Note: This story contains a correction from the original filed version
University of Victoria history professor Brian McKercher ruffled some feathers at last weekend’s meeting of the Winston Churchill Society of Vancouver Island in Colwood.
At a luncheon celebrating Churchill’s 140th birthday, McKercher asserted that Churchill actually came late to the belief that Nazi Germany constituted a major threat, despite the leader’s later declaration that he was “anti-Nazi” in 1933.
It wasn’t until after the forced annexation of Austria in March 1938 that the future prime minister truly saw Nazi Germany as a strategic threat to Britain, McKercher said.
The problem with Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s policy in 1937 was that appeasement of the Nazis wasn’t tactical, he said. “Churchill became an anti-appeaser in 1938, which is different than being suspicious of Germany.”
Despite the apparent time discrepancy between Churchill’s claims of concern about the German threat to British security and his actions, McKercher said the illustrious leader was on the right track all along.
“He’s clearly the guy who has the right kind of ideas in the last year of peace. Chamberlain didn’t want war; he thought he could deter the Germans. Churchill wasn’t afraid to go to war.”
McKercher’s talk inspired informed questions from those in attendance, he said.
“Not everybody agreed, but nor should they. These people are very good. It was like talking to an informed PhD group.”
He was so impressed that he decided to join their ranks after giving his presentation.
The society is “dedicated to ensuring that Churchill’s ideas and achievements are not forgotten by succeeding generations,” and also to encouraging passion for history in younger generations. The society offers fellowships to fourth-year honours students in political science and history at UVic, said McKercher.
The society meets several times a year and membership is open to all ages.
For more information, visit churchillvictoria.com.