Winston Churchill, In a Letter Recalling His Wilderness Years, Warns That Germany Should Not Again Be Allowed to Flaunt International Sanctions and Arm Itself

“It is indeed a timely and pungent warning… I made several speeches on the subject of German expenditure on rearmament”

An unpublished letter of Churchill on the subject that brought him to power

Among the public men of influence, only Churchill recognized the profound peril to the world that the Nazis and Fascists represented. He spoke out in Parliament, on the radio, in his newspaper columns, anywhere and everywhere, demanding the government...

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Winston Churchill, In a Letter Recalling His Wilderness Years, Warns That Germany Should Not Again Be Allowed to Flaunt International Sanctions and Arm Itself

“It is indeed a timely and pungent warning… I made several speeches on the subject of German expenditure on rearmament”

An unpublished letter of Churchill on the subject that brought him to power

Among the public men of influence, only Churchill recognized the profound peril to the world that the Nazis and Fascists represented. He spoke out in Parliament, on the radio, in his newspaper columns, anywhere and everywhere, demanding the government wake up and prepare. As early as 1933, Churchill warned in the House of Commons, “Those Germans are not looking for equal status. They are looking for weapons.” He soon gathered around him a band of like-minded supporters who saw the menace and the potentially fatal nature of the threat. But these men were a small minority, and none of them were in the upper reaches of government. The men who were, the prime ministers and party leaders, not only disagreed with Churchill but considered him a loose cannon and an annoyance.

In 1934, in scenes reminiscent of the best spy dramas, Churchill held clandestine meetings at Chartwell, where he was briefed on the actual situation in Germany by the government and military men in his network, men in positions low enough to be without policy-making influence but high enough to know the true facts and statistics being developed (and be in despair at the lack of response from the government). With this information, Churchill shocked Parliament by revealing the true figures of German military production, figures many colleagues refused to believe. In November of 1934, he made a stirring speech in the Commons demanding an increase in military expenditures: “To urge preparation of defense is not to assert the imminence of war…” These words marked a turning point in his career; he would now primarily devote himself to warning of the threat of Germany. Meanwhile, Hitler went public with hitherto secret information showing the superiority in strength of the German air force over the British. Baldwin had promised that British airpower would never fall behind that of Germany, and this put the lie to that statement, while Chamberlain urged continued disarmament, claiming “The real danger to this country is Winston. He is the warmonger, not Hitler.”

In October 1935 Italy took Ethiopia. On March 7, 1936, Hitler invaded the demilitarized Rhineland, which action conflicted with and basically tore up the Versailles Treaty that ended World War I. Churchill understood the meaning of this invasion, saying “An enormous triumph has been gained by the Nazi regime,” and stating “The German Army is a dagger pointed at the heart of France.” But many in Britain saw this as Hitler simply getting his own. At a high-level dinner party Chamberlain reviled Churchill and voiced approval of Hitler, and Baldwin said, “I know some of you think I should speak more roughly to Hitler than I do, but have you reflected that the reply to a stiff letter might be a bomb on your breakfast tables?” Lord Lothian noted in London that “After all, [the Germans] are only going into their own back garden.” Churchill continued to reveal in the Commons the truth about Britain’s lack of preparedness, while public opinion first began to swing his way.

Chamberlain became Prime Minister in 1937, and despite growing pressure and stormy Cabinet meetings, he held firm to his policy of appeasing the dictators and denying the necessity of rearming. Hitler’s march continued, and Churchill remained out of power.

In 1938, Churchill wrote and published “Arms and the Covenant” which highlighted the United Kingdom’s utter lack of military preparation to face the threat of Nazi Germany’s expansion, and attacked Chamberlain’s policies. The book galvanised many of his supporters, and built up public opposition to the Munich Agreement. Just a year later, Churchill’s warnings were proven justified and his predictions came true, as the world was plunged into World War II.

John Hartman Morgan was a British lawyer who volunteered for military service following the outbreak of war in 1914 and served with the British delegation to the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and the Prisoners of War Commission in 1919. He was also at the Inter-Allied Military Commission of Control in Berlin from 1919 to 1923. Here he witnessed German attempts to build up their army contrary to the terms of the Treaty of Versailles and he published his findings in October 1924 in the Quarterly Review, titled “The Disarmament of Germany and After”. After World War II he elaborated on this theme in his book, “Assize of Arms.” He sent Churchill a copy, along with a warning that Germany should not again be allowed to arm itself as it had after World War I. This is Churchill’s response, noting his speeches during the Wilderness Years and warning against further German disarmament.

Typed Letter Signed, on Hyde Park stationary, stamped from the Hotel de la Mamounia in Marrakech, Morocco, while Churchill was there on holiday vacation, December 16, 1947, to Morgan, discussing rearmament and both of their books on that topic. “Dear Morgan, Thank you so much for sending me a copy of your book ASSIZE OF ARMS. It is indeed a timely and pungent warning. I am reading it with great interest.

I made several speeches on the subject of German expenditure on rearmament, and I think that you will find the main facts and figures in my collected volume ARMS AND THE COVENANT, pages 195, 269, and especially 285.”

Pages 195, 269, and 285 in Churchill’s “Arms and the Covenant” highlight the disproportionate amount of money Germany spent on rearmament in 1935 as compared to Britain: £800,000,000 for Germany as compared to £6,800,000 for Britain. A stupendous amount of German spending, and a wholly insufficient amount for Britain. Churchill notes, “Nothing like [this] has ever been seen in times of peace.” He continued, “The incredible figure of £800,000,000 is being spent in the currency of the present year on direct and indirect military preparations by Germany. The whole of Germany is an armed camp. Any Member of the House who has travelled there can add his corroboration of that statement. The industries of Germany are mobilized for war to an extent to which ours were not mobilized even a year after the Great War had begun. The whole population is being trained from childhood up to war. A mighty army is coming into being.” Churchill concluded, accurately, as the world learned less than a year later, “The fact that Germany is spending at this enormous rate upon armaments warns us not only of the magnitude of the danger, but the possibility of its imminence.”

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