June 29, 1939 – Lord Halifax Delivers An Address On British Foreign Policy – Past Daily Reference Room
Edward Frederick Lindley Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax, KG, OM, GCSI, GCMG, GCIE, TD, PC (16 April 1881 – 23 December 1959), styled Lord Irwin from 1925 until 1934 and Viscount Halifax from 1934 until 1944, was one of the most senior British Conservative politicians of the 1930s. He held several senior ministerial posts during this time, most notably those of Viceroy of India from 1925 to 1931 and of Foreign Secretary between 1938 and 1940. He was one of the architects of the policy of appeasement of Adolf Hitler in 1936–38, working closely with Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. However, after the German occupation of Czechoslovakia in March 1939 he was one of those who pushed for a new policy of attempting to deter further German aggression by promising to go to war to defend Poland.
On Chamberlain’s resignation early in May 1940, Halifax effectively declined the position of Prime Minister despite widespread support across the political spectrum. He felt that Winston Churchill would be a more suitable war leader (Halifax’s membership of the House of Lords was given as the official reason). A few weeks later, with the Allies facing apparently catastrophic defeat and British forces falling back to Dunkirk, Halifax favoured approaching Italy to see if acceptable peace terms could be negotiated, but was overruled by Churchill after a series of stormy meetings of the War Cabinet. From 1941 to 1946, he served as British Ambassador in Washington.
On June 29, 1939, Lord Halifax made a speech at the dinner of the Royal Institute of International Affairs in which he define the aims of British Foreign Policy. After referring to the changes that had taken place during the year and to the committments undertaken by the British government, he said they were preparing to assume more obligations with full understanding of their causes and with understanding of their consequences. They knew that if International Law and order were to be preserved they must be prepared to fright for them.
Britain was undertaking an enormous effort in equipping itself for defense at sea, in the air and on land without parallel in peace time, and that he believed that at no time since the War (World War 1) had there been such national unity and deep determination to make that policy effective.
Here is that complete address, as it was given on June 29, 1939 and broadcast worldwide, via shortwave from the BBC.