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Neville Chamberlain, the birdwatching Prime Minister by Nicholas Milton

Neville Chamberlain has gone down in history as the architect of appeasement, the man who tried unsuccessfully to placate Hitler and so put Britain on an inevitable path to war. Yet Chamberlain was also a lifelong and talented naturalist who helped set up The Wildlife Trusts and the Campaign to Protect Rural England. In his youth he discovered a new species to science, the Chamberlain’s Yellow butterfly, and when Prime Minister went birdwatching nearly every day in St James’s Park. Here he turned up some surprisingly rare birds including a scaup which was reported in the Times. On occasions he would even surreptitiously slip out to see elusive birds like a smew. Birdwatching became more than just a hobby or a way of escaping the suffocating pressures of office, it became his way of dealing with the nightmare which was Adolf Hitler.

This talk will explore Chamberlain’s love of natural history set against the backdrop of some of the most momentous events of the twentieth century. Fully illustrated with many images never seen before, it is based on my book ‘Neville Chamberlain’s Legacy’ which was published by Pen and Sword in 2019 with a foreword by Chris Packman CBE. In it he says “This book made me change my mind about a man I thought was a posh, bow-tied bloke who told my parents that their world was about to get blown to bits. Nev is now on my ‘imaginary dinner party’ guest list. Well, sort of. I don’t do dinner parties, but he would be welcome to help me empty my moth trap.”

Nicholas Milton

This recording will be available on Sunday 23rd August and for 3 months afterwards.


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