On this day, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer reported to the House of Commons of the growing tensions around the neutral nations of the Netherlands and Belgium.
The Chancellor, Sir John Simon, spoke in parliament on behalf of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who was unwell with gout. Sir John first commented on the back-and-forth discussions between European nations about a possible peace treaty. He was, like many in Britain, skeptical of Hitler’s genuine desire for peace.
The misleading references to British policy in the German Chancellor’s address at Munich on 9th November, coupled with the misrepresentation by German propaganda of the British and French replies as a refusal of the Dutch and Belgian peace initiative, did not indicate that the German reply was likely to open the door to a peaceful and satisfactory settlement.Sir John Simon, speaking in the House of Commons on 16th November 1939.
Sir John then moved onto commenting on German troop build-ups near the borders of Belgium and the Netherlands.
The presence of large concentrations of German troops on the Dutch and Belgian frontiers and the opening of a threatening campaign in the German Press presented a pattern all too familiar to a world which has grown accustomed to seeing in such signs the immediate forerunners of German invasion.Sir John Simon, speaking in the House of Commons on 16th November 1939.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer then expressed relief that all countries, including Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, had stated their desire for avoiding conflict on the border.
Later in the speech, Sir John commented on the new possibilities of getting resources from the United States, visits from Polish politicians, and the possibility of hosting cabinet members from countries part of the British Empire.
Sir John Simon was a very experienced politician: he is one of only three British politicians to ever hold the main three cabinet posts of Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer during his career.