Sunday 6 January 2019

Christopher Booker's curious story in today's Sunday Telegraph

My friend Greg Lance-Watkins recalled how, in 1967, as a young officer cadet at Sandhurst, he boarded a packed train from London to Inverness, on which the only unoccupied seat was in the dining car. Seeing his uniform, the chap in the seat opposite invited him to sit down, and Greg recognised him as the former prime minister Alec Douglas-Home.

In their three hours of enjoyable conversation, and remembering that Home had been with Chamberlain at Munich as his parliamentary private secretary, Greg quizzed him about the moment when Chamberlain, having left the aircraft, waved a piece of paper (which no one was allowed to see) and was greeted with cheers from the waiting crowd. 

After hours without food in the unheated aircraft, the party then rushed back to Downing Street where, according to Home’s account, as Chamberlain was still taking off his coat, he said to senior colleagues who had gathered to greet him: “Gentlemen, prepare for war.”


  1. Lovely little anecdote.

    Both changes everything, yet leaves it the same, like the best historical footnotes.

  2. "Christopher Booker's curious story in Sunday Telegraph"

    According to this story at least, far from being fooled by Hitler, Chamberlain had become just as aware of his true intentions as Churchill. By pretending otherwise, he bought another year for Britain to step up preparations for a war he now realised was inevitable.’

    Well, that’s the way Christopher Booker puts it. I would go further. If Mr Lance-Watkins recollection was accurate, and if Home’s account is true, it tends to confirm my view, expressed in my book ‘The Phoney Victory’, that Chamberlain planned for and in fact sought war with Germany, and that our promise to come to Poland’s aid was a deliberate trigger to bring such a war about, and a device to prevent Poland from making a deal with Hitler over Danzig.

    What it completely explodes is the view commonly held (and one which I used to hold myself) that Chamberlain was fooled by Hitler at Munich. Though of course it makes perfect sense, if Chamberlain (rightly) grasped that Britain was in no state to fight any sort of war in September 1938, and nor was France, that he would be wise to keep his warlike ambitions as secret as possible.

    Peter Hitchens DM