Finest Hour 117, Winter 2002-03
In “Datelines” last issue (“Common Market Nyet,” page 7) we reported an article in the Daily Mail quoting Field Marshal Montgomery, who stated in 1962 that he had found Churchill “protesting against Britain’s proposed entry into the Common Market.” We wish to record that Montgomery’s statement not only took advantage of a private conversation with an old man who had only recently sustained a bad accident and had flown home for an operation; it also misrepresented Churchill’s views. Lady Soames writes: “What I remember clearly is that not only my father, but all of us—particularly my mother—were outraged by Monty’s behaviour, and he was roundly rebuked.” (See also Sir Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill, vol. 8, London: Heinemann, 1988, p. 1337).
In his memoir, Long Sunset, Sir Winston’s longtime private secretary and CC honorary member Sir Anthony Montague Browne writes that Montgomery’s statement “was not an invention, but a serious misinterpretation of an old and sick man’s views….Consulting nobody, I immediately released to the press a statement of WSC’s views on the subject that he had embodied in a private and unpublished letter to his Constituency Chairman, Mrs. Moss, in August 1961.” Extracting from the statement, on pages 273-74 of Long Sunset:
“For many years, I have believed that measures to promote European unity were ultimately essential to the well-being of the West. In a speech at Zurich in 1946, I urged the creation of the European Family, and I am sometimes given credit for stimulating the ideals of European unity which led to the formation of the economic and the other two communities. In the aftermath of the Second World War, the key to these endeavours lay in partnership between France and Germany. At that time this happy outcome seemed a fantasy, but it is now accomplished, and France and West Germany are more intimately linked than they have ever been before in their history. They, together with Italy, Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg, are welding themselves into an organic whole, stronger and more dynamic than the sum of its parts. We might well play a great part in these developments to the profit not only of ourselves, but of our European friends also…. I think that the Government are right to apply to join the European Economic Community, not because I am yet convinced that we shall be able to join, but because there appears to be no other way by which we can find out exactly whether the conditions of membership are acceptable.”
Admittedly, “this was a fence-sitting letter….The milk-and-water contents did not get anyone anywhere, but it took the heat off and pacified both Macmillan and the Euro-antis. Now the whole scenario is so out of date as to render the letter irrelevant, which on the whole is the least of several evils.”
Sir Anthony concludes: “WSC believed more in the ‘Special Relationship’ with the U.S. than in Europe, but he did not think that one excluded the other. Moreover, the Commonwealth, or at least the old Commonwealth, was not then the charade it has now become….If Britain had taken the initiative before the Treaty of Rome in 1957 things might have been different. WSC had reproached the Labour Government for their indecision at that time. If he had been able with all his old fire and eloquence to lead Britain into Europe, the country might have been persuaded that our interests really did lie in that direction. But we would have to have been the founders and the leaders, not the aspirant candidate of later years, hoping that we would not be blackballed. Then our pole position might have caught the public imagination. But I don’t think WSC would have wanted to do it.”
We quote these passages at some length to record what is known regarding Churchill’s final views on this matter. Nevertheless, as we have often emphasized: it is impossible to judge how current choices before the UK vis-àvis the European Union would be viewed by Winston Churchill. And to quote Sir Anthony: “improper use should not be made of him.”