In December 1940 Winston Churchill had written to President Roosevelt outlining the dire financial situation that Britain was descending into. It had become apparent that the British Empire could not afford to continue the war alone. Roosevelt’s proposed solution was to become known as the “Lend Lease Act”. First he needed re-assurance that Britain really could continue the war – not all US representatives in Britain believed in this.
He dispatched his personal aide Harry Hopkins to report on the situation in Britain. Having lost the greater part of his stomach to cancer in 1937 Hopkins was a chronically weak man, unable to absorb nutrition properly. He was considered too ill to take on a formal role as Ambassador. Yet his judgement was so trusted by Roosevelt that he would later become known to Washington insiders as “the deputy President”.
Fortunately Churchill and Hopkins established very warm personal relations, laying the foundations for the great Alliance between the two nations. Hopkins’ visit to Britain was extended from two to six weeks, staying at 10 Downing Street.