Finest Hour 145, Winter 2009-10
Quotation of the Season
“Well, then, you must remember that the House of Lords have very lately made a public-spirited offer of the highest importance. They have offered to take over the whole business of governing the country. They have offered to save us the trouble and the worry and the vexation and the anxiety of governing ourselves. The only thing they do not offer to take over is the expense. But everything else is to be done for us. We put the penny in the slot. They do the rest.”
—WSC. SUN HALL, LIVERPOOL, 8 DECEMBER 1909
MG Adds PC
LONDON, SEPTEMBER 5TH— The British government has set up an Inquiry into British involvement in the Iraq War. Appointed to the panel is longtime honorary member and Churchill biographer Sir Martin Gilbert, in consequence of which he has been made a member of the Privy Council. He is now The
Unless the prefix is omitted for any reason, it is incorrect to add “PC” to one’s post-nominal letters because this honor is already indicated by “The Rt. Hon.” (An exception is that peers, who may already use the Rt. Hon. prefix to denote their peerages, may add PC after their names to make this status clear.)
It may also be appropriate to explain (in answer to periodic questions we receive) that although Sir Martin has a knighthood, it is not a KBE (Knight-Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire). He was honoured in 1995 with the rank of Knight Bachelor, which does not normally carry post-nominal letters. He therefore retains the letters CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order, etc.), awarded in 1990. —PHC
Those Old Smoothies
LONDON, AUGUST 31ST— William Rees-Mogg, in a review of British Ambassador Nevile Henderson’s “failed mission” to Germany in the late 1930s, suggests that perhaps Neville Chamberlain was the right Prime Minister in 1937, as Winston Churchill was in 1940:
In 1937, Henderson was invited by Hermann Goering to stay at his hunting lodge and shoot stags. They discussed Anglo-German relations. “His idea of an understanding between Great Britain and Germany was an agreement limited to two clauses,” Henderson wrote. “In the first, Germany would recognise the supreme position of Great Britain overseas and undertake to put all her resources at the disposal of the British Empire in case of need. By the second, Great Britain would recognise the pre-dominant continental position of Germany in Europe, and undertake to do nothing to hinder her legitimate expansion.”
It was so easy. Just “do nothing to hinder her legitimate expansion.” The vision of a “non-hindering Britain” surviving with her liberties intact on a Nazi continent is so enticing—but too easy, as Larry Arnn once remarked, to be good.
Churchill had the measure of this notion when he said on 5 October 1938:
There is no difficulty at all in having cordial relations between the peoples. Our hearts go out to them. But they have no power. But never will you have friendship with the present German Government. You must have diplomatic and correct relations, but there can never be friendship between the British democracy and the Nazi power, that power which spurns Christian ethics, which cheers its onward course by a barbarous paganism, which vaunts the spirit of aggression and conquest, which derives strength and perverted pleasure from persecution, and uses, as we have seen, with pitiless brutality the threat of murderous force. That power cannot ever be the trusted friend of the British democracy.
Nevile Henderson and William Rees-Mogg, those old smoothies, have their counterparts today, who urge caution and not jumping to conclusions when a clearly declared religious fanatic shoots innocents at an army base. There are thought-provoking comments at the end of this article on The Times‘ website. See http://xrl.us/bffy8b. —Ed.
New Bletchley Cover
BLETCHLEY PARK, BUCKS., OCTOBER 3RD—For the Churchill weekend starting today, Bletchley Park Post Office prepared a special commemorative coin cover. The coin on the face is a 1965 Churchill Crown. A limited edition stamp featuring the “Station X” mansion was postmarked “Bletchley Park.” The background design is the Union Flag and Stars and Stripes in a wartime setting. Images of Churchill and Eisenhower complete the design, which represents the beginning of the “special relationship,” fostered by the code-breaking operations undertaken at Bletchley Park. The cover can be viewed at www.bletchleycovers.com.
The price is £7.50 plus post and packing charges for mail order. It is only available direct from Bletchley Park Post Office, The Mansion, Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes, MK3 6EB, England, telephone (01604) 272690 or 631797.
WSC in the BNP?
LONDON, OCTOBER 23RD— The British National Party’s exposure to a nationwide audience provoked outrage last night as its leader reiterated his claim that Churchill would have joined his party.
Nick Griffin, whose appearance on the programme “Question Time” prompted protests at the BBC Television Centre, declared that his party would have been home for Churchill because of WSC’s warnings about mass immigration and foreigners “coming for benefits.”
He added that what Churchill had said about the dangers of Muslim fundamentalism would by today’s standards have been called Islamophobic. He said that the whole of the effort of the two world wars had been to defend British freedoms and sovereignty which the Government was ceding to the European Union in Brussels.
Mr. Griffin said he was not a Nazi and never had been. Asked by David Dimbleby, the presenter, if he had ever denied the Holocaust, he replied: “I do not have a conviction for Holocaust denial.” Throughout the screening there were protests from the audience. One British Asian asked him where he expected him to go, and told Mr. Griffin he would be surprised how many people would gladly have a “whip-round” to send him and his supporters to the “colourless” South Pole where he would be happy. Ed Lousley, 25, of Camberwell, South London, said: “Griffin didn’t get a particularly good reception. Gradually the audience got tired of his comments. There were sighs of boredom when he started talking.”
OPINION: We do not stoop to proclaiming what Churchill would do, but in this case it’s not hard to imagine that far from joining the BNP, he would be fighting them, as he hated and despised fascism and was the first to awaken the world to its evil. He interned the leadership and a large proportion of the membership of the British Union of Fascists in May 1940, and they were the ideological forerunners of today’s BNP. The word HITLER tattooed on the chest of Griffin’s bodyguard tells us all we need to know about what Churchill’s attitude would have been. It is disgusting that the BNP have tried posthumously to co-opt Churchill to their cause, and Griffin was rightly ridiculed and jeered when he tried to defend it. —ANDREW ROBERTS
Clementine at E’Burgh
EDINBURGH, JULY 25TH— The Edinburgh Festival included another production by Hugh Whitemore, playwright for the two Ridley Scott documentaries “The Gathering Storm” (FH 115:32) and “Into the Storm” (FH 143: 44). WSC’s claim that his most brilliant achievement was to persuade his wife to marry him was given ample support in Whitemore’s play “My Darling Clemmie.”
Following the success of “The Gathering Storm,” which focused on the turbulent nature of the marriage between Churchill and his wife, Whitemore’s new production was a one-woman show. Through the recollections of an older Clementine, we are guided through the emotional and political harmony of their early years together, as well as the increasingly fraught years of the relationship as wider political forces, not least Churchill’s rise to power and the change this brings to his personal manner, penetrate the intimate bond between them.
Rohan McCullough gave a stead-fast performance as “Pussycat” to Churchill’s “Mr. Pug,” striking a highly convincing balance between devotion and diplomacy in her approach to her husband, a man who, like most workaholics, emerges as almost impossible to live with. A telling moment comes when Clementine is asked how WSC manages to have so many interests. She replies: “He never does anything he doesn’t want to do, and always has someone else to clear up the mess afterwards.”
Whitemore’s dexterity as a play-wright surfaces as he manages subtly to draw the delicate negotiations and sacrifices found at the heart of their relationship, with nearly all concessions, predictably, coming from Clementine. Churchill, it seems, held as little faith in appeasement privately as he did politically. There are perhaps one too many teary-eyed wistful moments, which tend to dull in their emotional impact by the play’s close. Nevertheless, it is a moving production of a complex marriage told with skilful lucidity. —DAILY TELEGRAPH
Somervell Prize 2009
In Finest Hour 142, Professor David Dilks wrote of Churchill’s oft-acknowledged debt to Robert Somervell, the Harrow master who had taught him English. (Somervell’s son served in WW2 as Attorney-General, then became Home Secretary in the caretaker government of May 1945.) “Perhaps our Centre should institute a Somervell Prize,” Dilks wrote, “for we all have ample cause to bless this splendid teacher.”
The Finest Hour Journal Award, which we have always thought a clumsy title, is awarded for the best article in the past year. We renamed it the “Somervell Prize” in honor of Robert Somervell and the mastery of the language he conveyed to the young Winston.
The 2009 Somervell Prize for the outstanding original article in the past year’s editions of Finest Hour (140-43, Summer 2008 through Spring 2009) goes to David Jablonsky for “Preemptive Use of Force: The Churchill Experience and the Bush Doctrine,” in Finest Hour 141, Winter 2008-09. Without speculating on what Churchill would think of Bush’s Iraq venture, Jablonsky provides incisive and timely thoughts on earlier comparable situations, and how Churchill resolved or reacted to them.
Previous winners of the Somervell Prize were:
2003: Paul K. Alkon, Lawrence of Arabia features, FH 119, Summer 2003.
2004: Larry P. Arnn, “Never Despair,” FH 122, Spring 2004.
2005: Robert Pilpel, “‘What an Extraordinary People’: What Churchill Owed the Great Republic,” FH 125, Winter 2004-05.
2006: Terry Reardon, “Winston Churchill and Mackenzie King,” FH 130, Spring 2006.
2007: David Dilks, “The Queen and Mr. Churchill,” FH 135, Summer 2007.
2008: Philip and Susan Larson, “Hallmark’s Churchill Connection,” FH 137, Winter 2007-08.
LONDON, NOVEMBER 11TH— The vessel that carried Sir Winston Churchill’s coffin on its last journey on the Thames in 1965 was back on the river this morning. This time the motor vessel Havengore led a flotilla of small ships for an Armistice Day Remembrance service on the water.
She left from St. Katharine’s Pier by Tower Bridge at 10 a.m., passing the Tower of London, to reach the Houses of Parliament by 10:40 a.m. for the service. As Big Ben chimed 11, a two-minute silence was observed before the service continued with a wreath cast onto the water as a bugler sounded The Last Post.
Armistice Day, when the guns fell silent in the Great War on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, took on special significance this year. The last living British serviceman to have seen active service at the front was Henry Allingham, originally from Clapton in East London, who died earlier this year at the age of 113.
The wreath-laying on the Thames coincided with a national service of commemoration with HM the Queen at Westminter Abbey, while an RAF Hercules flew over the river, dropping poppies in memory of those who fell.
The Havengore ran the same route as the State Funeral of Sir Winston Churchill: from Tower Bridge past the Tower of London, City Hall, HMS Belfast, London Bridge, the Golden Hinde replica, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Southwark Bridge, Tate Gallery, Blackfriars Bridge, Waterloo Bridge, Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank, Hungerford Bridge, the RAF Memorial on the Embankment, the London Eye, County Hall and Westminster Bridge, to the bank opposite the Houses of Parliament. —MIKE BROOKE
Churchill at Auction
LONDON, NOVEMBER 18TH— A Churchill bust and a George III beechwood chair from Chartwell brought double their estimates in a Bonham’s auction today.
Sculpted by Sir William Reid Dick, an 11-inch-high bronze bust estimated at up to £5000 made an astonishing £12,000. The Royal Academy commissioned it in 1942, but reputedly, only after the intervention of George VI was Churchill, always an impatient poser, persuaded to sit for it.
WSC’s open armchair with an arched top-rail, estimated around £1000, made £2,040. Following his death, the chair was sold as part of his estate by Knight, Frank and Rutley. The sale, in January 1966, included pictures, drawings and prints, European and Asian porcelain, antique and reproduction furniture. It was purchased by the antique dealer John Day of London.
Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world’s oldest and largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the 2001 merger of Bonhams & Brooks, Phillips, and Neale UK. —BROMLEY TIMES & FH
LONDON, NOVEMBER 6TH— The Churchill family has asked the Church of Scientology to stop using images of Sir Winston in its recruitment literature. The organisation has been circulating promotional material which includes photographs of Churchill along with quotes from his speeches, aiming to create new British Scientology facilities.
The “church,” founded in 1953 by L. Ron Hubbard, was last week convicted of defrauding its followers in France, where it is classed as a sect.
Nicholas Soames, Conservative MP for Mid-Sussex and a grandson of Sir Winston, has written to the group asking it to stop using his grandfather’s words and picture. “I expect them to desist from using my grandfather’s image immediately. I don’t know if anything else can be done, but I have written to them and we will see what happens,” said the former armed forces minister. The church defended its use of Churchill in its materials and accused detractors of “trying to stir up mischief….The use of iconic images, including those available in the public domain, to add colour is of course done very commonly.”
Readers of Finest Hour and the Chartwell Bulletin will have noticed an Editorial Board added to the masthead: not exactly news, since they have been advising us all along, but something we have now formalized.
The headlines were different when Finest Hour produced its first thermofaxed issue, but Sir Winston Churchill drove it, as he does today. In 1968 the Soviets were shutting down Czechoslovakia, as the Germans did thirty years before. Internet, email, mobile phones and faxes were unheard of, and we communicated by post at 6¢ or 9p a letter.
Reflecting the profound changes in historiography over the past forty years, the top stories today have changed: the Soviets are gone in the wake of a massive communications revolution; Churchill is challenged by revisionists, revelations in long-secret documents, hundreds of books and websites, in ways undreamed of at the time of his death. But Winston Churchill’s inspiration, wisdom and incredible life are still there, clearer than ever, still touching the lives of anyone who cares enough to listen. And Finest Hour, buttressed by our website, still keeps “the memory green and the record a ccurate.”
We could not do so without the generous amounts of time provided by our sources and contributors. Our writers and reviewers are the best at what they do. Scholars and other experts spend hours explaining their research and findings. They help check for accuracy and, along with our editors, suggest story ideas for these pages and online at winstonchurchill.org. That working relationship has always been implicit in everything we do.
Continuing this tradition of close collaboration, we have now formalized our editorial board. On page 4 you will see the names of those friends of Finest Hour who help us bring you the best source of information about Churchill’s life, and how it affects our lives. They comment on story proposals and manuscripts; offer expertise for planning issues; they critique and challenge us, holding us up to the scrutiny that is essential if we are to excel. And they will, I trust, help to select my successor.
In responding to my invitation to formalize this board, many of them offered warm words about Finest Hour, telling me how it has inspired them as readers or reminding me of its critical role in informing its audience, especially on the Worldwide Web. That is a daunting level of expectation, but in these collaborators we have powerful means to succeed. Our goal, as ever before, is to serve our readers. RML
JANUARY, 2009— Following Hillel Halkin’s “The Jewish State & Its Arabs” in this month’s edition of Commentary (see also “Leading Churchill Myths,” page 20), a reader wrote to say that Churchill “overreacted” to the assassination of his friend, Lord Moyne (Walter Guinness) the British Minister Resident in Cairo, and his driver, by members of the Jewish Stern Gang, on 5 November 1944.
Churchill was a friend of the Jews, we wrote to Commentary, but not an uncritical friend, and he deplored terrorism regardless of its source. Following the killings WSC suggested that the Colonial Secretary, Oliver Stanley, should impress upon Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann “that it was incumbent on the Jewish Agency to do all in their power to suppress these terrorist activities.”
On November 17th, Churchill took up the matter in the House of Commons, 17 November 1944 (Churchill by Himself, New York: Public Affairs, 2008, 442):
If our dreams for Zionism are to end in the smoke of assassins’ pistols, and our labours for its future to produce only a new set of gangsters worthy of Nazi Germany, many like myself will have to reconsider the position we have maintained so consistently and so long in the past. If there is to be any hope of a peaceful and successful future for Zionism, these wicked activities must cease, and those responsible for them must be destroyed root and branch.
Quotes Mark II
NEW YORK, NOVEMBER 5TH— Your editor began a top to bottom review of all 4000 quotations in Churchill by Himself for the Second Edition, coming from Public Affairs in 2010. Churchill by Himself is different from other quote books through its correctibility. Quotes can be checked only because there is a reference to each entry. Publishers were chosen who keep books in print and welcome updates.
Any work as complicated as this is a constant running battle between conflicting sources, experts who disagree with each other, quotes verified that were not originally thought to be Churchill’s and vice versa, transcription and scanning errors, and inexorable deadlines. The most critical corrections are posted on my website (http://xrl.us/bfw847). A master list is being prepared and reader comments are welcome (email [email protected]).
I am grateful for the many interested persons who helping. My special thanks to my publishers, who share my sense of responsibility; and to David Dilks, not only for his fastidious note-taking, but his understanding and lack of pedantry: qualities which, I have come to learn, are rare.—RML
Fleming Myth Update
CHAPEL HILL, N.C., NOVEMBER 4TH— The tall story that Sir Alexander Fleming twice saved Churchill’s life (by rescuing him from drowning as a boy and with penicillin in 1943) has roared around the Internet for years. Ken Hirsch has used Google Book Search to track what is likely the first appearance of this myth: the December 1944 issue of Coronet magazine, pages 17-18, in the story, “Dr. Lifesaver,” by Arthur Gladstone Keeney. Mr. Hirsch identified Arthur Keeney (1893-1955), as a Florida and Washington D.C. newsman who served in the Office of War Information. “Since Keeney’s story was published only a year after Churchill was stricken (prominently) with pneumonia,” Mr. Hirsch writes, “I think it may be the first appearance of the myth.”
Our “Leading Myth” on this subject has been updated on our website: http://xrl.us/bf2sqe.
John Ramsden 1947-2009
ADAPTED FROM THE DAILY TELEGRAPH, LONDON, 21 OCTOBER 2009— Professor John Ramsden, who died on October 16th aged 61, was a key historian and a scholarly writer. The base for his hugely productive academic career was Queen Mary College at the University of London, where he taught for almost four decades until last year. By the time he left he had established himself as the preeminent scholar in his field, writing three of the six volumes of Longmans’ History of the Conservative Party. His Churchill masterwork, Man of the Century: Winston Churchill and His Legend Since 1945, occupies an unimitated niche in Churchill studies, outlining how the great man’s persona grew, in part through his own efforts, but touching every other aspect, including the rise of The Churchill Centre.
But as in all his work Ramsden did not confine himself to personalities or formalities, and was alert to relevant social context: the dining clubs, country-house gatherings, electoral structures and constituency loyalties which enabled the party to thrive in a mass democracy.
The roots of John Ramsden’s Conservatism lay in Sheffield, where he was born on 12 November 1947. The Tory Party was strong in his part of the city, and he retired to his childhood home in 2008.
John won a scholarship from the local primary school to King Edward VII School, Sheffield, and reached Corpus Christi College, Oxford, in 1966. His first-class degree in Modern History surprised nobody, and after three years at Nuffield College, Oxford, he submitted his doctoral thesis in 1974 on Conservative Party organisation between 1910 and 1930.
He was not a flamboyant writer, but his enthusiasm for his subject, brimming over in his conversation, ensured that he coined the vigorous phrase when needed. The Conservative Party before 1914 “resembled less a unitary structure than a collection of private franchises”; Bonar Law’s leadership “was… a form of pragmatic extremism, extreme action…in the cause of more limited objectives”; Baldwin was “a complex character who chose to masquerade as a simple one.”
Ramsden crowned his dedication to the Conservative movement in 1998 with his substantial survey of its history since 1830, An Appetite for Power.
At Queen Mary, Ramsden twice acted as head of History, from 1988 to 1990 and 1998 to 2000. A staunch republican, he nevertheless spent an enjoyable day showing the Queen around the new arts faculty building in 1992.
Ramsden’s was a career of enormous energy: teaching, lecturing, examining and travelling worldwide to conferences and seminars. While his learning could, on occasion, be intimidating, history was for him, as for A.J.P. Taylor (who had examined his thesis), fun. He also showed a practical interest in drama and film, and was a devoted fan of Sheffield United Football Club.
His drive and energy had been sparked, in part, by the incessant inquisitiveness about history he had shown from a very young age. But the Methodism he shared with both his parents was also a factor. This, and his Yorkshire back-ground, lent him his characteristic combination of blunt speech and kindness to individuals.
His Methodism also reinforced his courage after he contracted cancer. His illness, bravely borne, ended his hopes of watching cricket, walking, and yet more and wider contributions to scholarship.
Adviser and Friend: John By His Colleagues
The terrible news that John Ramsden had died left Ellen and me in a state of shock. We were lucky enough to have been with him at Churchill events far and wide, and visited him and his wife Sue in London, going together to restaurants and plays. When John was in Los Angeles in 2007, he came to our home for dinner with other academic friends. He was always wonderfully good company. His books and presentations taught in ways that were strikingly original, engaging, and pleasant—rare qualities. I’m especially grateful to John for the learning, tact, and generosity he brought to his work as a press reader for the manuscript of my book, Winston Churchill’s Imagination. Very few readers take the trouble to be so helpful, and fewer still are tactful. His many precise suggestions allowed me to improve the book greatly. His knowledge of fiction, drama, and film history, in addition to his bailiwick of political and social history, amazed me. In academic life he was the gold standard.
—PROFESSOR PAUL ALKON UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
A man never dies as long as he is remembered. We will remember John as the longtime vice-chairman of our Board of Academic Advisers; and for his unique masterpiece, Man of the Century, on the rise of the Churchill legend—which, with his famous thoroughness, includes the origins of The Churchill Centre.
—RICHARD M. LANGWORTH, EDITOR
It is very sad that John was only 61. In April 2007 he and his wife Sue, herself a considerable intellect, brought twelve of our far-flung members together in Melbourne, which no one else had ever accomplished. Some travelled 1000 miles to hear John speak and sign copies of his book, Man of the Century. They were with us until past midnight. John was in Australia to interview our then-Prime Minister, John Winston Howard.
—ALFRED JAMES CHURCHILL CENTRE AUSTRALIA
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