Finest Hour 113, Winter 2001-02
Lord Jenkins Launches
LONDON, OCTOBER 8TH— Macmillan’s launch of Churchill by Lord Jenkins of Hillhead OM (see his comments on the book in this issue) took place at the National Portrait Gallery. Among those present were CC/ICS Patron Lady Soames; honorary member Sir Anthony Montague Browne; leading political figures such as Sir Edward Heath, Lords Heseltine, Howe, Hattersley and Gilmour; diplomats such as Sir Nicholas Henderson and Sir Crispin Tickell; and journalists including Max Hastings, John Grigg (Lord Altrincham), Robert Harris, Anthony Howard and Hugo Young.
Lord Jenkins drew attention to Churchill’s multi-faceted life and stressed WSC’s devotion to duty before pleasure; an example was that, despite his undoubted preference for a joyful family Christmas in 1944, he had flown to Athens on Christmas Eve and had consequently saved Greece from falling to the postwar Communist empire. Lord Jenkins was kept busy signing his book, which has had excellent reviews.
HILLSDALE, MICH., SEPTEMBER 9-13TH— Hillsdale College held a seminar entitled “One of Freedom’s Finest Hours: Statesmanship and Soldiership in World War II.” Nine historians and five veterans gave presentations, including Sir Martin Gilbert, Stephen Ambrose, and John Lukacs. An edited collection of essays from this seminar was published in December and is available at a member discount of $17.50 by sending a check or credit card information to: External Affairs, Hillsdale College, 33 East College Street, Hillsdale, MI 49242-9989. —Dan Myers
SAN FRANCISCO, OCTOBER 28TH— Thirtyeight members of the Bay Area Churchill Group met at the Radisson Hotel. It was agreed that the next meeting would be in the spring at Fort Mason, San Francisco, but the suggestion that a smaller group meet periodically to discuss a Churchill book had a positive response. This will be arranged in the coming months.
Speaker Eroll Mauchlin had to cancel at the last minute and Danny Mander kindly agreed to step in at short notice. In an entertaining address, Danny explained how he volunteered for service in March 1940 and, as a military policeman, spent his early months escorting convoys in southern England. He was later assigned to 12th Corps and General Montgomery’s HQ. From there he served in the Middle East, and was in charge of the bodyguards for Churchill at the Teheran conference. His personal account was both fascinating and informative.
Brad Barber, who had given much support and assistance in putting this meeting together, then introduced Dr. Tom Barnes, professor of Law and History at UC Berkeley. A prolific writer, Dr. Barnes is currently Vice President of the Association for Canadian Studies in the United States. He has received the Alexander Prize of the Royal Historical Society and has held Huntington Library, American Council of Learned Societies and Guggenheim Fellowships. In an enthralling and riveting presentation, he focused on Churchill in context of the current crisis. It was all too short and it is our intention to have Tom back at some future event, perhaps in some sort of “town hall” forum.
Sir Winston’s 127th
CLAREMONT, CALIF., NOVEMBER 30TH— Every year at this time, the Claremont Institute celebrates the great man’s birthday with a dinner, speeches, and a toast in his honor. This year, at a time of war, we are particularly attentive to Churchill’s legacy and the lessons we can learn from him.
Faced with the menace of German rearmament in the 1930s, Churchill traveled England to persuade his countrymen of the need to respond to the emerging Nazi threat. Churchill and his colleagues called this effort “The Focus.” Today we need an “American Focus,” to build new defenses and to take whatever military steps are necessary to protect ourselves from all threats.
Churchill warned his countrymen of what could happen if Britain allowed Hitler to gain the upper hand in air strength: “There is time for us to take the necessary measures, but it is the measures we want….No nation playing the part we play and aspire to play in the world has a right to be in a position where it can be blackmailed.” They eventually listened, but it was nearly too late. —Brian T. Kennedy
Lansdowne Churchill Dinner
LEESBURG, VA., SEPTEMBER 28TH— The Third Annual Lansdowne Churchill Dinner was completely sold out and a great success. The guest list included three Congressional Medal of Honor recipients, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Navy, four officers of the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, and the Commanding Officer of USS Bulkeley. This year’s “Finest Hour” award recipient was Hershel “Woody” Williams, the only living recipient from the state of West Virginia and chaplain of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. Mr. Williams receive the medal for his heroic actions on Iwo Jima. The remarks by Barney Barnum describing Woody’s CMH citation grabbed everyone’s attention. Woody himself delivered one of the finest and most patriotic speeches I have ever heard. A memorable toast to Sir Winston was delivered by Craig Horn.
Please mark your calendar to attend the next Churchill Dinner which will be held on Friday, 27 September 2002. —Gerard Dumont
New England Celebrates
NATICK, MASS., NOVEMBER 30TH— Fifty CC members and friends gathered at Kenneth Rendell’s Museum of World War II for their annual black tie dinner marking Sir Winston’s birthday. A brilliant job was done on the invitations and program by Jilene Thomas: each had the appearance of wartime messages from the Cabinet War Rooms. The toasts were made with Pol Roger Champagne, and Mr. Rendell regaled us with a commentary on his breathtaking collection of World War II artifacts from all belligerents, Allied and Axis.
“This is not a public museum, so we are not bound by law to provide minimum aisle widths or an abundance of exits; nor are we governed by political correctness or the need to tell a story,” Mr. Rendell said. “We do not allow children, and we are pretty choosy about the adults.” The artifacts, which range from children’s toys exalting the greatness of the Reich to a tank and a Normandy landing craft, form in the whole a chilling reminder of the grim days when Hitler’s Nazis dominated Germany and Europe. The material is arranged chronologically: the first room is devoted to Germany after Versailles, the exhibit ends with the victory over Japan. “There are a minimum number of signs, and there are no interpretations or apologies or explanations. The material speaks for itself.”
The German artifacts were assembled last, and only over the past ten years. “I was not anxious to assemble Nazi souvenirs,” Mr. Rendell said, “but my son reminded me that the collection would be incomplete without them.”
The results were amazing: Hitler’s spectacles and personal chinaware, rescued from the bunker by his retainers; Goering’s gentleman’s accessories box, which he carried with him to Nuremberg, where he was tried and found guilty (but escaped the hangman with a vial of cyanide); Patton’s ivory-handled Colt revolvers; the huge swastika and eagle podium that once decorated the Nuremberg stadium where Hitler held forth. General Patton, whose papers Rendell was asked to dispose of, had prised the swastika from its place and nailed it to his fence. “There was little interest among his family in this stuff, in keeping with the times; today of course some of it is almost priceless.”
Certainly in that category is a typed draft of the Munich Agreement, with Hitler’s and Chamberlain’s penciled notes on it. Ken Rendell bought it from the son of Nevile Henderson, the then-British Ambassador to Germany. “He found it lying on a side table after the final draft had been prepared, picked it up and took it home. That’s the way things happen sometimes.”
Further details on the Rendell Museum of World War II will appear in subsequent issues.
Our 2002 schedule in New England is a book discussion with Prof. Chris Bell in May and a welcome to Phil Reed of the Cabinet War Rooms in April, along with our annual black tie dinner on Churchill’s birthday, November 30th. If you would like to help organize future New England activities, please contact Suzanne Sigman, tel. (617) 696-1833, email [email protected]