CBC Digital Archives

Neville Chamberlain: 'Peace for Europe'

"Germany has invaded Poland." With those words spoken on Sept. 1, 1939 on CBC Radio, listeners knew the Second World War had begun. While this was distressing news for worried Canadians, it wasn't a surprise. For more than a year, it had become increasingly clear that war was on the horizon. CBC Digital Archives presents several radio broadcasts chronicling the coming of the Second World War, from Neville Chamberlain's hopes for peace in 1938 to Canadian troops departing for Europe in December 1939.

media clip
Listeners tune in to the CBC as British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returns from Munich to a cheering crowd in London. Tension has been high in Europe ever since Nazi Germany began making plans to annex Czecholslovakia's Sudetenland in early 1938. Keen to avoid a repeat of the First World War and mindful of the recent destructive civil war in Spain, Chamberlain has travelled to Munich to negotiate for "peace in our time."

Chamberlain and German leader Adolf Hitler have signed a pact granting the Sudetenland, then part of Czechoslovakia, to Germany. Now, at the airport in London, Chamberlain reads from the document that, he says, assures the "peace of Europe" and is a promise by both Germany and the United Kingdom "never to go to war with one another again."
• In the early years, many of the CBC's broadcasts (including this clip) came from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). In early 1938 the two networks arranged an exchange in which a CBC producer spent six months at the BBC to study its system; a BBC producer was a guest of the CBC at the same time.
• CBC also exchanged programs with broadcasters in the United States and several countries in Europe and South America.

• Czechoslovakia was created in 1919 from the former Austro-Hungarian Empire after the First World War. Its Sudetenland region bordered on Germany and was populated mainly by ethnic Germans.
• Many people in the region were unhappy under Czechoslovakian rule and formed the Sudeten German Party to fight to join Germany. By 1935 it was the largest political party in Czechoslovakia.

• Britain, Germany, Italy and France met at the Munich conference to negotiate the future of the Sudetenland. Czechoslovakia was not present. The agreement demanded the handover of the Sudetenland to Germany and said that if Czechoslovakia resisted, the rest of Europe would not offer help in the conflict.
• On Oct. 1, 1938, Czech guards abandoned the Sudetenland and German troops moved in to occupy the region.

• In less than a year, Adolf Hitler dismissed the Munich Agreement as a "scrap of paper" and invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939. Two days later the Second World War began when Britain and France declared war on Germany. Canada entered the war on Sept. 10.
• Chamberlain's appeasement efforts earned him much criticism, and he resigned as British prime minister in May 1940. He was replaced by Winston Churchill. Neville Chamberlain died six months later.
Medium: Radio
Program: CBC Radio News Special
Broadcast Date: Sept. 30, 1938
Guest(s): Neville Chamberlain
Duration: 3:49

Last updated: October 2, 2013

Page consulted on November 6, 2014

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