By Paul Brown
During the summer of 1938, Villa were invited to take part in a tour of Germany.
This was not surprising - they were the most famous club in the world and manager Jimmy Hogan had enjoyed great success through Europe as a coach prior to arriving at Villa Park.
Adolf Hitler's ambitions were beginning to give cause for concern throughout Europe but the full horrors of the Nazi regime had yet to be discovered so there was little comment when Villa agreed to the tour.
It would comprise three matches against selected German opposition.
On May 14, 1938 an England side including Villa centre-forward Frank Broome played against Germany in the Olympic Stadium, Berlin, winning 6-3.
Before the game the Three Lions team, acting on advice from the Foreign Office, performed a Nazi salute to a packed house of 110,000, who roared their approval.
While the England players were getting changed a Football Association official went into their dressing-room and told them that they had to give the raised arm Nazi salute during the playing of the German national anthem.
Broome said at the time: "The dressing room erupted. There was bedlam. All the England players were livid and totally opposed to this, myself included. Everyone was shouting at once.
"Eddie Hapgood, normally a respectful and devoted captain, wagged his finger at the official and told him what he could do with the Nazi salute, which involved putting it where the sun doesn't shine."
The FA official left only to return some minutes later saying he had a direct order from Sir Neville Henderson the British Ambassador in Berlin.
The players were told that the political situation between Britain and Germany was now so sensitive that it needed "only a spark to set Europe alight".
As a result the England team reluctantly agreed to give the Nazi salute.
On the following day, Villa played in the same stadium against an even stronger German Select XI, which included players from the recently-annexed Austria and were also advised to make the Nazi salute.
The players refused and this supposed lack of manners was heavily criticised in the German press. Villa won the game 3-2 too.
The following game was in Stuttgart and against a German Select XI.
Following fierce representations from the German Government, Foreign Office diplomats were far more insistent in their demands that the Villa players paid tribute to their hosts before their 1-0 victory.
Inside-forward Eric Houghton recalled, in Rogan Taylor's book Kicking and Screaming: "When we played the day after the England match - we were Aston Villa!
"Our manager, Jimmy Hogan, said "They'll expect you to perform the Nazi salute." The FA fella in charge of the England team had come to our manager and said "We've had a chat about it and we think it would be better if your players gave the Nazi salute to be really friendly."
"We had a meeting about this and George Cummings and Alec Massie and the Scots lads said '"There's no way we're giving the Nazi salute" so we didn't give it!
"It did leave a bit of a nasty taste in the mouth for them, us refusing to give the Nazi salute. The next time they said we'd got to give the Nazi salute, you see.
"At the next game both teams gave the Nazi salute. But we went to the centre of the field and gave them the two-finger salute and they cheered like mad. They thought it was all right. They didn't know what the two fingers meant."
Villa supporters continue to regard the actions of their players at this time as in keeping with "the finest traditions of the club."
They were asked to show support for the Nazi regime and refused!
They were then ordered to do so by the British and German governments and did as little as they could with reluctance and under enormous pressure.
Such behaviour is deserving of the greatest respect!