On Friday, May 10, 1940, at 5:35 a.m., the beautiful spring dawn of northwestern Europe was sundered by the unanticipated, unmistakable, ominous, thunderous rumble of heavy artillery fire. Adolf Hitler himself was on the scene, directing the surprise German invasion of Holland and Belgium.
The ruthlessly effective Blitzkrieg that had been loosed upon Poland was now on the move in the West. The Wehrmacht moved with rapid, rehearsed precision through the Low Countries. Its success surprised even the German high command. The Luftwaffe hit French airfields, as well as targets in Holland and Belgium.
Amid the chaos, British prime minister Neville Chamberlain scrambled to hold together his government. Hours of political maneuvering removed any lingering doubt that the premier could not unite his Conservative party, much less Labour and Liberals, into a war cabinet.
Shortly after 6 pm, Winston Churchill was called by a reluctant King George VI to form a new, all-party government.