Friday, April 11, 2008

The Churchill Series - Apr. 11, 2006

(One of a series of weekday posts about the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

In early September, 1940 Britain’s situation was desperate. The air battle then raging in the skies over southern England had pushed RAF Fighter Command close to a break point. Invasions fears were at their height. Intelligence reports were beginning to warn of an impending German bomber assault on civilian population centers. Food stocks and war supplies were running low in the island nation as Nazi U-boats dominated the Battle of the Atlantic.

On Sept. 13 Churchill dictated a minute to the War Secretary, Anthony Eden. Excerpts:

If, owing to lack of equipment and other facilities, it is necessary to limit the numbers of the active Home Guard, would it not be possible to recruit a Home Guard Reserve, members of which would, for the time being, be provided with no weapons and no uniform other than arm bands?

Their only duties would be to attend such courses of instruction as could be organized locally in the use of simple weapons like the “Molotov cocktail.” And to report for orders in the event of invasion.

Unless some such step is taken, those who are refused enlistment will be bewildered and disappointed, and one of the primary objects of the Home Guard, which was to provide for the people as a whole an opportunity of helping to defend their homes, will be lost.

I am anxious to avoid the disappointment and frustration which the stoppage of recruiting for the Home Guard is likely to cause to many people.

Please let me know what you think of this proposal.
The minute makes clear two things:

1) Churchill had no doubt the British people were determined to fight off an invasion with whatever weapons were at hand, even homemade ones.

2) The people needed a government that would lead them in that effort.

And that Churchill did.

In 1940 the British people and their Prime Minister were a perfect match.
Winston S. Churchill, Their Finest Hour. (pgs. 658-659)