On September 29, 1938, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain flew to Munich, Bavaria, Germany, to meet the German Chancellor, Adolf Hitler. He returned to London on October 1st waving the famous piece of paper which he proudly claimed contained the agreement pledging that Germany and Britain would never go to war again, thus guaranteeing "peace with honour."
The public was overjoyed but Churchill, participating in the House of Commons debate on the resolution "that this house approves the policy of His Majesty's Government by which was averted in the recent crisis and supports their efforts to secure a lasting peace," charged that the Government had "sustained a total and unmitigated defeat," and that "a disaster of the first magnitude has befallen Great Britain and France."
"And do not suppose this is the end," he warned. "This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigour, we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in olden time."
Having thus fortified myself by the example of others, I will proceed to emulate them. I will, therefore, begin by saying the most unpopular and most unwelcome thing. I will begin by saying what everybody would like to ignore or forget but which I must nevertheless be stated, namely, that we have sustained a total and unmitigated defeat, and that France has suffered even more than we have . . . .
We are in the presence of a disaster of the first magnitude which has befallen Great Britain and France. Do not let us blind ourselves to that. It must now be accepted that all the countries of Central and Eastern Europe will make the best terms they can with the triumphant Nazi Power. The system of alliances in Central Europe upon which France has relied for her safety has been swept away, and I can see no means by which it can be reconstituted.
The road down the Danube Valley to the black Sea, the resources of corn and oil, the road which leads as far as Turkey, has been opened. In fact, if not in form, it seems to me that all those countries of Middle Europe, all those Danubian countries, will, one after another, be drawn into this vast system of power politics - not only power military politics but power economic politics -- radiating from Berlin, and I believe this can be achieved quite smoothly and swiftly and will not necessarily entail the firing of a single shot....
I do not grudge our loyal, brave people, who were ready to do their duty no matter what the cost, who never flinched under the strain of last week. I do not grudge them the natural, spontaneous outburst of joy and relief when they learned that the hard ordeal would no longer be required of them at the moment; but they should know the truth. They should know that there has been gross neglect and deficiency in our defences; they should know that we have sustained a defeat without a war, the consequences of which will travel far with us along our road; they should know that we have passed an awful milestone in our history, when the whole equilibrium of Europe has been deranged, and that the terrible words have for the time being been pronounced against the Western democracies.
"Thou are weighed in the balance and found wanting."
And do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning.This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigour, we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.
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