Though his reputation was still not yet fully rehabilitated, a confluence of events led King George VI to invite Churchill to form a government in May 1940.
The Germans had taken Norway and France would soon capitulate in the face of the German Panzers. Hitler launched his ‘blitzkrieg’ offensive in Western Europe on the very day that Churchill became Prime Minister. Within days the Germans were rapidly advancing around the French lines and through the Low Countries and the situation was becoming dire.
On 13 May, Churchill gave the first of many of his great wartime speeches. He told the House of Commons ‘I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat’.
By the end of May, much of Western Europe would be in German hands with the British Expeditionary Forces (BEF) trapped at Dunkirk. The evacuation of BEF would take place at the end of May. There was cause for celebration that nearly 350,000 British and allied troops would make it back to British soil, but Churchill said ‘Wars are not won by evacuations’.
Upon becoming Prime Minister, Churchill made the decision to take up the post of Minister of Defence as well as that of Prime Minister, enabling him to work directly with his military commanders. He did this quite specifically to prevent another disaster like Gallipoli in 1915. This time he would be in charge.
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