I watched and enjoyed the Churchill Lecture (see page 14) on C-span. I do wonder, though, if someone should write a book devoted to correcting misperceptions about Sir Winston. It amazes me, nearly every time I discuss my interest in Churchill, that someone always feels the need to relate some sloshy anecdote about his drinking or other such tripe. Last summer, at a wedding in which I was Best Man, I sprinkled in several relevant Churchill quotes. An elderly gentleman approached me afterward to say that his neighbor had worked with Churchill during the war and that he knew for a fact that Sir Winston had a person assigned to carrying liquor around after him so that it was readily available. He then explained that not many people knew there were additional aides designated to carry spare trousers, as he got so drunk every day that they often needed changing. I was dumbstruck, and had no idea how to respond. Do such stories attach themselves to everyone of import, especially politicians who may make more natural enemies?
Lastly, I am disgusted that Time magazine’s summary regarding Churchill’s unsuitability over Einstein for “Person of the Century” has now seemed to take root as fact (note the questions from the student lecture audience as well as Mr. Matthews’s comments specifically mentioning India and female suffrage). As one of the authorities that everyone looks toward for fact, has the CC ever considered undertaking Winston Churchill: Setting the Record Straight!
WILLIAM ROEDER ([email protected])
I had a go at Matthews at the dinner afterward and corrected a few points. Finest Hour continuously records and punctures media exaggerations, and we certainly took care of Time in issue 105 (“Time’s Long March to Person of the Century.”) Unfortunately Churchill himself so exaggerated his use of alcohol that it stuck like a limpet. Mr. Matthews did remark that Churchill changed his tune on female suffrage. Regarding India, on balance Churchill was wrong, but not all wrong and it was a grand fight. (See “Jaipur, India” in “International Datelines, “page 12.)
Mr. Roeder’s letter (to our Listserv discussion group), prompted a number of suggestions for a list of common Churchill misconceptions; see Todd Ronnei’s suggestions in “Ampersand, “p. 47. —Ed.
I received the other day the information you sent me regarding the opportunity to become a Churchill Center Associate. I just want to inform you that I shortly will send you a check for US$10,000. I think everyone including myself has Mr. Churchill to thank for the survival of Western civilization and the democratic system; and that we all therefore have an obligation to help pass on Sir Winston’s statecraft to new generations. I fully share your questions: “If not us—who? If not now—when?”
GABRIEL URWITZ, STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN
Having just read “Errata” on page 10 of FH 109,1 hasten to advise that I was not of the view that the American and English Winston Churchills met in 1903. In fact my book, The Churchills: Pioneers and Politicians, attributes the same source as Mr. Ryan (the official biography) as to their meeting in December 1900. However, I was pleased that you wrote “That Other Winston Churchill” (FH 106), although A. L. Rowse thinks they did meet during the Great War (see The Churchills -p. 182).
ELIZABETH C. SNELL, DORCHESTER, DORSET, UK
Could you explain for me why Churchill didn’t protest against the gruesome mass slaughter of unarmed Jews conducted quite openly by the “White” army he and London armed in 1919 to fight and topple the Soviet regime? I see from a report in The New York Times that Andrew Bonar Law admitted on the floor of Commons in late 1919 that units of the White army had slain “hundreds” of Jews in Kiev itself on 18-20 October, so Churchill and the government certainly knew what their favored army in Russia was up to.
F. Y. GABRIEL ([email protected])
I’m afraid I cannot, and post Mr. Gabriel’s letter here in the hope that someone can. —Ed.
I found Mr. Bell’s review of the Rasor Historiography rather bitter and unjust, though a masterpiece of erudition. I think that kind of work deserves respect, since omissions and errors may be corrected in later editions. On the contrary, I believe that it should be very useful to issue this work in a CD-ROM version with hyper-textual linkage, updating on subscription.
PATRIZ1O R. GIANGRECO, NAPLES, ITALY
For further thoughts along these lines, please see “Rasor’s Edge” on page 44.
I mention Churchill in my classes, which are basically on political theory, and am involved in a television documentary about Iceland during 1940-49. I wrote the script, and showed some photos of his visit, where he met the Governor and reviewed British troops in Reykjavik.
One thing is rather amusing. When Churchill was in Iceland, he saw some glasshouses warmed by water from our hot springs. In his memoirs of the war he suggests, although he does not directly claim, that he himself got the idea to use the hot water to heat up our houses and that Icelanders took up his idea. In fact this had long been planned in Iceland, and was only delayed because of the war. However, I believe Churchill facilitated our utilization of the hot springs. As you may know, all houses in Reykjavik are heated up by hot water, running through the ovens and led directly from hot springs. Here is what Churchill wrote:
“I found time to see the new airfields we were making, and also to visit the wonderful hot springs and the glass-houses they are made to serve. I thought immediately that they should also be used to heat Reykjavik, and tried to further this plan even during the war. I am glad that it has now been carried out.” —The Grand Alliance (1950), Book II, Chapter 4.
PROF. HANNES H. GISSURARSON, UNIVERSITY OF ICELAND, REYKJAVIK
As a member of my local Rotary Club, I provide an annual program for one of the clubs weekly luncheon meetings. I see this as an opportunity to enlighten my fellow Rotarians on some aspect of Churchill’s life. For the last program I prepared a Powerpoint show on the planning and strategy for Operation Overlord (D-Day), and Churchill’s role in it. My story began with the fall of France, continued through the early invasion planning by Mountbatten, Operation Round-Up, the Roosevelt-Churchill meetings, American resolve and British uncertainty about the dates, Churchill’s invasion worries and finally H-Hour on June 6th. I tied about sixty pictures into my narration, with four recordings, including part of Churchill’s speech of 26 March 1944: “The Hour of Our Greatest Effort is Approaching.”
Churchill-style, I closed with emotion, with a D-Day account by Charles Collingwood recorded that day on Omaha Beach, showing pictures of the action. It was a hit!
An impromptu 20-minute discussion ensued on Churchill and the invasion. As the members left, many congratulated me and one said that he had learned more history since he joined our club than he had in all his school years. As with my other programs on Churchill, I learned a great deal, too.
FRED HARDMAN, SPENCER, W.V.
There are two new housing estates in Melbourne called “Winston Green” and “Churchill Green Estate.” Two roads in Churchill Green Estate are called “Winston Way” and “Churchill Close.” The residents of Churchill Green Estate, known collectively as the “Churchill Greeners,” are keen to name their houses in honor of Winston Spencer Churchill. Essentially we would very much like to hear suggestions for suitable names besides, of course, “Chartwell.”
URSULA REMBACH, MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA
We referred the Greeners to “Riddles, Mysteries, Enigmas” in FH 103, containing a complete list and details about Churchill residences, which offers numerous possibilities: The Little Lodge, St. James’s, Great Cumberland, Eccleston, Admiralty House, Morpeth Mansions, Hyde Park Gate, Number Ten, Lullenden, Pear Tree Cottage, and Hoe Farm. Additional ideas from Churchill’s travels and adventures include Marrakesh, Monte Carlo, Nassau, Casablanca, Yalta, Argentia…the list is endless!—Ed.
In the light of your having invited me to speak at Fulton colloquium in 1996, and having published my essay in Winston Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” Speech Fifty Years Later, I was disappointed when, a year ago, you had no interest in considering the article I wrote criticizing Time magazines choice of “Person of the Century.” My disappointment turned to astonishment and disgust when you ran the Chris Matthews article, “The Very Model of a Democratic Statesman” (FH 106). You are an elegant writer, and I could not understand what you saw there; it has nothing original and is devoid of depth or substance, written in the pedestrian, slovenly style familiar to anyone who can sit through his drivel on television. My article was the product of the years of work I put into my book chapter. You preferred the shoddy piece of journalism.
I was also surprised to find, in FH 105, your taking at face value Truman’s favorable reference to Stalin when the President introduced Churchill at Fulton. Paul Rahe and I, with references to the Fraser Harbutt book, explain that Truman was already hardening policy toward Russia. Truman was merely being politic at Fulton.
On another level entirely is the ridiculous assertion by Craig Horn, in his FH 105 review of Joseph Shattan’s Architects of Victory, that “neither Truman nor his successor [sic] was prepared to follow” Churchill’s lead at Fulton. Such historical ignorance has no place in Finest Hour. Even worse is the statement in the preceding paragraph of that review that Truman and Eisenhower sought to “appease” Russia. Containment is appeasement? Shattan’s book does not make such an assertion and Mr. Horn vastly oversimplifies his point.
SPENCER WARREN, ANNANDALE, VA.
Suggesting that I “preferred” Mr. Matthews’s piece to Mr. Warren’s is like arguing that we spend $1 billion to build a destroyer when the same amount would feed a million starving children. Mr. Warren’s piece criticized Time magazine; by the time he offered it, FH had already done that.
What I saw in Mr. Matthews’s article was the view not of a scholar but of someone who speaks to five million people every night, and whose origins are other than the right wing, which thinks erroneously that it holds copyright to Winston Churchill. —Ed.
Mr. Horn responds:
Please note that I am taken to task for Joseph Shattan’s own words! Shattan in Architects of Victory, and David McCullough in his Truman, show that President Truman prevaricated following Churchill’s 1946 “Iron Curtain” warning in Fulton, inviting Stalin to deliver a counterpart of Churchill’s speech, even offering to pick him up in the USS Missouri. “Politic” or not, Truman at that time appeared to lack a clear policy toward the Soviets. True, appearances may be deceiving; Truman soon came round, and played a substantial role in protecting western Europe from Soviet domination. But Shattan states on page 76 of his book that “neither Harry Truman nor his successor [sic] was prepared to follow [Churchill’s] lead.”
Was containment appeasement? Well, Shattan thinks so, comparing it to the appeasement of Hitler on page 77: “…the U.S. policy of containment was little more than a contemporary version of appeasement.” Mr. Warren should read Mr. Shattan’s book; and I will read Mr. Warrens essay.
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