Finding Number (Click this to view full catalogue structure)NC7/9/42-71
Title1939 correspondence
Extent30 items
DescriptionCorrespondence between Winston Churchill and Neville Chamberlain dated 1939.

After the invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939 and declaration of war on 3 September, and Churchill's appointment to the Cabinet as First Lord of the Admiralty announced on 3 September, Churchill regularly wrote to Chamberlain giving various suggestions relating to the war. Chamberlain considered, as he reported in his letter to Hilda on 17 September, see NC18/1/1121, that these letters were unnecessary as they met every day in the War Cabinet so he did not reply and questioned Churchill's motives for sending them suggesting they were 'for the purpose of quotation in the Book that he will write hereafter'.

The file contains the following items:
/42: Copy of letter from Churchill to Chamberlain, 21 March. Letter following the invasion of the remaining independent part of Czechoslovakia suggesting that anti-aircraft defences should be placed in full preparedness, and that the temptation of Hitler to make a surprise attack on London or on the aircraft factories 'would be removed if it was known that all was ready'.
/43: Copy of letter from Chamberlain to Churchill, 21 March. Reply to Churchill's suggestion saying 'it is not so simple as it seems'.
/44: Copy of letter from Churchill to Chamberlain, 9 April. Letter following the invasion of Albania by Italy hoping that Parliament is recalled by Tuesday and that Chamberlain's statements 'will enable the same united front to be presented as in the Polish agreement'; suggests that Britain has a naval occupation of Corfu to prevent Italy taking it; and that 'what is now at stake is nothing less than the whole of the Balkan Peninsula'.
/45: Letter from Churchill to Chamberlain, 2 September. Comments on the average age of the Cabinet; suggestion that if the Labour Party does not join to form a Coalition Government that the Government 'shall certainly have to face a constant stream of criticism' and so he thinks it is 'all the more important to have the Liberal opposition firmly incorporated in our ranks'; suggests Anthony Eden should be in the Cabinet; and says that the Bremen [a German liner] will soon be out of the interception zone.
/46: Letter from Churchill to Chamberlain, 2 September. Expresses concern that it has not been announced that he is to become a Cabinet member; suggests that if the Labour Party and Liberal Party 'are estranged, it will be difficult to form an effective War Government'; says there was 'a feeling to-night in the House that injury had been done to the spirit of national unity by the apparent weakening of our resolve' and that Britain should now 'take our decision [to declare war] independently'.
/47: Letter from Churchill to Chamberlain, 10 September. Gives various suggestions and thoughts relating to the War including 'that we should not take the initiative in bombing'; deficiencies of the British Expeditionary Force; proposal to suspend work on battleships and instead 'make a great effort to bring forward the smaller anti-U-boat fleet'.
/48: Letter from Churchill to Chamberlain, 11 September. Suggests there should be a Ministry of Shipping.
/49: Letter from Churchill to Chamberlain, 15 September. Gives 'his present thought on the main situation' suggesting it 'unlikely that the Germans will attempt an offensive at this late season' and would instead attack to the east but urges that 'we should make every preparation to defend ourselves in the west'. Chamberlain commented (in his letter to his sister, Hilda, on 17 September, see NC18/1/1121) that this letter from Churchill 'was so obviously recording his foresight and embodied warnings so plainly for purposes of future allusion'.
/50: Copy of letter from Chamberlain to Churchill, 16 September. Says that he has not previously replied to Churchill's letters 'because I am seeing you every day' and because 'your views and mine have very closely coincided'; replies to the points in Churchill's letter of 15 September saying he agrees Germany is likely to attack in the east 'to serve up another success to his people'; says that 'if there is any difference between us, of which I am not sure, I should imagine it to be in the emphasis we should respectively be inclined to ascribe to our different arms' with Chamberlain strongly emphasizing the air force. Chamberlain also suggests that Britain is in danger of getting into the same position as Poland without command of the air and this risk is increased as there is danger of the 'so weak' French air force being destroyed 'in a comparatively short time'. Chamberlain said to Hilda (see NC18/1/1121) that he wrote this letter to Churchill despite his feelings about Churchill's letters being written for quotation purposes, as he thought he 'must get something on the record too which would have to be quoted in the Book'.
/51: Letter from Churchill to Chamberlain, 18 September. Agrees that 'Air Power stands foremost in our requirements' but he believes the estimates on resources required for the air force are overestimated; argues for a greater size of the army suggesting the production demands for the army do not compete with those of the air force except in the provision of mechanical vehicles.
/52: Letter from Churchill to Chamberlain, 21 September. Suggests occasional informal meetings of the War Cabinet without secretaries or military experts.
/53: Letter from Churchill to Chamberlain, 22 September. Says that 'in twenty years of Cabinets I have never heard a more commanding summing up upon a great question'.
/54: Letter from Churchill to Chamberlain, 24 September. Suggests that he [Churchill] should make a statement to the House of Commons on anti-submarine warfare and general Naval position.
/55-57: Letter from Churchill to Chamberlain (with enclosed copy of letter from Leslie Burgin to Churchill and tables of available artillery batteries and ammunition), 24 September. Suggests the use of artillery and says there are 'tremendous heavy batteries available...and...large stocks of ammunition'. See also NC7/11/32/212-223 for related letters.
/58: Copy of letter from Chamberlain to Churchill, 28 September. Regarding representatives of Government departments in the Oil Board or Petroleum Department, and suggests that the Chairman of the Ministerial Priorities Committee should take responsibility for deciding priorities for supplies of oil.
/59: Letter from Churchill to Chamberlain, 29 September. Regarding Churchill's unhappiness with the Fleet Air Arm and suggestion of appointment of new minister titled 'Additional Civil Lord' with suggestion that Lord Lloyd is appointed; and suggests Duff Cooper could replaced Lord Lloyd as Chairman of the British Council.
/60: Note [from a civil servant to Chamberlain] saying that Churchill's suggestion of a new Admiralty minister is not possible and legislation would be required.
/61: Copy of letter from Churchill to Chamberlain, 1 October. Suggests Britain needs to show France that 'we are making as great a war in 1918' with professional troops from India being brought to Europe and that Territorial troops should be sent to India to maintain internal security and complete their training; expresses concern at the number of squadrons in the air force able to go into action; suggests that air raid precautions [ARP] 'defences and expense are founded upon a wholly fallacious view of the degree of danger to each part of the country which they cover' and makes various suggestions regarding lighting and other air raid precautions.
/62: Note by Anne Chamberlain and transcript of the note regarding Churchill's letter of 1 October 1939 not being in her possession.
/63: Memorandum by Horace Wilson regarding Churchill's letter to Chamberlain of 1 October and regarding Chamberlain and Churchill's meeting on 2 October in which Churchill's regular letter writing to Chamberlain, which Chamberlain thought not the appropriate manner for his ministers to discuss matters, was discussed.
/64: Letter from Churchill to Chamberlain, 4 October. Letter forwarding an item (this is not included) regarding an offer for a liaison.
/65: Letter from Churchill to Chamberlain, 12 November. Expresses thanks 'that you are getting on so well'.
/66: Letter from Churchill to Chamberlain, 14 November. Suggests that 'Max' [Beaverbrook] is brought into the Government.
/67: Letter from Churchill to Chamberlain, 24 November. Regarding events in the war at sea including 'silence...upon the northern seas', loss of the 'Rawalpindi' and traffic moving well in the Thames.
/68: Letter from Churchill to Chamberlain, 17 December. Regarding the war at sea including: planned action if the German ship 'Graf Spee' attempted to break out of Montevideo where the ship was harboured for repairs; arrival of Canadians in Scotland to then go to Aldershot; air attacks on ships along the East Coast.
/69-71: Letter from Churchill to Chamberlain, 25 December. Regarding success in defeating German magnetic mines; Churchill's worries about the attitude of the American Government regarding the Panama Congress Zone; Churchill being disturbed by a proposed telegram to Lord Lothian about Zionists; suggestion that the Germans are becoming increasingly interested in Scandanavia and that a Cabinet discussion is needed. An enclosed transcript of a telegram sent by Churchill to President Roosevelt regarding British submarines being within the Panama Congress Zone; and a paper to be circulated to the War Cabinet regarding Palestine Policy and American Zionists are also included.
Access StatusOpen


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