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RAF Centenary

Finest Hour 181, Summer 2018

Page 50

By Robert Courts

Roberts Courts is Member of Parliament for Witney.


The Mall leading from Buckingham Palace to Admiralty Arch is alive with red, white, and blue. Union Jacks combined with sky-blue RAF ensigns hang from every lamppost. The centenary celebration of the first air force to become a fully independent branch of any nation’s military is underway in London.

On the roof terrace above the House of Commons, the first aircraft appear: a lumbering phalanx of Chinooks. Next come the big stars passing the London Eye and zipping around the Foreign Office and Treasury buildings. The audience audibly gasps at the music of nine Rolls-Royce Merlin and Griffon engines powering the Lancaster, Spitfires, and Hurricane of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

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FROM THE EDITOR – Finest Hour 181 Churchill and the British Army

Finest Hour 181, Summer 2018

Page 04

By David Freeman, July 2018


Winston Churchill was a professionally trained army officer. It would have been surprising if he had started out as anything else. From boyhood, he was fascinated by military history and deeply proud of his descent from one of Britain’s greatest generals, John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough. Identifying these traits in his son, Lord Randolph Churchill steered him in the direction of the army. The rest is history.

Major General P. A. E. Nanson, the present Commandant of The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, begins this issue for us reflecting on the impact his institution had on Gentleman Cadet Winston Churchill. Douglas Russell then surveys Churchill’s army career in peace and war—a period that lasted nearly thirty years and was not without danger.

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RAF Centenary 1918–2018 The Royal Air Force Celebrates 100 Years

By ROBERT COURTS

The Mall leading from Buckingham Palace to Admiralty Arch is alive with red, white, and blue. Union Jacks combined with sky-blue RAF ensigns hang from every lamppost. The centenary celebration of the first air force to become a fully independent branch of any nation’s military is underway in London. Read Now >

Books, Arts, & Curiosities – European Unity

Finest Hour 180, Spring 2018

Page 42

Review by Robert Courts

Felix Klos, Churchill’s Last Stand: The Struggle to Unite Europe, I. B. Tauris, 2017, 288 pages, $35. ISBN 978–1784538132


Before the 2016 referendum, both “Leave” and “Remain” sought to win Winston Churchill to their cause. Leavers relied on the famous Saturday Evening Post article from 1930: “We have our own dream and our own task. We are with Europe, but not of it. We are linked, but not comprised. We are interested and associated, but not absorbed.” Remainers reject this, arguing that Churchill’s views changed over the following fifteen years. They focus instead on the speeches from Zurich onwards during the late 1940s. Just before the 2016 referendum, the publisher of this book by Felix Klos released a shortened version dealing only with those “European Movement” days and badged it “the must read book of the referendum.” Published more than a year later, this fulllength edition is engaging, well written, and well researched. Klos shows that both sides take too simplistic a view, whilst revealing Churchill’s thinking on “Europe” in more detail than ever before—but perhaps not quite in the way the author intends.

As anyone will know who is familiar with the notorious internet story about Churchill advocating the use of “poison gas”—fake news if ever there was any—Churchill’s talent for producing striking but loose phrases is a real problem for the historian. Klos makes quite clear, when Churchill spoke of a “United Europe,” that his meaning was not so plain as his language. When trying to understand the model that Churchill wished to create, readers would do better drawing an analogy with the “United Nations” than the “United States.”

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Churchill and Europe Where Did Churchill Stand on European Unity?

Felix Klos, Churchill’s Last Stand: The Struggle to Unite Europe, I. B. Tauris, 2017, 288 pages, $35. ISBN 978–1784538132

Review by ROBERT COURTS MP

Before the 2016 referendum, both “Leave” and “Remain” sought to win Winston Churchill to their cause. Leavers relied on the famous Saturday Evening Post article from 1930: “We have our own dream and our own task. We are with Europe, but not of it. We are linked, but not comprised. We are interested and associated, but not absorbed.” Remainers reject this, arguing that Churchill’s views changed over the following fifteen years. They focus instead on the speeches from Zurich onwards during the late 1940s. Just before the 2016 referendum, the publisher of this book by Felix Klos released a shortened version dealing only with those “European Movement” days and badged it “the must read book of the referendum.” Published more than a year later, this full-length edition is engaging, well written, and well researched. Klos shows that both sides take too simplistic a view, whilst revealing Churchill’s thinking on “Europe” in more detail than ever before—but perhaps not quite in the way the author intends. Read Now >

My Maiden Speech

Finest Hour 175, Winter 2017

By Robert Courts

Robert Courts, who helped to organize the 2015 Churchill Conference in Oxfordshire and is a frequent contributor to Finest Hour, was chosen to fill the parliamentary seat of former Prime Minister David Cameron in a by-election held last October. Robert lives in Bladon, only a stone’s throw from Sir Winston Churchill’s final resting place in St. Martin’s churchyard. As the newly seated Conservative Member of Parliament for Witney, Robert delivered his maiden speech on 30 November 2016, the 142nd anniversary of Churchill’s birth, and made note of a very personal Churchill connection that crossed party lines, as we learn from the following extracts.


Mr. Speaker, in 1945 Albert Stubbs won the seat of Cambridgeshire for the Labour party. He was a famous trade unionist, and he won his seat by a majority of 44 by getting on his motorcycle, riding around the villages of Cambridgeshire and signing up the workers to the union. He was known for his hard work for the people of that area and his interest in rural issues.

I mention Mr. Stubbs because he was my great-grandfather….I do therefore acknowledge at this stage that Mr. Stubbs would be horrified by my politics, but I hope he would at least approve of my work ethic.

I have spoken to the House of my admiration for Winston Churchill, and I thought it would be a good idea if I went back to the records to see whether there was perhaps an exchange between my hero and my forebear. I went to Hansard and I searched for an exchange, and I expected the contrast of the famous parliamentary wit and the working-class warrior. I was thinking of a combination of Pitt the Younger and Charles James Fox, and I found in the “Thanks to the Services” debate from 1945 just such an exchange. The great man—speaking from the Opposition Bench, of course— paused in his speech, took an intervention from Mr. Stubbs, told him he was “ignorant” and went back to his speech. I do not know who was right or wrong in that exchange; I merely hope that I will manage to avoid such a rebuke in the course of my career.

Maiden Speech

Longtime ICS Member Robert Courts Elected to Parliament
Uses Churchill’s Birthday to Make Maiden Speech with Churchillian Humour and References

Screen Shot 2017 01 11 at 10.43.30 AM

Robert Courts, who helped to organize the 2015 Churchill Conference in Oxfordshire and is a frequent contributor to Finest Hour, was chosen to fill the parliamentary seat of former Prime Minister David Cameron in a by-election held last October. Robert lives in Bladon only a stone’s throw from Sir Winston Churchill’s final resting place in St. Martin’s churchyard. As the newly-seated Conservative Member of Parliament for Witney, Robert delivered his maiden speech on 30 November 2016, the 142nd anniversary of Churchill’s birth, and made note of a very personal Churchill connection that crossed party lines as we learn from the following extracts. Read Now >

The Ties That Bind

Paper presented to the Daughters of the American Revolution, Halifax Chapter

October 13, 2016
Charlotte, North Carolina

by D. Craig Horn
Winston Churchill“In War, Resolution; In Defeat, Defiance; In Victory, Magnanimity; and in Peace, Good Will.” This phrase appears on the frontispiece of Churchill’s magnificent “History of the Second World War.” It is an apt description of the character and foresight of three great leaders in three successive centuries of our modern history: George Washington in the 18th Century, Abraham Lincoln in the 19th Century and Winston S. Churchill in the Twentieth Century.

Each was born within a decade of the passing of his predecessor and each held his predecessor in high regard for leadership, tenacity and character. Each cast a long shadow for succeeding generations.

George Washington became the Father of his Country because he represented the Noble Democratic American, a strong-willed, skilled soldier who spoke softly and fought bravely. Abraham Lincoln kept the flame of Liberty burning brightly; he spoke decisively, and gave voice to the principles of Freedom and Democracy. And Winston Churchill, the half-American and all- British Bulldog, stood alone in opposition to perhaps the most vile and despotic regime to have ever threatened the freedoms of not just England but of all free people and the principles that we all hold dear.

All three spent long years out of the limelight until a national crisis propelled them back into the arena. For Washington, it was Shay’s Rebellion and the failure of the Articles of Confederation. For Lincoln, it was the national crisis resulting from the threat of spreading slavery and dissolution of the Union. And for Churchill, it was the outbreak of the Second World War. All three men believed they had been prepared by experience and appointed by history to confront the task before them – a task that was nothing less than the salvation of freedom and the maintenance of a constitutional government.

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Books, Arts, & Curiosities – All about Hope

Finest Hour 172, Spring 2016

Page 49

Churchill’s Secret, First broadcast by ITV on 29 February 2016

Review by Robert Courts


Sir Michael Gambon as Churchill in Churchill’s Secret

Sir Michael Gambon as Churchill in Churchill’s Secret

Churchill’s Secret is an adaptation of Jonathan Smith’s 2015 novel The Churchill Secret, KBO (reviewed FH 168), with an all-star cast, and shot in part on location at Chartwell.

It tells the story of Churchill’s 1953 stroke, suffered whilst entertaining an Italian delegation at 10 Downing Street, his struggle to recover before the Conservative Party conference that year, and the extraordinary conspiracy between the press, politicians, and Churchill’s family to keep his critical condition a secret.

The film is beautifully shot, taking full advantage of a pristine sun-dappled Chartwell in June. Like a soft-focus Downton Abbey, the camera lingers on the rooms of the house, the wooden panelling, and the sun shining in brilliant beams through small windows illuminating dust and the busts on Churchill’s desk. And this superb set is not Chartwell; the external shots are, but the internals are incredibly good representations of the originals.
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Books, Arts, & Curiosities – Divine Intervention?

Finest Hour 172, Spring 2016

Page 48

Review by Robert Courts

Jonathan Sandys and Wallace Henley, God & Churchill, Tyndale Momentum, 2015, 352 pages, $26.99. ISBN 978-1496406026


God and ChurchillWhen St Martin’s Church, Bladon decided to install a stained glass window to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Churchill’s death, the most thorny question was how to commemorate—in a Church—a man who, whilst undoubtedly the saviour of Christian civilisation, was in no intellectually honest sense a Christian. In trying to grapple with that question, the authors of this book make two radical, but ultimately unconvincing, arguments.

First, the authors appear to argue that Churchill was—sort of—a Christian. It was just that he did not realise it himself. Sandys develops this argument more candidly on his blog (which you can find here) where he makes the startling claim, “Churchill not only believed in God and the words in the Bible…his faith was foundational to his character and leadership.” Thus, Churchill quoted the Bible because it formed part of his psychological foundation. Perhaps it did, but he also quoted Shakespeare and Tennyson; because he loved literature. Further, it is counterintuitive to suggest that Churchill’s opposition to Nazism was because of Mrs. Everest’s Biblical lessons, rather than a long-established humanity and geopolitical understanding. Churchill simply valued the morality that underpinned Western life and recognised that as stemming from Christianity. But that did not make him a Christian, be that as a “religious pietist” or otherwise.
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Books, Arts, & Curiosities – The Finest Hour Revisited

Finest Hour 172, Spring 2016

Page 47

Review by Robert Courts

Robin Prior, When Britain Saved the West, Yale University Press, 2015, 360 pages, $35 / £20. ISBN 978-0300166620


Britain AloneWhen I was young, I remember a book by Herbert Agar, Britain Alone, left lying on the stairs by my parents. I was intrigued by the picture of the Tommy on the cover staring in defiance at the clouds of aircraft swarming over the cliffs of Dover. I became dimly aware that this was something that had happened to my country, not so long ago, and that it was a “big deal.” When older, I read the book, which told in ringing tones what is still one of the most stirring stories in all history: the lonely, vital stand of Britain and the Commonwealth between the fall of France and Hitler’s invasion of Russia. This is the story that Robin Prior tells here, and it is told in equally memorable style.

This is an accurate, straightforward, narrative history of a compelling story. It is predominantly a military history, describing the Battle of France, the evacuation of Dunkirk, and of Fighter Command’s immortal stand. We have the detail of squadron tactics and aircraft capabilities. Consequently, there is no mention of Churchill for large sections of the book, as is right given that he is not the primary focus. He is, however, given his rightful place.
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FROM THE EDITOR – Great Contemporaries

Finest Hour 172, Spring 2016

Page 04

By David Freeman, April 2016


Churchill’s collection of essays Great Contemporaries remains one of his most enduringly popular books. New editions continue to be produced, and this year’s International Churchill Conference in Washington, D. C. (see back cover for details) will have as its theme “Churchill: Friends and Contemporaries.” Accordingly, for this issue we invited leading scholars to contribute fresh looks at major personalities in Churchill’s era.

Undoubtedly Churchill’s most important contemporary was President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Alonzo Hamby surveys the partnership between “Democracy’s Champions.” Sonia Purnell looks at the corresponding relationship between Clementine Churchill and Eleanor Roosevelt and concludes it was more important than has been understood. Churchill’s other key American partner in the Second World War was Dwight D. Eisenhower, as Lewis Lehrman reminds us.

Two of Churchill’s most important contemporaries in the 1940s and 1950s were very different characters— and on opposite sides. D. R. Thorpe examines the trials and tribulations of Churchill’s long-suffering but loyal heir apparent Anthony Eden. And although Aneurin Bevan is best remembered today as the founder of Britain’s National Health Service, John Campbell explains that the finest hour of Churchill’s bête-noir also came during the war.
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Despatch Box

Finest Hour 165, Autumn 2014

Page 04


FINEST HOUR 163

Whether or not Churchill believed in God and Christianity, he certainly had high hopes. In Painting as a Pastime he declared that when he got to heaven he meant to spend a considerable part of his first million years in painting. In another context, he mused that in heaven the Lord would have to form a government, “And He will certainly call upon me.” (John Colville in “Churchill and the Italian Campaign” by Ward Chamberlin Jr., Proceedings of the International Churchill Societies 1990-1991, 116).
MIKE GROVES, AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND

I found the World War I articles fascinating. It was skimmed in my last weeks of school. My great uncle, whom I knew well, fought in France. But, my favorite in this issue is Jock VI, Lord Warden of the Cinque Mouseholes! Great issue. Enjoyed it. Wish the KC conference on WWI had not been cancelled.
JUDITH KAMBESTAD, SANTA ANA, CALIF

I enjoyed the images of the Harrow Rifle Corps, especially the photos of the “Square,” which was already obsolete at the time. It was intended to repel a cavalry charge. The medieval Scottish schiltron formation was designed for this purpose. The basic tactic was probably known to Julius Caesar, and the Duke of Wellington used it against Ney’s cavalry at Waterloo. I’ve found numerous examples in the intervening years.
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Books, Arts & Curiosities – The Churchill Secret KBO

Finest Hour 168, Spring 2015

Page 48

Jonathan Smith, The Churchill Secret KBO. Little Brown,  208 pages

Review by Robert Courts


KBOThis novel tells the story of the little-known crisis that started in June 1953, when the seventy-eight-year-old Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, suffered a major stroke while entertaining an Italian delegation at Downing Street. Anthony Eden, the heir presumptive, was at the time undergoing major surgery in the United States, leaving the United Kingdom effectively rudderless.

That Churchill not only managed to recover from this stroke but also to return to front-line politics by making his speech at the Conservative party conference in November of the same year— almost without anyone realising anything was amiss—is indeed remarkable.

Jonathan Smith dramatises and explains this story, starting with the fateful dinner, where immediately we meet the core cast: Jock Colville, Lord Moran, and, of course, Clementine. We see this unlikely group work together to spirit the stricken Prime Minister away to Chartwell and effectively conspire to keep the nation ignorant of the news.
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The Last Post: Bladon, 2015

Finest Hour 167, Special Issue 2015

Page 26

By Robert Courts


On the day of the funeral, the coffin, carried by members of the Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars, approaches  the lychgate, where the public aspect of the funeral came to an end and gave way to the private family interment.On the day of the funeral, the coffin, carried by members of the Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars, approaches the lychgate, where the public aspect of the funeral came to an end and gave way to the private family interment.It takes a big event to shake Bladon from its stride. The sun climbs slowly to illuminate the village in the shallow valley, as it has for a thousand years. A red kite floats lazily over the Church tower. The River Glyme flows through Blenheim Park round past the yellow sandstone cottages. The children walk to school and enthusiastically play in the schoolyard, as they did when Lord Randolph was buried and as they did through the whole of Winston Churchill’s long life. The Bladon Home Guard has come and gone: pubs, shops and dukes of Marlborough too. Yet, Bladon remains much the same: a small, quiet country village, the last resting place of a very great man.

Churchill’s burial in 1965 was Bladon’s day of days. Best estimates suggest that 900 policemen were on guard the day of the funeral—probably more than the village population then. Upwards of 125,000 people visited in the days and weeks after the funeral. The village had seen nothing like it before, and never will again.

And so while inevitably kindling “with pale gleams the passion of former days,” Bladon revisits its moment in the spotlight from fifty years ago. Once again there have been BBC journalists in the village, radio interviews, and television cameras at the Church. Frank Hall, then the verger, published some previously unseen photographs of the gravesite in the Daily Mail. The commemorations started at the beginning of January with steady media coverage of the Memorial Window appeal [See FH 166.] A private service of remembrance for the Churchill family took place on the twenty-fourth, the day of Sir Winston’s passing. But most memorable was the anniversary of the funeral on the thirtieth.
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WinstonChurchill.org

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.