An Excerpt of Churchill’s Shadow Raiders by Damien Lewis
The six men were wedged into the aircraft’s narrow hold like the proverbial sardines in a tin. No one ever had parachuting in mind when designing the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley, a medium night-bomber nicknamed the ‘Flying Barn Door’, due to the square, hard-edged – some might argue downright ugly – appearance of the warplane, with its large, angular wings.
Aerodynamic the Whitley was not. Obsolete by the start of the war, by now – 10 February 1941 – the aircraft was increasingly being withdrawn from frontline service. Oddly, airborne operations somehow fell into that category – non-frontline duties – even when, like now, these troops were preparing to parachute some six hundred miles behind enemy lines.
Being one of the earliest airborne recruits, Major Trevor Alan Gordon Pritchard – a long-serving volunteer with 11 Special Air Service – was resigned to the several hours of cramped, freezing conditions that lay ahead, riding the Flying Barn Door. A rare bonus were the inflatable Li-Los – rubber mattresses – with which his men had been issued, to insulate themselves from the cold metal of the fuselage, as they sat nose-to-tail, their backs pressed against one side, their boots jammed against the other.
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Author of On Tyranny gives a talk in Washington, D.C.
Professor Timothy Snyder, author of On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, gave a talk at the National Churchill Library and Center about his book in which he reflects on how many democracies failed throughout Europe during the 20th century and how these specific cases can be used as lessons for maintaining democracy today. Watch the entire talk at C-SPAN.
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Finest Hour 174, Autumn 2016
By Fred Glueckstein
Fred Glueckstein is the author of Churchill and Colonist II (2015).
Lady Randolph Churchill loved the literary world. She particularly enjoyed meeting American authors who visited England and often spoke with delight a story of her friend Mark Twain.
Lady Randolph told of a London gathering where Twain asked Mrs. J. Comyns-Carr, “You are an American, aren’t you?” Mrs. Carr explained that she was of English stock and had been brought up in Italy. “Ah, that’s it,” answered Twain. “It’s your complexity of background that makes you seem American. We are rather a mixture, of course. But I can pay you no higher compliment than to mistake you for a countryman of mine.”1 While American-born Lady Randolph found Twain’s comments extremely amusing, it is doubtful that Mrs. Comyns-Carr did.
Other social events often brought Lady Randolph into contact with writers. When Stephen Crane and his wife rented Brede Place, a feudal home in Sussex built in 1350, Lady Randolph and her sisters attended a three-day party that Crane gave for sixty guests, which included Henry James, Joseph Conrad, H. Rider Haggard, and H. G. Wells.
Lady Randolph’s esteem of literature and writers inspired her in late 1898 to conceive the idea of starting a literary magazine. She envisioned a quarterly miscellany edited by herself that contained articles of verse, fiction, and essays by contributors considered to be among the finest writers on both sides of the Atlantic. Each issue was to be individually decorated in a stylish pattern of gilt tooling on leather covers.
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