August 21, 2013

Finest Hour 110, Spring 2001

Page 11


The massive (and unexpurgated) Alanbrooke Diaries—not the previously-sanitized ones published in the late Fifties—were published in May, with extracts running in the Daily Telegraph, reports Graham Robson. “It looks like dynamite to me.” More grist undoubtedly for the Feet of Clay School—but a prominent member of the Churchill family tells FH: “We have broad backs”….The Sir Winston Churchill Society of Calgary held its annual dinner on April 21st, with keynote speaker Lord Jellicoe, a tremendous speaker whose remarks we know were enjoyed by our colleagues….Dwelling on Churchill’s fortitude against constant disaster in the Second World War, honorary member Lord Deedes wrote in the Daily Telegraph of a recollection from Vic Oliver, WSC’s son-in-law. One evening in 1941, Churchill came down from his study “looking inexpressibly grim.” Scenting there had been a disaster but knowing he would not reveal it, Mrs. Churchill quietly poured him a glass of port. Oliver went to the piano and, on reflection, began Beethoven’s Appassionata sonata. Churchill rose to his feet and thundered: “Stop. Don’t play that!” Oliver asked, “What’s the matter? Don’t you like it?” Churchill replied, “Nobody plays the Dead March in my house.” Knowing that Churchill was notoriously unmusical, the company laughed. Oliver turned back to the piano: “But surely, sir, you can tell the difference between this…” and he struck a few chords of the Appassionata “and…” Before he could finish Churchill thundered again: “Stop it! stop it! I want no Dead March, I tell you!” The next day it was announced that the battleship HMS Hood had been sunk after a shell from the German battleship Bismarck passed through its light armour and exploded in the stern magazine. Of the 93 officers and 1324 ratings, three had been saved….On March 22nd the History Channel aired a program about how HMS Devonshire, after starting to pick up sailors from the sunken German battleship Bismarck, suddenly sailed away, leaving hundreds of Germans slowly freezing in the water. Lost in the dialogue was one sentence about Devonshire receiving a warning of a U-boat in the vicinity. No one speculated on whether the U-boat would have refrained from torpedoing Devonshire while she was dead in the water, killing all the rescued Germans as well as their comrades….Chris Dunford ([email protected]) to the CC Listserv: There have been numerous discussions here and elsewhere about continuing efforts on the part of certain scholars to discredit Churchill using modern day sensibilities. Many members have made the point that individuals must be judged in the context of their own time, not in the context of the observer’s time. While reading, of all things, a science fiction novel, I came across the following passage. It is in reference to Christopher Columbus—another target of political correctness—remarkably apropos of Churchill: “His vices were the vices of his time and culture, but his virtues transcended the milieu of his life. He was a great man. I have no wish to undo the life of a great man.” 

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