Seventy years ago at Zurich University Winston Churchill delivered one of his most important post-war speeches (see pages 7, 31, and 41). Although given the somber title “The Tragedy of Europe,” Churchill’s remarks set out a plan for rebuilding the war-torn continent. Proposing “a kind of United States of Europe,” Churchill acknowledged that he might “astonish” his audience when he insisted, “The first step in the re-creation of the European family must be a partnership between France and Germany.” He ended his remarks with the exhortation, “And therefore I say to you, let Europe arise!” Or did he?
The short answer is yes. The speech was recorded, and the closing statement can be clearly heard (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ln4SRnt4VE0). The university placed two commemorative plaques to mark the occasion, one in English and one in German, each including the famous final phrase. Yet the published versions of Churchill’s speech do not include it at all.
The speech first appeared in the 1948 collection The Sinews of Peace, edited by Randolph Churchill and published in the UK by Cassell. The last line, however, is missing. Nor can it be found in other editions, including the Complete Speeches edited by Robert Rhodes James published in 1974. To find any written record of the remark in the Churchill papers, one must go to the source. And there lies a mystery as well. Read More >
Nial Barr, Eisenhower’s Armies: The American-British Alliance during World War II, Pegasus Books, 2015, 544 pages, $35. ISBN: 978–1605988160
Review by Nigel Hamilton
Nigel Hamilton is senior fellow in the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies. Dr. Hamilton is author of Monty, an award-winning three-volume biography of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery. He is currently at work on a three-volume study of Franklin D. Roosevelt as US Commander in Chief during the Second World War. The second volume, Commander in Chief: FDR’s Battle with Churchill, 1943, was published in June 2016.
Winston Churchill was born half-American— and ended his life as an honorary American. Educated as a soldier (at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst), moreover, he probably saw more combat in the field abroad than any US president or British prime minister. A military historian from his first books (The Story of the Malakand Field Force and The River War) to his near-last (The Second World War), he would have loved Niall Barr’s Eisenhower’s Armies: The American-British Alliance during World War II.
Churchill—who had a wonderfully wry sense of humor—would also have been amused, I think, by the change of title as the book crossed the Atlantic—for it was originally published in Britain as “Yanks and Limeys.” (It bore, however, a less sensational subtitle, namely “Alliance Warfare in the Second World War.”)
Both titles are in reality misnomers, for whether it be Eisenhower’s Armies or Yanks and Limeys the 544-page book is far, far more than a study of US and British approaches to military alliance in the Second World War. A full third of the volume covers the period before the United States even entered the war, beginning in the year 1755 and carrying the reader up to Pearl Harbor. Read More >
Cate Ludlow, I Love Churchill: 400 Fantastic Facts, The History Press, 2016, 160 pages, £10.
M. S. King, The British Mad Dog: Debunking the Myth of Winston Churchill, Create Space, 2016, 252 pages, $18.95.
Kathryn Selbert, War Dogs: Churchill and Rufus, Charlesbridge, 2016, 48 pages, $7.95.
Review by David Freeman
David Freemanis the editor of Finest Hour.
New books about Winston Churchill vary in size and quality. Whatever the case, Finest Hour sets out to separate the wheat from the chaff. There can be beauty in the miniature and malignancy in the meretricious.
Cate Ludlow’s I Love Churchill: 400 Fantastic Facts presents just that: 400 reliable facts about Churchill’s life in chronological order. This small but handsome paperback has sharp, modern graphics on each page to illustrate the concise but striking information. Despite the size, this quick and delightful read will not be out of place on display with its larger coffee-table siblings—a true gem. Read More >
Michael Köhlmeier, Translated by Ruth Martin, Two Gentlemen on the Beach, Haus Publishing, 2016, 280 pages, £17.99.
Review by Werner Vogt
Werner Vogt is a writer and a communications consultant in Zurich. For his article about Churchill’s links to Switzerland, see page 28. For a review of his most recent book, see page 41.
Originally published in Germany in 2014 as Zwei Herren am Strand, this novel by Michael Köhlmeier, an Austrian author of renown, deals with two great but very different men, Winston Churchill and Charlie Chaplin, and describes their relationship in general and their common problems with depression in particular. Given that Köhlmeier (born in 1949) is not only an experienced but also a well-decorated writer, expectations were of course high when the work was first published in the German-speaking world.
Köhlmeier’s endeavour was courageous, especially given that more has been written about Churchill than can be read and digested in a lifetime. It was certainly an original idea to approach the two giants of the twentieth century, their relationship and their dealing with “the black dog” (as Churchill called depression with a maximum of artistic licence) in a total and deliberate mix of fact and fiction. The idea of inventing history in a historical novel with fictional characters has a lot to it. And even when history is beefed up in order to qualify for an action thriller, as in Female Agents (starring Sophie Marceau), no one will really protest. Read More >
Linda Stoker, Churchill’s Shadow, Beswick and Beswick, 2015, 1114 KB, $7.57. ASIN: B0150XHGRG Portrayal of Churchill * Worth Reading **
Warren Adler and James C. Humes, Target Churchill, Stonehouse Press, 2013, 318 pages, $15.95. ISBN: 978–1590061183 Portrayal of Churchill ** Worth Reading **
Review by Michael McMenamin
Michael McMenamin and his son Patrick are co-authors of the award-winning Winston Churchill Thriller series The DeValera Deception, The Parsifal Pursuit, The Gemini Agenda, and The Berghof Betrayal set during Churchill’s Wilderness Years, 1929–39.
Novels are rated one to three stars on two questions: Is the portrayal of Churchill accurate, and is the book worth reading?
These are two very similar books, and I wanted to like them a lot more than I did. Both involve plots to assassinate Churchill. Churchill’s Shadow has Heinrich Himmler tasking Walter Schellenberg in July 1939 to assassinate Churchill when he visits the Duke of Windsor at his home on the French Riveria. Target Churchill has NKVD chief Lavrentiy Beria ordering the killing of Churchill in 1946, when he gives his famous Sinews of Peace speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri.
Linda Stoker is the great niece of Churchill’s bodyguard Walter Thompson, and the cover states that it is based on Thompson’s “secret memoirs.” Warren Adler, a long time mystery and thriller writer, is best known for his novel The War of the Roses, while James Humes has written several non-fiction books on Churchill. Read More >
Adrian Stewart, February 1942: Britain’s Darkest Days, Pen & Sword Military, 2015, 198 pages, £19.99. ISBN 978–1473821156
Review by Mark Klobas
Mark Klobas teaches history at Scottsdale Community College in Arizona and hosts a podcast for the New Books Network.
In any argument for when was the lowest point of the Second World War for Great Britain, an excellent case can be made for February 1942. Though the entry of the United States into the conflict just two months before led Winston Churchill to exult that Britain’s victory was assured, the road to that triumph became costlier, and the result diminished because of Japan’s subsequent assault on Britain’s empire in Asia. Before that victory could be achieved, Britain would suffer a series of humiliating and tragic defeats, most dramatically and symbolically represented by the fall of the “eastern Gibraltar,” Singapore.
Adrian Stewart outlines the events of that mensis horribilis in this short book. His focus is on operations in three theaters: North Africa, where the overextended Eighth Army was driven back by Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps; the English Channel, where the German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen evaded the combined efforts of the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force to destroy them; and Southeast Asia, where Japanese forces were in the midst of inflicting a series of defeats upon British, imperial, and allied forces on land, on sea, and in the air. Stewart traces much of the responsibility for this to Churchill’s decision the previous year to divert forces destined for Southeast Asia to Egypt. Buoyed, in Stewart’s view, by the recent success of Operation CRUSADER in rolling back Rommel’s forces to El Agheila in Libya, Churchill preferred to gamble on a victory in North Africa, instead of playing it safe by shoring up Britain’s military presence in the Far East. Read More >
Werner Vogt, Winston Churchill und die Schweiz: Vom Monte Rosa zum Triumphzug durch Zürich,Verlag Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 2015, 231 pages.
Review by Jochen Burgtorf
Jochen Burgtorf is professor of History and former chair of the History department at California State University, Fullerton. He is currently the President of the National History Honors Society.
If Winston Churchill’s 1946 “Sinews of Peace” address, delivered in Fulton, Missouri, drew international attention to the disheartening notion after the Second World War of an “iron curtain” coming down on eastern Europe due to the policies of the Soviet Union, then his “Let Europe Arise” speech, given in Zurich, Switzerland, later that same year, suggested an appropriate antidote: the United States of Europe, based on a partnership between France and Germany.
Werner Vogt’s Winston Churchill und die Schweiz: Vom Monte Rosa zum Triumphzug durch Zürich (“Winston Churchill and Switzerland: From Monte Rosa to the Triumphal Procession through Zurich”) places Churchill’s Zurich speech into a broad context and promises to go beyond Max Sauter’s 1976 dissertation by including Churchill’s early connections to Switzerland and, above all, the “human factor” (13). The latter is accomplished on the basis of oral histories conducted by Vogt with eyewitnesses and their descendants, including the son of Churchill’s physician in Switzerland and the dining-car waiter who served Churchill on the Swiss “Red Arrow” train.
Vogt holds a doctoral degree (1996) from the University of Zurich for a dissertation on the image of Churchill between 1938 and 1946 in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Read More >
Gabriel Gorodetsky, ed., The Maisky Diaries, Red Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s 1932–1943, Yale University Press, 2015, 632 pages, $40.
Review by D. Craig Horn
D. Craig Horn is a former Russian linguist for the United States Air Force currently serving in the North Carolina General Assembly. He is chairman of the Churchill Society of North Carolina and serves on The Churchill Centre’s Board of Trustees.
Winston Churchill once famously described Russia as “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” Such terms can be equally applied to Ivan Mikhailovich Maisky, Soviet ambassador to London from 1932–43. Just think for a minute about the world-shaking events of those years. In every instance, Ivan Maisky chronicled them in fascinating detail.
The Maisky Diaries present not only a behind-the-curtain look at diplomacy and deception but also a story of intrigue and survival. Ambassador Maisky wormed himself into the innermost workings of the British government; he was the ultimate maker of friends in high places. His address book included private contacts at the highest levels of officialdom, journalism, diplomats, and political insiders. Through sheer ability and a cunning strategy, Maisky constantly put himself in the right place at the right time. Read More >
Paul Bew, Churchill and Ireland, Oxford University Press, 208 pages, £16.99/ $29.95.
Review by Robert McNamara
Robert McNamarateaches History at Ulster University and is the editor of The Churchills in Ireland 1660– 1965: Connections and Controversies (Irish Academic Press, 2011).
What did Winston Churchill really think about Irish nationalism and unionism? Indeed who is the real “Churchill” when it came to Ireland: an ardent home ruler or a diehard unionist Tory? Since he, at least on the surface, changed his mind often regarding both the conflicting communities in Ireland, it is rather difficult to identify a coherent thread, let alone an idée fixe.
Remarkably, this is only the fourth book on the subject out of the many thousands published about Churchill. Paul Bew covers the intersections of Churchill’s career and Ireland from the baby in the pram in the viceregal lodge in Phoenix Park to the 1950s. Mainly he negotiates a delicate balancing act mixing praise and criticism in his portrait. Unlike previous books written on the subject, Bew takes a moderate unionist perspective on some of the issues.
Irish opinions on Winston Churchill are mixed, to say the least. The accusations levelled against Churchill are long. He was the son of Lord Randolph, the man who played the “Orange Card.” He supported coercion and, most infamously, reprisals during the 1919–21 Troubles. He was a leading figure in the Treaty that partitioned Ireland and led to a bitter civil war in the south. He showed no respect for Irish neutrality (and by implication independence) during the Second World War. In a victory broadcast in May 1945, he launched a venomous attack on Irish neutrality, which Eamon de Valera defiantly rebuked in a famous reply. Read More >
Roger Hermiston, All Behind You, Winston: Churchill’s Great Coalition, 1940–45, Aurum Press, 406 pages, £20.
Review by John Campbell
John Campbell’s books include major biographies of F. E. Smith, Aneurin Bevan, Edward Heath, Margaret Thatcher, and most recently Roy Jenkins.
The title of this book derives from the caption for the great cartoonist David Low’s Evening Standard drawing of 14 May 1940—four days after Churchill became Prime Minister— showing Churchill followed by leaders of the new government, all rolling up their sleeves and marching determinedly forward to start the job of winning the war.
Roger Hermiston’s bright idea is to take this image as the starting point for examining Britain’s war effort not as the achievement of one man—however indispensable his leadership—but rather as the product of the whole coalition government, comprising a remarkable collection of individuals from widely different backgrounds, working together, not always harmoniously but in the end effectively, for the common goal of victory. It is so obviously right that it is surprising that no one, so far as I know, has done it before. His book is skilfully constructed, with successive chapters focussing on the particular contribution of different players while maintaining a broad chronological narrative through the stages of the war, from the defiant unity of May 1940 through the dark days of 1941 to the turning of the tide in 1942 with the entry of the Russians and the Americans and the increasing strains within the coalition, as attention turned towards building the post-war world. Read More >
Lord Randolph was still in South Africa on business during the summer when he received Winston’s letter recounting, among other things, the abandoned factory windows he and some other Harrow students had broken. In his reply to Winston on 27 June, Lord Randolph made no reference to the broken windows. Rather, in distinct contrast to many of his critical letters to his son, he began this one in a cheery upbeat manner:
You cannot think how pleased I was to get your interesting & well-written letter & to learn that you are getting on well. I understand that Mr Welldon thinks you will be able to pass your examination into the Army when the time comes. I hope it may be so, as it will be a tremendous pull for you ultimately.
He concluded the letter with “Ever yr most affte father” and added a p.s. that he was “doubtful about being able to bring home a tame antelope.” In a letter to his father on 22 July, Winston clarified what he wanted: “I never meant you to bring home a ‘live’ antelope. What I meant was a head for my room.” Read More >
João Carlos Espada is the director and founder of the Institute for Political Studies at the Catholic University of Portugal. This article is extracted from his new book The Anglo-American Tradition of Liberty: A View from Europe (Routledge, 2016).
Winston Churchill was indeed the best representative of an old, well established and highly respectable political tradition: the Anglo-American political tradition of liberty under law. His political philosophy was not that of a maverick or an outsider, but that of a very old political tradition that goes back to Magna Carta, the Glorious Revolution, and the American Revolution.
This tradition, of limited government and of liberty under the law, has often been associated with a specific English political tradition, the conservative one. Whether or not Churchill considered the principle of limited government as a specific conservative principle is a matter open to dispute. Churchill certainly expressed in a very telling manner his opposition to revolutionary plans to redesign a social order. But it seems to me that he associated this opposition to unlimited political power with a broad consensus between the two main British parliamentary families in the nineteenth century, the Conservatives and the Liberals.
This is particularly striking when he recalled the political philosophy of Sir Francis Mowatt, a top civil servant who had been private secretary to Gladstone and had served both under him and Disraeli, the two rival leading statesmen of Victorian England, one Liberal and the other Conservative. Sir Francis’s political philosophy, as described by Churchill, could hardly be more opposed to revolutionary and absolutist political projects: Read More >
Werner Vogt wrote his PhD dissertation about Churchill’s pictures in Switzerland’s leading daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung. The author of numerous newspaper articles and books, his latest book, about Churchill’s relationship to Switzerland, is reviewed on page 41.
It would be pretentious to assume that Switzerland played a major role in Winston Churchill’s life. Nevertheless he had many links to Switzerland, starting with his first travel abroad and finishing in the last year he lived, when his friend and supplier of his oil paints Willy Sax died shortly before him. For the Swiss people Churchill became a hero in 1940, and when he visited the city of Zurich on 19 September 1946 tens of thousands of people were cheering along the streets. The Swiss people’s gratitude was limitless. They made his drive through the city a triumphal parade. Never before and never after Churchill have the Swiss paid tribute to a great man like this.
A Most Tiring Mountain
Churchill’s first encounter with the Swiss and their homeland happened when he visited the country as a tourist in the summers of 1893 and 1894 together with his brother Jack and their tutor, Mr Little. These were in fact Churchill’s first travels abroad as a young man. He had a keen eye for the beauty of nature and wrote a series of enthusiastic letters to his mother, wherein he described the astounding scenery of the Swiss mountains and lakes but also some cities, which were to his liking. He even went so far as to climb Monte Rosa in the Valais, a substantial but by no means difficult mountain in the Canton of Valais. In a letter to his mother Churchill wrote: Read More >
Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon, final resting place of William Shakespeare
Winston Churchill greets visitors to the Stratford Armouries
Winston Churchill and William Shakespeare, the two greatest Britons, are now both celebrated in the Bard’s home of Stratford-upon-Avon, as the Stratford Armouries have become host to one of the finest collections of Churchilliana in existence. Jack Darrah gathered many of the best and rarest pieces celebrating Churchill’s life and is now pleased to see them permanently housed in a museum that preserves many elements of British military history.
Formerly housed at Bletchley Park, the Darrah/Harwood collection found a new home this year and opened to the public in late spring. Jack turned ninety-one last June, and his daughter Carol Harwood took on the sizable task of combing through the vast number of collectables to organize the exhibit at Stratford. Display cases take the visitor through the whole of Churchill’s life from childhood to the State Funeral in 1965. Among the rarities is one of the two ropes used to pull the caisson that bore Churchill’s casket through the streets of London. Read More >
Warren Kimball is a member of the Editorial Board of Finest Hour and Robert Treat Professor Emeritus of History at Rutgers.
One of the challenges of writing proper history is telling what and why something happened within a broad enough context to avoid distortion-by-brevity.
A corrective, if I may, to Michael McMenamin’s telling of the Cape Town gold story in “Action This Day” (FH 171). It is a nice tale, but told in a short version tends to perpetuate two myths. Unfortunately, Winston Churchill’s war memoir contributed to the mythology. The first is the image of greedy Americans “squeezing” out all they could from what Churchill described as a “helpless debtor.” The second is the obvious assumption, by Churchill and at least two British official historians, that the proposal to ship gold across the Atlantic, risking U-boat attacks, came from those avaricious Americans.
As McMenamin described, Sir Frederick Phillips of the British Treasury (in Washington to discuss financial matters) “was told” on 23 December 1940 that Roosevelt had “arranged” for shipment of Cape Town gold to the United States. True enough, but the reality is that the suggestion of a gold transfer was not an American brainstorm. Rather it came four days earlier from Phillips himself, although he seems to have been surprised that his casual idea had been adopted and acted upon so quickly. As a Treasury official reported to the Department Secretary, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., “Phillips whether it would be possible for the Treasury…to buy gold situated in Australia or South Africa.” He even wondered if American warships might carry the gold.1 Read More >
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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.