26 October 1942

26 October 1942

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26 October 1942

October 1942

> November

Far East

More heavy fighting on Guadalcanal. The Americans only have 29 operational aircraft at Henderson Field.

Naval Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands is an inconclusive carrier battle during the Guadalcanal campaign.


Heaviest period of the bombing of Malta

26 October 1942 - History

U. S. S. HORNET (CV8) DANFS HISTORYat the Naval History and Heritage Command website.

Bureau of Ships
Navy Department
8 July, 1943


(a) CO. HORNET ltr. CV8/A16-3(5), Serial 00100 of 30 October 1942 - (War Action Report).
(b) Cincpac ltr. A16-3/S0L, Serial 00415 of 6 Jan. 1943 -(Cincpac Summary - Battle of Santa Cruz).

Structural Damage - Morning Attack - 26 October 1942.

A. Structural Damage Caused by Bomb Hit, Frame 80

B. Structural Damage Caused by Bomb Hit, Frame 151

C. Structural Damage Caused by Bomb Hit, Frame 155

D. Structural Damage Caused by Dive Bomber Crash into Island

E. Structural and Machinery Damage Caused by Aircraft Torpedo Hit, Frame 110 1/2

F. Structural Damage Caused by Aircraft Torpedo Hit, Frame 160

G. Structural Damage, Port Side, Caused by Dive Bomber Crash

Fires, Flooding and Damage Control - Morning Attack

Salvage Efforts After Morning Attack -26 October 1942

Probable Damage - Afternoon Attacks -26 October 1942

H. Probable Damage Caused by Aircraft Torpedo
[Numbering is as in original. Eds.]

I. Probable Damage Caused by Bomb Hit, After Starboard Corner of Flight Deck and Near-Misses

J. Probable Damage Caused by Bomb Hit, Late Afternoon Attack

E. Failure of Torpedo Defense System

G. Comparison of HORNET and YORKTOWN Flooding

Bomb, Torpedo and Dive Bomber Crash Damage (General Arrangement) - Morning Attack - 26 October 1942

Bomb and Torpedo Damage (General Arrangement) -Afternoon Attacks - 26 October 1942

Details of Dive Bomber Crash and Bomb Damage, Inboard Profile, Decks and Sections

Probable Torpedo Damage and Flooding - Morning and Afternoon Attacks

U.S.S. HORNET during morning attack. Note smoke on flight deck from the two bomb hits aft. Note "suicide" dive bomber about to crash into leading edge of stack.

U.S.S. HORNET during morning attack. "Suicide" dive bomber, in above picture, has just crashed into the leading edge of the stack. Note smoke coming from hangar deck due to bomb hits aft.

Port side view of damage to the stack as a result of enemy dive bomber crash.

Close-up view, port side, of damage to stack immediately after crash of enemy dive bomber. Note damage to stack walkway. Note destruction of signal bridge forward of stack.

Close-up view of flight deck in way of stack showing wreckage of enemy dive bomber.

U.S.S. HORNET during latter part of morning attack just after an enemy dive bomber has rounded bow and crashed into port side gallery deck just forward of No. 1 elevator. Note heavy smoke amidships from crash of first enemy dive bomber. Note starboard list as a result of the two torpedo hits.

U.S.S. HORNET dead in the water after morning attack, Note smoke forward from crash of second enemy dive bomber. List is about 7° to starboard.

U.S.S. RUSSELL, U.S.S. MUSTIN along port side and U.S.S. MORRIS along starboard side (only top of mast visible) assisting U.S.S. HORNET in fighting fires after the morning attack. U.S.S. NORTHAMPTON standing by to commence towing operations.

Aerial view of U.S.S. HORNET during lull between morning and afternoon attacks. Note hole in flight deck aft and damage to leading edge of stack. Note bucket brigades still fighting fires on flight deck near the stack.

Stern view of U.S.S. HORNET during abandoning some time before last attack.

Starboard side view of U.S.S. HORNET after abandoning and during last attack. Note smoke from bomb hit amidships. Note trim by stern.

Port side view of U.S.S. HORNET after last attack. Smoke is from fire amidships due to last bomb hit.

1. U. S. S. HORNET was hit by three bombs, two torpedoes and two dive bombers in "suicide dives" on the morning of 26 October, 1942. Numerous fires were started which were brought under control in about one hour. The two torpedoes produced flooding which resulted in the loss of all power and in a list of 7° to starboard after counterflooding. Two attempts were made, the latter successful, by NORTHAMPTON to take HORNET in tow. During the afternoon, after HORNET had been under tow for one hour, a second attack developed. As a result the tow had to be slipped. In this attack HORNET sustained another torpedo hit, starboard side. In addition, two more bombing attacks occurred resulting in a final bomb hit. The list gradually increased to 18° at which time HORNET was abandoned. Since enemy surface forces were in the vicinity and it was apparent that HORNET would not sink immediately, two destroyers attempted to sink her by torpedoes and gunfire. When last seen she was burning furiously and slowly sinking.

2. This action again demonstrates the power of survival from a hull point of view, of this class. It also again highlights deficiencies in the machinery arrangement which were discussed at length in YORKTOWN* loss report. Although conjectural, it is quite possible that HORNET, with a machinery arrangement similar to ESSEX (CV9 Class), might not have lost power after being struck by the first two torpedoes. This would possibly have permitted clearing the area of action and certainly would have permitted much more effective defensive action against subsequent attacks.

3. Although the fires started during the morning attack on HORNET were extinguished in about two hours, they were very difficult to fight and required the efforts of a large number

of the crew. These fires were fed by excess clothing, upholstered furniture, and excess material in squadron ready rooms. The program of removal of inflammable material was evidently not complete.

4. The Commanding Officer and heads of departments, in reference (a), made numerous suggestions for the improvement of the engineering and damage control facilities in this class of ships. Many of these improvements will be made in ENTERPRISE during first availability. Those which apply to all carriers are being incorporated in vessels now under construction as well as ships already in service.


5. This report is based on the excellent data supplied with the references. Photographs were supplied by the four photographic units attached to the various ships of the task force. Unfortunately, photographs of the damage taken by HORNET Photographic Unit were lost with the ship. Plates were prepared by the Bureau from an analysis of reference (a).

* BuShips War Damage Report No. 25.

6. On the morning of 26 October, 1942, HORNET was operating north of Santa Cruz Islands as part of a task force. Enemy action during the day was expected and the ship was at General Quarters with condition "Afirm" set before and during the attacks. The weather was clear with low scattered clouds. Several small rain squalls passed over the area of action. In the afternoon the atmosphere became somewhat murky with reduced visibility. The sea was slight with a moderate swell.

7. At 0920 radar contact was made with enemy aircraft 60 miles distant. The combat air patrol was landed, fueled, and flown off again. This operation was completed by 0948. Immediately after servicing the last fighter, the gasoline system of the ship was completely blanketed with CO2. As the enemy approached, speed was built up to 28 knots and radical maneuvers were employed in an attempt to evade bombs and torpedoes.

8. At 1010 anti-aircraft fire was opened on a coordinated enemy dive bombing and torpedo plane attack. Two bombs fell at some distance off the starboard beam and in line with the bridge. No damage resulted from the detonation of these bombs. About 1012 a delayed-action bomb struck the flight deck at frame 80 near the centerline. It penetrated to the third deck and detonated in compartment A-310-1LM. A few moments after this, two more bombs struck the flight deck aft. The first, at frame 151, detonated upon contact blowing an 11-foot hole in the flight deck about 20 feet inboard of the starboard deck-edge. The other, a delayed-action bomb, hit at frame 155, penetrated to the third deck and detonated in compartment D-503-1L. At 1014 an enemy dive bomber, armed with three bombs, dove into the forward port corner of the stack, glanced off and crashed on the flight deck. One of the bombs detonated upon hitting the stack. The other two passed through the flight deck. One detonated in a squadron ready room and the other was a dud. About 30 seconds later the first of two aircraft torpedoes detonated against the starboard side. This torpedo, running quite shallow, struck at frame 112 in way of the forward engine room. Twenty seconds later the second torpedo, which was also running shallow, struck at frame 160 in way of the magazine group. About 1017 another dive bomber, unarmed and burning fiercely, came in from the port quarter and attempted to crash HORNET but initially overshot. The plane then rounded the bow and crashed into the port side in way of the forecastle deck just forward of No. 1 elevator. About a minute later an unarmed torpedo plane, coming from dead ahead, attempted a "suicide" crash but missed and crashed into the sea off the port bow.

9. As a result of this attack: the ship listed immediately 10-1/2° to starboard and then slowly righted to 7° starboard the forward engine room was flooded all propulsion was temporarily lost all power was lost all communication facilities were disrupted fire main pressure was lost and large fires were started on the signal bridge, flight deck, No. 2 ready room, C.P.O. quarters, GSK storeroom, forward messing compartment, No. 1 elevator pit, forward port side gallery deck, hangar deck amidships, and hangar deck aft. At 1020 MORRIS and RUSSELL, and later MUSTIN, came alongside and passed fire hoses to HORNET. In addition to the facilities of these destroyers there were many bucket brigades which carried foamite and water to the fires. At 1100 all fires were under control, although those on the flight deck and in the C.P.O. quarters were still requiring a great deal of attention. At this time all excess personnel were transferred to assisting destroyers. During this time preparations were being made by

NORTHAMPTON to tow HORNET. At 1109 a single enemy dive bomber attacked. The destroyers cast off and NORTHAMPTON steered clear as the bomber started down. The bomb was a near-miss to starboard in way of the bridge. About 1134 NORTHAMPTON was again in a position to take HORNET in tow. This attempt failed, due to parting of the tow line.

10. At 1430 a second attempt was made by NORTHAMPTON to take HORNET in tow using a larger tow line. This was successful. Unfortunately, at 1620 a group of enemy torpedo planes approached from the starboard beam in a fast weaving glide. NORTHAMPTON immediately cast loose. At 1623 one shallow-running torpedo struck the starboard side at frame 115. This resulted in the immediate flooding of the after engine room and destroyed the possibility of restoring power aboard HORNET. The list slowly increased until it reached 14-1/2° at 1640. At this time the expected additional dive bombing attack developed. Only near-misses resulted, one of which shook the ship violently. After this action, at 1650, the list increased to 18° and the order to abandon ship was given. At 1655 a horizontal bombing attack of six planes at 8,000 feet developed. One bomb struck the after starboard corner of the flight deck the others were near-misses in a pattern so small that it appeared as one splash. At 1802, when all but two rafts and two boatloads of survivors were picked up, four dive bombers attacked HORNET. One hit was sustained on the flight deck just forward of the island. Apparently the bomb exploded on the flight deck and started a large fire which was observed to die out in about 15 minutes.

11. After dark, about 1905, the destroyers MUSTIN and ANDERSON returned to sink HORNET in order to prevent her from falling into the hands of an enemy cruiser-destroyer force rapidly approaching this area. Nine torpedo hits were reported to have been made on the port side. Apparently not all of the torpedoes detonated. In addition, a total of 369 rounds of 5" ammunition was fired. When they ceased firing at 2140 HORNET was burning fiercely and slowly sinking.


A. Structural Damage Caused by Bomb Hit, Frame 80

12. The bomb which hit at frame 80 came from the starboard quarter. It struck the flight deck just to starboard of the centerline, and traveled forward and to port detonating just above the third deck at frame 72, about 20 feet from the port side in the crew's mess room, compartment A-310-1LM. Total travel after striking flight deck to point of detonation was about 56 feet. The detonation was of high order.

13. The impact on the flight deck resulted in a hole about 12 inches in diameter. Holes of about the same size were probably left in the gallery and main decks. No structural damage resulted to the main deck other than an athwartship ridge about 10 inches high and two feet wide at frame 75 which extended from

side to side. Most of the area on the port side of the second deck between frame 71 and frame 78 was either destroyed or badly ruptured. Undoubtedly, the deck in the wardroom pantry immediately above the point of detonation was holed and deflected upwards. Battle dressing station V, which was in the small wardroom mess room, was badly wrecked.

14. On the third deck, compartments between bulkheads 64 and 83 and port side compartments between bulkheads 85 and 90 were badly ruptured. Quite probably a large hole was blown in the third deck in way of the bomb detonation. Most of the bulkheads within this area were badly warped and in a few instances destroyed. The inboard bulkhead of the mess attendants' washroom, compartment A-310-2L, was blown outboard against the skin of the ship. The quick-acting doors on bulkhead 64 were either jammed by wreckage from joiner bulkheads or were warped by the blast from the bomb detonation. At frame 82 the quick-acting door on the starboard side leading from the laundry to the crew's mess room was blown off. At frame 90 the watertight door on the port side was jammed. Most of the ladders leading from the third to the second deck in this area were either destroyed or badly twisted. Battle dressing station IV, which is in crew's mess room B-2302-L, was completely demolished by the blast of the detonation. The post office which adjoins this compartment was also destroyed. The intakes to the forward three boiler rooms on the third deck which are located between frames 82 and 85 were so badly holed by fragments that smoke from the fire on the second and third decks was drawn down into these three compartments. The ventilation supply duct to the forward generator room, which passes down through the crew's mess room, compartment A-310-1LM, was destroyed. All ventilation ducts attached to the overhead of this same compartment were blown down by the blast from the explosion. The constant-service steam line in this compartment was out by fragments. Although normally cut off during battle, they were apparently supplying steam to the battle dressing stations located on the second deck.

15. On the fourth deck bulkhead 71 in. way of the explosion was probably destroyed. Bulkhead 64 might have been deflected slightly. The armored fourth deck above the plotting room was deflected downward as the forward bulkhead of the plotting room was buckled, and most of the instruments in this control space were damaged or destroyed. Steam piping in the forward generator room was also ruptured. Reference (a) reported that a steam-driven blower in No. 2 fireroom was damaged. This apparently occurred as the result of fragments from this bomb.

B. Structural Damage Caused by Bomb Hit - Frame 151

(Plate III, Panel 4 - Photo 9)

16. The bomb which hit at frame 151 struck the flight deck about 22 feet to starboard of the centerline and detonated just below the flight deck, blowing a hole about 7 x 11 feet in the deck. Although fragments killed a great number of topside and hangar deck personnel, the structural damage below decks was of a minor nature. Fragments penetrated the hangar deck and the second deck into compartment D-302-1LM and one fragment even penetrated the third deck into compartment D-409-A. Some piping in this area was also cut by fragments. A fragment from the bomb cut the hoisting sling of an SBD-3 airplane at frame 150 causing it to fall onto the hangar deck. Four F4F-4 airplanes immediately forward of the bomb hit, which were also triced to the overhead, were undisturbed.

C. Structural Damage Caused by Bomb Hit - Frame 155

17. This bomb which came from dead ahead hit at frame 155 on the centerline. It passed aft and slightly to port. A 12-inch hole was left in the flight deck and hangar deck. Probably this bomb detonated on the third deck at about frame 161, six or eight feet to port of the centerline in C.P.O. mess room, compartment D-303-1L. This cannot be definitely established because a torpedo struck this same general area about two minutes later. Assuming the above point of detonation, the bomb traveled about 53 feet from point of impact to point of detonation. The detonation was of high order.

18. The main deck above the explosion was bulged slightly over a large area. The second deck was also probably ruptured and bulged over a considerable area. The stanchions and bulkheads between the main and the second decks were undoubtedly buckled to a limited extent. On the third deck the area from frame 152 to frame 173 was badly wrecked. A large area of the third deck between frames 158 and 168 was destroyed, part by the detonation of the bomb and the remainder by the torpedo explosion. Joiner bulkheads in this area were almost invariably collapsed or badly distorted by the blast of the detonation. The centerline bulkhead in compartment D-303-1L was blown out, and peacoat lockers located on this bulkhead were completely destroyed. Five-inch ammunition hoists passing through the C.P.O. mess room were probably destroyed by the detonation because of the proximity of the hoists to the point of detonation. The constant-service steam line in the C.P.O. mess room was cut by a fragment. It is impossible to tell what part of the damage on the fourth deck was caused by the bomb and what by the torpedo. Probably most of the damage was done by the torpedo. What bomb damage did result was probably less than that on the third deck. The armored transverse bulkhead at frame 162 and fourth deck limited the damage from blast and fragments from both the bomb and torpedo "E".

D. Structural Damage Caused by Dive Bomber Crash into Island

(Plate III, Panel 3 - Photos 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5)

19. This plane, with its bombs aboard, crashed into the island, struck the port leading edge of the stack, glanced off and imbedded itself into the flight deck at frame 84, about 15 feet to port of the island structure. This plane was apparently armed with two 60 Kg. G.P. bombs and one 250 Kg. S.A.P. bomb. One of the 60 Kg. bombs exploded upon hitting the stack, destroying the signal bridge enclosure. The crash of the plane itself demolished the port leading edge of the stack. The steam line leading to the steam whistle was cut and the whistle itself was destroyed by the plane upon crashing. The island walkway was also badly twisted and distorted.

20. Upon hitting the flight deck, the motor and cockpit of the plane were imbedded in the flight deck. A hole was left in the deck as a result of the crash and the detonation of the other 60 Kg. bomb. The 250 Kg. bomb was a dud and dropped to the gallery deck in the passageway outside of No. 3 ready room. The bulkheads of No. 2 and No. 3 ready rooms were disrupted by the plane crash. Around the forward edge of the hole in the flight deck there was a pile of pellets which were reported in reference (a) to be of a phosphorus incendiary type.

E. Structural and Machinery Damage Caused by Aircraft Torpedo Hit, Frame 110-1/2

21. From the references it is estimated that this torpedo struck about frame 110-1/2 starboard on the armor belt, about 6-1/2 feet below the waterline. As is usual with torpedo hits in the middle body no appreciable shock damage resulted. The torpedo defense system in way of the engine rooms is a four-bulkhead system. The outboard layer of tanks was filled with liquid in accordance with the latest liquid loading practice as recommended by the Bureau. Fuel oil service tanks in the second and third layers were filled (see Plate IV). From a study of previous damage to this type of system by Japanese aircraft torpedoes, it is quite probable that the outboard row of tanks from frame 99 to frame 123, the second row of tanks from frames 101 to 123, the third row from frames 103 to 118, and the fourth row from frames 106 to 120, were ruptured and in free communication with the sea. Undoubtedly the shell plating, No. 1 and No. 2 bulkheads were destroyed in way of the explosion and one or more plates of 4-inch special treatment steel armor blown off No. 3 bulkhead was dished and holed and No. 4, the holding bulkhead, was ruptured between frames 110 and 112. An eyewitness estimates that the hole was 5-6 feet long and 3-4 feet high. Probably the after starboard corner of No. 9 boiler room was weakened or damaged by the torpedo explosion, as this compartment is reported to have partially flooded. Probably the 60 lb. special treatment steel deck in the crew's space, C-403-L, was ruptured and blown upwards by the force of the explosion. The 25 lb. special treatment steel inboard bulkhead of this compartment must have remained intact inasmuch as no flooding was reported into the aviation storeroom, C-402-A.

22. The Chief Engineer, in reference (a), reported that in the after engine room No. 2 main condenser had "collapsed internally" and the turbines filled with salt water. He also reported that No. 3 unit had lost vacuum apparently due to condenser damage. It is not clear how "internal collapse" could take place as the shock does not appear to have been unusually severe and no other machinery derangements were reported. It is possible, however, that some tubes could have been jarred sufficiently to cause leakage through the tube sheet and from there to the turbines. This is the first such case noted of internal damage to condensers resulting from torpedoes. Main and auxiliary steam lines remained intact as were feed lines, fuel oil lines, port service tanks and fuel oil transfer pump.

F. Structural Damage Caused by Aircraft Torpedo Hit,

23. This torpedo, which struck about 20 seconds after torpedo "E", is reported to have struck the starboard side about frame 160, probably on the armor belt about six feet below the waterline. Apparently there was very little shock. The hole

blown in the ship's side was reported to be about 30 feet long and 15 feet deep, of which some of the damaged area was above the waterline. The torpedo defense system in way of the hit is a four-bulkhead system which ends just eight feet abaft the estimated point of impact. The starboard fuel oil tanks and damage control voids aft of frame 150 were probably ruptured. Undoubtedly the four-inch special treatment steel armored bulkhead at frame 162 was disrupted or deflected aft sufficiently to cause leakage at the junction of this bulkhead with the holding bulkhead. As stated in paragraph 17, this torpedo struck about two minutes after the bomb hit at frame 155, making it extremely difficult to determine which explosion was the cause of the damage on the third and fourth decks. It is quite probable, however, that most of the third deck was damaged by the bomb detonation, whereas the damage to the fourth deck in D-415-L and D-417-A was a result of the torpedo. Although damage to the fourth deck in this vicinity was not reported, it must have been extensive because the shell above the fourth deck was ruptured for a distance of about 30 feet. Bulkhead 165 was ruptured by either the bomb or torpedo explosion as flooding was reported in D-419-A.

24. The No. 2 (inboard starboard) shaft alignment must have been disturbed by this torpedo detonation as its bearings ran quite hot (180° F for the short time that it continued to rotate after the torpedo hit. The rudder was reported jammed 30° left as a result of this hit.

G. Structural Damage, Port Side, Caused by Dive Bomber Crash

25. A burning dive bomber, which was unarmed, struck the port gallery walkway just forward of the 5" A.A. battery probably about frame 20. It apparently crashed through the light metal partition bulkheads, through the gallery deck, and into No. 1 elevator pit. Part of the gallery walkway was torn up by the plane. On the gallery deck, bulkheads of wardroom staterooms 0206, 0208, and 0212 were probably destroyed by the passage of the plane. On the forecastle deck, bulkheads of wardroom stateroom 0116 and a locker room were probably destroyed. The plane in falling into the elevator pit threw flaming fragments as far aft as frame 60 on the hangar deck. Although the structural damage from this crash was not nearly as great as that resulting from the bomb detonations, the fires which were started were as serious as those started by the bombs. Just as in plane crash "D", numerous pellets, reported to be incendiary, were found on the flight deck, gun gallery and the forecastle passageway.


26. Bomb "A", which detonated in the crew's mess room, started a fire in the wardroom mess room, A-211-1L. This space contained a great deal of upholstered furniture. The dense smoke

from this fire plus the steam from the ruptured steam line in the crew's mess room passed up into the hangar where conditions were made extremely difficult for the repair parties to bring other fires under control. There was little if any fire in the crew's mess room, A-310-1LM, where the bomb exploded as the space had no combustible material present. The damage to the intake to boilers 1, 2 and 3 on the third deck resulted in the drawing of smoke into these three firerooms, which seriously interfered with boiler operation. Central station was also filled with smoke through the ventilation system which was undoubtedly damaged on the third deck. The ventilation supply duct to the forward generator room at frame 76, which was destroyed on the third deck, carried the flash from the bomb detonation into the generator room where the distribution board was put out of commission. The after bulkhead of the plotting room, frame 76, was red-hot from the heat of this flash. Steam from the ruptured constant-service lines in the messing compartment and the generator room filled the damaged spaces on the second, third and fourth decks and the generator room. It appears that the steam assisted in the smothering of the fire on the second deck in the wardroom mess room. This fire, with others, was fought by bucket brigades and hoses passed over from the destroyers MORRIS, RUSSELL and MUSTIN.

27. Immediately after the detonation of the bomb, Nos. 4, 5 and 6 magazine groups were flooded to prevent any possibility of heat from this fire passing down into these spaces and exploding the bombs or ammunition (see plate IV). A short time later, the Commanding Officer ordered the 5" powder magazines (group 1) sprinkled. Due to power failure the damage control pumps stopped and sprinkling ceased. The depth of water on the decks of the powder magazines had reached about one foot by this time.

28. Bomb "B", which detonated immediately below the flight deck at frame 151, did not start a fire. The hole In the flight deck was not repaired Inasmuch as the fires required the attention of all personnel not engaged in attempting repairs to main machinery.

29. Bomb "C", which detonated in the C.P.O. mess room, D-303-1L, started a fire in this compartment and the storeroom, D-417-A, on the fourth deck. This fire filled the damaged area with smoke and necessitated the abandoning of the sick bay area. To permit the repair party to fight the fire, the smoke was "vented" topside by opening hatches on the second and main decks. Mattresses, clothing and upholstered furniture contributed greatly to the tenacity of the fire and prevented it from being brought under control early in the action. Steam from the constant-service steam line, which was cut by a fragment, filled D-303-1L before the supply valve was closed. This added to the difficulty of fighting the fire. Since there was no water pressure available on the fire mains, the fire was fought by a bucket brigade. It was finally extinguished by a "handy billy" set up on the main deck.

30. In addition to the fires, reference (a) reports that the "flash" of the bomb killed several persons in the 5" handling rooms on the first platform deck. This "flash" undoubtedly came from the 5" hoist Inasmuch as these hoists on the third deck were probably badly damaged if not destroyed. Previous war experience* and tests conducted by the Bureau of Ordnance on hoists carrying filled powder containers indicate that the setting of one container

* U.S.S. BOISE - BuShips War Damage Report No. 24.

on fire by fragments or heat usually results in most of the others burning. This can cause a "flash" at the end of the hoist of sufficient intensity and duration to kill personnel.

(Plate III - Photos 3, 4, 5 and 8)

31. Plane "D", which struck the leading edge of the stack, started fires which required the efforts of a large number of men to bring under control. Gasoline from the plane, which sprayed on the forward and port sides of the stack and the signal bridge enclosure, was set on fire by the detonation of the 60 Kg. bomb. This fire was brought under control by the use of water, foamite, and CO2extinguishers. As the plane imbedded itself into the flight deck, gasoline was sprayed on the deck and into No. 3 ready room. A persistent fire was started which was further fed by upholstered furniture in No. 3 ready room and bedding in the armory spaces. It was extinguished in about one hour by fire hoses led from the destroyer MORRIS and the constant efforts of a bucket brigade of 200 men, some of whom carried foamite to the scene.

32. Plane "G", which crashed into the port gallery walkway, was burning furiously as it rounded the bow. After it plunged through the officers' country and landed in the No. 1 elevator pit, fires were started in these spaces. Flaming fragments from the plane were thrown as far aft as frame 60. These flaming fragments burned the fabric on planes stowed under the flight deck. The fires were fought by bucket brigades and fire hoses led from the destroyers RUSSELL and MORRIS. The hangar water curtain, which functioned for five minutes, also helped to extinguish the fire in No. 1 elevator pit. These fire fighting activities were hampered by dense smoke in the hangar and by exploding ammunition in the wreckage of the enemy airplane.

33. Torpedo hit "E", which exploded in way of the forward engine room, did not start any fires. Fuel oil which was blown Inward struck superheated steam lines which resulted in the engine room filling with gas and smoke.

34. This torpedo explosion resulted in the Immediate flooding of the forward engine room and crew's space C-403-L. There was slow flooding into the after engine room through cable stuffing boxes. There was no leakage through No. 1 and No. 4 shaft stuffing boxes. Boiler room No. 9 was probably flooded through structural damage to the starboard after corner as a result of damage to the torpedo defense system in this area. No flooding took place in the aviation storeroom, C-402-A, as the starboard longitudinal special treatment steel bulkhead withstood the blast of the torpedo explosion.

35. Torpedo hit "F", which exploded in way of the after end of the torpedo protection system, did not start any fires. The fire in that area had already been started by bomb hit "C".

36. This torpedo explosion caused the immediate flooding UP to the waterline of D-417-A and D-415-L through the rupture in the shell. D-419-A also flooded immediately, probably through a rupture in bulkhead 165. D-414-A flooded slowly, probably through a weakened bulkhead. Below the fourth deck the flooding is much more uncertain. However, the dry provision rooms, D-521-A and D-520-A, which are aft of the torpedo protection system, were probably flooded. Starboard void tanks of the torpedo protection system aft of frame 150 were probably flooded.

37. Reference (a) does not report in detail the events which occurred in the 5" and the bomb magazines because most of the personnel were lost. Two minutes before torpedo "F" struck the ship the flash from the 5" powder hoist killed the crew of the 5" handling room. Because of this it is possible that surviving members of magazine groups 8 and 9 may have tried to escape from the magazines, through the 5" handling room. This may have resulted in some open watertight doors at the time of the torpedo hit. The starboard 5" handling room, D-519-M, was probably flooded through failure of the joint where the holding bulkhead joins the transverse 4-inch special treatment steel bulkhead at frame 162, or through the damaged hoists from the fourth deck. Other spaces in group 9 magazines could have flooded from the handling room if, as probably happened, watertight doors were open for escape. D-619-M also probably flooded by failure of the joint between the transverse armored bulkhead and the holding bulkhead. Group 8 magazines, on the second platform, possibly flooded from D-619-M through open doors.

38. HORNET listed 10-1/2° to starboard as a result of the flooding from these two torpedo hits. The forward port voids were flooded by Repair II upon order of the Damage Control Officer in order to reduce the list and trim by the stern. This reduced the list to 7° within a few minutes. List then remained constant until the afternoon attack.


39. Immediately after the morning attack, when the fires were under control, salvage efforts were started. NORTHAMPTON was designated to take HORNET in tow until part of the machinery could be put back into operation. It was decided to pass NORTHAMPTON'S tow line to HORNET where it would be made fast to the port anchor chain.

40. Before the towing cable could be attached, the port anchor had to be disconnected and the chain prepared for towing. The 1-3/4-inch steel wire towing cable was hauled aboard HORNET by hand as no power was available. The cable was then secured with a shackle to the port anchor chain. After the connection was made, NORTHAMPTON took up the slack and gradually built up speed to 3 or 4 knots.

41. About 60 fathoms of anchor chain were veered when the pelican hook) on NORTHAMPTON parted. This towing arrangement would have been satisfactory except for the weakness of the pelican hook. Since the cable parted on NORTHAMPTON, none of the "towing cable could be retrieved aboard HORNET due to lack of power. It was then decided to make another attempt - this time using the 2-inch steel wire towing cable on HORNET. This cable was stowed in No. 2 elevator pit. It was roused out and dragged to the forecastle where one end was passed to NORTHAMPTON and the other was shackled to the starboard anchor chain. This task was completed by 1600 and towing commenced.

42. This arrangement was quite substantial and could have gone on indefinitely. Unfortunately, a second attack developed shortly thereafter, necessitating the cutting of the cable by NORTHAMPTON to prevent her from being struck by enemy aircraft torpedoes.

43. Immediately after the morning torpedo attack, the forward engine room was completely flooded and boiler room 9 was flooding slowly, prohibiting the use of one superheated boiler. Flash from the bomb hit at frame 80 had permanently damaged the forward main switchboard. The after generator room was intact and supplied power from the emergency diesel generator throughout the action and during the salvage period. Power for lighting and steering were thus available. About 20 minutes after the action, attempts were made to raise steam in boilers 1, 2, and 4 with the hope of putting No. 3 power unit into operation. Steam on these three boilers could be raised as high as 150 pounds, when spurts of water in the fuel oil lines caused the fires to die out. At about 1200 a portable electric lead from the after diesel generator was led to No. 4 fireroom in order to operate the electric fuel oil service pump and port-use electric blower. Suction was tried on various fuel tanks until an uncontaminated tank was located. Steam was then raised to 300 pounds on No. 4 boiler at about 1545. This saturated steam was routed aft through the auxiliary superheat line into the after generator room. This was done probably because of damage to the auxiliary saturated steam line in the forward engine room. The check valve in the cross connection between the superheat and saturated auxiliary steam lines was made inoperative. This allowed saturated steam to pass directly to the turbogenerators and also allowed steam to back through the saturated auxiliary line into the after engine room where it could be used to drive the turbines of No. 3 unit. Stops were closed on this line to prevent the steam from backing into the flooded forward engine room. About 1610 one of the generators was being warmed up and the switches lined up to start when the second attack developed. This resulted in another torpedo hit in way of the machinery spaces, and destroyed all hope of re-establishing power.


H. Probable Damage Caused by Aircraft Torpedo

44. The aircraft torpedo which hit at frame 115 on the starboard side was also a shallow-running torpedo. It hit just aft and above torpedo hit "E". Since the ship was listing 7° to starboard, the torpedo probably hit just above the armor belt, the top of which is in line with the fourth deck. Survivors on the third deck reported a sickly green "flash".

45. It is definitely known that the forward bulkhead of the after engine room was ruptured. Both feed water heaters in the after engine room were knocked over. The port side of the third deck was cracked open in way of the crew's mess room, C-301-1L. Apparently damage resulted to the after generator room however, it is doubtful that this space flooded except through damaged piping or leaky cable stuffing boxes. The damage enumerated above resulted in the immediate flooding of the after engine room and the fourth deck in way of the explosion. Although not reported, undoubtedly crew space C-409-L and refrigerating compartments C-408-1A to C-408-8A on the fourth deck were flooded. An electrical cable in D-301-1LM was severed and a fire was started which was quickly extinguished by Repair V personnel.

I. Probable Damage Caused by Bomb Hit, After Starboard Corner of Flight Deck and Near-Misses

46. Since HORNET was being abandoned at the time of the high level attack, the structural damage as a result of the near-misses and the bomb aft is unknown. These bombs were probably S.A.P. inasmuch as they detonated after traveling underwater and produced an effect similar to that of a mine explosion. If this assumption is correct, then the bomb hit on the after starboard corner of the flight deck must have passed through the flight deck, leaving a small hole, and detonated underwater with the other near-misses. The skin was probably dished in the general area of the explosion. Possibly the hull was ruptured, permitting flooding in some of the after compartments on the second platform or hold.

J. Probable Damage Caused by Bomb Hit, Late Afternoon Attack

47. After HORNET was abandoned, a further dive bombing attack resulted in a direct hit just forward of the bridge. The Commanding Officer, in reference (a), reported that a fire was started in the hangar deck which burned for about 15 minutes. This bomb was probably a G.P. bomb which exploded upon contact with the flight deck and set planes or other combustible materials in the general area below on fire.


48. The Commanding Officer, in reference (a), estimated that each enemy dive bomber in the morning attack was armed with one 500 1b. and two 100 1b. bombs. The dive bomber which crashed into the stack was also estimated to be armed with the same bombs. The dud recovered from this plane crash was about a 500 1b. bomb. These bombs were probably the Japanese 250 Kg. (550 lbs.) S.A.P. delayed-action fuzed bombs of the type recovered at Schofield Barracks and the 60 Kg. (141 lbs.) G.P. instantaneously fuzed bomb which has been used before against U.S. Naval vessels.* These estimates are further substantiated by the damage resulting from the bomb hits. The holes in the flight deck from bombs "A" and "C" were about 12 inches in diameter - the diameter of the bomb. The length of travel from point of impact and the fuse performance compare well with that observed on U.S.S. CALIFORNIA**, U.S.S. CURTISS*** and U.S.S. YORKTOWN**** (Coral Sea). The damage in the above three cases was concluded to have been caused by 250 Kg. S.A.P. bombs. The hole in the flight deck which was caused by bomb "B" compares closely to the damage suffered by CHESTER*. On HORNET a hole estimated to be 7 x 11 feet was blown in a deck composed of 3-1/2 inches of teak laid over 5 1b. medium steel plating. On CHESTER a 6-foot hole was blown in a deck composed of 2 inches of teak laid over 10 1b. plating. The damage in the latter case was concluded to have been caused by a 60 Kg. G.P. bomb with instantaneous fuze.

49. The bombs used by the enemy in the afternoon high-level bombing attack were probably at least 250 Kg. S.A.P. bombs inasmuch as reference (a) reports that the detonation occurred underwater. The cumulative effect of the detonation of the six near-misses was that of a mine explosion. It also appears doubtful that high level bombers would carry bombs of a smaller size than 250 Kg.

50. The last bomb hit, which came from an enemy dive bomber, probably was a light G.P. bomb inasmuch as a fire on the hangar or flight deck was seen by surviving personnel. This fire is reported to have lasted about 15 minutes. If an S.A.P. bomb had been used, it would probably have exploded deep in the interior and the fire would not have been so apparent.

51. The weight of the charge in the torpedoes used against HORNET cannot be definitely established inasmuch as the information concerning the structural damage caused is too conjectural

* U.S.S. CHESTER - BuShips War Damage Report No. 10
** U.S.S. CALIFORNIA - BuShips War Damage Report No. 21
*** U.S.S. CURTISS - BuShips War Damage Report No. 11
**** U.S.S. YORKTOWN - BuShips War Damage Report No. 23

to permit an accurate estimate. Information from various sources indicates that the Japanese have three types of aircraft torpedoes: type 91, with 337.5 pounds of hexa type 92, with 452 pounds of hexa and the "New Kure", with 661 pounds of hexa. Damage to holding bulkhead was unusually severe inasmuch as this is the first case reported of rupture of the holding bulkhead of a four bulkhead torpedo defense system by an aircraft torpedo. Therefore it may be possible that the "New Kure" was used.

52. It will be noted in paragraphs 20 and 25 that phosphorus incendiary pellets were found in the immediate vicinity of the two plane crashes. The Damage Control Officer reported that they came from incendiary bombs attached to the ends of the wings. Although not the first time this phenomenon has been reported*, it is unusual and is evidence of the determination of the Japanese to inflict the maximum possible damage.

53. Directives issued by the various commands have established a comprehensive program for the reduction of fire hazards aboard ship. Apparently this program had not been completed on HORNET. Upholstered furniture, excess clothing, excess material in squadron ready rooms, etc., contributed to the intensity of the fires started by the bomb hits and plane crashes. This action again sharply emphasizes the immediate necessity for removing or reducing all combustible materials to the absolute minimum.

E. Failure of Torpedo Defense System

54. It will be noted that the holding bulkhead in the forward engine room ruptured as a result of the detonation of torpedo "E". This is the first case reported of rupture of a holding bulkhead of a four bulkhead torpedo defense system, in the U.S. Navy. At the time of the design of this class of aircraft carrier, naval treaties imposed a limitation on size which forced some sacrifices in torpedo protection, as compared with battleships, in order to gain other characteristics desired by the Department. The transverse depth of the torpedo protection system in way of this hit was considerably less than is now considered necessary for protection against modern torpedoes. Exact evaluation of the protection afforded by any given system is only possible by means of full scale tests in which the weight of the charge is accurately known. In the absence of such tests, extrapolations from 1/2 scale or smaller model tests is necessary, with considerable doubt, in our present state of

* The transport GEORGE F. ELLIOTT was struck by an enemy suicide torpedo plane on 8 August 1942. Incendiaries were reported scattered over most of the ship starting intense fires which eventually resulted in the loss of the vessel.

knowledge, as to the scale factor. All of the information available to the Bureau, however, indicates that this system should have withstood a charge of about 500 pounds of T.N.T. The indication therefore is that the particular Jap torpedo used in this case carried a larger charge, or a more powerful explosive, or both.

55. As shown on plate IV, torpedo "E" is believed to have struck and detonated on the 4-inch special treatment steel side armor about two feet above the bottom of the plate. This conclusion is based on the location of the rupture in the holding bulkhead as reported by an eyewitness. If this location is correct, the armor belt apparently did not have any very great effect in reducing the damage from the explosion.

56. The Bureau has little Information on the resisting qualities of light armor when struck by a torpedo. The indications are that light armor will be broken off without offering very good resistance to torpedo explosions. This is substantiated by torpedo damage to the British cruiser H.M.S. NIGERIA. The armor plate in way of the torpedo explosion was blown into the ship and was later found lying on the second deck. The two adjacent plates were bent into the ship but remained fastened to the shell plating. It is to be noted, however, that on British construction the armor plates are not fastened together by either keys or welding.

57. On HORNET the armor plates in way of the machinery spaces are 9 feet by 24 feet and are keyed at the butts. Torpedo "E" struck near the end of a plate - about six feet from the after butt. The plate on which the torpedo struck and the one immediately aft were probably blown off or were deflected inboard offering little resistance to the explosion.

58. Heavy armor, such as that on battleships, may be quite effective in deflecting the effects of the explosion and preventing blast from entering the hull. This is substantiated by two of the torpedo hits on the armor belt of WEST VIRGINIA, 7 December 1941. These were isolated hits and the structural damage to the torpedo protection system was materially less than from hits below armor in similar locations on CALIFORNIA. It should be recognized, however, that armor of this thickness (about 13-1/2 inches) is very much heavier per square foot than the total weight per square foot of all the torpedo bulkheads.

F. Comments on Equipment

59. The Commanding Officer, in reference (a), furnished some notes and recommendations of which some are briefly discussed below.

(a) "The salvage and rescue work was seriously handicapped by absence of light. All aircraft carriers now in operation and all new construction are to be provided with "portable sealed beam lights". These lights are designed to produce beams which will penetrate smoke-filled compartments. About 40 to 60 are supplied to each ship. These lights are in addition to the JR-1S relay controlled hand lanterns already provided for emergency use.

(b) "Four or more diesel driven auxiliary fire pumps should be standard equipment on all carriers."

Diesel driven fire pumps are being installed in all carriers now in service. Two of these pumps are supplied - one is located forward and the other aft of the machinery spaces well below the waterline. CV9 (ESSEX) Class will have four of these pumps - two forward and two aft. CVL22 (PRINCETON) Class will have two electrically driven fire pumps instead of diesel driven pumps because of the diverse distribution of auxiliary electrical power on this class.

(c) "Diesel electric generators should be distributed throughout the ship in such places that some source of power would be always available."

This recommendation is under study by the Bureau. In the meantime, a casualty power system is being provided. This system provides portable leads from the main steam generators and from the auxiliary diesel generators to the particular machinery desired.

(d) "Although no difficulty was encountered with fires in the ship's system, it is recommended that future construction include an efficient means of draining gasoline quickly from aircraft spotted on the hangar deck."

Defueling connections are being fitted on the flight and hangar decks of all carriers in service. This defueling system consists of a small air driven pump with various flexible connections which are used to drain the tanks of the planes.

(e) "Install distant control reach rods from all steam root valves so that they may be operated from the third deck."

Hydraulically operated valves or valves operated by flexible shafts have been installed where considered necessary. The Bureau is eliminating the use of reach rods wherever possible. Action damage has often resulted in reach rods jamming when decks are deflected by bomb detonations, or other damage.

(f) "Install cross-connection fuel oil piping between each group of firerooms in order that firerooms 1, 4 or 7 can supply all other firerooms."

This recommendation now applies only to ENTERPRISE. This will be done during first availability.

(g) "Install additional hand fuel oil pumps in firerooms."

Small hand fuel oil pumps are authorized on all ships.

60. The Commanding Officer, in reference (a), reported that the rudder was jammed at 30° left. Since the point of detonation of torpedo "F" was 84 feet from the rudder, it is more probable that the rudder was stopped as a result of the severing of the power supply cables to the steering gear motors. This is apparently confirmed by the Engineering Officer, in reference (a), as he reported that the emergency diesel generator supplied power to the steering gear motors while under tow. Since steering failed temporarily on HORNET, further emergency rudder control gear will be installed in ENTERPRISE during early availability. The emergency steering arrangement being provided consists of a small electrical submersible pump unit which hydraulically actuates the rams. This unit provides sufficient

power to control the rudder at slow speeds. The submersible pump feature permits operation of this unit in the event that the steering gear compartment is flooded. In the event of failure of all electrical power, ENTERPRISE will have installed a "manually-operated" rudder positioning gear. This gear comprises two sets of tackle installed in the steering gear room. These control the rudder through a removable tiller fastened to the top of the rudder stock. This gear may be used in an emergency to position the rudder at any angle between 10° right and 10° left. The rudder can then be locked into position by jacks and blocks to permit towing or steering by the propellers.

G. Comparison of HORNET and YORKTOWN* Flooding

61. Although HORNET and YORKTOWN were constructed at different times, HORNET was essentially a duplicate of YORKTOWN. In the actions which resulted in the loss of these ships, they were both initially struck by two Japanese aircraft torpedoes. It will be noted, however, that the list resulting from these two hits was considerably different on the two ships. YORKTOWN listed initially to 17° and then to 24° through slow flooding, whereas HORNET listed initially 10-1/2° and remained there momentarily until counterflooding reduced the list to 7°. Although YORKTOWN took aboard more water, the difference in quantity was negligible and does not account for the difference In list assumed by the two vessels.

62. The most important reason for the difference is the fact that YORKTOWN was struck by two torpedoes in the most vulnerable section of the ship - the firerooms. In this section the torpedo defense system consists of only three bulkheads. The immediate flooding of the generator room and the outboard firerooms produced about 13° of list. The flooding of the voids in the torpedo protection system and the four crew's spaces above the hits produced the remainder of the 17° initial list. HORNET, on the other hand, was struck in way of the forward engine room -a more adequately protected section of the ship. The flooding of this space resulted in no list because no longitudinal bulkheads were present. The flooding of No. 9 fireroom and torpedo protection spaces produced about 5-1/2° of list. The other hit aft struck in a section minutely subdivided which was near the centerline. These spaces in themselves probably produced about 5° of list.

63. The second reason for the difference in list was the large amount of slow flooding on YORKTOWN. Most of the port side of the third deck was flooded due to blast damage to some of the watertight doors and incomplete closure of additional doors. This off-center flooding extended over a large area and was the major contributing factor In increasing list beyond the initial 17°. The only slow flooding reported on HORNET occurred in spaces structurally damaged by torpedoes and In the small magazines aft.

* BuShips War Damage Report No. 25.

64. The improvement in damage control measures as the war progresses is notable. Although HORNET and YORKTOWN received about the same amount of damage, damage control and salvage measures were put into effect immediately on HORNET. The fires, which were more extensive than those on YORKTOWN, were brought under control in one hour and completely extinguished in two hours. Although power was lost on both ships, HORNET immediately flooded voids through the drain system reducing the list about 3°. Although actual reduction in list was minor in this case the psychological benefit to the crew must have been immediate in that it reduced anxiety that the ship might capsize. The last but most important improvement was in the immediate attempt to salvage the vessel. After the action, NORTHAMPTON made preparations to take HORNET in tow. The second attempt was successful, and at the time of the afternoon torpedo attack HORNET was under tow at three knots. In addition to the attempt to tow HORNET from the scene of action, part of the propulsive machinery was almost ready for operation. Success was in sight when the afternoon torpedo attack destroyed all such possibility.

65. HORNET did, in spite of admitted deficiencies in machinery arrangement, survive extreme punishment to the hull. The fact that damage from three torpedo hits, four bombs and two plane crashes did not result in sinking Is impressive. Despite such punishment, the hull was still in condition to allow towing from the scene of action if the tactical situation had permitted. In an attempt to sink HORNET, destroyers fired 369 rounds of 5" ammunition into the hull and a number of torpedoes. This still did not result in immediate sinking and HORNET was left "blazing furiously and in a slowly sinking condition". HORNET'S resistance to damage, as well as YORKTOWN's, exceeded reasonable expectations.

Photo 1: U.S.S. HORNET during morning attack. Note smoke on flight deck from the two bomb hits aft. Note "suicide" dive bomber about to crash into leading edge of stack.

Photo 2: U.S.S. HORNET during morning attack. "Suicide" dive bomber, in photo No. 1, has just crashed into the leading edge of the stack. Note smoke coming from hangar deck due to bomb hits aft.

Photo 15: Port side view of damage to the stack as a result of enemy dive bomber crash

Photo 4: Close-up view, port side, of damage to stack immediately after crash of enemy dive bomber. Note damage to stack walkway. Note destruction of signal bridge forward of stack.

Photo 5: Close-up view of flight deck in way of stack showing wreckage of enemy dive bomber.

26 October 1942 - History

Hornet on fire

The Japanese were steadily building up their forces for an all out assault on the American marines on Guadalcanal. The American front lines were at Lunga Point. The Marines were commanded by General Vandegrift. To coincide with the ground assault the Japanese sent a large naval task force to attack Henderson Field and stop the American from giving naval support to their troops. The American navy knew that the Japanese were coming and sent the Hornet and Enterprise the only operational carriers in the Pacific.

The Japanese launched there first attack on American lines on October 23rd. For the next three days they launched repeated assaults against the American lines, but everyone of them were repulsed. The Americans lost 86 soldiers killed compared to nearly 3,000 panes killed.

At the same time a naval battle was taking place. On the morning of October 26th both the Japanese and American fleets discovered each others locations. Both carriers groups raced to launch their aircraft. The Japanese were the first to launch their aircraft. The Americans a few minutes later. In the meantime two patrolling American aircraft arrived over the Japanese carrier Zuiho and landed two bombs on the the flight deck, making the ship unable to land aircraft.

The main American strike force attacked the carrier Shokaku causing serious damage. They also seriously damaged the Japanese heavy cruiser Shokaku.

The Japanese on the other hand struck the Hornet, and took her out of the battle. As she ws being towed from the battle she was struck one more time and had to be abandoned. The Enterprise was also badly damaged from the Japanese attack. While the Japanese attack was successful in putting both US carriers out of action, the cost was overwhelming nearly all the the attacking Japanese planes were shot down. These were pilots that the Japanese would find impossible to replace. When the battle ended the US had only one carrier in the Pacific. However, back in the United States shipyards were about to launch dozens of new carriers large and small.

Today in World War II History—Oct. 26, 1942

75 Years Ago—Oct. 26, 1942: At El Alamein, British take Kidney Ridge.

Center and Eastern Task Forces depart Britain for Torch landings in Oran and Algiers, Algeria.

In Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, Japanese carrier aircraft damage carrier USS Hornet (sinks the next day) and carrier USS Enterprise.

First American Red Cross Clubmobiles begin service to US troops in Britain.

“Sighted Sinkers—Sank Same” American Red Cross clubmobile serves coffee and donuts to US troops in Britain, WWII (American Air Museum in Britain)

HistoryPorn | Image | "A British soldier gives a V gesture to German prisoners captured at El Alamein, 26 October 1942. [960x955]"

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Buildup to World War II: January 1931-August 1939

Nazi Germany's World War II offensive continued with a German air force bombing raid that destroyed the Basque city of Guernica. The World War II timeline below details this event as well as other important events that took place from November 1, 1936, to July 7, 1937.

World War II Timeline: November 1, 1936-July 7, 1937

November 1, 1936: Speaking to a crowd in Milan, Benito Mussolini coins the name "Axis" for Italy and its allies when he states that the "line between Rome and Berlin is not a partition but rather an axis around which all European states. can also collaborate."

November 18, 1936: General Franco's new Spanish government gains formal recognition from Italy and Nazi Germany.

November 25, 1936: The Anti-Comintern Pact is signed by Nazi Germany and Japan against the International Comintern but not against the Soviet Union.

December 1936: Chinese Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek is kidnapped by General Chang Hsueh-liang in order to force Chiang Kai-shek to devote more time and energy to confronting the Japanese, and not the Chinese Communists.

December 11, 1936: George VI is crowned king of England following the abdication of his brother, Edward VIII, who married Wallis Simpson, an American divorcée.

April 27, 1937: In support of General Franco, the German air force in Spain carries out a bombing raid that destroys the Basque city of Guernica.

May 28, 1937: Neville Chamberlain becomes Britain's prime minister.

June 25, 1937: Neville Chamberlain, in his first speech as Britain's prime minister, inexplicably congratulates Nazi Germany for its supposed military restraint.

July 7, 1937: Japanese troops meet resistance in China when they demand access to the town of Wanping, near Peiping. A skirmish ensues at the Marco Polo Bridge on the edge of town, providing the spark that will ignite the Second Sino-Japanese War.

World War II Headlines

Below are more highlights and images that outline the events of World War II and show the details of Chinese propaganda, as well as Italy's increasing war offensive in the mid-1930s.

Chinese propaganda posters communicate to a mostly illiterate nation: For centuries, Chinese rulers expressed their beliefs to their peasant population through propaganda posters. With pictures posted on walls, billboards, and other surfaces, the government was able to communicate to a population that was mostly illiterate. To the vast majority of the 500 million Chinese, there was little concern about the ultimate result of the war. Their daily struggle for survival would continue no matter who was running the country.

Benito Mussolini's Italian forces attack and prevail over Abyssinia: On October 3, 1935, in his fervor for empire, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini attacked the African nation of Abyssinia (present-day Ethiopia), which had successfully resisted Italian colonialism in 1889. Italian planes strafed rifle-bearing tribesmen with machine-gun fire and bombed mud-hut villages. Benito Mussolini's son proudly commented that the victims blew up like "a budding rose unfolding." The air attack was followed by Italian artillery, infantry, and the use of mustard gas. After a little more than seven months of fighting, Benito Mussolini's forces prevailed.

Adolf Hitler orders the German army to occupy the Rhineland: In March 1936, Adolf Hitler ordered the army to occupy the demilitarized Rhineland, located in the west of Nazi Germany. There, the troops received an enthusiastic reception from the population. In practice, this was a risk by Adolf Hitler, as Nazi Germany was still ill-prepared for war. Britain and France hardly objected to this provocative military action, although France did move 13 divisions to the border area. This remarkable success enhanced Adolf Hitler's wider standing in Nazi Germany. Construction of Nazi Germany's West Wall defenses now could be initiated.

John Heartfield's biting criticism of the Nazis: German artist John Heartfield used politically charged images in works of political criticism. During WWI, he changed his name from Helmut Herzfeld to protest Germans' anti-British sentiment. After the Nazis rose to power, Heartfield exiled himself to Czechoslovakia and later to England. He put swastikas and other Nazi symbols to ironic use in his photomontages, such as Hurrah, die Butter ist alle! (Hurrah, the Butter Is All Gone!). Quoting ­Hermann Göring's statement about iron making people strong (and butter only making them fat), Heartfield showed a family consuming pieces of metal.

Adolf Hitler's 1936 Summer Olympic Games: In May 1931, the International Olympic Committee awarded the 1936 Summer Olympics to Berlin. The Nazis schemed to exploit the Olympics by portraying Nazi Germany as a peaceful member of the international community. Prior to the Summer Games, Adolf Hitler ordered the removal of vicious anti-Jewish signs throughout Berlin, such as "Jews are not wanted in this place." As a token, he allowed one German Jewish athlete to participate. Through the veneer, many saw the ugliness of Nazi racism. One German official groused that the Americans were letting "non-humans, like [sprinter Jesse] Owens and other Negro athletes," compete.

The Japanese continued their World War II offensive in China, while Adolf Hitler attained more power in Nazi Germany. Continue to the next page for a detailed timeline on the important World War II events that occurred from July 29, 1937, to August 1938.

May 26th, 1942 is a Tuesday. It is the 146th day of the year, and in the 22nd week of the year (assuming each week starts on a Monday), or the 2nd quarter of the year. There are 31 days in this month. 1942 is not a leap year, so there are 365 days in this year. The short form for this date used in the United States is 5/26/1942, and almost everywhere else in the world it's 26/5/1942.

This site provides an online date calculator to help you find the difference in the number of days between any two calendar dates. Simply enter the start and end date to calculate the duration of any event. You can also use this tool to determine how many days have passed since your birthday, or measure the amount of time until your baby's due date. The calculations use the Gregorian calendar, which was created in 1582 and later adopted in 1752 by Britain and the eastern part of what is now the United States. For best results, use dates after 1752 or verify any data if you are doing genealogy research. Historical calendars have many variations, including the ancient Roman calendar and the Julian calendar. Leap years are used to match the calendar year with the astronomical year. If you're trying to figure out the date that occurs in X days from today, switch to the Days From Now calculator instead.

October 23rd, 1987 is a Friday. It is the 296th day of the year, and in the 43rd week of the year (assuming each week starts on a Monday), or the 4th quarter of the year. There are 31 days in this month. 1987 is not a leap year, so there are 365 days in this year. The short form for this date used in the United States is 10/23/1987, and almost everywhere else in the world it's 23/10/1987.

This site provides an online date calculator to help you find the difference in the number of days between any two calendar dates. Simply enter the start and end date to calculate the duration of any event. You can also use this tool to determine how many days have passed since your birthday, or measure the amount of time until your baby's due date. The calculations use the Gregorian calendar, which was created in 1582 and later adopted in 1752 by Britain and the eastern part of what is now the United States. For best results, use dates after 1752 or verify any data if you are doing genealogy research. Historical calendars have many variations, including the ancient Roman calendar and the Julian calendar. Leap years are used to match the calendar year with the astronomical year. If you're trying to figure out the date that occurs in X days from today, switch to the Days From Now calculator instead.


In 1938, the British government established a purchasing commission in the United States, headed by Sir Henry Self. [13] [14] Self was given overall responsibility for RAF production, research, and development, and also served with Sir Wilfrid Freeman, the Air Member for Development and Production. Self also sat on the British Air Council Sub-committee on Supply (or "Supply Committee") and one of his tasks was to organize the manufacturing and supply of American fighter aircraft for the RAF. At the time, the choice was very limited, as no U.S. aircraft then in production or flying met European standards, with only the Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk coming close. The Curtiss-Wright plant was running at capacity, so P-40s were in short supply. [15]

North American Aviation (NAA) was already supplying its T-6 Texan (known in British service as the "Harvard") trainer to the RAF, but was otherwise underused. NAA President "Dutch" Kindelberger approached Self to sell a new medium bomber, the North American B-25 Mitchell. Instead, Self asked if NAA could manufacture P-40s under license from Curtiss. Kindelberger said NAA could have a better aircraft with the same Allison V-1710 engine in the air sooner than establishing a production line for the P-40.

John Attwood of North American spent much time from January to April 1940 at the British Purchasing Commission's offices in New York discussing the British specifications of the proposed aircraft with British engineers. The discussions consisted of free-hand conceptual drawings of an aircraft with the British officials. Sir Henry Self was concerned that North American had not ever designed a fighter, insisting they obtain the drawings and study the Curtiss XP-46 experimental aircraft and the wind tunnel test results for the P-40, before presenting them with detailed design drawings based on the agreed concept. North American purchased the drawings and data from Curtiss for £56,000, confirming the purchase with the Purchasing Commission. The Purchasing Commission approved the resulting detailed design drawings, signing the commencement of the Mustang project on 4 May 1940, firmly ordering 320 on 29 May 1940. Prior to this, North American only had a draft letter for an order of 320 aircraft. Curtiss engineers accused North American of plagiarism. [16]

The British Purchasing Commission stipulated armament of four .303 in (7.7 mm) machine guns (as used on the Tomahawk), a unit cost of no more than $40,000, and delivery of the first production aircraft by January 1941. [17] In March 1940, 320 aircraft were ordered by Freeman, who had become the executive head of the Ministry of Aircraft Production (MAP) and the contract was promulgated on 24 April. [18]

The NA-73X, which was designed by a team led by lead engineer Edgar Schmued, followed the best conventional practice of the era, designed for ease of mass manufacturing. [16] The design included several new features. [nb 2] One was a wing designed using laminar flow airfoils, which were developed co-operatively by North American Aviation and the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). These airfoils generated low drag at high speeds. [19] During the development of the NA-73X, a wind tunnel test of two wings, one using NACA five-digit airfoils and the other using the new NAA/NACA 45–100 airfoils, was performed in the University of Washington Kirsten Wind Tunnel. The results of this test showed the superiority of the wing designed with the NAA/NACA 45–100 airfoils. [20] [nb 3]

The other feature was a new cooling arrangement positioned aft (single ducted water and oil radiators assembly) that reduced the fuselage drag and effects on the wing. Later, [22] after much development, they discovered that the cooling assembly could take advantage of the Meredith effect: in which heated air exited the radiator with a slight amount of jet thrust. Because NAA lacked a suitable wind tunnel to test this feature, it used the GALCIT 3.0 m (10 ft) wind tunnel at the California Institute of Technology. This led to some controversy over whether the Mustang's cooling system aerodynamics were developed by NAA's engineer Edgar Schmued or by Curtiss, as NAA had purchased the complete set of P-40 and XP-46 wind tunnel data and flight test reports. [23] [24] The NA-73X was also one of the first aircraft to have a fuselage lofted mathematically using conic sections this resulted in smooth, low-drag surfaces. [25] To aid production, the airframe was divided into five main sections—forward, center, rear fuselage, and two wing halves—all of which were fitted with wiring and piping before being joined. [25]

The prototype NA-73X was rolled out in September 1940, just 102 days after the order had been placed it first flew on 26 October 1940, 149 days into the contract, an uncommonly short development period, even during the war. [26] With test pilot Vance Breese at the controls, [27] the prototype handled well and accommodated an impressive fuel load. The aircraft's three-section, semi-monocoque fuselage was constructed entirely of aluminum to save weight. It was armed with four .30 caliber (7.62 mm) AN/M2 Browning machine guns in the wings and two .50 caliber (12.7 mm) AN/M2 Browning machine guns mounted under the engine and firing through the propeller arc using gun-synchronizing gear. [nb 4]

While the USAAC could block any sales it considered detrimental to the interests of the US, the NA-73 was considered to be a special case because it had been designed at the behest of the British. In September 1940, a further 300 NA-73s were ordered by the MAP. [17] To ensure uninterrupted delivery, Colonel Oliver P. Echols arranged with the Anglo-French Purchasing Commission to deliver the aircraft and NAA gave two examples (41-038 and 41-039) to the USAAC for evaluation. [28] [nb 5]

The Allison engine in the Mustang I had a single-stage supercharger that caused power to drop off rapidly above 15,000 feet (4,600 m). This made it unsuitable for use at the altitudes where combat was taking place in Europe. Allison’s attempts at developing a high-altitude engine were underfunded, but produced the V-1710-45, which featured a variable-speed auxiliary supercharger, and developed 1,150 horsepower (860 kW) at 22,400 feet (6,800 m). In November 1941, NAA studied the possibility of using it, but fitting its excessive length in the Mustang would require extensive airframe modifications and cause long production delays. [30] [31] In May 1942, following positive reports from the RAF on the Mustang I's performance below 15,000 ft, Ronald Harker, a test pilot for Rolls-Royce, suggested fitting a Merlin 61, as fitted to the Spitfire Mk IX. [30] The Merlin 61 had a two-speed, two-stage, intercooled supercharger, designed by Stanley Hooker of Rolls-Royce. [32] Both the Merlin 61 and V-1710-39 were capable of about 1,570 horsepower (1,170 kW) war emergency power at relatively low altitude, but the Merlin developed 1,390 horsepower (1,040 kW) at 23,500 feet (7,200 m) versus the Allison's 1,150 horsepower (860 kW) at 11,800 feet (3,600 m), [33] [34] [31] delivering an increase in top speed from 390 mph (340 kn 630 km/h) at

15,000 feet (4,600 m) to an estimated 440 mph (380 kn 710 km/h) at 28,100 feet (8,600 m). Initial flights of what was known to Rolls-Royce as the Mustang Mk X were completed at Rolls-Royce's airfield at Hucknall in October 1942. [30]

At the same time, the possibility of combining the P-51 airframe with the US license-built Packard version of the Merlin engine was being explored on the other side of the Atlantic. In July 1942, a contract was let for two prototypes, briefly designated XP-78, but soon to become the XP-51B. [35] Based on the Packard V-1650-3 duplicating the Merlin 61's performance, NAA estimated for the XP-78 a top speed of 445 mph (387 kn 716 km/h) at 28,000 feet (8,500 m), and a service ceiling of 42,000 feet (13,000 m). [30] The first flight of the XP-51B took place in November 1942, but the USAAF was so interested in the possibility that an initial contract for 400 aircraft was placed three months beforehand in August. [36] The conversion led to production of the P-51B beginning at North American's Inglewood, California, plant in June 1943, [37] and P-51s started to become available to the 8th and 9th Air Forces in the winter of 1943–1944. Conversion to the two-stage supercharged Merlin 61, over 350 lb (160 kg) heavier than the single-stage Allison, driving a four-bladed Hamilton Standard propeller, required moving the wing slightly forward to correct the aircraft's center of gravity. After the USAAF, in July 1943, directed fighter aircraft manufacturers to maximize internal fuel capacity, NAA calculated the P-51B's center of gravity to be forward enough to include an additional 85 US gal (320 l 71 imp gal) fuel tank in the fuselage behind the pilot, greatly increasing the aircraft's range over that of the earlier P-51A. NAA incorporated the tank in the production of the P-51B-10, and supplied kits to retrofit it to all existing P-51Bs. [30]

United Kingdom operational service Edit

The Mustang was initially developed for the RAF, which was its first user. As the first Mustangs were built to British requirements, these aircraft used factory numbers and were not P-51s the order comprised 320 NA-73s, followed by 300 NA-83s, all of which were designated North American Mustang Mark I by the RAF. [38] The first RAF Mustangs supplied under Lend-Lease were 93 P-51s, designated Mk Ia, followed by 50 P-51As used as Mustang Mk IIs. [39] Aircraft supplied to Britain under Lend-Lease were required for accounting purposes to be on the USAAC's books before they could be supplied to Britain. However, the British Aircraft Purchasing Commission signed its first contract for the North American NA-73 on 24 April 1940, before Lend-Lease was in effect. Thus, the initial order for the P-51 Mustang (as it was later known) was placed by the British under the "Cash and Carry" program, as required by the US Neutrality Acts of the 1930s. [40]

After the arrival of the initial aircraft in the UK in October 1941, the first Mustang Mk Is entered service in January 1942, the first unit being 26 Squadron RAF. [41] Due to poor high-altitude performance, the Mustangs were used by Army Co-operation Command, rather than Fighter Command, and were used for tactical reconnaissance and ground-attack duties. On 10 May 1942, Mustangs first flew over France, near Berck-sur-Mer. [42] On 27 July 1942, 16 RAF Mustangs undertook their first long-range reconnaissance mission over Germany. During the amphibious Dieppe Raid on the French coast (19 August 1942), four British and Canadian Mustang squadrons, including 26 Squadron, saw action covering the assault on the ground. By 1943–1944, British Mustangs were used extensively to seek out V-1 flying bomb sites. The last RAF Mustang Mk I and Mustang Mk II aircraft were struck off charge in 1945.

Army Co-operation Command used the Mustang’s superior speed and long range to conduct low-altitude “Rhubarb” raids over continental Europe, sometimes penetrating German airspace. The V-1710 engine ran smoothly at 1,100 rpm, versus 1,600 for the Merlin, enabling long flights over water at 50 ft (15 m) altitude before approaching the enemy coastline. Over land, these flights followed a zig-zag course, turning every six minutes to foil enemy attempts at plotting an interception. During the first 18 months of Rhubarb raids, RAF Mustang Mk.Is and Mk.Ias destroyed or heavily damaged 200 locomotives, over 200 canal barges, and an unknown number of enemy aircraft parked on the ground, for a loss of eight Mustangs. At sea level, the Mustangs were able to outrun all enemy aircraft encountered. [43] The RAF gained a significant performance enhancement at low altitude by removing or resetting the engine’s manifold pressure regulator to allow over-boosting, raising output as high as 1,780 horsepower at 70" Hg. [43] [33] In December 1942, Allison approved only 1,570 horsepower at 60" Hg manifold pressure for the V-1710-39. [33]

The RAF also operated 308 P-51Bs and 636 P-51Cs, [44] which were known in RAF service as Mustang Mk IIIs the first units converted to the type in late 1943 and early 1944. Mustang Mk III units were operational until the end of World War II, though many units had already converted to the Mustang Mk IV (P-51D) and Mk IVa (P-51K) (828 in total, comprising 282 Mk IV and 600 Mk IVa). [45] As all except the earliest aircraft were obtained under Lend-Lease, all Mustang aircraft still on RAF charge at the end of the war were either returned to the USAAF "on paper" or retained by the RAF for scrapping. The last RAF Mustangs were retired from service in 1947. [46]

U.S. operational service Edit

Prewar theory Edit

Prewar doctrine was based on the idea "the bomber will always get through". [47] Despite RAF and Luftwaffe experience with daylight bombing, the USAAF still incorrectly believed in 1942 that tightly packed formations of bombers would have so much firepower that they could fend off fighters on their own. [47] Fighter escort was a low priority, but when the concept was discussed in 1941, the Lockheed P-38 Lightning was considered to be most appropriate as it had the speed and range. Another school of thought favored a heavily up-armed "gunship" conversion of a strategic bomber. [48] A single-engined, high-speed fighter with the range of a bomber was thought to be an engineering impossibility. [49]

Eighth Air Force bomber operations 1942–1943 Edit

The 8th Air Force started operations from Britain in August 1942. At first, because of the limited scale of operations, no conclusive evidence showed American doctrine was failing. In the 26 operations flown to the end of 1942, the loss rate had been under 2%. [50]

In January 1943, at the Casablanca Conference, the Allies formulated the Combined Bomber Offensive (CBO) plan for "round-the-clock" bombing – USAAF daytime operations complementing the RAF nighttime raids on industrial centers. In June 1943, the Combined Chiefs of Staff issued the Pointblank Directive to destroy the Luftwaffe's capacity before the planned invasion of Europe, putting the CBO into full implementation. German daytime fighter efforts were, at that time, focused on the Eastern Front and several other distant locations. Initial efforts by the 8th met limited and unorganized resistance, but with every mission, the Luftwaffe moved more aircraft to the west and quickly improved their battle direction. In fall 1943, the 8th Air Force's heavy bombers conducted a series of deep-penetration raids into Germany, beyond the range of escort fighters. The Schweinfurt–Regensburg mission in August lost 60 B-17s of a force of 376, the 14 October attack lost 77 of a force of 291—26% of the attacking force.

For the US, the very concept of self-defending bombers was called into question, but instead of abandoning daylight raids and turning to night bombing, as the RAF suggested, they chose other paths at first, bombers converted to gunships (the Boeing YB-40) was believed to be able to escort the bomber formations, but when the concept proved to be unsuccessful, thoughts then turned to the Lockheed P-38 Lightning. [51] In early 1943, the USAAF also decided that the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt and P-51B be considered for the role of a smaller escort fighter, and in July, a report stated that the P-51B was "the most promising plane" with an endurance of 4 hours 45 minutes with the standard internal fuel of 184 gallons plus 150 gallons carried externally. [52] In August, a P-51B was fitted with an extra internal 85-gallon tank but problems with longitudinal stability occurred so some compromises in performance with the tank full were made. Since the fuel from the fuselage tank would be used during the initial stages of a mission, the fuel tank would be fitted in all Mustangs destined for VIII Fighter Command. [53]

P-51 introduction Edit

The P-51 Mustang was a solution to the need for an effective bomber escort. It used a common, reliable engine and had internal space for a larger-than-average fuel load. With external fuel tanks, it could accompany the bombers from England to Germany and back. [54]

By the time the Pointblank offensive resumed in early 1944, matters had changed. Bomber escort defenses were initially layered, using the shorter-range P-38s and P-47s to escort the bombers during the initial stages of the raid before handing over to the P-51s when they were forced to turn for home. This provided continuous coverage during the raid. The Mustang was so clearly superior to earlier US designs that the 8th Air Force began to steadily switch its fighter groups to the Mustang, first swapping arriving P-47 groups to the 9th Air Force in exchange for those that were using P-51s, then gradually converting its Thunderbolt and Lightning groups. By the end of 1944, 14 of its 15 groups flew the Mustang. [55]

The Luftwaffe's twin-engined Messerschmitt Bf 110 heavy fighters brought up to deal with the bombers proved to be easy prey for the Mustangs, and had to be quickly withdrawn from combat. The Focke-Wulf Fw 190A, already suffering from poor high-altitude performance, was outperformed by the Mustang at the B-17's altitude, and when laden with heavy bomber-hunting weapons as a replacement for the more vulnerable twin-engined Zerstörer heavy fighters, it suffered heavy losses. The Messerschmitt Bf 109 had comparable performance at high altitudes, but its lightweight airframe was even more greatly affected by increases in armament. The Mustang's much lighter armament, tuned for antifighter combat, allowed it to overcome these single-engined opponents.

Fighting the Luftwaffe Edit

At the start of 1944, Major General James Doolittle, the new commander of the 8th Air Force, ordered many fighter pilots to stop flying in formation with the bombers and instead attack the Luftwaffe wherever it could be found. The aim was to achieve air supremacy. Mustang groups were sent far ahead of the bombers in a "fighter sweep" to intercept attacking German fighters.

The Luftwaffe answered with the Gefechtsverband ("battle formation"). This consisted of a Sturmgruppe of heavily armed and armored Fw 190 As escorted by two Begleitgruppen of Messerschmitt Bf 109s, whose task was to keep the Mustangs away from the Fw 190 as they attacked the bombers. This strategy proved to be problematic, as the large German formation took a long time to assemble and was difficult to maneuver. It was often intercepted by the P-51 "fighter sweeps" before it could attack the bombers. However, German attacks against bombers could be effective when they did occur the bomber-destroyer Fw 190As swept in from astern and often pressed their attacks to within 90 m (100 yd). [56]

While not always able to avoid contact with the escorts, the threat of mass attacks and later the "company front" (eight abreast) assaults by armored Sturmgruppe Fw 190As brought an urgency to attacking the Luftwaffe wherever it could be found, either in the air or on the ground. Beginning in late February 1944, 8th Air Force fighter units began systematic strafing attacks on German airfields with increasing frequency and intensity throughout the spring, with the objective of gaining air supremacy over the Normandy battlefield. In general, these were conducted by units returning from escort missions but, beginning in March, many groups also were assigned airfield attacks instead of bomber support. The P-51, particularly with the advent of the K-14 Gyro gunsight and the development of "Clobber Colleges" [57] for the training of fighter pilots in fall 1944, was a decisive element in Allied countermeasures against the Jagdverbände.

The numerical superiority of the USAAF fighters, superb flying characteristics of the P-51, and pilot proficiency helped cripple the Luftwaffe's fighter force. As a result, the fighter threat to the US, and later British, bombers was greatly diminished by July 1944. The RAF, long proponents of night bombing for protection, were able to reopen daylight bombing in 1944 as a result of the crippling of the Luftwaffe fighter arm. Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, commander of the German Luftwaffe during the war, was quoted as saying, "When I saw Mustangs over Berlin, I knew the jig was up." [58] [59] [54]

Beyond Pointblank Edit

On 15 April 1944, VIII Fighter Command began "Operation Jackpot", attacks on Luftwaffe fighter airfields. As the efficacy of these missions increased, the number of fighters at the German airbases fell to the point where they were no longer considered worthwhile targets. On 21 May, targets were expanded to include railways, locomotives, and other rolling stock used by the Germans to transport materiel and troops, in missions dubbed "Chattanooga". [60] The P-51 excelled at this mission, although losses were much higher on strafing missions than in air-to-air combat, partially because the Mustang's liquid-cooled engine (particularly its liquid coolant system) was vulnerable to small-arms fire, unlike the air-cooled R-2800 radials of its Republic P-47 Thunderbolt stablemates based in England, regularly tasked with ground-strafing missions.

Given the overwhelming Allied air superiority, the Luftwaffe put its effort into the development of aircraft of such high performance that they could operate with impunity, but which also made bomber attack much more difficult, merely from the flight velocities they achieved. Foremost among these were the Messerschmitt Me 163B point-defense rocket interceptors, which started their operations with JG 400 near the end of July 1944, and the longer-endurance Messerschmitt Me 262A jet fighter, first flying with the Gruppe-strength Kommando Nowotny unit by the end of September 1944. In action, the Me 163 proved to be more dangerous to the Luftwaffe than to the Allies and was never a serious threat. The Me 262A was a serious threat, but attacks on their airfields neutralized them. The pioneering Junkers Jumo 004 axial-flow jet engines of the Me 262As needed careful nursing by their pilots, and these aircraft were particularly vulnerable during takeoff and landing. [61] Lt. Chuck Yeager of the 357th Fighter Group was one of the first American pilots to shoot down an Me 262, which he caught during its landing approach. On 7 October 1944, Lt. Urban L. Drew of the 361st Fighter Group shot down two Me 262s that were taking off, while on the same day Lt. Col. Hubert Zemke, who had transferred to the Mustang-equipped 479th Fighter Group, shot down what he thought was a Bf 109, only to have his gun camera film reveal that it may have been an Me 262. [62] On 25 February 1945, Mustangs of the 55th Fighter Group surprised an entire Staffel of Me 262As at takeoff and destroyed six jets. [63]

The Mustang also proved useful against the V-1s launched toward London. P-51B/Cs using 150-octane fuel were fast enough to catch the V-1 and operated in concert with shorter-range aircraft such as advanced marks of the Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Tempest.

By 8 May 1945, [64] the 8th, 9th, and 15th Air Force's P-51 groups [nb 6] claimed some 4,950 aircraft shot down (about half of all USAAF claims in the European theater, the most claimed by any Allied fighter in air-to-air combat) [64] and 4,131 destroyed on the ground. Losses were about 2,520 aircraft. [65] The 8th Air Force's 4th Fighter Group was the top-scoring fighter group in Europe, with 1,016 enemy aircraft claimed destroyed. This included 550 claimed in aerial combat and 466 on the ground. [66]

In air combat, the top-scoring P-51 units (both of which exclusively flew Mustangs) were the 357th Fighter Group of the 8th Air Force with 565 air-to-air combat victories and the 9th Air Force's 354th Fighter Group with 664, which made it one of the top-scoring fighter groups. The top Mustang ace was the USAAF's George Preddy, whose final tally stood at 26.83 victories (a number that includes shared one half- and one third victory credits), 23 of which were scored with the P-51. Preddy was shot down and killed by friendly fire on Christmas Day 1944 during the Battle of the Bulge. [64]

In China and the Pacific Theater Edit

In early 1945, P-51C, D, and K variants also joined the Chinese Nationalist Air Force. These Mustangs were provided to the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Fighter Groups and used to attack Japanese targets in occupied areas of China. The P-51 became the most capable fighter in China, while the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force used the Nakajima Ki-84 Hayate against it.

The P-51 was a relative latecomer to the Pacific Theater, due largely to the need for the aircraft in Europe, although the P-38's twin-engined design was considered a safety advantage for long, over-water flights. The first P-51s were deployed in the Far East later in 1944, operating in close-support and escort missions, as well as tactical photo-reconnaissance. As the war in Europe wound down, the P-51 became more common. With the capture of Iwo Jima, USAAF P-51 Mustang fighters of the VII Fighter Command were stationed on that island starting in March 1945, being initially tasked with escorting Boeing B-29 Superfortress missions against the Japanese homeland.

The command's last major raid of May was a daylight incendiary attack on Yokohama on 29 May conducted by 517 B-29s escorted by 101 P-51s. This force was intercepted by 150 A6M Zero fighters, sparking an intense air battle in which five B-29s were shot down and another 175 damaged. In return, the P-51 pilots claimed 26 "kills" and 23 "probables" for the loss of three fighters. The 454 B-29s that reached Yokohama struck the city's main business district and destroyed 6.9 square miles (18 km 2 ) of buildings over 1000 Japanese were killed. [67] [68] Overall, the attacks in May destroyed 94 square miles (240 km 2 ) of buildings, which was equivalent to one-seventh of Japan's total urban area. The Minister of Home Affairs, Iwao Yamazaki, concluded after these raids that Japan's civil defense arrangements were "considered to be futile". [69] On the first day of June, 521 B-29s escorted by 148 P-51s were dispatched in a daylight raid against Osaka. While en route to the city, the Mustangs flew through thick clouds, and 27 of the fighters were destroyed in collisions. Nevertheless, 458 heavy bombers and 27 P-51s reached the city, and the bombardment killed 3,960 Japanese and destroyed 3.15 square miles (8.2 km 2 ) of buildings. On 5 June, 473 B-29s struck Kobe by day and destroyed 4.35 square miles (11.3 km 2 ) of buildings for the loss of 11 bombers. A force of 409 B-29s attacked Osaka again on 7 June during this attack, 2.21 square miles (5.7 km 2 ) of buildings were burnt out and the Americans did not suffer any losses. Osaka was bombed for the fourth time that month, on 15 June, when 444 B-29s destroyed 1.9 square miles (4.9 km 2 ) of the city and another 0.59 square miles (1.5 km 2 ) of nearby Amagasaki 300,000 houses were destroyed in Osaka. [70] [71] This attack marked the end of the first phase of XXI Bomber Command's attack on Japan's cities. During May and June, the bombers had destroyed much of the country's six largest cities, killing between 112,000 and 126,762 people and rendering millions homeless. The widespread destruction and high number of casualties from these raids caused many Japanese to realize that their country's military was no longer able to defend the home islands. American losses were low compared to Japanese casualties 136 B-29s were downed during the campaign. [72] [73] [74] In Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Yokohama, Kobe, and Kawasaki, "over 126,762 people were killed . and a million and a half dwellings and over 105 square miles (270 km 2 ) of urban space were destroyed." [75] In Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya, "the areas leveled (almost 100 square miles (260 km 2 )) exceeded the areas destroyed in all German cities by both the American and British air forces (about 79 square miles (200 km 2 ))." [75]

P-51s also conducted a series of independent ground-attack missions against targets in the home islands. [76] The first of these operations took place on 16 April, when 57 P-51s strafed Kanoya Air Field in Kyushu. [77] In operations conducted between 26 April and 22 June, the American fighter pilots claimed the destruction of 64 Japanese aircraft and damage to another 180 on the ground, as well as a further 10 shot down in flight these claims were lower than the American planners had expected, however, and the raids were considered unsuccessful. USAAF losses were 11 P-51s to enemy action and seven to other causes. [78]

Due to the lack of Japanese air opposition to the American bomber raids, VII Fighter Command was solely tasked with ground-attack missions from July. These raids were frequently made against airfields to destroy aircraft being held in reserve to attack the expected Allied invasion fleet. While the P-51 pilots only occasionally encountered Japanese fighters in the air, the airfields were protected by antiaircraft batteries and barrage balloons. [79] By the end of the war, VII Fighter Command had conducted 51 ground-attack raids, of which 41 were considered successful. The fighter pilots claimed to have destroyed or damaged 1,062 aircraft and 254 ships, along with large numbers of buildings and railway rolling stock. American losses were 91 pilots killed and 157 Mustangs destroyed. [80]

Pilot observations Edit

Chief Naval Test Pilot and C.O. Captured Enemy Aircraft Flight Capt. Eric Brown, CBE, DSC, AFC, RN, tested the Mustang at RAE Farnborough in March 1944 and noted, "The Mustang was a good fighter and the best escort due to its incredible range, make no mistake about it. It was also the best American dogfighter. But the laminar-flow wing fitted to the Mustang could be a little tricky. It could not by any means out-turn a Spitfire. No way. It had a good rate-of-roll, better than the Spitfire, so I would say the plusses to the Spitfire and the Mustang just about equate. If I were in a dogfight, I'd prefer to be flying the Spitfire. The problem was I wouldn't like to be in a dogfight near Berlin, because I could never get home to Britain in a Spitfire!" [81]

The U.S. Air Forces, Flight Test Engineering, assessed the Mustang B on 24 April 1944 thus: "The rate of climb is good and the high speed in level flight is exceptionally good at all altitudes, from sea level to 40,000 feet. The airplane is very maneuverable with good controllability at indicated speeds up to 400 MPH [sic]. The stability about all axes is good and the rate of roll is excellent however, the radius of turn is fairly large for a fighter. The cockpit layout is excellent, but visibility is poor on the ground and only fair in level flight." [82]

Kurt Bühligen, the third-highest scoring German fighter pilot of World War II's Western Front (with 112 confirmed victories, three against Mustangs), later stated, "We would out-turn the P-51 and the other American fighters, with the Bf 109 or the Fw 190. Their turn rate was about the same. The P-51 was faster than us, but our munitions] and cannon were better." [83] Heinz Bär said that the P-51 "was perhaps the most difficult of all Allied aircraft to meet in combat. It was fast, maneuverable, hard to see, and difficult to identify because it resembled the Me 109". [84]

After World War II Edit

In the aftermath of World War II, the USAAF consolidated much of its wartime combat force and selected the P-51 as a "standard" piston-engined fighter, while other types, such as the P-38 and P-47, were withdrawn or given substantially reduced roles. As the more advanced (P-80 and P-84) jet fighters were introduced, the P-51 was also relegated to secondary duties.

In 1947, the newly formed USAF Strategic Air Command employed Mustangs alongside F-6 Mustangs and F-82 Twin Mustangs, due to their range capabilities. In 1948, the designation P-51 (P for pursuit) was changed to F-51 (F for fighter) and the existing F designator for photographic reconnaissance aircraft was dropped because of a new designation scheme throughout the USAF. Aircraft still in service in the USAF or Air National Guard (ANG) when the system was changed included: F-51B, F-51D, F-51K, RF-51D (formerly F-6D), RF-51K (formerly F-6K) and TRF-51D (two-seat trainer conversions of F-6Ds). They remained in service from 1946 through 1951. By 1950, although Mustangs continued in service with the USAF after the war, the majority of the USAF's Mustangs had become surplus to requirements and placed in storage, while some were transferred to the Air Force Reserve and the ANG.

From the start of the Korean War, the Mustang once again proved useful. A "substantial number" of stored or in-service F-51Ds were shipped, via aircraft carriers, to the combat zone, and were used by the USAF, the South African Air Force, and the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF). The F-51 was used for ground attack, fitted with rockets and bombs, and photo reconnaissance, rather than being as interceptors or "pure" fighters. After the first North Korean invasion, USAF units were forced to fly from bases in Japan and the F-51Ds, with their long range and endurance, could attack targets in Korea that short-ranged F-80 jets could not. Because of the vulnerable liquid cooling system, however, the F-51s sustained heavy losses to ground fire. [4] Due to its lighter structure and a shortage of spare parts, the newer, faster F-51H was not used in Korea.

Mustangs continued flying with USAF and ROKAF fighter-bomber units on close support and interdiction missions in Korea until 1953 when they were largely replaced as fighter-bombers by USAF F-84s and by United States Navy (USN) Grumman F9F Panthers. Other air forces and units using the Mustang included the Royal Australian Air Force's 77 Squadron, which flew Australian-built Mustangs as part of British Commonwealth Forces Korea. The Mustangs were replaced by Gloster Meteor F8s in 1951. The South African Air Force's 2 Squadron used U.S.-built Mustangs as part of the U.S. 18th Fighter Bomber Wing and had suffered heavy losses by 1953, after which 2 Squadron converted to the F-86 Sabre.

F-51s flew in the Air Force Reserve and ANG throughout the 1950s. The last American USAF Mustang was F-51D-30-NA AF serial no. 44-74936, which was finally withdrawn from service with the West Virginia Air National Guard's 167th Fighter Interceptor Squadron in January 1957 and retired to what was then called the Air Force Central Museum, [85] although it was briefly reactivated to fly at the 50th anniversary of the Air Force Aerial Firepower Demonstration at the Air Proving Ground, Eglin AFB, Florida, on 6 May 1957. [86] This aircraft, painted as P-51D-15-NA serial no. 44-15174, is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB, in Dayton, Ohio. [87]

The final withdrawal of the Mustang from USAF dumped hundreds of P-51s onto the civilian market. The rights to the Mustang design were purchased from North American by the Cavalier Aircraft Corporation, which attempted to market the surplus Mustang aircraft in the U.S. and overseas. In 1967 and again in 1972, the USAF procured batches of remanufactured Mustangs from Cavalier, most of them destined for air forces in South America and Asia that were participating in the Military Assistance Program (MAP). These aircraft were remanufactured from existing original F-51D airframes fitted with new V-1650-7 engines, a new radio, tall F-51H-type vertical tails, and a stronger wing that could carry six 13 mm (0.50 in) machine guns and a total of eight underwing hardpoints. Two 1,000-pound (450 kg) bombs and six 130 mm (5 in) rockets could be carried. They all had an original F-51D-type canopy but carried a second seat for an observer behind the pilot. One additional Mustang was a two-seat, dual-control TF-51D (67-14866) with an enlarged canopy and only four wing guns. Although these remanufactured Mustangs were intended for sale to South American and Asian nations through the MAP, they were delivered to the USAF with full USAF markings. They were, however, allocated new serial numbers (67-14862/14866, 67-22579/22582 and 72-1526/1541). [87]

The last U.S. military use of the F-51 was in 1968 when the U. S. Army employed a vintage F-51D (44-72990) as a chase aircraft for the Lockheed YAH-56 Cheyenne armed helicopter project. This aircraft was so successful that the Army ordered two F-51Ds from Cavalier in 1968 for use at Fort Rucker as chase planes. They were assigned the serials 68-15795 and 68-15796. These F-51s had wingtip fuel tanks and were unarmed. Following the end of the Cheyenne program, these two chase aircraft were used for other projects. One of them (68-15795) was fitted with a 106 mm recoilless rifle for evaluation of the weapon's value in attacking fortified ground targets. [88] Cavalier Mustang 68-15796 survives at the Air Force Armament Museum, Eglin AFB, Florida, displayed indoors in World War II markings.

The F-51 was adopted by many foreign air forces and continued to be an effective fighter into the mid-1980s with smaller air arms. The last Mustang ever downed in battle occurred during Operation Power Pack in the Dominican Republic in 1965, with the last aircraft finally being retired by the Dominican Air Force in 1984. [89]

Service with other air forces Edit

After World War II, the P-51 Mustang served in the air arms of more than 25 nations. [11] During the war, a Mustang cost about $51,000, [90] while many hundreds were sold postwar for the nominal price of one dollar to signatories of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, ratified in Rio de Janeiro in 1947. [91]

These countries used the P-51 Mustang:

P-51s and civil aviation Edit

Many P-51s were sold as surplus after the war, often for as little as $1,500. Some were sold to former wartime fliers or other aficionados for personal use, while others were modified for air racing. [121]

One of the most significant Mustangs involved in air racing was serial number 44-10947, a surplus P-51C-10-NT purchased by film stunt pilot Paul Mantz. He modified the wings, sealing them to create a giant fuel tank in each one these "wet wings" reduced the need for fuel stops or drag-inducing drop tanks. Named Blaze of Noon after the film Blaze of Noon, the aircraft won the 1946 and 1947 Bendix Air Races, took second in the 1948 Bendix, and placed third in the 1949 Bendix. Mantz also set a U.S. coast-to-coast record in 1947. He sold the Mustang to Charles F. Blair Jr (future husband of Maureen O'Hara), who renamed it Excalibur III and used it to set a New York-to-London (about 3,460 miles or 5,570 kilometres) record in 1951: 7 hr 48 min from takeoff at Idlewild to overhead London Airport. Later that year, Blair flew from Norway to Fairbanks, Alaska, via the North Pole (about 3,130 miles or 5,040 kilometres), proving that navigation via sun sights was possible over the magnetic North Pole region. For this feat, he was awarded the Harmon Trophy and the Air Force was forced to change its thoughts on a possible Soviet air strike from the north. This Mustang now sits in the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. [122]

In 1958, the RCAF retired its 78 remaining Mustangs. RCAF pilot Lynn Garrison ferried them from their various storage locations to Canastota, New York, where the American buyers were based. Garrison flew each of the surviving aircraft at least once. These aircraft make up a large percentage of the aircraft presently flying worldwide. [123]

The most prominent firm to convert Mustangs to civilian use was Trans-Florida Aviation, later renamed Cavalier Aircraft Corporation, which produced the Cavalier Mustang. Modifications included a taller tailfin and wingtip tanks. A number of conversions included a Cavalier Mustang specialty: a "tight" second seat added in the space formerly occupied by the military radio and fuselage fuel tank.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the United States Department of Defense wished to supply aircraft to South American countries and later Indonesia for close air support and counterinsurgency, it paid Cavalier to return some of their civilian conversions back to updated military specifications.

In the 21st century, a P-51 can command a price of more than $1 million, even for only partially restored aircraft. [123] There were 204 privately owned P-51s in the U.S. on the FAA registry in 2011, [124] most of which are still flying, often associated with organizations such as the Commemorative Air Force (formerly the Confederate Air Force). [125]

In May 2013, Doug Matthews set an altitude record of 12,975 m (42,568 ft) in a P-51 named The Rebel for piston-powered aircraft weighing 3,000 to 6,000 kg (6,600 to 13,200 lb). [126] Flying from a grass runway at Florida's Indiantown airport and over Lake Okeechobee, Matthews set world records for time to reach altitudes of 9,000 m (30,000 ft), 18 minutes and 12,000 m (39,000 ft), 31 minutes. He set a level-flight altitude record of 12,200 m (40,100 ft) in level flight and an absolute altitude record of 13,000 m (42,500 ft), [127] [128] breaking the previous record of 11,248 m (36,902 ft) set in 1954.

Incidents Edit

  • On 9 June 1973, William Penn Patrick (43) a certified pilot and his passenger, Christian Hagert, died when Patrick's P-51 Mustang crashed in Lakeport, California. [129][130]
  • On 1 July 1990 at the National Capital Air Show (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada), Harry E. Tope was killed when his P-51 Mustang crashed. [131]
  • On 16 September 2011 The Galloping Ghost, a modified P-51 piloted by Jimmy Leeward of Ocala, Florida, crashed during an air race in Reno, Nevada. Leeward and at least nine people on the ground were killed when the racer suddenly crashed near the edge of the grandstand. [132]

Over 20 variants of the P-51 Mustang were produced from 1940 to after the war.

Production Edit

Except for the small numbers assembled or produced in Australia, all Mustangs were built by North American initially at Inglewood, California, but then additionally in Dallas, Texas.


Childhood and schooling: 1874–1895

Churchill was born on 30 November 1874 at his family's ancestral home, Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. [2] On his father's side, he was a member of the British aristocracy as a direct descendant of the 1st Duke of Marlborough. [3] His father, Lord Randolph Churchill, representing the Conservative Party, had been elected Member of Parliament (MP) for Woodstock in 1873. [4] His mother, Jennie, was a daughter of Leonard Jerome, a wealthy American businessman. [5]

In 1876, Churchill's paternal grandfather, John Spencer-Churchill, was appointed Viceroy of Ireland, then part of the United Kingdom. Randolph became his private secretary and the family relocated to Dublin. [6] Winston's brother, Jack, was born there in 1880. [7] Throughout much of the 1880s, Randolph and Jennie were effectively estranged, [8] and the brothers were mostly cared for by their nanny, Elizabeth Everest. [9] Churchill later wrote that "she had been my dearest and most intimate friend during the whole of the twenty years I had lived". [10]

Churchill began boarding at St George's School in Ascot, Berkshire, at age seven but was not academic and his behaviour was poor. [11] In 1884 he transferred to Brunswick School in Hove, where his academic performance improved. [12] In April 1888, aged 13, he narrowly passed the entrance exam for Harrow School. [13] His father wanted him to prepare for a military career and so his last three years at Harrow were in the army form. [14] After two unsuccessful attempts to gain admittance to the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, he succeeded on his third. [15] He was accepted as a cadet in the cavalry, starting in September 1893. [16] His father died in January 1895, soon after Churchill finished at Sandhurst. [17]

Cuba, India, and Sudan: 1895–1899

In February 1895, Churchill was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 4th Queen's Own Hussars regiment of the British Army, based at Aldershot. [19] Eager to witness military action, he used his mother's influence to get himself posted to a war zone. [20] In the autumn of 1895, he and his friend Reggie Barnes, then a subaltern, went to Cuba to observe the war of independence and became involved in skirmishes after joining Spanish troops attempting to suppress independence fighters. [21] Churchill proceeded to New York City and, in admiration of the United States, wrote to his mother about "what an extraordinary people the Americans are!" [22] With the Hussars, he went to Bombay in October 1896. [23] Based in Bangalore, he was in India for 19 months, visiting Calcutta three times and joining expeditions to Hyderabad and the North West Frontier. [24]

In India, Churchill began a self-education project, [25] reading a range of authors including Plato, Edward Gibbon, Charles Darwin and Thomas Babington Macaulay. [26] The books were sent to him by his mother, with whom he shared frequent correspondence when abroad. In one 1898 letter to her, he referred to his religious beliefs, saying: "I do not accept the Christian or any other form of religious belief". [27] Churchill had been christened in the Church of England [28] but, as he related later, he underwent a virulently anti-Christian phase in his youth, [29] and as an adult was an agnostic. [30] In another letter to one of his cousins, he referred to religion as "a delicious narcotic" and expressed a preference for Protestantism over Roman Catholicism because he felt it "a step nearer Reason". [31]

Interested in British parliamentary affairs, [32] he declared himself "a Liberal in all but name", adding that he could never endorse the Liberal Party's support for Irish home rule. [33] Instead, he allied himself to the Tory democracy wing of the Conservative Party, and on a visit home, gave his first public speech for the party's Primrose League in Bath. [34] Mixing reformist and conservative perspectives, he supported the promotion of secular, non-denominational education while opposing women's suffrage. [35]

Churchill volunteered to join Bindon Blood's Malakand Field Force in its campaign against Mohmand rebels in the Swat Valley of north-west India. Blood accepted him on condition that he was assigned as a journalist, the beginning of Churchill's writing career. [36] He returned to Bangalore in October 1897 and there wrote his first book, The Story of the Malakand Field Force, which received positive reviews. [37] He also wrote his only work of fiction, Savrola, a Ruritanian romance. [38] To keep himself fully occupied, Churchill embraced writing as what Roy Jenkins calls his "whole habit", especially through his political career when he was out of office. It was his main safeguard against recurring depression, which he termed his "black dog". [39]

Using his contacts in London, Churchill got himself attached to General Kitchener's campaign in the Sudan as a 21st Lancers subaltern while, additionally, working as a journalist for The Morning Post. [40] After fighting in the Battle of Omdurman on 2 September 1898, the 21st Lancers were stood down. [41] In October, Churchill returned to England and began writing The River War, an account of the campaign which was published in November 1899 it was at this time that he decided to leave the army. [42] He was critical of Kitchener's actions during the war, particularly the latter's unmerciful treatment of enemy wounded and his desecration of Muhammad Ahmad's tomb in Omdurman. [43]

On 2 December 1898, Churchill embarked for India to settle his military business and complete his resignation from the 4th Hussars. He spent a lot of his time there playing polo, the only ball sport in which he was ever interested. Having left the Hussars, he sailed from Bombay on 20 March 1899, determined to launch a career in politics. [44]

Politics and South Africa: 1899–1901

Seeking a parliamentary career, Churchill spoke at Conservative meetings [46] and was selected as one of the party's two parliamentary candidates for the June 1899 by-election in Oldham, Lancashire. [47] While campaigning in Oldham, Churchill referred to himself as "a Conservative and a Tory Democrat". [48] Although the Oldham seats had previously been held by the Conservatives, the result was a narrow Liberal victory. [49]

Anticipating the outbreak of the Second Boer War between Britain and the Boer Republics, Churchill sailed to South Africa as a journalist for the Morning Post under the editorship of James Nicol Dunn. [50] [51] In October, he travelled to the conflict zone near Ladysmith, then besieged by Boer troops, before heading for Colenso. [52] After his train was derailed by Boer artillery shelling, he was captured as a prisoner of war (POW) and interned in a Boer POW camp in Pretoria. [53] In December, Churchill escaped from the prison and evaded his captors by stowing away aboard freight trains and hiding in a mine. He eventually made it to safety in Portuguese East Africa. [54] His escape attracted much publicity. [55]

In January 1900, he briefly rejoined the army as a lieutenant in the South African Light Horse regiment, joining Redvers Buller's fight to relieve the Siege of Ladysmith and take Pretoria. [56] He was among the first British troops into both places. He and his cousin, the 9th Duke of Marlborough, demanded and received the surrender of 52 Boer prison camp guards. [57] Throughout the war, he had publicly chastised anti-Boer prejudices, calling for them to be treated with "generosity and tolerance", [58] and after the war he urged the British to be magnanimous in victory. [59] In July, having resigned his lieutenancy, he returned to Britain. His Morning Post despatches had been published as London to Ladysmith via Pretoria and had sold well. [60]

Churchill rented a flat in London's Mayfair, using it as his base for the next six years. He stood again as one of the Conservative candidates at Oldham in the October 1900 general election, securing a narrow victory to become a Member of Parliament at age 25. [61] In the same month, he published Ian Hamilton's March, a book about his South African experiences, [62] [63] which became the focus of a lecture tour in November through Britain, America and Canada. Members of Parliament were unpaid and the tour was a financial necessity. In America, Churchill met Mark Twain, President McKinley and Vice President Theodore Roosevelt he did not get on well with Roosevelt. [64] Later, in spring 1901, he gave more lectures in Paris, Madrid and Gibraltar. [65]

Conservative MP: 1901–1904

In February 1901, Churchill took his seat in the House of Commons, where his maiden speech gained widespread press coverage. [66] He associated with a group of Conservatives known as the Hughligans, [67] but he was critical of the Conservative government on various issues, especially increases in army funding. He believed that additional military expenditure should go to the navy. [68] This upset the Conservative front bench but was supported by Liberals, with whom he increasingly socialised, particularly Liberal Imperialists like H. H. Asquith. [69] In this context, Churchill later wrote that he "drifted steadily to the left" of parliamentary politics. [70] He privately considered "the gradual creation by an evolutionary process of a Democratic or Progressive wing to the Conservative Party", [71] or alternately a "Central Party" to unite the Conservatives and Liberals. [72]

By 1903, there was real division between Churchill and the Conservatives, largely because he opposed their promotion of economic protectionism, but also because he sensed that the animosity of many party members would prevent him from gaining a Cabinet position under a Conservative government. The Liberal Party was then attracting growing support, and so his defection in 1904 may have also have been influenced by personal ambition. [73] He increasingly voted with the Liberals against the government. [74] For example, he opposed an increase in military expenditure [75] he supported a Liberal bill to restore legal rights to trade unions. [74] and he opposed the introduction of tariffs on goods imported into the British Empire, describing himself as a "sober admirer" of the principles of free trade. [76] Balfour's government announced protectionist legislation in October 1903. [77] Two months later, incensed by Churchill's criticism of the government, the Oldham Conservative Association informed him that it would not support his candidature at the next general election. [78]

In May 1904, Churchill opposed the government's proposed Aliens Bill, designed to curb Jewish migration into Britain. [79] He stated that the bill would "appeal to insular prejudice against foreigners, to racial prejudice against Jews, and to labour prejudice against competition" and expressed himself in favour of "the old tolerant and generous practice of free entry and asylum to which this country has so long adhered and from which it has so greatly gained". [79] On 31 May 1904, he crossed the floor, defecting from the Conservatives to sit as a member of the Liberal Party in the House of Commons. [80]

In December 1905, Balfour resigned as Prime Minister and King Edward VII invited the Liberal leader Henry Campbell-Bannerman to take his place. [81] Hoping to secure a working majority in the House of Commons, Campbell-Bannerman called a general election in January 1906, which the Liberals won. [82] Churchill won the Manchester North West seat. [83] In the same month, his biography of his father was published [84] he received an advance payment of £8,000. [85] It was generally well received. [86] It was also at this time that the first biography of Churchill himself, written by the Liberal Alexander MacCallum Scott, was published. [87]

In the new government, Churchill became Under-Secretary of State for the Colonial Office, a junior ministerial position that he had requested. [88] He worked beneath the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Victor Bruce, 9th Earl of Elgin, [89] and took Edward Marsh as his secretary Marsh remained Churchill's secretary for 25 years. [90] Churchill's first task was helping to draft a constitution for the Transvaal [91] and he helped oversee the formation of a government in the Orange Free State. [92] In dealing with southern Africa, he sought to ensure equality between the British and Boer. [93] He also announced a gradual phasing out of the use of Chinese indentured labourers in South Africa he and the government decided that a sudden ban would cause too much upset in the colony and might damage the economy. [94] He expressed concerns about the relations between European settlers and the black African population after the Zulu launched their Bambatha Rebellion in Natal, Churchill complained about the "disgusting butchery of the natives" by Europeans. [95]

President of the Board of Trade: 1908–1910

Asquith succeeded Campbell-Bannerman on 8 April 1908 and, four days later, Churchill was appointed President of the Board of Trade. [96] Aged 33, he was the youngest Cabinet member since 1866. [97] Newly appointed Cabinet ministers were legally obliged to seek re-election at a by-election and on 24 April, Churchill lost the Manchester North West by-election to the Conservative candidate by 429 votes. [98] On 9 May, the Liberals stood him in the safe seat of Dundee, where he won comfortably. [99]

In private life, Churchill proposed marriage to Clementine Hozier they were married in September at St Margaret's, Westminster and honeymooned in Baveno, Venice, and Veverí Castle in Moravia. [100] [101] They lived at 33 Eccleston Square, London, and their first daughter, Diana, was born in July 1909. [102] [103]

One of Churchill's first tasks as a minister was to arbitrate in an industrial dispute among ship-workers and employers on the River Tyne. [104] He afterwards established a Standing Court of Arbitration to deal with future industrial disputes, [105] establishing a reputation as a conciliator. [106] In Cabinet, he worked with David Lloyd George to champion social reform. [107] He promoted what he called a "network of State intervention and regulation" akin to that in Germany. [108]

Churchill introduced the Mines Eight Hours Bill, which legally prohibited miners from working more than an eight-hour day. [109] He introduced the Trade Boards Bill, creating Trade Boards which could prosecute exploitative employers. Passing with a large majority, it established the principle of a minimum wage and the right of workers to have meal breaks. [110] In May 1909, he proposed the Labour Exchanges Bill to establish over 200 Labour Exchanges through which the unemployed would be assisted in finding employment. [111] He also promoted the idea of an unemployment insurance scheme, which would be part-funded by the state. [112]

To ensure funding for their reforms, Lloyd George and Churchill denounced Reginald McKenna's policy of naval expansion, [113] refusing to believe that war with Germany was inevitable. [114] As Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lloyd George presented his "People's Budget" on 29 April 1909, calling it a war budget to eliminate poverty. He proposed unprecedented taxes on the rich to fund the Liberal welfare programmes. [115] The budget was vetoed by the Conservative peers who dominated the House of Lords. [116] His social reforms under threat, Churchill warned that upper-class obstruction could anger working-class Britons and lead to class war. [117] The government called the January 1910 general election, which resulted in a narrow Liberal victory Churchill retained his seat at Dundee. [118] After the election, he proposed the abolition of the House of Lords in a cabinet memorandum, suggesting that it be replaced either by a unicameral system or by a new, smaller second chamber that lacked an in-built advantage for the Conservatives. [119] In April, the Lords relented and the People's Budget passed into law. [120]

Home Secretary: 1910–1911

In February 1910, Churchill was promoted to Home Secretary, giving him control over the police and prison services, [121] and he implemented a prison reform programme. [122] Measures included a distinction between criminal and political prisoners, with prison rules for the latter being relaxed. [123] There were educational innovations like the establishment of libraries for prisoners, [124] and a requirement for each prison to stage entertainments four times a year. [125] The rules on solitary confinement were relaxed somewhat, [126] and Churchill proposed the abolition of automatic imprisonment of those who failed to pay fines. [127] Imprisonment of people aged between 16 and 21 was abolished except for the most serious offences. [128] Churchill commuted 21 of the 43 capital sentences passed while he was Home Secretary. [129]

One of the major domestic issues in Britain was women's suffrage. Churchill supported giving women the vote, but he would only back a bill to that effect if it had majority support from the (male) electorate. [130] His proposed solution was a referendum on the issue, but this found no favour with Asquith and women's suffrage remained unresolved until 1918. [131] Many suffragettes believed that Churchill was a committed opponent of women's suffrage, [132] and targeted his meetings for protest. [131] In November 1910, the suffragist Hugh Franklin attacked Churchill with a whip Franklin was arrested and imprisoned for six weeks. [132]

In the summer of 1910, Churchill had to deal with the Tonypandy Riot, in which coal miners in the Rhondda Valley violently protested against their working conditions. [133] The Chief Constable of Glamorgan requested troops to help police quell the rioting. Churchill, learning that the troops were already travelling, allowed them to go as far as Swindon and Cardiff, but blocked their deployment he was concerned that the use of troops could lead to bloodshed. Instead he sent 270 London police, who were not equipped with firearms, to assist their Welsh counterparts. [134] As the riots continued, he offered the protesters an interview with the government's chief industrial arbitrator, which they accepted. [135] Privately, Churchill regarded both the mine owners and striking miners as being "very unreasonable". [132] The Times and other media outlets accused him of being too soft on the rioters [136] in contrast, many in the Labour Party, which was linked to the trade unions, regarded him as having been too heavy-handed. [137]

Asquith called a general election in December 1910 and the Liberals were re-elected with Churchill secure in Dundee. [138] In January 1911, Churchill became involved in the Siege of Sidney Street three Latvian burglars had killed several police officers and hidden in a house in London's East End, which was surrounded by police. [139] Churchill stood with the police though he did not direct their operation. [140] After the house caught fire, he told the fire brigade not to proceed into the house because of the threat posed by the armed men. Afterwards, two of the burglars were found dead. [140] Although he faced criticism for his decision, he stated that he "thought it better to let the house burn down rather than spend good British lives in rescuing those ferocious rascals". [141]

In March 1911, Churchill introduced the second reading of the Coal Mines Bill in parliament. When implemented, it imposed stricter safety standards at coal mines. [142] He also formulated the Shops Bill to improve the working conditions of shop workers it faced opposition from shop owners and only passed into law in a much emasculated form. [143] In April, Lloyd George introduced the first health and unemployment insurance legislation, the National Insurance Act 1911 Churchill had been instrumental in drafting it. [143] In May, Clementine gave birth to their second child, Randolph, named after Churchill's father. [144] In response to escalating civil strife in 1911, Churchill sent troops into Liverpool to quell protesting dockers and rallied against a national railway strike. [145]

During the Agadir Crisis of April 1911, when there was a threat of war between France and Germany, Churchill suggested an alliance with France and Russia to safeguard the independence of Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands to counter possible German expansionism. [146] The Agadir Crisis had a profound effect on Churchill and he altered his views about the need for naval expansion. [147]

First Lord of the Admiralty

In October 1911, Asquith appointed Churchill First Lord of the Admiralty, [148] and he took up official residence at Admiralty House. [149] Over the next two and a half years he focused on naval preparation, visiting naval stations and dockyards, seeking to improve morale, and scrutinising German naval developments. [150] After the German government passed its Navy Law to increase warship production, Churchill vowed that Britain would do the same and that for every new battleship built by the Germans, Britain would build two. [151] He invited Germany to engage in a mutual de-escalation of naval building projects, but this was refused. [152]

Churchill pushed for higher pay and greater recreational facilities for naval staff, [153] an increase in the building of submarines, [154] and a renewed focus on the Royal Naval Air Service, encouraging them to experiment with how aircraft could be used for military purposes. [155] He coined the term "seaplane" and ordered 100 to be constructed. [156] Some Liberals objected to his levels of naval expenditure in December 1913 he threatened to resign if his proposal for four new battleships in 1914–15 was rejected. [157] In June 1914, he convinced the House of Commons to authorise the government purchase of a 51 percent share in the profits of oil produced by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, to secure continued oil access for the Royal Navy. [158]

The central issue in Britain at the time was Irish Home Rule and, in 1912, Asquith's government introduced the Home Rule Bill. [159] Churchill supported it and urged Ulster Unionists to accept it as he opposed the partition of Ireland. [160] Later, following a Cabinet decision, he boosted the naval presence in Ireland to deal with any Unionist uprising. [161] Seeking a compromise, Churchill suggested that Ireland remain part of a federal United Kingdom but this angered Liberals and Irish nationalists. [162]

As First Lord, Churchill was tasked with overseeing Britain's naval effort when the First World War began in August 1914. [163] In the same month, the navy transported 120,000 British troops to France and began a blockade of German North Sea ports. Churchill sent submarines to the Baltic Sea to assist the Russian Navy and he sent the Marine Brigade to Ostend, forcing a reallocation of German troops. [164] In September, Churchill assumed full responsibility for Britain's aerial defence. [165] On 7 October, Clementine gave birth to their third child, Sarah. [166] In October, Churchill visited Antwerp to observe Belgian defences against the besieging Germans and promised British reinforcements for the city. [167] Soon afterwards, however, Antwerp fell to the Germans and Churchill was criticised in the press. [168] He maintained that his actions had prolonged resistance and enabled the Allies to secure Calais and Dunkirk. [169] In November, Asquith called a War Council, consisting of himself, Lloyd George, Edward Grey, Kitchener, and Churchill. [170] Churchill put forward some proposals including the development of the tank, and offered to finance its creation with Admiralty funds. [171]

Churchill was interested in the Middle Eastern theatre and wanted to relieve Turkish pressure on the Russians in the Caucasus by staging attacks against Turkey in the Dardanelles. He hoped that, if successful, the British could even seize Constantinople. [172] Approval was given and, in March 1915, an Anglo-French task force attempted a naval bombardment of Turkish defences in the Dardanelles. In April, the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, including the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC), began its assault at Gallipoli. [173] Both of these campaigns failed and Churchill was held by many MPs, particularly Conservatives, to be personally responsible. [174]

In May, Asquith agreed under parliamentary pressure to form an all-party coalition government, but the Conservatives' one condition of entry was that Churchill must be removed from the Admiralty. [175] Churchill pleaded his case with both Asquith and Conservative leader Bonar Law, but had to accept demotion and became Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. [176]

On 25 November 1915, Churchill resigned from the government, although he remained an MP. Asquith rejected his request to be appointed Governor-General of British East Africa. [177]

Churchill decided to join the Army and was attached to the 2nd Grenadier Guards, on the Western Front. [178] In January 1916, he was temporarily promoted to lieutenant-colonel and given command of the 6th Royal Scots Fusiliers. [179] [180] After a period of training, the battalion was moved to a sector of the Belgian Front near Ploegsteert. [181] For over three months, they faced continual shelling although no German offensive. [182] Churchill narrowly escaped death when, during a visit by his staff officer cousin the 9th Duke of Marlborough, a large piece of shrapnel fell between them. [183] In May, the 6th Royal Scots Fusiliers were merged into the 15th Division. Churchill did not request a new command, instead securing permission to leave active service. [184] His temporary promotion ended on 16 May, when he returned to the rank of major. [185]

Back in the House of Commons, Churchill spoke out on war issues, calling for conscription to be extended to the Irish, greater recognition of soldiers' bravery, and for the introduction of steel helmets for troops. [186] He was frustrated at being out of office as a backbencher but he was repeatedly blamed for Gallipoli, mainly by the pro-Conservative press. [187] Churchill argued his case before the Dardanelles Commission, whose published report placed no blame on him personally for the campaign's failure. [188]

Minister of Munitions: 1917–1919

In October 1916, Asquith resigned as Prime Minister and was succeeded by Lloyd George who, in May 1917, sent Churchill to inspect the French war effort. [189] In July, Churchill was appointed Minister of Munitions. [190] He quickly negotiated an end to a strike in munitions factories along the Clyde and increased munitions production. [191] He ended a second strike, in June 1918, by threatening to conscript strikers into the army. [192] In the House of Commons, Churchill voted in support of the Representation of the People Act 1918, which gave some British women the right to vote. [193] In November 1918, four days after the Armistice, Churchill's fourth child, Marigold, was born. [194]

Secretary of State for War and Air: 1919–1921

With the war over, Lloyd George called a general election with voting on Saturday, 14 December 1918. [195] During the election campaign, Churchill called for the nationalisation of the railways, a control on monopolies, tax reform, and the creation of a League of Nations to prevent future wars. [196] He was returned as MP for Dundee and, although the Conservatives won a majority, Lloyd George was retained as Prime Minister. [196] In January 1919, Lloyd George moved Churchill to the War Office as both Secretary of State for War and Secretary of State for Air. [197]

Churchill was responsible for demobilising the British Army, [198] although he convinced Lloyd George to keep a million men conscripted for the British Army of the Rhine. [199] Churchill was one of the few government figures who opposed harsh measures against the defeated Germany, [194] and he cautioned against demobilising the German Army, warning that they may be needed as a bulwark against threats from the newly established Soviet Russia. [200] He was an outspoken opponent of Vladimir Lenin's new Communist Party government in Russia. [201] He initially supported the use of British troops to assist the anti-Communist White forces in the Russian Civil War, [202] but soon recognised the desire of the British people to bring them home. [203] After the Soviets won the civil war, Churchill proposed a cordon sanitaire around the country. [204]

In the Irish War of Independence, he supported the use of the para-military Black and Tans to combat Irish revolutionaries. [205] After British troops in Iraq clashed with Kurdish rebels, Churchill authorised two squadrons to the area, proposing that they be equipped with mustard gas to be used to "inflict punishment upon recalcitrant natives without inflicting grave injury upon them". [206] More broadly, he saw the occupation of Iraq as a drain on Britain and proposed, unsuccessfully, that the government should hand control of central and northern Iraq back to Turkey. [207]

Secretary of State for the Colonies: 1921–1922

Churchill became Secretary of State for the Colonies in February 1921. [208] The following month, the first exhibit of his paintings was held it took place in Paris, with Churchill exhibiting under a pseudonym. [208] In May, his mother died, followed in August by his daughter Marigold. [209]

Churchill was involved in negotiations with Sinn Féin leaders and helped draft the Anglo-Irish Treaty. [210] Elsewhere, he was responsible for reducing the cost of occupying the Middle East, [208] and was involved in the installations of Faisal I of Iraq and his brother Abdullah I of Jordan. [211] Churchill travelled to Mandatory Palestine where, as a supporter of Zionism, he refused an Arab Palestinian petition to prohibit Jewish migration to Palestine. [212] He did allow some temporary restrictions following the 1921 Jaffa riots. [213]

In September 1922, Churchill's fifth and last child, Mary, was born, and in the same month he purchased Chartwell, in Kent, which became his family home for the rest of his lifetime. [214] In October 1922, he underwent an operation for appendicitis. While he was in hospital, the Conservatives withdrew from Lloyd George's coalition government, precipitating the November 1922 general election, in which Churchill lost his Dundee seat. [215] Later, Churchill wrote that he was "without an office, without a seat, without a party, and without an appendix". [216] Still, he could be satisfied with his elevation as one of 50 Companions of Honour, as named in Lloyd George's 1922 Dissolution Honours list. [217]

Churchill spent much of the next six months at the Villa Rêve d'Or near Cannes, where he devoted himself to painting and writing his memoirs. [218] He wrote an autobiographical history of the war, The World Crisis. The first volume was published in April 1923 and the rest over the next ten years. [215]

After the 1923 general election was called, seven Liberal associations asked Churchill to stand as their candidate, and he selected Leicester West, but he did not win the seat. [219] A Labour government led by Ramsay MacDonald took power. Churchill had hoped they would be defeated by a Conservative-Liberal coalition. [220] He strongly opposed the MacDonald government's decision to loan money to Soviet Russia and feared the signing of an Anglo-Soviet Treaty. [221]

On 19 March 1924, alienated by Liberal support for Labour, Churchill stood as an independent anti-socialist candidate in the Westminster Abbey by-election but was defeated. [222] In May, he addressed a Conservative meeting in Liverpool and declared that there was no longer a place for the Liberal Party in British politics. He said that Liberals must back the Conservatives to stop Labour and ensure "the successful defeat of socialism". [223] In July, he agreed with Conservative leader Stanley Baldwin that he would be selected as a Conservative candidate in the next general election, which was held on 29 October. Churchill stood at Epping, but he described himself as a "Constitutionalist". [224] The Conservatives were victorious and Baldwin formed the new government. Although Churchill had no background in finance or economics, Baldwin appointed him as Chancellor of the Exchequer. [225]

Becoming Chancellor of the Exchequer on 6 November 1924, Churchill formally rejoined the Conservative Party. [226] As Chancellor, he intended to pursue his free trade principles in the form of laissez-faire economics, as under the Liberal social reforms. [226] In April 1925, he controversially albeit reluctantly restored the gold standard in his first budget at its 1914 parity against the advice of some leading economists including John Maynard Keynes. [227] The return to gold is held to have caused deflation and resultant unemployment with a devastating impact on the coal industry. [228] Churchill presented five budgets in all to April 1929. Among his measures were reduction of the state pension age from 70 to 65 immediate provision of widow's pensions reduction of military expenditure income tax reductions and imposition of taxes on luxury items. [229]

During the General Strike of 1926, Churchill edited the British Gazette, the government's anti-strike propaganda newspaper. [230] After the strike ended, he acted as an intermediary between striking miners and their employers. He later called for the introduction of a legally binding minimum wage. [231] In early 1927, Churchill visited Rome where he met Mussolini, whom he praised for his stand against Leninism. [232]

Marlborough and the India Question: 1929–1932

In the 1929 general election, Churchill retained his Epping seat but the Conservatives were defeated and MacDonald formed his second Labour government. [233] Out of office, Churchill was prone to depression (his "black dog") as he sensed his political talents being wasted and time passing him by – in all such times, writing provided the antidote. [234] He began work on Marlborough: His Life and Times, a four-volume biography of his ancestor John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough. [235] [236] It was by this time that he had developed a reputation for being a heavy drinker of alcoholic beverages, although Jenkins believes that was often exaggerated. [237]

Hoping that the Labour government could be ousted, he gained Baldwin's approval to work towards establishing a Conservative-Liberal coalition, although many Liberals were reluctant. [235] In October 1930, after his return from a trip to North America, Churchill published his autobiography, My Early Life, which sold well and was translated into multiple languages. [238]

In January 1931, Churchill resigned from the Conservative Shadow Cabinet because Baldwin supported the decision of the Labour government to grant Dominion status to India. [239] Churchill believed that enhanced home rule status would hasten calls for full independence. [240] He was particularly opposed to Mohandas Gandhi, whom he considered "a seditious Middle Temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir". [241] His views enraged Labour and Liberal opinion although he was supported by many grassroot Conservatives. [242]

The October 1931 general election was a landslide victory for the Conservatives [243] Churchill nearly doubled his majority in Epping, but he was not given a ministerial position. [244] The Commons debated Dominion Status for India on 3 December and Churchill insisted on dividing the House, but this backfired as only 43 MPs supported him. [245] He embarked on a lecture tour of North America, hoping to recoup financial losses sustained in the Wall Street Crash. [243] [245] On 13 December, he was crossing Fifth Avenue in New York City when he was knocked down by a car, suffering a head wound from which he developed neuritis. [246] To further his convalescence, he and Clementine took ship to Nassau for three weeks but Churchill became depressed there about his financial and political losses. [247] He returned to America in late January 1932 and completed most of his lectures before arriving home on 18 March. [247]

Having worked on Marlborough for much of 1932, Churchill in late August decided to visit his ancestor's battlefields. [248] Staying at the Regina Hotel in Munich, he met Ernst Hanfstaengl, a friend of Hitler, who was then rising in prominence. Hanfstaengl tried to arrange a meeting between Churchill and Hitler, but Hitler was unenthusiastic, saying, "What on earth would I talk to him about?" [249] After Churchill raised concerns about Hitler's anti-Semitism, Hitler did not come to the hotel that day or the next. [250] [251] Hitler allegedly told Hanfstaengl that Churchill was not in office and was of no consequence. [250] Soon after visiting Blenheim, Churchill was afflicted with paratyphoid fever and spent two weeks at a sanatorium in Salzburg. [252] He returned to Chartwell on 25 September, still working on Marlborough. Two days later, he collapsed while walking in the grounds after a recurrence of paratyphoid which caused an ulcer to haemorrhage. He was taken to a London nursing home and remained there until late October. [253]

Warnings about Germany and the abdication crisis: 1933–1936

After Hitler came to power on 30 January 1933, Churchill was quick to recognise the menace of such a regime and expressed alarm that the British government had reduced air force spending and warned that Germany would soon overtake Britain in air force production. [254] [255] Armed with official data provided clandestinely by two senior civil servants, Desmond Morton and Ralph Wigram, Churchill was able to speak with authority about what was happening in Germany, especially the development of the Luftwaffe. [256] He told the people of his concerns in a radio broadcast in November 1934, [257] having earlier denounced the intolerance and militarism of Nazism in the House of Commons. [258] While Churchill regarded Mussolini's regime as a bulwark against the perceived threat of communist revolution, he opposed the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, [259] despite describing the country as a primitive, uncivilised nation. [260] Writing about the Spanish Civil War, he referred to Franco's army as the "anti-red movement", but later became critical of Franco. [261] Two of his nephews, Esmond and Giles Romilly, fought as volunteers in the International Brigades in defence of the legitimate Republican government. [262]

Between October 1933 and September 1938, the four volumes of Marlborough: His Life and Times were published and sold well. [263] In December 1934, the India Bill entered Parliament and was passed in February 1935. Churchill and 83 other Conservative MPs voted against it. [264] In June 1935, MacDonald resigned and was replaced as Prime Minister by Baldwin. [259] Baldwin then led the Conservatives to victory in the 1935 general election Churchill retained his seat with an increased majority but was again left out of the government. [265]

In January 1936, Edward VIII succeeded his father, George V, as monarch. His desire to marry an American divorcee, Wallis Simpson, caused the abdication crisis. [266] Churchill supported Edward and clashed with Baldwin on the issue. [267] Afterwards, although Churchill immediately pledged loyalty to George VI, he wrote that the abdication was "premature and probably quite unnecessary". [268]

Anti-appeasement: 1937–1939

In May 1937, Baldwin resigned and was succeeded as Prime Minister by Neville Chamberlain. At first, Churchill welcomed Chamberlain's appointment but, in February 1938, matters came to a head after Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden resigned over Chamberlain's appeasement of Mussolini, [269] a policy which Chamberlain was extending towards Hitler. [270]

In 1938, Churchill warned the government against appeasement and called for collective action to deter German aggression. In March, the Evening Standard ceased publication of his fortnightly articles, but the Daily Telegraph published them instead. [271] [272] Following the German annexation of Austria, Churchill spoke in the House of Commons, declaring that "the gravity of the events[…] cannot be exaggerated". [273] He began calling for a mutual defence pact among European states threatened by German expansionism, arguing that this was the only way to halt Hitler. [274] This was to no avail as, in September, Germany mobilised to invade the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. [275] Churchill visited Chamberlain at Downing Street and urged him to tell Germany that Britain would declare war if the Germans invaded Czechoslovak territory Chamberlain was not willing to do this. [276] On 30 September, Chamberlain signed up to the Munich Agreement, agreeing to allow German annexation of the Sudetenland. Speaking in the House of Commons on 5 October, Churchill called the agreement "a total and unmitigated defeat". [277] [278] [279]

The Phoney War and the Norwegian Campaign

On 3 September 1939, the day Britain declared war on Germany, Chamberlain reappointed Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty and he joined Chamberlain's war cabinet. Churchill later claimed that the Board of the Admiralty sent a signal to the Fleet: "Winston is back". [280] As First Lord, Churchill was one of the highest-profile ministers during the so-called "Phoney War", when the only significant action by British forces was at sea. Churchill was ebullient after the Battle of the River Plate on 13 December 1939 and afterwards welcomed home the crews, congratulating them on "a brilliant sea fight" and saying that their actions in a cold, dark winter had "warmed the cockles of the British heart". [281] On 16 February 1940, Churchill personally ordered Captain Philip Vian of the destroyer HMS Cossack to board the German supply ship Altmark in Norwegian waters and liberate some 300 British prisoners who had been captured by the Admiral Graf Spee. These actions, supplemented by his speeches, considerably enhanced Churchill's reputation. [281]

He was concerned about German naval activity in the Baltic Sea and initially wanted to send a naval force there but this was soon changed to a plan, codenamed Operation Wilfred, to mine Norwegian waters and stop iron ore shipments from Narvik to Germany. [282] There were disagreements about mining, both in the war cabinet and with the French government. As a result, Wilfred was delayed until 8 April 1940, the day before the German invasion of Norway was launched. [283]

The Norway Debate and Chamberlain's resignation

After the Allies failed to prevent the German occupation of Norway, the Commons held an open debate from 7 to 9 May on the government's conduct of the war. This has come to be known as the Norway Debate and is renowned as one of the most significant events in parliamentary history. [284] On the second day (Wednesday, 8 May), the Labour opposition called for a division which was in effect a vote of no confidence in Chamberlain's government. [285] There was considerable support for Churchill on both sides of the House but, as a member of the government, he was obliged to speak on its behalf. He was called upon to wind up the debate, which placed him in the difficult position of having to defend the government without damaging his own prestige. [286] Although the government won the vote, its majority was drastically reduced amid calls for a national government to be formed. [287]

In the early hours of 10 May, German forces invaded Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands as a prelude to their assault on France. [288] Since the division vote, Chamberlain had been trying to form a coalition but Labour declared on the Friday afternoon that they would not serve under his leadership, although they would accept another Conservative. The only two candidates were Churchill and Lord Halifax, the Foreign Secretary. The matter had already been discussed at a meeting on the 9th between Chamberlain, Halifax, Churchill, and David Margesson, the government Chief Whip. [288] Halifax admitted that he could not govern effectively as a member of the House of Lords and so Chamberlain advised the King to send for Churchill, who became Prime Minister. [289] Churchill later wrote of feeling a profound sense of relief in that he now had authority over the whole scene. He believed himself to be walking with destiny and that his life so far had been "a preparation for this hour and for this trial". [290] [291] [292]

Dunkirk to Pearl Harbor: May 1940 to December 1941

War ministry created

In May, Churchill was still generally unpopular with many Conservatives and probably most of the Labour Party. [293] Chamberlain remained Conservative Party leader until October when ill health forced his resignation. By that time, Churchill had won the doubters over and his succession as party leader was a formality. [294]

He began his premiership by forming a five-man war cabinet which included Chamberlain as Lord President of the Council, Labour leader Clement Attlee as Lord Privy Seal (later as Deputy Prime Minister), Halifax as Foreign Secretary and Labour's Arthur Greenwood as a minister without portfolio. In practice, these five were augmented by the service chiefs and ministers who attended the majority of meetings. [295] [296] The cabinet changed in size and membership as the war progressed, one of the key appointments being the leading trades unionist Ernest Bevin as Minister of Labour and National Service. [297] In response to previous criticisms that there had been no clear single minister in charge of the prosecution of the war, Churchill created and took the additional position of Minister of Defence, making him the most powerful wartime Prime Minister in British history. [298] He drafted outside experts into government to fulfil vital functions, especially on the Home Front. These included personal friends like Lord Beaverbrook and Frederick Lindemann, who became the government's scientific advisor. [299]

Resolve to fight on

At the end of May, with the British Expeditionary Force in retreat to Dunkirk and the Fall of France seemingly imminent, Halifax proposed that the government should explore the possibility of a negotiated peace settlement using the still-neutral Mussolini as an intermediary. There were several high-level meetings from 26 to 28 May, including two with the French premier Paul Reynaud. [300] Churchill's resolve was to fight on, even if France capitulated, but his position remained precarious until Chamberlain resolved to support him. Churchill had the full support of the two Labour members but knew he could not survive as Prime Minister if both Chamberlain and Halifax were against him. In the end, by gaining the support of his outer cabinet, Churchill outmanoeuvred Halifax and won Chamberlain over. [301] Churchill believed that the only option was to fight on and his use of rhetoric hardened public opinion against a peaceful resolution and prepared the British people for a long war – Jenkins says Churchill's speeches were "an inspiration for the nation, and a catharsis for Churchill himself". [302]

Churchill succeeded as an orator despite being handicapped from childhood with a speech impediment. He had a lateral lisp and was unable to pronounce the letter s, verbalising it with a slur. [303] He worked hard on his pronunciation by repeating phrases designed to cure his problem with the sibilant "s". He was ultimately successful and was eventually able to say: "My impediment is no hindrance". In time, he turned the impediment into an asset and could use it to great effect, as when he called Hitler a "Nar-zee" (rhymes with "khazi" emphasis on the "z"), rather than a Nazi ("ts"). [304]

His first speech as Prime Minister, delivered to the Commons on 13 May was the "blood, toil, tears and sweat" speech. It was little more than a short statement but, Jenkins says, "it included phrases which have reverberated down the decades". [305] Churchill made it plain to the nation that a long, hard road lay ahead and that victory was the final goal: [306] [307]

I would say to the House. that I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. You ask, what is our policy? I will say: it is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: it is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be for without victory, there is no survival.

Operation Dynamo and the Battle of France

Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of 338,226 Allied servicemen from Dunkirk, ended on Tuesday, 4 June when the French rearguard surrendered. The total was far in excess of expectations and it gave rise to a popular view that Dunkirk had been a miracle, and even a victory. [308] Churchill himself referred to "a miracle of deliverance" in his "we shall fight on the beaches" speech to the Commons that afternoon, though he shortly reminded everyone that: "We must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations". The speech ended on a note of defiance coupled with a clear appeal to the United States: [309] [310]

We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

Germany initiated Fall Rot the following day and Italy entered the war on the 10th. [311] The Wehrmacht occupied Paris on the 14th and completed their conquest of France on 25 June. [312] It was now inevitable that Hitler would attack and probably try to invade Great Britain. Faced with this, Churchill addressed the Commons on 18 June and delivered one of his most famous speeches, ending with this peroration: [313] [314] [315]

What General Weygand called the "Battle of France" is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duty and so bear ourselves that if the British Commonwealth and Empire lasts for a thousand years, men will still say: "This was their finest hour".

Churchill was determined to fight back and ordered the commencement of the Western Desert campaign on 11 June, an immediate response to the Italian declaration of war. This went well at first while the Italian army was the sole opposition and Operation Compass was a noted success. In early 1941, however, Mussolini requested German support and Hitler sent the Afrika Korps to Tripoli under the command of Generalleutnant Erwin Rommel, who arrived not long after Churchill had halted Compass so that he could reassign forces to Greece where the Balkans campaign was entering a critical phase. [316]

In other initiatives through June and July 1940, Churchill ordered the formation of both the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and the Commandos. The SOE was ordered to promote and execute subversive activity in Nazi-occupied Europe while the Commandos were charged with raids on specific military targets there. Hugh Dalton, the Minister of Economic Warfare, took political responsibility for the SOE and recorded in his diary that Churchill told him: "And now go and set Europe ablaze". [317]

The Battle of Britain and the Blitz

On 20 August 1940, at the height of the Battle of Britain, Churchill addressed the Commons to outline the war situation. In the middle of this speech, he made a statement that created a famous nickname for the RAF fighter pilots involved in the battle: [318] [319]

The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the World War by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.

The Luftwaffe altered its strategy from 7 September 1940 and began the Blitz, which was especially intensive through October and November. Churchill's morale during the Blitz was generally high and he told his private secretary John Colville in November that he thought the threat of invasion was past. [320] He was confident that Great Britain could hold its own, given the increase in output, but was realistic about its chances of actually winning the war without American intervention. [321]


In September 1940, the British and American governments concluded the Destroyers for Bases Agreement, by which fifty American destroyers were transferred to the Royal Navy in exchange for free US base rights in Bermuda, the Caribbean and Newfoundland. An added advantage for Britain was that its military assets in those bases could be redeployed elsewhere. [322]

Churchill's good relations with United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt helped secure vital food, oil and munitions via the North Atlantic shipping routes. [323] It was for this reason that Churchill was relieved when Roosevelt was re-elected in 1940. Upon re-election, Roosevelt set about implementing a new method of providing necessities to Great Britain without the need for monetary payment. He persuaded Congress that repayment for this immensely costly service would take the form of defending the US. The policy was known as Lend-Lease and it was formally enacted on 11 March 1941. [324]

Operation Barbarossa

Hitler launched his invasion of the Soviet Union on Sunday, 22 June 1941. It was no surprise to Churchill, who had known since early April, from Enigma decrypts at Bletchley Park, that the attack was imminent. He had tried to warn General Secretary Joseph Stalin via the British ambassador to Moscow, Stafford Cripps, but to no avail as Stalin did not trust Churchill. The night before the attack, already intending an address to the nation, Churchill alluded to his hitherto anti-communist views by saying to Colville: "If Hitler invaded Hell, I would at least make a favourable reference to the Devil". [325]

Atlantic Charter

In August 1941, Churchill made his first transatlantic crossing of the war on board HMS Prince of Wales and met Roosevelt in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland. On 14 August, they issued the joint statement that has become known as the Atlantic Charter. [326] This outlined the goals of both countries for the future of the world and it is seen as the inspiration for the 1942 Declaration by United Nations, itself the basis of the United Nations which was founded in June 1945. [327]

Pearl Harbor to D-Day: December 1941 to June 1944

Pearl Harbor and United States entry into the war

On 7–8 December 1941, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was followed by their invasion of Malaya and, on the 8th, Churchill declared war on Japan. Three days later came the joint declaration of war by Germany and Italy against the United States. [328] Churchill went to Washington later in the month to meet Roosevelt for the first Washington Conference (codename Arcadia). This was important for "Europe First", the decision to prioritise victory in Europe over victory in the Pacific, taken by Roosevelt while Churchill was still in mid-Atlantic. The Americans agreed with Churchill that Hitler was the main enemy and that the defeat of Germany was key to Allied success. [329] It was also agreed that the first joint Anglo-American strike would be Operation Torch, the invasion of French North Africa (i.e., Algeria and Morocco). Originally planned for the spring of 1942, it was finally launched in November 1942 when the crucial Second Battle of El Alamein was already underway. [330]

On 26 December, Churchill addressed a joint meeting of the US Congress but, that night, he suffered a mild heart attack which was diagnosed by his physician, Sir Charles Wilson (later Lord Moran), as a coronary deficiency needing several weeks' bed rest. Churchill insisted that he did not need bed rest and, two days later, journeyed on to Ottawa by train where he gave a speech to the Canadian Parliament that included the "some chicken, some neck" line in which he recalled French predictions in 1940 that "Britain alone would have her neck wrung like a chicken". [331] He arrived home in mid-January, having flown from Bermuda to Plymouth in an American flying boat, to find that there was a crisis of confidence in both his coalition government and himself personally, [332] and he decided to face a vote of confidence in the Commons, which he won easily. [333]

While he was away, the Eighth Army, having already relieved the Siege of Tobruk, had pursued Operation Crusader against Rommel's forces in Libya, successfully driving them back to a defensive position at El Agheila in Cyrenaica. On 21 January 1942, however, Rommel launched a surprise counter-attack which drove the Allies back to Gazala.

Elsewhere, recent British success in the Battle of the Atlantic was compromised by the Kriegsmarine's introduction of its M4 4-rotor Enigma, whose signals could not be deciphered by Bletchley Park for nearly a year. [334] In the Far East, the news was much worse with Japanese advances in all theatres, especially at sea and in Malaya. At a press conference in Washington, Churchill had to play down his increasing doubts about the security of Singapore. [335]

Fall of Singapore, loss of Burma and the Bengal famine

Churchill already had grave concerns about the fighting quality of British troops after the defeats in Norway, France, Greece and Crete. [336] Following the fall of Singapore to the Japanese on 15 February 1942, he felt that his misgivings were confirmed and said: "(this is) the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British military history". [337] More bad news had come on 11 February as the Kriegsmarine pulled off its audacious "Channel Dash", a massive blow to British naval prestige. The combined effect of these events was to sink Churchill's morale to its lowest point of the whole war. [336]

Meanwhile, the Japanese had occupied most of Burma by the end of April 1942. Counter-offensives were hampered by the monsoon season and by disordered conditions in Bengal and Bihar, as well as a severe cyclone which devastated the region in October 1942. A combination of factors, including the curtailment of essential rice imports from Burma, poor administration, wartime inflation and a series of large-scale natural disasters such as flooding and crop disease led to the Bengal famine of 1943, [338] in which approximately 3 million people died. [339] From December 1942 onwards, food shortages had prompted senior officials in India to ask London for grain imports, although the colonial authorities failed to recognise the seriousness of the emerging famine and responded ineptly. [340] Churchill's government was criticised for refusing to approve more imports, a policy it ascribed to an acute wartime shortage of shipping. [341] When the British realised the full extent of the famine in September 1943, Churchill ordered the transportation of 130,000 tonnes of Iraqi and Australian grain to Bengal and the war cabinet agreed to send 200,000 tonnes by the end of the year. [342] [343] During the last quarter of 1943, 100,000 tons of rice and 176,000 tons of wheat were imported, compared to averages of 55,000 tons of rice and 54,000 tons of wheat earlier in the year. [344] In October, Churchill wrote to the newly appointed Viceroy of India, Lord Wavell, charging him with the responsibility of ending the famine. [342] In February 1944, as preparation for Operation Overlord placed greater demands on Allied shipping, Churchill cabled Wavell saying: "I will certainly help you all I can, but you must not ask the impossible". [343] Grain shipment requests continued to be turned down by the government throughout 1944, and Wavell complained to Churchill in October that "the vital problems of India are being treated by His Majesty's Government with neglect, even sometimes with hostility and contempt". [341] [345] The relative impact of British policies on the death toll of the famine remains a matter of controversy among scholars. [346]

International conferences in 1942

On 20 May 1942, the Soviet Foreign Affairs minister, Vyacheslav Molotov, arrived in London and stayed until the 28th before going on to Washington. The purpose of this visit was to sign a treaty of friendship but Molotov wanted it done on the basis of certain territorial concessions re Poland and the Baltic States. Churchill and Eden worked for a compromise and eventually a twenty-year treaty was formalised but with the question of frontiers placed on hold. Molotov was also seeking a Second Front in Europe but all Churchill could do was confirm that preparations were in progress and make no promises on a date. [347]

Churchill felt well pleased with these negotiations and said as much when he contacted Roosevelt on the 27th. [348] The previous day, however, Rommel had launched his counter-offensive, Operation Venice, to begin the Battle of Gazala. [348] The Allies were ultimately driven out of Libya and suffered a major defeat in the loss of Tobruk on 21 June. Churchill was with Roosevelt when the news of Tobruk reached him. He was shocked by the surrender of 35,000 troops which was, apart from Singapore, "the heaviest blow" he received in the war. [349] The Axis advance was eventually halted at the First Battle of El Alamein in July and the Battle of Alam el Halfa in early September. Both sides were exhausted and in urgent need of reinforcements and supplies. [350]

Churchill had returned to Washington on 17 June. He and Roosevelt agreed on the implementation of Operation Torch as the necessary precursor to an invasion of Europe. Roosevelt had appointed General Dwight D. Eisenhower as commanding officer of the European Theater of Operations, United States Army (ETOUSA). Having received the news from North Africa, Churchill obtained shipment from America to the Eighth Army of 300 Sherman tanks and 100 howitzers. He returned to Britain on 25 June and had to face another motion of no confidence, this time in his central direction of the war, but again he won easily. [351]

In August, despite health concerns, Churchill visited the British forces in North Africa, raising morale in the process, en route to Moscow for his first meeting with Stalin. He was accompanied by Roosevelt's special envoy Averell Harriman. [352] He was in Moscow 12–16 August and had four lengthy meetings with Stalin. Although they got along quite well together on a personal level, there was little chance of any real progress given the state of the war with the Germans still advancing in all theatres. Stalin was desperate for the Allies to open the Second Front in Europe, as Churchill had discussed with Molotov in May, and the answer was the same. [353]

Turn of the tide: El Alamein and Stalingrad

While he was in Cairo in early August, Churchill decided to replace Field Marshal Auchinleck with Field Marshal Alexander as Commander-in-Chief of the Middle East Theatre. Command of the Eighth Army was given to General William Gott but he was killed only three days later and General Montgomery replaced him. Churchill returned to Cairo from Moscow on 17 August and could see for himself that the Alexander/Montgomery combination was already having an effect. He returned to England on the 21st, nine days before Rommel launched his final offensive. [354]

As 1942 drew to a close, the tide of war began to turn with Allied victory in the key battles of El Alamein and Stalingrad. Until November, the Allies had always been on the defensive, but from November, the Germans were. Churchill ordered the church bells to be rung throughout Great Britain for the first time since early 1940. [354] On 10 November, knowing that El Alamein was a victory, he delivered one of his most memorable war speeches to the Lord Mayor's Luncheon at the Mansion House in London, in response to the Allied victory at El Alamein: "This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning." [354]

International conferences in 1943

In January 1943, Churchill met Roosevelt at the Casablanca Conference (codename Symbol), which lasted ten days. It was also attended by General Charles de Gaulle on behalf of the Free French Forces. Stalin had hoped to attend but declined because of the situation at Stalingrad. Although Churchill expressed doubts on the matter, the so-called Casablanca Declaration committed the Allies to securing "unconditional surrender" by the Axis powers. [355] [356] From Morocco, Churchill went to Cairo, Adana, Cyprus, Cairo again and Algiers for various purposes. He arrived home on 7 February having been out for the country for nearly a month. He addressed the Commons on the 11th and then became seriously ill with pneumonia the following day, necessitating more than one month of rest, recuperation and convalescence – for the latter, he moved to Chequers. He returned to work in London on 15 March. [357]

Churchill made two transatlantic crossings during the year, meeting Roosevelt at both the third Washington Conference (codename Trident) in May and the first Quebec Conference (codename Quadrant) in August. [358] In November, Churchill and Roosevelt met Chinese Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek at the Cairo Conference (codename Sextant). [359]

The most important conference of the year was soon afterwards (28 November to 1 December) at Tehran (codename Eureka), where Churchill and Roosevelt met Stalin in the first of the "Big Three" meetings, preceding those at Yalta and Potsdam in 1945. Roosevelt and Stalin co-operated in persuading Churchill to commit to the opening of a second front in western Europe and it was also agreed that Germany would be divided after the war, but no firm decisions were made about how. [360] On their way back from Tehran, Churchill and Roosevelt held a second Cairo conference with Turkish president Ismet Inönü, but were unable to gain any commitment from Turkey to join the Allies. [361]

Churchill went from Cairo to Tunis, arriving on 10 December, initially as Eisenhower's guest (soon afterwards, Eisenhower took over as Supreme Allied Commander of the new SHAEF just being created in London). While Churchill was in Tunis, he became seriously ill with atrial fibrillation and was forced to remain until after Christmas while a succession of specialists were drafted in to ensure his recovery. Clementine and Colville arrived to keep him company Colville had just returned to Downing Street after more than two years in the RAF. On 27 December, the party went on to Marrakesh for convalescence. Feeling much better, Churchill flew to Gibraltar on 14 January 1944 and sailed home on the King George V. He was back in London on the morning of 18 January and surprised MPs by attending Prime Minister's Questions in the Commons that afternoon. Since 12 January 1943, when he set off for the Casablanca Conference, Churchill had been abroad or seriously ill for 203 of the 371 days. [362]

Invasions of Sicily and Italy

In the autumn of 1942, after Churchill's meeting with Stalin in Moscow, he was approached by Eisenhower, commanding North African Theater of Operations (NATOUSA), and his aides on the subject of where the Western Allies should launch their first strike in Europe. According to General Mark Clark, who later commanded the United States Fifth Army in the Italian campaign, the Americans openly admitted that a cross-Channel operation in the near future was "utterly impossible". As an alternative, Churchill recommended "slit(ting) the soft belly of the Mediterranean" and persuaded them to invade first Sicily and then Italy after they had defeated the Afrika Korps in North Africa. After the war, Clark still agreed that Churchill's analysis was correct but he added that, when the Allies landed at Salerno, they found that Italy was "a tough old gut". [363]

The invasion of Sicily began on 9 July and was successfully completed by 17 August. Churchill was then all for driving straight up the Italian mainland with Rome as the main target, but the Americans wanted to withdraw several divisions to England in the build-up of forces for Operation Overlord, now scheduled for the spring of 1944. Churchill was still not keen on Overlord as he feared that an Anglo-American army in France might not be a match for the fighting efficiency of the Wehrmacht. He preferred peripheral operations, including a plan called Operation Jupiter for an invasion of northern Norway. [364] Events in Sicily had an unexpected impact in Italy. King Victor Emmanuel sacked Mussolini on 25 July and appointed Marshal Badoglio as Prime Minister. Badoglio opened negotiations with the Allies which resulted in the Armistice of Cassibile on 3 September. In response, the Germans activated Operation Achse and took control of most of Italy. [365] Although he still preferred Italy to Normandy as the Allies' main route into the Third Reich, Churchill was deeply concerned about the strong German resistance at Salerno and, later, after the Allies successfully gained their bridgehead at Anzio but still failed to break the stalemate, he caustically said that instead of "hurling a wildcat onto the shore", the Allied force had become a "stranded whale". [366] The big obstacle was Monte Cassino and it was not until mid-May 1944 when it was finally overcome, enabling the Allies to at last advance on Rome, which was taken on 4 June. [367]

Preparations for D-Day

The difficulties in Italy caused Churchill to have a change of heart and mind about Allied strategy to the extent that, when the Anzio stalemate developed soon after his return to England from North Africa, he threw himself into the planning of Overlord and set up an ongoing series of meetings with SHAEF and the British Chiefs of Staff over which he regularly presided. These were always attended by either Eisenhower or his chief of staff General Walter Bedell Smith. Churchill was especially taken by the Mulberry project but he was also keen to make the most of Allied air power which, by the beginning of 1944, had become overwhelming. [367] Churchill never fully lost his apprehension about the invasion, however, and underwent great fluctuation of mood as D-Day approached. Jenkins says that he faced potential victory with much less buoyancy than when he defiantly faced the prospect of defeat four years earlier. [368]

Need for post-war reform

Churchill could not ignore the need for post-war reforms covering a broad sweep of areas such as agriculture, education, employment, health, housing and welfare. The Beveridge Report with its five "Giant Evils" was published in November 1942 and assumed great importance amid widespread popular acclaim. [369] Even so, Churchill was not really interested because he was focused on winning the war and saw reform in terms of tidying up afterwards. His attitude was demonstrated in a Sunday evening radio broadcast on 26 March 1944. He was obliged to devote most of it to the subject of reform and showed a distinct lack of interest. In their respective diaries, Colville said Churchill had broadcast "indifferently" and Harold Nicolson said that, to many people, Churchill came across the air as "a worn and petulant old man". [370]

In the end, however, it was the population's demand for reform that decided the 1945 general election. Labour was perceived as the party that would deliver Beveridge. Arthur Greenwood had initiated its preceding social insurance and allied services inquiry in June 1941. Attlee, Bevin and Labour's other coalition ministers through the war were seen to be working towards reform and earned the trust of the electorate. [371] [372]

Defeat of Germany: June 1944 to May 1945

D-Day: Allied invasion of Normandy

Churchill was determined to be actively involved in the Normandy invasion and hoped to cross the Channel on D-Day itself (6 June 1944) or at least on D-Day+1. His desire caused unnecessary consternation at SHAEF until he was effectively vetoed by the King who told Churchill that, as head of all three services, he (the King) ought to go too. Churchill expected an Allied death toll of 20,000 on D-Day but he was proven to be pessimistic because less than 8,000 died in the whole of June. [373] He made his first visit to Normandy on 12 June to visit Montgomery, whose HQ was then about five miles inland. That evening, as he was returning to London, the first V-1 flying bombs were launched. In a longer visit to Normandy on 22–23 July, Churchill went to Cherbourg and Arromanches where he saw the Mulberry Harbour. [374]

Quebec Conference, September 1944

Churchill met Roosevelt at the Second Quebec Conference (codename Octagon) from 12 to 16 September 1944. Between themselves, they reached agreement on the Morgenthau Plan for the Allied occupation of Germany after the war, the intention of which was not only to demilitarise but also de-industrialise Germany. Eden strongly opposed it and was later able to persuade Churchill to disown it. US Secretary of State Cordell Hull also opposed it and convinced Roosevelt that it was infeasible. [375]

Moscow Conference, October 1944

At the fourth Moscow conference (codename Tolstoy) from 9 to 19 October 1944, Churchill and Eden met Stalin and Molotov. This conference has gained notoriety for the so-called "Percentages agreement" in which Churchill and Stalin effectively agreed the post-war fate of the Balkans. [376] By that time, the Soviet armies were in Rumania and Bulgaria. Churchill suggested a scale of predominance throughout the whole region so as not to, as he put it, "get at cross-purposes in small ways". [377] He wrote down some suggested percentages of influence per country and gave it to Stalin who ticked it. The agreement was that Russia would have 90% control of Romania and 75% control of Bulgaria. The UK and the USA would have 90% control of Greece. Hungary and Yugoslavia would be 50% each. [378] In 1958, five years after the account of this meeting was published (in Churchill's The Second World War), Soviet authorities denied that Stalin had accepted such an "imperialist proposal". [376]

Yalta Conference, February 1945

From 30 January to 2 February 1945, Churchill and Roosevelt met for their Malta Conference ahead of the second "Big Three" event at Yalta from 4 to 11 February. [379] Yalta had massive implications for the post-war world. There were two predominant issues: the question of setting up the United Nations Organisation after the war, on which much progress was made and the more vexed question of Poland's post-war status, which Churchill saw as a test case for the future of Eastern Europe. [380] Churchill faced some strong criticism for the Yalta agreement on Poland. For example, 27 Tory MPs voted against him when the matter was debated in the Commons at the end of the month. Jenkins, however, maintains that Churchill did as well as he could have done in very difficult circumstances, not least the fact that Roosevelt was seriously ill and could not provide Churchill with meaningful support. [381]

Another outcome of Yalta was the so-called Operation Keelhaul. The Western Allies agreed to the forcible repatriation of all Soviet citizens in the Allied zones, including prisoners of war, to the Soviet Union and the policy was later extended to all Eastern European refugees, many of whom were anti-Communist. Keelhaul was implemented between 14 August 1946 and 9 May 1947. [382] [383]

Dresden bombings controversy

On the nights of 13–15 February 1945, some 1,200 British and US bombers attacked the German city of Dresden, which was crowded with wounded and refugees from the Eastern Front. [384] [385] The attacks were part of an area bombing campaign that was initiated by Churchill in January with the intention of shortening the war. [386] Churchill came to regret the bombing because initial reports suggested an excessive number of civilian casualties close to the end of the war, though an independent commission in 2010 confirmed a death toll between 22,700 and 25,000. [387] On 28 March, he decided to restrict area bombing [388] and sent a memorandum to General Ismay for the Chiefs of Staff Committee: [389] [390]

The destruction of Dresden remains a serious query against the conduct of Allied bombing. I feel the need for more precise concentration upon military objectives. rather than on mere acts of terror and wanton destruction, however impressive.

British historian Frederick Taylor has pointed out that the number of Soviet citizens who died from German bombing was roughly equivalent to the number of German citizens who died from Allied raids. [391] Jenkins asks if Churchill was moved more by foreboding than by regret but admits it is easy to criticise with the hindsight of victory. He adds that the area bombing campaign was no more reprehensible than President Truman's use of the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki six months later. [388] Andrew Marr, quoting Max Hastings, says that Churchill's memorandum was a "calculated political attempt. to distance himself. from the rising controversy surrounding the area offensive". [390]

VE Day

On 7 May 1945 at the SHAEF headquarters in Reims the Allies accepted Germany's surrender. The next day was Victory in Europe Day (VE Day) when Churchill broadcast to the nation that Germany had surrendered and that a final ceasefire on all fronts in Europe would come into effect at one minute past midnight that night (i.e., on the 9th). [392] Afterwards, Churchill went to Buckingham Palace where he appeared on the balcony with the Royal Family before a huge crowd of celebrating citizens. He went from the palace to Whitehall where he addressed another large crowd: "God bless you all. This is your victory. In our long history, we have never seen a greater day than this. Everyone, man or woman, has done their best." [393]

At this point he asked Ernest Bevin to come forward and share the applause. Bevin said: "No, Winston, this is your day", and proceeded to conduct the people in the singing of For He's a Jolly Good Fellow. [393] In the evening, Churchill made another broadcast to the nation asserting that the defeat of Japan would follow in the coming months (the Japanese surrendered on 15 August 1945). [394]

Caretaker government: May 1945 to July 1945

With a general election looming (there had been none for almost a decade), and with the Labour ministers refusing to continue the wartime coalition, Churchill resigned as Prime Minister on 23 May 1945. Later that day, he accepted the King's invitation to form a new government, known officially as the National Government, like the Conservative-dominated coalition of the 1930s, but sometimes called the caretaker ministry. It contained Conservatives, National Liberals and a few non-party figures such as Sir John Anderson and Lord Woolton, but not Labour or Archibald Sinclair's Official Liberals. Although Churchill continued to carry out the functions of Prime Minister, including exchanging messages with the US administration about the upcoming Potsdam Conference, he was not formally reappointed until 28 May. [395] [396]

Potsdam Conference

Churchill was Great Britain's representative at the post-war Potsdam Conference when it opened on 17 July and was accompanied at its sessions not only by Eden as Foreign Secretary but also, pending the result of the July general election, by Attlee. They attended nine sessions in nine days before returning to England for their election counts. After the landslide Labour victory, Attlee returned with Bevin as the new Foreign Secretary and there were a further five days of discussion. [397] Potsdam went badly for Churchill. Eden later described his performance as "appalling", saying that he was unprepared and verbose. Churchill upset the Chinese, exasperated the Americans and was easily led by Stalin, whom he was supposed to be resisting. [398]

General election, July 1945

Churchill mishandled the election campaign by resorting to party politics and trying to denigrate Labour. [399] On 4 June, he committed a serious political gaffe by saying in a radio broadcast that a Labour government would require "some form of Gestapo" to enforce its agenda. [400] [401] It backfired badly and Attlee made political capital by saying in his reply broadcast next day: "The voice we heard last night was that of Mr Churchill, but the mind was that of Lord Beaverbrook". Jenkins says that this broadcast was "the making of Attlee". [402]

Although polling day was 5 July, the results of the election did not become known until 26 July, owing to the need to collect the votes of those serving overseas. Clementine and daughter Mary had been at the count in Woodford, Churchill's new constituency in Essex, and had returned to Downing Street to meet him for lunch. Churchill was unopposed by the major parties in Woodford, but his majority over a sole independent candidate was much less than expected. He now anticipated defeat by Labour and Mary later described the lunch as "an occasion of Stygian gloom". [403] [404] To Clementine's suggestion that election defeat might be "a blessing in disguise", Churchill retorted: "At the moment it seems very effectively disguised". [403]

That afternoon Churchill's doctor Lord Moran (so he later recorded in his book The Struggle for Survival) commiserated with him on the "ingratitude" of the British public, to which Churchill replied: "I wouldn't call it that. They have had a very hard time". [404] Having lost the election, despite enjoying much personal support amongst the British population, he resigned as Prime Minister that evening and was succeeded by Attlee who formed the first majority Labour government. [405] [406] [407] [408] Many reasons have been given for Churchill's defeat, key among them being that a desire for post-war reform was widespread amongst the population and that the man who had led Britain in war was not seen as the man to lead the nation in peace. [409] [410] Although the Conservative Party was unpopular, many electors appear to have wanted Churchill to continue as Prime Minister whatever the outcome, or to have wrongly believed that this would be possible. [411]

"Iron Curtain" speech

Churchill continued to lead the Conservative Party and, for six years, served as Leader of the Opposition. In 1946, he was in America for nearly three months from early January to late March. [412] It was on this trip that he gave his "Iron Curtain" speech about the USSR and its creation of the Eastern Bloc. [413] Speaking on 5 March 1946 in the company of President Truman at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, Churchill declared: [414]

From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an Iron Curtain has descended across the continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere.

The essence of his view was that, though the Soviet Union did not want war with the western Allies, its entrenched position in Eastern Europe had made it impossible for the three great powers to provide the world with a "triangular leadership". Churchill's desire was much closer collaboration between Britain and America. Within the same speech, he called for "a special relationship between the British Commonwealth and Empire and the United States", [414] but he emphasised the need for co-operation within the framework of the United Nations Charter. [415]


Churchill was an early proponent of pan-Europeanism, having called for a "United States of Europe" in a 1930 article. He supported the creations of the Council of Europe in 1949 and the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951, but his support was always with the firm proviso that Britain must not actually join any federal grouping. [416] [417] [418]

Having lived in Ireland as a child, Churchill always opposed its partition. As a minister in 1913 and again in 1921, he suggested that Ulster should be part of a united Ireland, but with a degree of autonomy from an independent Irish government. He was always opposed on this by Ulster Unionists. [419] While he was Leader of the Opposition, he told John W. Dulanty and Frederick Boland, successive Irish ambassadors to London, that he still hoped for reunification. [420]

Labour won the 1950 general election, but with a much-reduced majority. Churchill continued to serve as Leader of the Opposition. [421]

Election result and cabinet appointments

Despite losing the popular vote to Labour, the Conservatives won an overall majority of 17 seats in the October 1951 general election and Churchill again became Prime Minister, remaining in office until his resignation on 5 April 1955. [422] Eden, his eventual successor, was restored to Foreign Affairs, the portfolio with which Churchill was preoccupied throughout his tenure. [423] Future Prime Minister Harold Macmillan was appointed Minister of Housing and Local Government with a manifesto commitment to build 300,000 new houses per annum, Churchill's only real domestic concern. He achieved the target and, in October 1954, was promoted to Minister of Defence. [424]

Health issues to eventual resignation

Churchill was nearly 77 when he took office and was not in good health following several minor strokes. [425] By December, George VI had become concerned about Churchill's decline and intended asking him to stand down in favour of Eden, but the King had his own serious health issues and died on 6 February without making the request. [426] Churchill developed a close friendship with Elizabeth II. It was widely expected that he would retire after her Coronation in May 1953 but, after Eden became seriously ill, Churchill increased his own responsibilities by taking over at the Foreign Office. [427] [428] [429] Eden was incapacitated until the end of the year and was never completely well again. [430]

On the evening of 23 June 1953, Churchill suffered a serious stroke and became partially paralysed down one side. Had Eden been well, Churchill's premiership would most likely have been over. The matter was kept secret and Churchill went home to Chartwell to recuperate. He had fully recovered by November. [431] [432] [433] He retired as Prime Minister in April 1955 and was succeeded by Eden. [434]

Foreign affairs

Churchill feared a global conflagration and firmly believed that the only way to preserve peace and freedom was to build on a solid foundation of friendship and co-operation between Britain and America. He made four official transatlantic visits from January 1952 to July 1954. [435]

He enjoyed a good relationship with Truman but difficulties arose over the planned European Defence Community (EDC), by which Truman hoped to reduce America's military presence in West Germany Churchill was sceptical about the EDC. [436] Churchill wanted US military support of British interests in Egypt and the Middle East, but that was refused. While Truman expected British military involvement in Korea, he viewed any US commitment to the Middle East as maintaining British imperialism. [437] The Americans recognised that the British Empire was in terminal decline and had welcomed the Attlee government's policy of decolonisation. Churchill, always the imperialist, believed that Britain's position as a world power depended on the empire's continued existence. [438]

Churchill had been obliged to recognise Colonel Nasser's revolutionary government of Egypt, which took power in 1952. Much to Churchill's private dismay, agreement was reached in October 1954 on the phased evacuation of British troops from their Suez base. In addition, Britain agreed to terminate its rule in Anglo-Egyptian Sudan by 1956, though this was in return for Nasser's abandonment of Egyptian claims over the region. [439] Elsewhere, the Malayan Emergency, a guerrilla war fought by Communist fighters against Commonwealth forces, had begun in 1948 and continued past Malayan independence (1957) until 1960. Churchill's government maintained the military response to the crisis and adopted a similar strategy for the Mau Mau Uprising in British Kenya (1952–1960). [440]

Churchill was uneasy about the election of Eisenhower as Truman's successor. After Stalin died on 5 March 1953, Churchill sought a summit meeting with the Soviets but Eisenhower refused out of fear that the Soviets would use it for propaganda. [441] [427] [442] By July of that year, Churchill was deeply regretting that the Democrats had not been returned. He told Colville that Eisenhower as president was "both weak and stupid". Churchill believed that Eisenhower did not fully comprehend the danger posed by the H-bomb and he greatly distrusted Eisenhower's Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles. [443] Churchill met Eisenhower to no avail at the Three-Powers (French Prime Minister Joseph Laniel being the third participant) Bermuda Conference in December 1953 [444] [445] (with Churchill as the host, as the conference was on British territory) and in June/July 1954 at the White House. [446] In the end, it was the Soviets who proposed a four-power summit, but it did not meet until 18 July 1955, three months after Churchill had retired. [447] [448]

Retirement: 1955–1964

Elizabeth II offered to create Churchill Duke of London, but this was declined as a result of the objections of his son Randolph, who would have inherited the title on his father's death. [449] He did, however, accept the Order of the Garter to become Sir Winston. Although publicly supportive, Churchill was privately scathing about Eden's handling of the Suez Crisis and Clementine believed that many of his visits to the United States in the following years were attempts to help repair Anglo-American relations. [450] After leaving the premiership, Churchill remained an MP until he stood down at the 1964 general election. [451] Apart from 1922 to 1924, he had been an MP since October 1900 and had represented five constituencies. [452]

By the time of the 1959 general election, however, he seldom attended the House of Commons. Despite the Conservative landslide in 1959, his own majority in Woodford fell by more than a thousand. He spent most of his retirement at Chartwell or at his London home in Hyde Park Gate, and became a habitué of high society at La Pausa on the French Riviera. [453]

In June 1962, when he was 87, Churchill had a fall in Monte Carlo and broke his hip. He was flown home to a London hospital where he remained for three weeks. Jenkins says that Churchill was never the same after this accident and his last two years were something of a twilight period. [451] In 1963, US President John F. Kennedy, acting under authorisation granted by an Act of Congress, proclaimed him an Honorary Citizen of the United States, but he was unable to attend the White House ceremony. [451] There has been speculation that he became very depressed in his final years but this has been emphatically denied by his personal secretary Anthony Montague Browne, who was with him for his last ten years. Montague Browne wrote that he never heard Churchill refer to depression and certainly did not suffer from it. [454]

Death, funeral and memorials

Churchill suffered his final stroke on 12 January 1965. He died nearly two weeks later on the 24th, which was the seventieth anniversary of his father's death. He was given a state funeral six days later on 30 January, the first for a non-royal person since Lord Carson in 1935.

Planning for Churchill's funeral had begun in 1953 under the code-name of "Operation Hope Not" and a detailed plan had been produced by 1958. [455] His coffin lay in state at Westminster Hall for three days and the funeral ceremony was at St Paul's Cathedral. [451] Afterwards, the coffin was taken by boat along the River Thames to Waterloo Station and from there by a special train to the family plot at St Martin's Church, Bladon, near his birthplace at Blenheim Palace. [456]

Worldwide, numerous memorials have been dedicated to Churchill. His statue in Parliament Square was unveiled by his widow Clementine in 1973 and is one of only twelve in the square, all of prominent political figures, including Churchill's friend Lloyd George and his India policy nemesis Gandhi. [457] [458] Elsewhere in London, the wartime Cabinet War Rooms have been renamed the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms. [459] Churchill College, Cambridge, was established as a national memorial to Churchill. An indication of Churchill's high esteem in the UK is the result of the 2002 BBC poll, attracting 447,423 votes, in which he was voted the greatest Briton of all time, his nearest rival being Isambard Kingdom Brunel some 56,000 votes behind. [460]

He is one of only eight people to be granted honorary citizenship of the United States others include Lafayette, Raoul Wallenberg and Mother Teresa. [461] The United States Navy honoured him in 1999 by naming a new Arleigh Burke-class destroyer as the USS Winston S. Churchill. [462] Other memorials in North America include the National Churchill Museum in Fulton, Missouri, where he made the 1946 "Iron Curtain" speech Churchill Square in central Edmonton, Alberta and the Winston Churchill Range, a mountain range northwest of Lake Louise, also in Alberta, which was renamed after Churchill in 1956. [463]

Churchill was a prolific writer. He used either "Winston S. Churchill" or "Winston Spencer Churchill" as his pen name to avoid confusion with the American novelist of the same name, with whom he struck up a friendly correspondence. [464] His output included a novel, two biographies, three volumes of memoirs, several histories, and numerous press articles. Two of his most famous works, published after his first premiership brought his international fame to new heights, were his twelve-volume memoir, The Second World War, and the four-volume A History of the English-Speaking Peoples. [465] For many years, he relied heavily upon his press articles to assuage his financial worries: in 1937, for example, he wrote 64 published articles and some of his contracts were quite lucrative. [466] In recognition of his "mastery of historical and biographical description" and oratorial output, Churchill received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953. [467]

As well as writing, Churchill became an accomplished amateur artist after his resignation from the Admiralty in 1915. [468] Using the pseudonym "Charles Morin", [469] he continued this hobby throughout his life and completed hundreds of paintings, many of which are on show in the studio at Chartwell as well as in private collections. [470]

Churchill was an amateur bricklayer, constructing buildings and garden walls at Chartwell. [469] To further this hobby, he joined the Amalgamated Union of Building Trade Workers but was expelled after he revived his membership of the Conservative Party. [469] He also bred butterflies at Chartwell, keeping them in a converted summerhouse each year until the weather was right for their release. [471] He was well known for his love of animals and always had several pets, mainly cats but also dogs, pigs, lambs, bantams, goats and fox cubs among others. [472] Churchill has often been quoted as saying that "cats look down on us and dogs look up to us, but pigs treat us as equals", or words to that effect, but the International Churchill Society believe he has mostly been misquoted. [473]

"A man of destiny"

Roy Jenkins concludes his biography of Churchill by comparing him with W. E. Gladstone, whom Jenkins recognised as "undoubtedly" the greatest prime minister of the nineteenth century. When he began his biography, Jenkins regarded Gladstone as the greater man but changed his mind in the course of writing. He concluded his work by ranking Churchill: [456]

. with all his idiosyncracies, his indulgences, his occasional childishness, but also his genius, his tenacity and his persistent ability (to be) larger than life, as the greatest ever (occupant of) 10 Downing Street.

Churchill always self-confidently believed himself to be "a man of destiny". [474] Because of this, he lacked restraint and could be reckless. [475] [476] His self-belief manifested itself in terms of his "affinity with war" of which, according to Sebastian Haffner, he exhibited "a profound and innate understanding". [477] Churchill considered himself a military genius but that made him vulnerable to failure and Paul Addison says Gallipoli was "the greatest blow his self-image was ever to sustain". [478] Jenkins points out, however, that although Churchill was excited and exhilarated by war, he was never indifferent to the suffering it causes. [479]

Political ideology

As a politician, Churchill was perceived by some observers to have been largely motivated by personal ambition rather than political principle. [480] [481] During his early parliamentary career, he was often deliberately provocative and argumentative to an unusual degree [482] and his barbed rhetorical style earned him many enemies in parliament. [483] [484] On the other hand, he was deemed to be an honest politician who displayed particular loyalty to his family and close friends. [485] He was, according to Jenkins, "singularly lacking in inhibition or concealment". [486] Robert Rhodes James said he "lacked any capacity for intrigue and was refreshingly innocent and straightforward". [487]

Until the outbreak of the Second World War, Churchill's approach to politics generated widespread "mistrust and dislike", [488] largely on account of his two party defections. [489] His biographers have variously categorised him, in terms of political ideology, as "fundamentally conservative", [490] "(always) liberal in outlook", [491] and "never circumscribed by party affiliation". [492] Jenkins says that Churchill's self-belief was "far stronger than any class or tribal loyalty". [474] Whether Churchill was a conservative or a liberal, he was nearly always opposed to socialism because of its propensity for state planning and his belief in free markets. The exception was during his wartime coalition when he was completely reliant upon the support of his Labour colleagues. [493] [494] Although the Labour leaders were willing to join his coalition, Churchill had long been regarded as an enemy of the working class. His response to the Rhonda Valley unrest and his anti-socialist rhetoric brought condemnation from socialists. They saw him as a reactionary who represented imperialism, militarism, and the interests of the upper classes in the class war. [495] His role in opposing the General Strike earned the enmity of many strikers and most members of the Labour movement. [496] Paradoxically, Churchill was supportive of trade unionism, which he saw as the "antithesis of socialism". [497]

On the other hand, his detractors did not take Churchill's domestic reforms into account, [498] for he was in many respects a radical and a reformer, [499] but always with the intention of preserving the existing social structure, never of challenging it. [500] He could not empathise with the poor, so he sympathised with them instead, [501] displaying what Addison calls the attitude of a "benevolent paternalist". [502] Jenkins, himself a senior Labour minister, remarked that Churchill had "a substantial record as a social reformer" for his work in the early years of his ministerial career. [501] Similarly, Rhodes James thought that, as a social reformer, Churchill's achievements were "considerable". [503] This, said Rhodes James, had been achieved because Churchill as a minister had "three outstanding qualities. He worked hard he put his proposals efficiently through the Cabinet and Parliament he carried his Department with him. These ministerial merits are not as common as might be thought". [504]


Assessments of Churchill's legacy are largely based on his leadership of the British people in the Second World War. Even so, his personal views on empire and race continue to stir intense debate. Whatever his political or reformist attitude at any time, Churchill was always staunchly an imperialist and a monarchist. He consistently exhibited a "romanticised view" of both the British Empire and the reigning monarch, especially of Elizabeth II during his last term as premier. [505] [506] [507]

He has been described as a "liberal imperialist" [508] who saw British imperialism as a form of altruism that benefited its subject peoples because "by conquering and dominating other peoples, the British were also elevating and protecting them". [509] Martin Gilbert asserted that Churchill held a hierarchical perspective of race, seeing racial characteristics as signs of the maturity of a society. [510] Churchill's views on race were driven by his imperialist mindset and outlook. He advocated against black or indigenous self-rule in Africa, Australia, the Caribbean, the Americas and India, believing that the British Empire promoted and maintained the welfare of those who lived in the colonies he insisted that "our responsibility to the native races remains a real one". [342] According to Addison, Churchill was opposed to immigration from the Commonwealth [511] but, against that, Addison argues that it is misleading to describe Churchill as a racist in any modern context because the term as used now bears "many connotations which were alien to Churchill". [512] Addison makes the point that Churchill opposed anti-Semitism (as in 1904, when he was fiercely critical of the proposed Aliens Bill) and argues that he would never have tried "to stoke up racial animosity against immigrants, or to persecute minorities". [512]

While the biographies by Addison, Gilbert, Jenkins and Rhodes James are among the most acclaimed works about Churchill, he has been the subject of numerous others. Writing in 2012–13 for the International Churchill Society, Professor David Freeman counted 62 in total, excluding non-English books, to the end of the 20th century. [513]

At a public ceremony in Westminster Hall on 30 November 1954, Churchill's 80th birthday, the joint Houses of Parliament presented him with a full-length portrait of himself painted by Graham Sutherland. [514] Churchill and Clementine reportedly hated it and, later, she had it destroyed. [515] [516]

Churchill has been widely depicted on stage and screen. Notable screen biopics include Young Winston (1972), directed by Richard Attenborough Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years (1981), starring Robert Hardy and with Martin Gilbert as co-writer The Gathering Storm (2002), starring Albert Finney and Vanessa Redgrave Darkest Hour (2017), starring Gary Oldman. John Lithgow played Churchill in The Crown (2016–2019). Finney, Oldman and Lithgow have all won major awards for their performances as Churchill. [517] [518] [519]

Marriage and children

Churchill married Clementine Hozier in September 1908. [520] They remained married for 57 years. [105] Churchill was aware of the strain that his political career placed on his marriage, [521] and, according to Colville, he had a brief affair in the 1930s with Doris Castlerosse, [522] although this is discounted by Andrew Roberts. [523]

The Churchills' first child, Diana, was born in July 1909 [524] the second, Randolph, in May 1911. [144] Their third, Sarah, was born in October 1914, [166] and their fourth, Marigold, in November 1918. [194] Marigold died in August 1921, from sepsis of the throat [525] and was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery. [526] On 15 September 1922, the Churchills' last child, Mary, was born. Later that month, the Churchills bought Chartwell, which would be their home until Winston's death in 1965. [527] According to Jenkins, Churchill was an "enthusiastic and loving father" but one who expected too much of his children. [528]

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