Saturday, 8 October 1938

This post is part of a series post-blogging the Sudeten crisis of August-October 1938. See here for an introduction to the series, and here for a conclusion. The entire series can be downloaded as an ebook.


As The Times reports today (p. 12), the Berlin Commission of Ambassadors which is implementing the Munich agreement has finished demarcating the major zones to be transferred to Germany, and has adjourned until Monday. But there's still much to do. For example, there's still the question of what to about Sudeten Germans outside the transfer zones. Originally their fate was to be decided by plebiscite, but it seems an exchange of populations is now preferred by the Commission. This might mean that the volunteers of the British Legion, who are to police the plebiscite areas, won't be going after all (Manchester Guardian, p. 17). The British Legion Volunteer Police are nearly ready to go, however, if called upon: they paraded in their uniforms ('blue serge suit with special constable's peaked cap') at Olympia yesterday and will do so again today (The Times, p. 9). The President of the Legion's North-Eastern Area, Brigadier-General E. P. A. Riddell, sent the following letter to the contingent from his section:

You are going to a foreign country as Great Britain's representatives of peace and order. On your personal conduct, tact, and understanding depends the success of your mission. The prestige of England and the British Legion is in your keeping. One false step on your part might have disastrous results for your country and your great organization. Watch your step. I wish I were physically fit to go with you. God bless you and guide you.

On the other hand, the National Council of Labour (representing the Labour Party, parliamentary and national executive, and the Trades Union Congress) is going to send observers to Prague:

[...] so that it may receive direct information of the consequences of the carrying out of the Munich Agreement and, in particular, learn the position of the minority of German democrats, Jews, and Czechs in the ceded territories.

This group is estimated to number about a million people; there are many refugees and reports, already, of concentration camps being set up the occupying Germans. The Council will need to secure Foreign Office approval first, but Attlee and Arthur Greenwood have been to see Halifax already so perhaps that's a formality.

Herbert Morrison, leader of the London County Council, has asked for 35000 ARP volunteers, men and women, in particular for fire and ambulance services (Daily Mail, p. 5). Men aged between 18 and 25 are not eligible. The Daily Mail understands (p. 11) that all major cities are to get balloon barrages (London's is going into operation today for the first time). And the Air Ministry has announced that officers and men of Auxiliary Air Force fighter and balloon squadrons, called up on 26 September, are to be released from service.

The head boys of Bembridge School on the Isle of Wight sent this letter to Chamberlain (The Times, p. 7):

To the Right Hon. Neville Chamberlain.

Dear Prime Minister, -- At the unanimous wish of the boys of the school we desire to express our gratitude for your supreme achievement in preventing war. Many of those on whose behalf we are addressing to you this letter would have been amongst the first victims of the threatened war, for, although we are not yet old enough to vote and have no influence on public policy, we should have been called upon almost immediately to sacrifice perhaps our lives. We are thus representative of many millions of the youth of the world.

We thank you for your courage, patience, and wisdom and for the further steps of justice and conciliation which you have outlined for the appeasement of Europe.

We are, dear Prime Minister, very respectfully and sincerely yours,
(Signed by head boys).

Late-breaking news on the flight of the Mercury: flares have been set up at Table Bay (near Capetown) to guide it in (Daily Mail, p. 11).

Well, that's the last of my post-blogs on the Sudeten crisis! In the next day or so, I'll put up one more post as some sort of summary.

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6 thoughts on “Saturday, 8 October 1938

  1. JDK

    Well, it's been a fascinating exercise, and thoroughly worthwhile as a lesson is good historiographic thinking. (I think!)

    I hope it seemed worth the effort, Brett; it was certainly worth the reading!

  2. Chris Williams

    Nice one - this is actually an exemplary use of blogging techniques for history, and come next summer, your archives will get a shed-load of traffic as I direct several hundred students towards the thread.

  3. Erik Lund

    You're not going all the way to September, 1939?
    And on a more serious note, thanks, Brett. This was a very interesting exercise.

  4. Graham Bell

    The British Legion Volunteer Police could still be deployed to maintain peace and good order during the population exchanges .... and to ensure that spiteful sabotage of evacuated property or of cemetaries and churches does not occur.

    It is imperative that those uprooted from each side of the new border - some with centuries of family residence in the one locality and who will be going through enough distress already - do not suffer the further distress of finding that their new homes have been vandalized by the former residents or by overzealous agitators.

    If good relations and normal, mutually-beneficial intercourse in the new border areas between the German Reich and Czechoslovakia are to be established then the population exchange must go ahead with the minimum of fuss .... and the fellows of the British Legion are the ones to do just that.

    It may be necessary to keep some British Legion Volunteer Police in the border areas for a couple of years after the population exchange has been completed .... perhaps even as late as the August Bank Holiday in 1941.

    We should all be happy that this crisis is resolving itself with resorting to arms .... though thankfully, despite Herr Hitler's theatrics and bluster and all the massed rallies of armed troops, Germany really would not be in a position to go to war again much before 1948.

    Italy or France, however, do have the very real potential to disturb world peace at the drop of a hat so they will both need to be watched very carefully. You never know what Signor Mussolini will get up to next.

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