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Journal of Strategic Studies


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Czechoslovakia as a military factor in British considerations of 1938


Milan Hauner
a a

German Historical Institute, London

Available online: 24 Jan 2008

To cite this article: Milan Hauner (1978): Czechoslovakia as a military factor in British considerations of 1938, Journal of Strategic Studies, 1:2, 194-222 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01402397808436998

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Czechoslovakia as a Military Factor in British Considerations of 1938


Milan Hauner*
Much of the literature on the Sudeten crisis of 1938 concentrates on diplomatic history. Other crucial factors have been neglected by historians and although more attention has recently been given to economic matters,1 references to the military strength have tended on the British side to be purely from the subjective point of view. In contrast to the case of Poland, an overall assessment of Czechoslovakia as a military factor is still very much needed. One of the more recent attempts to evaluate Czech military strength has been David Vital's study.2 He argues that in almost all studies of Munich there have been two underlying assumptions: that German policy was fixed once and for all and that Czechoslovakia was an object and not a subject of policy. Consequently, Vital asks, why did Czech military and industrial strength remain a mere potential and why was it never transformed into a genuine deterrent to the Nazi aggressor? Why was her potential never invoked by the Western Allies or by the Czechs themselves in the moment of crisis? Why did Czechoslovakia design her entire strategy on the principle of being absolutely certain of receiving French political and military assistance from the first hour of the war under any circumstances?3 President Benes himself defined Czechoslovakia's policy as based on two principles. He insisted that the question of minorities was an internal problem with which foreign powers had no right to interfere, and that Czechoslovakia was prepared to defend her democratic ideals and territorial integrity, if necessary, with arms in hand. 4 To General E. L. Spears, the Foreign Office emissary, he said on 14 March 1938: 'We are prepared to fight to the last, but we must make sure that this people does not get massacred in vain and be utterly destroyed for nothing'. 5 In Britain, however, very few people were prepared to sympathise with such a proposition. Czechoslovakia was an unknown 'faraway country' and as part of Central Europe could never figure in British military plans which were, in any case, designed primarily to defend the lifeline of Imperial communications through the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean. The British concept of limited liability vis--vis the Continent required peace and hence appeasement in Europe.6 The German occupation of Austria in March 1938 created an entirely new political and military situation for Britain. Since France reiterated her pledge to fight if Czechoslovakia became a victim of German
*German Historical Institute, London.

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aggression, the British Government suddenly faced the horrible prospect of becoming involved along with France in a European war on a scale similar to that of 1914-18. Instead of the formation of a close military alliance with France and her eastern allies including the Soviet Union, in order to form an impressive deterrent to Nazi ambitions, as some politicians like Churchill advocated,7 Britain chose the policy of appeasement towards Hitler which in the end meant the sacrifice of Czechoslovakia. The few anti-appeasers received no encouragement from the Chiefs of Staff, who reiterated their resolute opposition to any form of Continental commitment on the grounds that Britain had no army except 'a wretched corps of two divisions and a mobile division'.8 So overwhelmed were the Chiefs of Staff by Britain's unpreparedness for a war against Germany in Europe, so depressed by the financial constraints hindering the creation of an adequate Expeditionary Force they had earlier proposed, that they showed neither imagination nor courage to press their government to adopt a policy which would lead to the establishment of a collective European alliance capable of forestalling the aggressive ambitions of Nazi Germany. Instead, what one heard from these professional pessimists were warnings against German air bombers and, occasionally, the utterly gloomy sigh 'what a mess we are in!' 9 And yet, there was an adequate army in Europe already, well equipped and stronger than anything Britain could assemble and train in the next two years, anxious to meet the German attacker, which the Chiefs of Staff refused to consider. At this juncture it is important to investigate what place Czechoslovakia did occupy in the strategic appreciations of British military experts during the Sudeten crisis in 1938, and how the opinion of the Chiefs of Staff was formed before it became part of the official mind of the British Government. Very little of the evidence which both the Foreign Office and War Office possessed regarding the preparedness of the Czechoslovak Army and the efficiency of her defence system found its way into the C.O.S. memoranda for the Cabinet meetings. The information which came through was usually twisted in favour of Germany and exaggerated Czechoslovakia's vulnerability. For instance, the Military Intelligence Department, Section Europe (M.I.3.), used for the War Office appreciations a Czechoslovak Military Handbook as compiled in the years 1933 to 1935, and which was apparently never updated. Consequently, in the crucial year of 1938 it did not take into account the newly built fortifications along the Czech borders with Germany, work on which had begun in 1935. The Handbook reckoned that after mobilization Czechoslovakia was capable of putting 22 divisions in the field10in fact in September 1938 she put in twice that number though with reduced effectives.11

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Was there already a preconceived view among the Chiefs of Staff, whom Michael Howard calls the third appeasement group, 12 that Central Europe did not matter very much for the defence of the West, that it was not directly of Britain's concern, and that the French had made a cardinal error in having pledged to assist Czechoslovakia in the event of an unprovoked attack by a third European power? The official historian sums up his findings in a cautiously but firmly worded introduction, that the views of the Chiefs of Staff, and those leading politicians responsible for the appeasement policy of the British Government during that period, were very similar. Moreover, 'the grand strategy which evolved from these circumstances, at any rate until the last few months before the war began, was essentially one of isolation from rather than commitment to Continental Europe'. 13 This attitude was in part due to the suppression of sound expert appreciations of the military situation in Central Europe, coming from first-hand experts such as the services attachs and their assistants posted in that area. 'Suppression' may appear as a strong word, but there was certainly a strong tendency towards one-sided interpretation of the military dicta in London with the result that the real Czech military strength never became apparent and that, on the other hand, German potential was disproportionately exaggerated. Shortly after the annexation of Austria, Neville Chamberlain noted in his diary on 20 March that he no longer saw any possibility of saving Czechoslovakia from being overrun by the Germans if they wanted to do it. Guided by such military considerations as the fact that the Austrian frontier was practically open, that the great Skoda munition works were within easy bombing distance of the German aerodromes, the railways all passed through German territory, and that Russia was 100 miles away, he decided to abandon any idea of giving guarantees to Czechoslovakia or the French in connection with the latter's obligations to that country.14 The overrunning of Czechoslovakia was thus a foregone conclusion for Chamberlain. From the available military appreciation of the situation he and his close associates selected only those bits of information which seemed to confirm his preconceived views. On the following day, 21 March 1938, the Chiefs of Staff completed their comprehensive memorandum entitled 'Military Implications of German Aggression Against Czechoslovakia',15 in which they put forward their views concerning the following hypothetical alternatives : (a) That Britain should concert with France, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Romania, Hungary, Turkey and Greece, or any of them, an undertaking to resist by force any attempt by Germany to impose a forcible solution on Czechoslovakia; (b) That Britain should give an assurance to the French Government that she would at once lend her support in the event of an act of aggression by Germany against Czechoslovakia and the ensuing French obligation to that country. The

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assumption in both cases was that Italy was to be at the best neutral, but possibly hostile like Japan; that Russia and Poland, together with Belgium, Holland, Denmark and the U.S.A. would be neutral, and so would the remaining countries in the Balkans be at the outset. The estimates of Czechoslovakia's military strength were still those of 1935 and thus inadequate. The cabinet paper spoke of a peace force of 17 infantry and four cavalry divisions (sic). It admitted that the reserves were well-equipped and adequate, the morale good, but emphasised the multinational character of the Czech army, thereby implying its unreliability since the German attack could be assisted by disturbances among the Sudeten Germans engineered from Berlin. Moreover, the document stressed that there were no effective fortifications on the Czech frontier facing Austria with the exception of a fortified bridgehead at Bratislava. As for the rest of the fortified border the Chiefs of Staff spoke merely of 'field defences on the Bohemian frontier' which must appear as a rather vague understatement in the light of the detailed description of Czech fortifications supplied only a fornight later by the British Military Attach in Prague.16 The information about the Czech air force was, on the other hand, more or less accurate; her airfields could be organised so as to accommodate air reinforcements from the U.S.S.R. As regards the industrial strength of Czechoslovakia the Chiefs of Staff underlined the vulnerability of her vital munitions centres at Pilsen and Prague to early enemy attacks. By contrast, German military effectives were given in the document at their maximum level of 70 divisions, including Landwehr divisions which had never been mobilised during 1938. The Chiefs of Staff estimated that Germany would be able to gather some 1,570 bombers and 540 fighters, mostly superior in range, speed and striking power to the combined French and British force of 876 bombers and 675 fighters, which further contributed to the fear of an aerial knock-out blow from Germany.17 The Chiefs of Staff concluded that: No pressure that we and our possible allies can bring to bear, either by sea, on land or in the air, could prevent Germany from invading and over-running Bohemia and from inflicting a decisive defeat on the Czechoslovakian Army. We should then be faced with the necessity of undertaking a war against Germany for the purpose of restoring Czechoslovakia's lost integrity and this object would only be achieved by the defeat of Germany and as the outcome of a prolonged struggle, . . . if such a struggle were to take place it is more than probable that both Italy and Japan would seize the opportunity to further their own ends, and that in consequence the problem we have to envisage is not that of a limited European war only, but of a world war. In their view the only pressure Britain could exert on Germany was the

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economic one, but this would have taken a considerable time to take effect and would be largely discounted by the fact that Germany did not envisage a long war. Furthermore, they also believed that the alliance with such countries as Yugoslavia, Romania, Hungary, Turkey and Greece would be of limited assistance to Britain and France 'and they might ultimately constitute an additional embarrassing commitment by virtue of our moral obligation to assist them against German invasion'. Moreover, they feared that this association with allies of rather doubtful military value might have precipitated a definite military alliance between Germany, Italy and Japan. 18 This 'extremely melancholy document' was discussed the following day at the Cabinet meeting. The view held by Chamberlain and Halifax, that no obligation should be given to Czechoslovakia, prevailed in the end. On the same day the British verdict was conveyed to Paris with the recommendation that instead of trying to aid Czechoslovakia the two governments were to help 'to remove the causes of friction or even of conflict by using their good offices with the Government of Czechoslovakia to bring about a settlement of questions affecting the position of the German minority'.19 Chamberlain then appeared before the House of Commons on 24 March, to defend his policy of non-commitment to Czechoslovakia. It was Churchill who replied that peace in Europe could only be preserved by means of an 'accumulation of deterrents against the aggressor' and deplored the fact that no effective military convention between Britain and France had yet been concluded.20 During the Anglo-French conversation on 28 and 29 April still no agreement between the two partners was reached, as the French disagreed with the gloomy perspective of the British assessments on the Czech military position.21 Despite the unmistakable warning given by the first military crisis between Germany and Czechoslovakia in May of that year, no change in the British attitude could be discerned. The Chiefs of Staff repeated their negative views to the Cabinet in their 'Appreciation of the Situation in the Event of War Against Germany' on 14 September 1938. Although this time the figures regarding the Czechoslovak armed forces were upgraded and the Chiefs of Staff at least took notice of the 'considerable work carried out on the defensive works in Bohemia and Moravia', they nevertheless felt their duty to warn against a simultaneous war with Germany, Italy and Japan in 1938 which 'neither the present nor the projected strength of our defence forces is designed to meet, even if we were in alliance with France and Russia'.22 It was certainly Britain's appalling weakness in her air defences which also led General Ismay, Hankey's successor as Secretary of the Committee of Imperial Defence, to present on 22 Septemberthe day when Chamberlain met Hitler at Bad Godesberga memorandum in which

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he drew a balance sheet between the comparative advantages of fighting Germany immediately or by postponing the showdown for a year. He forecast that during this period the Germans would increase their war potential on land as well as their moral prestige, but that the increase on the British side in the air defences, both active and passive, would then be more important and would more than make up for any increase in the Luftwaffe over the same period.23 The Chiefs of Staff reported five days later that they were definitely for postponement.2* Their conclusion was not so astonishingfor it depended upon an assessment of complex extra-European factorsas was their refusal to seek what Czechoslovakia's strength, military and industrial, really was. They ignored the deterrent value of the Czech fortifications and that, with the disappearance of Czechoslovakia as a military factor in Central Europe, France's eastern alliances, too, were bound to disintegrate. This disappearance of an effective eastern front meant a fundamental transformation in the strategic situation which the British were slow to realise.25 Whether an unequivocal support of the Czechs by the British Government would have stopped Hitler from realising his aggressive plans against Czechoslovakia, or whether it have would just precipitated the outbreak of another world war in Europe twelve months earlier as the Chiefs of Staff feared, must remain open to speculation. These alternatives were, nevertheless, clearly outlined by General Gamelin, the would-be generalissimo of all French armed forces during his expos in London before the Minister for Co-ordination of Defence, Sir Thomas Inskip, the Service Ministers, General Viscount Gort, Chief of the Imperial General Staff and senior staff officers on 26 September26 three days after the Czech general mobilisation. Gamelin said that France, when fully mobilised, would put five and a half million men (100 divisions) into the field, and that at present she had about one and a half million men mobilised. He had no intention of sitting behind the Maginot line and waiting for a German offensive but wanted to advance immediately into Germany in view of the Germans only having eight divisions on their western frontier. He would then withdraw under the protection of the Maginot line only after he had met really serious resistance, leaving the Germans to break their strength against the permanent fortifications. Gamelin said that the Czechs could mobilise about 54 divisions obviously too optimistic a forecast27and expressed his belief that they would put up a good show, though it was impossible to predict how long they could resist the German onslaught. Their intention was to protect their flanks at all costs, to retreat from their western assailants, abandon Prague if necessary, and take up a strong defensive line from north to south across Moravia. When questioned, the French general reiterated his opinion that the Czech army was a good one, had a good

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personnel and efficient command, and an excellent morale considering it was an army of people fighting for their lives. He was convinced that she could hold out certainly for a few weeks, but perhaps not for a few months. Furthermore, he attached immense importance to the attitude of Poland and her possible advance into Silesiahardly ever considered by the British as a serious military option. Even Polish neutrality, he maintained, would be a very definite asset. His assessment of Russia's role was realistic for he saw that she could not intervene directly on behalf of Czechoslovakia since neither Poland nor Romania would give her passage, even though the latter might perhaps let Russian aircraft fly over and allow war material to pass through. However, since the French and Czechoslovak armies were the only forces ready to fight, it was necessary not to let Czechoslovakia down and make her fight in isolation without assistance. Finally, Gamelin addressed an urgent appeal for direct British support on the Continent. Even a small contingent to start with, he insisted, would have a tremendous moral effect on the French army.28 Though not present at the meeting, the Foreign Secretary summed it up in a telegram which he sent the following day to Sir Eric Phipps, Britain's Ambassador in Paris, in which he distorted the whole meaning of Gamelin's expos.29 Halifax was obviously very unhappy about the French generalissimo still being so enthusiastic about helping the Czechs and wanted Phipps to inform the French Foreign Minister that the defeat of Czechoslovakia by Germany was, in his view, a fait accompli, which could not be prevented by any declarations or actions on behalf of France or Britain. In addition to misinterpreting Gamelin's view, in his cable Halifax gave more coverage to the isolated opinion of the Military Attach in Berlin, Colonel Mason MacFarlane who had just reported to Halifax personally, after a fleeting visit to the Czech border, that the morale of the Czechs was poor and resistance would be feeble. Chamberlain did not hesitate to put this item on the agenda of the Cabinet meeting in the evening of 27 September.30 What, then, was the real strength of the Czechoslovak army in 1938? Would she have become a strong factor in deterring Hitler from aggression in concert with other factors of deterrence? Had appeasement not prevailed among British politicians and staff planners, what would have been their estimate of Czechoslovakia's overall strategic potential?
1. Czechoslovakia's Strategic Position and Her Alliances 31

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If left alone without foreign support against Germany, Czechoslovakia's strategic position could scarcely be worse. Her sausage-shaped stretch of land formed a virtual corridor, almost 1,000 km long, penetrating deeply into Germany. The total length of her frontiers was over 4,000 km, of which only 200 km were between a friendly neighbour

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Romania. Half of her border line, more than 2,000 km (i.e. after the Anschluss of Austria) was between Germany, almost 1,000 km between fairly hostile Poland and over 800 km between hostile, but military weak, Hungary. Against this France's border between Germany was less than 400 km long and Italy slightly over that figure. However, these border regions had been inhabited for centuries by the Sudeten Germans. It was easy to make the necessary conclusion simply from glancing at the map of Central Europe: Czechoslovakia appeared militarily indefensible against her many foes. This extreme geographical disadvantage presented a serious problem to the Czech General Staff. If they wanted to post troops along the border against Germany, they would have needed to disperse about 200 infantry divisions, each defending a line 10 km long. Short of surrender this dilemma called for two possible solutions: immediate military assistance from outside in the event of attack, and an alternative means of defence to substitute for the lack of manpower in case of a surprise attack which could come from three different directions. The answer was found in the construction of border fortifications capable of holding off the attackers until help arrived. The vulnerability of strategically important industrial and communication centres to air attacks, particularly from Germany, was another serious problem. Most vulnerable, even to artillery fire from across the border, were Bratislava and Ostrava but even Plzen (Pilsen), Brno and Prague, where 90 per cent of the armaments production was concentrated, were within half-an-hour's flying distance for modern bombers from the frontier. However, the same geometrical rule also applied in the opposite direction, with regard to the German cities, including Vienna, which were close to the Czech border. Yet, despite the frequent outcry by the Nazi propaganda that Czechoslovakia was a Bolshevik aircraft carrier in the heart of Germany, the Czech air force, unlike the Luftwaffe, did not plan any aerial knock-out blows, besides being incomparably weaker with less than 200 modern bombers.32 Czechoslovakia was the leading member of the Little Entente which also included Romania and Yugoslavia. Concerted offensive actions were, however, only envisaged against Hungary. Since the early 1930s the Little Entente had proved useless against such enemies as Germany.33 The only viable military alliance which might have presented a serious obstacle to the Nazi Drang nach Osten would have been that between Czechoslovakia and Poland. In a secret memorandum prepared in 1933 the Czech General Staff stated explicitly: 'It is our fundamental demand that from the first day of the war, all states of Central Europe, which Germany with her allies could finish off individually one after another, should politically and strategically defend themselves jointly' (emphasis in the original)34

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The authors were drafting the memorandum with Poland on their minds in the first place. Unfortunately, military alliances of small powers are rarely arranged according to sound strategic criteria. Since 1919 Czech-Polish relations had been marred by the Teschen question a border town with an adjacent area inhabited by a Polish minority which the Czechs annexed when the Poles were preoccupied with the invading forces of Bolshevik Russia. But more important were the relations of the two countries with their powerful eastern and western neighbours, Russia and Germany. While it was perhaps possible during the earlier period for Prague and Warsaw to formulate a joint policy vis--vis Berlin, to find a common platform for the two countries with regard to Moscow proved utterly illusory during the entire interwar period. Despite some promising attempts in the early 1920s, and again around 1932, to bring about military co-operation between the two governments, Benes constantly refused to negotiate a military clause to the Czechoslovak-Polish Pact for fear that Poland might drag Czechoslovakia into a war against Germany or Russia. Similar caution guided Benes during the Franco-Czechoslovak negotiations leading to the Friendship Treaty of 1924 when he refused to sign a binding military convention, whereas the Poles had no such scruples when they signed the secret French-Polish Military Convention of 1921, which contained very specific military clauses for mutual assistance in the event of a direct German attack.35 The fronts between Prague and Warsaw polarized after Hitler's seizure of power in Germany, when the two governments decided to settle their strategies single-handed. Thus, the Polish-German Non-Aggression Treaty of January 1934 was seen in Prague as an anti-Czech conspiracy,36 and the the Soviet-Czechoslovak Treaty of May 1935 must have been inevitably regarded in Warsaw as part of a sinister anti-Polish design. From then onwards Czech-Polish relations deteriorated with irresistible logic. Those opposition circles in Polish politics and in the armed forces which saw the value of the Czech alliance proved indecisive and weak.37 Mutual distrust also penetrated the only remaining sphere of practical military co-operation between Prague and Warsaw, which was the exchange of intelligence information between the two general staffs; at the beginning of 1936 a complete break took place when the Czechs refused to conduct intelligence operations against their new ally, the Soviet Union. 38 However speculative the theme of Czech-Polish military alliance must appear today, the Czech staff planners who drafted the above mentioned memorandum in 1933, had assessed the strategic advantages of such an alliance correctly. The perilous geographical position of Czechoslovakia vis--vis Germany could thereby have been radically improved, eliminating the major threat to the Czech defences, the prospect of a pincer thrust carried against Moravia from both north and south simul-

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taneously which would cut the country in half. Moreover, the old geographical disadvantage could have been reversed by a permanent threat to Germany that Polish and Czech armies could advance jointly against Prussian Silesia, thus allowing the Czechs to defend Moravia and Slovakia with second-line troops only. There would have been further advantage for the prospective co-operation between the two countries in the economic field, which also included the armaments industries.38 Indeed, one post-war Polish historian even speaks in retrospect of a united bloc of more than 40 million people which, though weaker than Germany, but with more trained soldiers, might have been able to put greater pressure on France and draw her away from Locarno and subsequent dependence on England.40
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Czechoslovakia had five times less population than Germany had, when increased by the addition of Austria. The annual output of steel in Czechoslovakia equalled one month's output in Germany. Measured by the GNP per head of population, Czechoslovakia was perhaps two to two-and-half times below the German level. About 75 per cent of her trade by weight passed through Germany and Austria. On the other hand, Czechoslovakia had two of the best known armaments works in the world, 'Skoda' in Pilsen and 'Zbrojovka' in Brno, which not only could provide abundant arms and munitions, but supply the Little Entente as well as many other countries at the same time. In 1935 Czechoslovakia became the leading world exporter of small arms. 42 In any case, the acquisition by Germany of this important armaments industry in Czechoslovakia as a consequence of Munich and the events which followed, must be regarded as one of the most serious strategic implications for off-setting the military balance between the Western Powers and Germany in the latter's favour. Although the instruments of a parliamentary state were somewhat limited if measured against the possibilities at the disposal of a totalitarian power like Germany, Czechoslovakia took the challenge very seriously and tried to mobilize all available human and financial resources for the purposes of defence, without destroying her economic equilibrium. Thus, between 1936 and 1938 a combination of legislative, economic and financial measures yielded for defence purposes almost 24,000 million Kc (Czech crown), which equalled half of the total ordinary and extraordinary public expenditure.42 This sum included 2,600 million Kc spent between 1936 and September 1938 on fortifications. It is estimated that about half private savings went into raising special defence loans and contributions, so that Czechoslovakia's armaments race in the face of the German threat was financed almost exclusively through mobilizing her internal resources.43 While in

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Germany the share of military expenditure in the GNP increased from 13 to 17 per cent between 1936 and 1938, in Czechoslovakia it had already reached 12-5 per cent in 1936.44 Indeed, Czechoslovakia was perhaps the only anti-fascist country taking these strenuous and expensive precautions seriously and in good time. As early as July 1932, the then Foreign Minister Benes, just returning from Geneva, called a meeting of senior officers of the General Staff and told them that the disarmament conference might fail and that he expected a terrible European crisis to come, perhaps already in 1936 or 1937. 'Gentlemen', he is alleged to have told them, 'I give you four years. By then the Republic must be militarily fully prepared!' 45 A series of complex and far-reaching legislative measures were soon put into operation. In the autumn of 1933 the 'NROS', Supreme State Defence Council, was established and given almost dictatorial powers to co-ordinate economic affairs with defence requirements. In the following year conscription was extended from 18 to 24 months. 46 In 1935 the fortifications scheme started. In 1936 the No. 131 Emergency Law for State Defence was passed which, although never fully implemented, set out legal prerogatives for an almost completely state-controlled war economy aiming at a full mobilization of economic life for the purposes of defence, with a drastic restriction on private enterpreneurial activities. In the same year the so-called State Defence Guards, 'SOS', were set up. They were a paramilitary body to support the army in maintaining law and order in the troublesome Sudeten areas. The process of militarisation of ordinary civil life was further confirmed in the Law on Pre-military Education of 1937, which became compulsory for citizens from school age up to the age of 30. Therefore it was with both justification and a sense of pride that President Benes wrote in his memoirs: In the summer of 1938, our army was, despite all its shortcomings I became very well aware of during the days of Munich, one of the best in Europe. Its morale, equipment, as demonstrated during the two mobilizations, in May and September 1938, were up to the standard.47 This optimistic view had been largely supported by the evidence reaching the Foreign Office and War Office from Czechoslovakia. The British Military Attache in Prague, Lt. Col. Stronge wrote in his summary note on the prospects of Czech defences, dated 6 October 1937, that the Czech Army was well equipped and that it would be a great mistake to underrate its value. He speculated that in the event of a German attack, the Czechs would resist the enemy from the outset behind the fortifications and then withdraw by stages to the Moravian plateau since the countryside offered, as he put it, 'what must almost be a unique succession of natural rearguard positions right into Slovakia still the last and least accessible stronghold'.48

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Shortly after the occupation of Austria Stronge met several Czech General Staff officers who expressed the belief that either an early showdown with Germany, or surrender to impossible terms, was inevitable. They were, however, confident that with the aid of France and Russia, and possibly Britain, they would, regain their land intact in the end. A British declaration to stand by France and Russia would probably prevent the war. But he stressed that the nation was well organized for war, its army probably the best among the smaller states of Europe, especially in regard to equipment and weapons, though he indicated that it was not as ready for war as the process of replacing obsolescent arms with new models was still far from complete. Understandably, Stronge regarded the mobilisation factor as the crux of the matter and wondered whether the Czechs would fight if their defences were overrun before they had time to mobilise properly. But he was confident in the excellent work of the Czech intelligence service and concluded that 'if they have time to get ready and are assured of support from France, I believe they will stand.' His personal view was that the bulk of the Czech army with reserves would be disposed in Moravia as indeed they were in the last week of September. The troops holding out in Bohemia were of course running the risk of being cut off from the rest of the army but Stronge was, nevertheless, quite optimistic about the prospects of the Czech army holding out in Slovakia 'for a considerable period of time'. 49 General Faucher, the Head of the French Military Mission in Czechoslovakia, shared Stronge's views, though he attributed an even greater power of resistance to the Czech fortifications.50 General Syrovy, Inspector General of the Czechoslovak Army, elaborated to Stronge what he saw as the two most important military problems for the Czechs : to effect rapid mobilisation and not to be taken by surprise.51 It was obvious to Stronge that Czechoslovakia could not afford the latter, either by unexpected German troop movements or by disturbances manipulated among the Sudeten Germans from across the border. For this reason he sympathised with the preventive measures put into effect by the Czech General Staff during the May crisis, which led to the partial mobilisation of two classes of reservists and manning of the frontier defences.52 The Czech fortification system, which played a prominent part in the calculations of the Czech General Staff, consisted of about 10,000 light and medium works, of which over 8,000 existed in Bohemia and Moravia and the rest stretched along the frontier with Hungary. From March 1938 fortifications were hastily built on the uncovered southern border facing Austria. Bohemia was covered in depth mostly by light machine-gun pill-boxes and blockhouses spread in several half-circles which had Prague as their imaginary centre. The strongest fortified line spanned in the North from the river Odra (Oder) to the Giant Mountains

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(Riesengebirge) with 250 heavy and medium works provided with gun emplacements and capable of sheltering several hundred men each. The system was described in great detail by Stronge in two important reports which, however, arrived too late to London as to have any effect on the recommendations of the C.O.S. But even had they arrived three weeks earlier it is doubtful, in the light of the present knowledge about the limited options of the appeasers, whether Stronge's valuable information about the Czech fortifications would have been brought before the Cabinet meeting on 22 March. 53 He first hurried down to see the exposed southern border against Austria which he found protected only by small pill-boxes, except for heavy fortifications protecting the Bratislava bridgehead. But he noticed some heavier works under construction, though he was not allowed any nearer.54 One week thereafter Stronge, with the permission of the Czech military authorities inspected the entire northern sector.55 He gained the impression that the frontier defences would be completed by the autumn. At all important points, he reported, work was carried out day and night in three shifts. He was impressed by the architectural arrangements, grouping of weapons, good tactical siting and regarded the whole system as an improved Maginot Line. With regard to the weakest sector on the Austrian frontier, Stronge reflected that 'most of the works which are not yet complete are already defensible up to a point by bringing in weapons and every month henceforth will see marked progress in this respect. . .' 56 It is impossible to produce a definite estimate on the real defence value of Czech fortifications and on the time German troops would have needed to overcome the system since the bloody test has never taken place. The almost legendary fortification system has become part of popular Czech mythology of defiance to the Munich Diktat. It has also spawned all sorts of speculations on the basis of German tests carried out under the most favourable conditions after the entire system of Czech fortifications had fallen into German hands. The Czechs had originally planned to complete their fortifications in 1942 but Hitler's aggressive intentions forced them to cut down on the schedule, as if they were building, according to the judgement by a German expert Col. Biermann, 'a retaining dam before an oncoming flood'. Given another 12 months however, the fortifications could have been 100 per cent ready, and in that case 'the Czech soldiers would never have abandoned their line of fortifications without fighting . . . even if their allies had not at once come to their assistance.'57 One can easily enumerate the weaknesses of the Czech fortification system which had been built to make up for the extremely disadvantageous geographical position, and for the shortage of manpower combined with an excessive proportion of disaffected minorities. In September 1938 the fortified line was still incomplete with many gaps

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and weak sectors easy to penetrate. Furthermore, its location in the Sudeten districts made it an easy prey to German intelligence. Although the Czech tactical doctrine showed similar deficiencies with its French model,58 the Germans themselves adopted exactly the same principle of static defence on a broad front in their construction of the Siegfried Linewhich in actual fact fulfilled its purpose and did work as an effective deterrent against the French, albeit even less completed than the Czech fortifications and hopelessly undermanned. The numerous odds on the Czech side notwithstanding, it would have been within the realm of possibilities to imagine at least one sector of the fortified line offering resistance for several weeks following German aggression, with serious repercussions for Hitler's future plans. However, there is no evidence that Hitler seriously wished to massacre his attacking columns in frontal assaults against the Czech barrage of steel and concrete. Although after the war several German generals testified that the Wehrmacht of 1938 did not possess the necessary heavy artillery to penetrate the Czech fortifications, most of these statements must be considered biased for the obvious reason that the generals were anxious to shift the main responsibility onto Hitler and to save their necks. On the other hand, it is equally well known that the German army, possessing all the necessary details about the Czech fortifications, was preparing itself methodically for the confrontation.58 The most dangerous instrument against the static Czech defences was the revolutionary German method of mobile warfarethe Blitzkrieg. The operational plan against Czechoslovakia, Fall Grn, whose final version was signed by Hitler on 30 May 1938,60 exemplified the blitzkrieg doctrine in its bold assertion that the Czech Army was to be destroyed within two or three days. It gave the maximum consideration to the element of surprise to achieve a decisive breakthrough during the first hours of the onslaught. Airborne troops were expected to cooperate closely with the ground forces. It demanded the indiscriminate use of the air force, not only to paralyze the mobilisation efforts of the Czech army, but also to cause havoc among the civilian population. Moreover, the entire Nazi propaganda machine was to be granted as much importance as the deployment of armed forces.61 In addition, fifth columnists from the Sudeten German 'Freikorps' were trained for sabotage actions and instructed to engineer 'an accident' to provide a pretext for a large-scale attack from across the border. It was not difficult to anticipate the primary objective of the German General Staff: Czechoslovakia was to be cut in half from north to south across Moravia. It was an open secret that the attack was to begin on 1 October. But during the commanders' conference at Berghof on 3 September Hitler admitted to being still haunted by the vision of Verdun when he realized how strong the Czech fortifications were in northern Moravia. He therefore began to insist that the breakthrough should take

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place against southern Bohemia from the Bavarian frontier in the direction of Pilsen and Prague. 62 The senior officer corps of the Wehrmacht did not share Hitler's enthusiasm for a blitzkrieg against Czechoslovakia. Their opposition was exemplified by General Beck, Chief of Army General Staff, who did not believe that Czechoslovakia could be defeated in less than three or four weeks. He repeatedly warned Hitler against the dangers of a twofront war, for he was convinced that France was bound to intervene in the event of a German attack upon Czechoslovakia. Thus, a local conflict could have been easily transformed into a European war, with the difference that Germany in 1938 was less prepared than in 1914 to wage a long war in terms of human and material resources. In this he was supported by General Thomas, Head of Army Armaments Bureau, who criticised the inadequate provisions for the build-up of strategic reserves and the pursuit of an armament policy 'in breadth' rather than 'in depth'. Beck's verbal and written protests were all in vain and he was left alone with no choice but to resign. Although his views were shared in private by the majority of his conservative colleagues, they were reluctant to assert them in front of Hitler who easily shouted them down, reluctant to assert them in front of Hitler who easily shouted them down.63 Arithmetically, the Wehrmacht enjoyed a clear superiority over the Czech armed forces. Against eight fully motorised formations (three panzer, four motorized infantry and one light divisions) the Czechs had merely one motorized infantry division and four so-called mobile divisions which represented a heterogenous combination of a cavalry and a motorized brigade improved by a tank regiment. Although both countries depended heavily on requisitioned civilian motor vehicles, there was a substantial disproportion between them: in 1937 the number of lorries and coaches combined in Germany and Austria was over 400,000, in Czechoslovakia about 30,000.64 The Czech tanks, however, if deployed in larger mechanized formations to counter-strike, might have been developed into one of the most valuable instruments of manoeuvrability. Almost 350 were of the standard model 'LT 34' and 'LT 35', superior in guns and armour to any of the available German types 'Mk I' and 'Mk II'. A further 100 new tanks earmarked for exports were requisitioned in September 1938 by the Ministry of National Defence which also ordered two entirely new series of light and medium tanks, 700 altogether, but none of which could have been delivered before 30 September. Thus, Czech tanks became perhaps the most important part of German war booty and played their part in the French campaign of 1940. Three out of ten German panzer divisions incorporated them, and every third German tank which attacked France was Czech-built.65 Most depressing for the Czech General Staff, however, must have been the superiority of German air force. It was not only the number

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of first-line squadrons, half of them equipped with modern bombers, but also the incredibly high rate of output of the German aircraft factories which so alarmed the British and French, whereas Germany possessed some 36 major aircraft firms spread throughout the country, the Czechs had all their four major factories concentrated in or around Prague. The Czechs also lacked adequate numbers of anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns, but were well equipped in infantry weapons and field artilleryin heavy guns even better than the Germans. The table below attempts to show the military balance between the two countries.

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TABLE
MILITARY BALANCE BETWEEN CZECHOSLOVAKIA AND GERMANY BY THE END OF SEPTEMBER 1 9 3 8 6 6

Large units (divisions) available On the German-Czech frontier Field artillery Tanks Combat aircraft (first-line)

Czechoslovakia 42 (a)
33

2,250(d)
418

cc. 600

Germany 47 (b) 35-38 (c) cc. 3,000 (e) 2,100(0 1,230 (g)

NOTES (for Table ) (a) After full mobilisation the Czech army consisted of 22 infantry divisions, four mobile divisions and 12 divisional units designed for the fortifications; there were additional four 'groups' of third-line troops assigned to defensive purposes. (b) This was the peace strength of the Wehrmacht after the incorporation of the Austrian units. Further eight reserve and 21 'Landwehr' divisions could be mobilised if Hitler had ordered full mobilisation. (c) Three divisions kept in reserve. (d) Not counting anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns and the fortress artillery. (e) This is an overall estimate for the number of field guns in the German army, i.e. not only those concentrated on the Czech border. (f) In September 1938 the Wehrmacht had only very light tankscalled tankettes armed with machine-guns only (types Mk. 1 and Mk. 2). (g) Estimated to be about half of the effective strength of the Luftwaffe. Not counted are 250 'Ju-52' transport planes of 7th air division under Gen. Student, designed for airborne operations over Czechoslovakia. Compiled from: W. Bernhardt: Die deutsche Aufrstung 1934-1939, (Frankfurt, 1969); W. A. Boelcke: Deutschlands Rstung im 2. Weltkrieg (Frankfurt, 1969); W. Green: The Warplanes of the Third Reich (London, 1970); V. Hyndrak, op. cit.; V. Karlicky: Czechoslovenske delostrelecke zbrane (Prague, 1975); B. MuellerHillebrand: Das Heer 1933-1945, Vol. 1 (Darmstadt, 1954); V. Nemecek: Ceskoslovenska letadla (Prague, 1958); M. Sada: Umlcene zbrane (Prague, 1966); G. Tessin: Formationsgeschichte der Wehrmacht 1933-1939 (Boppard/R, 1959); K. H. Vlker: Die deutsche Luftwaffe 1933-1939 (Stuttgart, 1967).

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The successful execution of a blitz attack against Czechoslovakia depended on a number of imponderables. First of all, the blitzkrieg tactics in its entirety had not been tested yet. The Luftwaffe required perfect weather conditions. The timing of the 'incident' inside Czechoslovakia seemed to have failed when the Czech troops quickly suppressed the unrest among the Sudeten Germans, which followed Hitler's inflammatory speech of 12 September in Nuremberg. Last but not least, the Czechs succeeded in putting their measures into full effect for general mobilisation after 23 September and had, by 1 October, over one million men under colours. Thus, the chief precondition for the execution of 'Fall Grn', the element of surprise, was simply not available to Hitler on the date of the contemplated attack.67 As for the Czech military leaders, they accepted the prospect of an immediate war with sound professional confidence, based on the knowledge that Germany, because of her late re-introduction of conscription in 1935, could not put more troops in the field than she had trained. The most important element of their confidence, as the Chief of the General Staff General Krejci reiterated in his memorandum of 9 September to the members of the Supreme State Defence Council, was the belief that the French ally would come to help if called upon. 68 When interviewed 30 years later in 1968, General Krejci said that the total of Czech forces with reserves roughly equalled in numbers the strength of the German attacker in the expected zones of thrust. He also confirmed the assumption that Czech troops had been expected to retreat from Bohemia in the direction of Slovakia, containing the German attacker until the arrival of allied assistance.69 This was supposed to take the form of Russian and French aircraft; preparations had been made to absorb between 450-675 bombers.70 The British Military Attach tried to answer the question as to how long could Czechoslovakia hold out single-handed in his analytical memorandum of 3 September. As a military professional Stronge rejected Hitler's boast that Germany would overrun Czechoslovakia in three weeks (actually at one stage three days were demanded by Hitler). He observed that the average standard of Czech equipment was at least the equal to that of the German army, but admitted that it was most difficult to assess their morale on which all now depended, since he saw no material reason why the Czechs should not put up a protracted resistance single-handed. Should the morale give way, the war would not last more than a week or two. 'If it holds', Stronge concluded, 'it may drag on for months. The fall of Prague should not be vital'. 71 3. The Moral Factor Whilst the military balance can be established arithmetically no commensurable methods can be applied to measure the prospective

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behaviour of Czechoslovakia's multinational army in a war against Germany as it could have been unleashed in 1938. For Czechoslovakia this question was of crucial importance since every fifth soldier and every seventh officer of her army in the event of mobilisation would have been of German origin. During the twenty years of her existence, Czechoslovakia's population showed an unstable attitude towards armed forces. The Czechs themselves, who formed about 50 per cent of the population, had been known for their antimilitaristic views, and the army was even less popular among the non-Slav minorities subject to conscription, of whom the Germans formed 22-5 per cent and the Hungarians about 5 per cent. It was only through the artificial union with the Slovaks (15-6 per cent) that the Czechs were able to maintain their control and to enjoy as 'Czechoslovaks' an undisputed numerical superiority. Together with the Ukrainians from Ruthenia the Slav majority in Czechoslovakia accounted for about 70 per cent.72 As in all successor states which emerged after the First World War, Czechoslovakia's army consisted of many heterogeneous elements. The 'revolutionary' ingredient of dominant influence were the former legionaries who had fought during the last war on the side of the Entente against Germany and Austria, most of them in Russia. The 'conservative' component consisted of former officers of the AustroHungarian army of both Czech and German (especially Hungarian) nationality, who in the early 1920s supplied the professional hard core. There was also the French Military Mission whose head was also the Chief of the General Staff. But it was the conscription system which exposed most vulnerably the predicament of this multinational state, for, in contrast to the democratic recruitment of the rank and file, the officer corps was entirely dominated by the Czechs. For instance, according to the mobilisation plan for the year 1936 the Ministry of National Defence envisaged to call under colours 970,000 men in the event of war, of which about 720,000 would have been 'Slav', almost 200,000 German, and 62,000 Hungarian. This mobilised army was to have 43,500 officers, of which 37,575 would be 'Slavs', 5140 Germans and 759 Hungarians. Compared with the overall ethnic balance, the 'Slavs' thus made up 86-4 per cent of officers, whereas the Germans and Hungarians a mere 11-8 and 1-7 per cent respectively. Moreover, the 'Slav' label was also misleading as was the 'Czechoslovak' one, for the Czech element acquired a disproportional majority over their fellowSlovaks. According to official statistics the number of active officers on 2 January 1938 amounted to 11,820, of whom only 442 were Slovak (i.e. 3-6 per cent). Among 8,333 active N.C.O.s not more than 421 were Slovak (5 per cent). The number of active German officers as quoted in February 1937 was 457 (i.e. 7 per cent). As against more than one hundred Czech generals, the Slovaks and the Germans had merely one each.73

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Before the threat of Nazism became real the Czechs had remained more or less phlegmatic in their attitude to national service. The growing hostility of Czechoslovakia's disaffected minorities was countered by hardening stubbornness of the Czechs who began to anticipate the military solution as the only alternative to the surrender of their national independence. Throughout the 1930s the War Office in London had a low opinion of the moral cohesion of the Czech army. Replying to an enquiry from M.I.3. the Military Attach in Prague, Lt. Col. Denis Daly, suggested in a memorandum, dated 2 April 1934 that the margin of the 'actively disloyal population' ranged from a minimum of 5-5 per cent (counting Hungarians only) to a maximum of 44 per cent (Hungarians, Germans and Slovaks together).74 After Hitler's victory in neighbouring Germany, the Sudeten question quickly grew into Czechoslovakia's major domestic and international problem. In the parliamentary elections of 1935 Henlein's Sudeten German Party polled 1,250,000 votes which accounted for 66 per cent of the German voters in Czechoslovakia and thus became the strongest single political party in the country. After the Anschluss of Austria the political loyalties of Czechoslovakia's German citizens were put in jeopardy since they could hardly resist the temptation of joining their Austrian brothers in the Greater German Reich. Among the larger political parties only the German Social Democrats and Communists remained loyal to the idea of the Czechoslovak Republic and were able to resist the nationalistic frenzy. Already in November 1933 the War Office unofficially took the line that the Anschluss of Austria would be effected without recourse to war, but that it would have a profoundly disturbing effect on the relations between Czechoslovakia and Germany, creating more discontent and dissension among the former's minorities.75 In preparation for the four-power conference in Stresa the Foreign Office sounded out the views of the War Office whose spokesman then made a truly depressing forecast: We believe, however, that once Austria has acheived some form of union with Germany, the pressure on Czechoslovakia would be so great that the 3-5 million Germans in Western Bohemia would naturally join in the German Reich, and that the Czech remnant would be reduced to a petty State, dependent on Germany although \ the Germans would probably not want to annex any purely Czech districts.78 Needless to say, during his overall military assessments in 1938, the British Military Attach saw in the unpredictable attitude of Sudeten German soldiers, if called upon to fight against the Reich, one of the crucial factors of the likely conflict. He himself did not share the popular view that the Sudeten Germans would all either fight or abstain, but believed that this decision was likely to depend upon the conscience of the individualassuming perhaps that the military machine, as put

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into motion during mobilisation, would not really affect the individual. Some of the Sudeten Germans emphasised the German tradition of the Niebelungstreue, that is to say to honour one's oath even though it involved killing one's own kith and kin." In August Stronge wrote to London that those Sudeten Germans already under colours would fight, but that reservists would not answer the call. 'There is', he wrote, 'no Czech or German alive who can be quite certain what would happen as regards the Sudeten soldiers. They will not know themselves till the time comes . . ,' 78 General Faucher, Head of the French Military Mission, who had very strong pro-Czech feelings, was convinced that the bulk of the Sudeten Germans would certainly have conducted themselves very well.79 The supreme test for the reliability of the minority soldiers in Czechoslovakia's armed forces was the general mobilisation which was announced by radio in the night of 23 September 1938. Although there is no reliable statistical evidence, most of the observers were unanimous that as far as the Czechs were concerned the response to the call-up was spontaneous and enthusiastic.80 Hubert Ripka, a close associate of President Benes, maintains in his book that the morale of the Czechoslovak army was exceptionally high and that 'it represented the concentrated essence of a united Czechoslovak nation, grimly determined to defend itself to the last breath'. 81 Ripka insists that despite Henlein's radio announcement from Germany that those Sudeten Germans who obeyed their mobilisation orders would be committing an act of treason against the German nation, 'apart from a few isolated exceptions, the Sudeten Germans obeyed unhesitatingly . . . the anti-Nazi Germans did so with the same enthusiasm as the Czechoslovaks themselves'.82 To support his argument he quotes, among other sources, from a manifesto issued by the German Democratic Youth Movement on 27 September, which reiterated the pledge of young Sudeten Germans to defend the democratic ideals of Czechoslovakia against 'social and mental slavery of German Fascism' even with arms in hand . . , 83 But the publication of a single leaflet does not constitute a proof. How much direct evidence has been uncovered since, and how much of it still remains part of the popular mythology? A secret memorandum on Czechoslovak armed forces issued in June 1938 by the High Command of German Ground Forces (OKH) still maintained that the nationality question must be regarded as the most vulnerable aspect of the Czechoslovak army; in spite of this the army itself, thanks to good equipment and fortifications, was to be seen as a respectable adversary in defence.84 Primary evidence which has now come out from Czechoslovak military archives, reveals a rather different state of affairs than usually cited in official Czech publications. It shows that the First Department of the General Staff, in charge of organisation, was all the time aware of

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the precarious situation caused by the multinational composition of the army. As early as 1936 two alternatives were anticipated in the event of general mobilisation: (1) That the non-Slav recruits and reservists would refuse to answer the call-up and start sabotage activities in order to delay and hamper the mobilisation efforts; (2) That they would enlist, but only with the intention of turning their weapons at an opportune moment against their own commanders and in order to sabotage the army from inside.85 As from 1936 onwards new non-Slav recruits were being sent to non-combatant units, non-Slav officers not allowed to fill in responsible posts. The General Staff also envisaged setting up special labour camps for unreliable non-Slav soldiers under Czech guards, but had neither the time nor the manpower to undertake this in the last week of September 1938. To safeguard a Slav majority in every regiment, amalgamation was widely used with the result that German recruits were carefully mixed up with the Czechs or sent to distant Slovak garrisons.86 However, it was not always possible to adhere strictly to the principle of amalgamation because some units required more skilled and educated soldiers than others. So it happened that a high number of Germans served as lorry drivers and that several artillery regiments were amply manned by them (e.g. the heavy artillery regiments in towns like Plzen, Rokycany, Litomerice and Libre had more than 50 per cent non-Slav soldiers). After the abortive Henlein putsch the First Department of the General Staff ordered on 16 September that the new German recruits, due for the annual call-up, would receive uniforms only but no weapons. During the general mobilization a relatively large number of German reservists, particularly from the frontier districts, either deserted or refused to turn up. So, for instance, the First Army Corps (south-west Bohemia) intimated that only 30 to 40 per cent of registered reservists reported for duty; the Second Army Corps (northern Bohemia) reported about 60 per cent on duty and the Third Army Corps (southern Moravia) showed the lowest figureslightly over 20 per cent. Extensive sabotage activities among the German population were reported from the same areas, especially with regard to delivery of requisitioned motor cars and lorries: in some units up to 20 per cent of registered motor vehicles were not delivered, up to 45 per cent delivered motor cars reported breakdowns, and up to 75 per cent drivers were missing. The reliability of the entire Third Division in Terezin (Theresienstadt) was doubtful, since it had a very high percentage of Sudeten Germans and was commanded by General Richtermotz who served with the Wehrmacht after Munich and was executed by the Czechs after the war for high treason.87 As for the fifth-column activities inside Czechoslovakia, the rebellion which had been started after Hitler's inflammatory speech on 12 September 1938 by the Freikorps and the militant elements of the

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Sudeten German Party was put down resolutely by the Czechoslovak Government. Martial law was proclaimed in several districts and army and security troops sent into the frontier regions. The ringleaders, realizing the fiasco, fled with Henlein across the border.88 From the security point of view, it was important that the entire fortification system remained intact in Czech hands. Furthermore, the failure of the Henlein putsch must have seriously upset Hitler's timetable for the attack against Czechoslovakia as his secret plan to stage an incident inside that country, which would have justified German military intervention, also misfired. On the other hand, one cannot dismiss the fact that unsuccessful as the rebellion was, it must have made the Sudeten Germans the least reliable element in the Czech army barely ten days before the general mobilisation call-up. However, the main body of reliable troops had been concentrated since the May crisis in some 20 lite divisions, almost entirely Czech and Slovak. These so-called 'A' units comprised the two existing annual classes of recruits plus the youngest contingent of reservists and were thus equal in the standard of training the Wehrmacht divisions.89 As stated above, the Czech high command had full confidence that the Slav units would hold the ground in the event of a German attack. As for those Sudeten German troops serving in the exposed areas of anticipated enemy thrusts, they would presumably have to be written off as unavoidable casualties and not counted on during the envisaged strategic withdrawal of the Czech army from Bohemia eastwards to Slovakia. In Germany itself there was little enthusiasm for a general war. The British Military Attach in Berlin, Colonel MacFarlane, expressed hope 'that the bad spirit in the country may deter Herr Hitler from risking a war in which the country is not really behind him.' He reiterated the view that 'the army has absolutely no wish to embark on a war so long as there is any possibility of its developing into a general conflagration'.9 Indeed, the conservative generals feared that something similar to the chain reaction of August 1914 when Germany had led to fight a twofront war right from the start, was bound to happen again. Despite the aggressive tone of Nazi propaganda the mood of the population contrasted sharply with that in August 1914. On 19 September 1938 the Czech Military Attach in Berlin, Colonel Hron, cabled to Prague that the morale of the Wehrmacht did not seem particularly high, especially among those soldiers who had experienced the First World War. He advised his superiors in Prague to be firm and not to move an inch.91 When on 27 September Hitler let the units of the Second Panzer Division pass through Berlin to test the mood of the population, he is said to have angrily exclaimed after seeing no enthusiasm for war: 'With this people it is impossible to go to war!' 92 As the Sudeten crisis reached another critical point between the

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Chamberlain-Hitler meeting at Godesberg and the Munich Conference, the Director of Military Operations and Intelligence in the War Office, Major-General Pownall, tried to sum up the moral imponderables in Germany, Britain and Czechoslovakia 9S He was convinced, despite the reports he had from his military attachs and other sources, that the Germans would obey Hitler and that their morale could be sustained fully for three months if not longer. Public feeling in Britain seemed to him at the moment 'swayed by emotions' and he was worried that the House of Commons, 'likely to be bellicose', might 'well drive the Government into war'. On the other hand, he rightly saw that the attitude of the Dominions was far from helpful. As for the prospects of Czech resistance, Pownall sadly admitted that it could not last long even in the best circumstances. Though 'a gallant defence will arouse sentimental feelings and increase the clamour to go to her aid', and though it was better to go at once than to be dragged into the war when Czechoslovakia would be more than half beaten, he considered the advantages of such a move 'evanescent'. He did not expect Russia to come in aid of Czechoslovakia associated with the Western Allies, and regarded the attitude of Hungary and Poland with justified suspicion. He thus concluded that from the military point of view the balance of advantage was definitely in favour of postponement and added, rather paradoxically, that 'our real object is not to save Czechoslovakiathat is impossible in any eventbut to end the days of the Nazi regime.' Pownall was not able to see that there was no contradistinction between these two aims, and that by sacrificing Czechoslovak democracy to Hitler's tyranny the Nazi regime would be strengthened with terrible repercussions for the rest of the world. He failed to see that these two objectives were complementary. Hitler must have been very pleased with himself after his risky gambling had borne him fruit in the acquisition of the Sudentenland with the Czech fortresses. No democratic politician could compete with him in the art of deception, as he himself triumphantly boasted: 'At the moment of ultimate and decisive pressure the nerves of the other side cracked, without any need at the final stage for us to take up arms'. 94
4. Conclusions

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The military and moral consequences of Munich were disastrous. The surrender of the Sudeten districts with their fortifications meant not only abandoning Czechoslovakia's natural strategic frontier, but, as Liddell Hart put it, the loss of an invaluable 'shock absorber'.95 He pointed out that after Muich the strategic balance had changed markedly for the worse since the military nullification of Czechoslovakia removed the political distraction that the French could rely on in Central Europe vis--vis Germany.96 Moreover, Czechoslovakia's military potential had

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not only just been nullified by the disbandment of her excellent army and by the occupation of her fortresses. Equipment and stocks for 40 divisions and her entire powerful armaments industry was to be bartered away, looted by Germany without a single shot six months thereafter.97 There were also the moral implications resulting from the surrender of Czechoslovakia which the Western political and military leaders were even less prepared to take seriously, though the appeasers appeared at the time of Munich as persons of highest moral integrity who kept on repeating that they had saved peace 'for our time'. Their tragic error was, however, that they failed to grasp the very nature of Nazism, its desire to expand and to subject other races. And it was Churchill again who warned the jubilant appeasers in the aftermath of Munich, in his moving speech on 5 October in the House of Commons, that 'we have sustained a total and unmitigated defeat', and that they were mistaken if they believed they were only giving away the interests of Czechoslovakia. 'It goes far deeper than that', he went on, 'you have to consider the character of the Nazi movement and the rule which it implies!'98 If the Nazi occupation of rump Czechoslovakia in March 1939 constituted the breaking point in the delusive development of appeasement with Hitler, then the Anglo-French guarantees to Poland, Greece and Romania were given against much greater odds. In 1939 Britain and France were strategically in a much worse position than before 30 September 1938. Without the consistent anti-Nazi stand of Czechoslovakia and her military potential, Eastern and Southern Europe found itself in a hopeless disarray. When, predictably, Germany attacked Poland on 1 September 1939, not only had she better defences on her western border against France, she was in addition aligned with Soviet Russia against the Western Powers.

NOTES N.B. If not stated otherwise, primary source material entered below comes from the PRO Archives: Foreign Office (FO) and War Office (WO). 1. E.g. B.-J. Wendt: Economic Appeasement. Handel und Finanz in der britischen Deutschland-Politik 1933-1939 (Dsseldorf, 1971); A. Teichova: An Economic Background to Munich. International Business and Czechoslovakia 1918-1938 (Cambridge, 1974). 2. D. Vital: The Survival of Small States. Studies in Small Power/Great Power Conflict, ch. 2: Czechoslovakiathe Classic Paradigm, (Oxford, 1971) pp. 13-53. 3. Ibid., pp. 51-53. 4. E. Bene: Mnichovsk dny (Prague, 1968) p. 31f. From an interview on 2/3/38 between Bene and a Sunday Times correspondent. 5. FO 371/21716, C.3225. 6. M. Howard: The Continental Commitment, (London, Penguin, 1974) ch. 5. 7. W. S. Churchill : The Second World War, Vol. 1, The Gathering Storm (London, 1948) p. 213, cf. n. 20 below.

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8. The Ironside Diaries 1937-1940, ed. by R. Macleod and D. Kelly (London, 1962) p. 47f. 9. Ibid., p. 62. 10. WO 106/5388. 11. See table further below, n. 66. 12. Howard, op. cit., ch. 6. 13. N. G. Gibbs: Grand Strategy, Vol. 1, Rearmament Policy (HMSO, 1976) preface p. xxi, see also p. 648. 14. K. Feiling: The Life of Neville Chamberlain (London, 1946) p. 347f. For Churchill's scathing criticism of this letter see Churchill, op. cit., p. 214. 15. C.O.S. 698, CAB 27/627. 16. Ibid., see also below n. 55. 17. Ibid. In a recent investigation 'German Air Power and the Munich Crisis', W. Murray argues that in nearly every respect Luftwaffe was unprepared to launch a significant bombing offensive against the British Isles in 1938 (publ. in War and Society, Vol. II, ed. by B. J. Bond and I. Roy, London 1977, pp. 107-17). 18. C.O.S. 698, para. 87-92. Characteristically, neither Poland nor Soviet Russia were included in the contemplated alliance by the C.O.S., though concerted diplomatic action of Britain, France and Russia had been urged by such politicians as A. Eden and W. Churchill (cf. their conversation with Lord Halifax on 14/9/38, C.P.200(38), CAB 24/278. Cf. also M. Gilbert: Winston S. Churchill, Vol. V, 1922-1939 (London, 1976), chs. 46-7). 19. This report was discussed the following day 22/3/38 (CAB 23/93). Halifax to Phipps, 22/3/38, DBFP, iii, I, No. 106. 20. Gilbert, op. cit., p. 925. 21. C.P.109, CAB 24/276. 22. C.O.S. 765, C.P. 199(38), CAB 24/278; see also an updated version of 4/10/38, D.P.(P)32, CAB 16/183A. 23. CAB 21/544; see also Howard, op. cit., p. 125f. 24. Ibid. 25. Ibid., p. 128, Gibbs, op. cit., p. 689. 26. WO 106/5142: Notes of Meeting at Richmond Terrace on 26/9/38; see also CAB 23/95. 27. Corrections by M.I.3. of 27/9/38 (in WO 106/5142): Maximum number of Czech divisions: 34+8, not 54. 28. No satisfactory English account of General Gamelin's expose survived. In the French version prepared by General Lelong. Military Attach in London, we read: 'Les Armes franaise et tchcoslovaque reprsentent les seules forces prtes: elles constituent la couverture des forces du monde entier qui, il faut l'esprer, se rangeront du ct des puissances democratiques. Il est ncessaire de ne pas la faire battre isolment par une action inconsidre. Elle peut tenir ce rle. Mais, pour gagner la guerre, elle aura besoin d'tre aide .'Les chefs d'E(tat) M(ajor) britanniques -embarrasss- se dclarent incapables d'y repondre' (ibid.). See also General Gamelin: Servir, II (Paris, 1946) pp. 350-55. 29. DBFP, ni, II, No. 1143. 30. Cf. the contrasting comments on the Czech strength by MacFarlane's colleague in Prague, Lt. Col. Stronge, on the same day (ibid., No. 1148). For French military experts's comments, cf. ibid. No. 1202. 31. Most of the information from Czech sources in the following sections is comprised in two earlier specialist studies: M. Hauner: 'Military Budgets and Armaments Industry', Papers in East European Economics No. 36, St. Antony's College, Oxford, 1973, to be published in The Economic History of Eastern Europe Since 1919, ed. by M. C. Kaser and E. A. Radice, OUP ; id. : 'Z 1938 : kapitulovat i bojovat', Svdectv (Tmoignage), (Paris, 1975) No. 49, pp. 151-77.

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32. Ibid. 33. Cf. R. Kisling: Die militrischen Vereinbarungen der Kleinen Entente 19291937, (Mnchen, 1959). 34. Quoted from V. Hyndrk's study in Historie a Vojenstv, no. 1 (Prague, 1964), appendix 1, p. 91, (see also n. 31 above). 35. Ibid. For more details on the Polish factor see P.S. Wandycz: France and Her Eastern Allies 1919-1925 (Minneapolis, 1962); O. Kn and R. Pavelka: Tnsko v esko-polskch vztazch 1918-39 (Ostrava, 1970). 36. On that occasion Bene said reproachfully to Grzybowski, Polish Minister in Prague: 'You have distorted the meaning of the entire French system of European security!' (E. Bene: Pamti, (Prague, 1948), p. 16. 37. Cf. S. Stanislawska: Polska a Monachium (Warsaw, 1967). See also conversation between the French Military Attach in Warsaw, General Musse, and the Polish Chief of Staff, General Stachiewicz, on 10/6/38, in: Documents Diplomatiques Franais (hereinafter 'DDF'), ii, X, (Paris, 1976) No. 12.; Gamelin, op. cit., p. 234ff. 38. The most detailed study of Czech-Polish military relations during the interwar period is by H. Bulhak in three instalments published in Studia z dziejw ZSRR i Europy Srodkowej, Warsaw, Vols. V (1968), XI (1975), XII (1976). See also the Czechoslovak Military Intelligence, General F. Moravec: pin, jemuz nevili (Toronto, 1977) p. 171. 39. See Note 37 above. S. Feret: Polska sztuka wojenna 1918-1939 (Warsaw, 1972) p. 61. See also M. Hauner: 'Die Rolle der Rstungsindustrie in Osteuropa und die Verteidigungsanstrengungen Polens bis 1939', Wirtschaft und Rstung am Vorabend des Zweiten Weltkrieges, ed. by F. Forstmeier and H.-E. Volkmann (Dsseldorf, 1975) pp. 331-63. 40. Wandycz, op. cit., p. 388. 41. See Note 31. One of the major items of the Czechoslovak armaments industry which Britain could secure for herself before the Germans took over, were the licence and manufacturing rights for two types of machine-guns, 'Besa' and the famous 'Brengun' (contraction of BRno and ENfield, after the location of the two munitions plants). 42. My own estimates (see Note 31 above). 43. Referring to the 'Jubilee Fund' inaugurated in June 1938, the Prager Presse of 12 June 1938 commented: 'this financial leve en masse!' 44. See Note 31 above, German figures from B. A. Carroll: The Design for Total War (The Hague, 1968) pp. 179-90. 45. Bene, Pamti, p. 37f. General E. Faucher in: Les Evnements survenus en France de 1933-45, Tmoignages, Vol. V (Paris, 1947-55) p. 1195f. 46. In June 1938 the Czech General Staff pressed on to obtain the three-years' service, which would have added another 80,000 men to the permanent strength, but were discouraged by the Western Allies, (cf. FO 371/21770; DBFP, iii, I, No. 404.). 47. Bene, Pameti, p. 48. 48. WO 106/5421. 49. Memo by Lt. Col. H. C. T. Stronge, 29/3/38, FO 371/21714, C.2340 (for the incomplete version see DBFP, iii, I. No, 120). More than thirty years later Brigadier Stronge reiterates his view in a 20-page long 'Personal Memorandum Relating to the State of Morale and General Readiness for War of the Army of Czechoslovakia Republic at the Time of the Munich Crisis in September 1938 and the Period Immediately Preceding It', Dept. of Western Mss, Bodleian Library, Oxford (reproduced in War and Society, Vol. 1, ed. by B. Bond and I. Roy, London 1976, pp. 162-177). 50. FO 371/21716; see also Les Evnements ... p. 1196ff. 51. (Stronge) Newton to Halifax, 11/4/38, FO 371/21576, C.3149.

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52. FO 371/21768; DBFP, iii, I, No. 349. 53. See Notes 15-19 above. 54. M. A. Prague, 29/3/38, C.2322, FO 371/21578 (for the reference see DBFP, iii, I, No. 120). 55. M. A. Prague, 4/4/38, C.2805, FO 371/21715 (inadequate reference to this important document in DBFP, iii, I, No. 129). See also the analysis of this memorandum which I have prepared for Militrgeschichtliche Mitteilungen (forthcoming). 56. Ibid. See also Note 49 above. 57. Colonel Biermann: 'The Czech System of Fortification', in The Royal Engineers Journal, No. 33 (1939), pp. 212-23. The most detailed study written on the Czech fortifications is the wartime analysis by the German Army High Command (OKH, Gen. St. d. H. : Denkschrift ber die tschechoslowakische Landesbefestigung, Berlin, 1941). 58. E.g. the recent comprehensive study by J. Zorach: 'Czechoslovakia's Fortifications', Militrgeschichtliche Mitteilungen, No. 2 (1976). 59. Cf. collection of 19 volumes entitled Bildheft: Landesbefestigungen der Tschechoslowakei, published as a classified handbook to be used by the Wehrmacht during Fall Grn (Berlin, 1938). 60. First draft of 'Fall Grn', taking into account Czech fortifications, appeared in December 1937 following the 'Hossbach' Conference of 5/11/37, See Trial of the Major War Criminals Before the International Military Tribunal (Nuremberg, 1946-48) (hereinafter am 'IMT'), Vol. XXV, documents 386 and 388-PS. First comprehensive analysis in English by F. O. Miksche: The Blitzkrieg. A Study of German Tactics 1937-41, in collaboration with Tom Wintringham (London, 1941). Miksche is a former Czech army officer who had helped to organize artillery during the Spanish civil war for the Republicans and subsequently served as intelligence officer with Gen. de Gaulle during the Second World War. 61. Cf. Hitler's secret address to representatives of the German press in Munich on 10/11/38; English version in Z. A. B. Zeman: Nazi Propaganda (London, 1973) p. 216. See also the so-called document 'Lightning Attack on Czecho-Slovakia' by German Army Colonel Conrad, published in the July issue o Friends of Europe, No. 51 (1938) and the ensuing exchange of opinions between the War Office, Foreign Office and the services attachs (FO 371/21769 & 21770). 62. IMT, Vol. XXV, p. 462ff. 63. Bundesarchiv-Militarachiv Freiburg: Gen. Obst. L. Beck Nachlass, N 28/2-4. N. Reynolds: Treason was no crimeLudwig Beck (London, 1976) pp. 148-70. J. W. Wheeler-Bennett: The Nemesis of Power (London, 1953) pp. 470ff. G. Thomas : Geschichte der deutschen Wehr- und Rstungswirtschaft 1918-1943/45 (Boppard a.R 1946) p. 8 .R. Meyers: Britische Sicherheitspolitik 1934-1938 (Dusseldorf, 1976) pp. 470ff. For the recent reappraisal of the German officers' opposition to Hitler see D. C. Watt: Too Serious a Business (London, 1975) ch. 5. 64. Compiled from statistical yearbooks: Statistick roenka Republiky eskoslovensk, 1938; Statistisches Jahrbuch fur das Deutsche Reich, 1938 (see Note 31 above). 65. Ibid. Note 37 above. The improved 'LT 38' model was to be manufactured under the designation 'Pz.Kpfw.38(t)' until 1942 and as a chassis for self-propelled guns until 1945. 66. Further sources cited under Note 31 above. 67. (Stronge) Newton to Halifax, 28/9/38; details in Czech general mobilisation, DBFP, iii, II, No. 1170. 68. Quoted from M. Hauner: Svdectv, 49/1975, p. 165 (cf. Note 31). 69. Ibid., p. 152. Cf. earlier communication Krejci-Gamelin, 7/4/38, DDF, ii, IX, No. 128; Gamelin, op. cit., p. 356. It must not be forgotten that due to the late reintroduction of conscription in Germany in 1935, no more than 200,000 trained

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reservists were available during 1937/8 to back up 550,000 men of the active peacetime army. The remaining 250,000 reservists of the second-line were not in uniform since 1918 (see Mueller-Hillebrand, op. cit., pp. 61ff under Note 66 above). 70. Memorandum by Air Attach Prague, A. H. H. Macdonald, 30/8/38, reporting conversation with Chief of Air Staff, General Fajfr, FO 371/21770, C.9104. Britain's leading military expert, Basil Liddell Hart, believed that if Czechoslovakia could be reinforced with enough aircraft, she should have been able to offer a long resistance to the German forces alone, helped by the fact that she would be fighting on interior lines. Despite his opposition to the Continental commitment by the British army, he fully realized the importance of air assistance to France and Czechoslovakia, since 'the first few days of the air struggle may be crucial' (Memorandum written on 21 March 1938 for the War Minister, L. HoreBelisha, reproduced in B. H. Liddell Hart: The Defence of Britain, London 1939, pp. 70-74). Consequently, he urged his personal friend Hore-Belisha, to exercise all his influence in the Cabinet in order to strengthen the R.A.F. (see also The Liddell Hart Memoirs, Vol. II (London, 1966) pp. 105, 139, 144). 71. DBFP, iii, II, No. 794. 72. Population census in Czechoslovakia of 1930. For a comprehensive account on the position of the Germans in Czechoslovakia see J. W. Bruegel: Tschechen und Deutsche 1918-1938 (Mnchen, 1967), Engl. version: Czechoslovakia Before Munich (Cambridge, 1973). 73. Figures in Hyndrak, op. cit., p. 86. see Note 31 above. 74. WO 106/5388. 75. Memorandum by M.I.3., 11/11/33, 'The War Menace in Western and Central Europe', WO 190/230. 76. M.I.3. note on conversation with Mr. O'Malley, FO Southern Dept., 1/4/35, WO 190/316. 77. (Stronge) Newton to Halifax, 31/5/38, DBFP, iii, I, No. 365. 78. (Stronge) Newton to Halifax, 2/8/38, FO 371/21770. 79. L'Epoque, 24/12/38 (reproduced in H. Ripka: Munich Before and After (London, 1939) p. 296f. 80. E.g. DBFP, iii, II, Nos. 1170, 1202. Colonel Toussaint, German Military Attach in Prague, admitted to his British colleague that the morale of the Czech army was excellent when they mobilised (ibid., Ill, No. 286). 81. Ripka, op. cit., p. 135. 82. Ibid., p. 137. See also the memoirs of the leader of the Sudeten German Social Democrats, Wenzel Jaksch: Europas Weg nach Potsdam (Stuttgart 1959) p. 321. 83. Ripka, op. cit., pp. 138-42. Bruegel, op. cit., Ger. ed., p. 494f.; id., Engl. ed., p. 285. Cf. also Thomas Mann's appeal after he had been expelled from Nazi Germany and became Czechoslovak citizen (Ripka, op. cit., p. 140). 84. OKH, 3. Abtl. Gen. Stb., 630/30gk.: 'Kurze Angabe ber den derzeitigen Stand d.Tschech. Kriegswehrmacht', 27/6/38, (NARS Film, T.79, Reel 128). 85. Hyndrak, op. cit., pp. 87-8. 86. Ibid.; see also Note 31 above. 87. Ibid. Hyndrk, loc. cit. 88. Ibid. Cf. Ursachen und Folgen, Vol. XII, Das Dritte Reich, Das sudetendeutsche Problem (Berlin, w.d.) Nos. 2705, 2706. M. Broszat: 'Das sudetendeutsche Freikorps', Viertelsjahrhefte fur Zeitgeschichte, 9 (1961), pp. 30-49. 89. They included four mobile divisions, 14th and 17th inf. divisions, 5th army corps in southern Moravia and of about 12 to 14 divisions of troops earmarked to man the fortifications. (Cf. table under Note 66). 90. (MacFarlane) Henderson to Halifax, 24/8/38, DBFP, iii, II, No. 692.

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91. M. Hauner: Svedectvi, p. 174, see also compiled reports from Military Attach, Berlin, WO 106/5421. 92. Cf. J. Fest: Das Gesicht des Dritten Reiches (Mnchen, 1969) p. 66. W. Shirer, American journalist in Berlin witnessed the scene and commented that it was 'the most striking demonstration against war I've ever seen' (W. Shirer: Berlin Diary 1934-1941, London, Sphere, 1970, p. 117). 93. Chief of Staff. The Diaries of Lt. Gen. Sir Henry Pownall, ed. by B. Bond, Vol. 1 (London, 1972), appendix II, pp. 380-3: Memorandum by Maj. Gen. Pownall, 27 Sept. 1938. 94. Hitler's secret address to representatives of German Press, 10 Nov. 1938 (Engl. text by Zeman, op. cit., p. 215). 95. The Liddell Hart Memoirs, pp. 161 and 170. See also B. Bond: Liddell Hart. A Study of His Military Thought, London, 1977, ch. 4). 96. Defence of Britain, pp. 80, 87. 97. Notes on the value of Czechoslovakia as a military power since Munich, prepared by M.I.3. (WO 190/731, 738, 762); memorandum of 18/3/39 by Col. Mason MacFarlane, Military Attach Berlin, to Henderson/Halifax (WO 106/5421)v report by MacFarlane on conversations held with his Hungarian, Polish, Romanian and Yugoslav colleagues on the implications of the military domination of Czechoslovakia by Germany, 19/3/39 (ibid.). In his speech of 28 April 1938 before the Reichstag Hitler gave figures of the Czech war booty: 1,090,000 infantry rifles, 43,876 machine-guns, 2,175 field guns, 501 anti-aircraft guns, 469 tanks, 1,589 aircraft, and over 3 million shells (cf. M. Domarus: Hitler. Reden und Proklamatinen 1932-1945, Vol. II, Wurzburg, 1963, p. 1156). In his above mentioned secret address to the representatives of the German Press Hitler exclaimed: 'It is a fabulous success, so great that our present-day world is hardly able to assess its true significance. I myself became most aware of the grandeur of this success when I stood for the first time in the middle of the Czech fortified line. Then and there I realized what it means to take possession of fortifications representing a front almost 2,000 kilometres long without firing one single shot of live ammunition', (cf. Note 94 above). 98. Churchill, op. cit., p. 225. Gilbert, op. cit., p. 100. The anticlimax to Churchill's statement is provided in A. J. P. Taylor's The Origins of the Second World War (London, Penguin, 1963, p. 235): 'Munich was a triumph of all that was best and most enlightened in British life'.