Churchill reined in army enthusiasm for fox hunts in the Rhine

August 2nd, 2010 - 2:22 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Aug.2 (ANI): Former Tory Prime Minister Winston Churchill is said to have prevented senior British Army officers from undertaking equestrian pursuits in Germany immediately after the Second World War.

According to National Archives documents, Churchill, during a dispute between senior army officers and the early 1950s UK government, expressed his absolute opposition to “sports, which annoy the inhabitants”.

Details of the row, preserved in War Office files, emerge at a time when hunt supporters are hoping that there will be a free vote in parliament on repealing the ban imposed by the 2004 Hunting Act, which outlaws hunting with dogs, the Guardian reports.

According to the paper, officers’ enthusiasm for bloodsports was evident in a letter sent by the commander of the British army of the Rhine (BAOR), Sir John Harding, to the secretary of state for war, Anthony Head, in March 1952.

By then there were 14 packs of hounds run by British soldiers in the zone occupied by UK forces after the war.

At that time, there was a Nazi ban on hunting with dogs because Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian and had a soft spot for animals.

Disapproving of the “resuscitation of a Nazi law”, the British commander explained that hunting provided “a good deal of sport” and pleaded for the foreign secretary to take up the issue with the West German government.

However, then Foreign Secretary Antony Eden stonewalled and vetoed a proposal to raise the issue with the West German chancellor, Konrad Adenauer.

In October 1952 Churchill’s private secretary, Anthony Montague Browne, wrote to the War Office confirming the government’s final position.

Browne said: “The prime minister has expressed the following view: ‘Do the Germans really object to fox hunting by British troops in Lower Saxony? If they do, it should be stopped. You may occupy a country, but that does not give you unlimited freedom to indulge in sports which annoy the inhabitants.’” (ANI)

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