chapter 7 domestic politics 1940-51

why did winston churchill replace neville chamberlain as prime minister in 1940?

  • 1937-40- Chamberlain's reputation as PM was as a man of peace
  • March 1939- had been forced into war by Hitler's actions in annexing the Czech provinces of Bohemia and Moravia
  • 1938- broke up Czechoslovakia despite the agreements made at Munich
  • opinion in Britain and the conservative party had demanded a tougher stance against Germany
  • Chamberlain had given Poland a guarantee of independence
  • 1 september 1939- Hitler invaded Poland
  • Chamberlain had little option but to declare war; he couldn't negotiate unless Germany withdrew its troops
  • 3 september 1939- his broadcast to the nation made it clear that he deeply regretted war; was understandable

why did chamberlain regret war?

  • the losses in WW1 had been heavy
  • was expected that another large scale conflict would mean more death and destruction given the developments in weapons since 1918
  • Britain had neglected its army since 1918
  • the BEF was much less well trained and armed than the German army
  • Britain had to rely on the much larger French army for the main land opposition to Germany
  • no joint plan of action established
  • Chamberlain thought that France lacked enthusiasm for war and was deeply divided
  • little that Britain could do to save Poland from being overrun
  • Britain had no eastern European ally
  • chance that Britain would suffer badly from German air attacks
  • considerable danger that Japan would take advantage of Britain's war with Germany to threaten British possessions in Asia and that Italy would enter the war on Hitler's side and threaten Britain's power in the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal
  • chances of the USA becoming involved seemed slender
  • Chamberlain realised that the dangers of war were considerable and British measures to win the war were quite limited
  • this didn't lead to him being a strong war leader
  • had no military experience
  • had been seen primarily as a man of peace
  • leadership during the phoney war has not been seen as dynamic or inspiring
  • Churchill was enthusiastic for war

the phoney war

  • 1939-40- the british war effort was not very vigorous
  • government put plans into place for putting Britain on a war footing
  • evacuation of children from cities to protect them from bombing
  • stepped up production of war supplies
  • increased the size of the armed forces
  • sent an expeditionary force to France
  • little attempt to attack Germany
  • Hitler was anxious to avoid war on 2 fronts and very aware that rapid German rearmament had made a full scale attack on France quite hazardous
  • Chamberlain's Cabinet was largely made up of supporters of the pre war appeasement policy
  • brought Churchill in as First Lord of the Admiralty
  • partly to use his experience of government and war and partly to prevent him building up supporters in the party and country
  • churchill had advocated resistance to Germany
  • much more prepared to wage war 
  • main driving force for action in 1939/40 came from Churchill
  • began demanding vigorous action from the admirals
  • urged action against Germany

the norwegian campaign

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