Churchill plotted from Western Front trenches to oust First World War PM Herbert Asquith

Churchill's plot succeeded and paved the way for him to return to government
Churchill's plot succeeded and paved the way for him to return to government - Bettmann/Bettmann

Winston Churchill plotted from the trenches on the Western Front to oust Herbert Asquith, the First World War prime minister, from power, unpublished letters show.

The future British premier served as an Army officer in 1916 when he was frozen out of government following the fiasco of the Gallipoli campaign he had spearheaded.

However, he conspired in politics, sending a series of letters to a prominent minister urging the removal and replacement at the head of government of Herbert Asquith.

His intrigues worked and the eventual toppling of Asquith paved the way for the premiership of David Lloyd George, and Churchill’s own return to government.

The unpublished correspondence from Britain’s wartime leader to Sir Edward Carson, the Irish unionist minister and power-broker, is to be sold for an estimated £60,000.

In a letter sent in 1916, Churchill complains of the “ill-starred coalition” governing the country and managing the war, adding:  “Shall we ever make a comprehensive plan? Asquith’s failure is not lack of decision, but lack of design.

“On that all turns, and the helplessness of gallant effort at the front is pathetic.”

Win war at ‘any expense’

He insisted, foreshadowing his own determination in the Second World War, that Britain needed a government ready to win the war at “any expense”, and urged the removal of Asquith.

In one letter, he writes: “Any arrangement [that] succeeded the Asquith regime must be between you & Lloyd George. I trust you will keep in touch with me.”

Churchill had recently resigned from his position as First Lord of the Admiralty following the failure of the Gallipoli campaign, and sought to atone by joining the ranks on the Western Front.

He was given command of a battalion of the 6th Royal Scots Fusiliers and often ventured into no man’s land wearing his preferred French-issue helmet.

It was while in France that he corresponded with Sir Edward, whose Unionists were the effective opposition to Liberal Asquith’s wartime coalition.

His efforts at the end of 1916, the year in which he wrote to Churchill, helped topple Asquith and bring about the leadership of Lloyd George, who promptly brought him and Churchill back into government.

Churchill book fetched £600,000

The First World War letters of Churchill are being sold by Peter Harrington Rare Books in New York, in a rare sale of Churchillain treasures, which has already seen proofs of the Churchill’s literary work The Second World War sell for £600,000.

Along with largely unpublished letters, the writing desk Churchill used to pen his historically significant memoir of the Second World War, and his Nobel Prize winning History of the English-Speaking Peoples, is being offered for sale.

Experts have noted what they believe to be cigar burns on the desk’s leather surface.

The desk was installed at his home at Hyde Park Gate, and was kept in a converted downstairs office Churchill used as a bedroom, and in which he died in 1965.

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