Churchill almost quit over plans to build hydrogen bomb

November 14th, 2007 - 8:12 am ICT by admin  
The arguments are contained in the 1954 notebooks of the then Cabinet Secretary, Sir Norman Brook, which have been released by the National Archives in Kew, West London, reports The Telegraph.

At a two-day Cabinet meeting on July 7 and 8, Churchill announced that a decision had to be made on whether to replace Britain’s atomic weapons with the more powerful hydrogen bomb.

He argued that the H-bomb was “essential” to maintaining the deterrent against a Soviet attack. “[We] must be able to make it clear to Russia that they can’t stop effective retaliation,” he said.

Harold Macmillan, then housing and local government minister, was appalled. It was, he said, a “shock to be told, casually, that we were going to do this”. Churchill, however, won the argument.

The next item on the agenda - a secret telegram sent by Churchill to the Soviet Foreign Minister, Vyacheslav Molotov, proposing an Anglo-Russian summit in Vienna - also caused trouble.

The Prime Minister was clearly hoping for a final foreign policy coup. But ministers were outraged that he had not consulted them first.

Lord Salisbury, the Lord President of the Council, led the protest by pointing out that while Churchill had the constitutional right to take any decision he chose, ministers had the right to resign if they disagreed.

But when the Cabinet returned to the issue two weeks later, it was Churchill who threatened to quit.

“(I) don’t admit that my action was improper. If the Cabinet thought so, I should have forfeited their confidence and should resign,” he said.

However, none of the ministers was prepared to call his bluff.

The notebooks also show how Churchill was determined to keep Britain out of the looming Vietnam conflict. “We must not lose our influence with the US. But we shouldn’t go into this,” he told the Cabinet in April 1954.

Anthony Eden, the Foreign Secretary, disclosed that the American Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, had even spoken about using atomic weapons against the communist rebels fighting the French colonial government.

A top-secret document outlining Harold Wilson’s concerns about the Vietnam War was left at a high street bank, papers released by the National Archives show.

The fax, sent by the Prime Minister to Lyndon B Johnson in 1967, voiced his fears that Britain was in danger of being portrayed as America’s “stooge”.

It was accidentally left in the Bank of Scotland on London’s Regent Street by a Foreign Office official, and later found by a member of the diplomatic service. (ANI)

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