On September 22nd 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain met with the leader of Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler to discuss the issue of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. After the political map of Europe was redrawn following World War I, many ethnic German speakers found themselves living in Czechoslovakia and Hitler had vowed to return them to the Fatherland. Chamberlain had agreed to allow Germany to annex the Sudetenland but Hitler made demands that he wanted to seize Czechoslovakia completely.
Naturally, Czechoslovakia was opposed to this as were most European powers and began to mobilise for war. As the situation deteriorated, Britain began making preparations for war and on September 23rd 1938 the anti-aircraft units of the Territorial Army were activated.
Among the units mobilised were;
- 26th Anti-Aircraft Brigade protecting London with just 41 AA guns
- 35th Anti-Aircraft Brigade protecting the important naval base at Portsmouth
- 42nd Anti-Aircraft Brigade protecting Glasgow
- 43rd Anti-Aircraft Brigade protecting Teeside
- 54th Anti-Aircraft Brigade protecting towns and cities in the West Midlands
Many of these units found themselves armed with little more than World War I Lewis machine guns until heavier weapons could be distributed to them.
The crisis was eventually resolved as far as Britain was concerned with the Munich Agreement and Czechoslovakia was informed by Britain and France that it could either resist Nazi Germany alone or submit to Hitler’s will. The Czechoslovak government could not hope to fight the Nazis alone and reluctantly agreed although they felt betrayed by Britain and France.
On September 30th 1938, Chamberlain returned to Britain and gave one of history’s most notorious speeches proclaiming “peace in our time” however the Territorial Army anti-aircraft units would remain mobilised right up until the following September when peace was finally shattered in dramatic fashion.