[B. H. Liddell Hart as 'defeatist'.] Two Typescripts of his 'Memorandum' titled 'The Prospect in this War', including 'P.S. to Memorandum of November 7th. 1939. From the papers of John Gordon, editor of the Daily Express.

B. H. Liddell Hart [Sir Basil Henry Liddell Hart] (1895–1970), military thinker and historian [John Rutherford Gordon (1890-1974), editor of the London 'Daily Express']
Publication details: 
Both typescripts have 'The Prospect in this War' dated 'B. H. L. H. 8th. [in one draft amended from '7th.'] November, 1939.', and the 'P.S. to Memorandum of November 7th. [sic] 1939' dated '14th November 1939.'
SKU: 16006

This piece does not appear to have been published, and the only copy traced is in the Liddell Hart Papers at King's College London, with the original manuscript and an accompanying list of eighteen recipients including Lloyd George, H. G. Wells, and John Gordon of the Sunday Express, from whose papers the present two copies derive. With its claim that the chances of winning the war are 'slight', and its suggestion that Hitler be provided with with 'a ladder by which he can climb down', this memorandum indicates why, by 1940, Liddell Hart's name would be, as Lord Beaverbrook informed him, a byword in the House of Commons for defeatism. Liddell Hart's entry in the Oxford DNB sets out the background: 'His relations with the pro-appeasement editors of The Times had also deteriorated, and he left the paper at the end of 1939. [...] Liddell Hart's fall from grace was rapid. [...] The spectre of war had concentrated Liddell Hart's mind, and his strategic concepts were based less on operations and more on deterrence, containment, collective security, and an "armed truce"; this structure was cemented by a concept that almost destroyed his reputation: the primacy of the defence. However, Liddell Hart's underestimation of the ruthless exercise of military power was punished savagely by the allied collapse in the West in May-June 1940'. Typescript One: 'The Prospect in this War', 7pp., foolscap 8vo. 'P.S. to Memorandum of November 7th. 1939.', 2pp., foolscap 8vo. In fair condition, aged and worn, with the sheaf having one dog-eared corner and fraying along the foot. The first page headed 'Private & Confidential' in manuscript, with 'Liddell-Hart' in another hand, and with the stamp of the London literary agents Pern, Pollinger & Higham Ltd up the right-hand margin. The text has six minor autograph corrections (the addition of single letters and a comma) by Liddell Hart. These, with the agent's stamp and the amended dating from 7 to 8 November (not followed in the postscript), would appear to suggest that this is the earlier of the two typescripts. The memorandum begins: 'In weighing the chances of a successful end to this war the first need is a clear grasp of the character of the various means'. Three numbered paragraphs on the subject follow, including the soon to be discredited statement that 'Modern experience has suggested' that 'an army needs at least a 3 to 1 superiority in power - not merely in numbers' in order to overcome the enemy's army. The next section attempts, in three numbered parts (with the last part lettered a to e, laying out the 'possible ways in which an adverse decision may be reached'), to 'estimate the chances in the respective spheres': 'The Germans have at present a superiority to the French and British combined, if not enough to give them much promise of securing a decision by attack in the west. [...] When the training and equipment of our expanded army is complete, on its 32 division scale - [...] the opposing land forces may be more evenly balanced.' Having set 'a survey of the prospects', Liddell Hart now presents 'a view of the whole which it would he folly to ignore': 'The chances of winning the war are seen to be slight. They are, on balance, less than the chances of disaster. [...] The most probable issue of the war would seem to be stalemate [...] We are thus faced with the question whether it is justifiable to stake the present security and future prospects of the British people on what cannot be reckoned as better than an outside chance - that the value of continuing the war may be worth the cost and the risk.' He concludes: 'It is an elementary principle of strategy that, if you find your opponent in a strong position costly to force, you should leave him a line of retreat - as the quickest way of loosening his resistance. It should, equally, be a principle of policy, especially in war, to provide your opponent with a ladder by which he can climb down.' In the postscript discusses a broadcast by Churchill on 12 November 1939, and betrays an extraordinary lack of judgment in the claim that, from the Nazi point of view, 'Only the West remains - to be made secure. Here, the assurances which Hitler has given are confirmed by his obvious reluctance to attempt any attack. This is clear evidence of his recognition that aggression there will not pay.' The last paragraph begins: 'A perception of these underlying realities should make it easier for us to proffer a ladder by which Hitler can climb down if he shows any disposition to do so.' The postscript concludes: 'It would seem clear that both sides are more afraid of "losing face" than of sacrificing life.' Typescript Two: 'The Prospect in this War', 10pp., 4to. 'P.S. to Memorandum of November 7th. 1939.', 3pp., 4to. In fair condition, lightly aged and worn, with slight damage to the corners of a couple of leaves. With text of Typescript One apparently unchanged. 'Liddell Hart' in manuscript at head of first page, in same hand as other copy. With three typed corrections in blue ink.