Churchill: The War Leader

Winston Churchill was an inspirational leader but his relations with the world's top brass were often tempestuous. We take a looka at his political relationships during WWII

Sir Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill was an inspirational leader for the country as a whole but his relations with Britain's top brass were often tempestuous.

He questioned all aspects of military policy, obliging his commanders to justify their strategies in great detail. But he rarely completely ignored their advice. Thus, in June 1940, he allowed Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding to persuade the War Cabinet that the RAF should preserve its fighter strength for the Battle of Britain.

Churchill believed that the key to winning the war was US support. If he couldn't get America to fight, then at least he could persuade President Franklin Roosevelt to give material help. They came up with the "Lend-Lease" programme, under which the United States supplied Great Britain, the USSR, Republic of China, Free France, and other Allied nations with materiel between 1941 and August 1945. Thousands of tonnes of military supplies poured into Britain, including much-needed ships to replace those lost to U-boats in the Atlantic.

Sir Winston Churchill was instrumental in shaping US President Franklin Roosevelt's war strategy

Sir Winston Churchill was instrumental in shaping US President Franklin Roosevelt's war strategy

When America entered the war, Churchill urged Roosevelt to make defeat of Germany the priority, rather than counter-attacking Japan. Once Roosevelt had agreed on this strategy, Churchill pushed for Allied landings in northwest Africa. Experience gained during these operations was put to good use during the D-Day assault.

Area bombing - the targeting of cities as a whole rather than individual strategic targets - was one of the Allies' most controversial policies. Churchill believed overwhelming air power would undermine Nazi Germany's ability to wage war. But the widespread destruction and high numbers of civilian casualties caused by area bombing attracted considerable criticism.

Churchill had always been keen on drawing the Germans out to the fringes of their territory and then bogging them down. His support for an invasion of Sicily was part of that strategy. It also allowed more time to build up a potent invasion force for D-Day.

Eisenhower was a natural choice for the Supreme Allied Commander. A brilliant strategist, he was also a gifted diplomat who was able to juggle the wide range of military disciplines needed to stage the D-Day operation.