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Finest Hour 188

In Memoriam Paul Addison (1943–2020)

Finest Hour 188, Second Quarter 2020

Page 50

By David Stafford


With the death of Paul Addison, the world of Churchill studies is substantially poorer. No one claiming fully to understand Britain’s Second World War leader can fail to have read his pioneering study Churchill on the Home Front. Equally his biography Churchill: The Unexpected Hero is regarded by many, including myself, as the best short biography. Paul died on 21 January 2020 after a stoic battle with cancer. He is survived by his wife Rosemary and his two sons, James and Michael. For many years he was my close friend and colleague at the University of Edinburgh.

Born outside the small cathedral city of Lichfield in the English Midlands, Paul won a firstclass degree in history at Pembroke College, Oxford. As a postgraduate student he benefited from the inspired supervision of the celebrated historian A. J. P. Taylor to write his Ph.D. thesis on the opposition to Churchill’s wartime coalition government. It was Taylor, Paul often said, who fired his passion for history. The thesis formed the foundation of his path-breaking book The Road to 1945, which was published in 1975. Others followed, such as a BBC book accompanying the TV series Now the War Is Over (1985) and No Turning Back (2010). These all helped set the agenda for other British historians and influenced generations of students. Read More >

Books, Arts, & Curiosities – Dazzling Duchess

Finest Hour 188, Second Quarter 2020

Page 48

Review by Ophelia Field

Ophelia Field is author of The Favourite: The Life of Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough (2018)

Hugo Vickers, The Sphinx: The Life of Gladys Deacon, Duchess of Marlborough, Hodder and Stoughton, 2020, 388 pages, £25. ISBN 978–1529390704


When Hugo Vickers concludes, towards the end of this jaw-dropping biography, that Gladys Deacon “had lived a fuller and more varied life than most,” he is guilty of extreme British understatement. This was a woman who had been a muse, an object of infatuation, or at least an object of curiosity to Auguste Rodin, Bernard Berenson, Giovanni Boldini, the Crown Prince of Prussia, Marcel Proust, Edith Wharton, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Count Hermann von Keyserling, Henri Bergson, Jean Giraudoux, Jacob Epstein, Virginia Woolf, Jean Marchand, H. G. Wells, Paul Valéry, Lytton Strachey, Arnold Bennett, George Moore, Edith Sitwell, Evelyn Waugh, Siegfried Sassoon, and many more. Events such as having lunch with Mussolini, or D. H. Lawrence entrusting her with his dirty drawings, barely even find space here for explanation.

By comparison, the ninth Duke of Marlborough seems a rather boring man for the beautiful young American heiress to fixate on marrying from the age of fourteen, a consistency of purpose at odds with the overall discontinuity of both her life and personality. Like an actress, Gladys could metamorphosise. One hostess wrote of her when she visited, “Fortunately she is a hundred people in one, and entertains herself by her own rapid changes of mood.” Read More >

Books, Arts, & Curiosities – Turning Point

Finest Hour 188, Second Quarter 2020

Page 45

Review by John Campbell

David Stafford, Oblivion or Glory: 1921 and the Making of Winston Churchill, Yale University Press, 2019, 301 pages, $26/£20. ISBN 978–0300234046

John Campbell’s books include major biographies of F. E. Smith, Aneurin Bevan, Edward Heath, Margaret Thatcher, and Roy Jenkins.


Every time I review a book for Finest Hour I am amazed by how many new angles historians manage to find from which to write about Churchill. Some do seem to be scraping the barrel; but, by focussing closely on a single critical year in Churchill’s life, David Stafford has found a genuinely illuminating and fresh perspective. One could suggest other pivotal years, but Professor Stafford makes a compelling case for 1921 as the year in which Churchill, on the cusp of middle age at forty-six, began to bounce back from the disaster of the Dardanelles, shake off his youthful reputation for recklessness and poor judgment, and be recognised, in some quarters at least, as a potential Prime Minister.

Much of the freshness comes from the way Stafford mixes the public and political with the private and personal, with no clear boundary between the two. His book opens with Churchill at a New Year party at Philip Sassoon’s house at Port Lympne, along with Lloyd George and various other ministers and fixers, where the singing of music hall songs mingled with serious discussion; and ends with Winston and Clementine enjoying Christmas on the Riviera. In between, a constant whirl of country house weekends with aristocratic relatives and society hostesses is a reminder, often lacking in conventional political history, of the gilded social world in which the governing class of the day lived and moved. By contrast, Churchill only once visited his Dundee constituency during the year and was shocked by the poverty and barefoot children he encountered. Read More >

Books, Arts, & Curiosities – The Lion’s Roar

Finest Hour 188, Second Quarter 2020

Page 44

Review by Chris Matthews

Erik Larson, The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family and Defiance during the Blitz, Crown, 2020, 585 pages, $32. ISBN 978–0385348713

Chris Matthews hosted Hardball on MSNBC for twenty years and is a member of the Board of Advisers to the International Churchill Society.


Erik Larson tells the story of London under the Blitz with all its sound and fury, but also its unexpected joy. The Splendid and the Vile delivers the great saga with a novelist’s touch. It is like you are watching and hearing the days and nights of 1940 as a passenger on a London double-decker bus.

“It was the dust that many Londoners remembered as being one of the most striking phenomena of this attack and others that followed,” Larson writes. “As buildings erupted, thunderheads of pulverized brick, stone, plaster, and mortar billowed from eaves and attics, roofs and chimneys, hearths and furnaces—dust from the age of Cromwell, Dickens, and Victoria.” Through that dust we meet up with our defiant hero.

“Good old Winnie,” comes a voice from the crowd. “We thought you’d come and see us. We can take it. Give it back. When are we going to bomb Berlin, Winnie?” Now we hear the answer that would make all the difference: “You leave that to me.” Read More >

Action This Day – Spring 1895, 1920, 1945

Finest Hour 188, Second Quarter 2020

Page 42

By Michael McMenamin


125 Years Ago
Spring 1895 • Age 20
“Master of My Fortunes”

Churchill famously wrote in his autobiography My Early Life that, after the death of his father in early 1895, “I was now in the main the master of my fortunes. My mother was always at hand to help and advise; but…she never sought to exercise parental control. Indeed she soon became an ardent ally….We worked together on even terms, more like brother and sister than mother and son. At least so it seemed to me.”

Eventually, a relationship similar to the one Churchill described had evolved between him and his mother, but it had not begun that way. Jennie still controlled the family purse strings, and his letters to her during the spring of 1895 tell a different story. They show her exercising parental control:

4 May: “I cannot put it any plainer than that. I am absolutely at the end of my funds—so if you can possibly give me a cheque for all—or any part of this sum—I shall be awfully pleased…,I agree with you it is dreadfully inconvenient & I hate to have to worry you like this—but my mess bill comes in a few days and must be paid somehow.”

8 May: “Very many thanks for the cheque. I will try and manage somehow until 15th when I must pay my mess bill. I am so sorry that things are not going well as regards finance.”

15 May: “I quite understand how difficult it is for you and as you cannot arrange anything at present—I must wait. But I do hope that this deadlock will not last more than a very few days. My mess bill is of course unpaid.…I write this only to show that things are very difficult with me and in order that you will be as quick as you can.” Read More >

“To Have Worked with Him” Churchill and the Future Occupants of No. 10

Finest Hour 188, Second Quarter 2020

Page 33

By Iain Carter

Iain Carter is Director of the Conservative Research Department. He has previously been Political Director of the Conservative Party and a special adviser to the Leader of the House of Lords.


Winston Churchill said, “Politics is not a game. It is an earnest business.”1 There are few who have experienced the gravity of politics quite so acutely as he did, and during his own time in 10 Downing Street Churchill served alongside five men who went on to follow him as Prime Minister. Three of them, Attlee, Eden, and Macmillan, worked much more closely with him than did Alec Douglas-Home and Edward Heath. Yet the relationship all five of them had with Churchill played a part in their individual ascents to the pinnacle of British politics.

Clement Attlee
Ally and Rival

Perhaps the most interesting relationship between Churchill and those who followed him is the one he had with Clement Attlee. Without Attlee’s backing, it is far from certain that Churchill would have become Prime Minister in 1940. Attlee went on to serve with distinction in the War Cabinet, including as Deputy Prime Minister from 1942 onwards. His loyalty saw him back Churchill on major issues of strategy in discussions with the chiefs of staff, as well as facing down criticism from Labour colleagues. Despite this wartime unity, Attlee went on to become one of Churchill’s greatest political rivals, beating him in both the 1945 and 1950 general elections before the Conservatives were returned to power in 1951.

Read More >

Twin Titans David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill

Finest Hour 188, Second Quarter 2020

Page 18

By Kenneth O. Morgan

Kenneth O. Morgan is author of books about Lloyd George, James Callaghan, and Michael Foot. He serves in the House of Lords as Baron Morgan of Aberdyfi.


During his years in the Liberal party from 1904 to 1923, Winston Churchill served under three prime ministers. The third of these was unique. For unlike his relationships with Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman and H. H. Asquith, towards David Lloyd George, Churchill was almost in awe. Robert Boothby, who served as Churchill’s Parliamentary Private Secretary when Churchill was Chancellor of the Exchequer, told a famous story in his memoirs about a meeting between the two great war leaders that took place in the 1920s. The old relationship, Churchill told Boothby ruefully, was quickly restored, “the relationship between Master and Servant. And I was the Servant.”1

Of course, Lloyd George was eleven years older than Churchill. He entered parliament in 1890, while Churchill was still a schoolboy at Harrow, and was first appointed to the Cabinet two and a half years before Churchill. But the ascendancy was personal and psychological as well as political. Even though Lloyd George had been a fierce critic of the South African War while Churchill was an imperialist, when the latter crossed the floor to join the Liberals in 1904, he chose to sit next to the Welshman in the Commons, after a controversial maiden speech, and they joined in onslaughts on the failing Unionist government. Churchill had nothing to do with Lloyd George’s ventures in politics on Welsh and other matters down to 1906 and was first appointed to the Colonial Office as a junior minister while his colleague went to the Board of Trade (with Churchill the more zealous free trader of the two). But after 1908 the pair formed a bold and dynamic partnership as pioneers of social reform. Churchill went down to the Criccieth home of Lloyd George, who was now Chancellor, to plan out a vast prospectus of social insurance, following up his colleague’s visit to examine the insurance system in post-Bismarck Germany. The outcome was a double triumph, Lloyd George brilliantly carrying through the 1911 National Health Insurance Act, and Churchill starting up labour exchanges to tackle unemployment before advancing to the Home Office. Read More >

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