Why did WC replace NC as PM in 1940

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Chamberlain's lack of appetite for war

  • Although NC decared war on Sept 3rd 1939, NC made it clear that he deeply regretted this decision. Understandable seen as he was committed to appeasement and Britain was not very ready for war, therefore, it was likely that britain would not win:
  • Britain had neglected it's army (BEF much smaller than German)
  • Britain air force weaker in comparison to German
  • Not much GB could do to protect Poland
  • Other Axis powers posed huge threat to GB empire in the East (Japan) and Italy might seize control of the Suez Canal -> GB gateway to India
  • Churchill was in comparison to NC, enthusiastic about the war and determined to win it
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The 'Phoney War' Sept 1939-April 1940

  • At the begining, neither GB nor Germ keen to engage in a western war, both avoided any confrontation at the start- "phoney" war as Americans called it.
  • Germany continued invasion of Poland
  • Chamberlain's cabinet made up of pre-war appeasers, but when WC was drafted in as First Lord of the Admiralty agitated for more active war effort-> even if that meant losing
  • CHURCHILL ADVOCATED action in NORWAY-> it was his idea to mine the waters off the Norwegian coast to prevent Germany shipping sailing to Sweden to buy iron ore. Chamberlain approved this plan and mines laid on March 28th 1940
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The Norwegian Campaign and fall of NC

  • Hitler decided to invade Norway + Denmark as pre-emptive strike on GB action. GB navy and army thus made landings in Norway in May 1940 to repel German invaders, but they were forced to withdraw. First significant GB campaign = failure. Blame pointed at NC NOT WC?!?!?
  • Parliament debated war campaign for two days May 7th and 8th. -> NC under more and more attack - Leo Amery (old mate) said "Depart and let us have done with you. In the name of God go"
  • NC narrowly won vote of no confidence in Gov's handling of Norwegian campaign (actually a vote about his leadership) , but many of his own party voted against him, with failing health, seemed like the right time for NC to go
  • Most CONS favoured Lord Halifax - peer + personal friend of G VI as a Peer, could not operate in HCom = not suitable
  • WC only realistic candidate for job, Crucially getting the backing of Lab party and leader ATTLEE. 
  • Chamberlain forced to decide on May 10th 1940 when Germ invaded Belgium + Netherland, threat very real. Same day K G VI appoints WC as PM
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WC Wartime Cabinet

  • Sir Stafford Cripps (Minister for Aircraft Production 1942-45)
  • Ernest Bevin (Minister for Labour and National Service --- Bevin's Boys)
  • Hugh Dalton (Minister for Economic Warfare 1940-2 and President of the Board of Trade 1942-5)
  • Sir John Anderson (Home Secretary 1940-3, Chancellor 1943-5)
  • Clement Attlee (Deputy PM after 1943)
  • Anthony Eden (FS 1940-45)
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