May 23, 2013



Musical Notes to the editor

Q: I am interested in locating Churchill’s favourite music. I was not able successfully to obtain it from The Churchill Centre website. Was it the classics, such as Beethoven (the Napoleon connection) or Mozart? These would seem to be quite significant. —Andrew Morrisby

2024 International Churchill Conference

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

A: We published “Churchill and Music,” by Jill Kendall in Finest Hour 96, Autumn 1997; unfortunately this is not posted on our website. The Churchill Centre office in DC would be glad to provide a copy.

Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is connected to Churchill by the opening bars, the Morse letter “V,” which were often whistled or hummed by Resistance fighters in occupied Europe; but classic music was probably not his top choice. He preferred the music hall songs of his Victorian youth; virtually all of Gilbert & Sullivan; and in later life the songs of Harrow, his old school. He also liked martial music and historical ballads. “John Brown’s Body” was a favorite, and he loved “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” which was played at his funeral. Miss Kendall wrote that WSC was “no musician and nearly tone-deaf,” but believed (to paraphrase one of his remarks) that “the simple songs were best, and the old songs were best of all.”

Q:My father remembers that at Churchill’s funeral (which he followed on Italian TV) there was a marvellous bagpipe funeral march. May you tell us the name of this march and the name of the piper who played it?

A:After the Cathedral service, the gun carriage went in procession to the Tower of London, from where the coffin was transported by river. As the transfer to the boat was made, sixty pipers of the Scots Guards, Irish Guards, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) and King’s Own Scottish Borderers played slow marches and laments. These were “My Home,” “The Mist-Covered Mountains,” “The Flowers of the Forest,” and “Lochaber No More.” —PHC

Q:Churchill is misquoted as saying, with reference to the Nazis vs. the Soviets. “We slaughtered the wrong pig.” That’s revisionist wishful thinking. He could never have said that since there is no such idiom in English. He would have had to say, “We fought the wrong enemy.” See Herbert Kuhner, A Revival of Revisionism In Austria. Can you reveal some authentic information as to the origin of this misquotation? —Dr. Wolfgang M. Schleidt, [email protected]

A:We searched our research database but have not found either “we slaughtered the wrong pig” or “we fought the wrong enemy.” However, “slaughtered the wrong pig” is a possible Churchill expression, since he often used animal analogies. Yet, since he was very favorably disposed to pigs,he might not have compared his enemies to them. (He said, “Dogs look up to you, cats look down on you; give me a pig! He looks you in the eye and treats you as an equal.”)

Churchill never had any doubt, from the rise of Hitler to 1945, that the Nazis not the Bolsheviks were the main enemy. He did begin to think, once the war seemed won, that they had conquered one mortal foe, only to be faced by another.

In a famous private remark recorded by his private secretary, John Colville, on 23 February 1945 in his memoirs, Fringes of Power (New York: Norton, 1986, pp. 203-04). Colville wrote as follows:

“…we sat in the Great Hall and listened to The Mikado played, much too slowly, on the gramophone. The P.M. said it brought back ‘the Victorian era, eighty years which will rank in our island history with the Antonine age.’ Now, however, ‘the shadows of victory’ were upon us.

In 1940 the issue was clear and he could see distinctly what was to be done. But when [Air Marshal] Harris had finished his destruction of Germany, ‘What will lie between the white snows of Russia and the white cliffs of Dover?’ Perhaps, however, the Russians would not want to sweep on to the Atlantic, or something might stop them, as the accident of Ghenghis Khan’s death had stopped the horsed archers of the Mongols, who retired and never came back.

“Bert Harris: ‘You mean now they will come back?’

“W.S.C.: ‘Who can say? They may not want to. But there is an unspoken fear in many people’s hearts.'” 

A tribute, join us




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