Winston Churchill Establishes The 'Ten-Year Rule'

With peace seemingly assured, in 1919 it was decided that for planning purposes the armed forces should abide by the ten-year rule and not plan on fighting a major war for ten years.

Cuts in expenditure had to be made if Britain's external economic relations were to return to their pre-war range and extent, and it was deemed highly unlikely that there would be a serious threat to peace within ten years. The concept was also supposed to allow equipment programmes to be smoothed out over the medium-term, with an aim of having the armed forces ready in ten years.

Winston Churchill made the rule permanent in 1928, with the result that each year the ten-year clock would be reset back to year one; the armed forces would never get any closer to the ten-year target, so therefore there was no need to spend money on modernising them. The Treasury was satisfied - but the armed forces were deeply worried.

he Ten Year Rule, several researchers now note, did not, in fact, limit the amount of British defense spending in the 1920s, and in any event, Churchill insisted that it should be reviewed annually by the Committee on Imperial Defense. Churchill's estimates of German strength came straight from British intelligence. Above all, a careful examination of Churchill's record as war leader in the period 1940-1945 shows a master of war statesmanship equal or superior to any other democratic war leader.

Churchill's ministerial career in the 1920's was plagued by the need for retrenchment and by the overriding concern to give priority to revitalizing the the home economy. Thrift, however, was not a Churchillian virtue. Cuts in military expenditure, thoughts of imperial pullbacks, defensive strategic procedures, all went against his grain. Another limiting factor was the so-called 'Ten Year Rule' That presumed that Britain would not become involved in a great war for the next ten years. It took effect from August 1919. Churchill did not initiate this ruling, as has often been assumed. According to its author, Hankey, he found the prospect of 'curtailing expenditure distasteful'. But he supported the guideline, as did the Cabinet.