War Cabinet: Wikis


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A War Cabinet is a committee formed by a government in a time of war. It is usually a subset of the full executive cabinet of ministers. It is also quite common for a War Cabinet to have senior military officers and opposition politicians as members.


United Kingdom


First World War

During the First World War, lengthy Cabinet discussions came to be seen as a source of vacillation in Britain's war effort. In December 1916 it was proposed that the Prime Minister Herbert Asquith should delegate decision-making to a small, three-man committee chaired by the Secretary of State for War David Lloyd George. Asquith initially agreed (provided he retained the right to chair the committee if he chose) before changing his mind after being infuriated by an article in "The Times" which portrayed the proposed change as a defeat for him. The political crisis grew from this point until Asquith was forced to resign as Prime Minister; he was succeeded by David Lloyd George who therefore formed a small War Cabinet. Members of the War Cabinet were:

Other members:

Unlike a normal peacetime Cabinet, few of these men had departmental responsibilities - Law, and then Chamberlain, served as Chancellors of the Exchequer, but the rest had no specific portfolio. Among others, the Foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour, was never a member of the War Cabinet, nor were the service ministers Lord Derby and Sir Edward Carson.

From the northern spring of 1917, the Imperial War Cabinet was formed. It had representation from the Dominions. Its members were:

Second World War

On 3 September 1939, Neville Chamberlain announced his War Cabinet.

Dominated largely by Conservative ministers who served under Chamberlain's National Government between 1937 and 1939, the additions of Lord Hankey (a former Cabinet Secretary from the First World War) and Winston Churchill (strong anti-appeaser) seemed to give the Cabinet more balance. Unlike Lloyd George's War Cabinet, the members of this one were also heads of Government Departments.

In January 1940, after disagreements with the Chiefs of Staff, Hore-Belisha resigned from the National Government, refusing a move to the post of President of the Board of Trade. He was succeeded by Oliver Stanley.

When he became Prime Minister during the Second World War, Winston Churchill formed a War Cabinet, initially consisting of the following members:

Churchill strongly believed that the War Cabinet should be kept to a relatively small number of individuals to allow efficient execution of the war effort. Even so, there were a number of ministers who, though were not members of the war cabinet were "Constant Attenders"[1]. As the War Cabinet considered issues that pertained to a given branch of the service or government due input was obtained from the respective body.

The War Cabinet would undergo a number changes in composition over the next five years. On February 19, 1942 a reconstructed War Cabinet was announced by Churchill consisting of the following members[2]:

This War Cabinet was consistent with Churchill's view that members should also hold "responsible offices and not mere advisors at large with nothing to do but think and talk and take decisions by compromise or majority"[3] The War Cabinet often met within The Cabinet War Rooms [1], particularly during The Blitz of London.

Falklands War, 1982

Gulf War


War Cabinet meeting in Melbourne in 1943. Left to right: John Curtin, Sir Frederick Sheddon, Ben Chifley, 'Doc' Evatt, Norm Makin, Arthur Drakeford

At the Imperial Conference in London in 1937, the Australian government had agreed to form a War Cabinet on the outbreak of war.[5] The Full Cabinet approved the formation of the War Cabinet on 26 September 1939.[6] As neither Earle Page's Country Party nor John Curtin's Australian Labor Party would join in a coalition government with Menzies' United Australia Party,[7] the War Cabinet initially consisted of:

In November 1939, the Department of Defence was split up. Street became Minister for Army, Menzies also became Minister for Defence Coordination, and three more ministers joined the War Cabinet:

Following the deaths of Fairbairn, Stewart and Gullett in Canberra air disaster, 1940 and the loss of seats in the Australian federal election, 1940 the War Cabinet of October 1940 consisted of:

The government was replaced by a Labor one on 3 October 1941. A new War Cabinet was formed, consisting of:

Frederick Shedden, the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Defence, served as secretary of the War Cabinet,[12] which met regularly throughout the war. It held its last meeting in Canberra on 19 January 1946.[13]

United States

In response to the September 11, 2001 attacks, United States President George W. Bush created a War Cabinet. They met at Camp David on the weekend of September 15 to shape what became the War on Terrorism.

The Cabinet comprised


  1. ^ Winston Churchill:The Hinge of Fate, p.78. Boston, Houghton Mifflin Company 1950. ISBN0-395-41058-4
  2. ^ Winston Churchill:The Hinge of Fate, p.76. Boston, Houghton Mifflin Company 1950. ISBN0-395-41058-4
  3. ^ Winston Churchill:The Hinge of Fate, p.75. Boston, Houghton Mifflin Company 1950. ISBN0-395-41058-4
  4. ^ Rouvez, Alain (1994). Disconsolate Empires: French, British and Belgian Military Involvement in Post-Colonial Sub-Saharan Africa. University Press of America. p. 196. ISBN 978-0819196439. 
  5. ^ Horner 1996, p. 2
  6. ^ Horner 1996, p. 3
  7. ^ Hasluck 1952, pp. 112-113
  8. ^ Horner 1996, pp. 2-3
  9. ^ Horner 1996, p. 4
  10. ^ Hasluck 1952, p. 574
  11. ^ Hasluck 1952, p. 577
  12. ^ Hasluck 1952, pp. 421-422
  13. ^ Horner 1996, p. 197



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