Finest Hour 115, Summer 2002
Visit to Hohne: Addendum
In this space last issue, a reader asked for the details of Churchill’s visit to Hohne, Germany in May 1956. Gregory Smith noted that the sources were not conclusive.
What happened was that Churchill flew to the RAF airfield at Celle on 18th May 1956 following visits to Aachen and Bonn; he then motored to Hohne where he spent twenty-four hours with the 4th Hussars, in which he had served as a young officer, and of which he had been Colonel since 1941. (See Bill Schulz’s letter on page 4.)
There was a dinner in the officers’ mess that night; the next day there was an inspection and parade followed by a big lunch party at which a number of local German dignitaries were among the guests. In the final volume of the official biography, photo no. 29 is stated to be “Churchill with British Officers at HQ Northern Army Group at Celle.” This is incorrect (and Celle was nowhere near that headquarters). What it actually shows is Churchill at Hohne, visiting the sergeants’ mess of the 4th Hussars during a break in the officers’ dinner. The Regimental Sergeant Major and Bandmaster are prominent, while two young officers are in the background, having probably escorted him from the officers’ mess.
Q: How many assassination attempts did Churchill survive?
A: The niece of Churchill’s bodyguard, Inspector W. H. Thompson ([email protected]) thinks it was four: Sinn Fein in Hyde Park, London, 1921; Indian extremists in Chicago, 1931; Germans at the Duke of Windsor’s house in France, 1939; Germans in Cairo, 1943 (he kept a newspaper account of the execution of nine Axis spies). Allen Packwood at the Churchill Archives Centre writes: “Although I would suspect any substantial official files on wartime assassination plots will have passed to the Public Record Office, I found one piece of interesting correspondence from Ian Colvin, who wrote to Churchill on 28Feb51 about his book Chief of Intelligence, on Admiral Canaris (Churchill Papers, CHUR 2/168A/136). Colvin wrote: ‘I have it on the authority of General Erwin Lahousen, Deputy Chief of German Intelligence, that Hitler gave orders for an attempt to be made on your life while you were at Casablanca. Arab agents from Spanish Morocco were thought to be able to carry out these orders. Admiral Canaris did not pass them on.’ In his reply, Churchill writes, ‘I had not previously heard about the alleged plan by the Germans to assassinate me. Let me know if you glean any more information’ (Churchill Papers, CHUR 2/168A/135).”
Q: In the television documentary “Bertie and Elizabeth,” when King George VI asks Churchill (David Ryall) to form a government but to exclude Beaverbrook, Churchill’s response is that he’d prefer to have Beaverbrook “inside the tent p—ing out than outside the tent p—ing in.” Did WSC say that?
A: According to historian Andrew Roberts, that remark was made by President Lyndon Johnson, and not by Churchill—certainly not to his Sovereign. But the film was right to illustrate the King’s aversion to Beaverbrook, according to Roberts’s Eminent Churchillians (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1994, p.40):
“The first letter the King sent Churchill after he had formed his government, far from sounding a note of encouragement and support, warned him ‘of the repercussions, which I am sure will occur, especially in Canada, at the inclusion of the name of Lord Beaverbrook for air production….You are no doubt aware that the Canadians do not appreciate him’….George VI asked his new Prime Minister to ‘reconsider…as I fear that this appointment may be misconstrued’….But Churchill shrugged off the suggestion that the best man for this vital job should not be chosen for it because, as the King pointed out, ‘the air training scheme for pilots and aircraft is in Canada’ and ‘respectable Canadian opinion’ was running against its most famous, if least favourite, son.” —Ed.
Q: Am I right that Churchill held a territorial (reserves) commission in the Oxfordshire Yeomanry for a long time?
A: He held a commission in the Territorial Army (TA). In 1902 he joined a yeomanry (cavalry) regiment, The Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars, which conveniently held annual training camps near Blenheim.
Under this TA commission in 1915-16, he served with the Grenadier Guards and Royal Scots Fusiliers. In late 1916 he left the QOOH and became a member of the TA reserve. In 1920 he rejoined the QOOH and remained a member until reorganisation of the TA in 1923, when the QOOH and another regiment were redesignated 100th Royal Field Artillery Brigade (no longer cavalry).
Churchill resigned from the TA in 1924. He would not have received a pension, but his over eighteen years of service entitled him to the Territorial Decoration (TD). In those days the TD required twenty years’ service but war service counted as double. (Today the TD is awarded for twelve years’ TA service.)
Churchill is often credited with the remark, “To be a reservist is to be twice a citizen.” This is a well-known TA slogan, but I don’t think it was coined by WSC.