The Place to Find All Things Churchill

Summer 1941 (Age 66)

Churchill and Roosevelt meet at the Atlantic Conference in Canada

The Royal Air Force attacks on German fortifications in Northern France, the Channel ports and Germany itself did not impede the rapid German advance into the Soviet Union.

Churchill wrote Roosevelt that he had to be ready for a possible invasion in September. The President’s encouraging response promised increased production, particularly of tanks, and a widening commitment of the American navy in the North Atlantic.

Churchill’s priority of creating allies in Russia and America was dealt a blow in a speech by General Auchinleck, the newly appointed Commander-in-Chief, Middle East, who doubted Russia’s chances of withstanding the German invasion. Churchill admonished Auchinleck: “It is a mistake for Generals in High Command to make speeches or give interviews to Press correspondents. “

“The United States will wage war but not declare it.”

On July 12 Britain and the Soviet Union agreed not to make a separate peace with Germany. Despite his earlier praise for the valiant Finns, Churchill now criticized them for attacking Britain’s new ally.

On July 18 Churchill received Stalin’s first request for a second front. He replied that Britain’s commitments in the Middle East and in the Battle of the Atlantic strained their resources. He also reminded the Soviet leader that Britain had been fighting alone for more than a year.

Churchill wanted a more aggressive stance in the Middle East and was frustrated that Auchinleck seemed as cautious as Wavell. He called the General home in order to encourage him to prepare for a fall offensive.

On August 4 Churchill boarded the battleship Prince of Wales to meet President Roosevelt in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland for the Atlantic Conference. This conference had originated in Harry Hopkins’ trip to London in January. Roosevelt pretended to be on a fishing trip off the New England coast but he was actually steaming north aboard the cruiser Augusta.

It was important to both men that they take the measure of the other. It was also important that the world realize that an alliance of the two countries with a common culture was emerging. Churchill hoped that this realization might forestall a German invasion.

The commitment Churchill received from Roosevelt was that “The United States will wage war but not declare it.” On August 14 the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom proclaimed The Atlantic Charter. While committing themselves to “the final destruction of the Nazi tyranny” they also stated their belief that “all the nations of the world, for realistic as well as spiritual reasons, must come to the abandonment of the use of force.”

In his broadcast to the British people on August 24 Churchill acknowledged that the prime importance of the meeting was symbolic – the unity of the English-speaking peoples. Also important in that union was Canada and this was acknowledged at a luncheon for the visiting Canadian Prime Minister, Mackenzie King, at Mansion House on September 4, at which Churchill called Canada “the linchpin of the English-speaking world.”

There were two notable progenitors which would significantly contribute to eventual German defeat: on September 12 the first snow fell on the Eastern Front and on September 26 the Western Desert Force was renamed the British Eighth Army.

At home Jock Colville left to become a fighter pilot. Churchill lost a Private Secretary who not only had served his predecessor in the same role, but who had also exclaimed in his diary ‘God Forbid!’ at the thought of Churchill becoming Prime Minister. Colville subsequently became a loyal and invaluable aide and friend to the entire Churchill family. Historians temporarily lost an invaluable primary source in the form of his insightful and authoritative diaries which would be resumed on his recall to the Prime Minister’s office in December 1943.

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