Document D

The reality of the military situation

In October 1938, shortly after the Munich crisis, when arguments were still raging over whether or not Chamberlain had taken the right course of action, Churchill received this letter from Sir Richard Acland, a leading Liberal politician.

Copyright Sir John Acland. Reference: Churchill Papers, CHAR 2/332/26

“Dear Churchill,

May I put before you one question. It is not a rhetorical question, and I address it to you because I want to know the answer and you have proved to be the best informed of anyone I know on the subject.

The question is, – is it strategically and economically possible for us to build up armaments stronger than Germany’s?

I saying “us” I don’t mean this country alone. I take into account all the countries who might be persuaded to co-operate with us to the extent to which they might be persuaded to co-operate. In saying “Germany” I take into account the countries which might be willing or be compelled to co-operate with her.

In saying “possible” I do not mean possible under the muddling of this government, I mean possible assuming we had imposed an efficient organisation, an efficient organisation of industry, and such an increase in the daily output of energy from labour as we might reasonably hope to secure from the trade union leaders.

But when we have taken these things into account, and when we take account of the long lead Germany now has over us and the sources of material and of manufacturing potential now at her command, and when we further take account of her genius for organisation and all the advantages which arbitrary dictatorship over both labour and capital give her, and of the fact that her workmen are now very largely, not merely compelled, but persuaded, to work more intensely and for less reward than ours, I still ask, – is it physically possible for us to make ourselves stronger than Germany? …”