Sir Alexander Fleming Twice Saved Churchill’s Life

The myth of Fleming saving Churchill’s life

Winston Churchill at Harrow

Winston Churchill at Harrow, © Churchill Archives, Broadwater Collection

The Churchill-Fleming Non-Connection: The story that Sir Alexander Fleming or his father (the renditions vary) saved Churchill’s life has roared around the Internet for years. Charming as it is, it is certainly fiction. We have cited later references, but in 2009 Ken Hirsch used Google Book Search to track what is likely the first appearance of this myth: the December 1944 issue of Coronet magazine, pages 17-18, in the story, “Dr. Lifesaver,” by Arthur Gladstone Keeney.

Mr. Hirsch also tracked the author (1893-1955), a Florida and Washington D.C. newsman who served during World War II in the Office of War Information. “Since Keeney’s story was published only a year after Churchill was stricken (prominently) with pneumonia,” Mr. Hirsch writes, “I think it may be the first appearance of the myth.”

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Churchill bombed Dresden as payback for Coventry

It is oft repeated that Churchill “ordered” the firebombing of Dresden as a “vicious payback” for the German bombing of Coventry (which Churchill is often accused of allowing to burn rather than reveal his access to the German codes -see FH 35). Who’s right about Dresden? Before we get into that, let us remember that there was a war on, and who the enemy was. Had he the means, Hitler would cheerfully have flattened London and everyone in it. Read More >

Churchill Let Coventry Burn To Protect His Secret Intelligence

Peter J. McIver

Mr. McIver, of Nuneaton, Warwickshire, penned this article eighteen years ago in Finest Hour 41. We have brought it up to date by adding or quoting additional, recently published material.

For twenty years, most recently in a piece by Christopher Hitchens in The Atlantic Monthly, it has become a matter of accepted fact that on the night of 14-15 November 1940, rather than compromise a decisive source of intelligence, Winston Churchill left the city of Coventry to the mercies of the German Air Force.

This story has appeared in many books, articles and letters to the press, but its origins date back over a quarter century to three books, by F. W. Winterbotham, Anthony Cave Brown, and William Stevenson.

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No, ABC, Churchill did not have Alzheimer’s

New Your, August 9th, 2002

The “ABC Evening News,” with Charles Gibson substituting for Peter Jennings, led with a story on the announcement by Charlton Heston that he had a neurological disease related to Alzheimer’s (AD). Gibson went on to note others who suffered from AD, naming Winston Churchill among them. Read More >

Alcohol Abuser

by Michael Richards

Any discussion of this subject absent John H. Mather MD, who has spent a decade researching Churchill’s medical history, will be only that – a discussion. But here is a summary of what we know and why we know it.

Most historians reject the commonly held belief that Churchill was an abuser of alcohol. Perhaps “abuser” is a too broad a word. Professor Warren Kimball of Rutgers, editor of the WSC-FDR correspondence and several erudite books on the two leaders, maintains that Churchill was not an alcoholic -“no alcoholic could drink that much!”- but “alcohol dependent,” citing his occasional glass of hock with his breakfast(!) and his heavy imbibing at mealtimes. A doctor attending him after he was knocked down by a car New York in 1931, Otto C. Pickhardt, actually issued a medical note that Churchill’s convalescence “necessitates the use of alcoholic spirits especially at mealtimes,” specifying 250 cc per day as the minimum (FH 101:51). Still, if he were truly dependent, it seems he would have had a hard time winning his 1936 bet with Rothermere that he could abstain from hard spirits for a year (FH 108:24) – which apparently he did.

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An actor read Churchill’s wartime speeches over the wireless.

By Sir Robert Rhodes James

The fact is that he did it, and no one else did it for him.

On June 4th, 1940 in the House of Commons, at the darkest moment in British history, Winston Churchill made one of the greatest speeches in the annals of oratory. It galvanised a hitherto skeptical Commons, and its superb use of language and spirit of defiance affected not only his fellow-countrymen but echoed around the world, not least in the United States. Wars are not won by speeches, but they are by leadership, and that speech gave the authentic voice of a confident leader who wanted to lead. 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.