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Did people agree with Churchill's stand on appeasement?

Source 5

A letter from Mr and Mrs Horton, two of Churchill’s constituents, September 1938


CHAR 7/107/9 (images 11 and 12)

Simplified Transcript

Dear Sir

I have never before written to my MP but the actions of the government have forced me to add my voice of protest about the government’s cynical policy. It is encouraging Nazi aggression and like people up and down the land I am disgusted by British policy.

The newsreels praise Chamberlain but they are deceiving the British people.

You have shown that you understand the threat of Hitler. If the present government carries on Britain will be left to face Nazi Germany alone, without any allies.

It is possible to protect peace. Hitler would not dare fight against Britain, France and the USSR combined, especially if they were supported by the USA. Britain holds the key here.

Yours sincerely
Ronald Hutton ARCA
Margaret Hutton MA

Original Transcript

Goldings Lodge,
20 September 1938 Goldings Hill.
Loughton. Essex.
Dear Sir,

Never before have I written to my M.P. but the present cynical encouragement to Nazi aggression, the dismemberment of a democratic state to ‘appease’ the appetite of a warlike state that is everywhere disturbing the peace of the world – forces me to add my voice to those who up and down the country are amazed and disgusted at the depths to which British policy has sunk.

“Chamberlain the Peacemaker” “God Bless Mr Chamberlain” were the captions of the Gaumont British newsreel of the flight to Hitler. What a deception of the British people.

You sir, have shown in speeches and writings in the immediate past that you well understand the menace to the British people that the constant expansion of the Third Reich means. The present Government’s policy can only strengthen Fascism in Europe, throw the small nations into the arms of Hitler, weaken France and finally leave an isolated Britain, without a friend in the world to face the then formidable Nazi monster.

Yet the defence of peace is even yet possible. Does anyone seriously believe that Hitler would march against the combined might of Britain, France and the USSR with the moral support of the great American democracy? Britain holds the key. The British people must take a hand in seeing that it is used to open the door to Peace and the halting of aggression – not to the letting loose of war.

Yours sincerely
Ronald Horton ARCA
Margaret Horton BA

What is this source?

This is a letter from Ronald and Margaret Hutton, two of Churchill’s constituents, to Churchill in September 1938.

Background to this source

This letter was written on 20 September 1938. At this time British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was negotiating with German leader Adolf Hitler over the Sudetenland area of Czechoslovakia. At this time, a war between Britain and France and Germany looked very likely and air-raid shelters were being built in British cities. To try to prevent war, Chamberlain flew to Germany to meet with Hitler on 15 September (and, later, on 22 September).

In the years 1935–38 the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler had been pursuing aggressive policies such as building up German arms and demanding territories. In September 1938 he was demanding that the Sudetenland area of Czechoslovakia should become part of Germany. Hitler was threatening to send troops to take over this region. He claimed that the German population which lived in the area was being mistreated by the Czechs. War looked very likely because France had promised to help Czechoslovakia if it was attacked by Germany and Britain would support its ally, France. In an attempt to prevent war, Chamberlain flew to Germany to meet Hitler on 15 September. He agreed that Hitler could take the Sudetenland if the population of the Sudetenland voted for it in a plebiscite (a type of referendum). In return, Hitler promised that he wanted no more territory in Europe and that he wouldn’t attack Czechoslovakia or Poland.

How can we use this source in the investigation?

Remember, we’re hoping that this source can be useful to us in investigating how far people agreed with Churchill’s views on appeasement in the 1930s. Sources usually help historians in two ways:

Surface level

  1. What events are described in the letter?
  2. How do the writers feel about these events?
  3. What does the letter say about Churchill?
  4. Why do the writers disagree with the policy of Appeasement?
  5. What do they think should happen?

Deeper level

Which of the inferences below can be made from this source?

On a scale of 1-5 how far do you agree that this source supports this inference? Which extract(s) from the source support your argument?
Churchill was a lone voice in criticising appeasement.

The writers were appalled by appeasement.

The British people were appalled by appeasement.

There was a strong fear of war.

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Need help interpreting the source?

  • Hutton was an art teacher (ARCA stands for Associate of the Royal College of Art). He and his wife were both professional people. Does this help us to understand which groups of people supported or opposed appeasement?
  • How useful is this source as a measure of British public opinion as a whole?

Explore the guide to interpreting letters

Source 6

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