March 21, 2017

1940. Churchill Becomes Prime Minister, Reports Edward R. Murrow

Neville Chamberlain Resigns

Edward R. Murrow

CBS London

May 10, 1940

This is London.

History has been made too fast over here today. First, in the early hours this morning came the news of the British unopposed landing in Iceland. Then the news of Hitler's triple invasion came rolling into London, climaxed by the German air bombing of five nations. British mechanized troops lassoed across the frontier into Belgium.

Then, at nine o'clock tonight, a tired old man spoke to the nation from Number 10 Downing Street. He sat behind a big oval table in a Cabinet room where so many fateful decisions have been taken during the three years that he has directed the policy of His Majesty's government.

Neville Chamberlain announced his resignation. Mr. Chamberlain's announcement of his resignation was entirely impersonal. Many people consider that it was the best speech he has ever made.

Winston Churchill, who has held more political offices than any living man, is now Prime Minister. He's a man without a party. For the last seven years he has sat in the House of Commons a rather lonesome and often bellicose figure, voicing unheeded warnings of the rising tide of German military strength. Now, at the age of sixty-five, Winston Churchill—plump, bald, with massive round shoulders—is for the first time in his varied career of journalist, historian, and politician the Prime Minister of Great Britain.

Mr. Churchill now takes over the supreme direction of Britain's war effort at a time when the war is rapidly moving toward Britain's doorstep.

Mr. Churchill's critics have said that he is inclined to be impulsive and at times vindictive. But in the tradition of British politics he will be given his chance. He will probably take chances, but if he brings victory his place in history is assured. The historians will have to devote more than a footnote to this remarkable man no matter what happens.

He enters office with the tremendous advantage of being the man who was right. He also has the advantage of being the best broadcaster in this country. Mr. Churchill can inspire confidence, and he can preach a doctrine of hate that is acceptable to the majority of this country. That may be useful during these next few months.

Winston Churchill has never been known for his caution, and when he has completed the formation of a new government you may expect this country to live dangerously.

Hitler has said that the action begun yesterday will settle the future of Germany for a thousand years. Mr. Churchill doesn't deal in such periods of time. But the decisions reached by this new Prime Minister, with his boyish grin and his puckish sense of humor, may well determine the outcome of this war.

I return you now to Columbia in New York.