No one in the higher ranks of government wanted Winston Churchill to be prime minister, not the king, certainly not the the leaders of his own party. He had become an outsider, confidently and unceasingly critical of the government and unwilling to temper his positions by expediency. But his constant, never failing warnings about the rise of evil in Germany from 1933 onward and the need for Britain to rearm had proved prescient, finally forcing a reluctant administration to acknowledge its shortcomings, and bring him into the government as First Lord of the Admiralty on the day Britain declared war on Germany, Sept. 3, 1939.
Ten months later, following the failure of the British to deter the German invasion of Norway and the sudden, violent end of the “phony war” with the all out assault of France and the low countries by the Wehrmacht, the House of Commons revolted. On a simple vote to adjourn the house, the government lost more than 40 previously secure supporters.
The next day, with confidence in his government in shambles, Chamberlain turned in his seals of office and made King George VI make the choice between Churchill and Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax. The king preferred Halifax, as did the Tory insiders, but when Halifax agreed that trying to lead the government from the House of Lords would be difficult, the bid fell to Churchill.
The movie “Darkest Hour,” which is currently playing in Sherman, is about the crisis faced by the new prime minister in his first month of his office. Britain’s defenses were dissolving all around and on the continent, the British Expeditionary Force of 300,000 men, most of their arms and equipment, and many of their French allies were surrounded at the Channel port of Dunkirk and facing annihilation. A cacophonous din demanding negotiations and an armistice engulfed Churchill.
But he did not believe he had become the king’s first minister to oversee a surrender. He believed that a Britain defeated was better than a Britain under Nazi subjugation. He made his position clear and the people of the island nation responded. Britain would fight on, alone if necessary, to the end if necessary; there would be no surrender.
This movie is about the courage to believe with all your being about the rightness of your cause, and to never surrender or give in to darkness and despair. For Churchill, it was time to risk all or surrender the world to an all but unspeakable evil.
Happy birthday to Adam Brown, Greta Brown, Linda Wallace and Melissa Baze, all of Sherman; Evette Moorman and Lindy Montgomery, both of Denison.
Happy anniversary to Donald and Della Morrow of Sherman, 50 years; and Ronnie and Glenda Riddle, 50 years.