March 28, 2015

Finest Hour 131, Summer 2006

Page 05

Quotation of the Season

“I would endure with patience the roar of exultation that would go up when I was proved wrong, because it would lift a load off my heart and the hearts of many Members. What does it matter who gets exposed or discomfited? If the country is safe, who cares for individual politicians, in or out of office?”

PLAN OR COINCIDENCE: WHAT KILLED LESLIE HOWARD? LONDON, NOVEMBER 20TH— Speculation fostered by the UKTV History production “Churchill’s Bodyguard,” based on a new book about Detective-Inspector Walter Thompson (Finest Hour 119:15), is that British screen idol Leslie Howard, who died when his plane was shot down over the Bay of Biscay in June 1943, was killed because the Germans thought they were shooting at Winston Churchill and his bodyguard.

Howard, who played Ashley Wilkes in Gone With the Wind and was considered for the lead role in a prewar film on Lawrence of Arabia, had a business manager, Alfred Chenhalls, who closely resembled Churchill, affecting similar clothing and a homburg hat. According to the new book by Tom Hickman, German spies believed Churchill was returning from North Africa in a commercial plane refueling in Lisbon and flying home by the route chosen, to their misfortune, by Howard and Chenhalls.

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Linda Stokes, Thompson’s great-niece, who unearthed his diaries, actually believes Howard and Chenhalls were “doubles,” used to throw the Germans off the trail. But this is likely the product of a vivid imagination. Churchill himself wrote of the incident: “The brutality of the Germans was only matched by the stupidity of their agents. It is difficult to understand how anyone could imagine that with all the resources of Great Britain at my disposal I should have booked a passage in an unarmed and unescorted plane from Lisbon and flown home in broad daylight. We of course made a wide loop out by night from Gibraltar into the ocean, and arrived home without incident. It was a painful shock to me to learn what had happened to others in the inscrutable workings of Fate.” {The Hinge of Fate 742.)

Actor Sir Laurence Olivier long ago reacted to contemporary suggestions that Howard had been “sacrificed to protect the Prime Minister by saying Howard’s death was nothing more than a coincidence: “Whatever [Churchill’s] faults may have been, he was anything but a moral coward; he would never have condoned the killing of another person to save his own skin.” (Carlos Thompson, The Assassination of Winston Churchill, Gerrard’s Cross: Smythe, 1969, 82).

Hickman’s book. Beside the Bulldog: The Intimate Memoirs of Churchill’s Bodyguard, which inclines toward the sensational over this and other episodes, will be reviewed in our next issue.


CANBERRA, DECEMBER 6TH— Australia’s Churchillophile Prime Minister, John Howard, says the Anti-Terrorism Bill approved by the House and Senate is “absolutely essential fully to protect Australia against the threat of terrorism,” but the bill, like the American Patriot Act, has stiff opposition on the grounds of civil liberties. Australia’s Law Council, which represents more than 40,000 lawyers, has spearheaded opposition to the legislation. Earlier, the council ran advertisements featuring quotations on liberty by Winston Churchill, Benjamin Franklin, and former Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies. This is yet another case where WSC is invoked by opposite sides in a bonzer argument.


LONDON, JANUARY 1ST— Churchill was determined to send Adolf Hitler to a gangster’s death if he were captured, according to notes taken at War Cabinet meetings released today. “If Hitler falls into our hands we shall certainly put him to death,” Churchill said. “Not a sovereign who could be said to be in the hands of ministers, like [the] Kaiser. This man is the mainspring of evil. Instrument —electric chair, for gangsters, no doubt available on Lease Lend.”

The newly published notes, taken by Deputy Cabinet Secretary Sir Norman Brook, provide the first insight into what was said during hitherto secret debates. Churchill favored the electric chair for Hitler, and thought a trial of Nazi ring-leaders would be “a farce.. .all sorts of complications ensue as soon as you admit a fair trial.” Elsewhere, Churchill describes de Gaulle as the “greatest living barrier to reunion and restoration of France: insensate ambidon”; and suggests that Gandhi, then on a hunger strike, should be allowed to “starve to death.” When ministers decided to free Gandhi on compassionate grounds if he seemed likely to die, Churchill replied, “If you are going to let him out because he strikes, then let him out now.” Gandhi was freed in 1944. Churchill also grumpily acquiesced with allowing the U.S. Army to enforce segregation of black soldiers (Empire troops in British forces were integrated). And he remarked that the “U.S. soldier eats five times what ours does let them cut down themselves before presuming to address us.”


DUBAI, JANUARY 22ND— The U.S. Navy’s guided missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill (FH 10) chased and boarded an apparent pirate ship in the Indian Ocean and detained twenty-six men for questioning. Indian and Somali crewmen were aboard a traditional dhow, said Lt. Leslie Hull-Ryde of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command in Bahrain.

The dhow stopped fleeing after Churchill twice fired warning shots during the chase, which ended 54 miles off the coast of Somalia. U.S. sailors boarded the dhow and seized a cache of small arms. The crew and passengers were to determine which were pirates and which were legitimate crew members, Hull-Ryde said.

Sailors aboard the dhow told Navy investigators that pirates hijacked the vessel six days ago near Mogadishu and thereafter used it to stage attacks on merchant ships. Churchill was part of a multinational task force patrolling the western Indian Ocean and Horn of Africa to thwart terrorist activity and other lawlessness during the Iraq war.

The Navy said it captured the dhow in response to a report from the International Maritime Bureau in Kuala Lumpur on Friday that said pirates had fired on the MV Delta Ranger, a Bahamian-flagged bulk carrier that was passing some 200 miles off the central eastern coast of Somalia. Hull-Ryde said the Navy was still investigating and would discuss with international authorities what to do with the detained men. Piracy is rampant off the coast of Somalia, which is torn by renewed clashes between militias fighting over control of the troubled African country.

On 2 May, Churchill was the first ship of the Nassau Expeditionary Strike Group to return from a six-month deployment in the war on Islamic fascism, arriving at her home port in Norfolk. —JIM KRANE, AP


RICHMOND, MARCH 9TH— Sixty years ago, Winston Churchill made a brief stop in Virginia’s capital during a tour of the United States after his famous “Iron Curtain” speech at Fulton, Missouri. Appearing with Gen. Eisenhower, Churchill made a rousing 20-minute speech about the importance of Anglo-American ties before 600 people on the floor of the House of Delegates, which has now named Churchill an honorary Virginian.

Churchill is only the fourth person to receive the honor, joining former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who served as Chancellor of The College of William and Mary from 1993 to 2000; Lafayette, the French marquis who led Colonial troops in the American Revolution; and John D. Rockefeller, Jr., the philanthropist who financed the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg. Said the resolution’s sponsor, delegate Vincent Callahan (R.-Fairfax): “Churchill, to me, with a few others, is one of the dominant leaders of the 20th century.”

The bill to honor Churchill, who incidentally refused to meet with the press that day in 1946, received unanimous support on Wednesday from both the Virginia houses.


NORWICH, ENGLAND, MARCH 15TH— The Hon. Nicholas Soames MP, Sir Winston’s grandson, called it “absurd and pathetic,” and fuss and consternation reigned in the media regarding a statue of Churchill in a strait-jacket. The life-size, glass fibre edifice was erected in Norwich as part of an exhibition by the charity Rethink, hoping to promote understanding of mental health problems.

A charity manager pointed out that Churchill documented his depression—his “black dog”—and they are hoping that the statue will illustrate what people with mental illness can achieve. (WSC suffered from mental illness?) They had spoken to the Churchill estate when the idea was first put forward, which did not approve. The charity decided to go ahead anyway because they “thought it was worthwhile.” Whatever happened to respect and compassion?

Rethink finally removed the statue after protests that is was in bad taste. A spokesperson said, “the owners of the building have asked us to remove it. We are very disappointed.” One wonders why they ignored the family’s objections in the first place.

Another statue problem involves the famous image in the Members’ Lobby of the House of Commons: Churchill’s left foot, which everyone rubs on passing, is wearing away, and a hairline crack has appeared in the appendage. Says Malcolm Hay, the parliamentary curator of the works of art, “Bronze is quite a soft metal and people’s vigorous appreciation of Churchill over the decades has now resulted in the danger of creating holes in the statue unless we do something about it.” The big debate is whether to stop people from touching the statue and restore it, or allow them to continue paying their respects as usual.


LONDON, MARCH 15TH— The Cunard cruise liner Queen Victoria is due to go into service in December 2007. I was pleased to note that her amenities include a “Churchill’s Cigar Lounge.” This is one in the eye for the British Government which recently introduced legislation banning smoking not only anywhere in restaurants and pubs but in private clubs. One can only imagine what the great man would have had to say about this egregious interference with individual freedom.


GLASGOW, MAY 1ST— Smoking by actors on stage will not be tolerated in Scotland, despite moves to relax new anti-smoking laws south of the border. A spokesman for Caroline Flint, the public health minister at Westminster, said exemptions were being considered to “ensure smoking can take place on stage during live theatrical performances, or during film and television recording” in England. Smoking in public places, including theatres and sound stages, has been banned in Scotland since March 26th. The change has proved controversial in the theatre community. It it claimed that portraying characters or historical figures who smoke, such as Winston Churchill, will be impossible under the new legislation. However, the Scottish Executive yesterday confirmed it would not be making any exceptions.


BHOPAL, INDIA, APRIL 18TH—”Lack of determined Indian response has brought more attacks on temples and civilians,” says J. G. Agrora in the Central Chronicle. “Terrorists must be crushed; not embraced. Only the strong offensive against terrorists can blunt terrorism. Pak-Bangla demographic aggression and terrorist attacks are acts of war against India. [The] doctrine of ‘hot pursuit’ of international law must be invoked to chase and crush the terrorists.

“History teaches that in the clash of civilizations and of nations, the ruthless have always won; and the benevolent have always lost. Here it is relevant to quote Sir Winston Churchill, who deprecated the British policy of avoiding confrontation with Germany before the outbreak of Second World War thus:

“‘Still, if you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a small chance of survival.'”


PARIS, MAY 2ND— Internet sources and Country Life recently carried adverts for La Pausa, “Coco Chanel’s fabled villa” in Rocquebrune, Cap Martin, France, owned by Emery and Wendy Reves from the 1950s. Sir Winston spent many weeks here after his retirement as premier in 1955. Finest Hour contacted mutual friends and Colin Randall, Paris bureau chief of the Daily Telegraph, to establish that La Pausa is not for sale; the original report (in the Telegraph) was based on inaccurate information from the estate agents, Aylesford Ltd. Mme. Reves remains alive and sentient, though frail, as she reaches her 90th birthday (today) but she does not receive visitors. She is well cared for at La Pausa and at her chalet in Glion, Switzerland, where she spends more of her time.

Emery Reves was Churchill’s literary associate from the 1930s to the 1960s, placing his articles and books with publishers outside Britain. Wendy Reves, a Churchill Centre Associate and honorary member, financed publication of The Churchill War Papers, the three companion or document volumes to volume VI of the official biography {Finest Hour 1939-1941) by Sir Martin Gilbert CBE. Seven further companion volumes are projected to cover 1942, 1943, 1944, 1945, the Opposition period (1945-51), the second premiership (1951-55) and retirement (1955-65). This project is now being taken up by Hillsdale College in Michigan. References to Emery and Wendy Reves and the War Papers may be found using the search engine at


LONDON, MAY 3RD— The Socialist Worker Party’s online e-zine celebrated the 1926 General Strike (“Nine days of hope”) by misquoting Churchill and giving him an unintended encomium. “We decided to postpone the crisis in the hope of averting it” (which sounds something like “destroying the village in order to save it”) was never said by Churchill, according to our digital archive. But we really enjoyed the Socialists’ remarks about the two rival strike papers:

“Churchill edited the ferociously class-conscious British Gazette for the government. In response, the TUC [Trades Union Council] produced the tepid British Worker, which was censored by apparatchiks to prevent inflammatory material appearing.”


LONDON, MAY 25TH-OCTOBER 6TH— Politics, finance and circulation wars, explosive exposes and exclusives, intrigue, in-fighting and infamy: from hot metal to hot gossip, this new exhibition involving Finest Hour cuttings editor John Frost brings to life the growth, development, rivalry and union of the British newspaper industry over the past 100 years, staged to mark the centenary of the Newspaper Publishers Association.

The chosen front pages and themes serve primarily as a backdrop to illustrate how reporting has changed, rather than being a history of each topic in the 20th century.

Displays also remind visitors of some of the headlines that became legendary, encapsulating the mood of the nation. They include the 1912 Daily Mirror headline ” Titanic sunk—no lives lost”; the Daily Mirror’s 1939 Hitler headline, “Wanted for murder…for kidnapping”; The Sun’s 1982 headline, “Gotcha,” about the sinking of the Argentine warship Belgrano in the Falklands war.

Approximately 2600 UK and Irish newspaper and weekly/fortnightly periodical titles, about 90% of current acquisitions, are received in the Newspaper Legal Deposit Office. In recent years the Library has been active in undertaking projects to open up access to its newspaper collections and enable readers to view newspapers remotely via the internet.


LONDON, FEBRUARY 4TH, 1959— “I sometimes wonder what would have happened had not my father, after whom I am named, been one of the rebel leaders who captured Winston Churchill sixty years ago during the South African War,” wrote Philip Kok of Benon, Transvaal, South Africa, to the Daily Mirror. “My father had actually been responsible for the wrecking of the armoured train in which Churchill was travelling as a war correspondent. That night he was held prisoner in a stable guarded by my father and four of my uncles. My Uncle Frans wanted to shoot Churchill out of hand. My father objected…’I’ll shoot you first’ was his final word to Uncle Frans, and to their dying day those two men never spoke to each other because of that. Although the history books state that General Louis Botha, the Boer commander, captured Churchill, the report is as I have given it to Sir Winston in a letter.”

This cutting, supplied by John Frost (see page 9), supplies a claimant we haven’t read of before among those involved in capturing WSC after the 1899 armoured train attack—although “captured” is probably not the right word for the brothers Kok.

Celia Sandys’ Churchill Wanted Dead or Alive (HarperCollins, 1998) establishes Field Cornet Sarel Oosthuuizen as the “galloping horseman whose levelled rifle finally convinced Churchill that escape was impossible.”

Churchill himself thought his captor was General Louis Botha, later the first Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa. But Celia Sandys discounts this, suggesting that her grandfather may simply have misunderstood Botha’s spotty English, noting that there is no mention of the capture in Botha’s profuse correspondence. As to the Kok brothers, many Boers undoubtedly guarded Churchill at one time or another after his capture, so it is quite possible that Philip Kok’s father and brothers may have been among them.

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