Seventy-six years ago this month, Captain Pimm, who oversaw Churchill’s Map Room, woke the Prime Minister with word of the official German surrender to Gen. Eisenhower on May 7. “For five years,” Churchill responded, “you brought me bad news, sometimes worse than others,. Now you’ve redeemed yourself.
The next day Churchill led his Chiefs of Staff into the garden at No. 10 for a photograph. He laid out trays and glasses for the occasion; he now toasted each man individually—Brooke, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff; Cunningham, the First Sea Lord; and Portal, the Chief of the Air Staff—as the “architect of victory.” “I hoped that they would raise their glasses to the chief who had been their master-planner,” General Ismay later recalled, “but perhaps they were too moved to trust their voices.”
“It was a sad example of human imperceptiveness,” Ismay’s personal assistant, Joan Bright, would later add, that not one of them “saluted him in a toast….It was possible that they were shy, it is certain that they were British.”
Barry Singer is the author of Churchill Style (Abrams Image, 2012) and the proprietor of Chartwell Booksellers in New York City.
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