February 12, 2015

Finest Hour 162, Spring 2014

Page 5

Quotation of the Season

I am convinced that there is nothing [The Russians] admire so much as strength, and there is nothing for which they have less respect than weakness…. We cannot afford… To work on narrow margins, offering temptations to a trial of strength.”

Hitler Wins One

MOUNTAINVIEW, CALIF, DECEMBER 16TH— Silicon Valley proclaims Adolf Hitler seventh on a new table of significant persons, while Sir Winston Churchill ranks a mere 37th, according to Tom Kelly in the Daily Mail. One wonders where Hitler would rank if Churchill hadn’t been around in 1940.

The list was created by a Google engineer using similar systems to the way the search engine ranks web pages. The program mainly draws on how significant someone’s entry is on internet encyclopedia Wikipedia as well as mentions on online newspaper reports, books published on the web and other parts of the Internet. (Must Google organize everything?)

Elizabeth I (13th) is the highest ranking woman, three slots before Queen Victoria. These plus Joan of Arc are the only women in the top 100. Poor Nelson Mandela ends up 356th. Shakespeare (4th) is the highest-ranking Briton. Prime Minister David Cameron, slated for certain obscurity, is 1483rd. The top three are Jesus, Napoleon and the Prophet Muhammad.

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The system gives equal weight to “both celebrity and gravitas,” but aims to assess people’s long-term fame by including a “reputation decay” mathematical formula which predicts their impact up to 200 years after they die. Britney Spears would be ranked 27th on her current fame, but drops to 689th with the “decay formula.”

Two hundred years from now, if history is not over, people will remember Churchill. We’re not betting on Britney Spears.

Companion Thanks Judy and Suzanne

The Churchill Companion, our new ready-reference book of facts, was made possible by the inventiveness of Suzanne Sigman (Milton, Mass.) and the generosity of Judy and the late Jerry Kambestad (Santa Ana, Calif.). We failed to acknowledge them in the book, and want to rectify that here.

Suzanne Sigman, former education programs coordinator, repeatedly reminded us how useful it would be for teachers and students to have reference information to unfamiliar terms and customs in Churchill’s day. From pound-dollar ratios to by-elections, she was always being asked: “what does that mean in today’s terminology?”

Suzanne showed us a laminated, multi-panel, fold-out guide to local birds, thinking we could adapt to basic Churchill facts. Little did she contemplate 126 pages on everything from family tree to funeral, myths to medals, residences to racehorses!

Judy and Jerry Kambestad made a substantial contribution to a commemorative booklet which, for one reason or another, we never got round to publishing. When an opportunity came to fund the Companion we obtained her permission to use their donation.

The Churchill Companion is truly indispensable. Order yours (paperback or spiral-bound) on Amazon.

Seventy-Five Years On

LONDON, JANUARY 7TH— The New Statesman Archive published a significant interview of Winston Churchill by Kingsley Martin, then its editor, on 7 January 1939, two months before Hitler occupied the remains of Czechoslovakia, Chamberlain guaran- teed Poland, and the march to World War II began. The interview includes hitherto obscure and riveting remarks by Churchill on the nature of democracy, armaments as a deterrent to war, and the question of whether the British people were really prepared  to resist Hitler, scarcely twenty years after the slaughter of World War I.

Some of Churchill’s reflections are quoted in the introductory article on  our Munich features (page 11), concerning the ability of democracies to defend themselves from aggressors: a not unfamiliar question in the ominous world of 2014. The full text is at: http://bit.ly/19PDVfN.

Tonypandy Vindication

CARDIFF, WALES, FEBRUARY 5TH— A memo by Churchill rubbishing claims he wanted troops to use ammunition to crack down on rioting Welsh miners is to be auctioned. Churchill, then Home Secretary sent it to A.G. Gardiner, then editor of The Daily News, in response to suggestions he was ready to let troops open fire. Gardiner had advised Churchill that a “left-leaning correspondent” claimed WSC “has sent an order to Pembroke Dock Arsenal to get ready several thousand rounds of ball ammunition for the use of the troops drafted into South Wales.”

Churchill replied: “My dear Gardiner, Give no credence to such rubbish. I do not anticipate any shooting and have taken some responsibility to that end which Liberal newspapers should recognise.” The undated memo was probably written on 9 November 1910.

On November 8th a demonstration of striking miners in Tonypandy Square in Cardiff had been broken up by local police. Though there were calls to send in the army, Churchill instead sent a detachment of Metropolitan Police and cavalry. (See “Leading Churchill Myths,” FH 140, Autumn 2008, 11.)

The Director of the Churchill Archives Centre, Allen Packwood, said: “Churchill’s attitude is consistent all the way through his life. It’s ‘in war, resolution; in victory, magnanimity.’” Churchill’s actions may well have prevented the situation getting worse. But the incident haunted Churchill for the rest of his career and “Tonypandy” became shorthand for what his critics saw as an anti-trade union stance.

Turing Pardoned

LONDON, DECEMBER 16TH— HM The Queen granted a rare “mercy pardon” to Alan Turing, the computing and mathematics pioneer whose chemical castration for being homosexual drove him to suicide almost sixty years ago (see back cover, FH 149).

Turing, one of the leading scientific geniuses of the 20th century, cracked the supposedly impregnable German Enigma code in World War II, and is considered by many the father of modern computer science. Aged 23, Turing had hypothesized what would become today’s computers—the Turing Machine, which could emulate any computing device or program. Almost eighty years later, Turing Machines are still used in theoretical computation.

But homosexuality at that time was a crime in Britain, and instead of being hailed as one of the crucial figures in defeating the Nazis, he was convicted in 1952 of “gross indecency” for having had sex with a man. His security clearance was revoked, he was barred from government service, and he was chemically castrated. Less than two years later, in 1954, he killed himself with cyanide, aged only 41.

In recent decades, as Turing’s ideas and work have come to be recognized as the foundations of today’s technology-driven world, scientists and technology leaders lobbied for him to be pardoned.

29 St. James’s Place

LONDON, NOVEMBER 5TH— A plaque marking the childhood home of Sir Winston Churchill has been unveiled in Central London. The green sign is the first element in a potential heritage trail marking Sir Winston’s life in the capital. Westminster City Council hopes to put up five plaques around the borough in advance of the 50th anniversary of the former Prime Minister’s death in January 2015.

The sign marks the building where Churchill lived between ages six and eight before his formal education began in boarding schools. Leased by Lord Randolph Churchill, it was occupied from April 1880 to late 1882. —TONY BONNICI, THE TIMES

Edward on the War

LONDON, DECEMBER 12TH—The Daily Mail reveals a 1970 letter by the Duke of Windsor, the former King Edward VIII, which they say expresses the Duke’s belief that he might have been able to prevent the Second World War if he had not abdicated. But Edward’s actual letter, to author Gerald Hamilton, simply says: “Whether or not I could have prevented World War II had I remained King is an imponderable. At least I used any influence I had to warn against the folly of another hollocaust [sic].”

“Where I clashed with Baldwin and his cronies was that I was not really of the Establishment which I was supposed to be,” the Duke continues. “That aroused their suspicions that I would not always ‘yes’ them, which indeed I would not have!”

The Duke also states his opinion of Churchill: “Great orator and writer, yes, and imbued with insatiable ambition. No outstanding peace time politician; only war seemed to inspire him to brilliant leadership. He was a man without fear, and as he once told me he was never bored.”

The former King had controversial links with Hitler and is thought to have had fascist sympathies. His note was written at his home in Paris to thank Hamilton for sending him and the Duchess a copy of his 1969 book, The Way It Was with Me.

Hugo Vickers, cited as an expert by the Daily Mail, adds: “The line about whether he could have prevented war breaking out is an interesting one. In 1937 Edward went to Germany to see Hitler on the advice of someone high up in the U.S. Embassy in London. Edward honestly thought he could talk Hitler out of war which was pretty stupid but he felt that he had given it his best shot. It is a fascinating letter as it shows the Duke rewriting history as he wanted it remembered.”

Churchill Day 2014?

BUXTON, DERBYSHIRE, NOVEMBER 10TH— Edmund Bradbury is calling on the government to designate a special day to mark the 140th birthday of Sir Winston. In 2013 Bradbury organised a tribute to the Dambuster pilots and the local airmen who participated in that daring raid during World War II. Bradbury has raised his Churchill idea with Member of Parliament Andrew Bingham.

“I am putting my suggestion to the Secretary of State that a designated Sir Winston Churchill Day on Sunday November 30, 2014 would enable the whole nation to express its gratitude and to honour the memory,” said Mr. Bradbury.

This has often been thought of before, but complications have always come into play, not least the fact that Churchill is much more contentious a figure in Britain than across the seas.

Bush by Brush

MIDLAND, TEXAS, NOVEMBER 22ND— Former President George W. Bush has taken up painting since reading Sir Winston’s book, Painting as a Pastime. Although the past-President has kept a low profile since 2009, his appearance on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno revealed a much happier Bush, who says he wants to paint like Churchill.

Painting as a Pastime persuaded Bush to pursue painting. He sought an instructor who could nurture his natural talents, and started taking weekly lessons. What about Sir Winston’s writings could inspire President Bush to paint? The answer is simple but profound, and can be answered rhetorically: What could Churchill’s writings not do? Yet Churchill is not the first person we think of when we conjure up well-known artists.

Bush mentioned how Churchill started painting during World War I, and pursued it the rest of his life. Painting as a Pastime was praised in 1990 by Churchill’s youngest daughter, Mary Soames, now approaching her 92nd birthday, as “pure enchantment, throbbing as it does with enthusiasm and encouragement to others to seize brush and canvas and have a go….he had discovered in painting a companion with whom he was to walk for the greater part of the long years which remained to him.”

Churchill’s art is lavishly covered in Lady Soames’s Winston Churchill: His Life as a Painter (reviewed FH 69) and by David Coombs and Minnie Churchill in Sir Winston Churchill: His Life Through His Paintings (FH 125). Long before then his work received praise from the press, one art critic noting in 1949: “Had he signed his pictures ‘Jones,’ the critic would still find himself pausing in front of them. At least a dozen will stand against any of the best Impressionists.”

President Bush said that eight years in the spotlight brought him to his knees before God to help him rejuvenate and enjoy life fully, and told Jay Leno painting had “changed my life.” When he offered Leno his portrait of the comedian, Leno said in awe, “I can’t make fun of him now.”

Mr. Bush, whose ambition is “to paint Churchill,” has many of us wishing that we could paint too. Creative awakenings make the world a brighter place.

Soames on Ashworth

DAVENTRY, NORTHAMPTONSHIRE, NOVEMBER 22ND— Sir Winston’s grandson Nicholas Soames, MP for Mid-Sussex, paid tribute to Corby soldier Lance Corporal James Ashworth when he visited Lodge Park Academy to open a new house in honour of the former pupil. Ashworth House is one of six pastoral groups, each with 200 students.

Lance Corporal Ashworth was killed in action in Afghanistan in June 2012 and was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. His mother Kerry attended the ceremony, which included a short film of pupils talking about Lance Corporal Ashworth’s legacy and what his military honour meant to them, the school and to his home town of Corby.

Mr. Soames, a former defence minister, said: “When we remember James, let us remember that it is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press; it is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech; it is the soldier, not the student activist, who has given us the freedom to demonstrate; it is the soldier, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial; it is the soldier who salutes the flag, and who thus permits the protester to burn the flag.” Kerry Ashworth presented the inaugural James Ashworth Award to student James Keogh, a member of the cadet unit, for his outstanding contribution to the academy.

Barroso: Show Courage

BRUSSELS, NOVEMBER 8TH— David Cameron and other European Union leaders need to show the same political courage and vision of Winston Churchill’s call for “a kind of United States of Europe,” says President José Manuel Barroso of the European Commission.

“He was a man of foresight with an acute sense of history, often ahead of prevailing opinion, never shying away from saying what some might choose to ignore,” Barroso remarked. “In today’s fast-changing world, we certainly need the same geopolitical intelligence and strategic vision. We need the same courage to think beyond the immediacy of the next news cycle.”

In comments seen as an implicit criticism of Prime Minister Cameron, Mr. Barroso called on current leaders to show Churchillian vision and courage: “Churchill rightly said in 1948: ‘We must aim at nothing less than the Union of Europe as a whole, and we look forward with confidence to the day when the Union will be achieved. We need to resist vested interests and short-termism. We need to have the courage to think ahead and be able to project and shape change—that’s what leadership is about.’”

Martin Callanan MEP, leader of Cameron’s European Conservatives and Reform group, said: “Barroso’s comments perfectly illustrate the failings of the EU elite: they are clinging to 1940s federalist ideology that does not work in the 21st century. The attitude that only more European integration is the answer has ironically been the greatest cause of division across Europe over the past twenty years. Someone [not Churchill –ed.] said, ‘Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.’ On that basis, EU federalist ambitions have been a great success.”

Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), accused Barroso of “hijacking a single phrase by Churchill” and taking it out of context “to paint him as a fan of political union in Europe. Churchill was the man who spoke of the importance of English-speaking peoples, the Commonwealth, and an island nation determined to stop the German-domination of Europe. Churchill once said, ‘Each time we must choose between Europe and the open sea, we shall always choose the open sea.’”

Mr. Farage is annoyingly critical of Mr. Barroso, who might indeed welcome the vision of him jumping into the open sea, but his quote is out of context too. WSC’s grandson Winston noted in FH 109: “this quote is from de Gaulle’s version of a wartime row with Churchill, and the true context is made clear in the next sentence: ‘And if I have to choose between you and Roosevelt, I shall always choose Roosevelt.’”

Democracy’s Problem

AUCKLAND, NOVEMBER 27TH— “In 1947 Winston Churchill famously declared, ‘it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.’ It would take a brave person to disagree with him,” writes Stephen Mills on the New Zealand politics blog stuff.co.nz. “But then he had not seen how hard it is for elected governments now to undertake even the most necessary reforms if those challenge major business interests or impose any significant cost or inconvenience on voters.” The distinction of Mr. Mills’s article is that it is the first time we can recall Churchill’s famous remark being quoted in correct context, including the qualifier, “it has been said.” In other words, Churchill was quoting someone else.

British Tanks

ROUEN, DECEMBER 20TH— Professor Antoine Capet recommends a review of Benjamin Coombs’s British Tank Production and the War Economy 1934- 1945 on the Second World War Military Operations Research Group, http://bit.ly/1fn0xAw.

“I read many incidental remarks on the inferiority of British vs. German tanks when preparing my book on Montgomery,” Prof. Capet writes. “Few books have been written on the subject (compare the countless books on the RAF). The relevance for us is that Churchill himself must have been aware of the ‘inferiority complex’ regarding British armoured units. One of his constant themes before the Desert Army in July 1942 was the Sherman tanks promised by Roosevelt, though he exaggerated the numbers to boost morale.” Coombs’s book covers the reasons behind British tank problems early in the war.


“This tank, the A.22, was ordered off the drawing board, and large numbers went into production very quickly. As might be expected, it had many defects and teething troubles, and when these became apparent the tank was appropriately rechristened the ‘Churchill.’ These defects have now been largely overcome.”
—WSC, 2 JULY 1942

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