May 23, 2013



Mr. Reardon, a retired banker from Toronto, is Recording Secretary of the International Churchill Society, Canada.

“PLANNING FOR VICTORY”: A great theme, a grand hotel, the best scholars, and the Great Man’s daughter for company. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

2024 International Churchill Conference

Join us for the 41st International Churchill Conference. London | October 2024


Some 230 Churchillians journeyed to historic Quebec City on the majestic St. Lawrence River and the fabled Le Chateau Frontenac Hotel for a reassessment of the Conferences of 1943 and 1944 which planned the invasion of northern France; and contemplated the postwar world.

On Thursday afternoon 28 September, determined delegates braved a torrential downpour for “Rendezvous with History,” a bus tour of Quebec City. While the weather precluded scheduled stops and walkabouts, the good humored guides provided a fascinating narrative on the only remaining walled city in North America— especially on the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759. Here a dangerous and innovative ascent up the city’s steep cliffs, by a British contingent led by General James Wolfe, captured Quebec from French forces under the Marquis de Montcalm, and thereafter Canada remained in British hands.

That evening Churchill Centre President Bill Ives formally opened the Conference and introduced Ambassador Paul Robinson, who remarked on the significance of the 1943-44 meetings; followed by Solveig Barber (wife of ICS Canada President Randy Barber), resplendent in WW 2 uniform, who entertainingly read a letter from a stenographer, Margaret Cullen, recounting her personal experiences at the 1943 Conference.

On Friday Morning chairman Randy Barber welcomed all the delegates to the conference, which had been in the planning stage for two years. He was especially gratified with the attendance, which considerably exceeded all projections. The first session, “The Canadian Connection,” commenced with one of the planning team, Prof. Barry Gough, introducing the two presenters as Canada’s preeminent historians/authors.

Jack Granatstein, former professor at York University in Toronto and CEO of the Canadian War Museum, and now co-chair of the Council for Canadian Security in the 21st Century, commenced by remarking to the packed room: “When I have attended other conferences at 8.30 in the morning there is usually a handful of people; there’s something going on here!”

Desmond Morton, Hiram Mills Chair of Canadian History at McGill University in Montreal, provided a rich and colourful examination of Canadian history and the country’s part in World War II. This included outlining the Ogdensburg treaty of 1941 between the USA and Canada, which set out a “Permanent Defense Relationship” in North America, and in some eyes, including Churchill’s, moved Canada away from Britain and towards the United States. We were informed that ten percent of Canada’s population was in uniform during the war—an astonishing figure.

The second session, moderated by James Thomas, examined “Quadrant: The First Quebec Conference” in 1943. Larry Bland, editor and project director of the Papers of General George Marshall; and David Woolner, executive director of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute in Hyde Park, New York and associate professor of history at Poughkeepsie, outlined the objectives of the British and Americans, and the fierce negotiations between the two allies, which resulted in General Sir Alan Brooke being close to a nervous breakdown. Brooke’s subsequent criticisms of Churchill were recounted, but also his remark that “For all that I thank God that I was given the opportunity of working alongside of such a man, and of having my eyes opened to the fact that occasionally such supermen exist on this earth.”

The afternoon session was “Churchill: Your Questions Answered” moderated by Lady Soames who, in good humored fashion, reminded the panel of Richard Langworth, Jim Muller and Paul Courtenay that she was just the moderator; however she did fully participate aided by Richard’s laptop computer confirming dates and events. This conversation delved into many unexpected avenues, with the help of good questions from the participating audience.

At the gala black tie dinner on Friday evening Randy Barber opened proceedings by reading a welcoming letter from the Premier of the Province of Quebec, Jean Charest. Guests at the dinner included thirty students and seven teachers representing nine different schools in the Quebec City region. Also present were Madame Bouchard, a “runner” for Churchill at the two Quebec conferences; and Madame Brittle, whose husband worked at the Chateau Frontenac at the time of the 1943 Conference.

Monsieur Brittle, tidying up a room which had been used for a meeting of the Normandy invasion planners, noticed that a number of documents had been left behind, which he took to one of the officials. The documents turned out to be the actual invasion plans and Monsieur Brittle was closely watched until the invasion commenced on 6 June 1944. Madame Brittle had opined that over the years she thought that her husband should have been given some recognition for his action; thus her obvious delight at the prolonged applause at the dinner, hopefully rectifying this oversight.

The toast to Sir Winston was given by Jean MacLeod (wife of Norman MacLeod, President of The Other Club of Ontario) who spoke directly to the students and suggested to them that they adopt Churchill as a role model.

The keynote speaker was the Hon. Ken Taylor, former Canadian Ambassador to Iran who, in 1980, led the Canadian delegation in helping save the lives of six Americans during the Iran hostage crisis. He talked of the establishment of Iraq by Colonial Secretary, Winston Churchill, and the difficulties in administering governments in that region; also he gave his own insight into the current events in Iraq and his thoughts as to how the situation, which he said is really a civil war, could be resolved. His remarks were both stimulating and controversial, the mark of a true Churchillian.

The first session on Saturday morning was on “Octagon”: The second Quebec Conference. Moderater Charles Anderson outlined the wartime situation at the time and then introduced the speakers, Professors David Woolner and Warren Kimball, author and retired Robert Treat Professor of History at Rutgers University.

They commented that although the decisions to be made were not as crucial as in 1943 they were of great importance in establishing the future of Western Europe at war’s end.

Questions from the delegates included one asking whether Eisenhower should have been more aggressive and taken Berlin before the Russians. The response was that he was obeying instructions but also he was very concerned with spreading himself too thin and being vulnerable to a German counterattack, which actually did occur with the “Battle of the Bulge.”

The next session was eagerly awaited: “The Leaders: Churchill and Roosevelt; The Wives: Clementine and Eleanor.” The panelists were Professors Woolner and Kimball, Lady Soames and Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt’s granddaughter, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, co-chair of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute. The relationship between the two men was outlined and their genuine warmth to each other was well illustrated by Roosevelt’s comment to Churchill (when FDR turned sixty): “It’s fun being in the same decade as you.”

The panelists noted Roosevelt’s 1936 comment, “when in Canada I don’t feel like a foreigner,” and that he was the first American President to visit Ottawa. Lady Soames provided personal glimpses of her father, and his many touching gestures, such as insisting in 1943 that she see Niagara Falls, in spite of the 600 miles distance that had to be covered by train.

Regarding Clementine Churchill her daughter remarked: “My mother’s career was my father.” We were informed that Clementine and Eleanor genuinely liked each other, although the First Lady couldn’t appreciate Clementine’s more delicate constitution. They broadcast together from Quebec City, with Eleanor stating that “the record of Canada in the war is a glorious one.” The Saturday luncheon was moderated by Gordon Walker who introduced recently appointed Canadian Senator Hugh Segal, who gave self deprecating comments on his previous stance against a non-elected senate! Hugh then provided his deep knowledge of Churchill with well chosen comments on the lessons we should continue to appreciate.

The afternoon was another highlight with a trip in beautiful sunny weather to The Citadel, Quebec residence of the Governor-General of Canada, where Churchill and Roosevelt stayed and met during both wartime conferences. An official reception began with a representative of the Governor-General reading out a warm greeting from Her Excellency; followed by Lady Soames who spoke of the deep feelings she experienced in again being at the Citadel, where she served as her father’s aide-de-camp during the 1943 conference. Ample time was available for touring the impressive building, viewing the exhibits, including plaques summarizing the wartime conferences, and in the taking of photographs by the official photographer. The delegates were given a copy of the actual menu enjoyed by the Leaders on 11 September 1944.

At the evening dinner Churchill Centre Vice-President Charles Platt introduced Solveig Barber. who serenaded the diners with wartime songs, which she had recorded on a CD, with proceeds, to the conference, and which proved to be a hot seller.

Sunday at brunch, Randy Barber introduced himself as “the husband of the singer,” and thanked the conference planning committee, and Dan Myers and Karen Linebarger of the Centre staff in Washington, for their work in making the conference such a success. Randy then introduced Christopher Hebb, who spoke of the plans for the 2007 conference in Vancouver, which will center on the Pacific war.

The last but not least matter was the introduction of Philip and Susan Larson, who are co-chairing the 2006 conference in Chicago. They outlined their exciting program, its theme being “Churchill in the Land of Lincoln.” Among the many events will be a reenactment of Churchill’s 1932 speech on Anglo-American Unity by Sir Martin Gilbert at the original premises, the Union League of Chicago.

So the conference concluded. Can we pick one highlight? I think so. Our Patron, Lady Soames, whose presence, enthusiasm and participation in all aspects was so very deeply appreciated. As one delegate remarked, “You can read all the books you want by learned authors on Churchill, but here we had someone who provided firsthand knowledge—and that was unforgettable!” 


A tribute, join us




Get the Churchill Bulletin delivered to your inbox once a month.