The Place to Find All Things Churchill

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Finest Hour 156, Autumn 2012

Page 6

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Quotation of the Season

“They never had to face, as we have done, and still do, the possibility of national ruin… World revolution, mortal defeat, national subjugation, chaotic degeneration, or even national bankruptcy, had not laid steel claws upon their sedate, serene, complacent life.”
-WSC, “The Earl of Rosebery,” 1929 (Page 20)


National Treasure

Buckinghamshire, September 15th—Lady Soames, last of Sir Winston and Lady Churchill’s five children and our Patron since 1985, celebrated her 90th birthday with her family. “I have no idea what they have planned,” she told the Evening Standard. What was planned was what daughter Emma called “a majorly noisy, joyous lunch of Soamesian proportions” at the home of her brother Rupert. “How lucky we all are to have such a benign, loving mother and grandmother who has lived an extraordinary life,” Emma continued. “She is the woman for whom the word matriarch was coined.”

Two related events were a September 6th reception at the House of Commons sponsored by The Churchill Center (UK); and a September 20th dinner for the family and charities with which Lady Soames is associated: The Churchill Centre; Churchill College, Cambridge; the National Trust at Chartwell; the Churchill Archives Centre; the Churchill Museum at the Cabinet War Rooms; and the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.

Many happy returns to our longtime Patron, adviser, guide and friend, whose support and encouragement over the years has meant so much to The Churchill Centre, and its editor. RML

Reflections for Voters

London, July 2nd—Randolph Churchill sends us one of those ringing Churchill quotations which always cause us to think we should write them down or spread them around. Written in 1917 by A. McCallum Scott, the first Churchill biographer, it was noted by Michael Howard in The Spectator, 30 June 2012, in a review of Peter Hennessy’s Distilling the Frenzy: Writing the History of One’s Own Times:

“As we were leaving the House last night, he called me into the Commons to take a last look round. All was darkness except a ring of faint light around the gallery. We could dimply see the table but walls and roof were invisible. ‘Look at it,’ he said. ‘This little place is what makes the difference between us and Germany. It is in virtue of this that we shall muddle through to success and for lack of this Germany’s brilliant efficiency leads her to final destruction. This little room is the shrine of the world’s liberties.'”

As often as we criticize our representatives and institutions, Churchill reminds us of what life would be like without them. The best part of Hennessy’s book, Howard writes, is its quotations. That one for certain.

Lessons for Candidates

Los Angeles, August 19th—The Los Angeles Times asked a varied group of writers to recommend books which the U.S. presidential candidates could profit from reading. We knew we could count on the Churchillian writer Mark Helprin for contributing the following:

“There is about as much chance of a presidential candidate profitably reading a real book in the heat of a campaign as there is of a horse in the home stretch of the Kentucky Derby suddenly turning to the Talmud. But let’s say the whole world was on drugs, and one did. He might best fill the vacuum of his lack of contemplation if he read Randolph Churchill’s and Martin Gilbert’s magisterial, 8600-page biography Winston S. Churchill, and perhaps some of the sixteen companion volumes, carefully.

“In the long life of an extraordinarily courageous, deeply educated, spiritually generous literary genius who held thirteen cabinet posts, won the Nobel Prize for Literature, was twice (technically thrice) prime minister, who experienced and/or led Britain through six wars and scores of crises—and, in the greatest conflagration in human history, saved the West—our politician would find an education in statesmanship.

Statesmanship is what we lack, and what we need so that the United States might not have to face the world, as it has for so long now, like a Teletubby trying to run the Iditarod.”

Long Hot Summer

Baton Rouge, August 8th—Swelterers in 2012’s summer were reminded of a similar sizzler seventy years ago when Churchill came to Washington to discuss war strategy with Roosevelt.

Upon landing in Washington, WSC went on to Hyde Park, where Roosevelt had driven to meet him in a Ford V-8 convertible, modified so that Roosevelt could drive it with his polio-stricken legs. The road lay along some precarious cliffs over the Hudson, and WSC “hoped the mechanical devices and brakes would show no defects.” Later, Churchill boarded a presidential train back to Washington, where he noted his pleasure at the accommodations:

“We were heavily escorted to the White House, and I was again accorded the very large air conditioned room, in which I dwelt in comfort at about thirty degrees below the temperature of most of the rest of the building.”

Churchill’s excitement at resting in one of the White House’s few air conditioned rooms is a reminder of how far the world has progressed since 1942. For so many residents of south Louisiana who have come to rely upon air conditioning to get them through the summers here, Churchill’s note of appreciation for climate control seems very much on point.
The Advocate, Baton Rouge

Note: The Advocate refers to a “splendid article” on the 1942 Churchill visit in Humanities, the National Endowment for the Humanities magazine (http://xrl.us/bnj3av), which should be read with caution—Roosevelt did not “pledge” a 1942 Second Front to Molotov)—but it is generally a good summary of Churchill’s visit.

“Young Winston”
Simon Ward 1942-2012

London, July 20th— Simon Ward gained fame with his remarkable portrayal of “Young Winston” in 1972. He starred as “Sir Monty” in the BBC legal drama “Judge John Deed,” and as Bishop Gardiner in “The Tudors.” He also had a role on the big screen in “Zulu Dawn.”

A statement from his agents said: “The son of a car salesman from Beckenham, Kent, Ward wanted to be an actor from an early age, joined the National Youth Theatre at the age of 13, and stayed there for eight years. Ward went on to train at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and became one of the most respected and admired actors of his generation. His big break in the theatre came in 1967 when he played the lead in Joe Orton’s play ‘Loot,’ which led to television and film work. ‘Young Winston’ brought him international prominence and Ward starred in many high-profile films throughout the Seventies and Eighties.” (See review, page 46.)

Mr. Ward leaves his wife Alexandra, three daughters, and fond memories among those who enjoyed his work. Dead at 70. R.I.P.

Douglass-Churchill Ties

Washington, June 27th—Michigan’s Hillsdale College is a famous name, but few probably realize its interesting history. I recently visited their D.C. campus, The Kirby Center, and chatted with Hillsdale President Larry P. Arnn. Among the things I learned:

• An abolitionist college founded prior to the Civil War, Hillsdale was the first of its kind to have a non-discrimination policy within its founding charter. Associated with the anti-slavery cause, Hillsdale boasted the second largest percentage of students (outside of military colleges) to serve for the Union in the Civil War.

• Frederick Douglass, the famed former slave who was a powerful voice against the practice, visited Hillsdale in early 1863 to give a speech to the Ladies Literary Society. “We paid him $55, and made $110 at the gate,” Arnn said.

• Arnn himself is an interesting figure, having once served as an assistant to Sir Martin Gilbert, the official biographer of Sir Winston Churchill. “The college is the publisher of that great official biography now,” Arnn said, “and I met my wife working in [Sir Martin Gilbert’s] house.”

Dr. Arnn is also a longtime associate of and collaborator with The Churchill Centre, and has spoken at its conferences. For links to the full conversation and podcasts on iTunes please see: http://xrl.us/bnc3th.
—Matt K. Lewis In The Daily Caller

Bracken House Sun God

London, July 4th— Gordon Atwell posted photographs of the unique transom at Bracken House, in which Brendan Bracken’s mentor and friend is artfully worked into the zodiac sun: (http://gigapan.com/gigapans/4280/).

Bracken House is named for the founder of the Financial Times and longtime Churchill ally, the wartime Minister of Information Brendan Bracken. The zodiac design by Philip Bentham is in gilt metal and enamel.

Finest Hour 63 reviewed the two Bracken biographies by Andrew Boyle and Charles Lysaght. Mr. Lysacht later wrote “Brendan Bracken: The Fantasist Whose Dreams Came True” in Finest Hour 113, Winter 2001-02, on our website at http://xrl.us/bnfgkc.

Death by Chocolate

London, July 17th— A World War II plot to kill Winston Churchill with a bar of exploding chocolate has been revealed in historic papers. Adolf Hitler’s bomb makers coated explosive devices with a thin layer of rich dark chocolate, then packaged them in expensive-looking black and gold paper. The Germans apparently planned to use secret agents working in Britain discreetly to place the bars, branded “Peters Chocolate,” among luxury items taken into a dining room used by the War Cabinet. The lethal slabs were packed with enough explosives to kill anyone within several metres.

The plot was foiled by British spies who discovered the chocolate was being made and tipped off one of MI5’s senior intelligence chiefs, Lord [Victor] Rothschild, a scientist and key member of the famous banking family. Rothschild asked an illustrator in his unit to draw poster-size images of the chocolate, to warn the public to be on the look-out.

Lord Rothschild’s 4 May 1943 letter to artist Laurence Fish, written from his bunker in Parliament Street, was unearthed by Fish’s wife, journalist Jean Bray, as she sorted through his possessions after the artist’s death at the age of 89 in 2009. Marked SECRET, it reads: “Dear Fish, I wonder if you could do a drawing for me of an explosive slab of chocolate….When you break off a piece of chocolate at one end in the normal way, instead of it falling away, a piece of canvas is revealed stuck into the middle of the piece which has been broken off and is sticking into the middle of the remainder of the slab.”

The letter explained how the mechanism would be activated when the piece of chocolate was pulled sharply, which would also pull the canvas, and Lord Rothschild said he was enclosing a “very poor sketch” done by someone who had seen one of the bars. He asked Fish to indicate in the text on his drawing that a bomb would go off seven seconds after piece of canvas was pulled out.
—Rosa Silverman, Daily Telegraph

Emerging in Tears

New York, August 5th—Tens of thousands of people have been flocking to the Morgan Library and Museum in New York (FH 155:36) for a glimpse of rare memorabilia representing Churchill as an orator and writer.

The displays, including Churchill’s handwritten notes and annotations on some of his famous speeches which lifted people’s spirits during the nation’s darkest hours, have been drawing unprecedented crowds.

More than 30,000 have so far passed by the rarely seen displays—a 50% increase in visitor numbers, a success which has shocked even the curator.

Declan Kiely of the Morgan Library told the Sunday Telegraph: “It’s been thrilling to witness the unprecedented emotional engagement and visceral response of many visitors, some of whom emerge openly weeping after listening to Churchill’s speeches.”

This would not surprise Churchill, who unashamedly wept at scenes of great courage amidst the Blitz. But it is remarkable to hear this of jaded New Yorkers, who have not seen the face of war the way Britons did—though perhaps Churchill reminded them of their own gritty performance after 9/11.

Strait-Jacketed!

London, July 19th—In what were described as “guerrilla raids,” BBC Channel 4 “straitjacketed” the statues of four great Britons: Winston Churchill and Florence Nightingale in London, Charles Darwin in Shrewsbury and Samuel Johnson in Lichfield.

Each figure was “restrained” in a bespoke straitjacket which had the mental illness they are reputed to have had stamped across it. Churchill’s was labeled depression.

The strait-jacketing was carried out to promote Channel 4’s season of prime-time programming challenging mental health stigma and discrimination, “4 Goes Mad,” which started on Monday 23 July. The stunt was also captured as part of a short film aired on BBC4’s “Random Acts.” Commissioning Editor Lina Prestwood said: “Despite the fact one in four of us are likely to experience a mental health condition in our lifetime, misunderstanding and stigma persists.”

We agree that Channel 4 has gone mad, but perhaps not in the way they mean; that they know little about Churchill (certainly nothing in FH 155); and that misunderstanding and stigma do persist where he is concerned.

Busting out All Over

Washington, July 27th— No Churchillian missed the kerfuffle over the 2009 return of the Epstein bust of Churchill, loaned to President G.W. Bush, to the British Embassy, where it has remained ever since (FH 142:7-8, FH 144:4). Now columnist Jake Tapper has revealed that there is still a Churchill bust in the White House! It’s been there all along—and it’s also by Jacob Epstein. (See http://xrl.us/bnihwm.)

This other Epstein, in the White House residence, was a gift to the White House (not to any one president) by the British Embassy during the Johnson Administration (1963-69). We are not making this up.

Nor was the Bush Oval Office bust returned specifically by Obama. James Barbour, British Embassy press secretary, told Tapper it was “lent to the George W. Bush Administration from the UK’s government art collection, for the duration of the presidency.” White House curator William Allman said in 2010 that the decision to return it had been made before Obama even arrived. “It was already scheduled to go back.”

In fact, Obama was offered an extended loan and declined. James Barbour added: “The White House collection has its own Epstein bust of Churchill, which President Obama showed to Prime Minister Cameron when he visited the White House in March….[Now] let’s get on and focus on seeing who wins most medals in the Olympics.”

Amen to that. And thanks to Jake Tapper, who writes: “How did I figure out what was really going on? I never gave in, never, never, never, never. In nothing great or small, large or petty.”

Brand’s Brand: Ignorance

New York, July 6th— British comedian Russell Brand is not expected to be an expert on history, but when on the American FX Channel today he made the statement, under a large photograph of WSC that had been flashed onto the stage backdrop, that “Churchill massacred Irish people,” the statement won approving applause from his audience.

Brand’s attack was clearly premeditated—hence the photo—and to give Brand his due he did preface it with a positive statement about Churchill’s contribution to victory in the Second World War. But what puzzled me was the enthusiastic reaction of the audience numbering several hundred people.

They obviously did not know that “Churchill massacred Irish people”—not least because he didn’t—but now they think they do. To mix up Churchill and Cromwell, which is presumably what Brand and the picture researcher and producer did, is pretty moronic, of course. But why did not a single person in an audience constantly encouraged to interact and even heckle, point out the fact? The two-syllable names start and end with the same letters, but there, surely, the similarities end, especially with regard to Irish policy.

All this simply underlines, of course, what an enormous task The Churchill Centre has in front of it.
—Andrew Roberts

“I Loved That Man”

Warm Springs, GA, September 15th—Dr. Tom Wentland of Columbus, Georgia portrayed Winston Churchill in “FDR: I Love That Man” at Roosevelt’s “Little White House” this weekend. Wentland, who taught at Columbus State University, has portrayed Franklin Roosevelt to great acclaim at Warm Springs for over a decade. As Churchill, he spoke of the friendship between the two giants of history. In addition, Kelly’s Zeroes and the Fort Gordon Signal Corps Museum provided living history as a paratroop unit preparing to jump into Holland in 1944.

The event, sponsored by the non-profit Friends of Roosevelt’s Little White House, is unique in the fact that a best-selling author, an actor portrayal and living history will be held in one location. Brian Roslund, president of the organization, stated that “It is a privilege to provide this type of activity for families in the region and I hope that the community will come out to show their support.” For more information on the Little White House, please telephone (706) 655-5870.

Churchill’s Infallability: The Myth about the Myth

London, July 10th— Daniel Knowles (“Time to scotch the myth of Winston Churchill’s infallibility,” Telegraph Blogfeed, http://xrl.us/bnge7y) says the “national myth” of World War II and Churchill “is being used in an argument about the future of the House of Lords.”

Knowles quoted Liberal Party leader Nick Clegg, who cited Churchill’s 1910 hope that the Lords “would be fair to all parties,” and Sir Winston’s grandson, Nicholas Soames MP, who replied that Churchill “dropped those views and had great reverence and respect for the institution of the House of Lords….But it doesn’t matter. The basis of this argument is mythology, not history.”

Churchill’s view on the Lords was more nuanced than Clegg stated, and certainly did change after enactment of the 1911 Parliament Act, which WSC helped to pass. (It eliminated the Lords’ veto of money bills, restricted their delay of other bills to two years, and reduced the term of a Parliament to five years: http://xrl.us/bnge78.)

What to do about the House of Lords is a matter for the British people and their representatives. Finest Hour‘s task is merely to refute nonsense about Winston Churchill—which we will now respectfully proceed to do, quoting from Mr. Knowles’s treatise:

“We idolise Churchill because we don’t really know anything about him.”

Only sycophants and the ignorant idolise Churchill. But if they do, it’s not because we know nothing about him— given the longest biography in the history of the planet, his own 15-million-word canon, the million documents in the Churchill Archives, the 100 million words written about him, the 37 million Google hits, and so on. Don’t be silly.

“His finest hours aside, Winston Churchill was hardly a paragon of progressive thought.”

Churchill’s views were at times so progressive that he was called a traitor to his class. His own Conservative Party never quite trusted him, because they knew he continued to espouse principles of the Liberal Party he had been part of from 1904 to 1924. To cite examples would bore the reader, so let’s simply say that he favored a National Health Service before the 1945 Labour government, and believed in a system of social security before the Labour Party existed.

“He believed women shouldn’t vote– telling the House of Commons that they are ‘well represented by their fathers, brothers, and husbands.'”

Churchill never said that in the Commons. He wrote it in a private note pasted into his copy of the 1874 Annual Register in 1897, when he was 23—at a time when the majority of British women themselves were opposed to having the vote. Churchill changed his view on women’s suffrage after observing the role women played in World War I—and when he realized, as his daughter later remarked, “how many women would vote for him.”

“He was fiercely opposed to self-determination for the people of the Empire….”

Was the fierce independence Churchill claimed to admire in Canadians, Boers, Zulus, Australians, Sudanese, New Zealanders and Maoris a sham and a façade then? Or has not Mr. Knowles thought about them? Churchill did have a tic about the early Indian independence movement, with its Brahmin roots. Yet in 1935 he declared that Gandhi had “gone very high in my esteem since he stood up for the Untouchables.” And Churchill was proven right that a premature British exit from India would result in a Hindu-Muslim bloodbath. How many died is still unknown.

“…advocating the use of poisoned gas against ‘uncivilized tribes’ in Mesopotamia in 1919.”

This Golden Oldie has been refuted repeatedly for twenty years. The term he used was “lachrymatory gas” (tear gas). He was not referring to anything like chlorine. See: http://xrl.us/bnge94

“His distrust of Hitler was probably motivated by a hatred of Germans.”

Is this the same Churchill who urged that shiploads of food be sent to blockaded Germany after the 1918 armistice, incurring the wrath of fellow politicians who wished to “squeeze Germany until the pips squeaked”? Is this the man who wrote to his wife in 1945: “…my heart is saddened by the tales of masses of German women and children flying along the roads everywhere in 40-mile long columns to the West before the advancing Armies”? Really, Mr. Knowles should be ashamed of himself.

“In 1927, he said that Mussolini’s fascism ‘had rendered service to the whole world,’ while Il Duce himself was a ‘Roman genius.'”

Lots of politicians said favorable things about Mussolini after he restored order to a collapsing Italy in the 1920s. Churchill was among the first to realize and to say publicly what Mussolini really was. Churchill wasn’t always right the first time—but he was usually right in the long run.

“In 1915, he had to resign as First Lord of the Admiralty after the disaster of Gallipoli.”

Churchill had to resign because of the Dardanelles, not Gallipoli. Forcing the Dardanelles was someone else’s idea (hadn’t yet become a disaster); indeed Churchill initially was doubtful about the plan, but he defended it and was a handy scapegoat. He vowed never again to champion “a cardinal operation of war” without plenary authority; hence his assumption of the title “Minister of Defence” in World War II.

“His decision in 1925 to restore Britain to the Gold Standard caused a deep and unnecessary recession.”

There was already a recession. Finest Hour’s Winter 2011-12 issue spent many pages on Churchill, Keynes and the Gold Standard, and why Churchill opted for it. This is a far more complicated subject than Mr. Knowles imagines. Among other things, the Gold Standard was supported by the Bank of England. Churchill saw many of its effects coming; he was also incredibly unlucky in the way things transpired.

“That led directly to the general strike in 1926, in which he was reported to have suggested using machine guns on the miners.”

Mr. Knowles is confusing his red herrings. It was the Welsh miners at Tonypandy in 1911 against whom Churchill is mythologically supposed to have sent troops—but top marks for the “machine guns,” a new twist on the old myth. In fact, Churchill opposed the use of troops, in 1911 and in 1926.

Mr. Knowles concludes: “Our instinctive feeling that a view that Churchill held must be right is a national myth, divorced from reality. Yes, he was, in the most part, a brilliant war leader. His role in the creation of the modern welfare state is also worth remembering. But his views on Lords reform are as irrelevant today as his views on India or female suffrage. This is a debate we should have based on principle, and on a practical evaluation of how well the House of Lords works. Citing dead men only muddies it.” Well, it is our instinctive feeling that opinions by anyone who fails to do basic research only foster a national myth, divorced from reality.

Churchill was not always “a brilliant war leader.” He did help to create the modern welfare state—and warned against its potential excesses. His views on Lords reform are not irrelevant, but they require more study than we read in the Telegraph blogpost. His views on India are still relevant to certain Indians who have written in our pages. (As one of them wrote, the Axis Powers had quite different ideas in mind for India from the old British Raj.)

On female suffrage, ask the women who voted for him. Citing live Telegraph bloggers only muddies the waters.
—Editor

Mah Jongg

We are asked if Churchill ever played the traditional Chinese game. His long-time secretary, Eddie Marsh, played the game with the King of Portugal, and may have taught Churchill, who seems to have taken it up during its height of popularity in the 1920s. An amusing account is in Robert Lewis Taylor, Mr. Churchill (1952), 51: “Churchill’s unsatisfactory childhood doubtless gave him an urge to cling to exceptionally youthful ways. Several seasons past, at the height of the English mah-jongg craze, he attended the opening of the play Saint Joan. At a point when the character Dunois stood on the riverbank intoning ‘West Wind, West Wind, West Wind!’ the audience was amazed to hear a hoarse voice crying ‘Pong!’ issue from the dark recesses of the Churchill box.”

Errata

FH 148, page 16: In the chronology of Churchill’s wartime journeys, the second entry under 1943 should read 5 May-5 June. Under 1944, the date 12-23 June should read 20-23 July and should be indented in bold face.

FH 155, page 36: The interactive touch screen pictured is not at the Morgan Library Exhibit but at the Cabinet War Rooms, London. Our apologies for the confusion.

Relics of Wartime Flights: “Berwick” Flies Home

London, July 8th— Churchill’s flight back across the Atlantic in 1942, after meeting with Roosevelt over war strategy, was done in the Boeing Flying Boat “Berwick” (see FH 148).

Now a rare family archive has captured the intimate moments of the Prime Minister’s flight. At least one famous photo exists showing Churchill at the controls of the plane, but this new trove also pictures him at dinner and with accompanying colleagues, such as First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Dudley Pound, Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles Portal, Minister for Aircraft Production Lord Beaverbrook, and his doctor Charles Wilson, later Lord Moran. They belonged to Flight Officer Ron Buck.

Flying “Berwick” was the celebrated pilot Captain John Kelly-Rogers, who needed his wits about him when the plane went too near the French town of Brest—a heavily defended German naval base. A Luftwaffe squadron was scrambled to intercept the plane, but fortunately couldn’t find it. “Berwick” flew the last two hours on radio silence and ultimately approached England from an unexpectedly southern direction. Churchill later recorded: “Six Hurricanes from Fighter Command were ordered to shoot us down…but failed in their mission.”

“Berwick” Photographs and “The Pod”

Flight Officer Captain R.G. Buck was an amateur photographer. His collection remained in his family for the seventy years since the flight. The archive includes a signed dinner menu (shrimp cocktail, cold buffet, chicken, ham, beetroot, Bartlett pears with cream and coffee). And there is a cartoon mocking the Luftwaffe for failing to shoot down “Berwick.”

The archive emerged at an Antiques Roadshow program, where it was taken by Buck’s nephew Miles Buck, who lives in the New Zealand north island town of Tauranga. It is being sold by Art and Object in Auckland with an estimate of NZ$23,750, about £12,000.
—Chris Parsons, Mail Online

The PM’s Flight Pod

In January 2012 it was reported: “Churchill Used In-Flight Pod to Light up, Stay Alive” (http://xrl.us/bnq98h). Alas there is much less to this story than the fascinating headline implies.

Of the many technologies developed during World War II, few were as well-intentioned as a strange device designed to allow Churchill to fly in comfort at high altitudes. Churchill’s doctor, Lord Moran, was concerned that if the Prime Minister flew above about 8000 feet, the lack of oxygen would be bad for his heart. Aircraft pressurization—something we take for granted today—was in its very early stages then. None of the aircraft in which Churchill flew before 1945 was pressurized—thus they generally flew below 8000 feet, save for momentary ventures higher to avoid mountains. (For background on Churchill’s wartime air travel and aircraft, see Christopher H. Sterling, “Getting There: Churchill’s Wartime Journeys,” and related articles in Finest Hour 148, Autumn 2010.)

Flying higher was not only safer but more comfortable: there is less turbulence above, say, 20,000 feet. As much to the point, anti-aircraft guns of the period began to lose accuracy as airplane altitudes increased. Thus the wizards at the Institute of Aviation Medicine (part of the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough, west of London) sought a means of allowing the Prime Minister to fly at greater altitude.

As Churchill’s Avro York transport “Ascalon” was coming into service in mid-1943, IAM technicians created what Jerrard Tickell called “a transparent, sarcophagus-like container inside which Mr. Churchill was expected to repose, work, smoke and sleep in flight. It was pressurized and had an elaborate intercom system.” (See Tickell, Ascalon: The Story of Sir Winston Churchill’s Wartime Flights, 1943-1945 (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1964), 79.

Made of aluminum, it featured eight clear plastic windows to reduce claustrophobia. The device could retain the air pressure of 5000 feet, thought to be safe for Churchill. But when the assembled pod turned out to be too large to fit into “Ascalon’s” fuselage without dismantling the airplane, it was rejected out of hand.

A year later, as the finishing touches were being put into Churchill’s larger VIP transport, an American C-54 (military version of the DC-4 airliner), the pod reappeared— briefly. While it would—just—fit into the larger (but still unpressurized) airplane, it was rejected as too heavy to be practical. (According to “Anglo-American Skymaster” in Flight, 29 November 1945, 581-84.)

Churchill never used the pod designed for him, though many postwar references, lately on the Internet, suggest that he did. Nor do we know what happened to it. Had he actually used it, it almost certainly would have been preserved, but in all likelihood it was quickly scrapped.
—Christopher H. Sterling

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