Lord Halifax

‘The world is a strangely mixed grill of good and evil’

‘…decadent, spineless and could, with little impunity, be kicked about…’

‘the tired son of a long line of rich men…not made of the same stuff as Francis Drake…’ (Mussolini)

‘an earnest and honest fellow who, brought up with a silver spoon in his mouth, has never had to face up to the realities of the world’ (Lord Beaverbrook)

‘idle and pernickety’ (Secretary)



Youth 4

Early Adulthood 4

MP for Ripon 4

War service 5

Post war Pre-India 5

Political Rise 5

Cabinet Office 5

Viceroy of India 6

Gandhi’s Salt March 6

The Delhi Pact 7

1931-38 7

Chancellor of Oxford University 8

Viscount Halifax 8

Lord President of the Council 8

Appeasement begins 9

What was Appeasement 9

Chamberlain’s starting position 9

Opposition to Appeasement 10

Military Aspects of Appeasement 10

Economic Aspects of Appeasement and Rearmament 11

Halifax’s relationship with Chamberlain 11

Visit to Germany 1937 11

In Berlin 12

Berchtesgaden 12

Effects of Halifax Visit 13

Germanophilia 14

Foreign secretary, February 1938 14

Departure of Eden 14

Appointment of Halifax 14

Halifax and Appeasement 15

Austria 15

Czechoslovakia 16

Halifax to succeed Chamberlain? 17

Munich 17

Post Munich 18

Visit to Italy 18

Winter 1938-9 18

Czechoslovakia Annexed, March 1939 19

The Polish Guarantee 20

Summer of 1939 20

A Russian Alliance? 21

An Anglo German Rapprochement 21

A Nazi-soviet Pact 21

The Last Days 22

In World War II 22

Phoney War 22

Passed over as Prime Minister 23

Military developments to December 1940 23

May-December 1940 23

Ambassador to the United States 1941-46 24

Later Life 24

Halifax and History 24

Appendix 1: Halifax & Bryans 24

Bibliography 27

Additional Sources 27


Edward Frederick Lindley Wood, (1,2) KG, (4,10) OM, GCSI, GCMG, GCIE, TD, PC (4) was born on April 16th, 1881, (1,4) at Powderham Castle, Devon, England, (1,7) the home of his maternal grandfather, the eleventh earl of Devon. (10) He was the sixth child (10,25) and the fourth son of (7,8) Charles (25) 2nd Viscount Halifax, (7,8) a well-known churchman and a leader of the Anglo-Catholic (7,25) movement in Yorkshire. (7) All children of the family suffered health issues: (8) all three older brothers died before their time, and (8,25) Edward was born with an atrophied left arm (7,10) that had no hand. (7,8)

Early AdulthoodHalifaxCoA

He was educated in England (7,8) at St David’s preparatory school in Reigate, (10) Eton College and Christ Church, Oxford. (7,8) He attracted the malice of men like Beaverbrook because ‘all of life’s good things seem to come to him effortlessly’, but this was not quite so. (25) Although his intellectual career at Oxford had not appeared distinguished (25) he took a first-class degree in modern history, (10) and was elected (7,10) to a prize fellowship (25) at All Souls College, Oxford, in 1903. (7,10) a position he held until 1910. (10) Halifax was a grand figure of the British aristocracy, (3,24) church-going and fox-hunting (3,9) towering in both stature (9,24) and snobbery. (3,24) In 1904 he undertook a tour of South Africa, India, Australia, and New Zealand with his Oxford friend Ludovic Heathcoat Amory. (10) In September 1909 he was married to Lady Dorothy Evelyn Augusta Onslow, daughter of the fourth earl of Onslow. (10)

MP for RiponHalifaxEton

He seemed to graduate into politics is a spirit of noblesse oblige. (25) He became an MP (2,7) in the general election of January (10) 1910 (2,7) entering Parliament as (7,8) Conservative (7) member for Ripon, Yorkshire. (7,8) He held the seat until 1925. (10)

Halifax was long and thin: the loftiness of the face as a whole could not cause one quite to forget an ever present questioning look in the eyes and beneath along upper lip the line of the mouth itself as expressive less of wit or irony control and philosophical melancholy in 8 and instinctive rather than acquired. Yet his was by no means the neglected body of a dreamer: his back and legs grew magnificently straight and he looked his best astride a horse. His clothes were on the whole well cared for (it is tempting to say well preserved: his black office coat in war time had a greenish tint in sunlight and even when his clothes were new they were slightly dated). As for some reason befits an Englishman who was fond of horses, although his suits were sober, he was not above brightening them discreetly with the spotted handkerchief are falling from the pocket. (25)

War service

Beneath the languid exterior there was Yorkshire granite. (25) During World War I he served (2,8) for a time (2) with the Queen’s Own (10) Yorkshire Dragoons (2,8) in France (7) with the rank of major. (8) His duties were in the rear (8) [[OR]] he insisted on serving at the front despite (25) his withered left arm. (7,10) He was mentioned in dispatches in January 1917. (10) He was Deputy Director of the Labour Supply Department in the [[OR]] assistant secretary to the (7) Ministry of National Service (7,10) November (10) 1917 to 1918. (7,10)

Post war Pre-India

He was 1st Earl of Halifax, (1,2) in the 2nd creation. (2) From the start he exemplified liberal conservatism. (25) ‘The Great Opportunity’, which he wrote with a fellow unionist MP George Lloyd at the end of the war became a Bible to many of the young men of the immediate post war era. (25) To his admirers he was the highest kind of Englishman then in politics, one whose life and doctrine were in complete harmony with ‘a very lofty moral principle but who had no harsh judgment for men who erred and went astray’. (25) He was ‘tall, aristocratic and pragmatic’: ‘We go badly wrong if we allow our judgment of practical steps to be taken, to be perpetually deflected by our moral reactions against wrong that we can in no circumstances immediately redress.’ (25) His air of aristocratic reserve was accompanied by a (9) shrewd political judgement. (3,9) Churchill (3) [[OR]] Lord Beaverbrook (25) nicknamed Halifax ‘Holy Fox’ (3,9) in respect of his political guile (3) [[OR]] from his passion for hunting and his Christian moral outlook. (9) [[OR]] (re Beaverbrook) because in the art of talking to fanatics, few were more skilled than he. (25) To his admirers he was the highest kind of Englishman now in politics one whose life and doctrine were in complete harmony with a very lofty moral principle but who has no harsh judgment for men who err and go astray. (25) From the start he was the exemplar of liberal conservatism: ‘The Great Opportunity’, the book which he wrote with a fellow unionist MP George Lloyd at the end of the war became a Bible to many of the young men of the immediate post war era. (25) But it was not until April 1921 that Wood received promotion as undersecretary of state for the colonies. (25) His minister, Churchill, responded by refusing to see him. (25) It was a mark of Woods qualities that he marched into Churchill’s office and told him that he had no more wish to be his undersecretary than Churchill had desired disappointment but that since he was there he claimed the right to be treated like a gentleman. (25)

Political Rise

After the war and up to 1940 he had a most successful career in politics. (7,25) It seemed a prime example of ‘how much more paying it is to be blameless than to be brilliant’. (25) [[OR]] In May 1920, he was appointed Governor-General of South Africa, although the offer of the position was subsequently withdrawn, (10) and though he held a range of political posts, (2,4) it was not until April 1921 that he received promotion (7,25) as Secretary (7) [[OR]] Undersecretary of state (25) for the colonies, (7,25) a post he held until 1922. (7) His minister, Winston Churchill, responded by refusing to see him. (25) Halifax marched into Churchill’s office and told him that he had no more wish to be his undersecretary than Churchill had desired his appointment, but that since he was there he claimed the right to be treated like a gentleman. (25) After that the two men co-operated well. (25)

Cabinet Office

Like Chamberlain and Baldwin, Wood’s political career prospered dramatically after the downfall of the Lloyd George coalition in 1922. (25) He shared with them are legacy of mistrust of the Welsh wizard who he was inclined to regard as a good argument for the doctrine of purgatory: ‘He is not fit for the society of the elect but not quite bad enough to burn permanently! (25) He joined the Cabinet as (10) President of the Board of Education (1922–24) (7,8) under Andrew Bonar Law. (8) He was Minister of Agriculture from 1924 to 1925 (7) [[OR]] 1926 (8) under Stanley Baldwin. (8) He was firmly at home with Baldwin’s ‘honest-to-the-point-of-simplicity’ conservatism. (25) After the short-lived Labour Government of 1924 (10) he was appointed Minister of Agriculture from November 1924. (7,10)

Viceroy of India

In 1925 (4,7) he was appointed (7,8) viceroy (2,4) and Governor-General (10) of India. (2,4) He was chosen by his leader (25) [[OR]] The appointment was personally made by King George V, no doubt with his family’s history in mind (his grandfather had been Secretary of State for India). (8) Giving up his seat in the House of Commons he (10) was created Baron Irwin (1,2) of Kirby Underdale (10) for the occasion (1,2) in 1925, (1,2) a style he used until 1934. (4) In March 1926 Wood departed for India. (10) He occupied the post between 1st April (8) 1926 and 1931 (2,8) [[OR]] 1929. (7) He was an authoritative figure. (8) He was faced with an Indian independence movement (8) in a period of intense nationalist ferment among Hindus and Muslims alike. (7) After his early release from prison for political crimes in 1924, over the second half of the 1920s, Gandhi had continued to pursue swaraj. (23) He pushed through a resolution at the Calcutta Congress in December 1928 calling on the British government to grant India dominion status or face a new campaign of non-co-operation with complete independence for the country as its goal. (23) While many Hindu leaders championed a demand for immediate independence, Gandhi revised his own call to a one-year wait, instead of two. (23) Irwin/Halifax did not respond favourably to Gandhi’s proposal. (23) British political leaders such as Lord Birkenhead and Winston Churchill announced opposition to ‘the appeasers of Gandhi’, in their discussions with European diplomats who sympathised with Indian demands. (23 Gandhi then launched a new Satyagraha against the tax on salt in March 1930. (23) Irwin (Halifax) was originally chosen (8) as a religious man (3,8) to deal eye-to-eye with Mahatma Gandhi. (8) Like his father, he was a devout High Churchman, (7) and Beaverbrook thought that in the art of talking to fanatics, few were more skilled than he. (25) This enabled him to work on terms of understanding with Mahatma Gandhi, (7,25) as Mystic to Mystic. (25) He possessed a rational outlook, calm resolution and a conciliatory manner (9) and proved to be an enlightened and liberal ruler. (25) [[OR]] for the first 19 months of his time in India (1926-7) he annoyed the Indians by ignoring Gandhi, and generally excluding Indians from most portions of government. (8) On 31st December 1929, the flag of India was unfurled in Lahore. (23) He was forced to make concessions, which was viewed as too excessive by the British leaders and not serious enough by the Indian leaders. (8) [[OR]] ‘Chamberlain favoured granting the sub-continent a greater measure of self government’. (25) A conference in December 1929 between Irwin (Halifax) and political leaders in India failed to produce agreement and Gandhi started his campaign of civil disobedience. (10) The Gandhi-led Congress celebrated 26th January 1930 as India’s Independence Day in Lahore. (23) This day was commemorated by almost every other Indian organisation. (23) Gandhi captured the imagination of the people of his heritage with his ideas about winning ‘hate with love’. (23) Gandhi sent an ultimatum in the form of a polite letter to Irwin/Halifax, on 2nd March, 1930. (23) He condemned British rule in the letter, describing it as ‘a curse’ that ‘has impoverished the dumb millions by a system of progressive exploitation and by a ruinously expensive military and civil administration … It has reduced us politically to serfdom.’ (23) Gandhi also mentioned in the letter that Irwin/Halifax received a salary ‘over five thousand times India’s average income.’ (23)

Gandhi’s Salt March

Gandhi captured the imagination of the people of his heritage with his ideas about winning ‘hate with love’. (23) British violence, Gandhi promised, was going to be defeated by Indian non-violence. (23) He proposed to march to Dandi from 12 March to 6 April, where, together with 78 volunteers, he marched 388 kilometres (241 mi) from Ahmedabad to Dandi, Gujarat to make salt himself, thereby breaking the salt laws. (23) The march took 25 days to cover 240 miles with Gandhi speaking to often huge crowds along the way. (23) Thousands of Indians joined him in Dandi. (23) Without effective support from London, Irwin (Halifax) had little choice but to declare emergency powers, (8) and on 5th May (23) placed Gandhi (8,10) and other Indian leaders, (8,23) (including one of Gandhi’s lieutenants, Jawaharlal Nehru, in all over 60,000 people, although Congress estimates put the figure at 90,000 (23)) under arrest, (8,10) under a regulation dating from 1827 in anticipation of a protest that he had planned. (23) The planned protest at Dharasana salt works on 21st May went ahead without Gandhi. (23) A horrified American journalist, Webb Miller, described the British response thus:

In complete silence Gandhi’s men drew up and halted a hundred yards from the stockade. A picked column advanced from the crowd, waded the ditches and approached the barbed wire stockade… at a word of command, scores of native policemen rushed upon the advancing marchers and rained blows on their heads with their steel-shot lathis [[long bamboo sticks]]. Not one of the marchers even raised an arm to fend off blows. They went down like ninepins. From where I stood I heard the sickening whack of the clubs on unprotected skulls… Those struck down fell sprawling, unconscious or writhing with fractured skulls or broken shoulders. This went on for hours until some 300 or more protesters had been beaten, many seriously injured and two killed. At no time did they offer any resistance.

This is not, as book 8 has it, ‘the independence movement turning violent.’ (8) Indian women joined the Salt March by the thousands to defy the British salt taxes and monopoly on salt mining. (23) After Gandhi’s arrest, the women marched and picketed shops on their own, accepting violence and verbal abuse from British authorities for the cause in a manner Gandhi inspired. (23) Gandhi criticised Western civilisation as one driven by ‘brute force and immorality’, contrasting it with his categorisation of Indian civilisation as one driven by ‘soul force and morality’. (23) This campaign was one of his most successful at upsetting British hold on India. (23)

The Delhi Pact

Irwin’s co-operation with the Labour government between 1929 and 1931, in particular his declaration in October 1930 that the eventual object of British ruled in India was ‘Dominion status’ for India bought him bitter hostility on the right wing of the conservative party. (25) Halifax recognised that the demands of the Indian politicians were not wholly reconcilable with the responsibilities of empire. (25) He tried to follow a middle path between repression and concession. (25) On Gandhi’s release in January 1931 Irwin/Halifax, agreed to negotiate with him, (10,23) but ‘It is difficult to go far enough without going too far’, and in dealing with that ‘half naked fakir’ Halifax incurred Churchill’s wrath. (25) The two scheduled eight meetings which (10) culminated in the ‘Delhi (8,10) [[[[OR]] Gandhi–Irwin (23) Pact’ (8,10) with Gandhi (3,23) in March (3,23) [[OR]] January (8) 1931. (8,10) The British Government agreed to free all political prisoners, in return for the suspension of the civil disobedience movement. (23) On 20th March 1931, Halifax publicly praised Gandhi’s dedication and patriotism, (8) and he was invited to attend the Round Table Conference (8,23) as the sole representative of the Indian National Congress. (23) This ended civil disobedience, (3,10) and so eased tensions (3,8) before it could force the British to quit. (3) The conference was a disappointment to Gandhi and the nationalists. (23) Gandhi expected to discuss India’s independence, while the British side focused on the Indian princes and Indian minorities rather than on a transfer of power. (23) [[OR]] Irwin/Halifax accelerated the processes of constitutional advance by using his great influence to that end both during his viceroyalty and after. (7) In April (8) [[OR]] May (10) 1931, (8.10) at the end of his five-year appointment, (10) he returned to England. (8,10) If something as prosaic as Baldwinian Conservatives could have a ‘beau sabreur’ then Halifax (as he became in 1934) was it. (25) On his return from India, (7) he was made a knight of the Garter. (10)


He was now a senior (1,4) British Conservative politician. (1,2) Upon his return from India Baldwin pressed him to take the office of foreign secretary, an offer which he declined. (25) In 1932 he agreed to take on his old post as President of the Board of Education, (7,25) a position he held until 35. (7)

Chancellor of Oxford University

In 1933 (8,10) he succeeded Viscount Grey as (10) Chancellor of Oxford University. (8,10)

Viscount Halifax

On the death of his father in January (10) 1934 (7,8) he succeeded to his father’s title as Viscount Halifax. (7,8) In June (10) 1935 Halifax was appointed to the War Office, (8,10) before moving in November (10,25) 1935 (8,10) to became Lord Privy Seal (7,8) in Baldwin’s administration (25) (1935–37) (7,8) and Leader of the House of Lords. (7,10) As Lord Privy seal he took a special interest in foreign policy though it would scarcely have occurred to him in or out of office to claim any special aptitude for foreign affairs. (25) He Halifax acted as foreign spokesman in the Lords from 1935. (9) During of 1936 he was increasingly active in British foreign policy, (25) acting (9,25) almost as (25) [[OR]] as (9) Eden’s deputy. (9,25) During the crisis resulting from the Hoare-Laval Pact (9,25) (which gave Italy territorial concessions at the expense of Abyssinia), (9) it was Halifax who insisted on Hoare’s resignation at the time of the Abyssinia crisis, (9,25) despite the fact that he could, himself, see much to recommend in the Hoare-Laval Pact. (25) In the diplomatic activity which followed the Nazi reoccupation of the Rhineland in 1936, it had been Halifax who had declared in March that ‘We want no encirclement of Germany; we want no exclusive alliances: we want to build a partnership in European Society in which Germany can freely join with us and play the part of a good European for European peace. (25)

Lord President of the Council

With Baldwin’s retirement (25) in May 1937 (10,Wikipedia) Halifax lost his closest political friend and patron, but Chamberlain, who respected and admired him, (25) made him Lord President of the Council, (10,25) which allowed him to continue in his role as Eden’s alter ego (25) and to continue leading the Lords. (10) The office of Lord President of the Council was one of the great officers of state, and a member of the ministry, responsible for the formal direction of the Privy Council. (10) By this stage his career Halifax was the quintessential conservative grandee; Yorkshire Squire, Colonel of Yeomanry and conservative worthy, Halifax was a man of upon whom political office sat loosely. (25) The duties of the office consisted of presiding on the not very frequent occasions when the Privy Council met. (10) The office was of considerable importance when the powers of the Privy Council, exercised through various committees, were of greater extent than at the present time. (10) The office was very frequently held in conjunction with other ministerial offices, for example, in Gladstone’s fourth ministry the secretary of state for India was also lord president of the council. (10) He is invariably a member of the House of Lords, and he is also included in the cabinet. (10) For example, a committee of the lords of the council was formerly responsible for the work now dealt with by the secretary of state for foreign affairs. (10)

Appeasement begins

What was Appeasement

It had been beyond the power of man to satisfy all the victors at Versailles. (25) The French, ever conscious of the narrowness of the margin of victory, as well as of its cost, had sought a peace of Carthaginian proportions that would render the enemy impotent. (25) The British, with their war aims already largely met, had been less inclined to harshness; the Italians over valued their services and over-priced their reward accordingly; while the American president Woodrow Wilson, brought both Olympian detachment and liberal prejudice to design the procrustean bed upon which to reshape the frontiers of Europe: ‘open covenants of peace openly arrived at’ and the triumph of the principle of nationalism were to be the basis of the new system. (25) E.H. Carr, the historian, said that ‘international relations were about power, not morality. As the balance of power in the world shifted, the only question was whether adjustments should be violent or peaceful.’ (26) Until the early 1930s they remained peaceful, as the strategic problems remained latent. (26) Then, following the Japanese invasion of Manchuria and Adolf Hitler’s accession to power in Germany, the British began to face an insoluble problem. (26) They were trying to protect an empire which covered 1/4 of the globe against the shifting balances of the world power structure. (26) At the same time they accounted for less than 10% of the world’s industrial output and were gravely weakened by debt and the economic depression. (26) Potentially they faced two strong enemies, Germany and Japan, in different parts of the world without the resources to meet more than one adequately. (26) The United States with isolationist and France still weak. (26) The British considered trying to make a deal with Japan, but decided that the likely price (Japanese predominance in China) would only alienate the Americans and this they could not afford. (26) In the circumstances they could do little than to begin rearmament (directly primarily against Germany), try to postpone any conflict for as long as possible and hope to find it informatics solution. (26) Under these circumstances Halifax and Chamberlain supported appeasement. (5,8) It was the only policy which offered any hope of avoiding war and of saving both lives and the British Empire. (25)

Chamberlain’s starting position

Chamberlain planned to take a grip on foreign affairs, which Baldwin had failed to do. (25) He shared with his colleagues the view that the Treaty of Versailles was not sacrosanct. (24,25) The world had allowed Mustafa Kemal to change the Treaty of Sèvres by the force of arms and it was not to be expected that Germany would hold back from doing the same. (25) He didn’t see why we shouldn’t say to Germany ‘give us satisfactory ensure assurances that you won’t use force to deal with the Austrians and Czechs, and we will give you similar assurances that we won’t use force to prevent the changes you want if you can get them by peaceful means.’ (25) The obstacles didn’t seem insuperable to Chamberlain ‘provided the press and the House will abstain from badgering us to reveal exactly how far we’ve got or what we are proposing to do next’. ‘We must seek to gain time by riding the dictators on the snaffle.’ If we bring them up short we might get away with it, but it would be a great and unjustified risk.’ (25) This was a view held consistently almost since the treaty was signed by politicians of all colours, including Churchill. (24) Unlike Vansittart (10,25) Chamberlain saw that some modification in the Versailles settlement was essential if Germany was to become a satisfied power. (25) As was perhaps natural for a son of Joseph Chamberlain (25) he was well aware of German colonial ambitions and was willing to see them partially satisfied; (24,25) he grasped at Africa as the key settlement of Germany’s colonial claims, and this was pushed to the forefront in the search for detente. (24) The colonial question became a test of German goodwill and the possibility of general settlement. (24) There was no question of handing back the mandated territories as a whole; Conservative imperialists were implacably opposed such a course. (24) He had therefore had no objections to the German re-occupation of the Rhineland, which demonstrated (8) Chamberlain was determined to relieve this situation through agreements with Berlin and Rome. (10) In the early months of 1936, quite probably before the Rhineland crisis, Chamberlain introduced a comprehensive peace plan which called for an appeasement of the de facto ‘Axis’ Coalition with a premium on the preservation of peace. (10) The guilty men syndrome has run its course and Chamberlain’s reputation stands better now than it has ever done. (25)

Opposition to Appeasement

It was opposed by Sir Robert Vansittart and Eden at the Foreign Office from the beginning, (10) Halifax recognised the necessity of Britain going as far as possible to secure a general all round settlement. (25) Eden’s secretary said that Halifax was ‘idle and pernickety’. (25) He was also mean: one day a messenger brought in four biscuits and two cups of tea. Halifax pushed away the biscuits and said: ‘Mr Butler does not want these. Nor do I. Do not charge me.’ (25) Halifax did not rule out the possibility that Germany might not be interested in a peaceful revision of the treaty, nor did he assumed that this was, off necessity, the case. (25) In a speech on the 8th April 1936 Halifax said that the British government stood by its obligations under the Locarno treaties (to defend the French and Belgian frontiers) but that that didn’t mean that they didn’t care what happened in Eastern Europe (which wasn’t covered by Locarno). (25) ‘Peace’, he said, ‘is indivisible’, but he added for Hitler’s benefit that Germany’s claims to equal treatment in Eastern Europe could be recognised in return for his convincing Europe of his sincerity. (25)

Military Aspects of Appeasement

The situation was made worse by the alienation of Italy over its conquest of Abyssinia, and its move towards a German alliance. (26) The British now had to plan for another potentially hostile power, this time in the Mediterranean across the lines of communication between Europe and Far East. (26) Britain could not take on Germany, Italy and Japan. (25) With the aid of the Chancellor Sir John Simon and the Minister for the Coordination of Defence, Sir Thomas Inskip, Chamberlain instigated a thorough going defence review. (25) It concluded that the British rearmament program would not peak until 1939 to 40, and even then it would not equip the country for a war on the continent. (25) Russian help was unlikely as ‘Recent purges in the Red Army had had a disastrous effect’ ‘ on its ‘morale and efficiency’ with 65% of its officers gone, it was not capable of carrying the war into the enemy’s territory with any hope of success.’ (25)

Economic Aspects of Appeasement and Rearmament

In January 1937 his economic officials had warned Chamberlain that unless defence spending was brought under control the country was heading for another economic crisis. (25) We could not afford to have all three of a 2-power standard for the Navy, an army big enough to fight overseas and a larger Air Force. (25) British rearmament at sea and particularly in the air was proving expensive. (26) Chamberlain saw trouble ahead with inflation caused by increased defence spending leading to a series of crippling strikes, which would spoil the rearmament program. (25) A sharp rise in costs, due to wage increases, would lead to the loss of our export trade: in short, a feverish and artificial boom followed by a disastrous slump would lead to the defeat of the government and the advent of ‘an ignorant unpurposed and hurriedly pledged opposition’. (25) In November 1937, when Eden raised defence with Chamberlain, Chamberlain expressed anxieties about the financial situation. (25) Eden replied that a good financial position would be small consolation if London were laid flat because our Air Force had been insufficient. (25) This Chamberlain dismissed as ‘too alarmist of you’. (25) The British economy could scarcely afford the cost of the current rearmament plan, indeed in March 1938 £70 million was cut from the War Office budget; by 1940 to 41 it would be necessary to restrict arms spending still further. (25) Inskip said it was unwise to take action in 1938 as ‘we have not reached our maximum preparedness, and shall not do so for another year or more.’ (25) In the meantime, bringing on an economic crisis by increasing current expenditure was unlikely to add weight to British diplomacy. (25) In the winter of 1938-9 the French demanded that Britain equipped a continental scale army as they had done in the First World War, threatening that otherwise they might seek a separate deal with Germany. (26) Britain now faced the first stages of the crisis that was to mark its end as a world power. (26) The British were unable to raise any loans in in the United States, as they had done in the First World War, because of their outstanding debts, yet official, and highly secret, estimates showed that their gold and foreign currency reserves were only sufficient to finance a major war for, at most, three years. (26) Military advice suggested that it would take at least that amount of time for Britain and France to defeat Germany. (26) Continuing rearmament without war would use up these limited financial reserves, leaving Britain even worker even weaker when war did come. (26)

Halifax’s relationship with Chamberlain

Visit to Germany 1937

The Foreign Office mind worried Chamberlain, because the diplomats seemed ‘unable to keep the major objects of foreign policy in mind’. (25) The Foreign Office were sceptical of the chances of success to be gained by negotiating with Hitler. (24) For all his realism, Chamberlain was hardly a man of the world, (24) and Beaverbrook called Halifax ‘an earnest and honest fellow who, brought up with a silver spoon in his mouth, has never had to face up to the realities of the world’. (25) Beaverbrook saw Halifax as ‘a sort of Jesus in long boots’, but Charmley retorts that ‘Irwin’s personal religious faith was apt to mislead contemporaries who did not share it, even at it has with historians.’ (25) In November 1937 (9,10) Halifax accepted an invitation, as Master of the Middleton Hunt, from Reichsmarschall (9) Hermann (7,9) Goering (9) [[OR]] Göring (7) to visit a hunting exhibition in Berlin and to shoot foxes with him in Pomerania. (9) [[OR]] Halifax was a confidant of Chamberlain, (7,25) who thought he was more in tune with his own way of thinking (sc than the Foreign Office who ‘seemed unable to keep the major objects of foreign policy in mind’.) (25) He was sent by Chamberlain to Germany (10,24) for conversations with Hitler and other German leaders (9,10) to sound-out their intentions, (9,24) because ‘He won’t spoil the effect of his visit by any ruthlessness when he comes to talk with Hitler’. He was the ideal figure to send to Berlin on an exploratory trip because of his position in the Lords and vis a vis Eden and Chamberlain. (25) [[OR]] The debate over whether Halifax should go to Berlin and revealed differences between Downing St and the Foreign Office over Germany. (25) Officials and diplomats regarded the scheme as fanciful. (24,25)

In Berlin

Arriving in Berlin on 17th November, Halifax was briefed by Henderson, the British ambassador. (25), He expressed the hope that ‘the Prime Minister will go as far as he possibly can’: ‘the most important thing was to make it plain that whether we were able to accept it or not we did appreciate the German point of view, and were honestly out to make friends.’ (25)

I believe that, if we are not too niggardly, Germany will keep her word, at any rate for a foreseeable future. 1 cannot legislate for more. And particularly so, if we take it for granted that she will keep her word. The surest way of getting it to break it is to doubt. That is elementary. (25)

He was preaching to the converted: Halifax had written to Chamberlain a fortnight earlier, on 6th November about ‘the desirability of our recognizing and perhaps bringing greater sympathy to, the German point of view.’ (25) Halifax was recognizing as did Henderson and Chamberlain that ‘nationalism and racialism is a powerful explosion, and I can’t feel that it is either a natural or immoral’. (25) This was followed by lunch with the German foreign minister Neurath and his family which Halifax found all very cheery and light hearted. (25) In accordance with Chamberlain’s wishes, Halifax planned to visit Hitler as well as Göring (7,10)


Halifax went on to meet Hitler (3,5) at his mountain retreat (9) at Berchtesgaden (6,9) in southern Germany, (6) on 19th (6,10) November, (6,7) 1937 (3,5) in his capacity as Lord President of the council, (1937–38) (7,8) so ranking second in the Cabinet to the Prime Minister. (10) A fortnight before Hitler had had a fateful meeting of the Nazi chiefs (10,24) and heads of his armed forces (24) on November 5th 1937, at which (10) in a session lasting over 4 hours (24) Hitler had outlined his plans for the conquest of Austria and Czechoslovakia and of his general plans for the Nazi drive for Lebensraum. (10,24) The revision of Versailles Hitler expected to achieve without general war: Britain would not, he argued, seek another European war for two states she had already written off. (24) Halifax nearly mistook Hitler for a footman. (9) He recalled in his memoirs:

‘As I looked out of the car window, on eye level, I saw in the middle of this swept path a pair of black trousered legs, finishing up in silk socks and pumps. I assumed this was a footman who had come down to help me out of the car and up the steps, and was proceeding in leisurely fashion to get myself out of the car when I heard Von Neurath [[the German foreign minister]] or somebody throwing a hoarse whisper at my ear of ‘Der Führer, der Führer’; and it then dawned upon me that the legs were not the legs of a footman, but of Hitler’. (9)

Having established that the nondescript figure facing him was indeed the object of his visit, Halifax began his talk with Hitler; (9,25) ‘in the art of talking to fanatics, few were more skilled than Edward Lindley Wood, first Baron Irwin of Kirby Underdale and 3rd Viscount Halifax, a.k.a. the Holy Fox.’ (25) Halifax, through the medium of an interpreter, began his conversation. (25) He told Hitler that he hoped that their meeting might be the means of creating better understanding between the two countries; the future not only of Britain and Germany, but of civilisation as a whole might well depend on it. (25) The interviews proved disappointing. (9,10) In a 3 hour conversation, Halifax did little to curb Hitler’s ambitions towards Austria and Czechoslovakia with his (9) vague talk of ‘possible alterations in the European order (9,24) which might be destined to come about with the passage of time’. (9) He told Hitler the disarmament conference had failed because other nations did not feel satisfied as to the measure of security that agreements in fact afforded. (25) He led Hitler to believe that Britain would allow him a free hand in Eastern Europe to pursue his desire for lebensraum. (6,10) Mentioning Danzig, Austria and Czechoslovakia, Halifax said that Britain did not necessarily stand for the status quo (25) (Danzig, for example, was an indisputably German city. (25)) but was concerned to avoid such treatment of them as would be likely to cause trouble. (25) If reasonable settlements could be reached with the free assent and goodwill of those primarily concerned Britain certainly had no desire to block them. (25) He made the fatal error of informing Hitler that any changes must be by peaceful means and not in a manner which would cause international repercussions. (10) The conversation then moved onto the question of colonial compensation for Germany and the possibility of linking this to a general settlement. (25) This reflected the views held in Downing St rather than in the Foreign Office. (25) If Eden was happy with such comments he was less so with those which Halifax had made about possible alterations in the European order. (25) In his closed session with the German leader Halifax could see what a gulf separated Berlin from London. (24) He failed to achieve any official agreements with the German leader. (6) Hitler made it clear to him that a general settlement offered no practical prospect of a solution of Europe’s difficulties. (24) The dictator was not very forthcoming about the chances of such agreements and launched into what Halifax described as a subdued tirade about the difficulties of dealing with democracies. (25) The traditional ‘gentlemanly’ approach to diplomacy was at odds with the new assertive Fascist leadership and the bullying brinksmanship they practiced. (9,24) He came away convinced that the difference between the two systems was too great to be bridged. (24) Hitler reasoned that the French would never fight without Britain. (10) He thought that Hitler felt that ‘While he had attained power only after a hard struggle with present day realities the British government was still living comfortably in a world of its own making and make believe of strange if respectable illusions it had lost touch with realities and clung to shibboleths; collective security, general settlement, disarmament and non-aggression pacts which offered no practical prospect of a solution of Europe’s difficulties.’

After Berchtesgaden

Such grim reflections vanished on the morrow when Halifax met Goering, dressed in brown breeches and boots all in one, with a green leather jerkin and fur coloured short coat on top. The green jerkin had a green leather belt on which was hung a dagger in a red leather sheath, altogether a very picturesque and arresting figure, completed by a green hat with a large chamois tuft. He found Goering entertaining and an attractive mixture of film star, great landowner interested in his estates, property manager and head gamekeeper at Chatsworth.

Effects of Halifax Visit

His visit was a milestone in appeasement. (3,5) Halifax’s biographer commented that ‘nothing in his upbringing had equipped him with the instinct to fathom the true wickedness of such men’. (25) Reflecting on the 1937 visit, Halifax wrote in his diary that he ‘had a feeling all the time that we had a totally different sense of values (24) and were speaking a different language’. (24,25) On the other hand Halifax felt that the visit was worthwhile. (25,26) He and Chamberlain agreed that at least in the short term (25) Hitler (6,25)’did not appear to be pursuing war’ (6) and ‘had no policy of immediate adventure’. (6,25) He thought that the basis of an understanding might not be too difficult as regards central and Eastern Europe. (25) Hitler construed ‘an understanding in Central and Eastern Europe’ as meaning that the lights had changed to green, allowing him to proceed eastward. (10) It was a very natural conclusion. (10) Hitler was convinced that with the controlled will of the people and the ‘green light’ from Britain, nothing could prevent his dream of lebensraum from becoming a reality. (10) Halifax did not rate the political value of the talk very highly, gathering the ‘distinct impression that apart from colonies there was little or nothing Hitler wanted from Britain’. (25) Hitler ‘felt time was on his side as regards European problems.’ (25) His satisfaction we shared by Chamberlain. (25) He described the visit as ‘a great success’ as it had ‘created an atmosphere in which it was possible to discuss with Germany the practical questions involved by European settlement generally.’ (25) Chamberlain was clear eyed about Nazi objectives: ‘of course they want to dominate Eastern Europe; they want as close a union with Austria as they can get without incorporating it in the Reich. and they want much the same things for the Sudeten Germans as we did for the Uitlanders’ (25) The Prime Minister’s satisfaction with Halifax’s visit was not shared by foreign secretary Anthony Eden who did not want to ‘try and detach any one member of the German Italian Japanese block by offers of support or acquiescence in the fulfilment of their aims’. (25) This shows that the differences between Downing Street and the Foreign Office were strategic rather than tactical. (25)


Halifax’s friend Henry ‘Chips’ Channon reported that Halifax had liked all the Nazi leaders, even Goebbels, and was much impressed, interested and amused by the visit: ‘He thinks the regime absolutely fantastic.’ (26) Following his visit, Halifax lobbied nearly all the leading newspaper proprietors to tone down their coverage of Germany, even attempting to influence Low, the Evening Standard’s irreverent cartoonist. (26) One of Halifax’s closest friends was Lord Londonderry, a former leader of the Northern Ireland Senate and aircraft minister in the MacDonald coalition government. (10) After being sacked from that job, Londonderry had toured Germany in early 1936 striking up a friendship with Goering. (10) Back home the Nazi ambassador, Ribbentrop (who would become Hitler’s foreign minister), was a regular house guest. (10) On his appointment as Ambassador, Ribbentrop rented a room from Chamberlain. (28) In the USA, too, Germany had many supporters: ‘too many in the State Department passionately fond of the Germans. … too many businessmen thought that one ‘could do business with Hitler’. (28) Chamberlain said that he was ‘quite sure that the country thoroughly approves of what I am doing’, (25) perhaps partly because the government succeeded in pressurising the BBC into avoiding controversy in its coverage of European affairs, and Lord Reith, the Director General of the BBC, told Ribbentrop to tell Hitler that the BBC was not anti Nazi. (26) In March 1938 Londonderry published ‘Ourselves and Germany’, a defence of appeasement and the Nazi regime, and in January of that year he signed a message of support published in the Berliner Tageblatt on the anniversary of the Nazi ‘revolution’. (10)

Foreign secretary, February 1938 

Departure of Eden

Foreign Minister Anthony Eden (9,10) saw Chamberlain’s actions, of which sending Halifax rather than himself to talk to the Nazi leaders was an example, as an unwarranted intervention in the responsibilities of his own office. (9,24) relations with Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain had reached breaking point. (9) In the summer of 1937 (10) [[OR]] on 20th of February 1938, (24) Anthony Eden resigned (7,9) from Neville Chamberlain’s government. (7,9) Chamberlain’s friend (24) Halifax said that Eden had been ‘as perhaps most of us are’ a dual personality the foreign secretary ‘impressed by the dangers of the present situation and anxious to relieve them’ was countered by the public ‘Anthony Eden, generous idealist, intolerant of baseless and anything that was unworthy, who hated dictators with every fibre in his body’, the consequence was that ‘when the foreign secretary came to the point where he was perhaps going to ease tensions, Anthony Eden stepped in and told him it was quite too beastly for words’, so nothing happened. (25) In the end Chamberlain confronted him with a choice: and ‘Anthony Eden’ with a little help from his friends triumphed over the ‘foreign secretary’, and he had resigned. (25)

Appointment of Halifax

Halifax was appointed foreign secretary (7,8) on February (7,9) 25th, (7) 1938, (7,9) [[OR]] in February 1939. (10) The arrival of Halifax and Butler at the Foreign Office has been described as their ‘storming it’. (25) Having already acted as Chamberlain’s intermediary with Hitler in November, (24) He was no stranger to foreign affairs, (9,24) but he accepted the office offer with great reluctance, saying ‘I have had enough obloquy for one lifetime’. (24) Chamberlain hoped that he could now push ahead with trying to make Britain’s Foreign Policy harmonise with her economic circumstances. (25) He hoped that Halifax would not become infected with the pessimism and suspicion of Hitler and Mussolini which, in Chamberlain’s opinion, some senior Foreign Office officials displayed. (9) Chamberlain said that Halifax was a more congenial colleague: ‘I thank God for a steady unruffled Foreign Secretary who never causes me any worry’. (9) He held the post between 1938 and 1940 (2,4) under Prime Minister (4,7) Neville Chamberlain. (2,4) Halifax was ‘the Viceroy who had talked to Gandhi’, and Butler had fought the cause of the India bill with great skill and success, whereas Churchill was a diehard. (25) Halifax’s appointment therefore could provide the Baldwinians with the reassurance that all was well and that Eden’s departure was not a disaster. (25) Halifax wrote to Chamberlain on 6th of November about the desirability of our recognizing and perhaps bringing greater simply too, the German point of view. (25) He was recognizing as did Henderson and Chamberlain that ‘nationalism and racialism is a powerful explosion, and I can’t feel that it is either a natural or immoral’. (25) Prophecies of war tend to be self-fulfilling talking with the Nazis offered a way of avoiding this happening. (25)

Halifax and Appeasement

He was now 3rd Viscount Halifax (1,3) from 1934 until 1944. (1,4) His tenure of the foreign office was the most controversial period of his career. (7) He has been criticised for being too wedded to the policy of Appeasement, (4,7) but he was never the Prime Minister’s tool, not even in the early days before he had mastered his new job, and if he and Butler held similar views to those of Chamberlain, that was the result of genuine congruence of opinion rather than a sign of sycophancy. (25) He identified himself with Chamberlain’s (7,8) [[OR]] was one of the architects of the (4) [[OR]] Chamberlain was the architect of the (2,7) policy of appeasement (2,4) of Adolf Hitler (4,7) in 1936–38. (4) Halifax agreed with Chamberlain that it was not worth starting a war to defend the crumbling post–war Versailles settlement, (9) in which the successors of Castlereagh and Metternich, with the help of lectures from an American professor, had striven to improve upon the efforts of their predecessors. (25) Hitler was now challenging the balance of power with the Wilsonian slogan of national self determination. (25) Both men initially believed that they could find a satisfactory solution to the demands of Hitler and Mussolini through negotiation and concession. (9) Halifax (2) working closely with Chamberlain (4) implemented the policy of Appeasement. (2) [[OR]] Chamberlain continued to dominate foreign affairs and use personal diplomacy to circumvent the normal diplomatic channels. (9) He took advice from Cadogan, whose contributions came from professionals: Henderson in Berlin, Phipps in Paris, Newton in Prague, Howard Kennard in Warsaw and Charleston in Moscow. (25) It may be that they were all wrong but Chamberlain listened to them. (25) Halifax’s High Anglicanism did not exclude realism, and, as he wrote to a friend at the time, ‘we go badly wrong if we allow our judgment of practical steps to be taken, to be perfect perpetually deflected by our moral reactions against wrong that we can in no circumstances immediately redress … Right for right’s sake doesn’t count for anything anymore, everything depends on the ‘ism’ or the ‘ology’. (25)


Although he encouraged Chamberlain’s search for a solution, he had few illusions that a firm grip on diplomacy would be sufficient to hold the dictator’s back. (24) His instinct was correct; on 12th March (24) Hitler occupied Austria. (8,24) Chamberlain founded it all very disheartening and discouraging, and concluded that ‘force is the only language which Germany understands’. (25,28)


In November 1937 Chamberlain had already decided not to help the Czechs. (25) Our business was ‘to keep the peace and find a just and equitable settlement.’ (25) Halifax, taking over at the Foreign Policy in February 1938, was an old imperialist, who thought that the Sudetenland was a small price to pay for saving the British Empire. (28) British opinion would not accept a new and extremely important commitment in central Europe. (25) War would not have any benefits: the French strategy was to wait behind the Maginot line until Britain had made itself ready for war, but that would be too late for Czechoslovakia. (25) Dominions unwilling to help us. (25) Only if the Russians were involved might anything have been done but they didn’t seem to be going to do so, and after a war the Russians would want to take part in the redrawing of the Maps which UK did not want. (25) Chamberlain was still clinging to his hope of an Anglo German Entente March 1938. (25) He said we were neither pro-Czech nor pro-Sudeten German. (25) ‘On 24th March 1938, Halifax said to the Foreign Policy Committee that

‘We should try to persuade France and Czechoslovakia that the best course would be for the latter to make the best terms she could with Germany while there was yet time and that we would use any influence we might have with Germany to induce her to take up a reasonable attitude. If in the result are satisfactory solution of the Sudeten problem was reached, we might offer in that event to join Germany in guaranteeing Czechoslovakia’s independence.’ (25)

By maintaining a deliberate ambiguity about the exact British response to any further aggression, it was hoped at once to bluff the Germans while keeping the French from acting rashly. (25) In a joint statement to the Commons and Lords on that day, Chamberlain and ‘Halifax (who) had come independently to the same conclusion’, specified three cases which Britain would regard as causes of war: (a) a breach of the Locarno agreements which bound her to defend France or Belgium if they were victims of unprovoked aggression (b) bilateral treaties to the same effect with Portugal, Iraq and Egypt; and (c) obligations arising out of the Covenant of the League but only where vital British interests were threatened. (25) The joint statements also promised rearmament. (25) When in May 1938 it had seemed that the Germans might send in troops to Czechoslovakia, Halifax had blown hot and cold. (26) Many believed wrongly that Hitler had drawn back for fear of the Anglo-French intervention. (26) Halifax came very close to sending a warning to the effect that Britain could not stand aside if Germany invaded Czechoslovakia and France came to her defence but despite Churchill’s vigorous encouragement Chamberlain overruled him. (26) Churchill wanted a grand alliance, including France and Russia, standing foursquare behind the Versailles system, which no longer existed’ (25) On 29th of March in the Lords Halifax rejected this as ‘shortcuts by threats … resting on the theory of the balance of power or isolation or collective security to reach the place where we seek to be … in order to induce reasoning others we must be reasonable ourselves.’ (25) In April 1938 (25) Sir Neville (26) Henderson, (25) a quite disastrous choice to represent Britain in Berlin (26) told Halifax that Hitler ‘After Anschluss, Hitler would aim at the Sudetenland then Danzig, and settlement of Poland and Memel.’ (25) On 28th April Daladier said: ‘The ambitions of Napoleon were far inferior to those of the present German Reich.’ (25) During that summer of 1938 Henderson was almost completely hoodwinked by the Germans into thinking the Czechs were the villains of the piece. (26) Chamberlain’s emissary Lord Runciman also fell into this trap. (26) In the choice of Runciman as envoy, Horace Wilson ‘had regard to his number of column inches in Who’s Who.’ (25) Halifax allowed himself to be persuaded by Henderson (26) that firmness with Hitler (25,26) such as threats or exhortations (25) would only drive him to greater violence or greater menace (25,26): ‘Any serious prospect of getting Hitler back to a sane outlook would probably be irretrievably destroyed by any action on our part involving him in a public humiliation’ (26) whereas Chamberlain had already concluded after the Anschluss that ‘force is the only language which Germany understands’. (25,28) Then the French said they would intervene if Germany invaded. (26) The cabinet wanted a telegram sent promising our support, if the French intervened in Czechoslovakia but Henderson and Halifax persuaded Chamberlain not to not to send it. (26) Halifax said to the Cabinet: ‘If Hitler makes his mind up to attack, there is nothing that we can do to stop him’, and he warned the French not to count on British support automatically. (26) As far as Halifax was concerned Czechoslovakia was already finished. (26)

Halifax to succeed Chamberlain?

Some saw Halifax as the most probable successor to Chamberlain, should one be needed. (25) He represented the reaffirmation of the national character of the government, which was being eroded by the ‘unbelievable personal dislike’ which Chamberlain ‘engendered among his opponents’. (25) He was very unpopular for having given up the right to use the Irish Ports. (25) The Labour Party said that Chamberlain was ‘a fascist, and enemy of the League of Nations and a materialist’. (25) His opponents found his ‘cold intellect was too much for them, he beat them up in argument and debunk their catchphrases’; This, and his ‘sarcastic manner’ rendered him both feared and disliked. (25) Butler thought that ‘people with nervous temperaments’ found his manner ‘difficult to survive’ likening Chamberlain’s approach to problems to a ton of bricks falling on the unwary. (25) Halifax was the natural beneficiary of these perceptions of the prime minister’s shortcomings. (25) Halifax was ‘A liberal in a period of peace, when to the liberal mind, war between civilised nations was becoming increasingly unthinkable.’ (25) The fact that neither the Anschluss nor the events of the summer and autumn of 1938 broke the ranks of the conservative party, was testimony to the political acumen which Chamberlain had showed in bringing Halifax to the Foreign Office. (25)


Chamberlain flew to Munich, believing that ‘if Hitler did want war, then his reaction to the prime minister’s visit would show all but the most purblind pacifist that war was necessary and that it had been forced on Britain.’ (25) Even though Halifax was a Foreign Secretary more to his liking, Chamberlain did not take him with him to the Munich conference in September 1938. (9) At Munich Chamberlain had Strang draft a document on the future of Anglo German relations. (25) The question of Anglo German relations was of the first importance for the two countries; for Europe the naval agreement had been symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again; Hitler and Chamberlain should express a joint resolve to consult over the removal of other possible sources of difference. (25) This was the piece of paper which Hitler signed. (25) As a result of Munich Czechoslovakia was carved up, and Chamberlain infamously declared he had secured ‘peace for our time’ (9) on the basis of Strang’s paper. (25) [[OR]] Halifax was equally as responsible as Chamberlain for the surrender to Hitler at Munich. (10) Until the September crisis relations between Chamberlain and Halifax had proceeded smoothly but then it had become apparent that Chamberlain’s major objective of ‘bringing British policy back to saner and more realistic grounds’, was not at all times and in all places compatible with Halifax’s main objective of ‘preserving national unity’. (25) Halifax’s attitude towards Germany hardened. (9,25) He drew the conclusion that further progress towards diplomatic appeasement was impossible at the moment and that their priority should be the ‘correction of the false impression that we were decadent, spineless and could, with little impunity, be kicked about.’ (25) In September 1938 Halifax led the Cabinet in insisting on making fewer concessions to Germany over the Sudetenland. (9,25) He decided that Britain would have to stand firm against Nazi demands for territorial aggrandisement. (9,10) He said, ‘if only Great Britain would say clearly and unmistakably for all to hear that she would resist any unprovoked aggression against Czechoslovakia, no such unprovoked aggression would be made.’ (10) In November 1938 Kristallnacht horrified Chamberlain and turned public opinion against Appeasement. (25) Just days before Munich in 1938 (3) [[OR]] During the Munich crisis (9) [[OR]] In the House of Lords in October 1938, [[OR]] after the German occupation of Czechoslovakia in March 1939 (4) [[OR]] earlier than Chamberlain, but later than others, and conscious as he was of the political mood and public opinion, (9) he abandoned Appeasement (3,9) [[OR]] ‘his wivvers were quite unwung’ by Munich. (25) This was completely incompatible with the intentions of Chamberlain, (9,10) who felt that Hitler’s surprising climbdown at Munich seemed grounds for confidence that he was not hellbent on war. (25) Much would of course depend on the spirit in which Germany carried out her obligations. (25) Meanwhile the big pro-Nazi vote in the Memel election added another string to Hitler’s bow. (Memel – see box right)

Post Munich

Just before Christmas 1938 Chamberlain and Halifax ‘had a tiff’ over Appeasement. (25) There was an ‘Under Secretaries Revolt’ against it. (25) There were rumours of a German attack. (25)

Visit to Italy

Chamberlain now thought that ‘The only line of advance beyond rearmament is through Mussolini,’ (25) Halifax accompanied Chamberlain on a visit to Benito Mussolini in Rome in January 1939 (7,9) 1939 to see if there existed the prospect of detaching Italy from Germany (28) but played only a secondary role. (9) Mussolini was unimpressed, ‘these men not made of the same stuff as Francis Drake and the other magnificent adventurers who created the empire’. (28) He evidently agreed with Beaverbrook that ‘they are the tired sons of a long line of rich men’ (25,28) adding that ‘they will lose their empire’. (25,28) After the visit to Italy the British decided that they would have to accept German domination in central Europe. (24) Halifax said that German predominance was inevitable ‘For obvious geographic and economic reasons. (24) Intelligence reports persuaded Chamberlain and Halifax that there was more opposition to Hitler than there actually was. (24) Chamberlain thought that this would force Hitler to the negotiating table, but Halifax thought that economic problems might push the mad dictator to insane adventures. (24) Halifax now began to emerge as a political force in his own right: he reflected a growing mood in the country and in parliament that definite and clear limits should now be placed on German ambitions. (24) He did not want to repeat the experience of September: ‘No more Munich for me’. (24) He was instrumental in modifying Chamberlain’s policies, (9) even going so far as to speak of ‘the destruction of Nazism’. (3) The alternative to appeasement was to isolate Germany diplomatically to strengthen international support for Britain and to take the fateful step of making for the first time since the Great War a real continental commitment. (24) He deemed Danzig and the Polish Corridor to be ‘an absurdity’, (10,Ov) and ‘a most foolish provision of this Treaty of Versailles’. (24) He did not object to Danzig being returned to Germany, (10,24) knowing that a plebiscite would result in an overwhelming vote in favour of return, (10) but nevertheless he subsequently pushed for a new policy of attempting to deter further German aggression by promising to go to war to defend Poland. (4) Hitler wanted an alliance with Poland, not war. (10) He issued a directive to his army commander in chief: ‘The Fuehrer does not wish to solve the Danzig question by force … he does not wish to drive Poland into the arms of Britain by this.’ (10)

Winter 1938-9

In December 1938, trade discussions with Germans bore fruit: ‘Cadogan’s hopes that relief at Hitler’s speech would not lead to a surge of optimism were not realised: there was even a Hitler rally on the stock market.’ (25) He was pressured by the Under Secretaries’ Revolt, and rumours reaching the War Office that Germany was planning an attack on London. (25) By early 1939 the British realised that they were in an impossible situation. (26) As a status quo power they could only lose look from another war. (26) Either they would be defeated or, in trying to ensure victory, they would become dependent on the United States and possibly the Soviet Union too. (26) Their one slim hope of remaining a major power was to win a limited, fairly quick war against Germany while Italy and Japan remain neutral. (26) [[OR]] On 1st Feb Chamberlain refused to allow planning for a general war in Europe, because it was ‘unnecessary’. (25) On 4th February he wrote to his sisters that ‘we are getting on top of the dictators’. (25) Our policy is not defiance and, mark my words, it is not, either, deference. It is defence. ‘Rearmament has progressed to a state where they could not make nearly such a mess of us now as they could have done while we could make much more of a mess of them.’ (25) On 15th February the Old Etonian Duke of Saxe Coburg, the chairman of the Anglo German Society of Berlin, made a speech referring to ‘the progress made in Anglo-German Economic negotiations’ and expressing the hope that it would continue because ‘It would be important for the whole world if our two peoples could cooperate in full confidence with one another’. Henderson thought that these sentiments had been expressed with the personal approval of Hitler himself, and Chamberlain was much encouraged. (25) On the other hand at Christmas 1938 Chamberlain had said of Halifax ‘My successor will soon be off the rails’, (25) and on 16th Halifax made a speech which seemed to suggest that he was less inclined to appease than Chamberlain was. (25) On the 18th Henderson reported from Berlin that ‘Herr Hitler does not contemplate any adventures at the moment, and all stories and rumours to the contrary are completely without real foundation.’ (25) Vansittart thought that this showed that Henderson was ‘out of touch with reality.’ (25) He was the little boy who cried Wolf but he thought he was Cassandra. (25) He placed undue reliance on the possibility of an anti-Hitler putsch by German Generals. (25) On 10th March Hoare made a speech forecasting a Golden age. (25)

Czechoslovakia Annexed, March 1939

On the same day, the Czechs dismissed the Slovak Prime Minister Tiso, who appealed to Hitler. (25) On 14th March the Slovaks announced their independence, and German troops crossed the frontier. (25) The following day president Hacha, under duress, placed Bohemia and Moravia under German protection. (25) On 17th March Chamberlain spoke in Birmingham: ‘No greater mistake could be made than to suppose that, because it believes war to have been a senseless and cruel thing, this nation has so lost its fibre that it will not take part in the utmost of its power in resisting such a challenge if it were ever made’. (25) On 18th March the Cabinet met, and was ‘more bellicose’ because rumours of German attack on Rumania were shown to be unfounded, and because the Chiefs of Staff reported favourably on our rearmament. (25) Five days later, on 23rd March, in the middle of the Czech crisis, Hitler took Memel. (See Box) The question arose of Russia’s possible participation in the Czech situation. (25) Chamberlain was reluctant to involve Russia in a diplomatic combination, as several of the likely participants would not accept this. (25) By 25th Foreign Office had decided that the Russians could not form part of a combination. (25) The Foreign Office thought war now inevitable, and Halifax and Cadogan suggested that Danzig might now become a casus belli. (25) Proposals for a national government were interpreted by Chamberlain as an attempt to drive a wedge between himself and Halifax. (25) On 29th March 1939, Hitler completely annexed Czechoslovakia. (24,25) This had a real impact on Chamberlain, for it ended once and for all any further reliance on German good faith. (24) Channon said ‘No bolder, balder departure from the written bond has ever been committed in history. The Prime Minister must be discouraged and horrified.’ (25) He was, (25) being forced to confront directly the dilemma from which he had tried unsuccessfully to rescue the country for two years. (24) At dinner on 30th March with Halifax, Chamberlain solemnly declared ‘I have decided that I cannot trust the Nazi leaders again.’ (24) Rightly or wrongly, the occupation of the rump Czech state was seen as the point at which the interests of the empire were challenged directly. (24) The choice was a stark one, either to accept the German domination of Europe and the collapse of British prestige and political influence, or to face the very real prospect of war. (24) Halifax thought that Germany would not start a war if it was given enough to satisfy its ambitions, despite his own doubts on losing Czechoslovakia as a staunch ally against German expansion (8) but he told his colleagues if we had to choose between two great evils he favoured our going to war. (24) Chamberlain soon shook off his pessimism: ‘though one may have to suffer checks and disappointments from time to time, the object which we have in mind is of too great significance to the happiness of mankind for us likely to give it up or set it on one side’. (25) This, thought Cadogan, was ‘Fatal’. (25) Hoare, embarrassed, took refuge in illness. (25)

The Polish Guarantee

Hitler had thus been able to exploit the undeniable grievances of Germany over the Versailles settlement to re draw the boundaries of Europe; sending forces into the demilitarised Rhineland zone in early 1936, annexing Austria in early 1938, taking over the Sudetenland at the Munich conference at the end of September 1938 (26) and now taking Memel (see box) and completely annexing Czechoslovakia. (24,25) Halifax pushed for Britain to offer a (9,25) unilateral (25) guarantee of security to Poland, (9,25) although before the guarantee was given he admitted that there was probably no way in which France or Britain could prevent Poland from being overrun. (24) On 29th March Chamberlain said in the House of Commons that ‘If during the period when consultations were proceeding there should be any action which clearly threatened Polish independence which the Poles considered it vital to resist, they would have the support of the British government’. (25) This was the guarantee. (25) Chamberlain had confidence in the Chiefs of Staff reports that Hitler was not planning an attack, so that the guarantee would not actually have to be cashed. (25) Halifax thought that ‘However we do it we must make it plain that are guarantee was not a blank cheque’. (25) A suitable warning was sent to the Poles to that effect on the 10th of August. (25)

Summer of 1939

An election was impossible: to leave it till 1940 which was the latest it could be was to invite Baldwin’s fate in 1929. (25) As long as it looked as if war could be avoided Chamberlain was determined to leave Churchill out to avoid antagonising the dictators: ‘the fact is that the nearer we get towards war the more his chances improve and vice versa’. (25) The Tories would not accept a National Government in Summer of 1939. (25) On 7th April, Mussolini invaded Albania. (25) Halifax, Churchill, Cadogan, the French and others called for stern action against Mussolini. (25) Hitler’s determination to solve every problem by the use of force gave the British their slim chance. (26) Hitler was determined to enforce his demands for a return of the Danzig corridor which had been given to Poland in 1919 to ensure that the country had a major port. (26) Reports from the Duke of Buccleuch and others indicated that Hitler was astonished at British actions and harboured no evil designs, so Chamberlain ‘could not see Hitler starting a World War for Danzig’. (25) Chamberlain’s policy of constructing a diplomatic deterrent which would preserve peace was under threat from 3 directions. (25) First was the risk that negotiating with the Soviets would drive away the Poles and Romanians; second was the fear that the guarantees, by making the Poles intransigent, would lead to a war over Danzig; and third was the possibility, foreseen by Hoare in early April, that the Germans would cry ‘encirclement’ and launch a preventive war. (25)

A Russian Alliance?

Differences between Downing St and the Foreign Office were to intensify as pressure grew to settle terms with the Soviets. (25) People criticised Chamberlain for wanting to sell the Poles down the River, saying that his tardiness in concluding a pact with the Russians was the result of mere anti Soviet prejudice. (25) On 19th March 1939 Halifax explained to the Soviet ambassador in the United Kingdom that the reason for the rejection for Joseph Stalin’s call for a multi-power conference to contain Germany was due to the ‘lack of available personnel to embark on these negotiations’. (6) In May, Chamberlain told Cadogan that he would rather resign than sign an alliance with the Soviets. (25) The Soviet regime was, whatever Labour supporters deluded themselves into thinking, a tyranny quite as odious as Hitler’s and to ‘doubt whether she has the same aims and objects that we have or any sympathy with democracy as such’ was merely to show a clear eyed realism about Stalin. (25) Chamberlain thought that Stalin’s chief concern was to see the capitalist powers tear each other apart while the Russians stay out themselves. (25) What Stalin actually thought remains obscure, but he was quite willing to believe the contrary, that western imperialists were trying to divert German expansion eastwards. (25) This made Russia a very unreliable friend, and it was not believed to have much capacity for active assistance because of the purge of 65% of its officers. (25) Stalin did not have confidence in his own armed forces. (25) A Russian alliance would risk losing Poland and Romania. (25) The Poles had refused to join in an anti Comintern pact but also refused to join an alliance with the British and the Russians against Germany. (25) It would also wreck Chamberlain’s policy of building a diplomatic deterrent and would replace it with a policy of military encirclement, which would, as Halifax remarked in cabinet on 17th of May, make war ‘more likely’. (25) A speech by Molotov on 31st May suggested that he was not hurrying to conclude an alliance with the West. (25)

An Anglo German Rapprochement

The official line on Germany was to maintain a ‘threatening silence’ designed to frighten Germany off Danzig. (25) On 18th July Butler, who was strongly opposed to a Russian alliance, tried to persuade Halifax that Hitler was unlikely to risk his life’s work on the throw of the dice of war unless he felt encircled. (25) One way was to renew efforts to make agreements with Germany. (25) Halifax and Chamberlain agreed that feelers towards Germany should be kept as secret as possible. (25) When something of this kind was mentioned in public on 19th July (Hudson’s comments on a British loan to Germany) there was a public outcry. (25) Thanks to ‘sources in the Foreign Office’ the Germans were aware of the full details of the British attitude. (25) In July 1939 Hitler’s adjutant reported Halifax as saying that he ‘would like to see as the culmination of his work the Führer entering London at the side of the English King amid the acclamation of the English people’. (10) On 20th July, 1939 Halifax met with Swedish businessman Birger Dahlerus in London, England, United Kingdom, telling him to approach Hermann Göring for possible Anglo-German negotiations to avoid war. (6) Hitler expressed contempt for the idea of a British loan but he did suggest that Britain and Germany might put their demands on paper and this might need to a discussion involving Germany getting its colonies back and the cancellation of the Treaty of Versailles. (25) By the end of July 1939 Chamberlain decided that Hitler might indeed be intending to gamble all on the chance of war, but he did not abandon hope that once the Polish campaign was over there would be no more war, and that in the face of a stalemate in the West the Germans would either suffer economic collapse or a sudden accession of common sense. (25) Later that summer Halifax also made Chamberlain reassure France very publicly (if rather belatedly) of British military support should it too be invaded by Germany. (9) Halifax did not deny his pro-German statement when it was made public after the war. (10) Although Halifax had been an enthusiast for the guarantee to Poland in March, he began to wonder by August whether it had been a sensible move after all. (24) He met Lonsdale Bryans on 25th August 1939 and agreed that he should travel to Europe to make contact with enemy groups opposed to Hitler. (5) (See Appendix)

A Nazi-soviet Pact

A speech by Molotov on the 31st of May denied any contradiction between negotiating with Britain and France and opening trade talks with Germany and Italy. (25) Since the Western powers could never offer Stalin what Hitler could, i.e. carte Blanche in the Baltic republics, German Soviet talks began. (25) Halifax failed to realise how close relations had become between Moscow and Berlin until it was too late. (23) When the news of the Nazi-Soviet Pact broke on 22nd August, (25) the British government was caught totally by surprise. (23,25) Although there had been persistent rumours of Soviet German contacts, no one supposed that they would have such a result. (25) Hitler had achieved the limited war he wanted by agreeing with the Soviet Union on the division of Poland and the rest of the Eastern Europe into spheres of interest. (26) Henderson said ‘with the Russian pact in his hand the initiative is now Hitler’s’. (25) ‘Halifax regarded the only alternative to war as a German-British agreement including colonies and a reasonable police settlement…’ (we want to) ‘secure a Danzig agreement ending up as a final revision of the Versailles treaty with the aid of Mussolini.’ (25)

The Last Days

On 24th August Hitler drew back from his intended invasion of Poland because of the unexpected attitude of the British. (25) When the cabinet met on the morning of 30th of August it was felt that, although Hitler’s attitude was deplorable, his terms did not preclude further efforts to save the peace. (25) Chamberlain lamented that ‘Everything that I have worked for, everything that I have believed in during my public life has crashed into ruins.’ (25) In the end the British had found that no diplomatic agreement which preserved Britain’s position and status could be made with the expansionist powers of Germany, Japan and Italy. (26)

In World War II

Phoney War

When Germany invaded Poland on the 1st of September in defiance of the British challenge the cabinet authorised a whole range of necessary war measures. (28) Halifax sent a warning to Berlin that failure to withdraw German troops would lead Britain to fulfil the obligations to Poland. (28) The final ultimatum and declaration of war had to be coordinated with France, which wanted a 48-hour delay to permit evacuation and initial mobilisation to take place. (28) On the 2nd of September Ciano proposed a conference of all the major powers; Chamberlain and Halifax could only accept it on the complete withdrawal of all German troops from Poland, something which both they and Ciano knew to be impossible. (28) Britain and France decided to fight over the issue. (26) [[OR]] Chamberlain did not look for a military victory but rather for a collapse of the German home front, (25) and Halifax said of the Phoney War that ‘The pause suits us well’. (28) Chamberlain said ‘How I hate and loathe this war: I was never meant to be a war minister;’ he ‘did not see that he had any particular part to play: half a dozen people could take his place’. (25) He intended to remain firm until the German saw ‘the obvious, that in modern war the defensive side has the advantage’; upon this hope rested all the strategy of the Chamberlain government.’ (25) His policy was to hold on tight to keep up the economic pressure, push on with munitions production and military preparations with the utmost energy, but take no offensive unless Hitler begins it. (25) Of negotiations with Hitler, Halifax thought, in September 1939, that the problem was ‘knowing what assurance anyone can possibly have that any undertakings by Hitler which we accept it would be observed.’ (25) Chamberlain thought that the longer Hitler took to make his offensive in the West, the less chance he would have of pulling it off. (25) But in reality the ‘pause’ was disastrous for the allied cause. (28) The Germans and the Soviets had seized the initiative in all spheres; the French waited stolidly behind the Maginot line; 800,000 tons of British shipping was sunk; a German U boat penetrated the navy’s main base at Scapa Flow and sank the Royal Oak; and the RAF’s first daylight raids on Germany suffered 50% losses. (28) ‘On 4th January 1940 Halifax sent a diplomatic note to Norway, with a copy sent to Sweden, asking for permission to send British Royal Navy ships into Norwegian waters, citing German sinking of British merchant ships. (6) On 22nd January he criticized the First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill’s speech of 20th January 1940, noting that by stating support for Finland in the war with Soviet Union he was meddling with foreign policy. (6) In early February 1940 he passed a peace proposal to Hitler’s deputy Goering through a Danish contact of the pro-Nazi historian Sir Arthur Bryant. (10) On 14th March he asked Finland to return some of the supplies that the British had given to Finland for the Winter War. (6) He retracted the request shortly after the Finnish Ambassador to London, G. A. Gripenberg, reminded him that Finland had paid for the relatively small amount of goods that Britain offered. (6)

Passed over as Prime Minister

In May 1940, as a trusted friend, Kingsley Wood told Chamberlain ‘affectionately but firmly’ that after the debacle of the British defeat in Norway and the ensuing Commons debate, his position as Prime Minister was impossible, and he must resign. (31) Chamberlain agreed to resign on 9th May, but considered going back on his decision the next day as the German attack on the Western Front had begun; Wood told him that he had to go through with his resignation. (31) On Chamberlain’s resignation (4,7) following the debacle of the Norwegian campaign, (9) early (4) in May 1940 (3,4) it was Halifax, not Winston Churchill, who was viewed as the choice for Britain’s war leader. (3,8) The job was Halifax’s to refuse. (10) The Tory Party, and the King both wanted him. (10) Chamberlain hoped Halifax would succeed him as prime minister, (7,10) but Winston Churchill was chosen instead (8) the issue being decided at a meeting between Chamberlain, Halifax, and Winston Churchill. (7) Halifax announced that he was not seeking the position, (8) effectively (4) declining the position of Prime Minister (4,9) pleading ill-health (9) [[OR]] because he felt that Churchill would be a more suitable war leader. (4,9) [[OR]] Halifax was not chosen because Kingsley Wood advised Winston Churchill to ignore pressure from those who wanted Halifax, not Churchill, as Chamberlain’s successor. (31) His membership of the House of Lords was given as the official reason. (4) Chamberlain said afterwards: ‘I could not have made any radical reconstruction of my government because there was not sufficient new material in my party and moreover, in the more active phase of the war I feel that Winston is the right man for the head in view of his experience and study of war.’ (25)

Military developments to December 1940

Any chance Britain and France had defeating Germany on their own disappeared with the stunning German military conquest in the early summer of 1940. (26) After the conquest of Norway at Norway and Denmark, German forces rapidly defeated the Netherlands Belgium and France and established domination over western central and South Eastern Europe. (26) The French were forced to accept an armistice, but the British were able to fight on even after Italy entered the war. (26) However, it was clear that they could not win without massive external help. (26) By the end of 1940 their financial resources were exhausted, and they were only rescued from a compromise peace with Germany and Italy because the United States provided free financial help, raw materials and military supplies. (26)

May-December 1940

Halifax remained (7,8) in the War Cabinet as (10) foreign secretary (7,8) for the first seven months of Churchill’s ministry. (7,10) He has been identified with various peacemaking initiatives in the summer of 1940. (9,10) He was one of several members of Churchill’s cabinet who (10) favoured exploration of a possible settlement via an approach to Mussolini. (4,10) A few weeks after refusing the Premiership, with the Allies facing apparently catastrophic defeat and British forces falling back to Dunkirk, Halifax favoured approaching Italy to see if acceptable peace terms could be negotiated. (4) On 22nd June 1940 he further had his undersecretary Richard Butler contact Swedish Minister in London, Björn Prytz for a possible Anglo-German negotiations. (6) The Germans intercepted Prytz’s report back to Stockholm and concluded that the war with Britain was likely to end by the end of the summer. (6) He was overruled by Churchill after a series of stormy meetings of the War Cabinet. (4) For his dealings with John Bryans, see Appendix 1. (5) On 22nd Jul 1940 Halifax changed his previous stance, which had been to urge Churchill to negotiate a peace with Germany. (6) He rejected Hitler’s proposal for peace of 19th July, (6) saying ‘No one here wants the war to go on for a day longer than is necessary, but we shall not stop fighting until freedom, for ourselves and others, is secure.’ (6) Halifax’s change of heart on Appeasement came too late to avoid him being cast, in July 1940, as one of the ‘Guilty Men’ (in the publication of the same name), held responsible for the war by appeasing fascism. (9) Shortly (4) [[OR]] three months (6) [[OR]] six months (7) after Churchill took over as Prime Minister, (4) he decided he wanted Eden back as Foreign Secretary and (9) Halifax was moved from the Foreign Office. (4) In January 1941 (9) Halifax was persuaded to take up the ambassadorship to Washington. (7,9)

Ambassador to the United States 1941-46

On 24th January, 1941, he arrived at Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, United States aboard battleship HMS King George V (6,8) to take up his post as ambassador to the United States (2,4) in Washington (4,9) between 1941 and 1946. (2,4) President Franklin Roosevelt arrived in person to welcome the new British ambassador, but in his first few weeks Halifax went on fox hunting trips in Virginia instead of getting to work immediately. (8) Despite an initially hesitant start (9) not helped by his initial reputation as yet another stiff and distant British aristocrat, the Americans soon realized (8) he was an effective leader (7,8) of the British propaganda machine in Washington, DC. (8) By mid-1941, he was running marketing campaigns around the American capital city to gather support for Britain’s war effort, (8) which gave great service to the Allied cause. (7) At one point, Halifax had a truck that had been dented by German bombs shipped over from London, placed signs on it saying ‘Buy British,’ and sent it off around the city. (8) An old man by now, however, he was no longer the authoritative figure he once was as the Viceroy of India. (8) Churchill’s preference of keeping tight personal contact with Roosevelt meant Lord Halifax’s post as ambassador was much less important, and his influence waned as the war went on. (8) [[OR]] He formed a strong working relationship with President Roosevelt. (9) In 1942, he mourned the loss of one of his children, who died in combat. (8) In late 1942, he asked to be relieved, but the request was denied. (8) In recognition of his work he was created Earl of Halifax in 1944. (2,7) He was named British delegate to the San Francisco Conference in March 1945, and attended the first sessions of the United Nations. (7) He resigned as ambassador (7) on May (7,9) 1st (7) 1946. (7,8)

Later Life

He retired from public service (8) [[OR]] served as Chancellor of the University of Sheffield and as Chairman of the General Advisory Council of the BBC. (10) In 1957 he published a volume of recollections, (7,9) ‘Fullness (7) [[OR]] Fulness (9) of Days’. (7,9) He died on December 23rd 1959, (1,4) at his estate at (8) Garrowby Hall, Yorkshire, England. (1,6)

Halifax and History

Halifax and Chamberlain were in tune on appeasement. (25) The responsibility of Chamberlain, Halifax, Hoare, Daladier, and Bonnet for the disaster of 1940 was clear almost from the start of the Second World War. (10) [[OR]] The reputation of Chamberlain, another of the ‘Guilty Men’, stands better now than it has ever done. (25) Appeasement was the only policy which offered any hope of avoiding war and of saving both lives and the British Empire. (25)

Appendix 1: Halifax & Bryans

The files reveal that shortly after the outbreak of war Halifax helped with the travel arrangements of John Lonsdale Bryans, who believed he could bring down Hitler by making contact with prominent anti-Nazi Germans including Ulrich von Hassell, the former German ambassador in Rome. (5) Initially Lonsdale Bryans thought he could drum up support for an anti-Nazi coup in Germany. (5) But he subsequently changed tactic and tried to contact Adolf Hitler in a bid to negotiate a peace. (5) The disclosure that the Foreign Secretary had such close links with someone trying to contact Hitler during wartime will reignite the debate about his own beliefs. (5) Halifax, who met Hitler in 1937, was criticised for being too close to the cause of appeasement. (5) Shortly after Churchill took over as Prime Minister in 1940 he was moved from the Foreign Office to the British Embassy in Washington. (5) The documents reveal that Halifax met Lonsdale Bryans, personally helped with his travel arrangements and even accepted intelligence reports from him. (5) 31 Aug 2008 A letter in the files from the passport office to Captain WS Mars, dated January 9, 1940, states: ‘The permit granted on the 8th was given at the request of Mr CGS Stevenson, the Private Secretary to Lord Halifax, who telephoned to say that the Secretary of State wished that all possible facilities should be granted to Mr Bryans.’ (5) More details of Lord Halifax’s involvement are contained in a internal note for the Ministry of Information dated October 19, 1945. (5) Its states: ‘Lonsdale Bryans met Lord Halifax on 25 August 1939. (5) That he should travel to Europe to make contact with enemy groups opposed to Hitler. (5) Lord Halifax is reputed to have said that Britain would not fight for Danzig and the [[Polish]] corridor and later to have minuted that he was impressed by the proposal.’ (5) Security officials stumbled upon the mission by accident when they arrested an associate of Lonsdale Bryans called Anderson who had letters from the old Etonian on his person. (5) A note connected with an interrogation of Anderson states: ‘The main point which seemed to emerge from the interrogation was that according to Anderson, Lonsdale Bryans was a personal friend of Lord Brocket and also claimed to be something in the nature of an unofficial envoy of Lord Halifax. (5) He wished to see Hitler and with this in view had asked Anderson to get in touch with a certain Stahmer that Bryans would be vouched by a number of persons including those on the list.’ (5) On December 13, 1940, MI5 contacted Sir Alexander Codogan, the Permanent Under Secretary of State at the Foreign Office, to provide further details of the arrest and to disclose what the service had learned about Lonsdale Bryans from his associate. (5) The MI5 note states: ‘With reference to our conversation yesterday afternoon with regard to the case of John Lonsdale Bryans, I attach a copy of a letter which this individual wrote to the Director of the Schwartzhaupter Verlay, Leipzig, evidently offering to make a trip to Germany for the purpose of an audience with the Fuhrer. (5) ‘In writing this letter Bryans has of course been guilty of an offence under the Defence Regulations (DR4A) in the he has attempted to communicate with the enemy, but I certainly agree with your view that in the circumstances of the case the suggestion that we should request the Admiralty to intercept the Portuguese vessel on which Bryans is now travelling from Funchal to Lisbon is not practical.’ (5) Sir Alexander agrees that given the Foreign Office’s involvement the idea of an arrest is out of the question. (5) On 7th April 1941 he wrote: ‘Although there seems to be a good deal to be said for locking him up to prevent him airing his views to all and sundry, I understand that if this is done it will inevitably involve him bringing up the question of his contacts with the Foreign Office and the facilities offered to him to get into Italy. (5) In the circumstances we feel that he might be left at large though of course be strictly watched.’ (5) The Foreign Office seems to have spent the rest of the war worried that Lonsdale Bryans would reveal the mission to the outside world. (5) One Foreign Office note from the period states: ‘Bryans is becoming desperately short of money and although no mischief has been done so far, I anticipate the possibility that he might try to sell his story the press. (5) It occurs to me that it might be a good idea to warn Lonsdale Bryans as seriously and solemnly as possible that he should not go on telling people of how he contacted the Germans.’ (5) An MI5 official notes on 1 March 1944: ‘Bryans story would make sensational reading in the Daily Mirror.’ (5) The Foreign Office provided its clearest explanation of events in a letter sent seven years after the end of the war, when the security services found out about plans by Lonsdale Bryans to write about his adventures. (5) In a letter dated 15 August, 1952, an official wrote: ‘The truth of the matter seems to be that Bryans managed, by importuning a number of influential people in the country, to get himself an interview with Lord Halifax and, by virtue of his Italian contacts, to arrange a meeting with von Hassell in Switzerland to discuss a possible revolution in Germany and peace terms. (5) He brought back a paper which he gave to Sir Alexander Cadogan purporting to be set out von Hassell’s views. (5) His did this off his own bat and was never set on any mission by Lord Halifax or employed by HMG in any capacity whatsoever, though Lord Halifax did see him and though his journeys to Switzerland and Italy were facilitated on two occasions, but solely to the extent then necessary to enable anyone to travel. (5) ‘


Additional Sources

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahatma_Gandhi#Struggle_for_Indian_independence_(1915%E2%80%931947)
  2. Overy: Road to War ISBN 0 – 7737 – 2325 – 0
  3. Charmley: Chamberlain & Lost Peace ISBN 1 – 56663 – 1
  4. Fergusson: War of the World ISBN – 13: 0 – 978 – 0 – 713 – 99708 – 8
  5. Garden of Beasts:
  6. Norman Davies: Europe at War ISBN 0-333-69285-3 2006
  7. Larson ‘Garden of Beasts’
  8. C Ponting: 20thCentury ISBN 0-7126-6470-X
  9. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingsley_Wood


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