These headlines from the Manchester Guardian (p. 9) could be summarised: Yeah, but no, but yeah … The Sudeten leadership agreed to accept the Czech autonomy proposals (as revealed yesterday) as the basis for negotiations. Which sounds very promising! But at that point, news was received of an incident at Mährisch-Ostrau, where two Sudeten deputies (i.e. MPs in the Czech parliament) were insulted by a Czech mounted policeman during an attempt to break up a demonstration regarding Sudetens who had been arrested for possession of illegal firearms. One of the deputies claimed to have been kicked and struck by a horsewhip. The Czechs claim this was an accident, as the policeman attempted to restrain his horse. Whatever the real truth, the Sudeten leaders used this incident as a reason to break off the negotiations before they had even begun, as their communique explains:
The incident at Mährisch-Ostrau demonstrates that the Government does not control the situation sufficiently to begin the discussions in detail in the present circumstances with any success or with a possibility of bringing them to a peaceful conclusion.
Perhaps I’m cynical, but this seems like an attempt by the Sudetens to have their cake and eat it too. Even The Times, in its leading article today, calls this move ‘childish’ and a ‘pretext’ (p. 13).
Speaking of leading articles in The Times, there are some first reactions in its letter columns (p. 13) to its proposal yesterday for the German annexation of the Sudetenland. The first is from Vyvyan Adams, a Conservative MP. 1 Adams strongly disagrees with this idea, partly because of the likely discrimination by the Nazis against the Czech minorities in the newly annexed areas (there’s just no easy way around the minorities problem) but also for strategic reasons:
The fortresses in the Sudetenland are a vital element, perhaps the most vital, in the defence of Czechoslovakia. Our ally France cannot be indifferent to the strategic considerations; no more can we. It is Nazi Germany which, more than any other single factor, has compelled us to rearm. A strong Czechoslovakia should be regarded as part of our own Air Raid Precautions.
Now, I don’t quite get the ARP reference here. Obviously he’s not being literal, but is saying that a strong Czechoslovakia helps Britain strategically. But why ARP? Is he saying that Czechoslovakia would absorb a knock-out blow instead of Britain? Or that Czechoslovakia’s existence makes war (and hence air raids on Britain) less likely?
The other letter is from Douglas Steuart. I don’t know who he was, but he wrote from the Junior Carlton Club, which means he was almost certainly a Tory as well. He’s wholly in favour of the annexation proposal:
Not only have you pointed out the unnatural and surely intolerable injustice of the Sudeten Germans being placed in a position obliging them, in the event of war, to fight on the side of Frenchmen and Russians against their racial co-nationals [sic], but you have specified clearly and concisely the only feasible proposal the adoption of which would effectively remove such a contingency and operate to the lasting advantages of all the parties concerned.
I’m sure he won’t be the last supporter, either.
A couple of other notes.
The Manchester Guardian reports (p. 9) that German aircraft have been penetrating Czech airspace, flying over Krumau in an effort to find out troop numbers in the area.
And today, the Daily Mail begins (p. 4) its serialisation of P. G. Wodehouse’s The Code of the Woosters …
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- What do you call somebody who likes the way words look? I love the alternating vs and ys in Vyvyan; I think he should have pulled an e. e. cummings and called himself vyvyan adams, that would have been more pleasing to the eye.