Winston Churchill was made Prime Minister of Great Britain on May 10, 1940. Historians have analyzed Churchill’s impact on the Second World War, especially from his appointment in 1940 until 1941. This period of the war is seen as being a crucial time for Britain, a time when they had to fight the war alone against Germany. Churchill’s appointment was not well received by everyone, as many people were unsure of his ability. However, for Churchill, he was waiting for this moment. Churchill’s first test was a peace offer from Hitler. Unlike Chamberlain, Churchill wanted absolutely nothing to do with this peace offer. He believed fully in never surrendering and his main war aim was a complete victory.
This was seen by many to be the wrong choice and that appeasement should be chosen before the war. Churchill was adamant and believed, rightfully, that the only way to stop Hitler was by completely beating him at his own game. During the early years of World War II, Winston Churchill was leading Great Britain into a headlong battle against Adolph Hitler and the Germans. In analyzing his leadership during the years 1940-41 it will be found that Churchill would not succumb to peace treaties, but fought Hitler and the Nazis at their own war. He had to make tough decisions and fight for the freedom, liberty and life of the western societies, and in effect was an important aspect in the outcome of the war.
In the Fall of France, Churchill was able to show his true leadership skills. France wanted Britain to contribute aid, especially in the form of the air force. Churchill was quite happy to support France in the defence of their country.
He was deviant toward Germany and even helped with a counteroffensive plan DAKAR, which ended up not working at all. DAKAR was an operation that proposed to counter German influence in West Africa. Petain sent naval reinforcements, but because of delays and a bad landing, the operation was stopped. Churchill’s involvement has been speculated, but he denounced the operation, stating that it was not a British endeavour.
Churchill knew when and where to draw the line, even for an ally like France. When Petain wanted further air support, Churchill firmly said they were going to be needed soon in Britain. Churchill’s main concern was with the French fleet. France had a capable navy; that if in German hands could overwhelm the British on the seas. Also, Churchill believed the problem lay with the artillery of France, which was unable to stop penetrating German Panzers.
Churchill wanted to support and encourage France so that Britain would have more time to gather its military, before the inevitable Battle of Britain. Lastly, Churchill showed how serious he was about the overall protection of Britain when Petain had signed the agreement with Hitler, forming Vichy France. Now Britain could not rely on France to help them, as they were supporting Germany. Churchill was very concerned about this, and particularly about the French ships. He asked that these ships be given to Britain, and upon Vichy’s refusal to do so, Churchill ‘disarmed’ them, with approval from Roosevelt. This action proved that Churchill held his country’s safety in the highest regard and was not willing to take a chance with Vichy.
The Fall of France directly led to the Battle of Britain. This battle was expected. According to Churchill, the only way they would win was through the Royal Air Force’s (R.A.F.) defence of the island. The R.A.F was a very important component and its strengths were in its leaders and planners, with help from inventions like the radar. The R.A.F. had 704 serviceable planes ready, and 620 of them were the small Hurricane and Spitfire fighters. Dowding and Parks were in charge of the R.A.F. tactics and defensive strategy. This system of defence relied on the rotation of squadrons and the logistics to keep these planes in the air until they had enough gas to land refuel and take off again. Churchill understood how important this system was, especially after listening to the problems and concerns that Dowding, Parks, and others discussed German attacks.
Not to mention being outnumbered by the Germans who had 1,392 bombers and 1,290 fighters deployed for action. However, Churchill’s main issue in the Battle of Britain was dealing with the people. After Hitler’s initial attack on England failed to crush them, he changed his focus on London directly. London experienced fifty-seven nights of consecutive bombing, and consequently, the people of London were greatly affected by it. Churchill decided that there would be compensation for bombing losses in hopes that this would lessen the impact of the bombings on the people. He was determined that the attacks would not lead to a loss of morale.
Churchill also countered the attack on London with one on Berlin that provoked Hitler to say, “If they attack our cities, we will simply rub out theirs.” As the threat of German invasion diminished, Churchill would constantly remind his people to be on their guard. In the end, the British were able to achieve air superiority and Germany switched first to night raids, and then completely withdrew.
The myth began of the British being able to endure German attacks through self-sacrifice, defending their homes. Churchill became even more popular and was admired for all of his contributions, particularly, his speeches which inspired the British people and demanded that they stand up to Germany. Churchill’s eloquence was seen perfectly during the Battle of Britain. The outcome of this battle was that a new bomber offensive was developed to bomb the German cities. One main point of Churchill during this battle was that he continued his offensive through sea patrols and even bombings. He did not want to be sequestered on the island. This belief in the offensive carried on after the Battle of Britain as they continued to send in paratroopers and other daring commando missions.
Churchill was always very interested in the Middle East and believed that their resources were worth protecting. Accordingly, he fully supported Wavell’s operations in North Africa. Indeed, Churchill was always willing to send reinforcements. He truly believed that he would meet both Germany and Italy in the Middle East. Part of Churchill’s plan against Germany was to attack them peripherally, through its weakest link, Italy.
Italy was very interested in taking over Libya. Mussolini had 25,000 soldiers stationed in Egypt, and Churchill pulled together his forces from Australia, Palestine and others to create a force of 50, 000. Churchill’s greatest fear in losing Egypt was losing the British Navy’s occupation of the Mediterranean. Hitler however, was not very interested in the whole Middle East and North Africa issue. He had to support Italy, mainly because Italy could no support itself. Thus, many historians have wondered why Churchill felt it was necessary to continue the North African offensive.
It was a drain on supplies and logistics, as well as the R.A.F, tanks and soldiers. Yet, Churchill was concerned with the resources that Hitler could gain from this area and was determined to protect it, especially Egypt. But in reality, it appeared that Churchill was playing a guessing game, trying to figure out where Hitler would go next. The North African battles drained Britain of resources it could have saved up for a battle on German soil. In the midst of the decisions, Churchill had to make about North Africa, Greece was asking for support.
In October, Mussolini had, without asking Hitler’s advice, attacked Greece from Albania. At first, Churchill wanted to solely concentrate on North Africa, but when he took in all the political and social implications of refusing to help Greece, he changed his mind. These political implications were mainly focused on getting the United States of America, Yugoslavia, Turkey and Russia involved in the war. His main objective of course was to entice Roosevelt into joining the allied cause, for Churchill realized the wealth and power that the United States held.
Churchill ran across many dangers, particularly if the Germans helped the Italians invade Greece. He was not even sure the British troops could be in Greece before Germany attacked. Added to this, was the problem of supplies, and Churchill soon decided he would not pledge to help Greece. It was too late, however, for Eden, a commander had signed an agreement to aid Greece. Thus, Britain was bound to their agreement and had to send support.
Reinforcements were brought from the Middle East and diverted from the campaign in North Africa. Churchill was disappointed, but as a man of his word, would not go back on his country’s promise to the Greeks. At the same time, British intelligence agents had started rumours that encouraged a revolt in Yugoslavia. Hitler sent a massive army to meet this resistance, and upon crushing it, turned down toward Greece.
They entered the country with little resistance and found a force of eighty men who resisted. After the Greek soldiers had been killed the Nazis found written on the wall of the building, “At Thermopylae, the three hundred were killed. Here the eighty will fall defending their country.” The British had pulled out after heavy casualties, leaving Greece defenceless and confused. Churchill had applied a ‘Fabian’ tactic of delay. Though the German conquest of Greece and Yugoslavia looked like an impressive Nazi victory, this time-consuming invasion actually prevented Hitler from taking Russia before winter arrived.
Historians have argued as to the importance of Churchill during the 1940-41 period. The myth of Churchill is that he was defiant, determined and everyone admired him even if he got in the chief’s way when it came to military plans and tactics. Most believe that Churchill was the right man for this period of history, and few wish to speculate what could have happened if Churchill had not become Prime Minister. From the beginning, he laid out his goal of total victory and knew he had to achieve it. In the fall of France, he would not allow the R.A.F to help France but insisted they train to protect Britain. During the Battle of Britain, he understood that the R.A.F was going to win the war for Britain and that the people needed to pull together to make it through the endless bombings. Churchill was proud of how the British handled the bombings and that they had not lost hope or broke their morale.
From that point forward, Churchill’s decisions may not have been the greatest. Many historians believe that Churchill should not have considered the North African campaign, but he was quite excited by it and believed that to get to Germany, they would have to go through Italy. Lastly, Churchill committed his troops to Greece with the intention of showing the United States particularly that the British stand up for democracy and to lure Turkey, Yugoslavia, and Russia into their cause. Churchill was always trying to get the United States involved in the war.
In conclusion, “Thou have been weighed in the balance and found wanting”, was said by Churchill to Chamberlain upon the signing of the Munich Agreement. Churchill did his best and had many successes. However, he was not perfect, as he himself knew. He made history for himself and will be remembered, as he wanted to be, the way he portrayed himself. Winston Churchill was a great leader during the years spanning 1940-41. His offensive-minded defence and push to withstand the Germans and Italians gaining valuable resources in the Middle East and valuable ports in Greece and Africa are brilliant strategies. Furthermore, his popularity among his own people in Britain during and after the destructive bombing was also an admirable achievement. Churchill’s early successes were paramount in the outcome of the war and held the Germans from achieving absolute power over Europe.
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