February 6, 2015

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.

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A-This and other alleged conspiracies are on our “Myths” web page, http://bit.ly/jVWSme. 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…

  • The Jutland Plot, 1917, wherein Lord Alfred Douglas, poet friend of Oscar Wilde, accused WSC of manipulating stock prices by making announcements about the 1916 Battle of Jutland to benefit his friend Sir Ernest Cassel (Lord Alfred was convicted of libel). Martin Gilbert covered this in his talk to one of our Churchill Tours, “Churchill’s London: Spinning Top of Memories”: http://bit.ly/1j0pIjJ.
  • In Churchill’s Deception (1994), Louis Kilzer claimed that Churchill secretly tricked Hitler into attacking the Soviet Union, “leading to the deaths of millions.” Our review is in Finest Hour 84 (scroll to page 22): http://bit.ly/1uJBX7V.
  • In The Greatest Story Never Told (also 1994), the aptly-named Pat Riott claimed that Churchill engineered the 1929 Stock Market crash. How he managed to profit by this after losing all his money is not explained.
  • Michael Smith, in the Daily Telegraph, said Churchill was paid by the CIA to finance a postwar campaign for a United Europe.

What about football conspiracies? According to Andy Harris in Sunday Sport of 12 Septemeber 1993, England’s manager Graham Taylor had a visit from Sir Winston, who spoke to him through the medium Mystic Maria, equating the World Cup with fighting the World Wars. Maybe that is not a conspiracy, since WSC’s ghost didn’t conspire to place any bets.


Q-I am an editor on a Russian historical TV programme about World War I, wherein we discuss Churchill’s policies. I have to find places connecting Churchill with the war for shooting our film. Do you know about any for this period? —LEV MOISEEV ([email protected])

A-Churchill in World War I could make for a dramatic documentary. We are surprised no one has produced one yet.

There are many suitable places in London, such as the former London Magazine at the Serpentine in Hyde Park, which Churchill rushed to defend during the 1911 Agadir crisis. Rafal Heydel-Mankoo reports “it is now open to the public, having been refurbished by the Royal Parks and Serpentine Gallery. It contains the Serpentine Sackler Gallery and a restaurant. I live a short walk from the building and it has become a popular destination for residents.”

Churchill spent the first eight months of the war at the Admiralty, a Grade 1 listed building currently used for government functions and ministerial flats. Whether it (and other government property mentioned herein) could be used for filming would depend on the government. We suggest you contact the British Embassy in Moscow, perhaps the military attaché.

His next official location was near Ploegsteert, Belgium, where he commanded a battalion in early 1915, after he had left the government. What is there for filming we don’t know. Contact Belgian local authorities.

Churchill returned to London in April 1915. In July 1917 he became Minister of Munitions and his headquarters was the Metropole Building, which is today part of the Ministry of Defence. Again permissions would depend on government departments.


Q-By World War I Churchill, barely forty, had been a Privy Counselor seven years—why so early, even before he joined the Cabinet in 1908?

A-All Cabinet ministers become -PCs, but the Privy Council is not confined to Cabinet ministers. Junior ministers are sometimes appointed, either as a mark of approval (suggesting eventual promotion) or on retirement before reaching Cabinet rank. Other prominent people are also appointed, such as senior judicial figures, arch-bishops and other eminent persons. The current total is about 500. The Council hardly ever meets as a whole, government business being regularly conducted by the Queen and about six PCs. The only time that all 500 (or a sizeable number) meet is on the death of the Sovereign, as an “Accession Council” to declare the new Sovereign.

Churchill was appointed in 1907, probably because of his unusual prominence as Under-Secretary of State at the Colonial Office (his Secretary of State being in the House of Lords). An interesting example is Sir Winston’s grandson, Sir Nicholas Soames. He was a junior minister under John Major, but was not given a government post under David Cameron. Perhaps he didn’t want one, but in any case he was appointed PC in 2011.

In the matter of assigning prefixes and post-nominals, one needs to be careful. Consider for example prefixes for peers, who have the following designations whether or not they belong to the Privy Council:

Duke             His Grace
Marquess      The Most Hon
Earl               The Rt Hon
Viscount       The Rt Hon
Baron           The Rt Hon

The only way to denote one of these as a PC is to use “PC” as a post-nominal. A lesser mortal, appointed PC, can use the prefix “The Rt Hon” o r the post-nominal “PC”— but not simultaneously. Thus Churchill would normally have been denoted as: “The Rt Hon Sir Winston Churchill KG OM CH TD FRS MP.” If, however, for any good reason, the prefix was omitted (perhaps in a list of names), he would have been shown as: “Sir Winston Churchill KG OM CH TD PC FRS MP.” The designation “MP”would have been omitted after he retired from the House of Commons in 1964.

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