By P. Bell
This booklet examines the function of Chamberlain and the nationwide executive in responding to the strategic difficulties created by means of the emergence of a two-front chance from Germany and Japan. It makes a speciality of the 1st defence standards enquiry of 1933-4, while rearmament foundations have been laid and overseas coverage redefined. It explores the inter-relationship among the several departments of kingdom, and among contributors, within the formula of coverage at a time of quandary, and sheds mild at the debate approximately appeasement.
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Extra info for Chamberlain, Germany and Japan 1933-4: Redefining British Strategy in an Era of Imperial Decline
They noted, for example, that the strategic situation had changed since 1922, when Britain had been able to maintain a sufficient margin of strength over Japan while holding equality with the strongest European naval power; now there were two new factors: firstly, the serious possibility of being asked to implement Locarno; secondly, the need to take account of an increasing German Navy in calculating the naval margin necessary to leave in Europe if the Fleet had to go to the Far East. Of the 50 cruisers allowed to Britain under the treaties, 46 would be required in a war with Japan, leaving only four to protect Atlantic trade routes and home waters.
The Army was 'barely sufficient' to fulfil imperial duties; the most it could provide if Britain had to engage in continental intervention - and this was 'probably well known to both our friends and enemies' was 'a small contingent of, say, one or at most two divisions at the outbreak of war, equipping them to a certain extent at the expense of later divisions preparing to go overseas'; such small forces could only offer moral value and would be dangerous in every other aspect. The Chiefs warned, moreover, that 'the repercussions of a war on the continent are impossible to foresee, but it is certain that in the present circumstances we should be faced with difficulties in many parts of the world which would strain our resources as they exist today to the utmost limit'.
He stressed the ultimate incompatibility between British and Japanese ambitions; there was 'a fundamental difference in the philosophies by which the Japanese and the British were respectively guided in their national Hfe'; while militarism and nationalism underlay opinion in Japan, pacifism and internationalism were prevalent in Britain. Japan faced severe economic problems; there was a danger that the Far Eastern Dominions might tempt a power with a rapidly expanding population. 30 The now familiar picture of Britain's acute defence weakness was rehearsed - unmodernised capital ships, insufficient cruisers, undefended ports, vulnerable oil supplies, a deficient Fleet Air Arm, an inadequate Army and vulnerability to air attack at home.
Chamberlain, Germany and Japan 1933-4: Redefining British Strategy in an Era of Imperial Decline by P. Bell