Would the Royal Family and Churchill Had Left if the Germans Invaded?

Would the Royal Family and Churchill Had Left if the Germans Invaded?

“Would the Roy­al Fam­i­ly and Chrchill Evac­u­ate?” is excerpt­ed from an arti­cle for the Hills­dale Col­lege Churchill Project. For the orig­i­nal text with end­notes, please click here.

Q: Evacuate the Royals?

I am argu­ing with a per­son in anoth­er forum that there was a plan in the Sec­ond World War to evac­u­ate Churchill and the Roy­al Fam­i­ly to Cana­da if the Nazis invad­ed.  I believe it was called Oper­a­tion Coates, but the ref­er­ence I found doesn’t men­tion Churchill.

Churchill doesn’t seem like the sort of per­son to evac­u­ate. At Sid­ney Street he was in the front line. In the Great War he patrolled No Man’s Land, and didn’t duck. In air raids in WW2 he went to the rooftops to watch. He was a crack shot and said to his daugh­ter-in-law, “you can always take one with you.” So I don’t think he would have evac­u­at­ed on inva­sion.   Am I wrong?  Would Churchill have evac­u­at­ed to con­tin­ue the fight from over­seas? —Andrew Smith on Churchillchat

A: Highly unlikely

Inter­est­ing ques­tion, but I think your sur­mise is cor­rect. Of course there was a plan, how­ev­er unlike­ly. There were plans for every con­tin­gency. Many chil­dren had already been evac­u­at­ed to Cana­da when some­one sug­gest­ed that Princess­es Eliz­a­beth and Mar­garet Rose should go as well. Queen Eliz­a­beth quick­ly put an end to that: “The chil­dren can’t go with­out me. I can’t leave the King, and of course the King won’t go.”

Side note: An eleven-year-old school­boy wrote anony­mous­ly to The Times, beg­ging not to evac­u­ate. Churchill was so moved that he had his pri­vate office search for the writer. He then sent one of his books inscribed to David Wedg­wood Benn, son of for­mer Labour Sec­re­tary of State for India, William Wedg­wood Benn (lat­er Lord Stans­gate), broth­er of the future Labour cab­i­net min­is­ter and left-wing activist Tony Benn.

Though Churchill him­self said in his “Fight on the Beach­es” speech (4 June 1940):

…and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were sub­ju­gat­ed and starv­ing, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guard­ed by the British Fleet, would car­ry on the strug­gle, until, in God’s good time, the new world, with all its pow­er and might, steps forth to the res­cue and the lib­er­a­tion of the old.

In extremis

In that case the King and his fam­i­ly might been forced to evac­u­ate with the Fleet. But I sus­pect WSC would pre­ferred the night­mare finale as the Wehrma­cht marched on Down­ing Street described vivid­ly by Nor­man Long­mate. See my review of If Britain Had Fall­en (1972):

At last the Bren ceased its chat­ter, its last mag­a­zine emp­tied. Churchill reluc­tant­ly aban­doned the machine-gun, drew his pis­tol and with great sat­is­fac­tion, for it was a noto­ri­ous­ly inac­cu­rate weapon, shot dead the first Ger­man to reach the foot of the steps. As two more rushed for­ward, cov­ered by a third in the dis­tance, Win­ston Churchill moved out of the shel­ter of the sand­bags, as if per­son­al­ly to bar the way up Down­ing Street. A Ger­man NCO, run­ning up to find the cause of the unex­pect­ed hold-up, recog­nised him and shout­ed to the sol­diers not to shoot, but he was too late. A burst of bul­lets from a machine-car­bine caught the Prime Min­is­ter full in the chest. He died instant­ly, his back to Down­ing Street, his face toward the ene­my, his pis­tol still in his hand.

One thought on “Would the Royal Family and Churchill Had Left if the Germans Invaded?

  1. I am cer­tain you’re right. Churchill would nev­er have left! It wasn’t an emp­ty pledge when he inti­mat­ed that he’d rather die in the streets than sur­ren­der! His daugh­ter-in-law, Pamela Har­ri­man, recalled how Churchill had told her:

    “If the Hun comes, I am count­ing on each of you to take one with you before you go.”

    Pamela, preg­nant at the time, queried this ter­ri­fy­ing prospect by saying:

    “But Papa, I don’t have a gun, and even if I did, I wouldn’t know how to use it.”

    Churchill didn’t blink, raised his fist high in the air and, with a sto­ic resolve, proclaimed:

    “But my dear, you may use a carv­ing knife!”

    Hard­ly the dia­logue of a man who would ever con­tem­plate fleeing. ✌🏻

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