October 5. German troops marched into the Sudetenland
part of Czechoslovakia and the Second World War became inevitable.
Hitler had been making threatening noises about "reclaiming"
this German-speaking part of the Czech state for months. The Czechs
were prepared to fight and looked to their ally, France, for support.
But France, shattered by the First World War, was in no mood for
The British prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, flew to Munich
in September and returned waving an infamous piece of paper and
claiming to have secured "peace for our time."
It was no such thing. In getting his slice of Czechoslovakia,
Hitler had leap-frogged the Czechs' border defences and acquired
valuable weapons factories. The more he got, the more he wanted.
In Germany, increasing persecution of the Jews showed the world
what Hitler had in mind for the rest of Europe.
Chamberlain's declaration, in March 1938, that Britain would
fight for France and Belgium hardly seemed to worry the German
For Britain, the Munich Crisis bought only a little time to
prepare for the coming conflict.
November 9. The horror of Kristallnacht (Crystal Night)
was visited upon Jews in Germany as mobs smashed their businesses
and set fire to synagogues. For years the Nazis had been harassing
the Jews whom Hitler blamed for all Germany's ills. But Kristallnacht
was the first large-scale outbreak of violent hostility. More
than 7,000 Jewish shops were looted and an unknown number of Jews
Until this night many Jews, especially those who proudly wore
medal ribbons from the First World War, had convinced themselves
that Hitler and his henchmen meant them no real harm.
After Kristallnacht there were no more illusions. Those Jewish
families who could not flee from Germany were destined for the
concentration camps and gas chambers. "They should have killed
more Jews and broken less glass," was the reaction of Hermann
Goering, founder of the Gestapo, to the attacks.
June 22. Joe Louis demolished the only man ever to have
beaten him in the ring. It was all over in two minutes of the
first round. Max Schmeling had knocked out Louis two years previously.
But at this re-match in New York, Louis's punching power was awesome.
Schmeling hit the canvas at the end of Louis's fourth, and easiest,
title defence. The German died in May 1941. Serving as a German
paratrooper, he was captured and later shot when he tried to escape.
September 27. The world's biggest ocean liner was launched
at John Brown's yard on the River Clyde. The 80,000-ton Queen
Elizabeth almost entered the water unnamed when timbers supporting
her gave way and she began too slide too early. Queen Elizabeth
(later the Queen Mother) just managed to release the bottle of
champagne in time for it to smash against the bows. The mighty
liner was not to embark on the glittering transatlantic career
planned for her. Within months, as war came, she was given a coat
of grey paint for the duration.
August 24. In the final Test at the Oval, England's cricketers
were breaking a host of records. Australia was beaten by the unheard-of
margin of an innings and 579 runs. For more than 13 hours the
Yorkshire batsman Len Hutton dominated the Aussie bowlers, his
innings of 364 beating Don Bradman's previous record for an Ashes
Test by 30 runs. England declared at 903 for seven.
January 1. After one of its worst
seasons Hednesford Town Football Club said it could not
continue without help from"the man in the street." It lost
£126 in the previous year.
February 14. British naval base
at Singapore was opened.
February 2. A pair of runaway lovers
from Dudley, 21-year-old Leonard Merris and Iris Jones, 17,
hit the headlines when they were married at Gretna Green.
March 14. Fourteen leading communists
were executed after one of Stalin's notorious show trials.
March 30. As war approached, Britain
pledged £11 million for new airfields.
May 3. Rowley Regis announced that
its 3,000th council house would soon be completed.
May 31. Spelling Bee, screened
by the new BBC, became the world's first television game
June 1. A Wolverhampton headmistress,
Miss W Cordon of Graiseley Senior Girls School, reported that
girls in the towns as young as 14 were using make-up "to attract
older boys with cars".
June 2. Regent's Park Children's
Zoo was opened.
June 9. Whitehall signed a contract
to buy 400 aircraft from the United States.
June 13. Wolves president Sir Charles
Mander got a laugh by turning up at the club's annual meeting
wearing his gas mask. As local chairman of the ARP (Air
Raid Precautions), he explained, "I believe in practising
what I preach."
July 2. Helen Wills Moody won Wimbledon
ladies' singles for the eighth time.
July 15. The Government placed
an order for 1,000 Spitfire fighter aircraft.
The British Government called a conference on the future
December 2. Britain received 206
Jewish schoolchildren expelled by Nazi Germany.
December 21. The Government allocated
£200,000 to be spent on air-raid shelters.