Ronald I. Cohen MBE is author ofA Bibliography of the Writings of Sir Winston Churchill, 3 vols. (2006).
In this column I generally respond to questions brought to me by other Churchillians. Frequently these are about books or pamphlets people have encountered, which leave them puzzled or uncertain in some respect. I do not recall dealing before with a conundrum that has beset myself personally, but that is what happened when I recently came across a pamphlet in my own library to which I had not previously paid any attention.
The title is Churchill…Statesman of the Century. Although a nicely produced pamphlet of thirty-two pages with glossy card wraps, there is no author indicated, nor a publisher, city or date of publication. How unusual it all was. There are, of course, lesser pamphlet productions in the Churchill canon, but this one was not produced on the cheap. It is not listed in the late Curt Zoller’s Annotated Bibliography of Works about Sir Winston S. Churchill, nor can it be found in the catalogues of the British Library, Library and Archives Canada, or the Library of Congress.
As to content, the pamphlet is essentially a biographical summary, somewhat elementary in its presentation, which is divided into five parts: Part I—The Beginning; Part II—The First World War; Part III—Winston Churchill Between Wars; Part IV—The Second World War; and Part V—Into the Sunset. Read More >
Churchill and Truman meet in the White House during Churchill’s visit to Washington in 1952.
Finest Hour 186, Fourth Quarter 2019
By Alan P. Dobson
Alan P. Dobson teaches at Swansea University and is editor of International History Review. He is co-author with Steve Marsh of US Foreign Policy since 1945 (2007).
Winston Churchill presided over Britain’s finest hour in 1940 and celebrated victory over the Axis Powers in 1945, but was then unceremoniously turned out of office by the British electorate. In opposition, he was only able to watch as victory gave way to Cold War, and his much-vaunted Special Relationship with the US declined in intimacy and substance. Thus, when opportunity beckoned with success in the General Election in the autumn of 1951, he determined to inject new purpose into British foreign policy and was quick to tend to the “intimate relationship with the United States, which had been a keynote of his policy in the war….” For Churchill that meant above all establishing a close relationship with President Harry S. Truman in order to emulate the successful and rewarding personal relationship that he had experienced with Roosevelt.
Churchill and Truman had little in common by background; Churchill born into a historic and privileged family, Truman born in a simple farmhouse, and their life experiences were also so different, culminating in Churchill being hailed as the greatest man of his age and Truman as the accidental president. Even so, in 1946 when Churchill travelled with the President to Fulton Missouri for his famous Iron Curtain Speech aboard FDR’s old armored railroad car the Ferdinand Magellan, they got on well and established a firm friendship. That was despite Churchill losing over $200 playing poker until the early hours with Truman and his card-playing cronies. Truman and Churchill were now on first-name terms, though Truman confessed to finding that difficult at first because of Churchill’s standing. Sometime later, in July 1948, Truman in the throes of his re-election campaign wrote to Churchill: Read More >
WASHINGTON—Dear Winston, The last sentence of your letter, with its implication that you are soon to withdraw from active political life, started, in my memories, a parade of critical incidents and great days that you and I experienced together, beginning at the moment we first met in Washington, December 1941. Since reading it I have been suffering from an acute case of nostalgia.
First I recall those late days of 1941, when this country was still shuddering from the shock of Pearl Harbor. I think of those occasions during the succeeding months when I was fortunate enough to talk over with you some of the problems of the war, and I especially think of that Washington visit of yours in June of ’42, when we had to face the bitter reality of the Tobruk disaster.
Somewhere along about that time must have marked the low point in Allied war fortunes. Yet I still remember with great admiration the fact that never once did you quail at the grim prospect ahead of us; never did I hear you utter a discouraged word nor a doubt as to the final outcome. Read More >
ICS Chairman Laurence Geller CBE and Churchill Great-Granddaughter Jennie Churchill
The new fund, named for Sir Winston Churchill’s great-granddaughter, is now available to support projects by researchers and students.
Allen Packwood, the Director of the Churchill Archives Centre at Churchill College, Cambridge, announced the creation of a new fund to support broader public access to the Churchill Papers and related vast collections at the Archives Centre at Cambridge University.
“Conditions of armistice with Austria-Hungary”: Paper discussed by the Supreme War Council at Versailles, France setting out the terms of an armistice with Austria-Hungary.
100 years ago, on 11th November 1918, the Great War came to an end. The final German armistice agreement followed the surrender of Bulgaria (29th September), the Ottoman Empire (30th October) and finally as shown in this month’s featured document, the Austro-Hungarian Empire. (3rd November). The military power of Austria-Hungary was very closely tied to Imperial Germany during the First World War. The competency of the military strength of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was severely compromised by factors such as the inadequacy of the Austrian high command and the significant geographical spread of its composite parts which were made up of many different nationalities. This led to the interpretation by many that Germany was fettered with the shortcomings of the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s military strength.
The Folger Library in Washington, D.C. recently opened a new exhibit, ‘Churchill’s Shakespeare.’ The following are the remarks from the opening by International Churchill Society Chairman Laurence Geller CBE.
On behalf of all of us at the ICS, let me thank Folger’s Michael Witmore and Georgianna Ziegler for making this wonderful exhibition and event possible.
It is an honor to share this platform with Mathew Barzun whose passion for education added to his so well performed day job made him amongst the best US Ambassadors to the Court of James in modern times.
I would also like to thank the Churchill Archive’s Centre Director, the astonishingly versatile Allen Packwood not only for his involvement in this exhibition, for his participation, energy, humor and always unfettered passion and enthusiasm for all things Churchill.
Die Besprechungin Godesberg beendet.
Ministerpräsident Chamberlain und Reichsaußenminister von Ribbentrop im Kreuzfeuer der Film- und Bildberichterstatter [in Uniform] auf dem Kölner Flughafen.
80 years ago this month, in the early hours of 30 September 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain signed the Munich Pact. The agreement between the U.K., France, Italy and Germany allowed Germany to annex a portion of Czechoslovakia known as the Sudetenland. This settlement has become one of the most well-known examples of the dangers of appeasement, a strategy that involves giving concessions to an aggressor nation in order to avoid conflict.
In his letter of 9 August 1918, 100 years ago this month, Douglas Haig wrote a thank you note to Winston Churchill for his congratulations on the successful battle of Amiens and for his efforts as Minister of Munitions in supplying the mechanical warfare, trench mortars, tanks, and airplanes which were instrumental in achieving victory. Churchill had a good working relationship with Haig and had supported him during his reverses on the Western Front in March and April 1918. Haig’s offensives at the Battles of Somme and Passchendaele had resulted in large numbers of casualties and perpetuated his portrayal as a ‘butcher and bungler’ in popular opinion. In fact, Prime Minister Lloyd George and the War Cabinet had been keen to remove Haig as Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Forces, and it was thanks to his success at Amiens in August that he managed to secure his position.
5 July 1948, 70 years ago this month, saw the beginning of the implementation of the National Health Service (NHS). The health minister, Aneurin “Nye” Bevan, marked the occasion by visiting what is now known as Trafford General Hospital in Manchester, the first official NHS hospital. The guiding principle of the NHS was that it was to be free at point of need.
This telegram sent by Antony Eden, the British Foreign Secretary, to Churchill in March 1943 recounts Eden’s discussion with President Roosevelt during a visit to Washington, D.C. Days later, Churchill made a key broadcast speech in which he laid out his ‘Four Years’ Plan’ for Britain and Europe after the war. Although the war was ongoing, Churchill began to look forward to victory and proposed his ideas for how to restore ‘the true greatness of Europe’. One such idea was to establish a Council of Europe – an international organisation to uphold human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe – which was eventually founded in 1949.
75 years ago on the night of 16 May, a dangerous task was undertaken by the Royal Air Force 617 squadron to destroy the Möhne, Eder and Sorpe dams in the Ruhr Valley. These dams were thought to be a significant resource in German war production efforts and were also understood to be highly fortified and invulnerable structures. The mission, codenamed ‘Operation Chastise’, became widely known as the Dambusters raid. The extraordinary feat was featured on front page news around the world, making the ‘Dambusters’ instant celebrities.
Letter from Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) to WSC to thank him for the birthday gift of his “Life of Marlborough”, commenting that she had spent a very busy [18th] birthday “amongst relatives and a great many Grenadiers, which made it a very happy day…”
On 24th April 1944, Princess Elizabeth wrote a warm letter of thanks to Winston Churchill, who had given her his Marlborough: His Life and Times as a birthday present. Churchill had known Elizabeth from an early age – at two years of age, he described her as “a character [with] an air of authority and reflectiveness astonishing in an infant” – and they remained close from Churchill’s return to Downing Street in 1951 to his death in 1965. When Elizabeth became Queen in 1952, the 77-year-old statesman was her first prime minister – and, reputedly, her favourite. They enjoyed their weekly meetings, laughed a lot, and bonded over their shared interest in horses and racing. Indeed, the meetings grew from 30 minutes to two hours. Churchill had great respect for the monarchy, and he was very fond of Elizabeth. When he had a stroke soon after her coronation, Elizabeth invited the Churchills to join her to watch the St Leger and go by royal train to Balmoral, where Churchill enjoyed himself enormously and progressively recovered. When he died, Elizabeth broke royal protocol to arrive before the coffin and before the Churchill family and leave after both of them as a touching sign of respect.
Churchill’s ‘We shall fight on the beaches’ speech on 4 June 1940 is a eulogy to the British war effort that has been immortalised in popular memory of the Second World War. As a newly appointed Prime Minister, Churchill’s first month in office was defined by the Dunkirk evacuation. Over 300,000 Allied soldiers were evacuated in a sensational rescue mission. The success was down to a combination of German errors and the brilliant execution of the evacuation plan. However, the fact remained that, with France now fallen, Britain had become an attractive target for German invasion.
In this speech, Churchill’s aim was to counter the jubilant public reaction provoked by the evacuation from Dunkirk, and bring the discussion back to reality. As Churchill famously warns in the speech, “We must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations.”
February 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act, which granted the right to vote for women of property over the age of 30. Despite women’s suffrage being debated in the public sphere as early as the mid-nineteenth century, the formalised suffragette movement did not begin in earnest until 1903 when the Women’s Social and Political Union came into being.
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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.