Finest Hour 143, Summer 2009
Quotation of the Season
Appeasement from weakness and fear is alike futile and fatal. Appeasement from strength is magnanimous and noble and might be the surest and perhaps the only path to world peace. When nations or individuals get strong they are often truculent and bullying, but when they are weak they become better mannered. But this is the reverse of what is healthy and wise.”
—WSC, HOUSE OF COMMONS, 14 DECEMBER 1950
LONDON, JANUARY 12TH (REUTERS)— The classic English bulldog, symbol of defiance and pugnacity (though in fact a friendly and affectionate animal) may now disappear. A shake-up of breeding standards by the Kennel Club has signalled the end of the dog’s Churchillian jowl. Instead, the dog will have a shrunken face, a sunken nose, longer legs and a leaner body. The British Bulldog Breed Council is threatening legal action against the Kennel Club. Chairman Robin Searle said: “What you’ll get is a completely different dog, not a British bulldog.”
Finest Hour referred this one to longtime colleague, prominent motoring writer and bulldog partisan Graham Robson, who writes:
“As a long-time bulldog owner (your editor has met various of my much-loved mutts) I am at once delighted and appalled by what is being proposed. Loud-mouthed critics of ‘traditional’ bulldogs talk about breathing difficulties (usually untrue), too-fat bodies (only some breeders encourage this—mine never), heads too large and legs too short (arguable—none of mine were ever grotesque), and difficulties in delivering puppies without a vet’s help (unfortunately true).
“The Kennel Club (for historic parallels think of the Gestapo or George Orwell’s Thought Police) is demanding changes to what is known as the written standard for dogs—not just bulldogs, but other breeds too. They will eventually get their way, but it will take decades of selective breeding to produce a series (rather than an occasional example) of bulldogs to a ‘new’ standard.
“I would be delighted to see bulldogs with somewhat longer legs, but still with the traditional look (including ‘flat’ face and Churchillesque attitude), and a wide-legged stance—like each of the seven generations of bulldog which my family has owned, and owns to this day. However, I would be appalled to see longer noses, shrunken faces and lean bodies, since this means we will be going back to the “Boxer” identity, destroying the most endearing characteristics of the true bulldog.
“Anyone who doubts that my son’s five-year-old bulldog cannot play, run, and enjoy himself in every way is welcome to try to wear him out before I do.”
Since 1782, seven Royal Navy ships have borne the name Bulldog. The last was a B-Class fleet destroyer laid down on 10 August 1929. Early in WW2 she was deployed as an attendant to HMS Glorious and HMS Ark Royal. As part of the Home Fleet in a 1940 action against E-boats, Bulldog towed Lord Mountbatten’s badly damaged HMS Kelly to the Tyne for repairs. After distinguished convoy duty through the war, Bulldog was broken up at Rosyth in 1946. She achieved the distinction of being in operational service for most of the war apart from periods of refit or repair. —www.navalhistory.net
LAS PALMAS REMEMBERS
LAS PALMAS, CANARY ISLANDS, MARCH 26TH— Winston Churchill visited the Canary Islands three times* but the plaque being unveiled at the Port in Las Palmas in honour of one of Great Britain’s most internationally influential figures was to commemorate his visit fifty years ago. As a guest aboard the Onassis yacht Christina, he came to the island for a holiday, and as a tourist, chose to visit Caldro de Bandama and Montaña de Arucas. In memory of his visit a plaque was unveiled by the Mayor of Las Palmas, Jerónimo Saavedra Acevedo.
It has been written that General Franco’s reluctance to risk losing the Canary Islands was the reason Spain never officially entered into the war, as Churchill had warned that an invasion was logistically possibile.
A painting of Churchill hangs in the British Club, where the fondly remembered Churchill Restaurant was located. Matthew Vickers, chairman of the Club and his wife were present “to represent the British community….It’s interesting that here they respect him enough to unveil a plaque….He was someone who could see all of the enjoyment there was to see here….He was never one to shrink from challenges and there are lots of challenges for everyone. He had that ‘never say die’ spirit. Ultimately he was all about how you can build stronger links between people.”
The consensus among the guests attending was that Churchill was a unique character who deserved being remembered in the Canary Islands. Francisco Marin Loris, from the Real Sociedad Economica de Amigos del Pais de Gran Canaria, said it gives a sense of pride to the Canarians that a man of Churchill’s stature chose to holiday on Gran Canaria, and increases the interest of British visitors to learn more about the history of the island.
—DEBORAH WOODMANSEY (WWW.ROUNDTOWNNEWS.CO.UK)
*Editor’s note: The 1959 visit was on 26 February; see Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill VIII: 1284. I have verified the 1961 visit, again via Christina, but not the third. Can readers assist? RML
LONDON, 25 MARCH 2009— Children will no longer study World War II and Queen Victoria, but instead learn how to assert themselves on the Internet under radical plans to overhaul primary school teaching. According to reports today, the new draft curriculum commissioned by the government claims that pupils can do without learning about the battle against Nazism and the rise and fall of the British Empire.
In a move which will horrify many parents, it would see children focus on internet tools such as Wikipedia and podcasting, as well as innovations such as blogging and Twitter, which allows users to post instant minute-by-minute updates about their lives. How this smacks of the “Me Generation.”
Schools Minister Lord Adonis says children will still have to learn about the Second World War as part of secondary school curriculum, including Churchill’s role in defeating the Nazis. Cutting Churchill from history lessons, he told Sky News’ Sunday Live programme, is “completely wrong….It is a statutory and mandatory requirement of the new curriculum for all students in secondary schools in England to study the Second World War. I cannot conceive how you can teach the history of the Second World without having Churchill, Hitler and Stalin as part of the story.”
GILBERT WINS BRADLEY
WASHINGTON, JUNE 3RD— One of four 2009 Bradley Prizes, each carrying a stipend of $250,000, was presented to CC Honorary Member and Trustee Sir Martin Gilbert at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
“The Bradley Foundation selected Sir Martin Gilbert for his compelling work in historical research and his commitment to freedom,” said Foundation President and CEO Michael W. Grebe. “Sir Martin’s seminal work in history has been widely acclaimed, and his work is considered the standard in its field.”
Sir Martin was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1995 for “services to British history and international relations,” and earlier named a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE). He is an Honorary Fellow at Merton College, Oxford, a Distinguished Fellow at Hillsdale College, and the author of seventy books, specializing in the two World Wars, the Holocaust and scholarly atlases in addition to Churchill.
The selection was based on nominations solicited from more than 100 prominent individuals and chosen by a committee including Terry Considine, Pierre S. du Pont, Martin Feldstein, Michael Grebe, Charles Krauthammer, Heather MacDonald, San W. Orr Jr., Dianne J. Sehler and Shelby Steele.
Founded in 1985, The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation is devoted to strengthening American democratic capitalism and the institutions, principles and values that sustain and nurture it. Its programs support limited government, dynamic economic and cultural activity, and a defense of U.S. ideals and institutions. Recognizing that self-government depends on enlightened citizens, the Foundation supports scholarly studies and academic achievement.
LONDON, MAY 10TH— With his “Into the Storm” tele-film appearing in America and Britain, Irish actor Brendan Gleeson’s portrayal of Winston Churchill drew raves. The notice that stands out most for him came the other night at a screening in London, from Churchill’s daughter, 86-year-old Lady Soames.
“I think she was genuinely pleased,” Gleeson reports. “She said I didn’t fall into the usual traps or something of that nature. Of course for her it was looking into the past. She said, ‘This is very emotional for me.'”
The joint HBO-BBC production (reviewed on page 44) picks up where the 2002 “The Gathering Storm” (Finest Hour 115) left off, with the war years seen via flashbacks as Winston and Clementine (Janet McTeer) await postwar election results. “The Gathering Storm” won shelves of awards, including Emmys for Outstanding Made for TV Movie and Outstanding Lead Actor for Albert Finney—a fact of which Gleeson was quite aware when he took on the job. Finney’s performance, he says, “had such force and humanity in it that you say, ‘Where do you take it from there?'”
Portraying the iconic figure “was a huge acting challenge” which included portraying someone twenty years older than himself. Gleeson admits, “I was a little wary of it being a bridge too far, of miscasting myself, but the people involved were very encouraging.”
— MARILYN BECK AND STACY JENEL SMITH, NATIONAL LEDGER
AUGUSTA, GA., APRIL 7TH— It was 1957 when Gary Player first pointed his car down Magnolia Lane to the Augusta National clubhouse—a place, he so often has implied, where golfers “begin to choke as you drive in the gates.”
The Hall of Fame golfer did it again today, commencing his fifty-second week at the Masters Tournament. Put another way, he will have spent an entire year of his life chasing golf balls around Augusta National by the match’s end. And that’s where Player has decided it should conclude. The 73-year-old South African announced Monday that this Masters will be his last as a competitor, signing off on a tenure that began before eighty-nine of this week’s other ninety- five entrants were born. “I’ve had such a wonderful career,” Player said. “My goodness, when I think of the career I’ve had—you can’t have it all, and I did have it all. You can’t be greedy. Winston Churchill, one of my all-time great heroes, always said it’s never a bad thing to cry. It’s a cry of appreciation and enjoyment, a cry of gratitude.”
—JEFF SHAIN, MIAMI HERALD
BLACK SWANS RETURN
“All the black swans are mating, not only the father and mother, but both brothers and both sisters have paired off. The Ptolemys always did this and Cleopatra was the result. At any rate I have not thought it my duty to interfere.”
—WSC TO HIS WIFE, CHARTWELL, 21JAN35
WESTERHAM, KENT, MAY 26TH— Seventy-five years ago Lady Diana Cooper surveyed Chartwell’s birds: “five foolish geese, five furious black swans, two ruddy sheldrakes, two white swans—Mr. Juno and Mrs. Jupiter, so called because they got the sexes wrong to begin with, two Canadian geese (‘Lord and Lady Beaverbrook’) and some miscellaneous ducks.”
Chartwell’s black swans have been looked after as zealously as the apes on Gibraltar (Finest Hour 125:6), but over the years marauding foxes and mink reduced the population, which reached zero last year. Happily last winter, Chartwell head gardener Giles Palmer installed a new floating “swan island” to provide natural protection, and two new black swans (Cygnus atratus) are now cruising the ponds designed by Sir Winston himself.
Mr. Palmer told Kent News (www.kentnews.co.uk): “I have seen the swans on their island once or twice but am confident that they will see just what they are missing out on as soon as the foliage on the island grows up. For now, I’m simply thrilled that the swans are settling on so well and getting to know the gardens. They’re getting so brave now that they ventured all the way to the kitchen garden recently.” The floating island has allowed gardeners to remove ugly mesh screening set up against predators, returning the lakes to their appearance in Churchill’s time. (We hope they’re right about this.)
The first black swans were a gift from Sir Phillip Sassoon in 1927. The population was topped up by the government of Western Australia, where the black swan is a state symbol. C. atratus is native also to Tasmania and has been introduced to New Zealand. It is the world’s only black swan, though its flight feathers, invisible at rest, are white. Giles Palmer hopes the pair will soon breed and begin a new generation.
Churchill was devoted to his swans and regularly conversed with them in “swan talk,” in which he claimed proficiency. But a former bodyguard, Ronald Golding, wrote (see page 31) that this was one of WSC’s little myths, because the swans would cry out to anyone who approached within a certain distance:
“It was some time after this discovery that I was walking down to the lake with Mr. Churchill. I was a little in front, and watched carefully for the critical spot. I then called out in ‘swan-talk’ and the birds dutifully replied. Mr. Churchill stopped dead. I turned round and he looked me full in the eye for a moment or two. Then the faintest suspicion of a smile appeared and he walked on in silence. No comment was ever made that this secret was shared.”
FH TRAVEL GUIDE
LONDON, APRIL 1ST— On England’s “Churchill Trail,” Carol Ferguson of the Herald-Banner, Greenville, Texas, stopped to chat with two gents on a bench on New Bond Street. “I’m prompted to thank Finest Hour for its regular travel tips,” Carol writes, “especially the addresses of Churchill’s London homes and directions to Chartwell. My daughter and I scouted them out together.”
GETTING TO CHARTWELL
PERIODIC ADVISORY— Chartwell is open Wednesdays through Sundays from March through 1 November from 11am to 4pm, and on Tuesdays in July and August. Local telephone: (01732) 863087. We like to remind readers of how to get there from London.
By car: the drive nowadays is not something for the faint-hearted or traffic- challenged, or North Americans not familiar with righthand-drive. Chartwell is two miles south of Westerham on the A25, accessed by M25 junctions 5 or 6. Drive to the town centre, take the B2026 a few miles to the car park (on left).
By bus: Sevenoaks station 6 1/2 miles; Oxted station 5 1/2 miles; Metrobus 246 from Bromley station to Edenbridge passes the gates. The National Trust’s Chartwell Explorer coach takes visitors from Sevenoaks to Chartwell for £3, which provides unlimited bus travel to any local Trust property and a pot of tea at Chartwell. You can also get a combined ticket from London, which includes train and coach, for £13, or £8.50 for Trust members. Details at (08457) 696996.
By rail: Some recommend Charing Cross Station to Sevenoaks (four fast trains per hour). Others suggest Victoria Station (fewer trains, but some marked “to East Grinstead and calling at Oxted”). Though only a mile closer than Sevenoaks, Oxted is less congested, making for a lower taxi fare. Arrange to have the cabbie pick you up for your return from Chartwell, so you don’t get stranded—although there are worse places to be stranded than Westerham. There’s a lovely footpath from Chartwell to the town, with its famous King’s Arms pub. (Factoid: the Nemon statue of Churchill on the village green was a gift from the people of Yugoslavia.)
CHERIE REVEALS ALL
LONDON, MAY 5TH— The wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair compares her spouse to WSC. Cherie Blair told Vanity Fair that her husband “was fantastic. I’m sure history will judge him very well. I think he’ll be up there with Churchill.” But, she was less complimentary about her own image: “Just looking at the press cuttings, you could not say that it was a triumph, could you!” Cherie has admitted that her husband was taken aback a little by some of the saucy contents in her new memoir, Speaking for Myself: “I think he’s rather embarrassed by the love affair bits. I don’t think he particularly read those closely. Been there, done that!”
Yes, well… At least Cherie didn’t liken herself to Clementine Churchill.
LONDON, MAY 21ST— Churchill’s “The Seashore” (Coombs 320) was placed on auction at Christie’s today, estimated at £200,000-300,000. The sale benefitted the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Trust.
The provenance is William Greenshields, Churchill’s butler between 1948 and 1953. “The Seashore” was given to him by Churchill, as well as a further work called “Antibes,” which sold at Sotheby’s in 1966.
According to David Coombs, the preeminent expert and co-author with Minnie Churchill of Sir Winston Churchill: His Life through His Paintings, the scene is one of a series that Churchill painted during the 1930s, in which he demonstrates his fascination with the sea breaking on the shore. The exact location is not known, but these coastal scenes appear to be painted from the French Riviera.
Since 1977, The Queen’s Silver Jubilee Trust has supported charities that work with young people in the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man and the Commonwealth. Through its grant-making activity, the Trust has helped hundreds of thousands of young people to find employment, volunteer in their local communities or experience new opportunities that they would not otherwise have enjoyed.
WASHINGTON, APRIL 30TH— R. Emmett Tyrell, Jr., editor of The American Spectator, comments on the recent debate over declassifying top secret documents: “…frankly I am uneasy about this new climate here in Washington. Historically, intelligence documents have been kept from public eye, not just here but throughout the Western world. The idea is that we do not want our enemies to be informed of what we know. David Reynolds’ In Command of History, on how Churchill wrote his World War II memoirs, repeatedly shows Churchill and his opponents in the Labour government cooperating to keep secrets from the public. British intelligence techniques were not ivulged….Intelligence officers within our service have been intimidated by our own government. Foreign intelligence officers who have been sharing intelligence with us abroad are going to be much less forthcoming.”
NEW NAME FOR FULTON
COLUMBIA, MO., MAY 1ST— The Winston Churchill Memorial and Library at Westminster College in Fulton has a new moniker to gain more national recognition. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R.-Mo.) sponsored a House resolution recognizing the property as “America’s National Churchill Museum.” Every member of Missouri’s House delegation co-sponsored the resolution, passed in June.
The memorial was dedicated at Westminster in 1969 in commemoration of Winston Churchill’s historic 1946 speech on the campus. The memorial and library underwent major renovations in 2005 and reopened the following year. (Cover story, FH 128.) In a prepared statement, Westminster College President George Forsythe said the national designation would raise the museum’s profile and help attract visitors from all over the world.
—COLUMBIA DAILY TRIBUNE
CHURCHILL ON BURKE
BOSTON, MAY 23RD— Edmund Burke, the 18th century Irish political theorist, statesman, essayist, orator and philosopher, was a genius looking at the chaos and iniquities of his time and acting against them. He fought for justice, liberty, and responsible government. He fought against the Penal Codes enacted against Catholics, the abuses of the East India Company, government corruption, and the chaos of the French Revolution. He believed that British colonial possessions were a “trust” with one objective, to prepare their colonies for freedom.
Churchill wrote of Burke in “Consistency of Politics” [one of the four essays to be discussed at our San Francisco conference]: “His soul revolted against tyranny, whether it appeared in the aspect of a domineering Monarch and a corrupt Court and Parliamentary system, or whether, mouthing the watchwords of a non-existent liberty, it towered up against him in the dictation of a brutal mob and wicked sect….”
—The Catholic Citizen
WINTER, 1987-88— “Functions in Britain and the USA during last year resulted in eight speeches of varying length….Since publishing all these in Finest Hour would require the bulk of two full issues, we have decided to publish them as a group, in a booklet called Churchill Proceedings.”
—Finest Hour 58.
Since 1987, we have published eight editions of Churchill Proceedings with some of the best speeches and papers we have ever heard: Alistair Cooke, Robert Hardy, Sir Fitzroy Maclean, Grace Hamblin, William F. Buckley, Jr., William Manchester, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. and many more. We have a large supply of most editions and they cost $5 each. Please email or phone the editor, who will be happy to supply them to you. A synopsis of contents is available by email.
Some readers ask why we dropped these separate booklets in favor of publishing Proceedings as part of Finest Hour (color-bordered pages). It was a Hobson’s Choice. The booklets made nice collections, but publication was delayed by as much as three years. Expanding FH to include Proceedings allows us to publish Proceedings within a year of the event, to add illustrations, and to fast-track them to our website.
The final reality was the editor’s time. Finest Hour 58 numbered thirty-two pages. With FH now comprising up to eighty pages and the Chartwell Bulletin added, it was just too much to work up a third separate publication.
We will eventually transfer all the Proceedings to the new website, but the job of transferring is huge and webmaster John Olsen would like to parcel it out. (Volunteers?) If readers have particular speeches or papers they would like to see posted first, email John or the editor, and we will give them priority.
Hillsdale College has reached Volume V and its hitherto rare companion volumes in its noble reprint of Sir Martin Gilbert’s ultimate authority for every phase of Churchill’s life.
Not only are these books affordable (biographic volumes $45, companions $35) but you buy all eight Biographics for $36 each and all twenty (eventually) Companion Volumes for $28 each by subscription.
Better yet, if you subscribe for all thirty volumes, you get the biographic volumes for $31.50 and the companions for $24.50. That includes the three 1500-page companions to Volume V, first editions of which have been trading for up to $1000 each.
How can you not afford these books? Order from the Hillsdale website whttp://xrl.us/ben4r9 or telephone toll-free (800) 437-2268.
Finest Hour 141: Page 10, column 2 (on Don Carmichael), line 4: for “develed” read “delved.” Page 20, column 2, third paragraph, last line: close quote.
Finest Hour 142: Pages 3 and 6: Alderman Ross, as the cover illustration indicates, was Chairman not President of the Early Closing Association. Page 5 Essay, six lines from bottom: for “leadership or” read “leadership of.
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