Coming in Finest Hour 188: Churchill’s Prime Ministers
18 August 1908
BLENHEIM—My dear Winston, Your letter has given me much pleasure and a great deal of satisfaction. It is indeed a joy to feel that you are happy, and that you realise that in ensuring the content of another being, lies in no small degree the solace and also the enjoyment of life. I earnestly hope that your life and Clementine’s may be unclouded, and that the only source of contention between you during the years in front, may be which of you two loves each other the better.
You are rich in many things, in friends, in health, ability, and true worth is to be found not in the quantity of one’s possessions, but in the capacity for limitation of one’s personal requirements. She herself Clementine is surrounded by those who admire her, and enriched by those who love her—and whom she loves—and in addition possesses all those graceful and affectionate qualities of the heart which form the basis of the essential characteristics of a life’s companion. Read More >
To understand Winston Churchill, it is necessary to visit Blenheim Palace. While Chartwell is the house with which he is most closely associated, Churchill did not purchase his estate in Kent until he was nearly fifty. The ducal lifestyle of Victorian Britain and Blenheim, where he was born and spent much time throughout his formative years, were the factors that shaped the man. In exploring these themes, we are honored to have His Grace the twelfth Duke of Marlborough introduce this issue.
Churchill himself wrote about the establishment of the family seat during the reign of Queen Anne when he composed his multivolume biography of his illustrious ancestor John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough. The seventh Duke sat in residence when his grandson Winston was born in a small room off the Great Hall. Fred Glueckstein introduces us to this imposing figure. Read More >
Thirty years ago the Berlin Wall “came tumblin’ down.” The largely peaceful end to the Cold War came “quite suddenly and quite unexpectedly,” as Churchill once described the end of the First World War, to the relief of a world that had long lived in fear of nuclear war.
Churchill did not begin the Cold War— as early as 1943 Stalin was directing his armies with an eye towards building his Iron Curtain— but it was Churchill’s famous speech at Fulton, Missouri in March 1946 that alerted the world to the situation that had developed. Timothy Riley tells the story of how Churchill’s remarks at Westminster College were subsequently complemented by those of Mikhail Gorbachev in the aftermath of the Cold War. Edwina Sandys then explains how she conceived the idea for her sculpture Breakthrough that now stands near where her grandfather first outlined the “Sinews of Peace.”
Churchill accepted the invitation to speak in the Show-me State when he saw that it had been endorsed by Missouri’s most famous son, President Harry S. Truman. Alan P. Dobson looks at how Churchill tried working with Truman to preserve the special relationship, even as the Prime Minister took exception to details in the organization of NATO that he felt diminished British importance. Read More >
For more about Churchill’s animals, see pages 11 and 50.
Coming in Finest Hour 184: Churchill’s Monarchs
10 August 1954
CHARTWELL—My Darling, Here I stay in bed most of the time and only go out to feed the fish. Gabriel [Clementine’s Siamese cat] gets on very well with everyone except his yellow rival. He is very friendly to me and Rufus [the poodle] and most attractive.
One gets no consolation at this moment from the animal world. All the Chartwell rabbits are dead [from myxomatosis] and now the poor foxes have nothing to eat, so they attack the little pigs and of course have eaten the few pheasants. It is said they will perish and migrate and that then there will be no one to cope with the beetles and rats.
On the other side the Swans are well, and the Zoo came down yesterday to clip their wings so that they cannot fly away if they dislike what is going on around them. Christopher [Soames] and I have jointly invested nearly £1,000 in 8 Swedish “Land race” pigs: out of which he expects to make a fortune. They live at Bardogs and have remarkable figures.
Their hams are much admired and there are only about 1,200 of them in our Pig population of 5 millions. The Boar is said to be worth 5 or 6 Hundred £s, and in two years we hope to make a fortune.
My darling one I brood much about things, and all my moods are not equally gay….My beloved darling come back soon refreshed and revived, and if possible bring the Sun with you as well as your lovely smile—W[inston]
Winston Churchill worked with many people in various capacities, from soldiers serving together in the field and cabinet colleagues to those who worked to support his career as a Member of Parliament and professional writer. He also employed a wide variety of domestic staff over the course of his long life. In this issue we look at a cross section of these associates and their remarkable stories.
Churchill employed many “young ladies” as secretaries to take dictation at all hours and type up the results as he wrote his books and prepared his speeches. Cita Stelzer examines Churchill from the perspective of these remarkable women, who found their time serving the Greatest Briton to be trying, tiring, and exhilarating all at once.
One young lady who worked for Churchill during the war was his own daughter Sarah. She served her father not as a secretary, however, but as his aide-de-camp when he travelled to Teheran in 1943 and to Yalta in 1945 to meet with Stalin and Roosevelt. Catherine Grace Katz, who is writing a book due out next year to be called The Daughters of Yalta, shows us Churchill from Sarah’s perspective.
HAMPSHIRE—I am pleased that this issue is about Churchill’s long association with the British Army. From experience, I know that there is understandable confusion as to the name of the institution where Churchill received his training as an officer and believe it will be helpful to sort this out for readers.
Originally there were two separate institutions for training Army officers: the Royal Military Academy (RMA) at Woolwich (for “technical” branches, viz. Artillery, Engineers, and later Signals); and the Royal Military College (RMC) at Sandhurst (largely for Cavalry and Infantry). Churchill attended this second institution in 1893–95.
This is the 180th issue of Finest Hour. The operating budget for the first year of what became the International Churchill Society was $180. The first issue of the journal was sent out to the founding members—all twelve of them—in the spring of 1968 with a note that the title was only “temporary” until a better suggestion arose. Fifty years on, the current editor has determined that the cutoff date for suggestions has now passed.
Following the death of Sir Winston Churchill in January 1965, a rash of commemorative stamps was produced in his memory. The major issuers were the quasi-autonomous Arab sheikdoms Ajman, Fujiera, and Sharjah, which printed countless different designs, called “black blots” by philatelists, that were always intended to bilk collectors rather than to frank envelopes. Each design deliberately included many variants so as to entice those obsessed with having “complete” collections.
Admiral of the Fleet The Right Honourable The Earl Mountbatten of Burma KG GCB OM GCSI GCIE GCVO DSO PC FRS 1900–1979 First Patron of the International Churchill Society 1971–1979
The American Topical Association, the presiding US authority on thematic stamps, appeared indifferent to this obvious charlatanism. After contacting other members of the ATA who had expressed an interest in Churchill, Langworth organized the Winston S. Churchill Study Unit (WSCSU) for the purpose of identifying and distinguishing between legitimately issued stamps and black blots.
Finest Hour began as a bi-monthly newsletter for the WSCSU. Dated “May-June 1968,” the first issue ran to seven, mimeographed pages including a three-page checklist of stamps. Annual dues were $2. Read More >
Fifty years ago, the very first issue of Finest Hour published an extract from a letter written by my grandfather and namesake to the fledgling Winston S. Churchill Study Unit of the American Philatelic Association, the precursor of the International Churchill Society. Noting that he knew “nothing about stamps,” grandpapa Randolph nevertheless said that he would “try to answer any questions [the group] have in mind.”
Sadly, there was only time for grandfather to be named Honorary Member Number One before he passed away in June 1968. The second issue of Finest Hour was a tribute to his memory and included notes from my father Winston and my great-grandmother Clementine acknowledging letters of sympathy sent to them on behalf of the members of the study unit.
Today I am proud to serve as President of the organization that grew out of those simple beginnings. I know I speak for the whole of the extended Churchill family when I say that we owe an enormous debt to the International Churchill Society: to all its patrons, officers, members, and supporters past and present.
From left: Queen Mary General Manager Stephen Sowards, Jennie Churchill, and ICS Chairman Laurence Geller
Finest Hour 179, Winter 2018
Members of the International Churchill Society gathered aboard the RMS Queen Mary on December 8th to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the ship’s arrival in Long Beach, California, with the opening of a new exhibit. “Their Finest Hours: Winston Churchill and the Queen Mary” was officially dedicated by Sir Winston’s great-granddaughter Jennie Churchill and International Churchill Society Chairman Laurence Geller.
The multi-media exhibition features sets designed for the critically-acclaimed film Darkest Hour starring Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill. The Imperial War Museum’s Phil Reed worked closely with the filmmakers to ensure authenticity. Three of these sets now serve as the gateway to the Churchill exhibit on the ship: the Cabinet Room, Map Room, and Churchill’s bedroom. The exhibit is wonderful for local schoolchildren, since visitors are encouraged to touch the displays. There is also a replica of Churchill’s shipboard conference room.
The British Vice-Consul in Los Angeles presented the ship with a framed replica of War Cabinet minutes made during one of Churchill’s wartime passages. On behalf of the International Churchill Society, Chairman Laurence Geller presented the ship with a framed copy of Churchill’s customs declaration form upon arrival in Southampton after his 1949 journey on the Queen Mary. Included on the declaration are 600 cigars, a generous supply of brandy, and— most intriguingly—several rubber ducks.
WESTERHAM, KENT—I have been very pleased with the feedback I have received about my article describing the animals of Chartwell in the last issue of Finest Hour. When the editor informed me that the theme of this issue would be “Churchill at the Movies” and that there would be an article about the Chartwell cinema, I felt that I should write to explain a reference made in this story about the presence of a fish tank in the basement.
The tank was set up after a young admirer sent some tropical fish as a gift with a note to say that he thought Sir Winston might enjoy admiring them and watching them grow. Members of the household added to the collection, and Sir Winston fell into the habit of returning from his walks about the grounds via the basement to see how his fish were getting along.
So fascinated did Sir Winston become with his aquatic friends that before long he ordered not one but four more tanks. These were duly set up in his study, which previously had been decorated only with inanimate objects like books, paintings, and family photographs. The fish tanks were richly decorated with stones and plants and then stocked with every variety of tropical fish that Sir Winston could obtain.
Thereafter, the Master of Chartwell enjoyed entering his study and sitting transfixed before his colourful collection as the fish swam about. He loved watching their antics and exclaiming about their beauty and love of life. Naturally he named as many as he could and called them all by name as he recognized each fish.
As with his other pets, Sir Winston could never resist the temptation to feed his fish—and feed them rather more than he should from the small bottles near the tanks. —Jock of Chartwell
Coming in Finest Hour 180: 50th Anniversary Issue and Churchil’s Adventures
Winston Churchill loved the movies. And just at the moment, the movies love Winston Churchill. Of course, he would have used the words cinema or film, but his maternal connection to the United States, always the center of the film industry, meant that he was no stranger to American idioms.
The larger than life Churchill is a natural subject for film, but it has been mostly on the small screen that he has been represented. Actors have played Churchill at nearly all stages of his life, though most dramatizations naturally center upon the Second World War. Sometimes Churchill has been the star, and sometimes he has been a supporting character. Michael F. Bishop gives us his selection of what he sees as the best five in which Churchill is the featured player.
In Finest Hour 174, David Lough explained that it was the selling of film rights to his books that ultimately placed Churchill’s finances on a sound basis. The producer who purchased the rights was Sir Alexander Korda. In this issue John Fleet tells us more about Korda and his relationship with Churchill.
125 Years ago
Autumn 1892 • Age 18
“If He Fails Again…”
Winston’s brother Jack joined him at Harrow in the fall and the two boys shared a room. On 24 September, their mother wrote to Winston: “I hope you & Jack are settled and comfortable. Do write & tell me all about it, & what you find your room wants.” In fact, their room did not want for much as he advised her in a letter on one occasion: “The room is very beautiful. We purchased in London sufficiency of ornaments to make it look simply magnificent.” He later wrote that “The room is now very nice, in fact it is universally spoken of as the best room in the House.”
On 25 October, Lord Randolph advised his sons that their mother was “extremely ill yesterday and we were rather alarmed.” In fact, Lady Randolph was diagnosed on 12 October as having an enlarged ovary that was causing her a great deal of pain for which the treating physician had advised her to “rest and do nothing to bring on pain.” By 22 October, her condition had not improved and she was given morphine as “the absolute necessity of controlling the pain.” The problem did not clear up until early in December.
“A day away from Chartwell is a day wasted.” Speaking thirty years ago in Dallas at the fourth International Churchill Conference, these were the words that Grace Hamblin, Lady Churchill’s former secretary and Chartwell’s first Administrator, remembered Sir Winston having said many times. He called it his “factory,” but it was so much more than that: it was his dream house, his refuge, his chief pleasure, his pride, and his muse.
In this issue, we look at the Chartwell story from its acquisition by Churchill to current plans of the National Trust for future development. David Lough, the leading authority on Churchill’s finances, starts us off with the story of how Churchill came to purchase his “blessed plot” and the constant monetary strains that went with it.
Life at Chartwell has been described by many. We are pleased to present here recollections from two voices new to the record. Leo Amery was a lifelong friend of Churchill’s. Published here for the first time are extracts from Amery’s diary recording some of his visits to Chartwell. Jonathan Dudley was only a boy when he visited with the Churchill family. He now draws upon his recently published memoir to give us a boy’s-eye view of the Churchills at home.
Richard Toye, ed., Winston Churchill: Politics, Strategy and Statecraft, Bloomsbury, 2017, 231 pages, $29.95/£21.99. ISBN 978–1474263856
Readers of Finest Hour know better than anyone that there is no end to the outpouring of books about Winston Churchill, focussing on ever more obscure corners of his titanic life. This slim volume, on the contrary, seeks to encompass the most important elements of his whole career, not in another full-scale biography—there have surely been enough of those—but in fifteen short essays on different strands or themes.
It is not entirely clear who it is aimed at. It aspires simultaneously to be “suitable for those coming to Churchill for the first time” while also “providing new insights for those already familiar with his life.” But inevitably it falls between stools—too academic for the first category, but too brief to offer much to the second. It is best seen as a concise survey of how a number of distinguished scholars view Churchill today.
What is original, however, is that the endnotes provide full references to the papers held at Churchill College, Cambridge, now digitised and available online, while an e-book edition provides links to the original documents. So perhaps the real target audience is students. The fifteen essays are of variable quality. The first two or three, covering Churchill’s early career, are a bit perfunctory, adding little to the received picture, though Peter Catterall defends Churchill’s controversial 1925 decision as Chancellor of the Exchequer to put Britain back on the gold standard, arguing that it could have worked and was less responsible for provoking the general strike the following year than has often been alleged.
NEW YORK—Your number 175 on “ The Churchill Women ” is an outstanding theme, extremely well executed. Congratulations. I am also pleased that you use the Chicago Manual of Style. When my footnotes or endnotes are so extensive, I sometimes truncate them. My teachers in undergraduate and graduate school would take the ruler to me. —Lewis E. Lehrman
MONT-SAINT-AIGNAN, FRANCE— Our new International Churchill Society President Randolph Churchill was so pleased with my “biting” review of the biographie gourmande in FH 175 [p. 46] that he had a quiet word with his good friend Christian Pol-Roger. Imagine my surprise when I received a carton of six 2008 vintage bottles!—Antoine Capet
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Churchill was delighted when a little girl surprised him with flowers one day in Italy. Gratefully moving his cane aside, he gave her a kiss on the cheek. Missing his own family, and beset with troubles, he truly loved this moment. I guess we’ll never know the little chap behind the bouquet. … 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.