August 1, 2013

Finest Hour 125, Winter 2004-05

Page 6

Quotation of the Season

“[In 1945] we had the power and the chance to impose and enforce—I must use that word— a partition settlement in Palestine by which the Jews would have secured the national Home which has been the declared object and policy of every British Government for a quarter of a century. Such a scheme would, of course, have taken into account the legitimate rights of the Arabs, who, I may say, had not been ill used in the settlements made in Iraq, in Transjordania, and in regard to Syria.”

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Apes, Man the Rock!

GIBRALTAR. JULY 23RD— Churchill fretted about it even during the Battle of Arnhem, and the Commonwealth Office was still deeply worried thirty years later. A confidential file released by the British National Archives chronicles the concern over the Barbary apes of Gibraltar, since tradition holds that British rule over the Rock of Gibraltar will end if the apes ever disappear.

Churchill took the canard seriously. In September 1944, as the First Airborne Division fought desperately to hold the infamous bridge at Arnhem, he wrote the Colonial Secretary about the unpatriotic frigidity of the Barbary apes: “The establishment of the apes should be twenty-four,” he wrote, as if referring to some military unit. “Action should be taken to bring them up to this number at once and maintain it thereafter.”

WSC did not suggest how this feat was to be accomplished. Luckily for the Empire, the apes did their duty and both colonies—British and primate—survived. But a watch was kept, the governor being required to submit a report to London every six months containing the names and ages of all apes. HMG also agreed to contribute nine pence per day for the upkeep of each ape. In 1967, when gender imbalance again threatened the ape colony, Sir Saville Garner, permanent under-secretary at the Commonwealth Office, wrote Gibraltar governor Sir Gerald Lathbury in verse, paying no respect to Political Correctness:

We’re a little bit perturbed about the apes,
After studying their sizes and their shapes.
As we see it, at first glance
There seems at least some chance
Of lesbianism, or sodomy, or rapes.
Nine girls of Middle Hill may well decide
They can’t by five mere males be satisfied.
While the Queen’s Gate lads, one fears,
May become a bunch of queers
If by sex imbalance nature is denied.
So you can plan migration—
Or get up
A party for the apes who feel
Het up.
A welfare state for apes has been decreed
Where each of them is mated (and de-flead)
Then let Franco rage in vain,
Your immunity from Spain
Is by simian eugenics

Sir Gerald calmed Sir Saville’s fears by replying in like fashion:

So long as we have Joe
(born at Queen’s Gate in Fifty-eight)
No female ape need pine
Or lesbian-ate.
And of course there’s Harold too,
And Hercules of Middle Hill
Though comparatively new
He knows a thing or two.

Joe, Harold and Hercules did indeed prove their worth and the colony grew, and soon gender balance was almost perfect. The ape reports still continue and, if numbers are anything to go by, British possession of Gibraltar remains assured in its 300th year—much to the dismay of the Foreign Office. There are now no fewer than 160 apes on the Rock. Well done, Joe.

Saved by a Communist

LONDON, AUGUST 23RD— In 1944, Churchill was saved from a German sniper’s bullet by an Italian Communist partisan, The Times announced. The hitherto unknown episode was disclosed by Giancarlo Iacchini, son of Nello Iacchini, a former partisan who died in 1977. Signor Iacchini found a letter by his father giving a detailed account.

Near Saltara near the Adriatic coast, partisans captured a sniper lying in wait for Churchill while the PM was visiting Allied forces attacking the German Gothic Line on the Adriatic. The Gothic Line, a 16 km-deep defensive belt, was established by Germans retreating northwards up the Italian peninsula after Rome fell to Allied forces in June 1944. It ran across Italy from La Spezia on the Mediterranean through the Appennines to Pesaro on the Adriatic coast.

Churchill arrived at the hilltop town of Montemaggiore al Metauro in a convoy of armoured cars (above) on 25 August 1944, accompanied by Gen. Alexander. A monument to both men now stands at the vantage point above the valley of the River Metauro from which they surveyed the fighting. The next day, Churchill and Alexander left for the front line, passing Saltara, which had been an SS headquarters.

“My father, a Communist in the partisan Garibaldi Brigade, thought all German troops had fled following an Allied bombardment of Saltara,” said Sr. Iacchini. “But he and two other partisans discovered a heavily armed German sniper lying in wait in an orchard beside the road leading up the hill from Saltara.” In a letter to an Italian left-wing MP, Nello Iacchini described how the partisans overpowered the sniper and handed him over to Allied forces.

“Shortly afterwards, two Jeeps stopped not 50 metres from where the sniper had been. The second Jeep contained Churchill and Alexander. After the first moment of astonishment, we realised we had captured the one German who could have been extremely dangerous. Without knowing it, we had saved the lives of both Churchill and Alexander.”

A few days later Nello Iacchini received a Patriot’s Certificate, signed by Alexander, thanking him for “bearing arms for the triumph of liberty.” Such certificates were normally issued jointly by lower-level Allied officers and local partisan commanders.

Giancarlo Iacchini said his father was “a lifelong Communist, but welcomed the British and Americans as anti-Fascist liberators. In any case, he was really a social democrat: after the war he went into business running a shoe shop in Pesaro.”

Houses and gardens line the leafy road above Saltara, where Churchill’s visit is commemorated in a museum in a deconsecrated church at Montemaggiore al Metauro. —RICHARD OWEN, THE TIMES

John Frost Returns

ANTWERP, SEPTEMBER 4TH— Finest Hour cuttings editor John Frost, 84, who arrived to help liberate Antwerp sixty years ago, received a huge reception in commemorative events marking the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Antwerp. “I received a wonderful welcome in 1944 and was treated as a hero once again in September 2004,” writes John: “A fantastic four days as a guest of Antwerp City.”

Apologize for What?

WARSAW, JULY 31ST— Polish Prime Minister Marek Belka said today that Britain and other wartime allies should apologize for failing to assist in the Warsaw Uprising sixty years before, when 200,000 Poles were slaughtered by the Nazis as Soviet troops, camped on the other side of the River Vistula, held back from intervention.

Belka’s plea was supported by Michael Wartalski, 83, a veteran of the First Polish Armoured Division now living in Britain: “There was a sourness when the British and Americans recognised the government in Warsaw. That was a slap in the face for the government in exile, which had orchestrated the uprising.” Historian Norman Davies, author of Rising ‘44: The Battle for Warsaw, said, “a lot could have been done to talk to the Soviets about the Polish problem. We don’t know how Stalin would have reacted, but nobody tried.”

Excuse us. Has Mr. Davies read these letters in Triumph and Tragedy (1948) or the Soviet Correspondence volumes (1958)?

• WSC to Stalin, 4 August 1944: “They [the Poles] appeal for Russian aid, which seems to be very near. They are being attacked by one and a half German divisions.” Stalin: “I think that the information which has communicated to you by the Poles is greatly exaggerated and does not inspire confidence.”

• WSC to Stalin, 12 August: “They implore machine-guns and ammunition. Can you not give them some further help?” Stalin: “The Soviet command has come to the conclusion that it must dissociate itself from the Warsaw adventure.”

• WSC to Stalin, 20 August: “We hope that you will drop immediate supplies and munitions, or will you agree to help our planes in doing it very quickly?” Stalin: “Sooner or later the truth about the group of criminals who have embarked on the Warsaw adventure in order to seize power will be known to everybody.”

• WSC to Minister of Information, 23 August: “Is there any stop on the publicity for the facts about the agony of Warsaw, which seem, from the papers, to have been practically suppressed? It is not for us to cast reproaches on the Soviet Government, but surely the facts should be allowed to speak for themselves?”

• Roosevelt to WSC, 24 August: “Stalin’s reply to our joint proposal for assisting the Warsaw Poles is far from encouraging….I do not see what further steps we can take.”

• WSC to Roosevelt, 25 August: “My feeling is that we ought to send the planes and see what happens.” Roosevelt: “I do not consider that it would prove advantageous to the long-range general war prospect…”

We can continue this ad infinitum (see Triumph and Tragedy, Chapter IX), but what’s the point? “A lot could have been done?” By whom? “We don’t know how Stalin would have reacted.” What is Mr. Davies smoking? Perhaps requests for national apologies should go to President Putin.

Churchill concluded: “The struggle in Warsaw had lasted more than sixty days. Of the 40,000 men and women of the Polish Underground Army about 15,000 fell….When the Russians entered the city three months later they found little but shattered streets and the unburied dead. Such was their liberation of Poland, where they now rule. But this cannot be the end of the story.” Happily it was not.

Miami Paintings

MIAMI BEACH, FLA.— An unidentified newspaper cutting states that Churchill “spent six weeks at the age of 71 [before the 1946 Fulton speech] gazing over the beachfront at the Miami Beach Surf Club. During the holiday with his wife, Clementine, he spent his time painting and reading. Two paintings, a landscape and a scene of surfers, later sold for $25,000 (£14,000).”

If this report is recent, it must describe the bargain sale for Churchill paintings. The works in question could be Coombs 345 (“surfers”) and 422 (“landscape”), but David Coombs advises that Coombs 422 was sold at Sotheby’s in New York in 1982 for $23,000, and that Coombs 345 is owned by Lady Soames.

On the subject of WSC’s Miami Beach paintings in 1946 Mr. Coombs writes that the search never ends: “Paula Bongers, a housekeeper at Chartwell, recently turned up an official photograph of Churchill at Miami Beach in 1946 working on a hitherto unknown painting while sheltered from the sun in a beach hut. Mrs. Bongers has been quietly reorganising the Studio Archives which I had trawled through previously, although I failed to find this particular photo. It was at first thought that this might show a ‘new’ painting but there are a number of photos of Sir Winston working on paintings that to my knowledge no longer exist, perhaps because he was dissatisfied and painted over them or simply discarded and/or destroyed the canvas. But of course and as always I could be wrong.”

The Palestine Plan?

LONDON, SEPTEMBER 23RD— Secret wartime discussions about Palestine between Winston Churchill and the future Israeli President Chaim Weizmann led to an icy exchange with Anthony Eden, the British foreign secretary, according to official papers just released at the National Archives at Kew, London. A top-secret Colonial Office file from 1943 shows that Churchill favoured a plan to try to bribe King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud, with £20 million and the leadership of a new Arab confederation, in exchange for the Saudi monarch’s help in handing over Palestine to the Jews. Eden pointed out that such a move would be the opposite of British official policy. The idea was put to Mr. Churchill by Dr. Weizmann, at that time head of the Jewish Agency, the body which acted for the Jewish community in Palestine in the years of the League of Nations mandate. Churchill was sympathetic to the Jewish cause and had long been a supporter of the 1917 Balfour Declaration which proposed a national home for the Jews. But the usually emollient and diplomatic Eden was angered when he heard from Washington that Dr. Weizmann, talking to one of President Roosevelt’s foreign policy advisers, Sumner Welles, had referred to the project as “the PM’s plan.” Eden wrote glacially to Churchill: “I do not know how far Dr Weizmann has authority to speak in your name but I am a little worried about the danger of confusion arising in Washington. Our present Palestine policy has been accepted by Parliament. I know well your personal feeling on this but there has been no discussion suggesting that the U.S. government should be approached as regards the possibility of modifying it. I must also record my view that Ibn Saud would not be willing to receive Dr. Weizmann to discuss the future of Palestine nor would he agree to recommend to the Arab world any scheme remotely resembling present Zionist aspirations.” Eden pointed out that the 1939 London White Paper on Palestine was unequivocally against letting it become a Jewish state.

In his reply a day or so later, Churchill wrote: “Dr. Weizmann has no authority to speak in my name. At the same time, I expressed these views to him when we met some time ago and you have often heard them from me yourself.” Churchill acknowledged however that even if the King, then aged 67, was persuaded, he might not live long enough to carry it through. “The great difficulty is the age of Ibn Saud,” he wrote. [Churchill was then 69! —Ed.] Perhaps aiming to soothe his foreign secretary’s anger, Churchill added: “I regard all discussion on these points as premature at present and only liable to cause dissension.”

A Remembrance Website

LONDON, NOVEMBER 8TH— Families of British and Commonwealth soldiers who fought in the First World War will be able to trace their relatives’ war records through a new website: The British National Archives has put more than five million records online. They represent the men and women of the army and Royal Flying Corps who won service medals during the war. Winston Churchill, who served in France as a battalion commander in 1916, is among those found online. The records include civilians whose jobs took them into the war. Also listed is the only person with the rank of “camel clipper”—Abuel Haggah Ahmed Mohamed of the Egyptian Labour Corps. Searches are free but there is a small charge for downloading digital images of original documents from the site.

Canada Remembers, Sort of

OTTAWA, NOVEMBER 8TH— They’re the up-and-comers of Canadian society and the leaders of tomorrow, but ask Generation X a fairly simple question about the country’s recent history and prepare to laugh—or weep—at their Remembrance Day Duh. A new survey aimed at gauging Canadians’ basic knowledge of the Second World War has revealed a startling blind spot among the 30-to-44 age group. By a whopping margin, more of these prime-of-life citizens believed the prime minister during the 1939-45 conflict was Lester Pearson instead of Mackenzie King, the country’s true wartime leader. The error seems all the more egregious because even younger Canadians (18 to 29) knew enough history to pick Mr. King over Mr. Pearson, who was best known for the postwar diplomacy that won him a Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 and his so-so performance as prime minister of two minority governments in the 1960s. Try to imagine a whole generation of Britons choosing Harold Macmillan over Winston Churchill as their wartime leader, and you get some idea of the significance of the thirty somethings’ view of history.

“That is very surprising,” said McGill University historian Jack Jedwab, executive director of the Association for Canadian Studies, who double-checked the numbers just to be sure. “It clearly speaks to a problem in retention of learning.” The survey of 2,100 Canadians, conducted by Environics on behalf of Montreal-based ACS, was part of a study of attitudes toward this country’s experience of war. The results are to be discussed this week at a conference in Montreal called “Remembering Canada: How We Recall and Represent the Past.”

Affiliate and National News

New England Churchillians won the 2004 Action this Day Award for the most proficient local branch of The Churchill Centre. They received a traveling walnut plaque and free registrations for two for the next conference. Congratulations to the New England Churchillians and Suzanne Sigman, their leader during that time.

Churchillians of the Desert had an introductory reception October 27th at their favorite country club. About forty prospective members attended. I spoke about The Churchill Centre and the local affiliates, followed by David Ramsay, who gave a conference report.

Many local groups planned events for Churchill’s 130th birthday. New England held a November 30th reception at the British Consulate with the Union Club of Boston. Jon Meacham, author of Franklin and Winston and Managing Editor of Newsweek was the speaker. Churchillians of the Desert hosted Finest Hour contributor Prof. David Freeman, who spoke on Churchill and the formation of Iraq on November 18th. Vancouver Island held their inaugural event November 30th, with Prof. Freeman. They are starting their group with fifty-eight new members. Alaska held their annual black-tie dinner at the Captain Cook Hotel. Southern California Churchillians held a luncheon on Sunday, November 28th on board the Queen Mary. Their event reservations always include the opportunity to sponsor a student, and they had ten students at this writing. They will also be approving their bylaws and electing officers. Omaha held their regular round table on November 21st, discussing two chapters from Churchill’s third book of WW2 memoirs, The Grand Alliance.

Affiliate Dinner, Portsmouth, UK

At each conference, Affiliates and Academics gather to exchange ideas and discuss programs. This year President Bill Ives opened the program with a few words on the role local groups play in The Churchill Centre. Local representatives each reported on various activities this past year. Attending were Jim Muller, Alaska; Chris and Dorothy Hebb, British Columbia; Dennis and Audrey Madden, Vancouver Island; Wally and Eileen Ross, Edmonton; Barbara Morrison, Bob and Claire Pyle and David Ramsay, California Desert; Jerry and Judy Kambestad, Southern California; Gary and Beverly Bonine, Detroit; Michael and Carol McMenamin, Cleveland; Dick and Jenny Streiff, Florida; Nigel Knocker and Paul Courtenay, ICS (UK); Randy and Solveig Barber, ICS (Canada); Dan and Suzanne Sigman, New England Churchillians; and Craig and Lorraine Horn, Washington Society for Churchill.

Academics were Paul and Ellen Alkon, James Muller, David Stafford, David Reynolds, and John Ramsden. From The Churchill Centre there were Executive Director Dan and Eileen Myers, Vice President Chuck and Linda Platt, President Bill and Virginia Ives, and Administrative Assistant Karen Linebarger, our fulltime presence at our Washington office.

Canadian Leadership

VANCOUVER, OCTOBER 21ST— Members of The Rt. Hon. Sir Winston Spencer Churchill Society of British Columbia were addressed by Lieutenant-Colonel J. Paul Dangerfield, Chief of Staff, 39 Canadian Brigade Group Headquarters, on “Strategic Leadership in the Canadian Army.” Col. Dangerfield gave members an understanding of the status of the Canadian Army, most importantly the need for a Canadian national vision.

The last White Paper on Defence in Canada was in 1994, after the fall of the Soviet Union at a time when there was no perceived threat to North America. Only when the defence and foreign policy issues have been addressed can the military can be directed as a tool to fulfil the vision determined. Dangerfield pointed to Prime Minister Winston Churchill, his clear vision and his ability to mobilize the British Defence Forces to fulfil that vision. Twenty-five members thoroughly appreciated this thought-provoking presentation. —CHRISTOPHER HEBB

Zuma to the Rescue!

CULVER CITY, CALIF., NOVEMBER 10TH— Supporting member Wayne Brent, of Zuma Corporation, has generously agreed to use Zuma’s digital scanning facilities to scan the only major Churchill literary work we have not already scanned: Robert Rhodes James’s comprehensive Winston S. Churchill: His Complete Speeches 1897-1963. Having this 9000-page work digitally available is a boon to our editor, who answers scores of questions involving quotations every week from all over the world. Moreover, like our previous scans of some 300 Churchill books and books about him, it will be made available to the official biographer Martin Gilbert, the Churchill Archives Centre, and the digitalization project at Southampton University. We are most grateful to Wayne Brent and technician Eddie Berkowitz of Zuma Corp. for this contribution.

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