Winston Churchill Is Appointed Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

From as early as 1936 Winston Churchill was making noises in Parliament about the overwhelming rate of German rearmament.

His campaign made him unpopular with an administration which favoured appeasement and feared hostilities before UK rearmament could be completed. It wasn't until his appointment as First Lord of the Admiralty in 1939 that Parliament was reminded of Churchill's skills as a leader and his capacity for brilliant strategising. A signal went round the British fleet announcing 'Winston is back!'

Churchill's predecessor, Neville Chamberlain, had failed to fully estimate the intentions of the Nazi regime and following a series of events which led to the crisis in Norway in April 1940, he faced heavy criticism in Parliament. On 9 May 1940 he made the decision to resign and requested a meeting with Conservative MP Lord Halifax and with Churchill, certain that one or the other was his successor. When Halifax refused, Churchill leapt at the offer.

A meeting between Chamberlain, Halifax, Churchill and David Margesson, the government Chief Whip, led to the recommendation of Churchill, and, as a constitutional monarch, George VI asked Churchill to be Prime Minister and to form an all-party government. Churchill's first act was to write to Chamberlain to thank him for his support.

Churchill had been among the first to recognise the growing threat of Hitler long before the outset of the Second World War, and his warnings had gone largely unheeded. Although there was an element of British public and political sentiment favouring negotiated peace with a clearly ascendant Germany, among them the Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax, Churchill nonetheless refused to consider an armistice with Hitler's Germany. His use of rhetoric hardened public opinion against a peaceful resolution and prepared the British for a long war. Coining the general term for the upcoming battle, Churchill stated in his "finest hour" speech to the House of Commons on 18 June 1940, "I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin."