George Ryan’s letter home dated 5 Nov 1915

George Ryan’s letter home dated 5 Nov 1915

5 Nov 1915

Dear M & F,

Many thanks for your letter of Oct 14. I’ve also heard from Bert & May this week. Before I opened their letters I guessed they both blamed each other for not writing before & when I did open them I found that was the case. Bert said he had left it too late the last two weeks & if I wanted to blame anybody I must blame my sister & May says its Bert’s fault she doesn’t write as he keeps her out till it’s too late.

I notice you have sent me some Tobacco & sweets. Thanks very much, I hope I shall receive them alright when the Parcel Post comes in. It should be in to-day but I’m at Cossipore this week so if your parcel has arrived I shan’t get it till to-morrow.

We are going to Jafferpore on the 14th but only one Platoon is going at a time so we shall not be there more than about 10 days.

If you have not already sent those things I mentioned a few weeks ago you might also send my dancing shoes & a pen-knife which you will find I think in one of my top drawers. If you’ve already sent the other things don’t make a special parcel of these two things; there’s no hurry. Some of the fellows are learning to dance & later on they hope to arrange one or two dances.

Cannot tell you the name of the boat we are coming home by as we are spending Christmas out here this year. We might spend the next one at home but we can’t say yet though.

Hope you are all well.
Love from yr loving son

P.S. Received Selfridges warrant safely, thanks.

11th Canadian Inf. Bde. 4 November 1916

File not needed.
4th Can. Div.
11th Canadian Inf. Bde.

Please submit the name of a Field Officer who will do liaison work with the 18th Division during the future operations.

He will be temporarily attached to Divisional Headquarters from the “Z” day, but will be available for his battalion should casualties demand it.
K.D. Murray
General Staff

Nov. 4th 1916.

To: – O.C. 54th 75th 87th & 102nd Battns.

Please forward to these Headquarters by 3 p.m. tomorrow, 5th inst. the name of a Field Officer who could undertake this duty.

Signature unreadable
Brigade Major
11th Canadian Inf. Brigade

F.S. Parah
Maj Parah
You are detailed for this work.
Kindly note & return
Signature unreadable.

George Ryan’s letter home dated 2 Nov 1914

George Ryan’s letter home dated 2 Nov 1914
S.S. “Dilwara”
Nearing Gibraltar
2 Nov 1914
Dear Mother & Father,
Hope you got my P.C. safely from S’ton. I’d given up hopes of sending one as we were not allowed outside the docks. Then a few minutes before the boat left a sailor called out “any more letters or P.C.s” so I just scribbled that P.C. in about ½ a minute & gave it to him to post. Well, we are just getting used to our house on the sea. A lot of fellows were ill the first day but I was alright until Sun morning. We were half way across the Bay & our boat was just like a tub on the water. I was sick a little but I kept my dinner down. There are very few fellows that have not felt a bit queer. I’m quite A 1 now again. Our steering gear went wrong on Friday.
So I think we are going to call at Gib; I’m writing this in case: In the ordinary course we were not going to call anywhere until we got to Aden.
We shall stop for repairs at Gib. But I don’t think we shall be allowed off the boat as I shan’t be able to get any stamps but the way I’m going to mark the envelope I don’t think you’ll have to pay any more that 1d. We are having a very lazy time on board; it’s getting rather monotonous we’ve only sighted land once & that was the southern coast of England. There are 9 other boats & one escort; a cruiser brought us part of the way, now we’ve got a battleship. There are 1200 of us on this boat & I suppose there’s as many on each of the others so there’s 12000 altogether but they are not all going to India. 1000 are staying at Aden, 1000 are going to Rangoon (Burmah) etc.
Of course we’re rather crowded & the food isn’t very plentiful but we can’t expect anything better on board. I wish I could still receive your weekly parcel of cake. We generally have a spoonful of porridge & bread & butter & stuff they call tea for breakfast; tinned meat & potatoes & sometimes pickles for dinner & a biscuit or two & tea for tea. There’s a canteen but its only open for a few hours so you can imagine there’s a fine rush when it is open; it means waiting something over half an hour.
We sleep in hammocks which we have to put up every night over our mess tables. I didn’t like it at first but now I get quite a comfortable rest.
I’m not sure where we are going to land; I thought Bombay but I heard Kurachi mentioned, it will be one of the two. They say we’ve got 5 day’s train journey then across India. Dinapore is about 150 to 200 miles north of Calcutta. I think we shall all be about sick of travelling by the time we get there; I’m tired of it already.
You can answer this directly to Pte. GWR 1945 “D” Company, 9th Battn, Middx Regt, Dinapore, India. It won’t matter if it gets there first, I expect I shall get it alright. Write as much as you like & tell me all that’s going on; get May to help you; write it in weekly parts if you like. Have you sold or given my clothes away yet? Did you receive £1 from the office on 1 Nov? Has dad still got something to do?
I don’t suppose I shall have time to write to Bert this time; you must tell Mrs Taylor to tell him I’m getting on alright. Besides I don’t like writing to anyone when they’ve got to pay anything to receive it.
Well I hope you are all getting on alright & are all quite well. Love to all,
Yr affectionate son
I’ve learnt since that the captain himself was sick so you can tell it was pretty rough on Sunday.

Norman Richardson 2nd Lieut S.O.

Opened on Nov. 1st 1916.
Started Intelligence Nov 21st 1916.
Norman Richardson 2nd Lieut S.O.

SC 257 1/11/16
Custody of Stores.
6. The Divl Signal Company will leave behind the supernumerary officer attached to it. This officer will be in charge of any personnel remaining in the Divl area. He will collect all spare signal stores at a site selected by him, and will report to O.C. Divl Salvage Co., where this site is. All telegraphs & telephone instruments liable to injury by explosive will be collected at the nearest convenient Signal Office.
28th /10/16



The announcement of the death of King George V was broadcast by the British Pathe News on the 20th January 1936. George V was King of the United Kingdom, the British Dominions, and Emperor of India. He ascended the throne on the 6th May 1910. Born during the reign of his grandmother Queen Victoria, he served in the Royal Navy from 1887 to 1891. Following the death of his elder brother in 1892 George became the Prince of Wales. George V’s reign saw the rise of socialism, communism, fascism, Irish republicanism and the Indian independence movement. The political landscape was radically changed and the Parliament Act 1911 established the supremacy of the elected British House of Commons over the unelected House of Lords. In 1917 King George renamed the Monarchy from the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the House of Windsor as a result of anti-German public sentiment. He had smoking-related health problems throughout much of his later reign and at his death was succeeded by his eldest son, Edward VIII.

The 1936 Winter Olympics was hosted by Germany and began on the 6th February 1936 and ended on the 26th February 1936. The Olympics were a winter multi-sport event and held in the market town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Bavaria, and officially opened by Adolf Hitler. Organised on behalf of the German League of the Reich for Physical Exercise (DRL) the Olympics consisted of 17 events in 8 disciplines over 4 sports. Of the twenty-eight nations participating, ten received medals. A total of fifty-one medals were available of which Norway was the highest with fifteen medals. Both France and Hungary received one medal each.

In Britain on the 5th March 1936, the Supermarine Spitfire flew for the first time from Eastleigh in Hampshire. Reginald J (RJ) Mitchell had developed the fighter from the racing seaplanes built by Supermarine to compete in the Schneider Trophy competitions. In 1931 Mitchell achieved his quest to “perfect the design of the racing seaplane” which culminated in the aircraft breaking the world speed record. But he was concerned about developments in German aviation and feared that British defences needed to be strengthened especially in the air. During this time the Air Ministry issued a specification for another fighter aircraft to replace the Gloster Gauntlet. Mitchell brought together many technical advances made by other manufacturers to produce the prototype. It was his experience of high speed flight and the combination of the various designs that allowed Mitchell to produce the Spitfire. He is reputed to say that the “Spitfire was just the sort of bloody silly name they would choose”. Sadly, Mitchell did not see just how significant his Spitfire would become because he died of cancer in January 1937. The Spitfire alongside the Hurricane were the two fighters to take on the might of the German Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain in 1940.

The Remilitarization of the Rhineland by the German army took place on the 7th March 1936 when the German Army entered the Rhineland. This was significant because it violated the Treaty of Versailles and the Locarno Treaties, marking the first time since the end of the Great War that German troops had been in this region. The remilitarization changed the balance of power in Europe from France towards Germany, and made it possible for Germany to pursue a policy of aggression in Western Europe.

In Germany Adolf Hitler appointed Hermann Göring Commissar for Raw Materials and Foreign Currency on the 4th April 1936.

Italian troops entered Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa on the 5th May 1936 following the invasion and occupation in October 1935. The war was a cruel affair. The Ethiopians used Dum-dum bullets, which had been banned by the Hague Convention of 1899. The Italians used poison gas which had been prohibited under the Geneva Protocol of 1922. When Addis Ababa had been occupied Emperor Haile Selassie pleaded with the League of Nations for aid in resisting the Italians but it was not forthcoming. The country was formally annexed on the 9th May 1936 and the Emperor went into exile. He remained Emperor of Ethiopia whilst in exile and reclaimed his throne in 1941 following the surrender of Italian East Africa. Italian dictator Benito Mussolini proclaimed the abolition of slavery for the 9 million slaves in all Ethiopia. The Italians invested substantially in Ethiopian development. They created many “imperial roads” and constructed 900 km of railways as well as new dams, hydroelectric plants and airports.

In Germany the Messerschmitt Bf 110 aircraft flew for the first time on the 12th May 1936 as part of the Luftwaffe air development. Göring was in favour of the twin-engine heavy fighter although it had weaknesses. The biggest weakness was the lack of agility in which was exploited to full advantage by the RAF during the Battle of Britain in 1940. During this period the role of the ‘110’ was to escort German bombers on their raids on London. Later they were designated as night fighters during the subsequent British bombing raids on Germany.

On the 3rd June 1936, Chief of Staff of the Luftwaffe Walther Wever was killed when the Heinkel HE Blitz he was flying crashed. The aircraft had not been properly examined during pre-flight checks, and the aileron gust pins had not been removed. The gust pin on an aircraft is a mechanism that locks the control surfaces whilst the aircraft is parked on the ground. The aircraft was airborne when the wing dipped and the Heinkel stalled and went in a low level horizontal cartwheel. Wever was on a return flight from Dresden to Berlin. He had seen action in the Great War serving as a staff officer in the German Army High Command. He became the Chief of Staff of the Luftwaffe shortly after its creation on the 26th February 1935. He was a supporter of strategic bombing but following his death smaller high speed medium bombers were developed. Some strategic bomber programmes were initiated but the development was too late in the war to have any meaningful effect.

The Vickers Wellington was a British twin-engined long range medium bomber which had its first flight on the 15th June 1936. It was designed during the 1930s at Vickers-Armstrong‘s Weybridge plant and led by chief designer Rex Pierson. The airframe fuselage structure was designed by Barnes Wallis which was built in a honeycomb like arrangement to allow the stresses of the airframe to equalise. The Air Ministry Specification called for a twin-engined day bomber capable of delivering a higher performance than any previous design. The Wellington was used as a night bomber in the early years of the Second World War and performed as one of the principal bombers used by Bomber Command. Later in the war larger four-engined “heavies” such as the Avro Lancaster began to replace the Wellington.

On the 17th July 1936 the Spanish Civil War began with a military uprising in Morocco triggered by events in Madrid. Within days Spain was divided. On the one side were the “Republican” or “Loyalist” faction who were revolutionary anarchist with Trotsky pockets of supporters. Opposing them were the “Nationalists” under the insurgent generals and eventually, under the leadership of Francisco Franco. By the summer there were atrocities on both sides. Through the diplomatic efforts of Britain and France, all European governments signed a non-intervention agreement not to supply arms to Spain. It did not deter Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany from openly supplying arms and men and committing support to the “Nationalists.” German dictator Adolf Hitler sought to establish a relationship with the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini as he had been impressed with Italy’s early military successes. Flattered by Hitler’s overtures, Mussolini interpreted the recent diplomatic and military victories as proof of his genius. The Soviet Union offered only intermittent help by sending war material and ’advisers’ to the “Republican” government.

The international multi-sport events in the 1936 Summer Olympics was held in Berlin, Nazi Germany. Adolf Hitler saw the games as an opportunity to promote his government. The games were officially declared open by Hitler on the 1st August 1936 and ended on the 16th August 1936. Adolf Hitler had a huge sports complex constructed including a new 100,000 seat track and field stadium. He also had built a state-of-the-art Olympic village for housing the athletes. Olympic flags and swastikas bedecked the monuments and houses of crowded Berlin. The spectators were in a festive mood. Forty nine athletic teams from around the world competed in the Berlin Olympics, more than in any other Olympics. Germany fielded the largest team with 348 athletes, and as a gesture to placate international opinion the German authorities allowed the Jewish star fencer Helene Mayer to represent Germany. She won a silver medal in the women’s individual fencing. Helene had been stripped of her German citizenship in 1935 under the anti-Jewish laws. After the games she settled in America and returned to Germany in 1952, where she married. The couple settled in Heidelberg where she died of breast cancer in October 1953 aged 42. No other Jewish athlete competed for Germany in the Summer Games. The US team was the second largest with 312 members including 18 African Americans. Coloured American Jessie Owens won four gold medals in the sprint and long jump events and became the most successful athlete to compete in Berlin. The US came in second with 56 medals while Germany secured 89 medals to have the highest tally. Great Britain total number of medals won was 14. The Soviet Union was not invited to participate in the Olympics as they had not been involved in international sporting events since the 1920 Olympics. However, there were controversies. Many tourists were unaware that the Nazi regime had temporarily removed anti-Jewish signs. Hitler’s official Nazi party newspaper wrote that Jews and Black people should not be allowed to compete in the Games. When threatened with a boycott of the Games, Hitler relented and allowed Black people and one Jew to participate.

Hermann Göring became Commissioner for the Four Year Plan on the 18th October 1936. This appointment, as well as being Commissar for Raw Materials and Foreign Currency, gave him a great deal of influence over the German economy. He was entrusted with the task of mobilizing all sections of the economy for war. This assignment brought numerous government agencies under his control and helped to make him one of the wealthiest men in the country.

The Great Purge in Russia began during 1936. The Soviet government put Leon Trotsky on trial in his absence in October 1936 accusing him of conspiring against Josef Stalin. Along with sixteen of his supporters, who were called the ”Trotskyite-Zinovievite Terrorist Centre” they were all found guilty and sentenced to death. This show trial was the first of the Moscow Trials.

The Suiyuan Campaign was an attempt by the Inner Mongolian Army and Grand Han Righteous Army to take control of the Republic of China by launching the invasion of Suiyuan on the 14th November 1936. These two forces were founded and supported by Imperial Japan and occurred shortly before the Second Sino-Japanese War. Mongolia is on the northern borders of China. Inner Mongolia wished to use Mongolia as a buffer state between China and Russia. The Japanese government denied taking part in the operation, but the Inner Mongolian and the Grand Hans Righteous Army received air support from Japanese planes and were assisted by the Imperial Japanese Army and overseen by Japanese staff officers. The Japanese backed forces launched an attack against the Chinese defenders of Suiyuan but they were repulsed. Over the next few days they continued to launch assaults against the city’s walls but were beaten back sustaining considerable losses. On the 17th November 1936 the Chinese counter-attack surprised the invaders which led to a disorganised retreat to their headquarters in Bailingmiao. Due to the lack of training and the low morale among the Mongolians the campaign was unsuccessful. The defence of Suiyuan by China’s National Revolutionary Army was one of the first major successes over Japanese supported Inner Mongolian forces which greatly improved the Chinese morale.

German involvement in the Fighting during the Spanish Civil War, began on the 15th November 1936. They allied themselves to Francisco Franco’s “Nationalist” regime against “Republican” forces. Heavy air and artillery bombardment began and the German Condor Legion went into action together with Moors from Morocco. The Legionaries broke through to the University City of Madrid where they were confronted by stalemate. By the 23rd November 1936 frontal attacks on Madrid had ceased and individual lines had been stabilized. On the 17th November 1936 both Germany and Italy recognised Franco’s “Nationalist” regime. More importantly for Germany, their military forces gained valuable battle experience which was used to advantage in 1939.

The Anti-Comintern Pact was an anti-Communist pact concluded between Germany and Japan on the 25th November 1936. In case of an attack by the Soviet Union against Germany or Japan, the two countries agreed to consult on what measures to take to safeguard their common interests. They also agreed neither of them would make any political treaties with Soviet Union, and Germany also agreed to recognise Manchukuo. In 1932 the Imperial Japanese Army had established the Empire of Manchukuo as a puppet state in Manchuria, a region of north-eastern China.

By 1st December 1936 the Hitler Youth movement membership had reached over five million. From July 1933 until 1945 the Hitler Youth was the sole official Nazi Party youth organisation which was partly paramilitary and comprised of male youths aged 14 to 18. The League of German Girls was the female equivalent. One reason the Hitler Youth so easily came into existence stems from the fact that numerous youth movements existed across Germany after the Great War. Once Hitler came to power the transition from seemingly innocuous youth movements to political entities focussing on Hitler was swift.

A constitutional crisis in the British Empire arose when King Edward VIII proposed to marry Mrs. Wallis Simpson. She was an American citizen who had divorced her first husband and was in process of divorcing her second. The governments of the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth opposed the marriage on religious, legal, political and moral grounds. As British monarch, Edward was the nominal head of the Church of England, which did not then allow divorced people to remarry in church if their ex-spouses were still alive. For this reason, it was believed that Edward could not marry Wallis Simpson and remain on the throne. She was perceived to be politically and socially unsuitable as a prospective queen consort because of her two failed marriages. Edward declared that he loved Wallis Simpson and intended to marry her whether his government approved or not. Edward’s refusal to give her up, and the widespread unwillingness to accept her as the King’s consort led to his abdication on 12th December 1936. He was succeeded by his brother George VI. Edward was given the title His Royal Highness the Duke of Windsor following his abdication and he married Wallis Simpson the following year and remained married until his death 35 years later. Wallis Simpson never received the title of Her Royal Highness.

In Spain on the 23th December 1936 Italian Corpo Truppe Volontarie (Blackshirt ‘volunteer’ units) landed in Cadiz to fight alongside the Nationalist regime of Francisco Franco.




Following the ending of the Great War the Saar region was separated from Germany and administered by the League of Nations. France was given control of the Saar’s coalmines. Toward the end of 1934 the League of Nations Council proposed a referendum after fifteen years administration and it was scheduled to take place on the 7th January 1935. The Council was also convinced that a peacekeeping force would be necessary during the plebiscite period. The German and French governments agreed to allow an international force to enter the Saar region. The Council unanimously approved a resolution calling for such a force on the 8th December 1934. The League appointed British General John Brind as commander with overall operational control of the force. Troops patrolled but did not police the Saar region. They were not to respond except to emergencies and at the request of local authorities. There was little or no violence during the plebiscite and the peacekeeping was regarded as a success. In the referendum, voters were asked whether the Saar region should remain under the League of Nations administration, return to Germany or become part of France. The result was that over 90% of the vote was in favour of the Saar Region being returned to Germany. Although the Saar region returned to Germany entirely in accordance with the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, many historians regard it as an essential “first step” on Hitler’s Road to War.

In March 1935 Hermann Göring was appointed commander-in-chief of the new German Air Force (Luftwaffe). He held this position until the 29th April 1945. Shortly after his appointment, two new aircraft became available to the Luftwaffe. The first was the Messerschmitt BF 109 which made its first flight as a German single seater fighter aircraft possibly on the 29th May 1935. The ME109 was the most produced fighter of all time, with more than 35,000 built. Consequently the ‘109’ pilots scored more aerial victories than those of any other aircraft. The second was the Junkers JU87 or Stuka which was a German dive bomber and ground attack aircraft. It first flew on the 17th September 1935 and was easily recognised by its inverted gull wings and fixed undercarriage which were fitted with wailing sirens becoming the propaganda symbol of German air power.

The Anglo-German Naval Agreement was signed on the 18th June 1935 between the United Kingdom and Germany. This agreement allowed Germany to build a fleet whose total tonnage was less than 35% of the tonnage of the British fleet. In this way Britain hoped to limit German naval re-armament.

The “Neutrality Act of 1935” was signed by the United States Congress on the 31st August 1935 which imposed a general embargo on trading in arms and war materials with all parties in the event of a war. It also declared that American citizens travelling on warring ships travelled at their own risk.

The Nuremberg Laws were introduced in Germany on the 15th September 1935 by the Reichstag at a special meeting convened at the annual Nuremberg Rally of the Nazi Party (NSDAP). One of the two laws introduced was the Law for the Protection of German Blood, and the other was for the Protection of German Honour. These laws forbade marriages, extra-marital intercourse between Jews and Germans and the employment of German females under the age of 45 in Jewish households. The Reich Citizenship Law declared only those of German or related blood were eligible to be Reich citizens, the remainder were classed as state subjects without citizenship rights. A supplementary decree outlining the definition of who was Jewish was passed on the 14th November 1935 and the Reich Citizenship Law officially came into force the same day. These laws were later expanded to include Romani people and Afro/Asian people. A supplementary decree defined Romanies as “enemies of the race-based state” and given the same category as Jews.

The Second Italo-Ethiopian War was a colonial war which began on the 2nd October 1935 when Italy invaded Ethiopia. Italian dictator Benito Mussolini was determined to show the strength of his regime. The war was fought between the armies of the Kingdom of Italy and those of the Ethiopian Empire (also known as Abyssinia). The Italian army sent a force of a few hundred thousand troops to Africa with an abundance of weaponry, transportation and food. Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie had a larger army, but very few had military training and almost all fought with spears, bows and arrows and antiquated guns. The ill-equipped Ethiopians were no match for Italy’s modern tanks and aircraft, and the capital Addis Ababa was quickly captured. Ethiopia was defeated, annexed and subjected to military occupation. The Ethiopian Empire became part of the Italian colony of Italian East Africa and incorporated into the new Italian Empire.

The Hawker Hurricane first flew on the 6th November 1935 and was the beginning of the Royal Air Force (RAF) fighter force. The aircraft design owed a great deal to the technology of the biplane era of the Great War. The Hawker Aircraft Company began the development as a private project involving a manufactured air frame which was covered in dope impregnated fabric. With the availability of the Rolls Royce Merlin engine, the Air Ministry wrote a specification around Hawker’s proposals and the development of the prototype began. The Hurricane alongside the Spitfire did more than any other aircraft or defence system in 1940 to save Britain from Nazi invasion.

In Britain Conservative Stanley Baldwin replaced Labour’s Ramsey MacDonald as Prime Minister of the National Government on the 14th November 1935. The National Government was formed by MacDonald in 1931 but most of the ministers were Conservative. As leader of the Conservative Party Baldwin took over many of the Prime Minister’s duties owing to MacDonald’s failing health. This government gave Dominion status to Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. It also introduced an Act delivering increased self-government for India, and established the first steps toward the Commonwealth. Baldwin made many striking innovations such as the use of film and radio. This made him highly visible to the public and helped to strengthen Conservative appeal. The Conservatives won the 1935 General Election with a large majority. During this time Baldwin oversaw the beginning of the rearmament process of the British military, as well as the difficult abdication of King Edward VIII. Baldwin’s government saw a number of crises in foreign affairs, including the public uproar over the Hoare-Laval Pact, the remilitarisation of the Rhineland and the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. During his time as Prime Minister he presided over high unemployment in the 1930’s and was one of the “Guilty Men” who tried to appease Adolf Hitler. He was also thought of as not having rearmed sufficiently to prepare for the Second World War. Despite all the set-backs he was regarded as a popular and successful Prime Minister.

The Hoare-Laval Pact was proposed on the 8th December 1935 when British Foreign Minister Samuel Hoare discussed with his French counterpart Pierre Laval how to end the Second Italo-Abysinian War. The Pact was initially discussed during a secret meeting. However, on the 9th December 1935 the British press revealed leaked details of an agreement by the two men to give Ethiopia to Italy to end the war. The press denounced the Pact stating the British public would not recommend the League of Nations approve the Pact as a fair and reasonable basis for approval. The Pact was met with a wave of moral indignation in Britain and in France the Popular Front condemned it. The British government withdrew the plan and Hoare resigned. In early 1936 Italy began a new larger advance on Ethiopia.




The German-Polish Non-Aggression Pact was an international treaty between Nazi Germany and the Second Polish Republic and signed on the 26th January 1934. Relations between the two countries were formalised after being strained by border disputes arising from the Treaty of Versailles. The pact agreed, both countries pledged, to resolve any problems by negotiation and would forgo armed conflict for a period of ten years.
The Austrian Civil War was fought between the 12th and the 16th February 1934 in various cities in Austria. The war was in fact a series of skirmishes between socialist and conservative-fascist forces. The clashes started in Linz and took place principally in the cities of Vienna, Graz, Bruck an der Mur, Judenburg, Weiner Neust and Steyr. After the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire following the Great War, the State of Austria comprised mostly German speaking parts of the former empire. Two major factions dominated politics in the new nation. The socialists were represented by the Social Democratic Worker’s Party who found their strongholds in the working class districts of the cities, and the conservatives represented by the Christian Social Party built their support of the rural population and the upper classes. Armed skirmishes had periodically occurred between the two sides but the Great Depression had brought high unemployment and massive inflation to Austria. When Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany many National Socialist sympathisers threatened the Austrian state from within. These sympathisers wished to have unification of Austria with Hitler’s Germany. When Christian Social Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss suspended the Austrian Parliament on the 4th March 1933, he used this opportunity to declare that parliament had ceased to function and assumed dictatorial powers. The Social Democratic Party lost its major platform for political action. The conservatives began to face pressure and violence from incoming Nazi Germany but also from the Austrian left wing party. However, by the 16th February 1934 Dollfuss and the Christian Social party had suppressed the Socialist movement which ended with an “Austrofascist” victory.
On the 20th April 1934 in Germany the Gestapo was passed to the administration of Schutzstaffel (SS) Commander Heinrich Himmler,. The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany and German occupied Europe. It was formed shortly after Hermann Göring was named as Ministry Without Portfolio in the new government of 1933 when Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany.
The Night of the Long Knives, also known as the “Röhm Affair”, was a purge that took place in Nazi Germany from the 30th June to the 2nd July 1934. The National Socialist German Workers Party, or Nazis, carried out a series of political executions intended to consolidate Adolf Hitler’s absolute hold on power in Germany. Many of those who were killed were leaders of the Sturmabteilung (SA), the Nazis’ own paramilitary organisation known as “Brownshirts”. The best known victim was of the purge was Ernst Röhm, the SA’s leader and one of Hitler’s long-time supporters. Also killed were establishment conservatives and anti-Nazis, such as former Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher and Bavarian politician Gustav Ritter von Kahr. It was von Kahr who had suppressed Hitler’s Munich Beer Hall Putsch in 1923. The murder of the SA leaders were also intended to improve Hitler’s government image with the German public that was increasingly critical of thuggish Brownshirt tactics.
On the 20th July 1934, as a reward for its role in the Röhm purge of the 3oth June-2nd July 1934, Hitler decreed the SS, under Reichsführer SS Heinreich Himmler, to be an independent formation of the Nazi Party. The SS would be directly subordinate only to Hitler himself as Führer (leader).
On the 25th July 1934, Austrian Engelbert Dollfuss was assassinated by Austrian Nazis who entered the Austrian Chancellery building and shot him. The assassination was an attempted but failed coup d’état known as the July Putsch against the Austrofascist regime which took place between the 25th – 30th July 1934. Dollfuss had taken the role of dictator when his Christian Social Party defeated the Austrian Social Democratic Worker’s Party (Nazi Party) following the Austrian Civil War of February 1934. Italian dictator Benito Mussolini had no hesitation in attributing the attack to the German dictator Adolf Hitler. Mussolini also mobilised a part of the Italian army on the Austrian border and threatened Hitler with war in the event of a German invasion of Austria to thwart the putsch. This was the greatest moment of friction between Italian Fascism and German National Socialism. The assassination of Dollfuss was accompanied by uprising in many regions of Austria, resulting in further deaths. In the Southern Austrian town of Carinthia, a large contingent of northern German Nazis tried to seize power but were subdued by the Italian units nearby. At first Hitler was jubilant, but the Italian reaction surprised him. Hitler became convinced that he could not face a conflict with the Western European powers, and officially denied liability, stating his regret for the murder of the Austrian Prime Minister. Kurt Schuschnigg, previously Minister of Education, was appointed new chancellor of Austria after a few days, assuming the office from Dollfuss’ deputy Ernst Rüdger Starhemberg.
When President Paul von Hindenburg died on the 2nd August 1934, Adolf Hitler combined the positions of chancellor and president into one office and took the title of ”Der Fuhrer” [The Leader] whereby he took control as a dictator. Hitler formed the Third Reich under his dictatorship, using the Gestapo to stifle all dissent. Hitler’s policy, however vague, included a planned economy, in which the unemployed were put to work on government projects. Labour was forbidden to organise into unions, but working hours were reduced to open up employment and jobs. The government oversaw all functions of the economy and education, free speech was strictly controlled. The school curriculum and textbooks written to reflect Nazi ideology and all cinemas, newspapers, radio and art were regulated by the vigilant Ministry of Propaganda headed by Joseph Goebbels. One of the Ministry’s main tasks was to generate German anti-Semitism in support of the Nazi persecution of German Jews. This persecution was a major step in Hitler’s plan to conquer all of Europe for the Aryan race, which resulted in the outbreak of the Second World War.
On the 8th August 1934, Defence Minister General Werner von Blomberg and General Walther von Reichenau drafted the Oath of Allegiance to Adolf Hitler. The oath pledged personal loyalty to Hitler instead of loyalty to the constitution of the country. The oath was sworn by the officers and soldiers of the German Armed Forces and by the civil servants of Nazi Germany between the years 1934 to 1945.
On the 18th September 1934, the Soviet Union accepted the offer to join the League of Nations as a permanent member of the Council. On France’s initiative 30 member countries proposed the USSR to join the league on 15th September 1934. A total of 63 countries were members of the League of Nations from 1920 to 1946. However, the United States of America was never a member despite President Woodrow Wilson’s enthusiastic proposals at the end of the Great War. The League of Nations was the international organisation founded in 1919-1920 to preserve order in the world, with the official languishes being English, French and Spanish.
In Russia, on the 1st December 1934 Sergei Kirov, head of the Leningrad communist party was murdered on the orders of Joseph Stalin. It would appear Stalin used the murder of his political rival as a pretext for eliminating many of his opponents in the Communist Party, the government and the armed forces. The Kirov assassination marked the beginning of Stalin’s massive purge of Soviet society, in which millions of people were imprisoned, exiled or killed.
The Abyssinia Crisis began on the 6th December 1934 when Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia (then known as Abyssinia) protested Italian aggression on the border of Ethiopia at Walwal. Italy’s “Il Duce” Benito Mussolini had been impressed with Japan’s invasion of China, and he was determined to show the strength of his regime. He invade Ethiopia who were ill-equipped to match Italy’s modern weapons and the capital, Addis Ababa, was quickly captured. Mussolini incorporated Ethiopia into the new Italian Empire. The League of Nations ruled against Italy and voted for economic sanctions, but they were not fully applied. Italy ignored the sanctions, left the League of Nations and made deals with Britain and France. The crisis discredited the League and moved Fascist Italy closer to an alliance with Nazi Germany.
On the 29th December 1934, the Japanese government gave formal notice that it intended to terminate both the Washington and The London Naval Treaties. The Washington Naval Treaty was signed in 1922 by the major nations, including Japan, limiting naval construction. The London Naval Treaty of 1930 modified the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty and sought additional limitations of warship building. Many Japanese considered the 5.3 to 3 ratio as a way of being snubbed by the West, which was the main reason for the termination of the treaties.