Prime Minister of England.
“THE GOVT REACTION TO THE LATEST HITLER PERFORMANCE IS MORE ROBUST THAN I FEARED.”
Typewritten Letter Signed, one page, quarto, Chartwell, April 28, 1939. On his imprinted stationery, to Sir Walter Layton. With the superscription, salutation, closing and postscript in Churchill’s hand. Headed Private.
Winston Churchill writes: “As I told you the other night, my negotiations with the Daily Mirror had reached the penultimate stage before I received your handsome offer. I felt, therefore, bound to consult the Daily Mirror again, and I have now made a definite arrangement with them which holds good in war as well as in peace time. Thank you so much for having wished me to become a contributor to the New Chronicle….”
In a postscript, Winston Churchill adds, “The Govt reaction to the latest Hitler performance is more robust than I feared.”
The “latest Hitler performance” was the Fuhrer’s invasion of Prague on March 15, 1939. Six months earlier, on September 30, 1938 Germany, Great Britain, France, and Italy had settled on the Munich agreement, permitting German annexation of the Sudetenland in western Czechoslovakia. It was an attempt by the Allies to avoid war. With this recent invasion, however, Hitler annexed the remainder of Czechoslovakia. During the winter, Churchill “had expected Hitler to move against Poland in February and March, and was not displeased to be proved wrong when he marched into Prague instead…. Adversity had taught Churchill not to snatch. Within the Government the influence of [Foreign Secretary] Halifax, already large, had been augmented. [Prime Minister] Chambertain’s initial acceptance of the Nazi action as a fait accompli…in the Commons was superseded by a tougher approach in a speech in Birmingham…. Now convinced of Hitler’s Napoleonic ambitions, Halifax led the Government towards the guarantee which was extended to Poland at the end of the month. It was, for him, a moral stand. For the Prime Minister it was a line in the sand over which he did not think Hitler would tread” [John Charmley, Churchill: The End of Glory].
“For Churchill it was a sign that things were going his way. …Churchill played an altogether cannier game. With events proving his case for him, he did nothing which could have erected a barrier between him and a place in the Government [however, it would be another four months — when Hitler would invade Poland in September — before Churchill got his appointment to the War Cabinet as First Lord of the Admiralty]…. As fresh crises arose in April, he kept in close touch with Chamberlain and Halifax, and let his ‘strong desire’ to enter the Government be known. Following the Italian invasion of Albania on Good Friday, he deluged the Government with advice about the dispositions of the British Fleet and diplomatic action…. [but for Chamberlain], until and unless war became unavoidable, Churchill would remain outside the Government” [Charmley].
When Winston Churchill wrote the present letter, his financial situation demanded he work double shifts at his History of the English-Speaking Peoples, which took up much of his time. Walter Thomas Layton (1884-1966) was chairman of the News Chronicle from 1930 to 1950. A former editor of The Economist, he had been Churchill’s statistical officer at the Ministry of Munitions around Churchill’s first tenure as Secretary of War. He would later be Winston Churchill’s choice to run the Joint War production staff from 1942 to 1943.
(Sir Layton had written on April 4: “I am very sorry that after all we shall not have you to write for the News Chronicle. But I console myself with the thought that it was in any case a hopeless effort, as you should have quite other things to attend to by the time July comes.”)
Framed in gold gilt and matted in cream and taupe; dimensions measure 19 1/2 inches wide by 15 1/2 inches high.
This item is associated with these categories in our inventory:
- World Leaders
- World War II