Anthony Eden - World War II (1939–45)

World War II (1939–45)

In September 1939, on the outbreak of war, Eden, who had briefly rejoined the army with the rank of major, returned to Chamberlain's government as Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, but was not in the War Cabinet. As a result, he was not a candidate for the Premiership when Chamberlain resigned after Germany invaded France in May 1940 and Churchill became Prime Minister. Churchill appointed Eden Secretary of State for War.

At the end of 1940 Eden returned to the Foreign Office, and in this role became a member of the executive committee of the Political Warfare Executive in 1941. Although he was one of Churchill's closest confidants, his role in wartime was restricted because Churchill conducted the most important negotiations, with Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin, himself, but Eden served loyally as Churchill's lieutenant.

Nevertheless he was in charge of handling much of the relations between Britain and de Gaulle during the last years of the war. Eden was often critical of the emphasis Churchill put on the Special Relationship with the United States, and was often disappointed by American treatment of their British allies.

In 1942 Eden was given the additional job of Leader of the House of Commons. He was considered for various other major jobs during and after the war, including Commander-in-Chief Middle East in 1942 (this would have been a very unusual appointment as Eden was a civilian; General Harold Alexander was in fact appointed), Viceroy of India in 1943 (General Archibald Wavell was appointed to this job), or Secretary-General of the newly formed United Nations Organisation in 1945. In 1943 with the revelation of the Katyn Massacre Eden refused to help the Polish Government in Exile.

In 1944 Eden went to Moscow to negotiate with the Soviet Union at the Tolstoy Conference. Eden also opposed the Morgenthau Plan to deindustrialise Germany. After the Stalag Luft III murders he vowed in the House of Commons to bring the perpetrators of the crime to "exemplary justice", leading to a successful manhunt after the war by the Royal Air Force Special Investigation Branch.

Eden's eldest son, Pilot Officer Simon Gascoigne Eden, went missing in action, later declared deceased, while serving as a navigator with the RAF in Burma, in June 1945. There was a close bond between Anthony and Simon, and Simon's death was a great personal shock to his father, who nevertheless accepted it. Lady Eden reportedly reacted differently to her son's loss, and this led to a breakdown in the marriage. De Gaulle wrote him a personal letter of condolence in French.

In 1945, he was mentioned by Halvdan Koht among seven candidates that were qualified for the Nobel Prize in Peace. However, he did not explicitly nominate any of them. The person actually nominated was Cordell Hull.

Read more about this topic:  Anthony Eden

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