February 5, 2015

Finest Hour 163, Summer 2014

Page 04


At random I opened my copy of the new document volume of the Official Biography, Testing Times: 1942 (FH 162: 8), to page 357, and a 6 March 1942 letter from Averell Harriman to President Roosevelt: “It is curious how, when criticism starts, a coalition government suffers from lack of party loyalty and support.” I think that is remarkably apposite in Britain at the moment!


I just wanted to say what a superb production FH 161 is in all respects, and to thank you. Special praise to Charlotte Thibault for the cover: strong, visually arresting and appealing. She is clearly a designer of exceptional talent.


Amazing! You and your authors carried off an issue on Churchill and New Zealand that works, and works well. Reading the Pacific War Council minutes, I was struck by the differences between Australians and New Zealanders in the policy statement of 1942-43. The Aussies almost formally declared they were depending on the U.S. for defense. Not so New Zealand, which Churchill saw as a “strong, loyal, positive and uncomplaining supporter,” in Mike Groves’s words. I do suspect that “uncomplaining” was the key virtue!

Granted, the Japanese threat brought American forces to protect New Zealand, but Prime Minister Fraser never threatened to call back his troops from the European theaters, as did Curtin in Australia. Instead, as Gerald Hensley astutely notes, Fraser gently and persistently pushed for Churchill to allow NZ to work more closely with the Americans. Even when his parliament wanted to bring a NZ division back from North Africa, Fraser managed to get both Roosevelt and Churchill to ask that the division stay—and his parliament agreed.

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Perhaps most important in this issue are the reminders that New Zealanders fought as loyal members of the Imperial military forces throughout the North African and Mediterranean campaigns. The Australian war museum outside Canberra depicts the carnage among their forces during both World Wars, which struck me with the sense of anger and betrayal that Australians had for Britain. I’ve not been to New Zealand, but after reading FH 161 I very much doubt that such a display exists there.

Reading the postscript about the postwar years, I could only muse that, in hindsight, the not-so-great ANZUS alliance, and the flails over making NZ nuclear-free, turned out to be much ado about nothing.

Reading your statement that in combining enterprise and government New Zealand “may well be the outstanding model,” I wondered if size had anything to do with it—only 4.5 million people. But no: Canada, while vast, has only 35 million, though it too is a pretty good model. What about homogeneity— which is what makes the Swiss “model” work? No, only 70% of Kiwis are of European descent, about 15% are Maoris, the rest Asians and Pacific Islanders. That’s a hefty pile of “minorities.” So assuming your statement is correct, what is the key? Geographic isolation? Almost no wars (except civil against the Maoris some time ago)? But does isolation breed democracy?

You have once again demonstrated that FH is a remarkable hybrid that manages to combine anecdotes and reminiscences with solid research-based history presented in a palatable, readable form, rather than dumbing it down.

Editor’s response: Maybe more than hybrid? Or in Churchill’s words, counting both the digital and text editions, “The Great Triphibian”?


Thank-you for the “fine tuning” that you gave to my two articles in FH 161. I received from Dan Myers my author’s copies and sent one to Harry van Wijnen in Amsterdam, who was pleased with our review of his book. I also liked your article on New Zealand and the large Dutch emigration that played a part in its development. I remember when 500,000 Hollanders emigrated to Australia, Canada and New Zealand in the Fifties. After the war there was little opportunity in housing or jobs in Holland. My godfather left for Australia in 1954 and we did not see him for fifteen years. Some never returned.

A coincidence: as I was reading the issue in January, our daughter Jennifer was in New Zealand with her boyfriend for a four-week vacation. She loved the island and the people, everything  being a little more slow-paced.


Thank-you for the latest edition, wonderful as usual. Was there ever and could there ever be again such a great person as Churchill? I write to ask for the compilation of “everything the Complete Speeches contains” from Churchill’s 1931-32 lecture tour of America (page 10). Keep up your super work, won’t you?

Editor’s Response: Thank-you. A reminder to readers: We laboriously copied out everything reported by the Complete Speeches that Churchill said in 1931-32 about the destiny of the English-speaking peoples—not a lot, most of it excerpts. We will gladly email this to anyone else who asks.

WAR OF 1812

Peter Russell (FH 160:36) gives a thoughtful account of Churchill’s analysis of the War of 1812, yet both Russell and Churchill seemed to omit a classic written some seventy years earlier by an author quite familiar to Churchill: the young Theodore Roosevelt. Indeed the continuing historical importance of Roosevelt’s work in influencing later authors is the subject of a recent review: Michael J. Crawford, “The Lasting Influence of Theodore Roosevelt’s Naval War of 1812” (International Journal of Naval History , vol. 1, no. 1, 2002).


Writing about Ralph Wigram, who informed Churchill on German rearmament (FH 159:9), I mentioned that his parents did not attend his funeral, and that some speculated this was because of the possibility of suicide. Both Churchill in The Second World War and William Manchester in The Last Lion hinted that Wigram might have taken his life.

I now learn from the North Devon Journal of 7 January 1937 that on January 4th, the morning of his funeral at Cuckfield, Sussex, Wigram’s parents were attending  a memorial service for him at Landkey Parish Church near Barnstaple, Devon. Ralph was brought up in the area and many family friends attended who could not have journeyed to Sussex and returned home at short notice in winter. This explains the absence of the Wigrams at Cuckfield.

On 31 October 1941 the Aberdeen Journal, reporting Sir John Anderson’s and Ava Wigram’s marriage (mistakenly referring to her as Rose Wigram), mentioned her descent from Sir Thomas Bodley, founder of the Bodleian Library, where her papers are housed. The report adds that “the wedding took place less than half an hour after an important cabinet meeting. Winston Churchill could not attend.” I am sure the Prime Minister would have attended if he could and the mention of his name in the notice associates him with them. I have not seen that reference to Sir Thomas Bodley elsewhere.


In Pamela Harriman’s “The True Meaning of the Iron Curtain Speech (FH 58, Winter 1987-88, on the web at http://bit.ly/YZKZur), you note that two lines were updated in accordance with the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Agreement of 1987. Does this mean the speech is not 100% that which was given? Why was this alteration made?

Editor’s response: Yes. Mrs. Harriman said President Reagan was following only half of Churchill’s 1946 prescriptions in his Iron Curtain speech at Fulton: military strength but not diplomatic “suppleness.” She said: “Did they expect, by military intimidation or economic exhaustion, to bring the Soviet system down—something that Churchill, one of the original antiBolsheviks, considered foolhardy in the atomic age? If so, did they expect the Soviets to go gently into the twilight of their diminishing power, or abjectly accept an internal collapse? These are not realistic hopes, but danger fantasies, and we should pray that no one in office really has such irrational views.”

Mrs. Harriman also predicted that Reagan would be unable to negotiate a reduction in U.S.-Soviet intermediate and short range missiles. But by the time Finest Hour published her speech, Reagan and Gorbachev had done just that. The INF Treaty was signed in Washington on 8 December 1987, about four years before the Soviet Union expired out of military intimidation or economic exhaustion and went gently into the twilight.

We try to stick up for our authors, and in view of these developments I cheekily decided to omit the obsolete lines of her speech. Thus the explanatory note at the head of the article. (I know what you are going to say, and you have a point—but there it is.)

Mrs. Harriman published her remarks in the Congressional Record (www.gpo.gov), where you can find the original. The 1986 CR index lists under Addresses the Anniversary of Winston Churchill’s Iron Curtain Speech: Pamela C. Harriman, 13727-29 [13JN]. Finest Hour 58 can be read as a .pdf document on our website; our comments on her speech are on page 3. See this website: http://bit.ly/1rWpPw4.


You have written a great deal about Sir Winston Churchill, his life and legacy. Would you care to sum him up in a space I can easily digest, say the size of a single page of email?

Editor’s response: No.

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