Facing Hitler Alone

The legacy of Winston Churchill has survived into the 21st century with its
almost mythical qualities well intact. History remembers him, without
overstating, as the eloquently spoken, sharp-witted British Prime Minister who,
through determination, perseverance, and principle, took his country\'s burden
upon his shoulders and turned what could have been the British Empire\'s final
hour into, as Churchill emphatically declared, "their finest hour."
While Churchill\'s legendary status is well-known (and well-deserved), the
methods and policies by which he employed to prepare his island for the Nazi
onslaught are not as well known. The most commonly cited example of Churchill\'s
leadership is, of course, his "Finest Hour" speech following the fall
of France. However, words alone were of little protection as Hitler\'s Luftwaffe
prepared to cross the Channel.

Therefore, it is my intention to examine the main actions taken by Churchill
while preparing his nation for the Battle of Britain in the summer and fall of
1940. Through the review of British policy and activity after he assumed the
head of government just prior to the fall of Dunkirk in late-May until the
beginning of the Luftwaffe\'s offensive in mid-August, 1940, Churchill\'s crusade
to brace his nation for war will be shown as an offensive campaign on three
fronts: political stabilization, speeches to the Commons and public, and
military build-up. These areas into which Churchill dedicated all of his energy
were the foundation for British preparation prior to the Blitz. Like a
three-legged stool, the failure of one leg could cause the collapse of the
nation\'s will and ability to survive what Churchill knew was eminent.

In order to properly put Churchill\'s actions into perspective, England\'s
situation in April and May 1940 must be assessed. When on May 10 Churchill, then
Dominions Secretary (a non-cabinet post) and member of the Conservative party,
was asked by King George VI to form a government upon the resignation of
Conservative leader Neville Chamberlain, the German Wehrmacht had already
introduced its blitzkrieg-style warfare to the ill-prepared British
Expeditionary and French forces in northern France. Furthermore, Churchill was
not the heir-apparent to Chamberlain\'s seat. He had not even been George VI\'s
first choice for the post, whom along with Chamberlain and the senior civil
servants preferred Lord Halifax. George VI was still at odds over Churchill for
supporting Edward VIII in his abdication of the British throne, and Chamberlain
and the civil servants perceived Churchill as being without a strong party base.
After Lord Halifax withdrew from the appointment due to his unwillingness to
ascend to the post as a peer rather than an elected member of Parliament,
Churchill was reluctantly given the nod.

Thus, Churchill assumed the reins of a war cabinet amidst international and
political turmoil. In order to effectively conduct the war effort at home and
abroad, Churchill had to first assemble a stable coalition within the
government. As previously mentioned, he had his skeptics in Parliament. Though
he was now Prime Minister, Chamberlain remained the leader of the Conservative
party. Upon entering the Commons on May 13 for the first address of his
premiership, he was greeted with polite applause by the chamber whereas
Chamberlain\'s entrance was met with cheers. Churchill had to assemble his war
cabinet carefully so as not to alienate the parties. He was, after all,
attempting to assemble a coalition stable enough to carry the nation through a
period of unprecedented international instability. Senior Conservative leaders
Chamberlain and Halifax were appointed as Lord President of the Council and
Foreign Secretary, respectively. Churchill also sought to include leaders of the
Labour party, such as Clement Atlee and Arthur Greenwood, though Labour would
only constitute one-third of the new government appointments. Churchill\'s new
cabinet would be indicative of his sensibility and level-mindedness in the face
of crisis. There was no condemnation of the Chamberlainites by exclusion, nor
was there a flood of Churchill\'s own loyal supporters. His coalition emerged as
wisely balanced and relatively stable.

Churchill also knew that political stability was not only vital to the
immediate purpose of moving the nation forward in its war-time policies, but
also to the maintenance of national morale. Sustaining morale among the people
would be a guiding principle in all of his decisions throughout the war, and
this was the same principle which led him to seek the inclusion of Lloyd George
into the cabinet in May 1940. This was a tricky maneuver by Churchill for
several reasons. First, Lloyd George had a reputation of being soft on Hitler;
in 1936, after returning from a meeting with the Fuhrer, George praised him as,
"the greatest living German." Furthermore, George and Chamberlain had
a long standing feud between them. Churchill was