Thomas Graham’s Diary – 30th April 1939

In the May of 1939, the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain announced a bill to be passed by Parliament introducing military conscription for all single men aged between 20 and 22 years of age. This announcement is referred to in the diary entry of Thomas Graham for 30th April. Thomas approves of this action and believes that it should have been done ‘long ago’.

The organisation of arrangements for conscription were part of the Government’s preparation for possible hostilities with Germany as tensions in Europe continued to rise. The Bill, called the Military Training Act, was passed in May 1939 and the first group of young men reported for 6 months full time military training as part of a ‘Militia’. Other recruits joined either voluntarily or by conscription papers in September 1939. The introduction of the National Service (Armed Forces) Act in December 1939 brought in conscription for all men aged between 18 and 41, and by the end of the year, the British armed services had increased by one and a half million men.

Thomas indicates the strain that people were living under at this time in this diary entry, referring to the fact that Hitler’s speech of 28th April had not given any reassurances to the rest of the world regarding his expansionist intentions, despite him having been asked to do so by President Roosevelt in his letter to both Hitler and Mussolini of a few weeks earlier. Thomas is astute in mentioning the issue of Poland as it was the German invasion of that country that prompted Britain’s eventual declaration of war in September 1939.

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