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Chamberlain war ministry

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Chamberlain war ministry
Date formed3 September 1939 (1939-09-03)
Date dissolved10 May 1940 (1940-05-10)
People and organisations
MonarchGeorge VI
Prime MinisterNeville Chamberlain
Prime Minister's history1937–1940
Total no. of members98 appointments
Member parties
  •   Conservative Party
  •   Liberal National Party
  •   National Labour
Status in legislatureMajority (coalition)
428 / 615 (70%)
Opposition party  Labour Party
Opposition leaderClement Attlee
Legislature term(s)37th UK Parliament
Outgoing formationNorway Debate
PredecessorFourth National Government
SuccessorChurchill war ministry

Neville Chamberlain formed the Chamberlain war ministry in 1939 after declaring war on Germany. Chamberlain led the country for the first eight months of the Second World War, until the Norway Debate in Parliament led Chamberlain to resign and Winston Churchill to form a new ministry.


On 3 September 1939, Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, reconstructed his existing government so as to be suited for 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 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.


War Cabinet, September 1939 – May 1940

Chamberlain's September 1939 War Cabinet. From left to right: Standing: Wood, Churchill, Hore-Belisha, and Hankey. Front row: Halifax, Simon, Chamberlain, Hoare, and Chatfield.
Chamberlain's September 1939 War Cabinet. From left to right: Standing: Wood, Churchill, Hore-Belisha, and Hankey. Front row: Halifax, Simon, Chamberlain, Hoare, and Chatfield.

Upon the outbreak of the war, Chamberlain carried out a fullscale reconstruction of the government and introduced a small War Cabinet who were as follows:


Key office holders not in the Cabinet


List of Ministers

Members of the Cabinet are in bold face.

Office Name Party Dates Notes
Prime Minister
First Lord of the Treasury
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
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 Liberal National 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 Conservative September 1939 – 10 May 1940
Secretary of State for the Home Department Sir John Anderson National 3 September 1939
Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department Osbert Peake Conservative September 1939
Ministry of Home Security Alan Lennox-Boyd Conservative 6 September 1939
William Mabane Liberal National 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 Conservative 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 Labour National September 1939
Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies The Marquess of Dufferin and Ava Conservative September 1939
Minister for Coordination of Defence The Lord Chatfield Independent 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 Duke of Devonshire Conservative September 1939
Minister for Economic Warfare Ronald Cross Conservative 3 September 1939
President of the Board of Education The Earl De La Warr Labour National September 1939
Herwald Ramsbotham Conservative 3 April 1940
Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education Kenneth Lindsay Labour National 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 Conservative 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 Conservative Party 4 September 1939
Sir John Reith National 5 January 1940
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Information Sir Edward Grigg Conservative Party 19 September 1939 Office vacant 3 April 1940
Minister of Labour and National Service Ernest Brown Liberal National 3 September 1939
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour and National Service Ralph Assheton Conservative Party 6 September 1939
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster William Morrison Conservative Party September 1939 From 4 September 1939 – 3 April 1940 combined with Minister for Food
George Tryon Conservative Party 3 April 1940 Lord Tryon
Paymaster General The Earl Winterton Conservative Party September 1939
Vacant November 1939
Minister for Pensions Sir Walter Womersley Conservative Party September 1939
Minister without Portfolio The Lord Hankey Independent 3 September 1939 – 10 May 1940 Member of War Cabinet
Postmaster-General George Tryon Conservative Party September 1939
William Morrison Conservative Party 3 April 1940
Assistant Postmaster-General William Mabane Liberal National September 1939
Charles Waterhouse Conservative Party 24 October 1939
Secretary of State for Scotland John Colville Conservative Party September 1939
Under-Secretary of State for Scotland John McEwen Conservative Party 6 September 1939
Minister of Shipping Sir John Gilmour, Bt Conservative Party 13 October 1939
Robert Hudson Conservative Party 3 April 1940
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Shipping Sir Arthur Salter Conservative Party 13 November 1939
Minister of Supply Leslie Burgin Liberal National September 1939
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Supply John Llewellin Conservative Party September 1939
President of the Board of Trade Hon. Oliver Stanley Conservative Party September 1939
Sir Andrew Duncan National 5 January 1940
Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade Gwilym Lloyd George Independent Liberal 6 September 1939
Secretary for Overseas Trade Robert Hudson Conservative Party September 1939
Geoffrey Shakespeare Liberal National 3 April 1940
Secretary for Mines Geoffrey Lloyd Conservative Party September 1939
Minister of Transport Euan Wallace Conservative Party 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 Party 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 Labour National 3 April 1940
Attorney General Sir Donald Somervell Conservative September 1939
Solicitor General Sir Terence O'Connor Conservative September 1939
Lord Advocate Thomas Cooper Conservative September 1939
Solicitor General for Scotland James Reid Conservative 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 Conservative September 1939
Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard The Lord Templemore Conservative September 1939
Lords-in-Waiting The Earl Fortescue Conservative September 1939 – 10 May 1940
The Earl of Birkenhead Conservative September 1939 – 10 May 1940
The Viscount Bridport Conservative September 1939 – 10 May 1940
The Lord Ebury Conservative September 1939 – 10 May 1940


  • D. Butler and G. Butler, Twentieth Century British Political Facts 1900–2000.
Preceded by
Fourth National Government
Government of the United Kingdom
Succeeded by
Churchill war ministry
This page was last edited on 7 March 2021, at 00:28
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