Standing Alone

48The German attack through the Low Countries and into France struck like a hammer at the Empire's heart, and with Britain's security now clearly imperilled a major overhaul of the government was unavoidable; and the man for the hour was Winston Churchill. His appointment, against the backdrop of May 1940's darkest days, was welcomed by the distant Dominion statesmen, although not in an always entirely convincing tone. This was a reflection of the complex nature of his relationship with the British Empire which, as with most aspects of his remarkable life, has been well examined. A sort of 'romantic Disraelianism' according to one view, at the age of just 22, while serving on the North West Frontier, he had pledged that he would devote his life to the maintenance 'of this great Empire of ours'. Some of his earliest political responsibilities had been within the CO where he opposed proposals that the Colonies should be given a voice in Imperial foreign policy-making.1 The possibility that he might return to the department in 1915 had left a fellow parliamentarian aghast, imploring the then prime minister not to agree to the move as the 'effect on the Dominions would be lamentable and possibly disastrous'. Churchill, he argued, had 'neither the temperament nor the manners to fit him for the post'.2A frustrated Leopold Amery agreed, noting that his standard approach to conducting diplomacy within the Empire was to make sure that 'the Colonial PMs should be given a good time and sent away well banqueted, but empty-handed'.3

With his preference for the term 'British Empire' as opposed to 'British Commonwealth', his approach to the Dominion idea was entirely consistent with his wider Imperial beliefs. Pre-war he had written a regular column for The Sunday Despatch and in March 1940 an old piece he had written some time before was published. This appeared to detail his views neatly on the Empire:

Then there are the great questions of peace and war. In the main, in these matters the Dominions trust the Mother Country, which lies so close to Central Europe and bears the brunt of Imperial Defence. But still they do not mean to take orders from anyone. They mean to judge for themselves and join in any war of the Empire as volunteers and not pressed men. What then is the new Constitution of the Empire, written and unwritten alike? It is that the self-governing Dominions are in every respect equal partners with Great Britain and that they have the same direct relation to the Crown as we have. We have in fact a seven-fold monarchy, and King George VI is seven constitutional sovereigns rolled into one. Ministers of Great Britain are his advisers in no sense superior to those of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the others. Complete equality of status has been established. If the British Empire holds together it is only because it wants to hold together.4

Such apparently liberal views seemed at odds with some of his previous actions and comments. Despite a second term at the CO, this time as secretary of state, he had opposed the DO's creation from the outset, arguing that Dominion affairs required, at most 'the deliberate and reflective study of two or three selected and experienced officials'.5 He had subsequently gone on to raise serious objections about the Statute of Westminster, 'a clumsy attempt to remove imaginary grievances', which he feared would provide an undesirable precedent for India and Eire.6 In a letter to Lord Linlithgow a few years before the war, Churchill recognized the limits of his approach. 'Of course my ideal is narrow and limited. I want to see the British Empire preserved for a few more generations in its strength and splendour. Only the most prodigious exertions of British genius will achieve this result.'7 For one official within the DO these were 'quaint notions about the Commonwealth' and harked back to an Empire Churchill had known in his youth.8 One of the prime minister's wartime military advisers agreed, noting that he often forgot that his Dominion counterparts 'required handling rather differently ... from the way in which they were handled thirty years before'.9

Personal experience was always critical in terms of how Churchill viewed those around him, and his contact with the Dominions and their leaders had been sparse. South Africa was best placed as he had gained first-hand knowledge of the country and its people from his soldiering days during the Boer War. He had also subsequently developed a good relationship with Jan Smuts which endured to the latter's death and meant that Churchill was perhaps freer with his time and information with his fellow prime minister in Pretoria than with any other Dominion figure.10 The South African was a regular wartime correspondent and an important confidante, but he was not blind to the strengths and limitations that were a feature of his old friend's character. Hence his advice to Waterson that, 'Winston is an actor, an artist, and in this war he is playing his part and no one can stop him.'11 New Zealand was also generally well thought of, although he had never met any of its key politicians prior to the war. Aside from its staunch backing of Britain much of the reason for this can perhaps be put down to his admiration for General Bernard Freyberg who commanded the Dominion's forces. As with Smuts, here was another individual whose exploits during the First World War, when he had been awarded a Victoria Cross, ensured Churchill's lasting respect.12 The fact that he was British by birth might also have had some subliminal impact; as a Baron he would act post-war as the governor-general of his country.

As for the other Dominions, although he had first met Mackenzie King in London in November 1906 and had been a regular visitor to the North American continent, Churchill had little real knowledge of Canada. MacDonald, who would later go to Ottawa as wartime high commissioner, wrote that the prime minister's 'lingering Imperialist prejudices inclined him to regard Canada and the other Dominions as still partly dependent colonies, whose Ministers should accept their old British suzerain's views on all problems as the last word in wisdom'. They were no great friends, but whatever objectivity MacDonald might have lacked his assessment was based largely on what he saw. 'None of his personal messages to Mackenzie King were issued as actual orders to the Canadian prime minister, but sometimes the phraseology was couched in language which could imply some bidding.' This left Australia and with nothing else on which to base an assessment, Churchill's enduring belief in the Dominion's troops being 'brave men', which he had first gained during the Boer War and maintained, almost without exception, to his death, proved decisive. His only pre-war political contacts had come with Australian censure lambasting his Dardanelles strategy and later protests against his decision when Chancellor of the Exchequer to return Britain to the Gold Standard. This did little to endear the authorities in Canberra to him and he never really came close to grasping just how different Australian politics was to that which he experienced daily in London. He had first noted Menzies when he had supported the Munich settlement and, although post-1945 the two would profess great friendship for one another, it was often conditional at best during those war years that they worked together.13

The London-based high commissioners had little to say about Churchill's appointment but the same was not true about the choice as new secretary of state. Eden had been something of a mixed bag in terms of impact and effect. His profile had brought with it regular press coverage and he was an undoubted dynamic force, taking every opportunity to visit the arriving Dominion troops, first in Scotland and then in Egypt. He had also been especially keen to get out to Canada where he could better consider Mackenzie King but the plans came to nothing.14 Waterson for one appears to have remained undecided about Eden's talents. After attending an April 1940 meeting of the Constitutional Club at which Eden spoke about Imperialism he confided to his diary: 'His delivery is poor—strangely boyish and likeable but greatly unlike what [Benjamin] Disraeli could have done with the subject ... But he is the stuff of which Englishmen like their political leaders to be made: modest, sincere and well-bred. He couldn't do a rotten thing if he tried and he has courage and an indignation of which he is half ashamed.' Nonetheless his conclusion had been that he was 'not ruthless or tough enough for war', a view generally shared by his Australian counterpart.15 The Dominions secretary's subsequent departure brought with it a more generous private epitaph from South Africa House, expressions of sorrow and the confidence that they were saying farewell to a future peacetime leader of the country. Eden himself, despite his initial reluctance at being sent to what he had feared would be a backwater, claimed to be 'genuinely sorry to leave' for the WO, although he was grateful that he no longer would have to endure 'Bruce's daily catechism'.16

It took three days to find his replacement. Churchill's political position was far from secure and it meant that he had to produce a balanced Cabinet acceptable to those figures within his party who continued to doubt his abilities. Eden's post was first therefore offered to Oliver Stanley, but in such a way that it was clear the country's new leader doubted his political abilities. As the unfortunate Stanley responded, it would be better for all concerned if he declined the offer, and this he duly did.17 Later he confided to a fellow MP that he had in any case seen how Churchill had treated Eden and concluded that it would be impossible to work with him.18 The prime minister's second choice was Inskip, now titled Lord Caldecote. Even to some of the staff at No. 10 he was a figure of fun, comparable to the barrage balloon now parked on Horse Guards Parade which, because of its rotund nature, was quickly christened 'Tinskip'.19 His approach to ministerial life apparently even provoked some consternation among his own staff who found it generally impossible to know what he was going to say until he had actually stood up and spoken. This was because his speeches were generally dictated about an hour previous to delivery but it was not always possible to disturb him then, presumably, from his slumbers.20

Neither Bruce nor Massey saw any cause for amusement and they educated Waterson, who had not been there to witness it first-hand, on his pre-war performance. Among the worst incidents they highlighted was in April 1939 during the Prague crisis when 'the door mouse [sic]', as he was known, had apparently fallen asleep while sitting next to Chamberlain at a meeting. The South African was a quick leaner and developed a special dislike for the returning minister, 'a charming old man, brave and tenacious of character but legal minded and stereotyped to a degree' who delivered bad news 'like a newspaper reporter'. He was 'fatuous' and 'ineffective' and 'an insult to the Dominions as Secretary of State'. The Canadian high commissioner claimed not to dislike Caldecote personally, but he was also not happy that the senior DO role should be given as 'a consolation prize' to 'a second rate politician' but 'a good Party man'. Massey was prepared to admit, following the first meeting that 'he was more alert and more on the job than we had feared', so much so that he was willing to give him another chance. His deputy, Pearson, nonetheless remained sure that the appointment was the clearest of indications as to how the Dominions' portfolio was viewed within the Cabinet. Bruce was generally much angrier, complaining to Canberra that 'a discarded Lord Chancellor' had been appointed, a politician who 'did not possess the personality or drive necessary to put over Dominion views' and did not have 'a receptive or constructive mind'. MacDonald or the elderly Lloyd George would both have been much better appointments in his view.21

The business of war, now a very real one in which the German menace was no longer merely a matter of speculation, brought with it remarkably few changes in terms of how the administrative machinery of the alliance functioned. There was still considerable concern among the more junior partners about the paucity of information they were receiving and demands that improvements be made. The high commissioners complained about the 'volume and quality of the DW telegrams' but the FO remained resistant to letting them see more arguing that it would be folly to send the Dominions 'every alarmist rumour that we may receive' but the DO was strident with its view that more needed to be done.22 There was a growing feeling, both within the department and in the overseas high commissions, that too little rather than too much was being sent, and that more was needed both of a better quality and not out of date.23 Soothing words were soon exchanged between the two departments but it was regretfully understood within the DO's ranks that the FO would continue to tightly control the distribution of information.24 Simply put, Cadogan could not be moved from his view that nothing should be sent that might perplex the Dominions or, much worse, 'leave them to infer that we are perplexed'.25

Menzies' complaints about the lack of detail contained within the reviews of Allied operations and strategy being sent to him showed that there clearly remained obvious shortcomings.26 News that the French position might soon collapse led the Australian leader to conclude this must have been a sudden development as he had received nothing beforehand to suggest that this could happen. Churchill did now warn his Dominion counterparts of the possibility of 'an early heavy attack' but he still remained reluctant to inform them of the seriousness of the situation in France.27 And even this was only done after Chamberlain, now Lord President of the Council, had explicitly raised the point, enquiring in front of the entire War Cabinet what information could be given to the Dominion governments. The news brought renewed messages of Dominion support. Menzies pledged 'the whole of the Commonwealth's resources to victory'. New Zealand's leader, Peter Fraser, who had replaced Savage following his recent death, also telegraphed to London with a commitment to fight to the last 'come what may'. Mackenzie King authorised the despatch of four destroyers to Britain and in another sign of support for the cause the Canadian Communist Party was outlawed 'amid a rush of Dominion feeling against Red quislings'. The South African response was more reflective, Smuts recognizing France's likely denouement would mean that the British Commonwealth would be left alone.28

Within Whitehall the increased tempo of the war was beginning to tell, most noticeably in the DO. Aside from its general day-to-day responsibilities and almost hourly requests from the Antipodean Dominions for strategic appreciations of the situation, there were new tasks for the department to handle, such as finalizing what might happen were an invasion to take place.29 For at least one of the British high commissioners serving in the Dominions, the 'badly overworked department' seemed to be suffering from 'a want of correlation'.30 With Lord Halifax continuing to extol the merits of a possible negotiated settlement with Germany, Menzies joined in beginning what would prove to be the first of three attempts made by him to initiate a 'peace' initiative involving the United States.31 The position was further complicated by the WO's confirmation that Italy would soon enter the war on Germany's side.32 This carried wide strategic considerations both for Britain's Middle East and Far East positions.33 Constitutional concerns also had to be taken into account in light of the brush with neutrality in Cape Town the previous year with the DO's legal experts rushing to revise the procedure by which the Dominions might declare war.34

For the Dominions' representatives based in London, their attention remained firmly focused on the implications of France's demise. Their anger had not abated nor had their belief that they were being ignored and under-utilized. So meagre did they believe the information from the official channels to be that they had even taken to attending the Canadian Military Headquarters on a daily basis where it was believed they could better track developments. Bruce thought it 'criminal' that the War Cabinet had failed to fully consider the implications of a possible French collapse, leaving him with 'a most gloomy view of British prospects'. The seven-page note which he produced and sent to the already over-worked Churchill proposing an international conference to arrange a peace settlement was, not surprisingly, very poorly received.35 Following the British prime minister's visit to the front in mid-June and his report back that the French had fallen back on 'what must be regarded as their last line', the Australian high commissioner and his colleagues emboldened themselves to make a daring move.36 They had become aware that the chiefs of staff had in fact prepared reports on how to respond to France's surrender and the request was made that they be allowed to read them. It was Caldecote who delivered this to the War Cabinet, warning his colleagues that the Dominion governments 'must be treated as full partners and their assent must not be taken for granted'. Two days later the documents were made available for inspection, but they did not make for pleasant reading as within them the degree to which British forces could be sent to the Far East immediately following a Japanese attack was questioned. Churchill was also clearly unhappy about having been made to release the reports and his displeasure would be made clear in his subsequent dealings with the high commissioners.

Menzies appeared to be badly unnerved by the knowledge of the revised British military position. Earlier in the year Britain's official figure in Canberra had told the DO the Australian had 'no more backbone than a jellyfish' and this now seemed to be much more obvious to those watching from London. His insistence that, should Hitler suggest terms on which he would be prepared to conclude peace with the Allies the United States be approached for guidance, 'no matter what form it might take', was a cause of some dismay. Twenty-four hours later, however, in a note to his high commissioner in London, he stated that he was willing to follow Britain 'whatever sacrifice victory may demand'. The news that in any Franco-German peace agreement French possessions in the Pacific might be allotted to Japan had him once again desperately looking towards Washington for assistance. The DO could do little to calm him beyond thank him for his comments and pass on a report prepared by the FO which discounted the idea that the German leader would submit a renewed peace proposal at this time. A message, written in Churchill's name, was also prepared which was intended to instil in the Australian leader some greater measure of resolve.37 Canberra's reaction was all in marked contrast to the reassurances coming out of Wellington where the government officially renewed its pledge of 'every form of assistance within our power'. The authorities in London were informed discretely, however, that there had been considerable political dismay that the long-standing premise of British assistance was now no longer guaranteed. The DO promised that there would be a review were the position in the Far East to become 'threatening' and this seemed to provide some measure of comfort.38 Indeed the New Zealanders now seemed determined on a public display of its loyalty to Britain. An offer to send a special mission to Washington to try and secure support was politely declined in the face of FO concerns that this would be seized upon by isolationists on the other side of the Atlantic.39

Smuts' encouraging comments also continued to provide considerable comfort to Churchill.40 With preparations to repel the now anticipated German invasion intensifying, he felt that there were pressing matters to be considered elsewhere. This included Operation Catapult, the 'necessary' attack against the French fleet anchored at Oran. Carried out by the Royal Navy in the first week of July, it was welcome by the South African leader as being both an end to France's agony and the beginning of efforts to restore it and its 'sick people' through some much-needed and no doubt British-administered 'moral nursing'.41 This significant military operation and Churchill's offer of a union with France made the month before were not revealed to the respective Dominion governments in advance, despite the much wider political ramifications both held. The prime minister, during his celebrated 'Finest Hour' speech had told the House of Commons the opposite. The self-governing Dominions were 'absolutely devoted to the ancient Motherland' but more to the point, he claimed that they were being kept fully informed of events.42 In both cases it had been true that very few British officials had been informed in advance but the incredulity over these claims within the DO was serious and Inskip allegedly threatened to resign in protest.43 The reason behind his anger was well put by one of the department's most capable members.

It would be impossible for any of the Dominions to hide the fact that they had not been contacted in advance, leaving them insulted and humiliated in their home parliaments, as such omissions offered the clearest proof 'that so called Dominion autonomy was a mockery'.44 These decisions were in fact for the most part accepted within the Dominion capitals with good grace, it being understood that the speed at which events were developing had not always allowed for any prior forewarning of British action.

Anxieties worsened either side of the Tasman, however, with closer study of the chiefs of staff 'certain eventuality' reports assessing the impact of France's surrender. Adding to the mounting tension were the reports of Japanese demands made at the end of June 1940 for the closure of the Burma Road, the only route still open to supply the Chinese government in Chungking. Sir Robert Craigie, Britain's ambassador in Tokyo, warned that war was probable unless this was carried out. The British military's chiefs concurred that failure to comply could only result in further disaster at this point and Menzies vehemently agreed.45 Batterbee, reading the correspondence in Wellington, found it tragic that 'egged on by Bruce' Australia's leader should adopt 'so weak and defeatist an attitude'; his counterpart in Canberra could meanwhile only despair that 'Australia was still fast asleep' in terms of its war effort.46 The high commissioners in London were, however, of a similar mind to Menzies, urging 'retreat and concessions' from the DO and making daily representations to Inskip that some form of settlement should be reached. Bruce even argued that there could be 'full and frank negotiations' with the Soviets but Whitehall's assurances that the Japanese authorities were likely to accept a proposal of a three month closure appeared to calm some of the worst fears.47

During the summer of 1940 the Dominion representatives—Jordan noticeable by his continuing absences—had continued to make every effort to secure a more prominent role in the direction of policy.48 Only hours after Marshal Petain, France's third leader in as many months, had signed the armistice with Germany, Halifax had been obliged to apologize for not being able to see two of them.49 Caldecote had, at the same time, put in a request that Churchill himself might discuss recent events with them.50 This was approved but in almost the same breath the prime minister informed his Dominions secretary that he would subsequently only be required to attend the War Cabinet on just two days a week, when the chiefs of staff also visited. This drew an astonished Waterson to bitterly complain that 'the PM clearly did not understand the part the high commissioners were playing'.51 In late July Churchill finally met with the group for an hour-long discussion devoted entirely to events in the Far East. He told them that the agreement over the Burma Road had been made to gain time in the hope that a stronger American stance would emerge in the Pacific in the interim. He could also refer to Catapult which had freed British ships to proceed east for the protection of Australian waters should they be needed.52 The South African attendee seemed sufficiently impressed by the encounter to note privately that their host was 'the man for the moment', his approach 'reflecting the purpose and spirit of the people'; it was clear though that he still did not really like him.53The Dominion leaders were less easily persuaded, and Churchill was warned that neither Australia nor New Zealand would permit the imminent despatch of troop convoys intended for the Middle East unless they were first supplied with a detailed Far Eastern appreciation.54 The next day Halifax met again with the Dominion high commissioners to talk at length about the War Cabinet's most recent discussions, outlining what alternatives he felt existed in the Far East.55 Following this and the promise that an appreciation of the situation would be sent to the Dominion capitals in early August, even Bruce was willing to say that Australia would now be prepared to support 'a policy of standing up to Japan', a remarkable change in light of some of his earlier comments.56

Standing in front of the House of Lords in mid-August 1940, Caldecote outlined how the war was progressing just three days after the first Imperial defeat and the evacuation of the garrison of British Somaliland in the face of an overwhelming Italian invading force.57 He told his peers that there had been many uncertainties at the start of the conflict but one of them was not the 'solidarity of the free peoples of the British Empire'. Referring to Churchill's reference to blood and toil, tears and sweat, the same, he said, was true of the Commonwealth which had 'counted the cost and already paid part of the price'. With the prime minister travelling to meet with President Franklin Roosevelt, he also took this opportunity to inform the high commissioners that he intended to be more forceful in the future where the Dominions' interests were concerned. Churchill had recently formed a 'Ministerial Committee on the Middle East' chaired by Eden, the secretary of state for war, and assisted by Amery, now secretary of state for India, and Lord Lloyd, the secretary of states for the colonies.58 At the end of July this had invited Australia and New Zealand to deploy any forces they could spare to the Middle East, but Inskip resolved that more needed to be done. Doubts persisted about whether their respective governments had been informed in advance or not about the formation of the committee and what priority would be applied to deciding upon requirements for equipment. But it was with an almost self-congratulatory tone that the high commissioners subsequently noted that Egypt was going to become the focus of attention for Australian and New Zealand forces.59 What they did not know was that the debate about whether Australian troops already garrisoned in Britain should be despatched to the Middle East or not would actually continue at the highest levels long into the following month.60

Events surrounding Operation Menace, the attempt to seize the West African port of Dakar from Vichy French control, gave a good indication of how the alliance was actually operating. With this announcement all of the Dominions were deeply concerned about the lack of information they had received; the first reference given to them only came after the raid had failed.61 Churchill would later admit that he had kept Smuts alone informed and even this only amounted to a single personal telegram containing a few details.62 When the other prime ministers were finally told of the full events and, specifically, the degree to which the enterprise had proven to be a great failure, there was a strong reaction. This was most pointed from Menzies even though the political ramifications of the aborted raid appearing to be less damaging for him than for his counterparts in Canada or the Union of South Africa. While Ottawa feared what reaction the attack on French territory and shipping would produce in Quebec and Smuts was worried about emphasizing the strategic value of Dakar to the enemy, Australia could claim few such strategic concerns. The cruiser HMAS Australia had, however, been used without his being informed in advance and this was sufficient cause for him to at once fly into a fury, issuing criticisms which Churchill took as being a personal attack.63 Waterson recorded that the raid had been 'an even more grisly failure than one thought', noting that 'the whole thing bears the stamp of WSC, a good idea badly executed'.64 Fortunately there was a good deal of 'damage control' administered by the DO, supported in this instance by Bruce, and this helped ensure that the recriminations quickly subsided.65 By the beginning of October the matter appeared forgotten, the final note from Churchill to his Australian counterpart asking that he be forgiven 'if I responded too controversially to what I thought was somewhat severe criticism'.66

With the high commissioners stamping outside the door of the Dominions secretary if they were kept waiting for meetings, the apparently fraught alliance was a constant source of strain within Whitehall throughout the summer months. Eric Machtig, the DO's deputy-head, recorded that his colleagues had been left 'feeling rather tired', and this was not helped by them all having to run for the air-raid shelters on several occasions. Added to this were fire-watching duties organized on a rota basis and the continuing planning for how the department would function in the event of an invasion. There was consequently a sense of relief when in August Churchill ordered that the Administrative Grade of the Civil Service should take a fortnight's leave; the sight of a pen and paper was making one of the department feel 'physically sick'. The greatest problem, even worse than the demands of the Dominions, was the serious shortage of trained personnel available to carry out the mounting range of jobs. It was hoped that the pool of those unfit for military service would provide some help, but nothing was guaranteed.

Despite these pressures, those working for him found Caldecote 'a delightful chief, completely imperturbable and cheerful in the most desperate moments and crisis', but Churchill had decided it was time he should go and Eden and David Margesson, the chief whip, met secretly with him to discuss possible replace-ments.67 For some months the weary secretary of state had complained that he was little more than 'postman and correspondent', noting with some apparent regret that it had taken until mid-August before Churchill had sent him his first personal minute.68 The announcement, at the very beginning of October 1940, that he would be taking the Lord Chief Justice's chair as part of a major reconstruction of the government following Neville Chamberlain's resignation on health grounds, was well received within the ranks of the Dominion representatives.69 Sitting next to the Minister for Food, Lord Woolton, at a lunch, Waterson told him how Caldecote had gathered the high commissioners together to tell them in great secrecy that he would be leaving that evening. As the South African high commissioner put it, the group was 'so embarrassed that there was complete silence: they could not honestly say that they were sorry, because he had been quite useless in this as in every other Government office that he has achieved'.70 Duncan, the governor-general in South Africa, was also pleased at the move but could not understand why Churchill had not felt sufficiently confident to have gone even further and removed 'some of those whose only claim to remain in high office is that they were once fortunate enough to get there'.71

He was delighted, however, in the selection as new secretary of state, Robert Gascoyne-Cecil who, as Lord Cranborne, had resigned from Chamberlain's Cabinet in 1938 alongside Anthony Eden in protest at the government's foreign policy.72 The new appointee had been a popular figure within Whitehall to everybody aside from arch-Chamberlain supporters, such as Kingsley Wood, to whom he was one of the 'glamour boys'.73 The connection between Churchill and his newly appointed Dominions secretary was a long-standing one. Ever since Robert Cecil had acted as an adviser to Queen Elizabeth I, his family had enjoyed a significant role in British political affairs. The Third Marquess of Salisbury, Cranborne's grandfather, held the distinction of having been prime minister on three occasions.74 He had also been the man who had finally destroyed the career of Lord Randolph Churchill. For this reason, according to one who knew him well during the wartime period, the son 'could never quite make up his mind whether to admire the House of Cecil or resent it on his father's posthumous behalf'.75 Even before Cranborne's February 1938 speech to the Commons, following his resignation as the FO's under-secretary to the Foreign Office, the next generation of Cecils was among his closest acquaintances. On that occasion Churchill had in fact been one of the first to offer his congratulations.76

To close observers, what would prove perhaps more significant in terms of their wartime relationship, was their ability to put 'political quarrels in a compartment entirely separate from personal friendship'.77 This was clearly not always the case, Churchill confiding to his son towards the war's end of the difficulties of working with Cranborne who 'might easily be ill one fortnight and very obstinate the next'.78 The prime minister had presumably assumed that his new Downing Street neighbour could be counted on not to make too many waves. In July 1940 Cranborne had been offered the position of Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Aliens but had declined citing ill health as the reason. Churchill had commented at the time that if he could not take on this job because of his poor health 'there is not much in burdening him with the duties of serving as a member [of the Cabinet]'.79 Yet now he asked him to become a minister whose responsibilities called for him to handle what already appeared to be an extremely uncertain alliance. After the fall of France in July 1940, Punch had published a cartoon showing two soldiers looking out to sea. One of them says, 'So our poor old Empire is alone in the world', and the other replies 'Aye, yes we are—the whole five hundred million of us'.80 There must have been times when it was felt within Whitehall and in the British High Commissions overseas that this could not be further from the truth.

If you find an error please notify us in the comments. Thank you!