Chamberlain, Germany and Japan 1933-4: Redefining British by P. Bell

By P. Bell

This booklet examines the function of Chamberlain and the nationwide executive in responding to the strategic difficulties created by means of the emergence of a two-front probability from Germany and Japan. It specializes in the 1st defence standards enquiry of 1933-4, while rearmament foundations have been laid and international coverage redefined. It explores the inter-relationship among the various departments of country, and among members, within the formula of coverage at a time of trouble, and sheds mild at the debate approximately appeasement.

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Sample text

As with Eyres-Monsell, there was every reason why the Australian High Commissioner should favour closer relations with Japan, but not if it meant curbing Far Eastern preparations. Although the Dominions' preoccupation with Japan was understandable, it is worth stressing that, to some extent, their outlook was short-sighted; for, if Britain ever became involved in a European war because of failure to contain Germany, then it was possible that no fleet might be available to assist the Dominions if Japan took the opportunity to attack in the Far East.

As we shall see, Eyres-Monsell was not against the idea of closer relations with Japan, even regarding it as feasible, but her certainly did not see it as a method of compensating for defence weakness. Japan's ambitions also alarmed Australia's representative, Stanley Bruce, lest they encompass the Dominions. Japan, he accepted, would probably concentrate upon China, but she might well look elsewhere if thwarted in Asia; moreover, 'some unfortunate incident' might precipitate 'a foolish action in a hurry'.

37 News that Germany had signed a nonagression pact with Poland on 26 January, which Hitler presented as bona fide evidence of peaceful intentions, far from palliating Vansittart's fear, actually fortified his suspicions. The pact, he argued on 30 January, would let Hitler throw his weight in other directions; it would bring nearer the prospect of a bid for colonies, perhaps as part of an enlarged definition of Gleichberechtigung. The Committee, he urged, should accept that 'the risks had increased rather than decreased', that there was 'more need for speed in making good our deficiencies than before'.

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