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Finest Hour 163

GUNS OF AUGUST 1914-2014 – The “Kingly Conference,” 1914: Churchill’s Last Try for Peace

Finest Hour 163, Summer 2014

Page 20

By Max E. Hertwig

Churchill’s faith in personal diplomacy—in solving intractable problems by meetings at the highest level—was famously expressed during his World War II meetings with Stalin and Roosevelt. It surfaced again in 1953-55, when he strove unsuccessfully to promote “a meeting at the summit” with Eisenhower and Stalin’s successors. Far less widely known, however,  is Churchill’s proposal for a “conference of sovereigns” or heads of state (including, it seems, the French president) in the last days of peace before the world was convulsed by war in 1914. Like his “Naval Holiday,” the scheme failed, but certainly not for Churchill’s lack of trying.

At this stage in his career, even Churchill did not have the temerity to suggest himself as Britain’s –plenipotentiary, although as Professor Maurer has shown, he was quite ready to meet personally with his counterpart von Tirpitz, head of the German Navy. That having failed, Churchill tried in the final days to promote an even higher-level meeting, between the kings and emperors themselves. This was not unprecedented; some sources state that Kaiser Wilhelm proposed a peace conference after the Sarajevo assassinations, and private messages were being exchanged between the Kaiser and Czar Nicholas in the days before war was declared.
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GUNS OF AUGUST 1914-2014 – Churchill’s “Naval Holiday”: His Plan to Avert the Great War

Finest Hour 163, Summer 2014

Page 10

By John H. Maurer

In the spring of 1914, Winston Churchill’s arms-control initiative was, in the eyes of the German government, nonsense. As the war that broke out that summer would show, Berlin would have better served its own interests and the well-being of the German people had it worked with Churchill, rather than thwarting him.

Winston S. Churchill is best remembered as a valiant leader in times of war. He should also be remembered for his efforts to prevent the catastrophic great wars that would dominate and scar the history of the 20th century. While largely forgotten today, on the eve of the First World War Churchill made a remarkable and persistent attempt to halt the head-to-head competition in naval armaments that was turning Great Britain and Germany into adversaries.

In a bold and unconventional initiative as First Lord of the Admiralty, Churchill publicly invited Germany’s rulers to take a “holiday” from the competitive building of battleships, on three separate occasions before 1914. Behind the scenes, he pressed for negotiations, with this proposal as the starting point. It was Churchill’s earnest hope that the Naval Holiday would stop the action-reaction dynamic of the arms race—what statesmen of that era called “the sea war waged in the dockyards.”1 Rather than Britain and Germany being arrayed in opposing camps, he wanted to promote cooperation between Europe’s two leading great powers.
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Cover Story – Raymond Campbell’s “Churchill Favourites”

Finest Hour 163, Summer 2014

Page 09

Raymond Campbell is a local artist based in Sussex. In 2009, through Royall Fine Art, I commissioned him to do a “Pol Roger” painting for the David Cameron-Margaret Thatcher awards dinner in London. We were most grateful to Pol Roger for donating the champagne that evening, as they have for so many Churchill Centre functions over the years.

Pol Roger was established in Epernay, south of Reims, by Jacques Pol-Roger (the family name is hyphenated) in 1849. It was one of a score of grand marques which together fixed levels of quality for champagne that still prevail. Churchill often recalled the words of Napoleon: “I could not live without champagne. In victory I deserve it, in defeat I need it.”

Churchill had been a Pol Roger customer since 1908, but his friendship with the family began in 1944, when he was introduced to me. Odette Pol-Roger by British Ambassador Alfred Duff Cooper in Paris. The grande dame of Pol Roger Champagne, Odette encapsulated Churchill’s romantic vision of France; he was as captivated by her elegance and beauty as by the champagne served that day: Pol Roger’s full-blooded ’28. He left instructions that every time he returned to Paris, Odette Pol-Roger was to be invited to dinner.
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Datelines – Bladon Gravesite Refurbished

Finest Hour 163, Summer 2014

Page 08

BLADON, OXFORD, MAY 20TH— Robert Courts, a member of the St. Martin’s Parochial Church Council, who updated us on the Churchill gravesite (FH 161: 57), has with family approval arranged to clean the Churchill gravemarker and sends us photographs of its improved appearance. We are grateful to know there is a Churchillian on the scene in bladon, who so faithfully maintains an interest in the gravesite.

Robert also advises us that the Parochial Church Council of St Martin’s bladon has commissioned a new stained glass window to help commemorate the 50th anniversary of Sir Winston’s death in 2015. Emma blount will produce the window, which will contain a depiction of St. Martin along with heraldry and symbols associated with Churchill’s life. The Rector, Canon Adrian daffern, said: “After a detailed period of research we shortlisted three artists, all of whom came up with wonderfully imaginative results. but it was Emma who captured our imagination with her mastery of the brief and her stunning design.”
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Around & About

Finest Hour 163, Summer 2014

Page 07

Economist Thomas Sowell ( writes on the asymmetry of language between those on opposite sides of the ideological divide: “In the midst of an election campaign against the labour Party, when Winston Churchill said that there would be dire consequences if his opponents won, he said that this was because ‘they do not see where their theories are leading them.’ but, in an earlier campaign, Churchill’s labour opponent said that he looked upon WSC ‘as such a personal force for evil that I would take up the fight against him with a whole heart.’ ” In fairness Mr. Sowell should have added that Churchill also predicted “a kind of Gestapo” if labour won the 1945 election, although he didn’t call Clement Attlee “a personal force for evil,” and respected Attlee as a servant of his country, which was Sowell’s point.

“For the unduly imaginative,” wrote Florida Weekly, “the specter of Winston Churchill may haunt the grand chambers of state government in Tallahassee. That’s when 160 legislators—forty senators and 120 representatives—prepare for an eight-week round of bill-making, deal-wrangling, money-spending and bipartisan gamesmanship that shapes the way 19 million residents live in Florida. They call it ‘the legislative session.’ It begins Tuesday morning, March 4th. It was Mr. Churchill, after all, who pointed out: ‘Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.’ ” (Correctly noting that WSC did not originate this.)
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Finest Hour 163, Summer 2014

Page 05

Quotation of the Season

The danger which threaten the tranquillity of the modern world come not from those powers that have become interdependent upon others…. They come from those powers which are more or less aloof from the general intercourse of mankind….” —WSC, HOUSE OF COMMONS, 8 MARCH 1905

Denmark Remembers

BLADON, MAY 4TH— In the annual Holger Danske Clubben ceremony, Claus Grube, Danish Ambassador to Britain, laid a wreath in commemoration of the Danish Resistance and in thanks to Winston Churchill for Denmark’s liberation. The short service, organised and attended by local British Legion groups, gave thanks for “all those who served in the Resistance and other Forces…for the life and memory of Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, who led the free world in the fight for peace during the Second World War.”

Getting to Chartwell

WESTERHAM, MARCH 20TH— Chartwell opened today and through November 2nd, although the studio, exhibition room, gardens and estate are open throughout the year. Opening times are Wednesday through Sunday from 11am to 5pm, with the last house admission at 4:15 pm. Entry fees (house and gardens) are £12.50 adults, £6.25 children, £31.25 family. Visitors may opt for a small premium, “Gift Aid on Entry,” which is a donation. For the gardens and studio only, entry is £6.25 adults, £3.10 children and £15.60 family. There are no guided tours (although guides are present to help), but there is a reduced group rate of £10.70 adults for house and gardens. Telephone (01732) 868381.

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Despatch Box

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!
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Mary Soames 1922-2014 – Patron, Mentor, Friend

Finest Hour 163, Summer 2014

Page 02

By Richard M. Langworth, Editor

You may wonder why she is not on the cover. Well, we chose this particular cover with her in mind; it would greatly appeal to her. But our dear friend Lady Soames, who died peacefully at 91, surrounded by her family, at 8:35 pm on May 31st, deserves more than a hastily concocted cover. She deserves a special edition of Finest Hour, and that is what she shall have, issued between our summer and autumn issues. I say this notwithstanding that I can hear her now: “Really, dear, you are going way O.T.T. [over the top]—it’s silly to make a fuss.” Never mind, Mary, we are going to make a fuss.

Barbara and I knew her since 1983, when she attended her first Churchill Tour, which began at the Churchill Hotel, London. She soon became Patron of the International Churchill Society, now The Churchill Centre, replacing Lord Mountbatten, who died in 1979, the victim of assassins. From then on she was our constant correspondent, frequent companion at conferences and tours, sometime houseguest, loyal critic, decisive mentor and personal friend. There is no one outside our own family whom we loved more, and her loss removes one of the things that make life worth living.

What her special edition will contain may not be known until we sign off on the final proof, but we do know that the thoughts of any friend of hers are most welcome. Email or send by mail to the address on page 4.

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