A relative outsider, the former Army officer picked up endorsements from other senior figures as they dropped out of the leadership race - crucially gaining Nigel Farage's backing as a "political referee".
"Even last week, the clear divisions within the party could be seen here in Kent, as Mr Bolton and Chris Wells, the leader of Ukip's only council in the country in Thanet, publicly clashed over the future of Manston airport and the general running of the council".
Phil Hornby spent the day on the English Riviera, and watched the build-up to an unexpected result.
But he comfortably saw off the challenge of anti-Islam campaigner Anne Marie Waters, who came second with 21.3 per cent of the 12,915 votes cast.
In the run-up to the announcement at the party conference in Torquay, a seaside resort on Britain's south coast, there was an air of slight trepidation.
"But I do not want UKIP to become a one-issue party centred around Islam". In the event Marie Waters won, Nigel Farage had threatened to set up a new party.
However, he said there had been a "lot of demonisation" of Ms Waters.
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"However, it is not the end of the line", said Bolton in the conference.
Former police officer and soldier Henry Bolton is Ukip's new leader following a shock result.
"Brexit is our core task", Mr Bolton affirmed in a pedestrian acceptance speech.
A banner was superimposed with an image of Mr Farage posing as Adolf Hitler with the European Union logo in the background.
Asked if he would "ban the burka", Mr Bolton said: "I don't think it's about banning the burka, is it?"
The favourite to replace her, Steven Woolfe, pulled out following an altercation with a fellow MEP at the European Parliament that left him hospitalised. She resigned after just 18 days in the post, saying she could not work with the party hierarchy.
"I would call on all of you, whether you voted for me or not, to please rally around the party and be united because without being united, we can not lead and hold the government to account and achieve our core goal".