Finest Hour 113, Winter 2001-02
QUOTATION OF THE SEASON
“…the United States, united as never before, have drawn the sword for freedom and cast away the scabbard.”
—WSC, CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES, 26 DECEMBER 1941
Quotation of the Decade?
Gregory Smith offers this Churchill comment on that great religion we are not fighting against, from The River War, first edition, Vol. II, pages 248-50 (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1899).
“How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property—either as a child, a wife, or a concubine—must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the Queen; all know how to die; but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science—the science against which it had vainly struggled— the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome.”
The Universal Churchill
NEW YORK & LONDON, NOVEMBER 11TH— Two months since September 11th, Winston Churchill remains the dominant historical reference, his quotations on every lip, while cynics take turns comparing him (and Chamberlain) to George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
Comparing the current President to Churchill, The Economist admitted that Bush is “a super-fit teetotaler while Churchill was a cigar-smoking puffball whose daily alcohol regime included [inaccuracies omitted]. And yet Mr. Bush is marching into battle against terrorism with Churchill’s ghost by his side. He has a bronze bust in the Oval Office and lards his speeches with Churchillian-sounding phrases.
“Karl Rove, Mr. Bush’s guiding hand, recently put up a poster of Churchill in the Old Executive Office Building. Donald Rumsfeld invoked Churchill in pouring scorn on people who doubt America’s will [and quotes WSC’s phrase that] ‘the truth is so precious that she must always be accompanied by a bodyguard of lies’….The biggest reason for invoking Churchill, of course, is that he won his war. But Mr. Bush and his men should not forget that, for all their gratitude, the British people then kicked him out of his job.”
Across the ideological divide, The Telegraph Group’s senior North American columnist Mark Steyn labeled Bill Clinton “Unfit to be ex-president” in a slashing comparison with Chamberlain: “In 1940, when Neville Chamberlain resigned as prime minister, Churchill asked him to stay on as leader of the Conservative Party and to remain in the cabinet…Churchill paid him handsome tribute and cried at his bier….In the last months [Chamberlain] was lost in introspection and wracked with guilt. I’m not saying Bill Clinton’s the designated Chamberlain….But, given his own desultory responses to Osama bin Laden’s ever bolder provocations, you’d think even Bill Clinton could find time for a little introspection and quiet selfassessment. “
Afghanistan, Steyn concludes, has no unseemly ex-presidents: “King Zahir is still around, but for his various successors, their presidencies’ expiry dates tend also to be their own. Zahir was deposed in 1973 by his cousin Daoud, who was killed by his successor Taraki, who was suffocated by his successor Hafizullah Amin, who was executed by the Soviets, who installed Babrak Karmal, who died in Moscow but in a rare break with tradition managed to outlive his replacement, Najibullah, whom the Taliban wound up hanging from a traffic post. I wouldn’t wish such a fate on our ex-president, but it seems to me that if Bill really wants to be monarch, he’s younger and fitter than King Zahir. Let’s install him on the throne in Kabul, and let him get back to working for the Afghan people.”
Dear oh dear. Still, we don’t mind Churchill’s rediscovery by our various rulers, pundits and decision makers.
The Ascension (New Revised Edition)
BOSTON, OCTOBER I5TH— Hostage to Fortune: The Letters of Joseph P. Kennedy, compiled by his granddaughter Amanda Smith, appears to challenge Churchill’s description of his alleged silence during the fateful May 1940 meeting that decided the premiership.
Kennedy recorded a meeting he had with Chamberlain three weeks before the latter’s death: Chamberlain said he had made no secret of his preference for Lord Halifax, prompting Halifax to suggest, “Perhaps I can’t do it from the Lords.” This, Chamberlain continued, had caused Churchill to exclaim, “I don’t think you could.” And, Chamberlain added, “He wouldn’t come and that settled it.” That, writes Anthony Howard in The Times, “could only mean one thing. To secure his own accession, Churchill indicated that he would refuse to serve under Halifax.”
Relevant to this is Prof. Larry Witherell’s recent paper (we will publish an abstract next issue) suggesting that Chamberlain was forced out by Lord Salisbury’s “Watching Committee.” (But see Charles Lysaght on Bracken’s influence on Churchill’s strategy during the meeting, page 18.)
It occurs to us that Witherell and Kennedy may both be right but that it doesn’t entirely negate Churchill’s version. Per Kennedy, Churchill may still have remained silent for a long time in the famous meeting, but then replied, “I don’t think you could” when, as he writes, “at last Halifax spoke.” Chamberlain may have looked upon this as Churchill’s way of “not coming along” in a Halifax premiership. Maybe so, though it seems that the big problem was Halifax not coming along.
Likewise, Salisbury’s Watching Committee may indeed have been effective in causing the Tory defections which convinced Chamberlain of the need for a national government in May 1940. But had Labour been willing to serve under Chamberlain, could Salisbury have prevented a coalition? He was hardly a figure who could command legions; it is inconceivable that he could have forestalled a Labour-backed coalition.
The historians give us valuable new information, but are they making more of all this than needs to be made? What changes? Chamberlain realized that a coalition was imperative. He could not command a coalition. He sent for Halifax and Churchill. Halifax could not or would not serve from the Lords. Ergo Winston. Are we missing something?
NEW YORK, NOVEMBER 15TH— Columnist Florence King has taken some punches at Operation Enduring Freedom, current label for the Afghan War: “If the Bushies put it through the sensitivity grinder one more time, they’ll have to call it the Inoffensive Offensive.” Several readers drew our attention to Churchill’s eminently sensible guidelines for naming operations, in an 8 August 1943 minute to “Pug” Ismay, Secretary of the Defence Committee:
“Operations in which large numbers of men may lose their lives ought not to be decided by code-words that imply a boastful and over-confident sentiment, such as ‘Triumphant,’ or conversely, which are calculated to invest the plan with an air of despondency, such as ‘Woebetide’ and ‘Flimsy.’ They ought not to be names of a frivolous character, such as ‘Bunnyhug’ and ‘Ballyhoo.’ They should not be ordinary words often used in other connections, such as ‘Flood,’ ‘Sudden,’ and ‘Supreme.’ Names of living people— ministers or commanders—should be avoided. Intelligent thought will already supply an unlimited number of wellsounding names that do not suggest the character of the operation or disparage it in any way and do not enable some widow or mother to say that her son was killed in an operation called ‘Bunnyhug’ or ‘Ballyhoo.’ Proper names are good in this field. The heroes of antiquity, figures from Greek and Roman mythology, the constellations and stars, famous racehorses, names of British and American war heroes, could be used, provided they fall within the rules above.”
Times Corrupt Citation
NEW YORK, DECEMBER 20TH— Time magazine, which two years ago played it safe and named Albert Einstein “Person of the Century” (FH 105:21), named New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani “Person of the Year.” By Time’s own standard (“the person having the most impact”) their citation should have gone to Osama bin Laden, but word on the street is that Time picked Giuliani because they feared the reaction of advertisers and subscribers to their “honoring” a terrorist. Which only proves how corrupt Time’s accolade has become since the days of Henry Luce, when it really meant something. Slandering Churchill, as they did in denying him the obvious in 1999, was a much safer bet. In 1950, Luce’s Time faced the obvious and named Churchill “Man [Person] of the Half Century.” In 1999, Walter Isaacson’s Time stoned him, and a different and indifferent world just yawned.
Enemy Even After Death
LONDON, AUGUST 18TH— Columnist Alan Hamilton wrote that discreet British enquiries established that Eamon De Valera, President of Ireland, would not accept an invitation to Churchill’s funeral. Instead he sent a low-grade representative and made a statement describing WSC as “a great Englishman, one of the greatest of his time,” but adding, “We in Ireland had to regard Sir Winston over a long period as a dangerous adversary.” De Valera did send a message of personal condolence to Lady Churchill. In 1945, De Valera had seen fit to tender condolences to the German Minister in Dublin on the death of Hitler. We wonder how the German Ambassador replied?
NEW YORK, OCTOBER 15TH— Something Andrew Roberts wrote last issue got us thinking. What do you call the debate strategy in which you muddy the waters with a side issue while avoiding a main issue, where you are on weak ground?
David Irving’s latest Churchill volume, Mr. Roberts reported in FH 112:46, claims that the present Queen Mother supported Hitler’s peace offer in 1940 and that the proof is to be found in Box Number 23 of Lord Monkton’s papers at the Bodleian Library at Oxford. But, Roberts continues, the Bodleian says Irving has never seen the box, let alone opened it.
This obfuscates the fact that the Queen Mother, like most of the British establishment, had no initial confidence in Churchill; so it’s not exactly news that many of her class entertained the notion of “scuttling,” as Churchill called it, in June 1940. Halifax certainly did, according to his own diaries. So whether the Queen Mum temporarily thought well of a deal with Hitler is inconsequential; and whatever is in the mysterious box can hardly be profound.
We put this question to William E Buckley, Jr., who made memorable our 1995 Boston conference when he and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. delivered two of the greatest speeches on Churchill we’ve ever heard (Churchill Proceedings 1994-1995)- What is this method of argument called? Mr. Buckley writes: “Your query suggests we’re talking about ignoratio elenchi, refuting a different point while ignoring the primary point. Does that do it?” Sure does. Remember this if you peruse Irving’s tome.
Unforgivable David Windsor
LONDON, OCTOBER 21ST— Churchill never forgave the Duke of Windsor for giving up the throne, according to Churchill letters being kept secret at the request of the Royal Family, wrote Chris Hastings and Catherine Milner in The Times. The letters were originally from the archive of the first Viscount Monckton, the Duke’s lawyer and intimate adviser, at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. Removed from two folios of documents presented to Churchill College Cambridge in 1974, they have now been reclassified as top secret for another ten years.
Academics who have seen them say the documents reveal great animosity between Churchill and “David,” and provide further evidence of the Duke’s and Duchess’s pro-Nazi views. They are known to include several angry exchanges prompted by the Duke’s desire to advise Churchill on the conduct of foreign policy. In one letter the PM tells the Duke that he cannot accept advice from someone who “had given up the greatest throne in world history.” A frequent cause of hostility concerned arrangements for the Duke’s posting in 1940 as Governor of the Bahamas. Churchill “took umbrage at the Duke’s almost endless demands concerning everything from staffing to dental appointments.”
The existence of the letters, Hastings and Milner continue, “will surprise many who had previously assumed that Churchill was forgiving of the former King’s decision to abdicate.” (Really? Churchill realized and cited his mistake after Elizabeth II was crowned.) “It is thought that they are being kept secret at the request of the Royal Family. The Queen Mother is believed to be particularly sensitive about the events of 1936, and is known to have referred to the Duchess of Windsor as ‘that woman and ‘the lowest of the low.'”
Churchill did fight for time for the King to make a decision, hoping to prevent the abdication, which surprised colleagues. Some said he wanted to use the crisis to topple Baldwin’s government and form a “King’s Party” though this is hotly debated. During one Commons speech WSC declared that “no Sovereign has ever conformed more strictly to the letter and spirit of the Constitution than his present Majesty.”
The disclosure that documents are being withheld surprised Lady Soames, who said she assumed that everything was on display: “I thought it was a complete archive.” However, she declined to comment on her father’s relationship with the Duke. Sir Martin Gilbert said: “I have never seen the letter about Churchill and the issue of the abdication. If I had I would have published it.” A spokesman for the Cabinet Office said: “The papers are held by the Public Records Office in Kew. Their status is reviewed every ten years.”
AUSTIN, TEXAS, DECEMBER 27TH— Finest Hour contributor and faithful Churchill Center supporter Chris Hanger died of cancer early this morning, aged 54. Chris was as big a piece of unbridled enthusiasm we ever could have hoped for. He collected WSC’s books with a passion, visited Churchill’s haunts, attended every Churchill event he could reach. Only this autumn he and Patty, his wife of nearly 20 years, completed a mammoth tour of the “Churchill Trail” in England, meeting with everyone who mattered from Phil Reed and Carole Kenwright at the War Rooms and Chartwell to our Patron and other Churchills. He contributed the series of abstracts of magazine articles which we published in Finest Hour’s “Inside the ; Journals.” He visited schools and lectured students on Churchill’s life and times; he was known and liked by Churchill historians Sir Martin Gilbert and Roger Lewis. Despite his original legal background, and flurry of Churchill activity, he had time to study for a new career as Registered Nurse in Emergency Medical Services, and was on the verge of being certified.
Chris touched many lives with his infectious determination. Paula Restrepo, of North Texas Churchillians, was typical: “I am filled with grief. Only a few days ago did I read Chris’s and Patty’s Christmas letter and so enjoyed the accounts of their travels. I had shared with him my own fears as I had a surgery December 13th and received a benign report. His unwavering courage and unceasing positive attitude cloaked in genuine humility and gentle spirit made it easy to be fond of him.”
Chris was suffering from throat cancer during the USS Winston S. Churchill commissioning ceremonies last spring, but despite all the doctors’ warnings he seemed to have made a miraculous recovery. “Never Give In” were his watchwords. They pronounced his case hopeless; he defied them, survived to make his UK marathon, and even to attend both 2001 New England events, the picnic and book discussion here in August and the black tie dinner in Natick, Mass, on November 30th. Fearing that even his indomitable spirit might eventually give way, Patty bravely supported his every wish, and the last year of his life was one of his happiest. Until the end he was in good spirits and seemed as healthy as ever, looking more like 44 than 54. Apparently however the cancer had spread. He was the kind of person we couldn’t afford to lose.
Pat Hanger has requested that anyone wishing to remember Chris send a memorial to The Churchill Center, where it will be used to defray costs of our Speaker’s Bureau brochure, in which Chris was to participate. Condolences may be sent to her at 12904 Water Mill Cove, Austin Tex. 78729 USA or [email protected] or telephone (512) 250-9103. -RML
LUTON, BEDFORDSHIRE, DECEMBER 10TH— It was a dreadful shock when Jack Darrah rang today to tell me the tragic news of the death of his beloved wife, Rita. Anyone who has visited Jack’s wonderful Churchill collection at Bletchley Park will remember the warmth of the welcome the Darrahs gave them.
Jack and Rita would greet one with broad smiles and open arms making one’s pleasure at being there as great as that displayed by them. This joyful enthusiasm which they spread around made everyone feel good and is evident in the many appreciative letters from so many schoolchildren for whom they had brought the story of Winston Churchill to life. Theirs was a real team effort, with Rita supporting Jack in every way. Rita will be greatly missed and all who knew her will sympathise with Jack at this time.
Readers who may wish to express their sympathies may contact Jack Darrah at 9 Cubbington Close, Luton, Beds. LU3 3XY, England, telephone (01582) 561781. —CELIASANDYS