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OCR AS Churchill

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Paul Griffin

on 30 January 2013

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Transcript of OCR AS Churchill

photo credit Nasa / Goddard Space Flight Center / Reto Stöckli OCR AS Churchill 1920-1945 How and why did Churchill react to the problems of post-war Britain from 1920 to 1937? 2. His work as Chancellor of the Exchequer and the return to Gold in 1925

Churchill was out of politics between October 1922 and September 1924. His return seems quite lucky. Stanley Baldwin (Conservative Prime Minister) invited Churchill to become Chancellor of the Exchequer. On the one hand this is surprising as he had little experience in this area and his own finances were never entirely stable. To many people though, he has been seen as quite successful.

The Gold Standard

People at the time debated his budgets but the main issue was the return to the Gold Standard.

The Gold Standard is a system where paper money can be exchanged quickly for gold. This means that it has a real value as you exchange really valuable things for fixed amount of money. It makes a currency really secure and stops inflation. It stops situations like Germany 1920s or Zimbabwe today where the value of money is completely unstable and can multiply rapidly. If you fix the value of money to Gold that stops this type of “hyper-inflation” happening.

During the war, Britain had to go “off Gold” because they needed to print money. By 1924 many people thought that it would be good to return to the Gold Standard and Churchill did this in 1925. This made Britain’s currency more stable which was really good for businesses such as banks. However, due to a higher exchange rate against the dollar, exports (goods sold to other countries) became a lot more expensive which meant that those who produced coal would find it very difficult to sell it. Therefore, there were both advantages and disadvantages to this action. One critic was John Maynard Keynes who thought that the move would be a disaster but he is balanced by others who thought that Churchill was making a good decision. 1. Churchill’s fear of Communism and social unrest

Before the First World War, most of Europe’s powers were still run by a higher class of elites. Churchill himself was one such ruling class politician. However, there were deep social divides which were beginning to become far more important.

After 1918 there were a number of things which had changed the way in which countries were run. Given Churchill’s background and beliefs these were very likely to be a point of conflict for him.

•Membership of trade unions doubled during the First World War
•Workers became more militant in their demands for better wages and conditions.
•The Russian Revolution of 1917 changed the largest country in the world from rule by a traditional monarch to a new Communist government.

Reaction to Russian Revolution

Churchill was horrified at the Russian Revolution. This was both because of Russia’s withdrawal from the First World War and the communist state which Lenin was creating. He wanted to support the Tsar’s supporters who had supported the war against Germany and protect the assets which the British held in the region. Lloyd George’s government had an unclear policy on Russia. On the one hand they wanted to protect British interests and resist the instability which the Revolution brought. However, they felt that Churchill did not see the reality that resisting Lenin would involve a massive commitment and was probably unachievable. Russia was a long way from Britain and most British troops were tied up in defeating Germany. After the war few people had Churchill’s appetite for another conflict. His critics criticised Churchill’s reaction as one of a higher class aristocrat.

Social unrest

After the war there was widespread unrest in Britain with many workers striking for better conditions and pay. Some were also excited at the success of socialist ideas in Russia.

Churchill took a hard line on strikes and in 1919-20 was keen on the use of troops to stop what he saw as a great threat to security. In this he used his position as minister for war to use the military against strikers. For example, during a rail strike 50,000 troops were deployed. He tried to rally people against communism and trade unions, even suggesting the setting up of a “Citizen Guard” of opponents to socialism. He saw Russian communism and British organised workers in the same light; as class enemies.

This hard-line attitude was also seen in the newly acquired Iraq where Churchill advocated the use of extreme tactics such as RAF bombing to keep control. In Ireland he wanted to see severe measures used to suppress Irish nationalist forces.

How should we see Churchill?

In his attitude it is difficult to see whether Churchill overacted or saw the situation clearly. One view says that Churchill foresaw the dangers of Communism (the Cold War) and loss of empire (Britain’s loss of status). It’s also possible to say that Communism wasn’t a big issue in Britain in 1920 and that giving more independence to the empire had already been discussed. To his critics Churchill appears to be an outdated right-wing extremist who was a sworn enemy of socialism and workers rights. He was even accused of becoming a British Mussolini (fascist dictator). 3. His attitude to the General Strike and his activities during the Strike

Whilst Churchill was seen as a statesmen in many aspects of his role as Chancellor, he did return to some of his extreme solutions during the General Strike.

The General Strike was caused by the growing unrest by coal workers about their working hours and pay. The mine owners wanted to cut wages due to growing competition from abroad (German and Polish mines) and the return to the Gold Standard which had made selling coal more expensive. The government had given subsidies to miners to help cushion their pay but this was clearly not going to last forever.

In 1926 the Samuel Commission suggested that the subsidy should be withdrawn. Once this happened, owners were bound to decrease wages or increase hours of work. This caused a showdown between the unions and the government over the issue.

Churchill saw it as a struggle between the democratically elected government and the unions. He pushed for huge opposition to the strikes accusing the strikers of being Bolsheviks and saying that they should be opposed with violence if necessary. He wanted to use the army to stop the strike and saw it as a battle for democracy against the revolutionary unions.

He was made editor of the British Gazette in which he publicised these views. He received a lot of criticism for his outspoken opinions on the subject. Some (like Lloyd-George) argued that the paper was inflammatory and he took a lot of criticism for the comments in it.

4. His attempts at conciliation after the strike

Churchill was often a man of contradictions and he worked hard towards conciliation with the miners. He seems genuinely unhappy about their treatment and worked earnestly to come to an agreement between the miners and the mine owners. He asked the Labour leader Ramsay MacDonald to negotiate with the unions and used all of his skills to get the mine owners to agree to some settlement.

Therefore, the sources will disagree about his intentions and ideas about the strikes. It will be important for you to identify the different interpretations of Churchill’s policies in this area. 5. The reasons why Churchill was not in office after 1929 and his contribution to the Abdication Crisis.

Churchill’s weaknesses
•Criticism from many about his budgets as Chancellor
•The British Gazette made him seem extreme and alienated him from the unions and Labour
•Armed services were unhappy with his cuts
•Unemployment made the return to the Gold Standard seem like a bad idea
•Liberals thought that he was a traitor for switching parties (again)
Churchill’s strengths
•Views on Constitutional Government (as opposed to the unions) was admired by some
•He had supported good social reforms like National Insurance in 1929
•He was an expert politician and a great speaker
In 1929 Britain seemed to need a steady government which steadily improved the economy and living conditions. Churchill was not the man for this moment. He was seen as too reactionary and outspoken for government at this time. From 1929 he was not popular with political elite (such as Neville Chamberlain who made sure Churchill stayed “in the wilderness” during this period.

The abdication crisis
Churchill reached a particularly low point over the abdication crisis. The King (Edward VIII) had been linked to Wallis Simpson; a divorcee. To most people marriage to her was seen as impossible given the King’s role as the head of the Church of England.

Baldwin was forced to express the view that a marriage would be unwise but most people in parliament wanted to stay out of the King’s private affairs. Churchill wanted to raise the issue in parliament and was a supporter of the king’s right to choose his own wife and marry for love. Politically, this was a bad move and he was shouted down when he tried to raise the matter. In any case the King abdicated in 1937. Churchill seemed even more out of touch and “in the wilderness” than ever. Communism and social unrest Work as Chancellor Attitude to the general strike Abdication crisis What were Churchill’s views about Imperial and Foreign Policy from 1930 to 1939 and how justified were they? Churchill against the National Government

In 1931 the government held a Round Table Conference on giving India Dominion Status (the same type of independence given to places like Australia and Canada). This was not highly debated in Parliament as there was good consensus between the parties that this was the best thing to do. Stanley Baldwin as Conservative Prime Minister, the Labour party and the Liberals all supported policy on India.

However, Churchill did not. He joined the Indian Empire Society; a group of people who were committed to resisting any transfer of power away from Britain. He also tried to rally support from some MPs and the general public. He founded the India Defence League which attracted the support of The Daily Mail and The Morning Post as well as 57 Conservative MPs.

Despite some support, Churchill was pushing a very old fashioned policy and was never going to get the support which he needed. The only alternative was to suppress the nationalist movements with force. In 1935, the government passed the Government of India Act which gave federal control to India. This simply confirmed the ineffectiveness of Churchill’s viewpoint.

Churchill as an Imperial Prime Minister
After he became Prime Minister, Churchill was less concerned about India. However, some of his viewpoints persisted. He was not prepared to negotiate during the war as he worried that greater independence would result in Indian troops leaving the war. He was not prepared to accept this as a possibility.

The Cripps Mission, 1942: This was one concession which Churchill was forced to make. Given the Japanese threat to India he needed to give assurances about greater freedom after the war. Clement Atlee (the Labour deputy Prime Minister) sent Stafford Cripps to negotiate giving most of the control of domestic issues to the Indians. This was a tough mission but Churchill scuppered any progress by getting cabinet to reject Cripps’ agreement on defence. This caused the Congress party to take up a position of “Quit India”.

The Bengal Famine, 1942-43: This was an awful famine in one of India’s provinces which claimed three million lives. Avery (the Colonial Secretary) and Wavell (The Viceroy) both criticised Churchill for the limited help which he gave towards solving the famine. Many people think that this episode turned many Indians against the British. Background
Since 1857, India had been under British control. The government appointed a viceroy who ruled over the country like a king and Indian participation in government was limited. However, following the First World War it was widely accepted that there was a need to give more control to the Indian population themselves.

Within India, the Congress party (led by M.K. Gandhi and the Nehru family) campaigned for more power to be given to Indians. They protested peacefully but effectively using civil disobedience.

Churchill’s attitude

Churchill campaigned vigorously against this movement to take power away from India. He wanted to maintain the position of the whole empire and resisted the transference of power away from the British. He thought that Gandhi was just a “half-naked fakir” and doubted the ability of the Indians to rule the country for themselves. He thought that Gandhi represented a small group of high caste Hindu Indian who would dominate India if the British left.

Some interpret this as a misjudged nostalgia for a time of colonialism which had long since passed. Others accuse Churchill of a racist viewpoint which saw Imperialism as the responsibility of the white man. They point to Indian’s successful democracy after Independence as evidence of responsible government. Others point to Churchill’s understanding of the deep cultural and religious differences in India. There were divisions between castes and also between Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. They say that he foresaw the problems that would come with independence in a country which was so divided. When independence did come in 1947, religious riots caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. It led to deep tensions between the two newly created countries of India and Pakistan which continue until today. The independence of India also signalled Britain’s decline as a world power following the Second World War. Major events

1931Manchuria Crisis
Jan 1933Hitler comes into office
October 1933Germany leaves the League of Nations
June 1935Baldwin becomes Prime Minister
Defence White Paper
Anglo-German Naval Treaty
October 1935Italy invades Ethiopia
Hoare-Laval Pact
March 1936Germany remilitarised the Rhineland
October 1936Rome-Berlin Axis signed
May 1937Neville Chamberlain becomes Prime Minister
March 1938Austria annexed by Germany
September 1938Czech crisis & Munich conference
1939Britain guarantees Poland’s independence
1 September 1939Germany invades Poland
3 September 1939Britain declares war on Germany

There are a number of different interpretations of Churchill’s role in the build-up to the Second World War. You need to know about the pro-Churchill viewpoint which shows him as the saviour of Britain and his critics who point out the limits to Churchill’s role at this point in time. It’s important that you understand the difference between these interpretations and are able to spot the differences in the sources which you are presented with.

Churchill’s own interpretation

Churchill wrote an extensive account of the pre-war period in The Gathering Storm. He portrays himself as a “voice in the wilderness” that criticised the policy of appeasement, wanted to rearm earlier and consistently stand up to Hitler.

His critics

Churchill’s critics note that he may have exaggerated parts of his role in the hindsight of the Second World War. They claim that his proposed alternatives were simply not viable. For example, Churchill has argued that Britain should have cultivated a grand alliance against Germany but the chances of success in this area seem reasonably limited. His critics also point out the isolated position which Churchill found himself in. Due to poor judgement over India and the Abdication crisis, Churchill was seen as a politician without influence. The government was not unwise to discount his ideas.

Support for each of these viewpoints may be found in the sources which you consider. Make sure that you can point out where and when this happens.

The major issues

1. Air Defences

From 1935 Churchill advocated the advance in air defences to counter the advances made by the Germans in this area. Churchill seems to have thought that with greater air strength, more could have been done politically to stop Hitler in his aims. Churchill seems to have hoped to become Defence Minister and was annoyed when the post went to Sir Thomas Inskip instead. Churchill’s critics point out that Churchill underestimated the great cost of any disarmament and the very poor state of the economy. Others argue that the risk of bombing was over-exaggerated with Churchill seeming to be scare-mongering. In any case, few people were willing to commit to a course of action which seemed to give into war when at the time negotiation seemed to still be a convincing option. Churchill’s views about the Empire and India Clash with his party over India Germany, rearmament and appeasement 2. Could Britain have offered more resistance?

Churchill argues that the government did not support the League of Nations well enough, that Baldwin hid the need to rearm before the election in 1935, that Germany should not have been allowed to remilitarise the Rhineland, that Chamberlain should have formed an alliance against Hitler not pandered to his demands and that the Czech crisis was solved without asking the Czechs. Overall, he blames British policy for undermining any attempt to stand up to Hitler.

His critics take a different approach. They point out the wider situation at the time, particularly in the East. Britain was far more concerned about Japan than Germany as the Japanese directly threatened British interests in Asia. The armed forces knew that they couldn’t take on all of these threats at once so wanted to limit the possible conflict. With the economy being in such a bad state, the potential for rearmament was also quite limited. Britain quite simply couldn’t afford the rearmament policy which Churchill suggested. Finally there were the dominions to consider (New Zealand, Canada, Australia, South Africa) who made it clear that they were not sympathetic towards war. Most of the Conservative party and the royal family were also advocates of continued peace.

3. The Grand Alliance

One of Churchill’s major suggestions was to form a Grand Alliance to stand up to Germany. This would have echoed back to the First World War where Britain, France and Russia opposed the Central Powers. Following the war Churchill was particularly critical of the limited attempts to tie Stalin into an alliance (only a minor delegation was sent). Stalin was particularly worried about being left to fight the war on his own if Hitler made peace with the western powers which partly explains the Nazi-Soviet pact of 1939. Churchill claimed that had the USSR been firmly on the allied side in 1938-9 then Hitler would not have gone to war over Poland or Czechoslovakia.

However, others point out that Churchill’s options for a Grand Alliance were quite limited. Chamberlain claims to have considered the options but recognised the potential problems. France was seen as very unreliable both politically and militarily. Russia had its own internal politics with the purges in full swing in the 1930s. The USA was also in the depths of isolationist policy and even during the war Churchill struggled to get Roosevelt to join the conflict until the Pearl Harbour attacks. Churchill’s ideas of creating a Grand Alliance were optimistic and based on a lot of “what ifs”.

4. Overall

Whilst they did not avoid war, some defend Baldwin and Chamberlain by pointing out the sense behind their approach. Negotiation had achieved some good results between the wars. Trade agreements with the USSR, an end to violence in Ireland and progress in India seems to have made a good case for reasoned negotiation. They also point out that Churchill occasionally gave misguided praise for Mussolini and Hitler for the stability in their countries. Indeed, some cartoonist enjoyed picturing Churchill as a British Mussolini.

However, Churchill’s consistently good insight seems to be that Hitler would not stop and that reasoned discussion would not work. He was willing to give uncomfortable truths about the situation and oppose a policy which few were keen to criticise. The Gathering Storm notes this constant critique but perhaps underplays Churchill’s strong desire to get into government. He was not a complete maverick and kept up links with Chamberlain and Halifax (the foreign secretary).

5. Policy over Austria, Czechoslovakia & Poland

Most GCSE courses cover this period of History but in case you have not done this, you will need to understand the context to these events.

Austria: In 1938, Hitler joined Germany and Austria together by claiming that they had a common German heritage and language. This was forbidden under the Treaty of Versailles but few people were prepared to go to war over this. Chamberlain was convinced that a general settlement from the Treaty of Versailles was necessary to prevent peace. Churchill saw it as the cue to begin rearmament ready for war and form a Grand Alliance.

Czechoslovakia: Parts of Czechoslovakia known as the Sudetenland were dominated by German speaking people. There were already movements within the Sudetenland to gain independence from Czechoslovakia and to this extent Hitler’s interest in the area could be justified. However, this land had never been part of Germany and for the Czechs their main defences from invasion were also based in the Sudetenland. Without this land they would be easily invaded. Henlein was the Nazi leader in the Sudetenland and convinced both Chamberlain and Churchill of good intentions over this issue. Churchill did not initially take action over this issue.

There were a series of negotiations over this land. Chamberlain wanted to help settle the issue before Hitler took action. This has become one of the most controversial issues in the war. Firstly the Runciman Mission was sent by Chamberlain to negotiate with Hitler. When this broke down, Chamberlain went to meet Hitler at Berchtesgarden and agreed to some territorial transfer. Churchill was very much against this course of action and agitated against Chamberlain. Hitler then raised his demands which made war seem inevitable. However, Chamberlain agreed to negotiations in Munich which many people were very happy to hear. By many accounts Churchill was glad that Chamberlain was going to Munich.

At Munich, Chamberlain agreed to Hitler’s demands over Czechoslovakia but also obtained an agreement to co-operate in the future. Chamberlain was popular for averting war and won a confidence vote in Parliament. Churchill was not happy about the agreement calling it moral failure. However, he did not vote against the government; he abstained in protest.

After Munich, Churchill went back to more routine affairs by visiting his constituency and writing his book. He was unpopular for his opposition to Chamberlain.

However, in March 1939 Hitler invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia.

Poland: Following the invasion of Czechoslovakia it seemed that Poland would be invaded next. Churchill approved of Chamberlain’s guarantee of Poland’s independence and tried to stay in contact with the government. He hoped to be brought into the cabinet though many people did not want to see him in government. On 3 September (the day war was declared) Churchill was appointed as First Lord of the Admiralty. How far does Churchill deserve his reputation as a great wartime prime minister? Once Churchill took charge he faced unprecedented problems. The defeat of Britain’s only major ally France, potential destruction of the British army and imminent invasion. There are two views of Churchill’s leadership at this point in time.

Pro-Churchill view

•Churchill’s speeches and personality rallied the nation
•His nationalism encouraged him to keep on fighting and not strike a deal with Hitler
•Once Britain had survived 1940, the invasion of the USSR and the bombing of Pearl Harbour paved the way for the Grand Alliance which Churchill had dreamed of

However, it is important that you understand that this is not an unchallenged representation.

His wartime speeches

Churchill’s speeches are very famous. Blood, toil tears and sweat, We shall fight them on the beaches and This was their famous hour are the most famous examples in 1940. None of these speeches were written specifically for broadcasting to the nation. When Churchill did address Britain on the radio he had to be persuaded by others (such as Harold Nicholson- Minister for information).

The more realistic view was of just getting on with the business in hand as opposed to being inspired by Churchill’s rhetoric.

Churchill’s nationalism

Churchill did become more popular as he was seen as a sign of resistance. The creation of the Home Guard, his image with his cigar and the V-sign for victory did a great deal for his image.

It’s not entirely true that Churchill didn’t consider negotiation with Hitler. It did look as if this might become necessary. The cabinet did consider various concessions which they could make (like giving up Gibraltar) but it was clear that they would probably get reasonably good terms even if they did keep on fighting. Therefore, Churchill’s image may not have reflected his true thoughts. Indeed, his speeches and personal image may not have been as important as some people remember in Britain’s resistance.

The Battle of Britain

Churchill is well remembered for coining the phrase “the Battle of Britain”. Many people thought that Britain had just avoided invasion and his speech which referred to “the few” seemed to capture the feeling of the nation well. However, Sir Hugh Dowding should probably be better remembered for this victory than Churchill. He was head of Fighter Command. He even opposed Churchill’s decisions in two crucial areas.

1. He made sure that Churchill did not commit all of his planes to France when it was clear that the French would be beaten. Churchill had earlier made this promise to the French.
2. He resisted Churchill’s ideas of an all-out attack on the Luftwaffe.

It’s also important that the structure of the RAF including the development of the Spitfire and Hurricane fighters and the installation of radar was created under MacDonald and Baldwin. Without this effective technology Churchill would probably have lost the Battle of Britain.


It’s important that you understand the basic progression of events which the Second World War took.

•At the beginning of 1941 Britain stood alone against Germany- they were going to try and fight them at sea (to maintain supply lines), in the air (to continue defending Britain and bombing Europe) and on the ground in North Africa.
•Hitler invaded Russia in 1941 which changed the war massively; Churchill seemed to quickly abandon his hate for Communist Stalin.
•The Japanese attacked the USA at Pearl Harbour brining America into the war.
•The Japanese also waged a successful war taking possessions like Singapore away from Britain. However, they couldn’t take India. A counter attack was begun, with predominantly US forces.
•The Russians also had success in stopping the Germans at Stalingrad.
•In 1942 Churchill became more involved in decision making over appointments and strategic objectives. Britain reversed defeats to beat the Germans in North Africa at El-Alamein.
•In 1943, the allies branched out of North Africa to attack southern Italy. However, this campaign was slow and had limited success.
•Russian attacks had begun to push the Germans back in 1944. In June 1944, British, American and Canadian troops landed in Northern France.
•Allied bombing continued to intensify against German cities.
•Germany was invaded by superior force by 1945 and surrendered following Hitler’s suicide in May.
•Japan had been effectively beaten though much of its army was still intact. America had been able to bomb the main islands for some time and an invasion would have been costly to both sides. Japan eventually surrendered after the dropping of two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killing hundreds of thousands of people in August 1945. 1. Norway

At the beginning of the war Churchill was in the war cabinet. He became Prime Minister in May 1940.

Though Britain was in no position to invade Germany itself, Churchill was one of the major initiators for action in Norway. Norway was neutral but important iron ore was traded with Germany via Norway. The plan was to stop the Germans securing these important trade routes and stop iron ore reaching Germany. The invasions were badly planned with poor secrecy and though there were landings, Britain had to withdraw its troops. During the campaign there were two naval engagements in Narvik.

The campaign was deemed a failure and ultimately led to Chamberlain’s downfall. However, Churchill was effectively in control of most of the campaign. He blamed the failure on the Norwegians but has been heavily criticised by Historians ever since. At the time though, he was seen as a man of action and energy. He received good press for the naval victories at Narvik. This is surprising on one level and he was lucky to not only survive but carry enough strength to become Prime Minister. How did he survive this and still become PM?

2. Speeches

This is probably one of Churchill’s most memorable aspects. His speaking abilities were exceptional and his ability to capture the imagination of his audience and win them round to his point of view is a really crucial aspect.

3. Lord Halifax

Lord Halifax was the clear favourite for the role of Prime Minister. He had held many senior positions in government such as Viceroy of India and most notably Foreign Secretary. He was well respected by the Conservatives, liked by the King and acceptable to the Labour party in a national government. He was a peer from the House of Lords but given the crisis it would have been acceptable to make an exception which would allow him to become PM.

However, he did not push his claim and allowed Churchill to take charge. Perhaps he did not feel able to take on the responsibility or perhaps he recognised Churchill’s ability to fulfil the role effectively.

4. Previous experience

Whilst Churchill was not the only choice or even the favourite he did have a number of advantages. He had a lot of experience in politics and in the previous war government. His military experience was also substantial both in his army career and his continuous interest in military affairs. As well as being Prime Minister, Churchill was minister for war. This made him very close with the military strategists and generals who were commanding the war effort. Churchill was keen to keep a close involvement with the strategists and wanted to avoid the First World War scenario where generals were left to make all of the decisions on their own.

There are a number of memoirs which describe this tricky relationship; each as one sided as the other. Churchill’s account emphasises his own role and decision-making. His knowledge of military affairs was good but he had never been a general. Some of the generals accuse Churchill of micro-management and interfering too much with insufficient experience to make decisions.


Following the defeat of France in May 1940 Churchill wanted the British army to support the French as much as possible. General Gort largely ignored this order and focused on evacuating his troops. There is a view that says that much of the British army would have been lost if Churchill’s orders were followed.

Oran (July 1940)

Following the defeat of France, Britain feared that the French Navy would fall into the hands of the Germans. Many officers involved felt very uncomfortable about attacking former allies and felt that the ships could be convinced to abandon the new French Vichy government which had been set up by the Germans.

Churchill made the decision that the fleet must be sunk which was duly done. This led to 1,297 French sailors being killed. However, it did send a message to the world (especially the USA) that Britain was determined to fight.

The Mediterranean

With Italy’s entry into the war (June 1940), North Africa became an important focus for the British. Churchill took a close interest in this campaign and replaced a number of generals in his pursuit of victory.

1. Wavell (1939-1941)
Churchill was very critical of Wavell who was commander of forces in the Middle East. When Italian forces attacked British Somaliland Churchill wanted to sack the officer responsible. He clashed with Wavell over this as he said that the officer had done well in impossible circumstances.

Later in the campaign Wavell scored a large victory over the Italians (capturing 11,000 prisoners) but Churchill still seemed critical. However, the arrival of Rommel’s Afrika Korps changed the balance in North Africa and Wavell was forced back again. This was probably due to overstretching of resources as some troops were diverted to resist German invasion of Greece which tipped the balance of forces.

2. Auchinleck (1941-1942)

Auchinleck (the “Auk”) took over command of the Middle East army in July 1941. He wanted to take advantage of German focus on the Russian Campaign. Churchill thought that he was too cautious but his successful Operation Crusader pushed Rommel back.

However, when Rommel got vital supplies he advanced through Benghazi and through the stronghold of Tobruk. If Rommel had made this complete victory, the consequences would have been serious. Britain would have lost the oil fields of the Middle East, the Suez Canal and the Germans may have even been able to attack Russia from the south.

Auchinleck wanted to make sure defences were solid and not rely on a last stand; Churchill saw this as defeatist. In the end, Auchinleck stopped Rommel at El-Alamein using careful planning and intercepted messages. Churchill can take credit in this aspect for backing the code breaking efforts of the intelligence services.

3. Sir Harold Alexander and Montgomery

Despite victory, Churchill replaced Auchinleck with Sir Harold Alexander as Commander in Chief and Montgomery as head of the Eighth Army. Churchill liked Montgomery’s fearlessness and appears to have favoured him unduly. At the second battle of El-Alamein, Montgomery’s initial plan failed and he was lucky to win using a hastily revised plan. He also seems to have failed to have followed up this victory with an advance. Despite this, Churchill praised him highly. It could be fair to claim that Wavell and Auchinleck were treated badly in comparison.

Make sure that you understand the relationships with the generals in the Mediterranean campaign as this is specified as something which the exam board can ask questions on specifically.

Senior commanders

You must also be aware of Churchill’s relationship with the two different CIGS (Chief of the Imperial General Staff).

Sir John Dill: Dill and Churchill did not have a very good relationship. After Dunkirk Dill wanted to build up the British army and make sure that he could defend the entire British Empire. However, Churchill wanted to see action in the Middle East. This was ambitious given the recent near-total destruction of the bulk of the army.

Sir Alan Brooke: Brooke replaced Dill in 1941. Churchill got on very well with Brooke and agreed with many of the crucial aspects of policy. For example they both wanted to resist any attack on mainland Europe until 1944. However, they disagreed over various tactical decisions. One of the most prominent examples was the fall of Singapore. Despite warnings from generals involved, Churchill completely under-estimated the ability of the Japanese to score such a large victory over such a prominent symbol of British imperialism.

For example, Churchill wanted to see Britain to recapture territory lost in 1942 to the Japanese. Brooke managed to convince Churchill to focus on the fight in Burma where significant British forces were already fighting.


Overall, it is possible to see Churchill as both a micromanaging amateur and as an inspiring wartime leader. There are a number of routes to criticise him and many of the generals were no doubt infuriated by his style and decisions. At times he was childish and came up with new schemes to win the war in various dramatic ways. He seems to have struggled to prioritise the different campaigns. However, some commentators argue that although they did not always agree with him, many generals respected both his talents and commitment to the military effort. It was also rare for Churchill to completely overrule his generals. Between 1944 and 1945 Britain conducted a widespread bombing campaign against German cities. The aim was to disrupt the German war effort by destroying their industry. Some also felt that this was suitable revenge for the German blitz campaign and would break German morale.

Sir Arthur Harris (bomber Harris) has come under particular criticism. He was head of Bomber Command at this point in time and advocated a strategy of defeating Germany from the air. At the beginning of the war, bombers were not large enough to do this kind of damage but with the development of the Halifax and Lancaster heavy bombers, Harris had the tools for the job. He conducted a 1,000 plane raid on Cologne in May 1942 which started the campaign.

There is conflicting evidence about the effectiveness of such tactics. When the bombers had to fly at night they struggled to hit their targets but daytime raids caused massive casualties. Some have also disputed the terror aspect of the campaign as both immoral and ineffective. However, when aimed at specific factories and infrastructure bombing could make war very difficult for Germany and was a contributing factor to Germany’s defeat.

Some Historians are very outspoken about the morality of launching attacks which were bound to kill civilians: about 500,000 German civilians were killed through this bombing. Why Churchill became Prime Minister Churchill’s stance in 1940 and his style of leadership Churchill’s relations with his generals and his impact on strategic decisions in the Mediterranean The bombing of Germany and the war in Europe 1944–45 The plans for reconstruction and the reasons for Churchill’s loss of the 1945 election Churchill’s domestic view

It is really important to remember that Churchill had a very traditional view of Britain. His home at Chartwell shows how he lived a life of comparable luxury and failed to recognise the viewpoint of many working class Britons who wanted to see big changes following the war.

Beveridge Report

This desire for change was not lost on the Labour Party. They had been important within the wartime government and many people knew of their leaders. Clement Atlee (the Labour leader) had been deputy Prime Minister and was seen as a reliable figure that would bring change. The Beveridge Report in 1942 was the first indication of this post-war change. It suggested the introduction of Social insurance, child allowances and a national health service. This was very forward thinking but was not to Churchill’s liking at all. He felt that it was important not to make false promises during wartime but failed to see that people wanted significant change after the war. In his election campaign of 1945 he made no promises about employment and simply relied on his record during the war.

Other reasons for the Labour victory

•Experience of Labour leaders like Atlee in government during the war
•The poor record of the Conservatives before the war at dealing with social issues
•Admiration for Soviet ideals and ideas
•A belief that socialist ideas could make a real difference to everyday life
•Failure of people to connect with Churchill’s ideas of Empire, ongoing conflict with the USSR and the “red menace” How successful was the international diplomacy of Churchill during the Second World War? Throughout the war Britain pursued a policy which would both prevent mass casualties (as seen in the First World War) and protect its territorial interests. To do this Churchill tried to put an invasion into Northern France off as long as possible. He wanted to focus on the North African campaign whilst bombing Germany from the air as this achieved both of these aims.

It was quite difficult to maintain this strategy due to pressure from the other leaders, especially from Stalin who desperately wanted Britain to begin a second front to relieve pressure in the east.

In terms of war aims Churchill consistently wanted to:
•Maintain British great power status
•Keep the empire
•Protect its markets

This was very difficult to maintain given the circumstances. It’s important to bear in mind what Churchill hoped to get out of the war when assessing his performance.

Churchill’s strategy

In 1940 Britain’s only strategy was to survive and win limited victories where possible. Churchill would have to wait until 1941 until he achieved a Grand Alliance. With both the USA and USSR in the war, there was more potential for movement.

Mediterranean Strategy
Churchill wanted to focus on the war in the Mediterranean by seeking victory in North Africa. Churchill hoped that this would avoid the mass casualties seen in the First World War and was more achievable than attempting a cross-channel invasion into Northern France. However, this would only have limited impact on Germany and allowed them to focus on the Eastern Front. Without a greater contribution, Stalin might make peace with Hitler or be defeated.

However, it is difficult to see how he hoped to attain victory with this strategy. Churchill did suggest an invasion of the Balkans as a way of breaking Germany but this seemed unrealistic. Britain would have to rely on US and Soviet help to win the war which made their negotiating position difficult. In 1943, Churchill did convince Roosevelt to help with the invasion of North Africa but after this date, British influence distinctly declined. August 1941Placentia Bay
1st Washington Conference
June 19422nd Washington Conference
August 19422nd Moscow Conference
January 1943Casblanca Conference
May 19433rd Washington Conference
August 1943Quebec Conference
November 19431st Cairo Conference
November-December 1943Tehran Conference
December 19432nd Cairo Conference
August 19442nd Quebec Conference
October 19444th Moscow Conference
January-February 1945Malta Conference
February 1945Yalta
July-August 1945Potsdam Churchill made a great deal of effort throughout the war to cultivate ties with both the USA and the USSR. It's important to have a good awareness of each of the summits but it's important to focus on a few in some detail.

Newfoundland, 1941

This was the first wartime meeting between Roosevelt and Churchill which followed America's entry into the war. It resulted in the Atlantic Charter which stated allied war aims. Whilst this has been seen as an inspiring document (Barrack Obama quoted it in a trip to London last year) there were tense negotiations which went into creating it.

Roosevelt wanted to ensure that free trade and democracy was throughout the world and Churchill was keen to commit Roosevelt to fighting in Europe. At this point in time the USA had to decide which enemy to fight first: Japan or Germany so this was an important point for Churchill. To appease Roosevelt, Churchill explicitly told Eden not to make any deals with Stalin over Eastern Europe and promise free trade despite wanting to protect imperial interests.

Overall, genuine friendship was established between the two men but there was no doubting the tension under the surface.

Tehran, 1943

By 1943, each of the three powers (UK, USA, USSR) were involved in the war and the focus was on bringing about victory in Europe. Britain and the USA controlled North Africa and had brought about the defeat of Italy through invasion of Sicily. This had followed the British-led strategy in North Africa but failed to tie down many German forces who were able to make use of good German defences. However, a great number of allied troops were tied down in this campaign. In the east, the Russians had suffered huge losses and Stalin was determined to get territorial reward for this sacrifice.

Tehran was therefore quite a difficult summit for Churchill who had to think about British interests but also appease some soviet demands. Stalin wanted the allies to launch an offensive in western Europe (operation overlord or D Day) to relieve pressure in Russia which was agreed to be undertaken in 1944. This was agreed to coincide with a Russian offensive in the east. Russia also agreed to help fight Japan once the war in Europe was won.

However, Britain and the USA also had to accept that some of the borders in eastern Europe would change after the war. This was inevitable given the size of the Red Army but Roosevelt had previously been set against such action. Churchill had previously negotiated with Stalin on this issue and wanted American support against such domination of Eastern Europe. Roosevelt at first refused to negotiate on this issue and then largely ignored the problem of the Russian advance. At the Tehran conference it became clear that he favoured his relationship with Stalin over Churchill and British influence in the alliance was very diminished.

Moscow, 1944- percentages agreement

Whilst the USA wanted to guarantee free trade, Churchill was keen to protect the British empire and understood that he could not rely on the USA to protect British interests from the soviets. At the Moscow conference in 1944 he proposed a version of old style power politics where the USSR and Britain would share influence in eastern Europe. This has become known as the percentages agreement.

Under the secret deal, the USSR was allowed influence in Romania and Bulgaria in exchange for British influence in Greece. Hungary and Yugoslavia would be shared in influence. This was Churchill's attempt to protect British influence in the Middle East. Though Roosevelt disapproved of this type of politics the reality was that Churchill could not rely on his support in limiting Stalin and he wanted to protect the empire after the war.

Yalta conference, February 1945

This was the last conference between Churchill and Roosevelt. By 1945, Stalin had captured much of eastern Europe and it was clear that he would not leave. At Yalta he made some promises about democracy in these states but it was clear that he would not leave. Roosevelt focused on getting soviet support against Japan and seems to have ignored the problems in Europe.

There was little Churchill could do in the face of these problems and his attempts to persuade America to stand up to Communism had largely failed. Churchill dreamed of a post-war world founded on the 'special relationship' but this was clearly not founded on reality.

Post-war the USA was just as likely to use it's power against Britain and was keen to break up the British empire in favour of free trade. de Gaulle

de Gaulle was the leader of the "free French"; a group of French soldiers and potential politicians who had escaped France in 1940. He was initially admired by Churchill for his love of France and confident attitude but this became difficult once the USA entered the war. Once hitler overran France he set up a pro-German Vichy government which managed France under strict controls from Berlin. The USA favoured negotiations with the Vichy government but this made the situation tricky with de Gaulle who considered the Vichy government as traitors to France.

Churchill knew that he had to support the Americans over the French but this caused friction with de Gaulle. Churchill did give de Gaulle command of an expedition to Dakar- a north African French port but this failed. de Gaulle was suspicious of British intentions in the Mediterranean and this combined with Churchill's siding with Roosevelt over Vichy caused a stormy relationship.


It seems to have become the accepted view that Churchill adopted a close relationship with Roosevelt. Indeed, this relationship became known as the “Special Relationship” suggesting that the shared values of democracy, language and background gives Britain and the US a tight bond. According to this view, the Atlantic Charter of 1941 was a noble document expressing the hopes of the two nations side by side. In this argument Churchill and Roosevelt’s close relationship was essential to the co-ordination between the two countries. Churchill’s own account focuses heavily on this relationship.

The criticism which can be made against this argument comes from a number of different angles:

1.The American policy was to weaken the empire in order to pursue its own free market principles.
2.The Japanese attack at Pearl Harbour was the eventual cause of American involvement. Without this attack, some say that it’s unlikely that the USA would have joined the war.
3.There were major disagreements over strategic goals. From 1943 Britain increasingly lost control over the war as US military chiefs disagreed with British policy.
4.The USA did not heed warnings about Stalin. Indeed, there were times when Roosevelt seems closer to the soviet leader.

Whilst the conferences have been discussed above, it’s important to think about the relationship before 1941.

Churchill’s entire strategy depended on US involvement at some point. Essentially, he had no other way of winning the war so this would be important eventually. Roosevelt was aware that the US public didn’t want to go to war but certainly did not want Hitler to win the war. He did help Britain before 1941 by giving them 50 redundant US destroyers and giving funding in the Lend Lease program. In both cases however, Britain got a bad deal. The destroyers were going to be scrapped anyway and the goods sold under Lend Lease were good for the US economy.

Helping Britain came with catches. The USA wanted to end the protectionism of the British Empire. Some in the USA were very keen to end the empire entirely.


Stalin's communist Russia was seen as very untrustworthy from the start by Churchill. His feelings about the Russian Revolution of 1917 were no secret and in fairness to his viewpoint, the USSR had become a ruthless dictatorship. His position in the 1930s was to include Russia in a grand alliance against Hitler but Stalin signed a pact with Hitler instead. Subsequently, he invaded half of Poland and was responsible for such instances as the Katyn massacre where over 4000 army officers, policemen and officials were executed to try to control the country. Obviously, this background made the relationship difficult.

When Hitler invaded Russia, Churchill did offer support to Stalin. He famously said that "if Hitler invaded hell, I would at least make some favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons".

Churchill knew that Britain needed Russia to stay in the war if it was to achieve victory. While doing this, Churchill tried to resist Russian demands for Britain to start a second front in the west and also avoid making territorial promises once the war was over. However, given the length of the war and the sacrifice which the Russian military made (8-10 million soldiers), it was difficult for Churchill to control Stalin’s ambitions. On moral grounds, Churchill’s position was tricky too. Britain had gone to war to assure the boundaries of Eastern Europe and to protect democracy but it seemed clear that this would not happen if Stalin was allowed his own way.
In initial discussions, Churchill wanted to make it clear that Britain was right behind Stalin. They sent convoys of supplies to Russia and in 1942 Churchill went to see Stalin himself. At this first meeting, Churchill and Stalin did not see eye to eye. Stalin did not get his second front and Churchill got little recognition for his Balkan strategy. After sufficient alcohol, they did get along but little was actually decided.

At the Tehran conference in 1943, Stalin was more interested in talking to Roosevelt and left Churchill out. By 1944 (following D-Day) Churchill was in a very weak position as the war was going well for the Soviets and the second front was already underway. It was here that Churchill suggested the percentages agreement (above). This is controversial because Churchill, a democratic leader, was negotiating with a violent dictator. On the one hand, Churchill was acting in an out of date imperialist fashion. However, it could be argued that he had nothing to negotiate with and was fortunate to come out of the agreement with anything since Stalin could take what he liked in any case. Timeline Churchill’s views on Britain’s world and imperial role His contribution to international conferences His relationship with other wartime leaders, Roosevelt, Stalin and De Gaulle His plans for dealing with post-war Europe As outlined above, Churchill could in reality do little to determine the future of Europe. His secret percentages agreement has caused controversy but in reality Stalin was reasonably free to take whatever he wished in Eastern Europe. Towards the end of the war, Stalin brutally repressed those who came under his power. In Poland the Polish resistance was rounded up by the secret police.

Churchill negotiated a change in the borders for Poland and at the Yalta agreement of 1945 the west extracted a futile promise that there would be elections in Poland. Apart from this, the west did little to stop the domination of eastern Europe by the soviets. Churchill took some of his worst criticism for this policy. It was clear that there was little love lost between Russia and the West and it could be argued that Churchill did what he could given the situation. No-one seriously suggested going to war with Stalin over this.

Once Churchill was out of power in 1946 he made his feelings known in the Iron Curtain speech and returned to his anti-communist rhetoric which he had been so used to in 1918. Essay planning This question is all about comparisons. Try to find points in the two sources which are similar or different.

You could make comments about:
What is written in the source
What is left out
What type of source it is
When it was written
Who it was written by
Where it was written
Why it was written
How typical it is
How reliable it is

Use your own knowledge (no more than 3-4 points) to put the sources in context.

Always finish by comparing their utility

Exercise: Pick any two sources which are written on the same topic and try to find points to compare. Question a) Question b) (b) Study all of the sources
Use your own knowledge to assess how far the sources support the interpretation that…
In order to answer this question you need to hold a few things in your mind at once. However, you need to be careful that you put it on paper in the write order.

Step one: Grouping.
The first thing to do is to roughly divide the sources between For and Against
It’s possible that some of the sources can be used on both sides. That’s fine; just make sure that you are clear about which aspects are on either side.
Step two: Factors For/Against
Now you need to be a bit more specific in your plan. You need two sections: One which shows how the sources support the interpretation and the other which contradicts the interpretation.
In each of these sections you need about 3 paragraphs which discuss different reasons why you might support/contradict the statement.
For example, you need to break down the statement “Churchill showed serious misjudgement on India” into three parts (the sources might be able to help you with this but make sure you include bits which they might leave out). E.g. Churchill seriously deviated from government policy (A), Lost support from moderate good opinion in India (D & B), Led to Churchill’s views being discounted on other issues- like Hitler. (Own knowledge).

You now have 6 paragraphs (plus opening and conclusion) to get writing. In each of these you should prove your points by quoting from the sources and using your own knowledge.

Step three: Opening paragraph
In your opening paragraph don’t waffle; go straight into comparisons of all of the sources and a judgement about the answer. For example:

“The most useful and reliable sources mostly support the interpretation that Churchill’s judgement on India was poor. He misjudged the situation and followed a policy which was both outdated and unpopular. Source D and B note his loss of support over this issue from moderate opinion within Indian politics. This is supported by source A and C which demonstrate the degree to which he lost support in the British establishment too. Indeed it’s surprising that the sources don’t mention the difficulty which Churchill had in gaining support over his criticism of appeasement due to his poor judgement on issues like India. However, this view is balanced by source B and E which show that Churchill recognised the serious problems involved in Indian independence; both for India itself and for Britain’s world status. Source C however also indicates the complexity of Churchill’s opinion giving some positive impression of the Cripps offer which he oversaw. Therefore, whilst his opinion is complicated, the strongest sources support the view that Churchill’s judgement on this issue was poor.”

Step four: Evaluation
To get high marks you must also evaluate the sources as you go along. To do this, every time you use a source think about the most important thing about it which tells us how seriously to take the evidence within it.

For example, if a source is written in a history book, it would be valid to say that this source can probably be taken as reliable due to the research which has gone into it. On the other hand, if one of Churchill’s opponents is commenting on Churchill you should point out that his account is very useful but unlikely to provide a balanced point of view.

Make sure you do this for each source you use. Remember: Nature, Origin, Purpose, Reliability, Utility, Typicality

Step five: Judgement/analysis

As you go through you should be using the content and evaluation to be making judgements all the way through. You need to show how seriously we need to take each of the sources and then use this to decide which side of the argument the sources mostly support.

You should remember to do this at the end of each paragraph and sum up which side of the interpretation the sources support in the conclusion. As with all conclusions, this should very strongly argue why that view is the strongest. Essay planning- examiner's advice Old exam questions
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