The debate about weapons in the inter-war years was fuelled above all by the desire to avoid a repetition of the First World War. It was thought by many that the belief in the importance of offensive action had been an important contributory cause of this unprecedented disaster.

One of the aims of the 1932 World Disarmament Conference in Geneva was to reduce countries' offensive capabilities; by reducing these and enhancing defensive capabilities it was thought that another disastrous war could be avoided. People were concerned to prevent the possibility of a ‘lightning attack’ by prohibiting bombers and tanks – the ‘new’ weapons developed during the First World War. Despite widespread support for the idea by political delegates tortuous debates in special technical commissions led nowhere, while Hitler rose to power. Finally it proved impossible to arrive at any distinction between offensive and defensive weapons that was acceptable to all participating states.

In order to save a handful of experimental tanks, and the dream they promised of a revival of decisive offensive warfare, the military experts of the major powers let pass the chance of preventing war through the reduction of offensive capabilities. The Conference failed, and Hitler set out to acquire exactly those bits of hardware that promised success through what was later to become known as the `Blitzkrieg'. In 1932 the window of opportunity, still slightly ajar, finally closed, preparing the way for World War II.