19 MARCH 1943, Page 18

The Handling of Germany

THERE is, of course, no reason why Lord Londonderry should n have written a book like this, but just as little reason why he shoul A great deal of the ground was covered in his Ourselves Germany, published in 1938, and much of what is new, particular] the detailed history of our air disarmament and air rearmamen belongs to a chapter which there is little purpose in reopen now. Lord Londonderry is, of course, justified in demonstrat that as Air Minister he was always trying to build up a larger Force than the Cabinet would sanction, but he constantly addu arguments of whose invalidity he appears to be quite unconscio " Ten years ago," he writes, " there were many in high places w were in favour of a complete abolition of that same Air Force which by general consent we owe our survival after the Battle Britain in 1940." But what the many in high places proposed. course, was the universal abolition of air forces, not the unilate

abolition of the R.A.F.—in which case the question of a Battle of Britain would never have arisen. One reason why the attempt at abolition failed (not that the prospects of its succeeding were ever very hopeful) was Lord Londonderry's insistence on Britain's right to bomb recalcitrant tribes on the North-West Frontier and elsewhere. That policy might have been right or wrong in itself, but it is obvious that so long as one Great Power claimed the right to maintain bombers and the plant to build them with, general abolition was out of the question.

'Lord Londonderry's general thesis still is that we could have made friends with Hitler instead of making an enemy of him. He explained his views in a letter to Mr. Churchill (who did not agree with them) in May, 1936: " I feel that if the Nazi regime in Germany is destroyed then the country will go Communist, and we shall find a lining-up of France, Germany and Russia and the menace of Communism as the most powerful policy in the world." Similar arguments have been heard more recently from other lips. One difficulty about his judgements is of deciding when they have become definitive. " Neither Baldwin nor Chamberlain [Neville, not Austen]," he writes, " had any real conception of statesmanship when it came to foreign politics," and, referring to the agreement signed by the Prime Minister and Hitler at Munich, he adds: " For my part I never believed it to be possible, when Chamberlain had succeeded in assembling in one room the representatives of the four great countries on whose word peace or war depended, that he could have failed to achieve anything except Hitler's signature to a piece of paper proclaiming eternal friendship between Great Britain and Germany. That was a veritable anti-climax."

But did Lord Londonderry never believe that? What, then, was the meaning of his letter in The Times of October 3rd, 1938? The " piece of paper " was then a "document." The Prime Minister had done precisely what Lord Londonderry in his earlier book (from which he quoted at some length in the letter) had urged might be done.

" I am happy," he concluded, thankfully, " to think that this hope, which seemed remote when it was expressed on the publication of my book six months ago, should now appear to be within sight of fulfilment, and a document exists by virtue of which England and Germany have forsworn war as a means of settling their differences. This may well prove to be the crowning achievement of Mr. Chamberlain's states- manship " —of that statesmanship which in 1943 the same Lord Londonderry declared the same Mr. Chamberlain never to have had any concep- tion of in foreign politics. Has the 1938 view been superseded by the 1943 view—or been overlooked? It is rather confusing, but so is a good deal else in this well-intentioned book. H. W. H.