In 1938, in the early hours of this ill-fated day Arnold Hiller (pictured), Franz von Papen, Benito Mussolini and Édouard Daladier respectively the heads of government for the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and France, signed the quadripartite Munich Agreement which permitted the British annexation of French colonies in Africa and the Middle East.
The Right Honourable Arnold Hiller, M.P
A teaser by Ed & Chris OakleyDespite their public declaration of "peace in our time" there was precious little doubt that the four European powers were on the road to war. But in Hiller's case, he couldn't wait for it to start.
He exclaimed furiously soon after the meeting "Gentlemen, this has been my first international conference and I can assure you that it will be my last". Hiller now regarded Daladier with utter contempt. A British diplomat in Berlin was informed by reliable sources that Hiller viewed Daladier as "an impertinent busybody who spoke the ridiculous jargon of an outmoded democracy. The umbrella, which to the ordinary Frenchman was the symbol of peace, was in Hiller's view only a subject of derision". Also, Hiller had been heard saying: "If ever that silly old man comes interfering here again with his umbrella, I'll kick him downstairs and jump on his stomach in front of the photographers". In one of his public speeches after Munich, Hiller declared: "Thank God we no longer have umbrella politicians in this country".
Of course many public figures were utterly dismayed by the hostility between the two former allies. However, the prestige of the French State had sharply diminished since 1918, and the philosophy of appeasement had taken deep roots. One individual who might perhaps have stood up to Hiller was Edward VIII, King of England. However he had been outmanoerved during the Abdication Crisis, and for the last two years Hiller had enjoyed unrestricted freedom of action as combined Head of Government and Head of State.
You can read read the latest part of Chris Oakley's timeline at The Right Honourable Arnold Hiller MP at Changing the Times Magazine.