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War Government 1939–1940: Wikis

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On 3 September 1939, Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, reconstructed his existing government so as to prosecute the Second World War. The most dramatic change to the ministerial line-up saw the return of Winston Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty. Other changes included Lord Caldecote replacing Lord Maugham as Lord Chancellor, Sir John Anderson replacing Sir Samuel Hoare as Home Secretary (Hoare became Lord Privy Seal with a with a wide-ranging brief) and the return of Anthony Eden to the government as Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs. However, the administration was not a true national unity government as it was made up primarily of Conservatives with support from some National Labour and National Liberal members. There were no representatives from the Labour Party or Liberal Party.

The government was notable for having a small War Cabinet consisting of only the principal and service ministers, with most other government positions serving outside the Cabinet. The War Cabinet included Chamberlain, Hoare, Chancellor of the Exchequer Sir John Simon, Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax, Churchill, Secretary of State for Air Sir Kingsley Wood, Minister for Coordination of Defence Lord Chatfield, Lord Hankey (as Minister without Portfolio) and Secretary of State for War Leslie Hore-Belisha. Oliver Stanley replaced Hore-Belisha in January 1940 while Chatfield left the war cabinet in April 1940.

The government ended on 10 May 1940 when Chamberlain resigned and was succeeded by Winston Churchill who formed the War Coalition.

Members of the Cabinet are in bold face.

Office Name Party Dates Notes
Prime Minister,
First Lord of the Treasury
and Leader of the House of Commons
Neville Chamberlain Conservative 3 September 1939 – 10 May 1940 Member of War Cabinet
Lord Chancellor The Viscount Caldecote Conservative 3 September 1939  
Lord President of the Council
and Leader of the House of Lords
The Earl Stanhope Conservative 3 September 1939
Lord Privy Seal Sir Samuel Hoare, Bt Conservative 3 September 1939 Member of War Cabinet
Sir Kingsley Wood Conservative 3 April 1940  
Chancellor of the Exchequer Sir John Simon National Liberal September 1939 Member of War Cabinet
Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury David Margesson Conservative September 1939  
Financial Secretary to the Treasury Harry Crookshank Conservative September 1939  
Lords of the Treasury James Stuart Conservative September 1939 – 10 May 1940  
Thomas Dugdale Conservative September 1939 – 12 February 1940  
Patrick Munro Conservative September 1939 – 10 May 1940  
Stephen Furness Liberal National September 1939 – 10 May 1940  
Sir James Edmondson Conservative September 1939 – 13 November 1939  
Patrick Buchan-Hepburn Conservative 13 November 1939 – 10 May 1940  
William Boulton Conservative 12 February 1940 – 10 May 1940  
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs The Viscount Halifax Conservative September 1939 Member of War Cabinet
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs R. A. Butler   September 1939 – 10 May 1940  
Secretary of State for the Home Department Sir John Anderson   3 September 1939  
Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department Osbert Peake Conservative September 1939  
Minister for Home Security Alan Lennox-Boyd Conservative 6 September 1939  
William Mabane Liberal 24 October 1939  
First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill Conservative 3 September 1939 Member of War Cabinet
Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty Geoffrey Shakespeare Liberal National September 1939  
Sir Victor Warrender, Bt Conservative 3 April 1940  
Civil Lord of the Admiralty Sir Austin Hudson, Bt Conservative September 1939  
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith   September 1939  
Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries The Lord Denham Conservative 19 September 1939  
Secretary of State for Air Sir Kingsley Wood Conservative September 1939 Member of War Cabinet
Sir Samuel Hoare, Bt Conservative 3 April 1940 Member of War Cabinet
Under-Secretary of State for Air Harold Balfour Conservative September 1939  
Secretary of State for the Colonies Malcolm MacDonald National Labour September 1939
Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies The Marquess of Dufferin and Ava   September 1939
Minister for Coordination of Defence The Lord Chatfield   September 1939 Member of War Cabinet until 3 April 1940; Office abolished 3 April 1940
Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs Anthony Eden Conservative 3 September 1939  
Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs The Marquess of Hartington Conservative September 1939 Duke of Devonshire
Minister for Economic Warfare Ronald Cross Conservative 3 September 1939  
President of the Board of Education The Earl De La Warr National Labour September 1939  
Herwald Ramsbotham Conservative 3 April 1940  
Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education Kenneth Lindsay National Labour September 1939  
Minister of Food William Morrison Conservative 4 September 1939 Combined with Duchy of Lancaster
The Lord Woolton Conservative 3 April 1940  
Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food Alan Lennox-Boyd Conservative 11 October 1939  
Minister of Health Walter Elliot   September 1939
Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health Florence Horsbrugh Conservative September 1939
Secretary of State for India and Burma The Marquess of Zetland Conservative September 1939
Under-Secretary of State for India and Burma Hon. Sir Hugh O'Neill Ulster Unionist 11 September 1939
Minister of Information The Lord Macmillan   4 September 1939  
Sir John Reith   5 January 1940
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Information Sir Edward Grigg Conservative 19 September 1939 Office vacant 3 April1940
Minister of Labour and National Service Ernest Brown National Liberal 3 September 1939
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour and National Service Ralph Assheton Conservative 6 September 1939  
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster William Morrison Conservative September 1939 From 4 September 1939 – 3 April 1940 combined with Minister for Food
George Tryon Conservative 3 April 1940 Lord Tryon
Paymaster General The Earl Winterton Conservative September 1939  
Vacant   November 1939  
Minister for Pensions Sir Walter Womersley Conservative September 1939  
Minister without Portfolio The Lord Hankey   3 September 1939 – 10 May 1940 Member of War Cabinet
Postmaster-General George Tryon Conservative September 1939  
William Morrison Conservative 3 April 1940  
Assistant Postmaster-General William Mabane Liberal September 1939  
Charles Waterhouse Conservative 24 October 1939  
Secretary of State for Scotland John Colville   September 1939  
Under-Secretary of State for Scotland John McEwen   6 September 1939  
Minister of Shipping Sir John Gilmour, Bt Scottish Unionist 13 October 1939  
Robert Hudson Conservative 3 April 1940  
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Shipping Sir Arthur Salter Conservative 13 November 1939  
Minister of Supply Leslie Burgin Liberal National September 1939  
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Supply John Llewellin   September 1939  
President of the Board of Trade Hon. Oliver Stanley   September 1939  
Sir Andrew Duncan   5 January 1940  
Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade Gwilym Lloyd George Liberal National 6 September 1939  
Secretary for Overseas Trade Robert Hudson Conservative September 1939  
Geoffrey Shakespeare Liberal National 3 April 1940  
Secretary for Mines Geoffrey Lloyd Conservative September 1939  
Minister of Transport Euan Wallace Conservative September 1939  
Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport Robert Bernays Liberal National September 1939  
Secretary of State for War Leslie Hore-Belisha Liberal National September 1939 Member of War Cabinet
Hon. Oliver Stanley Conservative 5 January 1940 Member of War Cabinet
Under-Secretary of State for War The Viscount Cobham Conservative 19 September 1939  
Financial Secretary to the War Office Sir Victor Warrender, Bt Conservative September 1939  
Sir Edward Grigg Conservative 3 April 1940  
First Commissioner of Works Herwald Ramsbotham Conservative September 1939  
The Earl De La Warr National Labour 3 April 1940  
Attorney General Sir Donald Somervell Conservative September 1939  
Solicitor General Sir Terence O'Connor Conservative September 1939  
Lord Advocate Thomas Cooper   September 1939  
Solicitor General for Scotland James Reid   September 1939  
Treasurer of the Household Charles Waterhouse Conservative September 1939  
Robert Grimston Conservative 12 November 1939  
Comptroller of the Household Charles Kerr Liberal National September 1939  
Vice-Chamberlain of the Household Robert Grimston Conservative September 1939  
Sir James Edmondson Conservative 12 November 1939  
Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms The Earl of Lucan   September 1939  
Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard The Lord Templemore   September 1939  
Lords-in-Waiting The Earl Fortescue   September 1939 – 10 May 1940  
The Earl of Birkenhead   September 1939 – 10 May 1940  
The Viscount Bridport   September 1939 1939 – 10 May 1940  
The Lord Ebury   September 1939 – 10 May 1940  

Source

  • D. Butler and G. Butler, Twentieth Century British Political Facts 1900–2000.
Preceded by
Fourth National Government 1937-1939
Government of the United Kingdom
1939–1940
Succeeded by
Coalition Government 1940–1945
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