In times of trouble and uncertainty, people continue to look to the words and example of Sir Winston Churchill for inspiration and guidance. In Britain, measures have now been taken unlike anything that has happened since the Second World War, and there is much discussion about how today’s world leaders are measuring up during the present crisis to the example of Churchill—the gold standard for crisis leadership.
At the International Churchill Society, we trust that all of you are safe and following the recommended guidelines for containing the spread of the virus. We also want to share with you some episodes from Churchill’s life that may help to serve us all in coping with the present situation.
During the war, Churchill always drew strength from visiting with those on the front lines, whether it was in the bombed-out ruins of London or in the Western Desert of Egypt. Medical professionals, today’s first-responders, were not neglected. In March 1944, Churchill spoke to the Royal College of Physicians and said: “The discoveries of healing science must be the inheritance of all. That is clear. Disease must be attacked, whether it occurs in the poorest or the richest man or woman, simply on the ground that it is the enemy; and it must be attacked just in the same way as the fire brigade will give its full assistance to the humblest cottage as readily as to the most important mansion.”
Churchill himself had to absorb many shocking blows during the war. On 10 December 1941, just three days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Churchill received news that Japanese aircraft in the Far East had sunk two British battleships, HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales. At a blow, six hundred officers and men were drowned. “In all the war, I never received a more direct shock,” Churchill later recalled. Yet the very next day, his Private Secretary John Peck recorded that the Prime Minister’s dictum was “‘We must just KBO,’ which, he explained, meant ‘Keep Buggering On.’”
The International Churchill Society and our partners at America’s National Churchill Museum in Fulton, Missouri, want you to know how we are doing our bit to KBO:
First: All events we had planned at the local, national, and international levels for the first half of 2020 have been postponed. The museum in Fulton and the National Churchill Library and Center in Washington, D.C. are temporarily closed. We look forward to re-opening these venues, and organizers will reschedule all missed events at a later time.
Second: The delivery schedule of our journals Finest Hour and the Churchill Bulletin will not be disrupted. Our editorial staff work from home, and production continues as normal. Our printer is classified as an “essential business” along with postal delivery. Society members should expect to receive their physical and/or digital copies of Finest Hour as usual.
Third: Here are several additional ways that you can continue to experience Churchill’s life and times in today’s new world:
—Read Erik Larson’s best-selling new book The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance during the Blitz.
Churchill always believed in delivering the bad news first and being completely candid with his audience. At the same time, he invariably identified sound reasons for hope and ended his remarks with these. Writing in A History of the English-Speaking Peoples about the pandemic that engulfed the world in the fourteenth century, Churchill concluded: “At length the plague abated its force….Recoveries became more frequent; the resistant faculties of life revived. The will to live triumphed.” With that spirit in mind, “let us go forward together” with Churchillian fortitude. We hope to be able to announce some new initiatives soon as part of our fight against the global crisis.
Laurence Geller CBE, Chairman
Jean-Paul Montupet, Vice Chairman
Randolph Churchill, President