On Friday, September Ist, at dawn, the German invasion of Poland began. The mobilisation of British forces was ordered in the morning, and in the afternoon Churchill was invited by Chamberlain to visit him at to Downing Street. Chamberlain invited Churchill to join a small War Cabinet of six ministers, mostly without departments. He mentioned that he was thinking in terms of an immediate Coalition of all the major parties, and that he had sent invitations to both the Liberals and the Labour leaders, but that while the Liberals were still hesitating it did not look as if Labour was likely to accept. Even Churchill’s appointment would have to wait until the crisis had resolved itself; and as the French government was unwilling to declare war immediately — partly so as to allow time for mobilisation before having to face air attack — Chamberlain was able to use the following day (September 2nd) for last-minute efforts to keep the peace. Churchill had to wait at his flat in Pimlico, whence on the early morning of the 2nd he wrote to Chamberlain pointing out that the average age of the six proposed members of the War Cabinet was sixty-four — ‘only one year short of the Old Age Pension!’ He himself was slightly above this average age: ‘If however you added Sinclair (49) and Eden (42) the average comes down to 57 1/2.’1 Churchill evidently favoured the addition of these friends of his to help against the massed weight of the Chamberlainites.
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