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Alternate History Discussion: The Death of Churchill


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Niles Y93 #1 Posted 04 March 2016 - 01:04 AM

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A few months ago, I was watching a documentary titled "Secrets of Underground London" (in which the video is posted below). During the program, it was noted that Churchill's "War Bunker" was basically a converted basement 12 feet under Westminster. After learning that fact, I  started to think to myself: What if one of the Blitz's bombs landed at Westminster and killed Churchill?

 

Out of this question, others arose.

 

 

Who would replace him?

Would his replacement be able to handle the war effort as well as leading a wartime Parliament?

How would his death be handled?

  • Would it be announced outright?
  • Would it be kept silent from the British people?
  • What would've been done to keep that info from the Germans?

What would it have done to relations with the U.S. (and Russia for that matter)?

And most importantly: How would this affect the morale of the British war effort?

 

So I decided to pose the question to this community to see the responses this question would get in this discussion.

 

So, what do you think?

 

 

 

Vid mentioned above (made to play at time of discussion about Churchill's bunker)

https://youtu.be/c0KpbruT1HA?t=33m54s

 



NSW Mntd Rifles #2 Posted 04 March 2016 - 01:34 AM

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My first response is that one should never forget the political system in which Churchill operated. A constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament, such as Great Britain, has a Head of State quite separate from the leader of parliament. In the event of Churchill's death King George VI would still have been on the throne and parliament would have elected another Prime Minister. He may not have been as great an orator as Churchill, and may have prosecuted the war differently. He may not have been as autocratic as Churchill and may have listened better to the advice of technical experts and military commanders. The Empire may have had a stronger voice under a different Prime Minister. 

 

Britain and her Empire would have kept fighting without Churchill and the war effort may not have been plagued by his almost dictatorial compunction to override sound military advice in preference to his own schemes.

 

Ben Chifley, Australia's World War II Minister for Postwar Reconstruction and Prime Minister from 1945 until 1949, used to say "Rookwood (Sydney's and one of the world's largest cemeteries) is full of people who were indispensible." Regardless of how important a person seems to be, or how important they think they are, nobody is indispensible.


Edited by NSW Mntd Rifles, 04 March 2016 - 01:44 AM.


Sqn Ldr B #3 Posted 04 March 2016 - 07:33 AM

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I think Halifax would have replaced him. When Chamberlain resigned, he wanted Halifax to take over, but Halifax was reluctant. Chamberlain went to the palace to give notice of his resignation to the King and to tell him to send for Churchill as successor. That's important to note; Churchill wasn't elected in 1940. So it looks like if Churchill died, then Halifax would have taken over. If you look up the May 1940 War Cabinet Crisis, when the Cabinet clashed over peace or war for Britain, Halifax was a proponent of peace and at one point almost managed to oust Churchill. So I'd say that Britain might have sued for peace if Halifax took over. I think the death of Churchill wouldn't be kept a secret. I mean, how can you keep that a secret? When Churchill is always on the radio making speeches, and out and about talking to the people of bombed out cities, and then suddenly everyone stops seeing him, people are going to work out he's dead pretty quickly. Besides, that's not how the British political system works. When a new Prime Minister takes office, you're not really allowed to not tell everyone. There'd have been no point keeping it from the Germans, since, they'd have worked it out themselves either through spies or the fact that Churchill wasn't at the peace talks when Halifax was. Relations with the US? It's unlikely they would have come into the war in Europe with no Britain there. Churchill also did a lot of pushing and persuasion to get Roosevelt into the war. How would it affect the war effort? Adversely, I would expect Halifax to sue for peace.

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JStudebaker #4 Posted 04 March 2016 - 03:12 PM

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Not knowing the British political system, beyond a few reruns of Yes Minister, did the Prime Minister have the power to decide war or peace? If Churchill was replaced but all other players remained the same how far could the new PM order a change of direction? Or, was Churchill so good a cheerleader for support that without him it was destine to go down differently?

Sqn Ldr B #5 Posted 04 March 2016 - 04:52 PM

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View PostJStudebaker, on 04 March 2016 - 03:12 PM, said:

Not knowing the British political system, beyond a few reruns of Yes Minister, did the Prime Minister have the power to decide war or peace? If Churchill was replaced but all other players remained the same how far could the new PM order a change of direction? Or, was Churchill so good a cheerleader for support that without him it was destine to go down differently?

 

I think the way the decision is made is as follows. The Prime Minister wishes to put to Parliament the notion that peace is made with Germany. In a meeting with the King, the Prime Minister must have the approval of His Majesty in order for the bill to actually be voted on. If the King does give consent for the vote to be held, the vote will be held. If Parliament votes for peace, peace is made. If Parliament votes against peace, no peace is made. If the King does not give consent, the vote is not taken and no peace is made. I think that's right. The British political system is very complicated, mostly by the fact that it is so old that none of the exact rules have been written down, and even the very role of the Prime Minister is not clearly defined.


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Sqn Ldr B #6 Posted 04 March 2016 - 05:01 PM

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Actually, I might be wrong. There's a thing called Royal Assent. I think the actual process is the Prime Minister puts the bill to the House, who vote on it. If the House vote for the bill (in this case peace), then the final step is for the monarch to grant Royal Assent. In practice, the monarch almost always grants Royal Assent. Despite the fact they still have the ability to withhold Assent, the monarch has never withheld their Royal Assent since 1708. The monarch will probably only withhold their Royal Assent in times of extreme political issue, or on the instruction of Their Majesty's Government. In huge issues like peace or war, the monarch will consult with the Prime Minister and other advisers on the best choice. It is hardly ever based on the monarch's personal judgement alone, they usually take counsel with advisers.

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Matthew J35U5 #7 Posted 04 March 2016 - 06:33 PM

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View PostJStudebaker, on 04 March 2016 - 10:12 AM, said:

Not knowing the British political system, beyond a few reruns of Yes Minister, did the Prime Minister have the power to decide war or peace? If Churchill was replaced but all other players remained the same how far could the new PM order a change of direction? Or, was Churchill so good a cheerleader for support that without him it was destine to go down differently?

Unlike in America where the President is elected separately from the legislature, countries with the british parliamentary system the Prime minister is the leader of the party with the most seats. So short of party revolt (or a government with a plurality, but not a majority of seats), whatever the prime minister wants to do is what will happen. 

 

The actual topic is hard to give an opinion on, because its heavily dependant on when Churchill died. If it is anytime after June 1941, or December 1941, there's very little chance they make peace. 

 

Before then, maybe. I would expect that if Halifax had become PM instead, he would have made peace. 

 

Something important to consider is that if the war had grown unpopular enough, parliament could have forced Churchill out.


KeystoneCops, on 14 June 2015 - 12:51 PM, said:


Uranprojekt #8 Posted 04 March 2016 - 06:47 PM

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View PostSqn Ldr B, on 04 March 2016 - 05:01 PM, said:

Actually, I might be wrong. There's a thing called Royal Assent. I think the actual process is the Prime Minister puts the bill to the House, who vote on it. If the House vote for the bill (in this case peace), then the final step is for the monarch to grant Royal Assent. In practice, the monarch almost always grants Royal Assent. Despite the fact they still have the ability to withhold Assent, the monarch has never withheld their Royal Assent since 1708. The monarch will probably only withhold their Royal Assent in times of extreme political issue, or on the instruction of Their Majesty's Government. In huge issues like peace or war, the monarch will consult with the Prime Minister and other advisers on the best choice. It is hardly ever based on the monarch's personal judgement alone, they usually take counsel with advisers.

 

Royal Assent only applies to legislative affairs such as the passing of Acts of Parliament; the House of Commons creates the Act which is then passed up to the House of Lords, after which it is sent to the Queen for her to either give or deny Royal Assent. Once Royal Assent is given, the Act becomes law and is added to our constitution.

 

In the event of a declaration of war, the monarch, and only the monarch, has the power to declare war. The monarch has what's called Royal Perogative, a set of powers retained by the monarch, and it's through these powers that Britain declares war*. The Royal Perogative is supposed to be an exclusive power though the monarch may make his or her decision based on the advice of the Prime Minister and other cabinet members.

 

*Royal Perogative has been somewhat circumvented by Parliament since the end of the Second World War. Those pesky politicians will always find ways to be just that little bit more powerful.


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I write things, things which can be found in Historical Discussions. Things like this article on the Soviet invasion of Manchuria in 1945 and this article on the Spanish Civil War.

 

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GingerNinjaMax #9 Posted 04 March 2016 - 09:14 PM

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View PostUranprojekt, on 04 March 2016 - 06:47 PM, said:

 

Royal Assent only applies to legislative affairs such as the passing of Acts of Parliament; the House of Commons creates the Act which is then passed up to the House of Lords, after which it is sent to the Queen for her to either give or deny Royal Assent. Once Royal Assent is given, the Act becomes law and is added to our constitution.

 

In the event of a declaration of war, the monarch, and only the monarch, has the power to declare war. The monarch has what's called Royal Perogative, a set of powers retained by the monarch, and it's through these powers that Britain declares war*. The Royal Perogative is supposed to be an exclusive power though the monarch may make his or her decision based on the advice of the Prime Minister and other cabinet members.

 

*Royal Perogative has been somewhat circumvented by Parliament since the end of the Second World War. Those pesky politicians will always find ways to be just that little bit more powerful.

 

yea. as in most of the conflicts that Britain (and America) has been involved since the war, you can go to war without actually declaring war.

Sqn Ldr B #10 Posted 04 March 2016 - 09:25 PM

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View PostGingerNinjaMax, on 04 March 2016 - 09:14 PM, said:

 

yea. as in most of the conflicts that Britain (and America) has been involved since the war, you can go to war without actually declaring war.

 

Yes. Britain hasn't issued a formal declaration of war since WW2. Blair went to Elizabeth II for Her Royal Assent to allow him to declare war on Iraq in 1999, but she wouldn't assent.

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GingerNinjaMax #11 Posted 04 March 2016 - 09:30 PM

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View PostSqn Ldr B, on 04 March 2016 - 07:33 AM, said:

I think Halifax would have replaced him. When Chamberlain resigned, he wanted Halifax to take over, but Halifax was reluctant. Chamberlain went to the palace to give notice of his resignation to the King and to tell him to send for Churchill as successor. That's important to note; Churchill wasn't elected in 1940. So it looks like if Churchill died, then Halifax would have taken over. If you look up the May 1940 War Cabinet Crisis, when the Cabinet clashed over peace or war for Britain, Halifax was a proponent of peace and at one point almost managed to oust Churchill. So I'd say that Britain might have sued for peace if Halifax took over. I think the death of Churchill wouldn't be kept a secret. I mean, how can you keep that a secret? When Churchill is always on the radio making speeches, and out and about talking to the people of bombed out cities, and then suddenly everyone stops seeing him, people are going to work out he's dead pretty quickly. Besides, that's not how the British political system works. When a new Prime Minister takes office, you're not really allowed to not tell everyone. There'd have been no point keeping it from the Germans, since, they'd have worked it out themselves either through spies or the fact that Churchill wasn't at the peace talks when Halifax was. Relations with the US? It's unlikely they would have come into the war in Europe with no Britain there. Churchill also did a lot of pushing and persuasion to get Roosevelt into the war. How would it affect the war effort? Adversely, I would expect Halifax to sue for peace.

 

I disagree. I think as Churchill's  protégé Antony Eden would have replaced him as he was world renown for his opposition to appeasement. he was foreign minister after Halifax and so knew the American and Russian equivalents. He succeeded Churchill as Conservative Leader so I think the nation galvanised and determined would have gone for a 'strong man' Eden ticked all the boxes

Sqn Ldr B #12 Posted 04 March 2016 - 09:36 PM

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View PostGingerNinjaMax, on 04 March 2016 - 09:30 PM, said:

 

I disagree. I think as Churchill's  protégé Antony Eden would have replaced him as he was world renown for his opposition to appeasement. he was foreign minister after Halifax and so knew the American and Russian equivalents. He succeeded Churchill as Conservative Leader so I think the nation galvanised and determined would have gone for a 'strong man' Eden ticked all the boxes

 

I think it depends on when Churchill dies. If it's in 1940 to early/mid 1941, I think Halifax. After that, probably Eden, yes.

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GingerNinjaMax #13 Posted 04 March 2016 - 09:40 PM

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View PostSqn Ldr B, on 04 March 2016 - 09:36 PM, said:

 

I think it depends on when Churchill dies. If it's in 1940 to early/mid 1941, I think Halifax. After that, probably Eden, yes.

 

I concur old boy

Sqn Ldr B #14 Posted 04 March 2016 - 09:59 PM

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Something else that would be interesting is what would have happened if Chamberlain had never resigned, and carried on until the end of the war without getting cancer and dying like he actually did.

 

Also, Sinclair might have been another candidate for Winston's replacement.


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JStudebaker #15 Posted 04 March 2016 - 10:26 PM

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View PostSqn Ldr B, on 04 March 2016 - 03:36 PM, said:

 

I think it depends on when Churchill dies. If it's in 1940 to early/mid 1941, I think Halifax. After that, probably Eden, yes.

 

That then effects for America Lend-Lease, the Tizard Mission, and where the US would have put its priorities. With no bases in England and lacking the tech to protect convoys I see the US avoiding any conflict on European soil. But, with all the Lend-Lease resources and no other distractions Japan truly would have woken the dragon. Even without the British tech the sheer manpower America could mobilize would have been hard to withstand. Fighting on the Japanese mainland would have come before the A-bomb was completed, assuming the research had ever started. Where things go from there depends on Germany.

 

Having England taken care of for the time being I still see Germany struggling in Russia. Adding more manpower to a mismanaged mission doesn't equal any better chance at success. Germany really would have needed to talk Japan into pushing harder against Russia and avoiding a conflict with America. I don't know if Japan's need for resources would have allowed that.

 

Going further down the hypothetical timeline, how long before Germany makes the same mistake of starting a two front war? They happily broke the peace to invade Russia. They'd do the same to England. How prepared would England be at that point? The history we know was a constant struggle against relentless pressure. With time to breath, England could have pursued the technology they otherwise needed America to work on. What carnage would that Battle of Britain been like?

 

An interesting thought, for England did a peace with Germany mean a peace with Japan? If England gave up on Europe, how much more attention could it have put on the rest of the Empire. Would Germany ignore it's alliance with Japan and allow England do what they will with them? Japan did lay claim to some German possessions in the Pacific during WWI. Would Germany of taken the opportunity to reclaim those. Could the peace with Germany possibly form into an alliance against Japan? How completely freaked out would America of been with Germany and England fighting together to spread their empire's presence in the Pacific. Suddenly Japan is asking for American help and things just get crazy.

 

Would someone living in that alternate history find our history equally insane? 



GingerNinjaMax #16 Posted 04 March 2016 - 10:39 PM

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View PostSqn Ldr B, on 04 March 2016 - 09:59 PM, said:

Something else that would be interesting is what would have happened if Chamberlain had never resigned, and carried on until the end of the war without getting cancer and dying like he actually did.

 

Also, Sinclair might have been another candidate for Winston's replacement.

 

Chamberlain would have been removed by Parliament as he was far too tainted by the famous 'in my hand I have a piece of paper....peace in our time' etc.

As for Viscount Sinclair I think he did not have enough political clout at that time



GingerNinjaMax #17 Posted 04 March 2016 - 10:57 PM

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As regards the relationship with Russia and the States.

The semi clandestine help we were recieving from America may have dried up but once Pearl Harbour had happened and Hitler declared war on America that would have been irrelevant.

Stalin would have seen it as an opportunity to get his second front early as he would expect to dominate and overpower Churchills successor into doin things his way. This would have been the biggest disaster of the war if we had invaded in 42 as dieppe showed


 



Niles Y93 #18 Posted 05 March 2016 - 02:48 AM

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View PostSqn Ldr B, on 04 March 2016 - 04:36 PM, said:

 

I think it depends on when Churchill dies. If it's in 1940 to early/mid 1941, I think Halifax. After that, probably Eden, yes.

 

View PostMatthew J35U5, on 04 March 2016 - 01:33 PM, said:

The actual topic is hard to give an opinion on, because its heavily dependant on when Churchill died. If it is anytime after June 1941, or December 1941, there's very little chance they make peace. 

 

Before then, maybe. I would expect that if Halifax had become PM instead, he would have made peace. 

 

Sorry about that. When I was doing research on what kind of bombs were dropped in the early part of Battle of Britain/Blitz/whatever you call it, I couldn't find what kinds were used (500 lb., Incendiary, etc. ). I was trying to see, out of the bombs used, which ones would level a building (Westminster) and/or crater enough to get to the "bunker" (I know, stupid question. )

 

So, to make it easier, let me split it into two parts (even though some questions may have already been answered):

 

  1.  In the early stages of the Battle of Britain/Blitz/whatever, so let's assume about 1940.
  2. In the closing stages (1941)

 

 



Sqn Ldr B #19 Posted 05 March 2016 - 10:25 AM

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Just as an aside, Westminster was actually bombed during the war. The House of Commons was destroyed and they had to rebuild it.


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GingerNinjaMax #20 Posted 05 March 2016 - 11:26 PM

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View PostSqn Ldr B, on 05 March 2016 - 10:25 AM, said:

Just as an aside, Westminster was actually bombed during the war. The House of Commons was destroyed and they had to rebuild it.

 

      

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

 Sorry  Squadron Leader but while you are correct that the house of commons (above) was bombed during the blitz the photo you have uploaded is of Churchills visit to Coventry cathedral. Coventry was flattened which was in many peoples eyes the reason for the revenge bombing of Dresden






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