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Finest Hour 163

Churchill Proceedings – Winston Churchill and Religion – A Comfortable Relationship with the Almighty

Finest Hour 163

Page 52

By Andrew Roberts


“If you are the recipient of a message which cheers your heart and fortifies your soul, which promises you reunion with those you have loved in a world of larger opportunities and wider sympathies, why should you worry about the shape or colour of the travel-stained envelope; whether it is duly stamped, whether the date on the postcard is right or wrong?…I adopted quite early in life a system of believing whatever I wanted to believe, while at the same time leaving reason to pursue unfettered whatever paths she was capable of treading.” —WSC

I could hardly be called a pillar of the Church,” Winston Churchill once famously remarked, “I am more in the nature of a buttress, for I support it from the outside.”1 The reasons why our greatest 20th century prime minister—indeed perhaps along with Elizabeth I our greatest ever national leader— was not a Christian are rather bizarre. They include a sectarian nursemaid, a long-forgotten Victorian explorer, and the officers’ mess of the 4th Hussars at Bangalore, India.
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Churchill Proceedings – Churchill and Theodore Roosevelt

Finest Hour 163, Summer 2014

Page 60

By Richard M. Langworth

Churchill Seemed to Regard Most Highly the American Presidents Who Didn’t Return His Admiration

Winston Churchill experienced eleven American presidents—as many as the Queen. He did not personally meet them all, as she has; but each contributed to his outlook and policies. His relations with the seven presidents from McKinley to Hoover are only stage-setters to the main events: FDR, Truman, Eisenhower. But one of them, Theodore Roosevelt, offers interesting insights.

Churchill, aged 26, and TR, aged 42, got off to a thoroughly bad start. When Churchill met the hero who had charged up San Juan Hill two months before the Englishman had charged at Omdurman, he professed vast approval of then-Governor Roosevelt. But TR, doubtless aware of young Winston’s reputation as a publicity seeker, did not return the compliment.

“I saw the Englishman, Winston Churchill…he is not an attractive fellow,” Roosevelt confided to a friend after the meeting.1 The negative impression proved as enduring as their parallel careers—both were to shift party allegiance; both were to achieve the highest political office; both were awarded a Nobel Prize. TR was, incidentally, the only president who profusely wrote books: eighteen, against Churchill’s fifty-one—mostly about hunting and outdoor life, though it is noteworthy that both he and Churchill wrote about the War of 1812.2
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The Churchill Centre Twenty Years On

Finest Hour 163, Summer 2014

Page 48

“The Four Pillars of The Churchill Centre are Publications, Education, Research and Media.”  —Laurence Geller, Chairman, 2007

Research and “Churchill Central”

To knit together the vast and diverse trove of Churchill material on the Internet, The Churchill Centre UK has combined with Bloomsbury Publishing to launch the Churchill Central website in 2015 on the 50th anniversary of Sir Winston’s death. Rather than another Churchill site, Churchill Central strives to concentrate and direct browsers to important sources of research from the various organizations. The Churchill Centre’s part in all this is largely based on Finest Hour, with some 800 articles and papers now in digital as well as .pdf form which constitute one of the broadest collections of Churchill material by leading scholars, published over the past thirty-five years. Here is a sampling of the article synopses we are preparing for Churchill Central, in Bloomsbury’s twelve chosen aspects of his life and times, with web pages you can access.

1. The Child

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Books, Arts & Curiosities – Pudding without a Theme

Finest Hour 163, Summer 2014

Page 47

By Christopher H. Sterling

Churchill and the King: The Wartime Alliance of Winston Churchill and George VI, by Kenneth Weisbrode. Viking/Penguin, 208 pages, $26.95, Kindle $10.99, member price $21.55.

Churchill once demanded, “Take this pudding away—it has no theme!” Such is the problem with this small book, which ostensibly assesses George VI and his prime minister during World War II. But it never rises above generalities that are already well known.

A crucial part of the author’s problem, of course, is that the core of their relationship was defined in conversations between his two subjects where no one else was present to record what took place. That situation forces him back to public source material used by many previous authors. He cites the papers of Alanbrooke, Dill, Churchill, Halifax, Ismay, Roosevelt and George VI’s diary out of Royal Archives, but the notes and citations are nearly all to secondary sources. As a result this is little more than another potted survey of Churchill in the war, where we lose mention of the King for pages on end—and hear much about other relationships.
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Books, Arts & Curiosities – More a Monitor Than a Dreadnought

Finest Hour 163, Summer 2014

Page 46

By Robert Courts

“Unsinkable”: Churchill and the First World War, by Richard Freeman. Spellmount Publishers, 272 pages, $32.95, Kindle $16.49.

Richard Freeman sets out to persuade his reader that Churchill’s First World War career was one of unequivocal triumph, without a hint of tragedy. Squarely aiming at the casual reader, he argues that the Churchill of the Great War was full of “energy, imagination and courage,” developing his argument with flair, humour and engaging style.

The praise is comprehensive, including such relatively obscure episodes as Churchill’s prophetic 1911 memorandum predicting how the first few weeks of a German attack in the West would develop. We read of Churchill’s work to deploy aircraft and armoured cars at Dunkirk. There is an excellent passage on WSC’s focus on “machines not men”—arguably his greatest contribution to the war. Churchill’s work at the Ministry of Munitions, often-overlooked, is well-handled in good detail, especially the political battles against colleagues.
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Books, Arts & Curiosities – Mullahs of Moment

Finest Hour 163, Summer 2014

Page 45

By William John Shepherd

Churchill and the Mad Mullah of Somaliland: Betrayal and Redemption 1899-1921, by Roy Irons. Pen & Sword, 238 pages, £19.99, $39.95.

Churchill’s role in the 1907 campaign in Somaliland, against Mohammed Abdille (or Abdullah) Hassan, the rebellious so-called  “Mad Mullah,” has been understated. It was scarcely mentioned by Churchill in his memoirs, or in the 1923 standard work on the subject, by colonial administrator Sir Douglas Jardine. Irons corrects this with elegant writing and pithy chapter epigrams from western luminaries, including Churchill (referred to throughout as “The Giant”) and even from the Book of Ecclesiastes. He provides excellent maps and photographs, a comprehensive bibliography, and extensive endnotes sourcing letters and reports of contemporaries including serving British officers.

The British Empire’s extensive trade routes, maintained by the Royal Navy, included the port of Berbera in northern Somaliland. Here the inhabitants, devout Muslims with powerful oral traditions, belonged to patriarchal clans which constantly engaged in feuds. The “Mad Mullah” was a radical Sunni preacher, so named by his more moderate countrymen, though his followers called him “Sayyid” or Master. Responding to his resistance, British officers led Somali levies augmented by Sikhs from India and former enemies like the Sudanese and Boers. They inflicted massive casualties on the Mullah’s followers, though he always escaped, often hiding in Italian Somaliland.
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Books, Arts & Curiosities – “Prudes on the Prowl”: A Rant Against Mrs. Ormiston Chant

revFinest Hour 163, Summer 2014

Page 44

By Ronald I. Cohan

Mr. Peter Ochs is developing a theatre piece, “Churchill and Hitler in Their Own Words,” which he hopes will open in Vienna in August. Among Churchill’s lines are: “Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail.” Hitler, he assures us, is more prosaic: “Germany will even survive me!” (Did he really say that?)

But Mr. Ochs wished to include a much earlier Churchill speech, forty-five years before World War II—his first ever, in November 1895, in the promenade at the Empire Palace of Varieties in Leicester Square.

Churchill was quite taken with the promenade, situated just behind the dress circle. Not so London’s prudes, led by the formidably named Mrs. Ormiston Chant. The congregating of men and women, including ladies of the evening, and the drinking of alcohol, had elicited Mrs. Chant’s opprobrium. In response to her protests the London County Council ordered the theatre to erect a canvas screen between the promenade and the outer bars.
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Finest Hour 163, Summer 2014

Page 41

“Millions of men and women are in the market, all eager to supplement the rewards of energetic toil by ‘easy money.’ From every part of its enormous territories the American public follows the game. Horseracing, baseball, football, every form of sport or gambling cedes its place to a casino whose amplitude and splendours make Monte Carlo the meanest midget in Lilliput.”
—“What I Saw and Heard in America,” 1929

“Broadly speaking, human beings may be divided into three classes: those who are toiled to death, those who are worried to death, and those who are bored to death. It is no use offering the manual labourer, tired out with a hard week’s sweat and effort, the chance of playing a game of football or baseball on Saturday afternoon.”
—“Hobbies,” in Thoughts and Adventures, 1932
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Wit and Wisdom – 1935 CHARTWELL BULLETINS

Finest Hour 163, Summer 2014

Page 43

Please tell me how to get a copy of all the original Chartwell Bulletins as written by Winston Churchill.

The Churchill Centre published twelve Chartwell Bulletins in book form in 1989 with an introduction and footnotes by Martin Gilbert and photos from Lady Soames’s albums. lists numerous copies as low as $23. Search their site or see this page:

Churchill sent many such bulletins from time to time, but these, to his absent wife during her 1935 South Seas voyage, are the most cohesive and entertaining. They are reproduced in Document Volume 12 of the official biography, but our booklet gathers them with family photos and more detailed notes by Sir Martin. Anyone interested should have a copy.

1 January 1935

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History Detectives – If You Don’t Find Baseball, Baseball Will Find You – Eminent Churchillians on and off the Ball Field

Finest Hour 163, Summer 2014

Page 40

By Christopher Schwarz

It’s baseball season in America, but you will be wondering what it has to do with Sir Winston. Well, enough for this Churchillian fan of the “National Pastime” (which has been sadly eclipsed nowadays by football—just another of those team games played against a clock).

How is it that the son of Jennie Jerome, a woman born in Brooklyn, at the epicenter of early professional baseball, just three miles from the future home of the fabled Brooklyn Dodgers, never attended a Major League baseball game? Despite Winston Churchill’s deep pride in his American roots, he never showed up at a ballpark during his sixteen trips to his mother’s land. The oft-quoted cultural historian Jacques Barzun would consider it a colossal missed opportunity. As he put it, “whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball, the rules and reality of the game.”

Barzun’s advice doesn’t apply as much now as it once did, but during Churchill’s lifetime baseball was a crucial part of American culture. What might he have learned about America at the ballpark? He enjoyed writing and talking about “what if?” scenarios. Baseball is full of them. What if he saw a game? Would people have heard him bellowing “dog and a beer” to a roving vendor? Would his understanding of America have increased? Would he have enjoyed sitting in the open air, smoking a cigar—that sort of thing was allowed back then—amid the raucous, colorful crowd? But could a man famously averse to boredom sit through nine innings?
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Action This Day – Summer 1889, 1914, 1939, 1964

Finest Hour 163, Summer 2014

Page 38

By Michael McMenamin


Summer 1889 • Age 14

“I am rather shaky”

Winston’s concussion was described as “slight” by Harrow medical adviser G.C. Briggs, who said that he was put to bed “and will require careful watching for a few days.” Today, we know that even mild concussions are not to be treated lightly. Neither of Winston’s parents visited him at Harrow while he was bedridden, not for lack of requests. On 22 June his nanny, Mrs. Everest, arrived and Winston thanked his mother “for letting Woom come down.” Having mentioned that “I do not feel very fit,” he added: “Can’t you come instead—I was rather disappointed at not seeing you as I fully expected to.”

Once again, Winston’s pleas fell on deaf ears but Mrs. Everest came again the next day. He wrote to his mother: “Thanks awfully for letting Woom come down today. Both Doctor & Nurse say that they think I shall need a rest. I hope, most excruciatingly, that I do come home. Do come tomorrow….I am very delighted at the idea of coming home.”
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EXCLUSIVE TO FINEST HOUR – Saved from Destruction: Unique Images of Churchill at Harrow

Finest Hour 163, Summer 2014

Page 34

By Pete Boswell

Save Photo Ltd. have discovered seven of the earliest surviving original images of Winston Churchill. They were found in the Hills and Saunders Harrow Collection, whose private owner asked Save Photo to digitise, conserve and catalogue. The collection was uncovered in poor condition in the barn of a dairy farm outside Cirencester, Gloucestershire in 2012. The owner and Save Photo rescued the collection and relocated it to a secure, climate controlled storage at Save Photo’s headquarters in Warwickshire, England.

For over ninety years, between 1860 and 1970, Hills and Saunders, photographers by Royal Appointment, captured memorable images of Harrow schoolboys, their families and the surroundings of this public school in Harrow-on-the Hill, Middlesex, north of London. The collection of over 90,000 glass plate negatives is possibly the largest surviving archive of its kind in the world. The photographs include every member of staff, pupil and sporting team from Harrow School between 1860 and 1965. Glass plates rarely survive because they are so fragile, and many English public schools have long since sold off or disposed of their collections.
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GUNS OF AUGUST 1914-2014 – The First World War: Riddles, Mysteries & Enigmas

Finest Hour 163, Summer 2014

Page 32

By Paul H. Courtenay

Sinking the Lusitania, and Other Conspiracy Theories

Q-My book on Churchill and the Lusitania (which FH will reprise in a future issue —Ed.) will rebut the allegations that Churchill conspired to cause her sinking. I am wondering if you know of any other “conspiracies” he was accused of, like knowing about Pearl Harbor but keeping mum. —DAVID RAMSAY, INDIAN WELLS, CALIF.

A-This and other alleged conspiracies are on our “Myths” web page, The Pearl Harbor story was refuted by Ron Helgemo (ex-CIA), and is the best we’ve read on the subject. Also dismissed is the claim that Churchill conspired to starve occupied Europe by withholding food shipments. Then there are… Read More >

GUNS OF AUGUST 1914-2014 – The Empire Goes to War: Changes Churchill Didn’t Foresee

Finest Hour 163, Summer 2014

Page 28

By Raymond A. Callahan

There are few more dramatic descriptions of the coming of World War I than Winston Churchill’s account, in The World Crisis, of the moment when Sir Edward Grey, Britain’s Foreign Secretary, broke into the Cabinet’s interminable discussion of the intractable “Irish Problem” to read the text of Austria-Hungary’s ultimatum to Serbia. There follows a matchless account of the end of the long European peace and the war’s opening stages. Matchless—but not comprehensive.

Churchill was not, of course, writing a general history of Britain’s war but his account was, it is safe to say, more widely read and influential than that of any other British politician or general—so the omissions are of some consequence. And no omission is more striking than the imperial dimension of the British war effort, especially the role of the Indian Empire. India’s role would set in train changes that would powerfully affect Churchill’s career in the 1930s and the shape of the world war he would wage in 1940-45.1

The King-Emperor’s declaration of war on Germany automatically committed the Raj to war as well. That vast structure, supervised by what in retrospect seems a remarkably tiny cadre of British officials, possessed its own army, and had done so since its 18th century origins under the “Honourable Company.” In 1914 that army was 150,000 strong, its soldiers drawn from the “martial races”—a Victorian invention that in practice meant from the Punjab and the North West Frontier. There were also Gurkha regiments recruited from the client kingdom of Nepal, widely thought of (not the least by their officers) as the Indian Army’s equivalent of the Brigade of Guards.
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GUNS OF AUGUST 1914-2014 – “The Terrible ‘Ifs’ Accumulate”: The Escape of the Goeben

Finest Hour 163, Summer 2014

Page 22

By Winston S. Churchill

Meanwhile in the Mediterranean a drama of intense interest, and as it proved of fatal consequence, was being enacted….” Our author’s dramatic account of the first naval action in World War I makes for exciting reading a century later—even though he lost.

In a feat of seamanship even Churchill was forced to admire, the German battlecruiser Goeben eluded Royal Navy hunters and sailed to Constantinople, where she was presented to the Ottoman Navy and renamed Yavuz Sultan Selim. usually shortened to Yavuz. By bombarding Russian Black Sea facilities she brought Turkey into the war on the German side. Remarkably, she remained the flagship of the Turkish Navy until 1950, and was not scrapped until 1973, after the West German government declined an invitation to buy her back.

The event which would dominate all others, if war broke out, was the main shock of battle between the French and German armies. We knew that the French were counting on placing in the line a whole army corps of their best troops from North Africa, and that every man was needed. We were informed also that they intended to transport these troops across the Mediterranean as fast as ships could be loaded, under the general protection of the French Fleet, but without any individual escort or system of convoys.

The French General Staff calculated that whatever happened most of the troops would get across. The French Fleet disposed between this stream of transports and the Austrian Fleet afforded a good guarantee. But there was one ship in the Mediterranean which far outstripped in speed every vessel in the French Navy. She was the Goeben.
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The International Churchill Society (ICS), founded in 1968 shortly after Churchill's death, is the world’s preeminent member organisation dedicated to preserving the historic legacy of Sir Winston Churchill.

At a time when leadership is challenged at every turn, that legacy looms larger and remains more relevant than ever.