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Finest Hour 138

Glimpses – FH 138

Glimpses: Marion Davies

The actress and mistress of William Randolph Hearst, Miss Davies entertained Churchill at her Santa Monica home on his California visit in 1929. She offers (unintentionally?) the following hilarious vignette in her posthumous memoirs, The Times We Had: Life with William Randolph Hearst (New York: Ballantine Books, 1975). —Judeth Kambestead


Churchill was my house guest. He came with [his brother Jack], his son Randolph and Randolph’s cousin John, who liked to play the piano. They arrived in Charlie Schwab’s railroad car, and they stayed at the beach house. MGM gave a big reception for Churchill. He had a sort of lisp, but it didn’t come out over the microphone. He couldn’t figure it out and I can’t figure it out, but a lisp just does not register.

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Editor’s Essay – FH 138

Churchill’s Optimism

Churchill’s optimism for humanity was tempered with a conviction that “the genus homo” never changes. The same imperfect being is presented by the advance of science with increasingly potent and dangerous toys: “This vast expansion was unhappily not accompanied by any noticeable advance in the stature of man, either in his mental faculties, or his moral character. His brain got no better, but it buzzed the more.”1

His splendid essay, “Mass Effects in Modern Life,” took up his concern about the levelling of man to a low common denominator: “Are not modern conditions—at any rate throughout the English-speaking communities—hostile to the development of outstanding personalities and to their influence upon events”?2 Churchill wondered.

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Despatch Box

FAST AIRCRAFT

Further to Gene Lasser (FH 137:5), I believe the two fastest WWII piston-engine fighters were the North American P51, (437 mph at 25,000 ft) and Sydney Camm’s brutal Tempest (435 mph at lower altitudes, able even to mix it with Me262s and V-1s). Both were designed for different roles, at which they excelled, but the 2500hp required to push a Tempest to such speeds at low levels meant it was soon modified to carry up to a ton of bombs and rockets for ground attack, making it one of the first true fighter/attack aircraft. The P51 could also carry a one-ton external payload, but its low-level performance was seriously compromised by its beautiful laminar wings.

De Havilland’s Mosquito, however, was designed as a bomber with a two-ton internal payload. It was so fast that it did not need defensive weapons, and became faster when its original turrets were removed. When fitted with forward cannon and machine guns, it was probably the world’s only bomber/fighter! For comparison, imagine a 400+ mph B25.

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Datelines

QUOTATION OF THE SEASON

“The newspapers, with their alluring headlines, do not do justice to the proportion of current events. Everyone is busy or is oppressed by the constant cares and difficulties of daily life. Headlines flicker each day before them. Any disorder or confusion in any part of the world, every kind of argument, trouble, dispute, friction or riot—all flicker across the scene. People go tired to bed, at the end of their long, bleak, worrying days, or else they cast care aside, and live for the moment.”

—WINSTON CHURCHILL, HOUSE OF COMMONS, 12 DECEMBER 1946

ERRATA

Finest Hour 136 page 29 column 3: In the note entitled “Not WSC on Castro,” Carole Martyn’s name was misspelled, for which apologies. Also, the alleged statement by WSC about Castro was not made during the 2005 Queen Mary 2 lectures but originates from other sources.

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Action This Day

ACTION THIS DAY:

125-100-75-50 YEARS AGO

125 Years Ago, Spring 1883, Age 8

“Does not quite understand the meaning of hard work”

Winston was not doing well at St. George’s School, where he ranked eleventh among eleven boys in the Winter term. He moved up to ninth in the spring term only because there were only nine boys in his Division.

The Spring Report showed why: “Does not quite understand the meaning of hard work—must make up his mind to do so next term. Writing good but so terribly slow—Spelling about as bad as it well can be.”

Churchill’s mother would not have been surprised by the spelling report, as evidenced by a letter in early June: “My dear Mamma, I hope you will come and see me soon. Did Everest give you my flour I sent you. Give my love to my ants, and tell not to forget to come down. I am coming home in a month.”

While Winston’s general performance had “improved,” the number of days he was late increased to nineteen against four the previous term.

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