“Conditions of armistice with Austria-Hungary”: Paper discussed by the Supreme War Council at Versailles, France setting out the terms of an armistice with Austria-Hungary.
100 years ago, on 11th November 1918, the Great War came to an end. The final German armistice agreement followed the surrender of Bulgaria (29th September), the Ottoman Empire (30th October) and finally as shown in this month’s featured document, the Austro-Hungarian Empire. (3rd November). The military power of Austria-Hungary was very closely tied to Imperial Germany during the First World War. The competency of the military strength of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was severely compromised by factors such as the inadequacy of the Austrian high command and the significant geographical spread of its composite parts which were made up of many different nationalities. This led to the interpretation by many that Germany was fettered with the shortcomings of the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s military strength.
On 30 January 1933 Adolf Hitler was made Chancellor of Germany, and only a few months later, on 14th October 1933 – now 85 years ago – Germany announced its withdrawal from the League of Nations after the three Allied powers declined its request to increase its military power. The featured document this month illustrates the interwar circumstances which led to Hitler’s rise to power. The Treaty of Versailles which had brought the First World War to an end in 1919 required Germany to accept responsibility for the loss and damage caused in warfare, forcing the country to disarm, make substantial territorial concessions, and pay reparations (fixed at £6.6 billion). These arguably excessive demands, the result of the “lethargy and folly” of British and French governments, added to Germany’s resentment against the victorious Allied powers. When Germany proved unable to keep up with the reparation payments, France and Belgium invaded the Ruhr, taking control of the industry to extract the reparations themselves. The government tried to remedy the economic impact by printing more money, which led to hyperinflation. During the 1920s, the US government supported the German economy with loans in what became known as the ‘Golden Years’, but the collapse of the American economy after the Wall Street Crash during the autumn of 1929 returned Germany to high unemployment and severe poverty.
Die Besprechungin Godesberg beendet.
Ministerpräsident Chamberlain und Reichsaußenminister von Ribbentrop im Kreuzfeuer der Film- und Bildberichterstatter [in Uniform] auf dem Kölner Flughafen.
80 years ago this month, in the early hours of 30 September 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain signed the Munich Pact. The agreement between the U.K., France, Italy and Germany allowed Germany to annex a portion of Czechoslovakia known as the Sudetenland. This settlement has become one of the most well-known examples of the dangers of appeasement, a strategy that involves giving concessions to an aggressor nation in order to avoid conflict.
In his letter of 9 August 1918, 100 years ago this month, Douglas Haig wrote a thank you note to Winston Churchill for his congratulations on the successful battle of Amiens and for his efforts as Minister of Munitions in supplying the mechanical warfare, trench mortars, tanks, and airplanes which were instrumental in achieving victory. Churchill had a good working relationship with Haig and had supported him during his reverses on the Western Front in March and April 1918. Haig’s offensives at the Battles of Somme and Passchendaele had resulted in large numbers of casualties and perpetuated his portrayal as a ‘butcher and bungler’ in popular opinion. In fact, Prime Minister Lloyd George and the War Cabinet had been keen to remove Haig as Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Forces, and it was thanks to his success at Amiens in August that he managed to secure his position.
5 July 1948, 70 years ago this month, saw the beginning of the implementation of the National Health Service (NHS). The health minister, Aneurin “Nye” Bevan, marked the occasion by visiting what is now known as Trafford General Hospital in Manchester, the first official NHS hospital. The guiding principle of the NHS was that it was to be free at point of need.
This telegram sent by Antony Eden, the British Foreign Secretary, to Churchill in March 1943 recounts Eden’s discussion with President Roosevelt during a visit to Washington, D.C. Days later, Churchill made a key broadcast speech in which he laid out his ‘Four Years’ Plan’ for Britain and Europe after the war. Although the war was ongoing, Churchill began to look forward to victory and proposed his ideas for how to restore ‘the true greatness of Europe’. One such idea was to establish a Council of Europe – an international organisation to uphold human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe – which was eventually founded in 1949.
75 years ago on the night of 16 May, a dangerous task was undertaken by the Royal Air Force 617 squadron to destroy the Möhne, Eder and Sorpe dams in the Ruhr Valley. These dams were thought to be a significant resource in German war production efforts and were also understood to be highly fortified and invulnerable structures. The mission, codenamed ‘Operation Chastise’, became widely known as the Dambusters raid. The extraordinary feat was featured on front page news around the world, making the ‘Dambusters’ instant celebrities.
Letter from Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) to WSC to thank him for the birthday gift of his “Life of Marlborough”, commenting that she had spent a very busy [18th] birthday “amongst relatives and a great many Grenadiers, which made it a very happy day…”
On 24th April 1944, Princess Elizabeth wrote a warm letter of thanks to Winston Churchill, who had given her his Marlborough: His Life and Times as a birthday present. Churchill had known Elizabeth from an early age – at two years of age, he described her as “a character [with] an air of authority and reflectiveness astonishing in an infant” – and they remained close from Churchill’s return to Downing Street in 1951 to his death in 1965. When Elizabeth became Queen in 1952, the 77-year-old statesman was her first prime minister – and, reputedly, her favourite. They enjoyed their weekly meetings, laughed a lot, and bonded over their shared interest in horses and racing. Indeed, the meetings grew from 30 minutes to two hours. Churchill had great respect for the monarchy, and he was very fond of Elizabeth. When he had a stroke soon after her coronation, Elizabeth invited the Churchills to join her to watch the St Leger and go by royal train to Balmoral, where Churchill enjoyed himself enormously and progressively recovered. When he died, Elizabeth broke royal protocol to arrive before the coffin and before the Churchill family and leave after both of them as a touching sign of respect.
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The International Churchill Society (ICS), founded in 1968 shortly after Churchill's death, is the world’s preeminent member organisation dedicated to preserving the historic legacy of Sir Winston Churchill.
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