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Horace Wilson (civil servant): Wikis


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Sir Horace John Wilson, GCB, GCMG, CBE (1882-1972) was a British government official who had a key role in the appeasement-orientated government of Neville Chamberlain just prior to World War II.


Wilson was born and educated in Bournemouth and attended the London School of Economics. He joined the British Civil Service, and eventually rose to several high posts:

He was awarded a knighthood in 1924.

In late September 1938, just prior to the Munich Agreement, Wilson was Chamberlain's emissary to Hitler. He was charged with communicating to Hitler the rejection by the British Cabinet, France and Czechoslovakia of Hitler's demands to annex the largely ethnic German Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia. In the course of speaking with Hitler, it was Wilson who also delivered the most significant diplomatic communication between Germany and Britain since the close of the First World War: that should Germany invade Czechoslovakia and France declare war against Germany, Britain would go to war against Germany alongside France. Britain did not stick to this resolute stance, and Czechoslovakia was soon carved up, damaging the historical reputation of both Chamberlain and Wilson.

British journalist Leonard Mosley interviewed Wilson among numerous others for the 1969 book On Borrowed Time, about the months leading up to the outbreak of World War II. Wilson acknowledged having felt out of his depth in dealing with Nazi Germany, and Mosley was critical of Wilson's role.

In fiction

Wilson is a key character in Michael Dobbs' novel Winston's War. In the book Wilson is portrayed as an arch-manipulator who has the telephones of all potential enemies to Neville Chamberlain tapped and will use any methods he can to get rid of Winston Churchill.

He was also portrayed in a similar vein in the 1981 ITV drama series Winston Churchill, The Wilderness Years by Clive Swift.

Offices held

Government offices
Preceded by
Sir Warren Fisher
Head of the Home Civil Service
1939 - 1942
Succeeded by
Sir Edward Bridges


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