Old College, Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. Wikimedia Commons/Albert Sydney
Churchill left Harrow School in 1892 and went to a ‘crammer’ to help him pass the entrance exam into the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, which he eventually did on the third attempt in 1893. He found life at Sandhurst much more suited to his temperament and talents than school life. Military topics such as tactics and fortifications were far more appealing to him than mathematics and he was a skilled horseman. The practical nature of the course appealed to him and he passed with credit in December 1894, twentieth out of a class of one hundred and thirty.
In February 1895, Churchill joined the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars, a fashionable cavalry regiment, as a 2nd Lieutenant, as a way of gaining some experience before working his way into politics. Churchill’s regiment, the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars, amalgamated with the 8th King’s Royal Irish Hussars in 1958 to form the Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars. After further cuts in 1993, the Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars amalgamated with the Queen’s Own Hussars (formerly the 3rd King’s Own Hussars and 7th Queen’s Hussars) to form the Queen’s Royal Hussars.
It is a fine game to play – the game of politics – and it is well worth a good hand – before really plunging.
Churchill, in a letter to his mother, 16 August 1895
Churchill rapidly established himself as a prominent New Liberal, combining a commitment to free trade with support for a programme of social reform and was one of the main architects of Britain’s incipient welfare state. To those Tories he’d ‘betrayed’ by ‘crossing the floor’, he was now betraying their class, too. By April 1908, however, his ‘star’ seemed to be shining clearer and clearer (see prophecy), as he achieved cabinet rank, as President of the Board of Trade in Herbert Asquith’s new government, at the age of only thirty-three. In this role he introduced a number of initiatives (not all of which were adopted during his tenure but were later).
When Churchill was eighty-eight he was asked by the Duke of Edinburgh how he’d like to be remembered. He reportedly replied that he’d like a scholarship named after him, like the Rhodes Scholarship but for the wider masses.
To get young Americans studying at the new Churchill College, Cambridge, a Foundation was created as a vehicle for the Churchill Scholarship in July 1959 (in fact, the Foundation predates the Royal Charter for Churchill College and has been a steady companion of the College from its creation). Now called the Winston Churchill Foundation of the US, it’s a reminder of Anglo–US cooperation and friendship. It ‘honours Churchill’s name not by looking back at his past but by looking to the future of science and technology as drivers of global security and economic development’ (Winston Churchill Foundation of the US).
Seventy years ago at Zurich University Winston Churchill delivered one of his most important post-war speeches (see pages 7, 31, and 41). Although given the somber title “The Tragedy of Europe,” Churchill’s remarks set out a plan for rebuilding the war-torn continent. Proposing “a kind of United States of Europe,” Churchill acknowledged that he might “astonish” his audience when he insisted, “The first step in the re-creation of the European family must be a partnership between France and Germany.” He ended his remarks with the exhortation, “And therefore I say to you, let Europe arise!” Or did he?
The short answer is yes. The speech was recorded, and the closing statement can be clearly heard (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ln4SRnt4VE0). The university placed two commemorative plaques to mark the occasion, one in English and one in German, each including the famous final phrase. Yet the published versions of Churchill’s speech do not include it at all.
The speech first appeared in the 1948 collection The Sinews of Peace, edited by Randolph Churchill and published in the UK by Cassell. The last line, however, is missing. Nor can it be found in other editions, including the Complete Speeches edited by Robert Rhodes James published in 1974. To find any written record of the remark in the Churchill papers, one must go to the source. And there lies a mystery as well. Read More >
Werner Vogt, Winston Churchill und die Schweiz: Vom Monte Rosa zum Triumphzug durch Zürich,Verlag Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 2015, 231 pages.
Review by Jochen Burgtorf
Jochen Burgtorf is professor of History and former chair of the History department at California State University, Fullerton. He is currently the President of the National History Honors Society.
If Winston Churchill’s 1946 “Sinews of Peace” address, delivered in Fulton, Missouri, drew international attention to the disheartening notion after the Second World War of an “iron curtain” coming down on eastern Europe due to the policies of the Soviet Union, then his “Let Europe Arise” speech, given in Zurich, Switzerland, later that same year, suggested an appropriate antidote: the United States of Europe, based on a partnership between France and Germany.
Werner Vogt’s Winston Churchill und die Schweiz: Vom Monte Rosa zum Triumphzug durch Zürich (“Winston Churchill and Switzerland: From Monte Rosa to the Triumphal Procession through Zurich”) places Churchill’s Zurich speech into a broad context and promises to go beyond Max Sauter’s 1976 dissertation by including Churchill’s early connections to Switzerland and, above all, the “human factor” (13). The latter is accomplished on the basis of oral histories conducted by Vogt with eyewitnesses and their descendants, including the son of Churchill’s physician in Switzerland and the dining-car waiter who served Churchill on the Swiss “Red Arrow” train.
Vogt holds a doctoral degree (1996) from the University of Zurich for a dissertation on the image of Churchill between 1938 and 1946 in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Read More >
Gabriel Gorodetsky, ed., The Maisky Diaries, Red Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s 1932–1943, Yale University Press, 2015, 632 pages, $40.
Review by D. Craig Horn
D. Craig Horn is a former Russian linguist for the United States Air Force currently serving in the North Carolina General Assembly. He is chairman of the Churchill Society of North Carolina and serves on The Churchill Centre’s Board of Trustees.
Winston Churchill once famously described Russia as “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” Such terms can be equally applied to Ivan Mikhailovich Maisky, Soviet ambassador to London from 1932–43. Just think for a minute about the world-shaking events of those years. In every instance, Ivan Maisky chronicled them in fascinating detail.
The Maisky Diaries present not only a behind-the-curtain look at diplomacy and deception but also a story of intrigue and survival. Ambassador Maisky wormed himself into the innermost workings of the British government; he was the ultimate maker of friends in high places. His address book included private contacts at the highest levels of officialdom, journalism, diplomats, and political insiders. Through sheer ability and a cunning strategy, Maisky constantly put himself in the right place at the right time. Read More >
Werner Vogt wrote his PhD dissertation about Churchill’s pictures in Switzerland’s leading daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung. The author of numerous newspaper articles and books, his latest book, about Churchill’s relationship to Switzerland, is reviewed on page 41.
It would be pretentious to assume that Switzerland played a major role in Winston Churchill’s life. Nevertheless he had many links to Switzerland, starting with his first travel abroad and finishing in the last year he lived, when his friend and supplier of his oil paints Willy Sax died shortly before him. For the Swiss people Churchill became a hero in 1940, and when he visited the city of Zurich on 19 September 1946 tens of thousands of people were cheering along the streets. The Swiss people’s gratitude was limitless. They made his drive through the city a triumphal parade. Never before and never after Churchill have the Swiss paid tribute to a great man like this.
A Most Tiring Mountain
Churchill’s first encounter with the Swiss and their homeland happened when he visited the country as a tourist in the summers of 1893 and 1894 together with his brother Jack and their tutor, Mr Little. These were in fact Churchill’s first travels abroad as a young man. He had a keen eye for the beauty of nature and wrote a series of enthusiastic letters to his mother, wherein he described the astounding scenery of the Swiss mountains and lakes but also some cities, which were to his liking. He even went so far as to climb Monte Rosa in the Valais, a substantial but by no means difficult mountain in the Canton of Valais. In a letter to his mother Churchill wrote: Read More >
Antoine Capet is Professor Emeritus of British Studies at the University of Rouen.
Churchill and de Gaulle parade down the Champs-Élysées, 11 November 1944
Strangely enough, we have a book on Churchill and Finland,1 but none on Churchill & France— only a number of articles and book chapters. Is it because of the sheer size of the task, considering the vast available sources, including Churchill’s own publications and private correspondence? Or is it because of the contradictory nature of much of this material, which makes it extremely difficult to master? Thirty years after Churchill’s death, Anthony Montague Browne gave us what is arguably the best short summary of Churchill’s attitude to France, from someone who accompanied him in many of his later travels to the country and heard what he had to say at first hand:
When it came to France, ambivalence was again evident. WSC’s love of France was sentimental and long-standing, based on personal experience in peace and war. His greatest heroine, or indeed hero for that matter, was Joan of Arc. But this did not deter him from taking a firm line with the French if he felt it was required, and he told me that after 1940, and their breaking of a solemn agreement not to sue for a separate peace, he never felt the same about them.2
One might add that this ambivalence is often in evidence according as it is Churchill-the-statesman and impeccable British patriot speaking or Churchill-theprivate-man and Francophile. When the interests of France coincided with those of Britain, all was well— there was no conflict of loyalties deep in his heart. But when he felt that they did not and that British interests were threatened, he naturally gave Britain priority. As “Jock” Colville later put it, “de Gaulle’s loyalty was… to France alone. Churchill’s…was merely to Britain first.”3 But when divergences inevitably occurred, Churchill somehow suffered from a sense of guilt towards France which made him irritable, often Read More >
Felix Klos is the author of Churchill on Europe (IB Tauris, 2016). The full hardback version of the book will be released globally in early 2017.
Churchill and daughter Mary at the Münsterhof in Zurich, Switzerland, 19 September 1946.
When David Cameron succumbed to domestic party political pressure in 2013 and announced his referendum on British membership in the European Union, he knew he was playing with fire. For Margaret Thatcher, citing Clement Attlee, the referendum was “a device of dictators and demagogues”1; for Cameron’s Conservative Cabinet it proved a highly flammable political football.
It was hardly surprising that during the referendum campaign the nation more than once turned its eyes to its greatest son: Winston Churchill. Beating out the likes of William Shakespeare, Charles Darwin, and Isaac Newton in the BBC’s “Greatest Briton” poll, Winston Churchill has almost come to symbolize what it means to be British.
A Long Tradition
This March, Boris Johnson, then still the public face of Vote Leave, published his campaign manifesto to leave the European Union in The Daily Telegraph. In his conclusion, Johnson invoked the spirit of Churchill as the ultimate historical justification of the Brexit position. Two months later, Prime Minister David Cameron staked his own claim on Churchill, suggesting that he would have wanted Britain to remain in the EU. Read More >
The subject has never been more relevant. During the campaign in the United Kingdom this past spring to decide whether the nation should remain in the European Union or depart after more than forty years as a member, voices on both sides of the “Brexit” debate invoked the spirit and words of Sir Winston Churchill. The theme of this issue, however, was chosen to commemorate an event from the past: the seventieth anniversary of Churchill’s call for “a kind of United States of Europe” made in Zurich on 19 September 1946.
This issue looks not at what people in the English-speaking world make of Churchill’s views on Europe but rather what people in Europe today make of Winston Churchill. Writing from the Netherlands, Felix Klos makes the important point that no one today can say what position Churchill might have taken in the United Kingdom’s recent referendum debate. What Klos does do is analyze the statements Churchill made about European unity— and Britain’s relationship to it—in the context of the times in which they were made.
Without doubt, France was the continental nation with which Churchill was most deeply involved and which he most loved. Antoine Capet charts the long history of this affaire de cœur. Churchill found Italy to be equally “paintacious” and relaxing, but the long years of Fascism made for dark times, as Patrizio Romano Giangreco and Andrew Martin Garvey explain. Werner Vogt shows how Switzerland was another nation for which Churchill developed a deep affection, and the Swiss people also did for him. Read More >
Ian Kershaw, To Hell and Back: Europe 1914–1949, Viking, 2015, 593 pages, $35.00. ISBN: 978-0670024582.
Review by Kevin Matthews
A young Winston Churchill wrote in 1901: “The wars of peoples will be more terrible than those of kings.” The next fifty years proved he was right, and it is fitting that Ian Kershaw opens his history of twentieth-century Europe with Churchill’s prediction. The first of a projected two–volume work, this book, like the years it covers, is dominated by war, a period when Europeans sank “into the pit of barbarism” (1).
Readers of Finest Hour may be disappointed that Churchill plays only a walk-on role here and there in Kershaw’s account of these events. To Hell and Back is part of a trend that has refocused the telling of these years on central and eastern Europe, what he calls the continent’s “killing grounds” (19). Even so, most will find it a worthy addition to their bookshelves.
In many ways, To Hell and Back echoes the observation made by Churchill long ago that, between 1914 and 1945, Europeans waged a second Thirty Years’ War. Others call it a “European Civil War,” an ideological struggle between liberal democracy, Soviet-style communism, and fascism in which, until the very end, it looked as if liberal democracy would come out the loser. Kershaw’s contribution is in the way he constructs this story. In this telling, Europe’s near- suicide can be explained by four inter-related causes: “an explosion of ethnic-racist nationalism,” “bitter and irreconcilable demands for territorial revisionism,” “acute class conflict” further inflamed by Russia’s Bolshevik Revolution, Read More >
“I Say Here as I Said at Brussels… Let Freedom Reign”
By Winston S. Churchill
You do me great honour in inviting me to speak to the States-General today. I see in all this the regard which you have for my dear country and the relief which you had especially in gaining liberty against the invader. I thank you. Personally I have always worked for the cause of liberty against tyranny and for the steady advancement of the causes of the weak and poor.
This is not, as you know, the first time I have had the opportunity of addressing august or famous Assemblies. I have already addressed the Congress of the United States, the Parliaments of Canada and Belgium, the General Assembly of Virginia and besides these there is always the House of Commons at home, where, from time to time, I venture still to speak a word or two.
Let me in my turn present you my compliments upon the progress made in this country since the expulsion of the German invaders. Holland has regained stability and strength in Europe with great rapidity. I offer my respectful congratulations to all public men who, without regard to Party or interests, have contributed to this achievement. The stability of the Constitution of the Netherlands, centering upon the union of Crown and people, is an example to many countries. I trust that your affairs abroad will prosper equally with those at home. Read More >
I was born in the Netherlands on 16 April 1943 in the midst of the German occupation. After the war Mr. Churchill received an invitation to accept an honorary doctorate of laws at the University of Leiden, and spent five days visiting Holland, together with his wife and daughter Mary.
The Churchills flew to Holland on 8 May 1946. Extra police protection was provided because wherever he went there were thousands of people, hoping for a glimpse of the great man.
In Amsterdam he was received by Queen Wilhelmina, and together they marked the first anniversary of VE-Day. In the evening there was a dinner in their honor at the royal palace, the Soestdijk. On May 9th Churchill was scheduled to speak to the Dutch parliament in The Hague at 12:30 pm. Word spread that he might make a quick stop to greet people at the small town of Sassenheim. My parents lived only about four miles from this stopping point. I was too young, but my mother rode there on her bicycle with my 4 1/2-year-old brother riding in front. She retold the story many times, because when I was old enough to know something of history, I questioned her frequently, wishing to know every detail.
At about noon the Churchills’ open Packard came by, stopping beside the highway. Mr. Churchill stood up, doffed his hat and gave his famous V-sign. A small crowd of about 100 cheered enthusiastically. When the cars were ready to leave, Churchill tossed his cigar on the ground. My mother was able to pick it up, and kept it as a souvenir. Alas that was a long time ago and she later lost track of the artifact. Read More >
It is twenty years since I received my first letter of appreciation from Lady Soames, a few weeks after the opening of my first Churchill exhibition by the actor Robert Hardy at the Royal Arsenal Museum. I was touched by her deep interest in what we were doing, and received her letter of approval with deep pride.
I am among those fortunate enough to have met her on many occasions, not least in October 2000, when she came to open “Remember Winston Churchill,” an exhibit at the newspapers building at Kongens Nytorv, marking the 50th anniversary of her father’s visit to Copenhagen. As a little surprise, I collected her in the same Humber Super Snipe that had carried her father through the streets in 1950. We conveyed her to the Scandic Hotel, where she had a splendid 18th floor suite looking out over the city.
A few hours later we drove to the opening, where she was warmly greeted by a trumpet fanfare used by the World War II Danish Resistance. The invited audience included former Premier Paul Schlüter; Mærsk McKinney-Møller of the Mærsk shipping line; the Churchill Club’s Knud Pedersen; British Ambassador Philip Astley; and René Højris, who lent part of his vast Churchilliana collection. Lady Soames gave a warm speech saying she was thrilled to see the affection that the Danish people still had for her father, and we toasted her with Pol Roger champagne. Read More >
I wish to speak about the tragedy of Europe, this noble continent, the home of all the great parent races of the Western world, the foundation of Christian faith and ethics, the origin of most of the culture, arts, philosophy and science both of ancient and modern times. If Europe were once united in the sharing of its common inheritance there would be no limit to the happiness, prosperity and glory which its 300 million or 400 million people would enjoy. Yet it is from Europe that has sprung that series of frightful nationalistic quarrels, originated by the Teutonic nations in their rise to power, which we have seen in this 20th century and in our own lifetime wreck the peace and mar the prospects of all mankind.
What is this plight to which Europe has been reduced? Some of the smaller states have indeed made a good recovery, but over wide areas are a vast, quivering mass of tormented, hungry, careworn and bewildered human beings, who wait in the ruins of their cities and homes and scan the dark horizons for the approach of some new form of tyranny or terror. Among the victors there is a Babel of voices, among the vanquished the sullen silence of despair. That is all that Europeans, grouped in so many ancient states and nations, and that is all that the Germanic races have got by tearing each other to pieces and spreading havoc far and wide. Indeed, but for the fact that the great republic across the Atlantic realised that the ruin or enslavement of Europe would involve her own fate as well, and stretched out hands of succour and guidance, the Dark Ages would have returned in all their cruelty and squalor. They may still return.
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The next issue of Finest Hour will be about "Churchill, Race, and Religion." In the foreword, Lord Boateng, Chair of the Churchill Archives Trust, writes: “Sir Winston did not run away from controversy in his life and would not expect anything less in that which has followed. We do owe him and each other, however, civility and respect in the conduct of those arguments—not least, since we owe to him and the global anti-fascist fight, which he helped lead to such good effect, the secure freedom to hold those arguments at all.” … See MoreSee Less
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.