Churchill and Halifax

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In this rare photo taken on 29 Mar 1938, visibly annoyed Sir Winston Churchill walks to Parliament with the Foreign Minister Edward Wood, 3rd Viscount Halifax, who at 6′ 5″ towers over Churchill. Two men were never friends–Churchill called Halifax ‘The Holy Fox’ for his political guile, while the latter called Churchill, ‘The Rogue Elephant’ for his unpredictability–but they respected each other intensely.

As Viceroy of India, Halifax’s deal with Gandhi ended the Civil Disobedience. His meeting with Hitler in 1937 was a milestone in appeasement, yet just days before Munich, Halifax repudiated the policy and demanded ‘the destruction of Nazism’. By May 1940, it was he, not Winston Churchill, who was the choice for Britain’s war leader. Church-going, fox-hunting Halifax was invited to form a government when Neville Chamberlain resigned on 10th May, hours before the German invasion of France. Although he was supported by the Tories and the Royal family, Lord Halifax turned down the post of Prime Minister because he believed Churchill was a better leader. He cited that he could not govern effectively as a member of the House of Lords. Halifax stayed on as Churchill’s foreign secretary.

As the Foreign Secretary Halifax was in favor of an armistice with Hitler’s Germany; Churchill on the other hand refused to consider an armistice. Two men clashed frequently, but Churchill needed Halifax as a moderating voice against his wild schemes. However, nine months later, when a new ambassador was needed in Washington, Halifax’s newspaper nemesis Lord Beaverbrook saw to it that Halifax be named the new ambassador. He was the last of the appeasers to leave the Cabinet, Chamberlain, Hoare and Simon having already departed.

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