Steve R. Dunn, The Scapegoat: The Life and Tragedy of a Fighting Admiral and Churchill’s Role in His Death, Book Guild Publishing, 2014, 251 pages, £17.99.
Steve R. Dunn has brought back to life a forgotten hero of the Royal Navy. Not only does the author focus on the life of Rear-Admiral Sir Christopher “Kit” Cradock, but on the life and times of the late Victorian and Edwardian Navy—Dunn’s “Vicwardian Navy.” Cradock’s actions at the Battle of Coronel in November 1914 resulted in the first British naval defeat in 100 years and the loss of 1,600 lives off the coast of central Chile. Yet, Dunn’s effort portrays Cradock as a true hero up against the questionable actions of the ambitious and youthful First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill. The book is extremely critical not only of Churchill’s actions, but of the class-ridden Royal Navy’s officer “establishment” before 1914. Cradock personally did not welcome Churchill’s arrival at the Admiralty in 1911 and believed the new First Lord never liked him.
During the early months of the First World War, Cradock found himself and his squadron facing German Vice-Admiral Maxmilian von Spee off the coast of South America. All the belligerents knew the German squadron was vastly superior as a fighting unit to the British. As the conflict approached, Cradock requested additional naval support, which was refused. Read More >
Warren Dockter, Churchill and the Islamic World, I. B. Tauris, 2014, 288 pages, £25.00 / $40.00.
A century ago Western politicians, as this book makes clear, were as clueless about Islamic culture and politics as they are today. But then as now that did not prevent Westerners from making airy pronouncements about the Islamic world or relieve their leaders of the need or temptation to formulate policies towards Islamic societies and initiate actions within them. Even a man such as Winston Churchill, who evinced a consistent interest in Islam and could bring to bear his intense intelligence, simply did not have a deep or objective enough knowledge to appear, in retrospect, well informed.
Finest Hour readers will be aware of the extent of Churchill’s association with the “Islamic world,” and the manner in which it presented itself to a politician of the period. The Ottoman Empire regularly intersected British imperial and foreign policy and influenced public awareness of the fault lines between east and west, Islam and Christianity. Further, the British Empire’s position as a “Muslim power” was never far from the thoughts of statesmen. Churchill experienced fighting on India’s North-West Frontier and was influenced by figures such as Wilfrid Scawen Blunt and T. E. Lawrence. He engaged with Islamic regions during stints at the Air Ministry, Colonial Office, and War Office, and was instrumental in determining the political contours of the Middle East following the Great War. Later came his engagement with political reform in India and the position of the subcontinent’s Muslim population, and the travails of British policy in Palestine.
In December 1890, Winston was set to take the Preliminary Examination for Sandhurst. In the days leading up to the exam, however, he told his mother that he thought he would not pass because he had been put under a master “whom I hated & who returned that hate.” Lady Randolph was not pleased, and her displeasure made its way to her son. In mid-November, Winston wrote and reassured her that he had complained to the headmaster about the hated master, who had since been replaced “by masters who take the greatest interest in me & who say that I have been working very well.” “Arithmetic & Algebra are the dangerous subjects,” Winston continued, but he was “sure of English” and “nearly sure of Geography, Euclid & French.” He concluded his letter asking her to take his “word of honour…that I am working my very best.”
Apparently Lady Randolph did not do so and visited Harrow herself to talk to Harrow’s Headmaster James Welldon, who backed up Winston’s claim. She wrote to her husband on 23 November explaining that “Winston was working under a master he hated—& that one day the master accused him of a lie—whereupon Winston grandly said that his word had never been doubted before & that he wld go straight to Welldon—which he did.” She explained further that Welldon had sided with Winston and placed him with a new master and that Welldon “thought Winston was working as hard as he possibly cld & that he would pass his preliminary exam.” Read More >
John Addison, a member of The Churchill Centre, served as a Co-Chief Executive Officer of Primerica, Inc. from 1999 to March 2015.
“Leadership This Day” illustrates how Winston Churchill’s example guides and motivates today’s leaders.
Contributors come from many fields, including business, politics, and the military.
“Often in the casual remarks of great men one learns their true mind in an intimate way.” Marlborough, 1933
I have always been fascinated by the biographies of great leaders. Although many great men who seized their destiny at critical moments and rewrote history have influenced me during my rise through the leadership ranks in the financial services industry, it was the life and leadership of Sir Winston Churchill that always interested me the most. In 2009, Winston Churchill went from an interest to an inspiration as I entered the greatest battle of my career.
I was Co-CEO of a large division of Citigroup. We had approximately 2,000 employees and were doing over one billion dollars in annual revenues. Our business was successful, but we were ready to part ways with Citi. In fact, we had been working for two years on an Initial Public Offering (IPO) that would have granted our freedom. Then the world collapsed, and Citi was at the epicenter of the financial crisis. The fall-out of the crisis began to crush our division, and an exit from Citi went from a convenience to an absolute necessity. Read More >
Warren Dockter is a Research Fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge, and the author of Churchill and the Islamic World, reviewed on page 36.
Few friendships shaped history as much as that between Winston Churchill and T. E. Lawrence. In Great Contemporaries, Churchill reminded his readers that Lawrence “flew best and easiest in the hurricane.” The same might be said of Churchill.1 Both were men of genius littered with paradoxes; both had an unyielding sense of justice; and both were products of the British Empire. Churchill admired Lawrence as a sort of Napoleon and undoubtedly saw traces of himself in Lawrence. Both men were early enthusiasts of air power, and both enjoyed not only making history but writing it. This helps explain the nature of what might appear to have been an unlikely friendship, especially after their first meeting in Paris during the 1919 Peace Conference.
The two were both attending a luncheon when Churchill was told a story about Lawrence refusing honours to be bestowed upon him by King George V. Churchill’s impression was that Lawrence, wishing to make a political statement, declined the honours during an official public ceremony. Churchill was outraged and quickly rebuked Lawrence, calling his actions “most wrong.”2 Only later did Churchill learn that Lawrence had refused the honours in a private reception with the King in order to demonstrate that “the honour of Great Britain was at stake in the faithful treatment of the Arabs and that their betrayal to the Syrian demands of France would be an indelible blot on our history.” Lawrence’s cool demeanour and “good humour” regarding the incident stood out in Churchill’s mind.3 Read More >
The design of the new Sir Winston Churchill Memorial Window fits seamlessly into the architecture of St. Martin’s Church to reflect the design of the existing Spencer-Churchill window.
The main figures are St. Martin and St. Alban. St. Martin is, appropriately, the patron saint of soldiers. St. Alban was chosen to be the second saint, as he is held to be the first martyr of England.
The design is crowned by Sir Winston’s coat of arms. The window is thereafter divided into two “lights,” one for each saint, and fitting in with the existing tracery.
The left-hand “St. Martin” light features the cap badge of the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars. Vines and grapes form the background; St. Martin is the patron saint of vintners. At the foot of the light is a vignette of Sir Winston touring a wartime dockyard, cheered by the workers. Read More >
The author with Professor James W. Muller at the 32nd International Churchill Conference, May 2015
Finest Hour 170, Fall 2015
By Imam Ahmed Abdel Rahman El Mahdi
Imam Ahmed Abdel Rahman El Mahdi is the grandson of the Mahdi—Mohammed Ahmed ibn Abdallah—who led a jihadist uprising by the Ansar (as the Mahdi’s followers were known) against Turco-Egyptian rule in Sudan in the late nineteenth century. This brought about the demise of General Gordon in Khartoum in 1885, which in turn led to the River War of 1896–1899 involving a young Lieutenant Churchill. The Imam spoke at the thirty-second International Churchill Conference on 28 May 2015.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to be here today to take part in this important conference and to speak in this session on Churchill and Islam. Churchill’s involvement in the Sudan was an important aspect of his amazing life. Churchill showed a remarkable degree of interest and insight into Islam. The Muslim world formed an important part of the British Empire. Apart from the relations with the Ottoman Empire, which governed most of the Muslim world, there were millions and millions of Muslims under British rule.
Lord Randolph Churchill died in January 1895 at the age of forty-five. His son Winston Churchill claimed thirty-five years later in his autobiographical volume My Early Life that Lord Randolph had died “at the moment when his new fortune almost exactly equaled his debts.”1 Ever since historians have usually accepted this verdict.2
It is true that Winston’s parents had struggled with money all their married lives. The Churchill and Jerome families had contributed enough assets to the young couple’s marriage settlement to put them in the top percentile of Britain’s income earners at £3,000 a year; in addition, Lord Randolph’s father, the seventh Duke of Marlborough, gave them an extra £10,000 with which to buy a London house.3
Yet this start had never been enough to satisfy the expensive tastes that Lord Randolph and Jennie Jerome had acquired in their youth: Jennie could no more give up buying her clothes from expensive designers in Paris than Lord Randolph could cast off the male Churchills’ fondness for gambling. Read More >
The greatest book of the twentieth century is The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. Anne’s tragically short biography is well known. She was born on 12 June 1929 in Frankfurt, Germany, a city with a long and rich history of Jewish culture. After the Nazis came to power in 1933, her family emigrated to the Netherlands and settled in Amsterdam.
Anne adored her adoptive country, but following the German invasion of the Netherlands in the spring of 1940 (on the day Churchill became prime minister), Anne’s father Otto began to make arrangements to hide his family from the inevitable Nazi roundup of Jews.
On 6 July 1942 the Franks and another family went into hiding together in a specially prepared “secret annex” at the back of a warehouse on the Prinsengracht Canal, now home to the Anne Frank Museum. Altogether there were eight people in seclusion: Anne, her sister Margot, their parents Otto and Edith, Hermann and Auguste Van Pels (known as the Van Daans in the book), their sixteen-year-old son Peter, and, starting in November 1942, Fritz Pfeffer (an elderly dentist known in the book as Mr. Dussel). Read More >
Professor David Patterson holds the Hillel A. Feinberg Chair in Holocaust Studies in the Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies at The University of Texas at Dallas.
Malcolm MacDonald, the son of Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald. As Secretary of State for the Colonies in 1939, he produced the controversial White Paper restricting Jewish immigration into Palestine.
Sir Winston Churchill was known for his foresight. Just as he saw the gathering storm over Europe long before the Second World War broke out, so he understood early on the singularity of what we now call the Holocaust, Shoah, Churban, Final Solution, Judenvernichtung, or simply, in Paul Celan’s words, “that which happened.”1 In his radio broadcast of 24 August 1941, just two months after the Einsatzgruppen killing units began the systematic murder of the Jewish people, Churchill announced that Jews in “whole districts are being exterminated,” adding, “We are in the presence of a crime without a name.”2
Well before the Nazis were gassing and burning Jews in the six extermination camps a year later, Churchill understood that what was to be called the Holocaust was something more than mass murder, something more than the annihilation of a people.3 Unlike most others, he had some sense of just what the Nazis set out to exterminate in their total extermination of the Jews, from Tromsø to Tunis, namely, the millennial teaching and testimony that the Jewish people represent by their very presence in the world.
Churchill’s insight into this aspect of the nameless crime can be seen in his view of the Zionists’ effort to seek a haven for the Jews in the Land of the Covenant. When as First Lord of the Admiralty he first met with Zionist leader Chaim Read More >
On 9 December 1905, Winston Churchill was given his first government post by Prime Minister Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman as the new Under-Secretary for the Colonies. As then required by law, an MP taking a government position had to contest his parliamentary seat in a by-election. The next day, 10 December 1905, Churchill was electioneering as the key speaker at a Manchester North West public protest meeting on the ill treatment of Jews in Russia.
As a third of the Manchester North West electorate was Jewish, a gathering of Jewish residents was present to hear Churchill speak. On the meeting’s podium when Churchill spoke was a Jewish chemist and Zionist named Dr. Chaim Weizmann.1
With the general election of January 1906 close at hand, Churchill later approached Weizmann through his representative to help swing the Jewish vote in his favour in Manchester. Weizmann, although he recognized Churchill’s authority, was disinclined to intervene so overtly in British politics, and he just referred the matter to David Wolffsohn, President of the Zionist Organization. Shortly afterwards, Weizmann met with Churchill “for a brief, introductory and uneventful talk.”2 Read More >
LOS ANGELES, CA—I am glad to see Jeremy Wilson’s explanation of Churchill’s prefatory note for the 1954 Home Letters of T. E. Lawrence and His Brothers. This is an interesting and rare episode because, unlike so many politicians then and now, Churchill was inclined to write his own letters and speeches. I took down from its shelf my copy of the Home Letters, read its prefatory note again, and am struck by what an excellent imitation it is of Churchill’s style.
And what a coup to have Jeremy Wilson aboard Finest Hour! In addition to his biography of Lawrence, his publications for Castle Hill Press are also major contributions to Lawrence scholarship. I expect many readers will want to get the forthcoming edition of Lawrence’s correspondence with political elites, which I believe will include pretty much all of Churchill’s correspondence with Lawrence.
—Paul Alkon Read More >
The Middle East is never not in the news. Winston Churchill’s involvement with the Jewish and Muslim worlds, however, began well before his first extended travels in the region and continued throughout his long life. His association with both cultures greatly influenced him, and his own impact upon the Middle East remains strong today.
The upheaval of the First World War destroyed the centuries-old Ottoman Empire. Churchill emerged as the key figure in the reconfiguration of the Middle East following the end of Turkish colonial rule. Warren Dockter describes how the counsel of T.E. Lawrence influenced Churchill’s decision making.
Churchill’s fulfillment of the pledge made in the Balfour Declaration opened the way for the establishment of a new nation for the Jewish people in their ancient homeland. Progress towards this goal became inextricably linked with the rise of Nazi Germany and the ensuing tragedy of the Holocaust. David Patterson illustrates these developments and Churchill’s reactions to them. Trying, and with much success, to influence Churchill along the way was Chaim Weizmann. Fred Glueckstein describes the relationship between Britain’s self-proclaimed “Zionist” prime minister and the first President of Israel. Read More >
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The next issue of Finest Hour will be about "Churchill, Race, and Religion." In the foreword, Lord Boateng, Chair of the Churchill Archives Trust, writes: “Sir Winston did not run away from controversy in his life and would not expect anything less in that which has followed. We do owe him and each other, however, civility and respect in the conduct of those arguments—not least, since we owe to him and the global anti-fascist fight, which he helped lead to such good effect, the secure freedom to hold those arguments at all.” … See MoreSee Less
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.