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304 Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in London, to Mr J. A. Lyons, Prime Minister

Letter LONDON, 7 October 1938


You have been kept so fully informed of all the happenings and
developments during the recent crisis that there is little need
for me to add anything now that the tension has relaxed and we
have run into a period of comparative calm. It may perhaps be of
some interest to you, if, as briefly as I can, I give you a
chronological summary of events.

In reviewing the past hectic three weeks it is necessary to get a
certain background, but no good purpose would be served by an
exhaustive examination of the story of Czechoslovakia since the
Treaty of St Germain nor a detailed examination of the happenings
of the more intense period of the past six months.

In providing that background, it is essential that certain factors
should be clearly set out as they have always to be borne in mind
if the subsequent developments of the situation are to be

Those factors are the following:-

1. The Treaty of St Germain was based upon a memorandum prepared
by Monsieur Belies [1] and that memorandum drew the picture of an
ideal community where the Minorities would be treated with
absolute justice and the maximum of consideration and of a State
which would be a neutralised one with a position in Eastern Europe
not unlike that occupied by Switzerland. The peoples who were
brought together in this State were a somewhat heterogeneous
collection made up of those included by the deliberate action of
the Allied and Associated Powers, and those added by the overt and
forceful action of the Czechs themselves, e.g. the Poles in

2. The conception of the new State as a neutralised one, similar
to Switzerland, was negatived by the fact that it was a pawn in
the game of Power politics and was the most heavily armed small
State in Europe. Its significance in Power politics was that the
new State was contemplated as a barrier to the ambitions of
Germany in Central and Eastern Europe. It formed part of the plan
of the French for the encirclement of Germany which has been one,
if not the greatest of the factors which has kept Europe in a
ferment for many years past and which led to German rearmament.

3. The Czechs have never attempted to give effect to the
protestations of Monsieur Benes embodied in his memorandum but
have deliberately set themselves to create a Czech domination with
little regard to promises made in respect of the just and
equitable treatment to be accorded to the Minorities.

Notwithstanding this fact, in fairness to the Czechs it has to be
pointed out that while they did not fulfil the promises of
Monsieur Benes' memorandum, the Minorities in Czechoslovakia have
been treated as well, if not better than any other Minorities in

The fact that the treatment of Sudeten Germans bore favourable
comparison with that of other Minorities in Europe did not remove
the dangers of the situation. The German minority was large in
numbers, something over 3 million. They were physically side by
side with Germany and there was Hitler's determination, amounting
almost to fanaticism, to bring back the German people into the
Reich. Warnings of the danger of the position have been emphatic
and oft repeated, in particular during the time that Sir Joseph
Addison was British Minister in Prague. [2]

Unfortunately, owing to many other preoccupations those warnings
were ignored and the position was allowed to drift.

At the beginning of the present year the dangers to European peace
were recognised and strong representations were made to the Czech
Government to remedy the situation, which, it was pointed out,
must inevitably lead to disaster if not dealt with.

Monsieur Benes himself began to appreciate the seriousness of the
situation and some action was taken, but it is not an unfair
criticism to say that while the Czech Government has been
progressively more forthcoming, particularly after Lord Runciman's
mission went to Czechoslovakia, they have invariably delayed their
concessions and offers, even up to the point of what is known as
the Fourth Plan [3], until it was too late, with the result that
concessions which, if they had been made at the proper time, would
probably have led to a settlement by negotiation of the trouble,
and the continuance of the Sudeten Germans in Czechoslovakia as an
autonomous people achieved nothing when they were offered.

The last hope of a settlement by negotiation disappeared on the
7th September when the Sudeten Delegation, after having informed
the Czechoslovak Government on that date that they were prepared
to proceed with negotiations on the basis of the new proposals,
i.e. the Czechoslovak Fourth Plan, subsequently, owing to the
incidents at Mahrisch Ostrau, refused to continue the discussions.

It was subsequently established that the incidents at Mahrisch
Ostrau had been grossly exaggerated, had been promptly and
efficiently handled by the Czech Authorities, and did not
constitute a reasonable ground for breaking off the negotiations
by the Sudeten Germans.

It is therefore open to question whether in fact these incidents
were the cause of the rupture or whether it resulted from the
conversations which Henlein [4] had with Hitler at Berchtesgaden
prior to their happening and the fact that the Nuremberg
Conference was taking place and Hitler had made his opening

Whatever the true facts as to the cause of the rupture may have
been it became apparent from this point that there was no
possibility of a successful termination to the negotiations
between the Czech Government and the leaders of the Sudeten
Germans and that in these circumstances, if Czechoslovakia was not
to remain a festering sore threatening the peace of Europe, the
issue of the transference of the Sudeten area to Germany, either
by a plebiscite or some other means, would have to be faced. The
dangers of the situation were further emphasised by the German
Army manoeuvres which were taking place and the speech by Hitler
in closing the Nuremberg Conference, which, while it did not add
tremendously to the tension of the situation, made it clear that
he was determined upon a final and rapid liquidation of the
problem of the Sudeten Germans.

On the 13th September the position became even more precarious by
reason of serious disturbances which took place in the Sudeten
area. The first impression of these incidents was that they had
probably been engineered by the Germans as a pretext for an armed
intervention by Germany to protect the Sudeten Germans.

Information subsequently received appears to show that this
suspension [sic] was ill-founded and that in fact the incidents
which occurred on the 13th were due to the high state of tension
which existed in the areas concerned and were not brought about at
German instigation.

The position, however, by the 14th September had become so acute
that the Prime Minister [5] took his decision to establish direct
contact with Hitler with a view to attempting to prevent an
immediate outbreak of hostilities. Information since available
establishes beyond any doubt that the Prime Minister's
intervention did, in fact, prevent an immediate invasion of
Czechoslovakia by the Germans and if he had not taken his action
the Germans would have been in Czechoslovakia by the 15th at the
latest with consequences that it is almost impossible to

On the 15th September the Prime Minister flew to Berchtesgaden.

The result of the Prime Minister's conversation with Hitler was
given to you in Dominions Office cable No. 233 [6] and was
amplified by the Prime Minister's speech in the House of Commons
on the 28th September. That interview made clear what had been
becoming apparent to anyone who was in close touch with the
position, namely that if war was to be avoided a solution would
have to be found down the lines that the Sudeten Germans went over
into the Reich by one method or another.

On the night of the 16th September, after the Prime Minister's
return, the position was examined by the Inner Cabinet (the Prime
Minister, Halifax [7], Simon [8] and Hoare [9] ) and at this
meeting Lord Runciman was present.

On the 17th September a full Cabinet was held at which Lord
Runciman was also present. As a result of these meetings it was
decided that the principle of self-determination for Sudeten
Germans should be accepted but the decision was made dependent
upon consultations with the French, whose Prime Minister [10] and
Foreign Secretary [11] were to arrive in London on the morning of
the 18th September.

On this question there was no division in the Cabinet as it was
felt it was unthinkable that we should become involved in a war,
the object of which would have been prevention of the Sudeten
Germans going over into the Reich, when there was so much to be
said on the grounds of justice and of the rights of the peoples to
self-determination for their doing so.

I personally, however, felt that it was essential that this
decision should be presented to the public in the right way and I
urged this point very strongly on the British Government. My views
as to the broad lines of the presentation of the decision I set
out in my cablegram to you of the 18th September. [12] I saw
Horace Wilson [13] on the Sunday morning, September 18th, and put
to him very strongly the necessity of the decision to urge self-
determination upon the Czech Government, being presented to the
British public and the world in the right way. He said he agreed
and asked me to leave with him some notes I had made down lines
similar to those set out in the cablegram I had sent the previous
night to Australia.

The French Ministers arrived on the morning of the 18th September.

That day was devoted to discussions with them, the results of
which are embodied in the communication which was sent to the
Czechoslovak Government (Dominions Office cable No. 241). [14]

In this communication the suggestion for direct transfer is first
put forward and the reasons for this suggestion are given in the
communication to the Czechoslovak Government. The most important
point, however, in the communication is the undertaking embodied
in paragraph 6-that the United Kingdom and French Governments
would be prepared to join in an International guarantee of the new
boundaries of the Czechoslovak State against unprovoked

The wisdom, desirability and necessity of giving such a guarantee
was naturally very exhaustively considered. For the United Kingdom
it was a departure from a traditional policy of not undertaking
any obligations upon the Continent save where Great Britain's own
security was menaced, for example the establishment of any
potentially hostile Power on the soil of France or the Low

The decision arrived at was that an offer of a guarantee of the
borders of the new Czechoslovakia had to be embodied in the
proposals. One reason for this decision was that if a peaceful
settlement was to be arrived at the Czechoslovak Government had to
be induced to agree to the proposals that the United Kingdom and
French Governments were putting forward.

The second point was that if a peaceful settlement was arrived at
under which the Sudeten areas were handed over to Germany and as
part of such settlement the new boundaries of Czechoslovakia were
established with guarantees or Treaties of Non-aggression, or
unilateral declarations, in the event of Germany subsequently
taking aggressive action, such action would have been met with
moral condemnation throughout the world and a basis upon which a
united front against Germany could be re-established would have
been created.

This latter consideration had to be very carefully taken into
account at the time when the United Kingdom-French proposals were
under consideration. At that moment the position was whether the
so-called principle of self-determination should be accepted,
which meant that Sudeten territories would go over to Germany, or
whether the German claim to have these territories included in the
Reich should be resisted.

If the decision had been to resist the claim, the position would
have been that as and when France had to fulfil her Treaty
obligations to Czechoslovakia, Russia and the United Kingdom would
have been drawn in and a certain measure of support would have
been forthcoming from the Little Entente. If the claim of Germany
were accepted it was clear that the alignment against her would
disappear unless some new basis were created which would bring it
together again. This basis was contemplated as being the
guarantees of the new boundaries of Czechoslovakia that would be

The commitment is an extremely unpleasant one and it is difficult
to see how it could ever be implemented directly, although, of
course, the United Kingdom could do much indirectly. Much as
everyone would have desired to avoid any such commitment it was
clear that unless it was entered into it would have been
impossible to bring about a peaceful settlement at the present
time and it was equally clear that it was necessary for the
purpose of recreating an alignment of nations to oppose Germany in
the event of her not being content with obtaining the Sudeten
country but continuing her policy of aggression in Middle and
Eastern Europe.

In the United Kingdom Cabinet there appears to have been unanimity
with regard to the proposals to be submitted to the Czechs
including the contemplated guarantee. There was also unanimity
that pressure must be put upon the Czechs to accept the proposals.

Monsieur Daladier and Bonnet in their discussions with British
Ministers were of the same opinion but when the proposals were
considered by the French Government there were three resignations
upon the grounds that pressure should not be put upon the Czechs
to accept.

On the 19th September the United Kingdom-French proposals were
presented to Monsieur Benes by the two Ministers in Prague. [15]

On the 21St September the Czech Government accepted the United
Kingdom-French proposals under pressure. Arrangements were made
for the Prime Minister and Hider to resume their conversations at
Godesberg on the 22nd September and at this stage it appeared that
the Czechs having accepted, the Prime Minister's conversations
with Hitler would be concerned with the orderly and decent manner
of carrying out the transfer, down the lines of the United
Kingdom-French proposals.

Upon the resumption of the conversations, however, Hitler demanded
the immediate occupation of the Sudetenland by the Germans. In
view of the subsequent crisis which this demand led to, it is
useful to observe that Hitler based it upon the grounds that it
was the only way of preserving order and preventing the situation
degenerating into disorder. At the same time as Hitler put forward
a claim that the Germans should immediately occupy the Sudeten
area, he produced a map showing the area which he suggested should
be occupied. With regard to this map it has to be remembered that
the Prime Minister's reaction to it was one of surprise because
while he had expected it would have gone much further than the
proposals he had in mind, the map was in fact very similar to the
one which the British experts had already prepared.

After the meeting on the night of the 22nd September, the Prime
Minister wrote a letter to Hitler, the contents of which are
embodied in Dominions Office telegram No. 259. [16] To this letter
Hitler sent a reply on the following afternoon-(Dominions Office
telegram No. 263). [17] In this letter Hitler maintains the
attitude he had adopted at the meeting the night before and the
letter is couched in somewhat offensive terms. in replying to it
the Prime Minister asked Hitler to furnish a written statement of
the exact demands, together with a copy showing the area. This
memorandum was handed to the Prime Minister at a meeting late that
same night, the 23rd September. The text of the memorandum is
contained in Dominions Office telegram No. 26. [18]

With regard to this memorandum it is to be observed that the tone
of it shows a considerable improvement in comparison with Hitler's
reply to the Prime Minister's letter. The two opening sentences of
it are down the lines that the necessity for the immediate
occupation by Germany is the increase in the number of incidents
which were taking place in the Sudetenland, that these incidents
are intolerable to the Sudeten Germans and constitute a danger to
the peace of Europe and can only be met by effecting the
separation of the Sudetenland to which Czechoslovakia had already
agreed, without any further delay. These sentences, nominally, if
not in fact, based the contemplated German action, not upon
Hitler's intention to occupy the Sudetenland, but upon the
necessity of immediately giving effect to the agreed transfer
because of the situation which was developing in the areas.

On the 24th September, the Prime Minister returned to London
arriving late in the afternoon and Cabinet meetings took place
that night and all through the day on Sunday. [19] The question
which had to be considered at these meetings was not whether the
Sudeten areas should go over to the Germans, but whether the
method for the transference laid down in the memorandum was such
an exhibition of force as against the doctrine of negotiation, as
to constitute a challenge that must be taken up.

At the series of Cabinet meetings that took place on the Saturday
afternoon, and all through Sunday, this was the issue that was
under consideration and it undoubtedly led to a marked division of
opinion with the possibility of a serious split in the Cabinet.

The arguments that were advanced by the two sides are set out in
my cablegram dated the 24th September. [20]

There is little doubt but that the attitude of the Prime Minister
and of the more responsible Ministers was that while the German
memorandum was unacceptable and some modification of it would have
to be brought about, every effort should be made to find some
compromise, even to the point of such compromise being only a
nominal one, as they felt it was unthinkable having taken the
major decision to hand over the Sudeten territory to Germany, that
a world war should be precipitated, upon what was in fact only the
method by which the transference was to be brought about. Certain
members of the Cabinet, however, such as Duff Cooper [21], who was
in very close touch with Winston Churchil [22], were in favour of
the rejection and the denouncing of the German memorandum. They
argued that a determined resistance and forceful action such as
the mobilisation of the British Fleet would cause Hitler to climb
down. Having regard to all the known circumstances this view as to
the probable effect of a strong line upon Hitler is supported in
very few quarters. Unquestionably throughout Sunday the 25th
September there was a great deal of confused thinking in the
Cabinet and a very dangerous position prevailed.

On the evening of Sunday the 25th September, Monsieurs [sic]
Daladier and Bonnet arrived in London and long consultations with
them took place that night. The result was that the following
morning, Monday the 26th September, Sir Horace Wilson was sent to
Berlin with a final appeal from the Prime Minister and a personal
letter from him to Hitler, (Dominions Office telegram No. 286).

[23] At the same time Sir Horace Wilson was authorised to make a
statement (Dominions Office telegram No. 287) [24] as to the
United Kingdom's attitude in the event of France becoming engaged
in active hostilities with Germany should Hitler in the course of
the conversation with Sir Horace Wilson refuse to modify his
attitude in response to the Prime Minister's appeal.

Sir Horace Wilson with Sir Nevile Henderson [25] in fact saw
Hitler about 5.0 p.m. the same afternoon. Apparently however,
little progress was made as Hitler was in a very excited state
having his speech to make at 8.O'clock that night, and nothing
resulted. Sir Horace Wilson had a further conversation with Hitler
the next morning at which, while Hitler was apparently quite
normal, and apparently friendly, he refused in any way to modify
his attitude and Sir Horace Wilson at the end of the interview
made the declaration he had been authorised to make with regard to
the United Kingdom attitude in the event of hostilities between
France and Germany. [26]

This declaration appears to have had little effect, to have caused
no outburst on the part of Hitler, nor in fact to have led to any
particular comments. In the meantime, on Monday evening the 26th
September, Hitler had made his public declaration. That speech was
on the whole more moderate than had been expected. It, however,
contained the most bitter denunciation of President Benes and was
down the lines of the impossibility of trusting any of the
promises that President Benes and the Czech Government had made.

After Hitler's speech, the Prime Minister made a statement
(Dominions Office telegram No. 291) [27] which pointed out that
while it was evident that Hitler had no faith that the promises
made by the Czechs would be carried out, that position did not
arise because the promises were made to the British and French
Governments and the British Government would see that the promises
were carried out fairly and fully and with all reasonable

The Prime Minister's statement was agreed by the Inner Cabinet at
about 11.O'clock and afterwards I had a long talk with John Simon
which went on into the early hours of the morning. The point I was
urging upon him was that we had only until Saturday the 1st
October to try and get some arrangement that would avoid war and
that it therefore seemed to me that at the moment our task was not
to reply to statements, however convincing our replies might be,
but to get down to the problem of how we could find any solution
in the limited time available. I said that one fact seemed
absolutely clear and that was there had to be some occupation of
the Sudeten land by the Germans on the 1st October, in view of the
definite statement that Hitler had made and the impossibility of a
Dictator going back on his public utterances. I urged, however,
that if we worked out proposals which contemplated a token
occupation on the 1st October, say of certain areas which were
overwhelmingly German, to be followed by progressive and rapid
steps for the occupation of further areas there might still be
some hope of saving the situation. At the commencement of our talk
John Simon was fairly hopeless as to the prospects of doing
anything but gradually he became slightly more optimistic. Malcolm
MacDonald [28] and Dulanty [29] were present at this conversation
and after we had finished at the Dominions Office I drove John
Simon home.

On the night of Tuesday the 27th September, proposals were
forwarded to the Ambassador in Berlin suggesting a new plan
whereby something along the lines discussed by John Simon and me
on the previous night and early morning of the same day were
submitted (Dominions Office telegram No. 308). [30]

On the morning of the 27th September the position became even more
dark than it had been up to that moment, as in addition to
learning that the appeal taken by Horace Wilson had failed
(information as to this at that time was somewhat scanty as all
that had been received was a very brief communication from Wilson
in Berlin) the contemplated mobilisation by Germany at 2.0 p.m. on
Wednesday the 28th had become known. The effect of this was to
shorten the period in which some settlement could be arrived at
from October 1St to 2.0 p.m. on September 28th. At this point
little hope was felt that the crash could be avoided and at lunch
time on Tuesday it was difficult to discover exactly what the
position was so far as the British Government was concerned.

Immediately after lunch I went to see Malcolm MacDonald and asked
him what in fact was being done. I discovered that he knew nothing
and while I was with him we ascertained that the Inner Cabinet was
meeting at 10, Downing Street. I pointed out to him that the
decisions which the Inner Cabinet were taking at that moment were
of vital importance, not only to the people of the United Kingdom
but to the people of the whole Empire, and I felt that it was
imperative that at such a critical time there should be no
question but that the views of the Dominions were clearly before
those Ministers of the British Cabinet who were dealing with vital
decisions. I then formally requested him to communicate at once
with the Prime Minister at Downing Street to tell him of this
definite view which I held and to say that as it was impossible
for the representatives of the Dominions to be present at the
discussions which were now taking place as a body, or for any
individual Dominion to speak for all the others, the Dominion
representatives requested that he, Malcolm MacDonald, who was
familiar with the views of the Dominions from the Conferences we
had been having almost hourly, should be present.

I then got into touch with the other High Commissioners and got
their confirmation of what I had done. Malcolm MacDonald
immediately sent a letter over to the Prime Minister [31] and he
was at once summoned to go over to Downing Street.

Later in the afternoon I was asked to go to Downing Street and I
then put to the Inner Cabinet the views which I held on the
position. This fact is most secret as it is not known to any of
the other Dominions that I went to Downing Street and was with the
Inner Cabinet on this Tuesday afternoon.

The view which I put forward was, of course, down the lines that
even at this eleventh hour some way had to be found of preventing
the conflagration. What actually was done as a result of the
consideration of the position on the Tuesday afternoon was the
despatch of the telegram to Prague (Dominions Office telegram No.

302) [32] pointing out to Monsieur Benes the fact that unless by
2.O'clock on the following day the Czechoslovak Government
accepted the German terms, Bohemia would be over-run and nothing
any Power could do would prevent the disastrous consequences to
his country. The implications of this telegram are fairly clear
but the United Kingdom Government felt they could not go any
further than the telegram goes in the direction of putting
pressure upon the Czechs to accept. The proposals providing for a
token occupation on October 1st and for a definite time table for
the rest of the occupation to which I have referred above were
sent to Berlin and Prague (Dominions Office telegram No. 308).

A telegram asking the French to take no overt hostile action
before consultation with the United Kingdom was despatched.

(Dominions Office telegram No. ) [33]

That same night the Prime Minister made his broadcast speech which
had a profound effect, not only in this country but throughout the
world and particularly in the United States of America. After the
Prime Minister's broadcast, the general feeling was that
everything possible had been done to avert the crisis and a
feeling of resignation prevailed that war was inevitable.

Parliament was meeting the next day and speculation was much more
prevalent as to how far it would be possible by the discussions in
Parliament to rally a united nation to face the greatest trial in
its history rather than as to what further steps could be taken to
avert the crisis.

With regard to the meeting of Parliament there was an interesting
background. Most people realised that a debate would inevitably
render any possibility of a settlement far more difficult but by
Monday the 26th September it had become apparent that undesirable
as it might be, it was inevitable, in the state of public opinion
that, was growing up, that Parliament must meet and it was
accordingly summoned for Wednesday the 28th September.

The next event was the dramatic playing of the last card on
Wednesday morning, the 28th September, namely the Prime Minister's
personal telegrams to Hitler and Mussolini suggesting a further
meeting, or if Hitler agreed, a Four Power Conference. The exact
sequence of events with regard to these historic messages will
probably never be known. My own view of what happened is the

I think on Tuesday night after his broadcast the Prime Minister
had despaired of any further effort. I do not think the night had
brought any alteration of this attitude. Early on the Wednesday
morning he received the Australian suggestion of invoking the
assistance of Mussolini. [34] This suggestion kindled a new
thought in his mind and he added the inspiration of at the same
time as he telegraphed to Mussolini, telegraphing to Hitler. These
two telegrams were drafted [35] and sent by the Prime Minister
without any consultation with his Cabinet.

It is interesting that my cablegram to you of the 27th September
[36] giving the text of the messages that had been sent was
probably in your hands before any Minister here was aware of the
action which the Prime Minister had taken.

After these messages had been despatched I personally felt that
there was still a hope that the crisis might be averted. This was
strengthened when news came through during the morning that the
contemplated further military mobilisation by the Germans which
was to take place at 2. O'clock on that day had been postponed for
24 hours at the request of Signor Mussolini.

Just before I went to lunch I learnt two further encouraging
pieces of news. One was that at 2.0 a.m. that morning the Prime
Minister's broadcast speech and President Roosevelt's message,
both of which had been suppressed in Germany, had been released
over the German Broadcasting system. The second was that the Prime
Minister's broadcast had been enthusiastically received in the
Italian press, one paper going so far as to say 'could anyone
resist such an appeal'. These factors seemed to me to point to
some probable modification of the German attitude.

At 3.0 a.m. [sic] the Prime Minister made his speech in the House
of Commons and the scene was the most dramatic one that I have
ever seen or am likely to see. The Prime Minister's speech made a
great impression upon a packed House. There was no doubt, however,
that the Government would have been bitterly attacked in certain
quarters and there were even some points in the Prime Minister's
speech that would have helped his opponents in their attack.

Towards the end of the speech one had the definite impression that
while the Prime Minister would undoubtedly carry the country with
him, he would be bitterly assailed in the Debate that was to
follow and that the atmosphere was hardly going to be an ideal one
in which to enter upon the greatest struggle we have ever faced in
our history. Suddenly and dramatically the whole position was
changed. When the Prime Minister had got to the point of dealing
with events after 6.0 p.m. on the previous evening, Hitler's reply
agreeing to a Four Power Conference and suggesting its meeting the
following day was brought in to the House and handed to the Prime
Minister. When he announced its contents the whole House,
including the Ambassadors Gallery and the Public Galleries, rose
to their feet and cheered, with the exception of the Labour

The Prime Minister immediately moved that the House should adjourn
and this was supported by Attlee [37], who when announcing his
support, received an ovation from all parts of the House. The
scene was quite without parallel in the history of Parliament and
showed unmistakably what was the attitude of the representatives
of the people quite apart from any attitude they might have
adopted had the debate continued.

As you know the Prime Minister left for the Meeting at Munich the
next morning and with surprising rapidity an agreement was arrived
at on the same day. That agreement has been the subject of a four
days' debate in Parliament here, which ended in an overwhelming
vindication of the Prime Minister's actions. Although the Labour
Party voted against the resolution, which was submitted to the
House, I think the great majority of them were really behind the
Prime Minister and I have not a shadow of a doubt that such is the
attitude of the general public in this country. The only real
opposition is that which comes from the little group led by
Winston Churchill but of the attitude of Winston and those who
were with him I have not time to write at the moment, although I
may send you something later.

The Prime Minister returned to London on Friday evening after
having had a further Conference with Hitler at which the joint
declaration which he brought back with him was agreed and signed.

On his return to London the Prime Minister received an amazing
reception with spontaneous demonstrations such as I have never
seen equalled and this is a good augury for the support he will
receive in trying to carry through his policy of appeasement.

Whether he will succeed or not remains to be seen, but I am
convinced that the line he is following is the only one that holds
the slightest prospect of avoiding a world war towards which we
were heading with increasing speed until he took over the Prime
Ministership. [38]

What I have dictated above gives you an outline of what has
happened over the crisis period. It is, however, only a bare
outline. Of the behind the scene story it tells little but
probably as much as should be put on paper. Some day when we meet
I will tell you more. Even what I have written should I suggest be
treated most circumspectly and remain a personal communication to

One interesting fact that was brought home to me was the
importance of the Privy Council and the oath that binds us all.

Because I was a Privy Councillor it enabled me to be told of and
consulted with regard to matters which if I had not been could not
have been disclosed to me even as the Representative of Australia.

It has been a ghastly period and one is now feeling the reaction.

I hope it did not knock you about too much.


1 Dr Eduard Benes, President of Czechoslovakia.

2 1930-36.

3 The 'Fourth Plan' was agreed to by Czechoslovak leaden on 5
September, following on the Sudeten German Party's rejection of
the 'Third Plan'. (See Document 244, note 2.)
4 Konrad Henlein, leader of the Sudeten German Party.

5 Neville Chamberlain.

6 Document 263.

7 Viscount Halifax, U.K. Foreign Secretary.

8 Sir John Simon, U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer.

9 Sir Samuel Hoare, U.K. Home Secretary.

10 Edouard Daladier.

11 Georges Bonnet.

12 Document 262.

13 Special adviser to U.K. Prime Minister.

14 Not printed. This and other Dominions Office cablegrams noted
in this Document are located on AA : A981, Czechoslovakia 18, ii
and iii.

15 Basil C. Newton, U.K. Minister, and Leopold Victor de Lacroix,
French Minister.

16 Not printed.

17 Not printed; see Document 275, note 3.

18 Not printed.

19 25 September 1938.

20 Document 274.

21 First Lord of the Admiralty.

22 Then a backbencher.

23 Not printed.

24 Not printed.

25 U.K. Ambassador to Germany.

26 See Document 283, note 5.

27 Not printed.

28 Acting for Dominions Secretary.

29 Eireann High Commissioner in London.

30 Not printed.

31 It read: 'Dear Prime Minister, the High Commissioners have seen
the latest telegram from Henderson, and three of them have
expressed to me very strong views as to the line that we should
take on this. They urge that the decision which is being taken by
our Government today is so far-reaching and may commit them to so
much that they feel their views must be represented to the
Ministers who are now considering the policy. They are therefore
asking that I should come across and let you know at once what
they feel.

I hate to barge in, but must report what they have put up so
emphatically to me, and do feel that it is extremely important.

Yours ever, Malcolm MacDonald' (PRO : PREM 1/242).

32 Not printed.

33 No cablegram number was inserted. It refers to B320.

34 See Document 288.

35 Not printed.

36 Not printed.

37 Clement Attlee, leader of the Labour Party 1935-55.

38 The remainder of this letter was added in Bruce's handwriting.

[AA : AA 1970/556, ITEM 6(1)]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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