Finest Hour 100, Autumn 1998
Dal Newfield wasn’t about to be a one man show again. “If you will produce Finest Hour,” he told me, “I’ll send subscription forms to my mailing list.” Fair enough! Finally FH had an editor with the time, and at least a few more skills than in 1968—and we still had Dal. Randolph Churchill’s son Winston, like his father in 1968, encouraged us to go ahead.
In late 1981 we sent off Finest Hour 33—the first in eighty months, its masthead decorated with an allegorical drawing of Churchill’s life, granted to us by the Pobjoy Mint, still on our masthead today. One of the first subscriptions was from the United States Secretary of Defense. I returned Mr. Weinberger’s check and asked him to be an honorary member. We have many reasons to be grateful to him for his participation and encouragement since then. (For all our Honorary Members since 1968, see inside back cover.)
Numbers 33-35 were printed with artsy brown ink on coated tan stock, which gave good reproduction but was light enough to mail cheaply. We started off “heavy on philately,” with articles on stamps, album layouts, covers, philatelic Q&A, a mainly philatelic auction, ads from dealers. But we were soon hitting all those other Churchill buttons Dal had established: memorabilia, book reviews, historical articles, the occasional scholarly piece. A Board of Directors was formed, including many still-familiar names: George Temple and John Plumpton of Canada; Tom Thomas and Geoffrey Wheeler of the UK; George Lewis, Dal Newfield and Glen Browne of the USA. In 1982 Derek Brownleader of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, visited us in New Hampshire, and left with the job of Membership Secretary. Sixteen years later he’s still there, having processed over 800,000 pieces of mail.
In early 1982 we were granted non-profit status and began to mail at low, non-profit rates. A Churchill tour of England was planned, a “convention” announced. And then, to our shock, Dalton Newfield suddenly died.
Nobody expected it. He had just retired, and was looking forward to his “annual buying trip” to England. Now he was gone. George Lewis took his place as treasurer; John Plumpton took up his column “Action This Day.” To this day Dai’s memory lingers in the hearts of his friends.
FH was building a head of steam, with many new contributors: former bodyguard Ronald Golding; Washington statue sculptor Bill McVey; Peter Mclver, who wrote our first defense against revisionism, “Winston Churchill and the Bombing of Coventry.” They were part of an increasingly confident and comprehensive journal, now sixteen pages thick.
The “look of the book” improved as members were added and the budget allowed more pages. FH 36 in 1982 carried our first two-color cover; FH 40 in 1983 was the first on II’ coated offset paper. FH 37 reported the first “convention” at Fulton, Missouri, on 9-10 October 1982, a grand total of five participants. More successful was the First Churchill Tour in 1983, cosponsored by the Churchill Memorial, visiting Hoe Farm, Chartwell, Longleat, Bladon, Blenheim, Oscar Nemon’s studio; in London we hosted Lady Soames at the Churchill Hotel and Sir John Colville at the Savoy.
Although we had lost our mentor, dozens of contributors had sprung to the fore. George Temple in Canada and Geoff Wheeler in England were rapidly adding members and organizing events. We welcomed Martin Gilbert’s Finest Hour 1939-1941 (Simon Schama in FH 42 hailed it as “The Churchilliad”). We were drafting a new constitution, establishing a representative board of directors with members from all major participating countries. Houghton Mifflin had abdicated from publishing any more Companion Volumes, and FH was wondering aloud how we might somehow rescue this project—which ironically had ended with the volume for 1936-39. Membership was over 650 and gaining. The Third Churchill Conference was being planned for Toronto, establishing a nice USA-UKCanada rotation. ICS was truly a society, truly international. Dalton Newfield would have been pleased.