THE ADVOCATE 501
VOL. 78 PART 4 JULY 2020
MAY 10, 1940: THE HINGE OF FATE
By D. Barry Kirkham, Q.C.
On May 10, 1940 Neville Chamberlain was forced to resign as
Prime Minister of Great Britain. There were only two possible
candidates to replace him: Winston S. Churchill and Lord
Edward Halifax. The job was Halifax’s if he wanted it. But he
deferred to Churchill. My thesis is that if Halifax had become PM, it is probable
he would have negotiated a Quisling peace agreement with Hitler,
allowing the most virulent evil in history unchallenged domination of
Europe indefinitely. This catastrophe was avoided by Churchill’s accession
to power on that day—the hinge of fate.1
THE WILDERNESS YEARS: 1929–1939
The Labour Party won the 1929 election, forcing the Conservative Party
onto the opposition benches. Churchill left office. At the time, he was the
senior privy councillor in the country, having held every major Cabinet
post except foreign secretary and prime minister, in a parliamentary career
that commenced in 1900. He was 55. Although the most famous politician
in the realm, and at the peak of his powers, he entered the political wilderness,
a purgatory which was to last a decade.
Churchill became increasingly estranged from the British establishment
as a result of his constant and extremely unpopular warnings concerning
the increasing threat from Nazi Germany. While the history of these years
is generally well known, it is worthwhile to revisit some of the details,
which in hindsight are simply fantastic. There has been no greater failure
of leadership in the whole storied history of the island kingdom.
Historians are virtually unanimous that had France and Britain acted
forcefully at any of several points during the 1930s, Hitler could have been
stopped in his tracks and likely deposed by Germany. WWII was preventable.
However, those in charge of Britain sedulously pursued the policy of
appeasement. Hitler observed the pusillanimity and ruthlessly exploited it.
Only Churchill voiced opposition to the unfolding tragedy. And he stood
Hitler and his gangsters seized control of the German state on January
30, 1933. The Treaty of Versailles, which had concluded WWI, imposed several
restrictions on Germany designed to remove Germany as a threat to