DESPATCH BOX: FINEST HOUR 146, SPRING 2010
It was thoughtful of Lady Soames to let you use the wonderfully introspective painting of her father in youth for the cover of FH 144. It has a touch of Manet’s and Whistler’s styles, and as an art appreciator, I find it a little sad the artist couldn’t be recognized. I find this study exemplary of Sir Winston’s youthfulness that also portrays the diligence of his writing and studiousness in that era of his illustrious career.
DONALD ABRAMS, HERMOSA BEACH, CALIF.
Publisher’s response: Knowing we have difficulty finding good color for our covers, our Patron generously has sent us copies of several of her own paintings. Although this one is signed indecipherably, we have no information about the artist. We wonder if it was done from life or a photograph, but have never seen a similar photo. I think the artist captured Churchill’s delicate hands very artfully. —BFL
FH 144 page 25 seems to show two different Churchill “turnips” (pocket watches). The one at the top with subdials is keyless and lacks Breguet’s characteristic hands, and the other at the bottom has a plain pendant and associated chain. Are they both by Breguet, or just the lower one?
ANDREW LUMSDEN, UK (VIA EMAIL)
• Breguet sponsored a London dinner for The Churchill Centre and is the manufacturer of WSC’s pocket watch, which is pictured in the program. The case’s reverse bears a Spencer-Churchill coat of arms and is very old; perhaps Breguet used different hands then. Attached to the ring in the lower photo is not a watch but a small round gold case for holding gold Sovereigns. —Ed.
GET YOUR IRISH UP
I found the de Valera articles in FH 145 extremely irritating. To compare a blinkered bigot like de Valera to Churchill is absurd and distasteful. De Valera could maintain Irish neutrality only under Anglo-American protection for which he showed not the slightest sign of gratitude. His infamous visit of condolence to the German Embassy on Hitler’s death was a grotesque insult to the Allies and the victims of Nazism, and in particular the many Irishmen who fought and died in the British Armed Forces and Merchant Marine during the war (who are not even mentioned in either of these articles). However, I did learn about David Gray, the U.S. Representative in Dublin, and what a splendid man he must have been.
HENRY G. KEOWN-BOYD, BROMYARD, HEREF.
• FH 142-145 aired the broad range of opinion on Churchill and Ireland at our 2008 Boston conference, including Irish contributions in WW2. Finest Hour Online contains still more. In such accounts, comparisons of WSC and de Valera were inevitable; historians have compared Churchill and Hitler without endorsing the latter. And we need to accept that de Valera was as much a patriot as Churchill.
We published the two de Valera papers together because one balances the other. For instance, while Ferriter justifies de Valera’s “condolence visit” for expressing “the seriousness with which he took neutrality,” Kimball calls it “embarrassing and disgraceful.” Kimball notes that (1) Roosevelt did not rein-in Gray’s activities; (2) Irish neutrality was maintained not by “American protection” but because once the convoy situation had stabilized it didn’t really matter; (3) de Valera’s Government placed no barriers on Irish enlistment in the British military; and (4) Ireland secretly but effectively worked with British Intelligence. The real effect of Irish neutrality was negligible; the emotional impact seems to have been far greater, and longer lasting. —Ed.
I enjoyed “The Scotland We Know” (FH 144: 5) and Fred Glueckstein’s piece on Murrow (page 26). I was surprised not to see A.M. Sperber’s Murrow: His Life and Times, in the endnotes.
PARKER H. LEE III, LYNCHBURG, VA
Thanks for “The Scotland We Know.” A minor point: Admiral Beatty took the Grand Fleet, including five American battleships, to sea on 21 November 1918, not in 1919. My great-uncle, John R. Menzies, lived in North Berwick, East Lothian, in a house which backed onto the West Links. He walked up to the eighteenth tee to watch the great armada go by on its way back to its anchorage. I agree with your thesis that we Scots pulled above our weight in both wars. Thanks for bringing back many happy memories of motoring days in Scotland. We always enjoyed the road to Edinburgh through Glencoe, which runs in an almost straight line across Rannoch Moor, arguably the most dramatic drive in all of Scotland.
DAVID RAMSAY, INDIAN WELLS, CALIF.
Scots, wha’hae wi’ Wallace bled,
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led,
Welcome to your gory bed
Or to victorie!
ROBERT BURNS (1759-1796)
David Freeman (FH 144: 36-37) misunderstands my books. He fails to appreciate that, based on Churchill’s own writings at the time, his 1921 concerns over Iraq (Churchill’s Folly) were purely financial. I disagree that “right of conquest” gives carte blanche to the victor: yet it was open to WSC to reject a single Iraqi state, and instead make the three Ottoman vilayets into separate countries, including Kurdistan.
Likening my Flawed Genius of World War II to Pat Buchanan’s Churchill bashing is a distortion. My main disagreement with Churchill is clearly his rejection of Marshall’s and Eisenhower’s plans for D-Day in April 1943. To agree with Churchill is to disagree with these two great generals—as well as to denigrate the “Greatest Generation”: contrary to Churchill and Ismay, British soldiers were not feeble, and American GIs were at least the equals of the Germans.
Walter Dunn’s Second Front Now (1980) painstakingly shows that there were sufficient landing craft by 1943, that the issue was where to place them (Europe or the Pacific). The Americans believed in attacking the main enemy directly. Churchill rightly favoured the traditional British peripheral approach in 1939-41, but the full might of the USA made direct attack the better option, as Marshall and Eisenhower appreciated.
Churchill entitled his last volume of war memoirs Triumph and Tragedy because he realised we had only delivered the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe from one dictator to another. Tragically, Churchill was hoist on his own petard by Soviet conquests, which would never have happened had Eisenhower and Marshall prevailed.
Max Hastings’ new biography shows that Churchill got two big things right: the evil of Hitler and the fact that only the USA could save Britain. In 1938-41 Churchill was effectively the only senior British politician to realise this. The tragedy is that he never grasped the fighting and logistical capability of the American military. If he had, he would have seen what Eisenhower and Marshall saw: that we could have won World War II much earlier, assuring his aspirations for the peoples of Central Europe. And that is what my book is all about.
—CHRISTOPHER CATHERWOOD, ST. EDMUNDS’ COLLEGE CAMBRIDGE
David Freeman replies: When discussing D-Day we need to consider Canada, an independent country which did not have to participate and had its own domestic set of problems with respect to the war. Christopher Catherwood does not touch on this so I wish to remind him.
After the Dieppe Raid fiasco in August 1942, Canadians had strong reasons not to support another poorly planned and badly supported crosschannel attack. And British General Montgomery made a habit of telling his troops that he valued their lives above all else and would not risk them in any operation not supported by overwhelming force.
A common error by revisionist historians is to judge by hindsight, discounting contemporary realities. The prime responsibility of Churchill, Roosevelt and Mackenzie King was not the welfare of East-Central Europeans but defending their own countries by defeating Hitler with minimal losses.
Not only did Generals Marshall and Eisenhower fail to convince their professional counterparts in Britain (including Churchill) of the viability of a cross-channel invasion before 1944; they failed to convince the most important judge of all: President Roosevelt—who would have been the person answering to voters and next-of-kin for any resulting disaster.
I believe this debate can be settled with a simple gun-to-the-head test: You are an Allied soldier, sailor,airman or marine. You are part of a seaborne invasion of a powerfully defended continent. Which date do you think offers you a better chance of survival: 1943 or 1944?
A friend asked me to pass on that he finds the last two issues a great improvement on the immediate previous issues. He felt there was more comment about interesting matters; less “geeky” minutiae and fewer arguments in the letter pages with one academic slanging off another.
JOHN HIRST, STEVINGTON, BEDS.
• We’d prefer people to air their views direct, but when this complaint first surfaced we reviewed the nineteen letters in the past four issues. Three were by academics. The proportion is similar in this issue. Academic papers are here for important reasons. See “Churchill Proceedings,” FH 143: 10, column 2. —Ed.
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