Finest Hour 141, Winter 2008-09
Quotation of the Season
“Democratic governments drift along the line of least resistance, taking short views, paying their way with sops and doles, and smoothing their path with pleasant-sounding platitudes. Never was there less continuity or design in their affairs, and yet towards them are coming swiftly changes which will revolutionize for good or ill not only the whole economic structure of the world but the social habits and moral outlook of every family…. Democracy as a guide or motive to progress has long been known to be incompetent. None of the legislative assemblies of the great modern states represents in universal suffrage even a fraction of the strength or wisdom of the community. Great nations are no longer led by their ablest men, or by those who know most about their immediate affairs, or even by those who have a coherent doctrine.”
—WSC, “FIFTY YEARS HENCE,”
STRAND MAGAZINE, DECEMBER 1931
PORTS SPORTS LONDON, OCTOBER 20TH— The story of how some of Britain’s prominent sports stars, politicians and celebrities came to the UK is set out among the records of over eighteen million inbound ship passengers which have been published for the first time. The documents, compiled by the Board of Trade at ports such as Southampton, Liverpool, and London, offer a vivid insight into the end of empire and the trends which shaped modern Britain in a period which saw the country’s population more than double from 24.5 million to 52 million. First class passenger lists from great liners such as the Queen Mary also offer a glimpse of a golden age of travel by sea from the Empire and the United States.
The most famous address in the world appears in a smudged entry for 6 July 1954, showing one “Rt Hon Sir Winston Churchill” arriving in Southampton from New York on board the Queen Elizabeth. His profession is listed as “Prime Minister” but an ink smudge appears to render “10 Downing Street” as “20 Downing Street.”
—JOHN BINGHAM, DAILY TELEGRAPH
Michael McMenamin (page 48) begins reviews of fictional works containing Churchill as a leading character. This inspired his co-author (of Becoming Winston Churchill), Curt Zoller, to offer a preliminary list, on which we welcome reader additions:
Beeding, Francis. Eleven Were Brave, London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1940.
Bell, Ted. Nick of Time, New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2008.
Deighton, Len. XPD, London: Hutchinson, 1981.
Dobbs, Michael. Last Man to Die, London: HarperCollins, 1992 _______.
Winston’s War, London: HarperCollins, 2002 (FH 117).
Dobbs, Michael. Never Surrender, London: HarperCollins, 2003 (FH 122).
__________. Churchill’s Hour, London: HarperCollins, 2004 (FH 126).
__________. Churchill’s Triumph, London: HarperCollins, 2005 (FH 131).
Fleming, Peter. The Flying Visit (illus. by Low), New York: Scribner, 1940.
Follett, James. Churchill’s Gold, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1981.
Franklin, Jay. The Catoctin Conversation, New York: Scribner, 1947.
Garfield, Brian. The Paladin, Boston: G. K. Hall, 1979 (FH 139).
Gingrich, Newt and Fortschen, Wm., Pearl Harbor, New York: St. Martins, 2007.
Kessler, Leo. The Churchill Papers, Sutton: Severn House, 1998.
Lawton, John. Bluffing Mr. Churchill, Penguin Books, 2004.
MacKendrick, Louise. The Glory Seeker, New York: Tower, 1978.
Mead, Glenn. The Sands of Sakkara, New York: St Martin’s, 1999.
Russell, Mary Doria, Dreamers of the Day, New York: Random House, 2008.
Staples, Mary Jane. Churchill’s People, London: Bantam, 1999.
Vacha, Robert. A Spy for Churchill, London: Everest, 1974.
A NOISY WEEK
One week in October produced a bumper crop of old news, breathlessly announced as new and earthshaking, viz: Juan March as Churchill’s alleged interlocutor with Spain’s Franco (first revealed by Martin Gilbert in 1992); WSC’s letter to his wife “in the event of my death” (Gilbert again, 1972); the recollections of Churchill’s trans-Atlantic censor (Finest Hour 115, 2002); and Peregrine Worsthorne’s savaging of “Churchill the war-monger” (dating at least to Francis Neilson’s The Churchill Legend, 1954). All interesting grist to fill this column and hopefully to amuse our readers!
1. FRANCO’S BRIBES
LONDON, OCTOBER 15TH— The Times announced that “Winston Churchill authorised millions of dollars in bribes to stop Gen. Franco from entering the Second World War on the side of Germany,” quoting Juan March: The Most Mysterious Man in the World, a new book by Pere Ferrer….
“In the summer of 1940 Churchill was convinced that Spain would enter the war on the side of Hitler after receiving reports that Franco and the Germans were planning to invade Gibraltar. Ferrer has claimed that a British officer, Alan Hillgarth, came up with a plan to bribe the generals, believing that Franco’s high command was corrupt and, because they were not paid much, would be open to bribery.”
This is perfectly true but hardly news. Sir Martin Gilbert published Churchill’s suggestion that March might be a key to Franco, and described the $10 million allocated for bribing Spanish army officers to promote Spain’s continued neutrality, in his Churchill War Papers, published between eight and sixteen years ago. However, Gilbert related, Churchill ultimately relied on Captain Hillgarth for the effort. (See “Leading Churchill Myths” on page 10.)
2.. RUTH IVE’S BOOK
LONDON, OCTOBER 22ND— Ruth Ive, the wartime clerk who listened to and once censored Churchill’s trans-Atlantic phone calls to Roosevelt, who spoke about her experiences at the 2002 Churchill conference, has published a book, The Woman Who Censored Churchill (History Press, £18.99), reports Val Hennessy of The Mail Online. Before each caller was connected, even if it were the King, her duty was to tell them: “The enemy is recording your conversation and will compare it with previous information in his possession. Great discretion is necessary. Any indiscretion will be reported by the censor to the highest authority.”
Ive, now 90, monitored all VIP transatlantic calls, but the ones between WSC and FDR were the most interesting. Her job was to cut them off at the first sign of inadvertent leaks of sensitive information,” since the British knew the Germans were intercepting the calls. Although Churchill has been accused of “leaking like a sieve,” Ive said “he was all too aware of the risks of speaking frankly…however late the hour, and however well he had dined, I can say that it never impaired his judgment of what was proper to mention.”
Only once did she “pull the plug” on Churchill, late in the war when, understandably upset about a devastating V2 rocket attack, he began to hint about its damage. Hitting the “off” switch, Ruth said: “I must remind you, sir, that there should be no mention of any damage suffered from enemy aircraft. Would you like your call reconnected?” After an “acknowledging grunt,” Churchill resumed: “Anthony, this morning…” and she cut him off again! “He sounded so upset, but I had no option other than to disconnect him again and warn him of the dangers.” She expected a blast of anger, “but the worst bombing incident to hit London since the Blitz seemed to have temporarily knocked the stuffing out of the normally bellicose statesman.”
As Mrs. Ive related in Finest Hour, Churchill ended all his top-level conversations with the phrase “KBO,” which she didn’t understand. With some embarrassment her boss explained that it meant “Keep Buggering On.” Ruth is certain that Roosevelt didn’t understand the phrase either.
Ruth Ive never met Churchill in person, Hennessy writes, “but looking back on her war work she now sees herself as ‘greatly privileged’ to have been in a position to listen to his conversations. She realised even then, young as she was, that this was a man with an exceptional personality, an amazing capacity for work and a gift for language and oratory which could inspire the nation and lead it to victory.”
3. WSC’S DEATH LETTER
LONDON, OCTOBER 22ND— A letter to be shown at “Last Post,” a World War I exhibit at the Churchill Museum in the Cabinet War Rooms in November “reveals” that Churchill would have left his wife £3000 in savings (£195,000 today), and enough shares to pay off his debts. But what the Mail, Express, Mirror and Sun all find remarkable was first published thirty-six years ago by Sir Martin Gilbert in Companion Volume III, Part II to Winston S. Churchill, the official biography (page 1098).
Although millions of men going off to war wrote similar letters to be opened in the event of their death, Churchill’s message to Clementine (17 July 1915) is well worth reading for its lyrical prose and poignant reflections. It was written at a time when his political ambitions lay shattered, following his ouster from the Admiralty in the midst of a Cabinet crisis and an anxious battle for the Gallipoli Peninsula—an imaginative idea Churchill had not invented, but had championed all too blindly as support among his colleagues fell away.
“I am anxious that you shd get hold of all my papers,” he wrote her: “…some day I shd like the truth to be known. Randolph will carry on the lamp. Do not grieve for me too much. I am a spirit confident of my rights. Death is only an incident, & not the most important wh happens to us in this state of being. On the whole, especially since I met you my darling one I have been happy, & you have taught me how noble a woman’s heart can be. If there is anywhere else I shall be on the look out for you. Meanwhile look forward, feel free, rejoice in life, cherish the children, guard my memory. God bless you. Good bye. W.”
4. PEREGRINE GOES A’FALCONING
LONDON, OCTOBER 22ND— Winston Churchill would only have been great if he had atoned for his warmongering, wrote Peregrine Worsthorne in the online magazine The First Post (http://www. thefirstpost.co.uk). All wars are evil, writes Mr. Worsthorne (who once wrote for the Daily Telegraph), but World War II was the worst of them all because Hiroshima and Nagasaki “legalised murder on a massive scale.”
Odd. Didn’t Stalin and Hitler legalise more mass-murder (at least seven million each) than the Atomic bomb (70,000)? Do The Thoughts of Chairman Mao contain atonement? Churchill said in 1945: “We must indeed pray that these awful agencies will be made to conduce to peace among the nations, and that instead of wreaking measureless havoc upon the entire globe, may become a perennial fountain of world prosperity…..The bomb brought peace, but men alone can keep that peace, and henceforward they will keep it under penalties which threaten the survival not only of civilization but of humanity itself.”
Undeterred, Mr. Worsthorne plunges on: “…seldom has there been a statesman as good at glorifying war, and as indecently eager to wage war as Winston Churchill. All his works demonstrate his love of war, glamourise its glories and minimise its horrors.”
Here is Churchill glamourizing war in 1944: “Remember we have a missing generation, we must never forget that— the flower of the past, lost in the great battles of the last war….There ought to be another generation of men, with their flashing lights and leading figures. We must do all we can to try to fill the gap…” And in 1947: “In each of [the two World Wars] about thirty million men were killed in battle. In the last one seven million were murdered in cold blood, mainly by the Germans. They made human slaughter-pens like the Chicago stockyards. Europe is a ruin. Many of her cities have been blown to pieces by bombs….It may well be that an even worse war is drawing near.”
Worsthorne continues: “Yet year after year shoals of books about Churchill appear—Andrew Roberts’s Masters and Commanders is the latest one—which totally ignore how low under Churchill’s leadership Britain had to stoop to conquer. Churchill’s refusal to shoulder his burden of guilt is a huge disqualification for his place in this country’s pantheon.”
How many refutations do we need? Churchill, 1897: “Looking at these shapeless forms, coffined in a regulation blanket, the pride of race, the pomp of empire, the glory of war appeared but the faint and unsubstantial fabric of a dream…” 1901: “A European war cannot be anything but a cruel, heartrending struggle…. 1909: “Much as war attracts me & fascinates my mind with its tremendous situations—I feel more deeply every year—& can measure the feeling here in the midst of arms—what vile & wicked folly & barbarism it all is.” 1929: “The only test by which human beings can judge war responsibility is Aggression; and the supreme proof of Aggression is Invasion.” 1930: “War, which used to be cruel and magnificent, has now become cruel and squalid.”
Worsthorne: “When the war was on, and for some decades thereafter, veneration of Churchill was absolutely understandable; part of the legitimate self-justification of a righteous nation fighting a necessary war.”
So it was after all a righteous and necessary war? If so, Churchill is supposed to atone for what, exactly?
Worsthorne: “Churchill’s refusal ever to recognise the mote in his own country’s eye or to shoulder the burden of his own individual guilt strike me as a major disqualification [sic] in this Christian country’s pantheon. Abraham Lincoln, who didn’t hesitate to do public penance on both scores after the Civil War, puts Churchill to shame.”
Er, when, during the week between the Civil War’s end and his own assassination, did Lincoln do “public penance”? Lincoln, who would have done anything to win the Civil War, admitted that if he could have saved the Union without freeing a single slave he would have done so. Churchill would have done anything to win World War II: “Once you are so unfortunate as to be drawn into a war, no price is too great to pay for an early and victorious peace” (1901).
Winston Churchill was the only leader on either side of WW2 actually to question strategic bombing: “Are we beasts? Are we taking this too far?” (1943). The only one. He even argued with Air Marshal Harris over the horror being inflicted on Germany. Dresden, for which he is frequently blamed, was bombed at Soviet request by Attlee.
Worsthorne: “Truth to tell, war-mongering is a far more damaging and infantile folly than is pacifism, and it is only by dimming Churchill’s fame that this truth can ever again shine forth.”
Refuting such claims is too easy. Omit Churchill’s quests for peace before World War I (thwarted by a war-monger in Berlin); before World War II (thwarted by the refusal of peaceful nations to see the obvious); and after World War II (thwarted by Eisenhower’s rejection of his call for a “summit” with Stalin’s successors). Consider only the themes of the argument—in the words of Professor Warren Kimball:
“…the themes are repetitively evident: war is bad, regardless of the causes; bombing civilians is evil, regardless of the circumstances; anti-Semitism is unacceptable, particularly as practiced by Churchill and the Roosevelts; pacifists are invariably perceptive…..This is childish (as opposed to childlike) reasoning that throws up pie-in-the-sky idealism without the slightest genuflection toward practicality, unintended consequences, or common sense: a self-righteous primal scream against physical evil that blames just the bombers. No bombing—absolutely none—would have happened except for Hitler and the Nazis, so let us keep our focus where it belongs, on first causes.”
It is wisely observed that the only two countries where World War II is still being fought are Britain and Russia. So outbursts by British iconoclasts are to be expected. But scholarly thought has long since relegated Churchill’s “war mongering” to the fever swamps of the unread and the illiterate. Churchill made many mistakes, but on the key question of his time he was right:
“…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 precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than live as slaves.” (The Gathering Storm, 1948).
FUNERAL VAN LOSES
SWANAGE, DORSET, SEPTEMBER 15TH— Many have asked for an update on the Swanage Railway Trust’s plans for the Churchill van, which was successfully returned last year to the UK from the USA and which has since been subject to a Heritage Lottery Fund bid (Finest Hour 129:6 and 133:8).
Unfortunately, the Lottery Fund has declined to support the Trust’s £50,000 bid to restore the Churchill funeral van and use it to house a museum focusing on the role of railways in the Second World War. Swanage Trust was disappointed by this decision, which may reflect the reduced funds available for heritage projects following the diversion of resources to the Olympic games.
The Railway Trust thanks the many people who have helped to secure the return of the car from California, where its future was uncertain. Special thanks go to the Heritage Railway Association, the Imperial War Museum, The Churchill Centre & Museum, The Duke of Marlborough, Dorset County Council and many others for their enthusiastic support.
The Trust is now seeking alternative funding for the project. Offers of support and further details of the project are available from Steve Doughty ([email protected]), Deputy Chairman Swanage Railway Trust, tel (44) 7860-108754.
Finest Hour 139, page 45, re Japanese aircraft: the G4M Betty is the top picture and the G3M Nell is at the bottom. Thanks to Gene Lassers for this, and for advising us: “In reading up on the situation, the majority of planes used in the attack were G3M Nells.”
HANOVER, N.H., OCTOBER 6TH— Donald Scott Carmichael died today at the fine age of 96, leaving his wife Mary of 67 years, two daughters and four grandchildren. He studied at Harvard, where he was editor of the Crimson, and at the University of Michigan School of Law. Don’s career included senior executive positions at Stouffer Foods, Schrafts, and Delaware North Corporation, owner of the Boston Bruins. A lifelong Democrat, he was a member of President Johnson’s Task Force on the War Against Poverty, a delegate to the 1960 and 1964 Democratic conventions, and served on the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. He served on the boards of the National Conference of Christians and Jews and the Cleveland United Negro College Fund, and was president of Karamu House, an interracial cultural settlement house in Cleveland.
I knew Don as a collector of Roosevelt and Churchill memorabilia, from first editions and autographs to the commemorative souvenirs he referred to as “bric-a-brac,” which I eventually sold for him through my former business. My colleague Glenn Horowitz sold many of Don’s Roosevelt and Churchill books and holographs, the catalogues for which were themselves unique. But Don’s interests were broader yet. For instance, he had a collection of letters exchanged with the exiled Kaiser Wilhelm, in which Don and the Emperor pondered what might have happened had Germany accepted Churchill’s idea for a “naval holiday,” and stayed out of war in 1914….
When Don began looking for a retirement home in 1987 I nominated New Hampshire, kidding him that his party hadn’t yet managed to overburden the tax structure as it had in neighboring Vermont. Don replied that I must be a Republican, and I said I was really a 19th century Federalist, now become an anarchist. He bought that and raised me one, saying he thought I fit the 18th century even better. He and Mary found lovely Sugartop Farm in Lyme, hard by the Connecticut River near Dartmouth.
The following year they were at our Bretton Woods Conference to hear Alistair Cooke…and then-Governor John Sununu—Bush I’s campaign manager in the 1988 presidential campaign. Don even smiled when Paul Robinson, Reagan’s Ambassador to Canada, thanked the Governor by saying: “There’s no secret where my sympathies lie.” Paul then diplomatically suggested that Canadians present vote for Brian Mulroney in the upcoming Canadian election, and Sununu whispered: “There goes the 3000-mile undefended border.” Don and I laughed about it later because he was that kind of person.
Frequently since, as the years passed, we would know that an issue of Finest Hour had trickled out through the ether when Don would call to express delight with a cover or an article, particularly those that develed into the remarkable relationship between his two greatest heroes. I shall miss those calls, for there never was a dull one.
David Dilks wrote of his old friend Bill Deakin: “His interests were legion, his friends to be found the world over. His hospitality, not least of the mind, was boundless, and his company an enduring delight.” And Churchill wrote of Joseph Chamberlain: “One mark of a great man is the power of making lasting impressions upon people he meets.” RML
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