany and Italy will do so once the Polish and Hungarian claims on Czech territory have been resolved. War has been averted!
Maybe. The Manchester Guardian's diplomatic correspondent thinks (p. 11) that the agreement is only provisional, and whereas Germany was about to take all of Czechoslovakia, 'it will now take her the whole winter and perhaps the spring to get all she wants'. Moreover, 'many hold that a "next time" is now inevitable'. The leading article in The Times (p. 13), while generally positive, further notes that Czechoslovakia has not yet given its consent. And the outcome is hardly a discouraging precedent for the use of force in international affairs, since the threat of it has been present all along. Still, crowds at public gatherings across London cheered and clapped (Manchester Guardian, p. 11) and it's not hard to understand why. What is hard to understand, at least for the leader-writer for the Daily Mail (p. 10), is how anyone could be less than pleased with the Munich agreement:
The Council of Munich has aroused angry protests from that professedly peace-loving body, the League of Nations Union. They cry shrilly of "menace" and "betrayal" in a resolution filled with malice against the Four-Power meeting. Cannot these fire-eaters give the statesmen a chance? Or are they determined on war at any price?
W. W. Paine, in a letter to The Times (p. 8) similarly asks the Labour Party to realise what their desire for resistance would mean:
It means that they are condemning millions of their fellow-men, women and children to death and mutiliation, and are also condemning their survivors, whatever the result of the war may be, to a condition of poverty, which it must destroy our power to alleviate by any Social Services for 50 years to come.
So the next war will put off the welfare state for another half a century.
Irrespective of Munich, ARP preparations are proceeding apace. More schoolchildren have been evacuated from the great cities. The Daily Mail reports (p. 5) from a holiday camp at St Mary's Bay in Kent. 2200 'semi-invalids' from London's special schools are here, and it's basically a holiday for the poor tykes, 'who will go home bronzed and far fitter than when they arrived'. All the children report having a grand time:
Ruby Strong, a 12-years-old laughing imp of mischief, comes from Gibraltar-road, Bethnal Green. Her father is a motor-driver. "It is thrilling to come here by the sea," she said.
However, children in regular schools are not being evacuated, for the moment. The Manchester Guardian, in a leading article (p. 10), approves of the attention to detail in what has been done so far and in plans released by the Home Office for a future emergency (p. 11), from government payments to billeters right down to a franked postcard to send home. The scheme would be voluntary, one for schoolchildren and another for civilians generally, a million people in total:
The day, we may hope, will never come when large numbers of our city dwellers will set out on appointed trains to destinations unknown, "somewhere in the country," but it would be folly as things are not to provide for the exodus.
Completely unofficially, people have been leaving London on their own accord for 'parts of the country regarded as less liable to air attack' (The Times, p. 6). The Munich conference hasn't lessened the flow appreciably. The stations are crowded: particularly for Scotland and the West Country. Trains for the latter were doubled but were still full.
"Carry on," is the day's order for A.R.P.
The digging of safety trenches, the distribution of gas masks, the creation of bomb-proof shelters, and everything that prepares civilians for modern war, is to continue at emergency pressure.
So says the Daily Mail (p. 7), which also provides instructions for the proper care and handling of gas masks (which remain the property of the government). The Manchester Guardian (p. 13), however, reports that gangs of children are donning their gas masks and having mock battles in air raid trenches! Alderman J. A. Dale of Bradford declares himself 'disgusted'!
Here's a map of the territories which are going to Germany (shaded) and those which will have their fate decided by plebiscite (cross-hatched). The dashed line is the Czech Maginot Line, which is in fact of similar design to the French system of fortifications. The British Legion of ex-servicemen has formed a 'peace force' of 50,000 unarmed men to maintain order in the Sudeten districts during the hand-over (Daily Mail, p. 11). This 'bowler-hatted force of ordinary men' could begin for the Sudetenland at any moment, as soon as they are asked.