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Books, Arts, & Curiosities – The Irish Perspective

Finest Hour 173, Summer 2016

Page 39

Paul Bew, Churchill and Ireland, Oxford University  Press, 208 pages, £16.99/ $29.95.
ISBN 978–0198755210

Review by Robert McNamara

Robert McNamara teaches History at Ulster University and is the editor of The Churchills in Ireland 1660– 1965: Connections and Controversies (Irish Academic Press, 2011).

Churchill and IrelandWhat did Winston Churchill really think about Irish nationalism and unionism?  Indeed who is the real “Churchill” when it came to Ireland: an ardent home ruler or a diehard unionist Tory? Since he, at least on the surface, changed his mind often regarding both the conflicting communities in Ireland, it is rather difficult to identify a coherent thread, let alone an idée fixe.

Remarkably, this is only the fourth book on the subject out of the many thousands published about Churchill. Paul Bew covers the intersections of Churchill’s career and Ireland from the baby in the pram in the viceregal lodge in Phoenix Park to the 1950s. Mainly he negotiates a delicate balancing act mixing praise and criticism in his portrait. Unlike previous books written on the subject, Bew takes a moderate unionist perspective on some of the issues.

Irish opinions on Winston Churchill are mixed, to say the least. The accusations levelled against Churchill are long. He was the son of Lord Randolph, the man who played the “Orange Card.” He supported coercion and, most infamously, reprisals during the 1919–21 Troubles. He was a leading figure in the Treaty that partitioned Ireland and led to a bitter civil war in the south. He showed no respect for Irish neutrality (and by implication independence) during the Second World War. In a victory broadcast in May 1945, he launched a venomous attack on Irish neutrality, which Eamon de Valera defiantly rebuked in a famous reply.
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Books, Arts & Curiosities – Mapping History

Finest Hour 170, Fall 2015

Page 45

Review by Paul H. Courtenay

John Potter, Pim and Churchill’s Map Room, Northern Ireland War Memorial, 2014, 76 pages, £5.00.
ISBN 978-0992930103

Northern Ireland War MemorialThis very slim booklet tells the story of a little-known member of Churchill’s inner entourage, whose experiences deserve to be known about. Richard Pim was very much a Northern Ireland worthy and a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin. Shortly before the partition of Ireland in 1922, he had become a police cadet in the Royal Irish Constabulary and, after this date, was appointed a senior civil servant in the newly established government of Northern Ireland. In 1924 he added an important activity to his credentials by joining the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR); he attended regular training, which included exten- sive sea-time, rising to the rank of Commander. As a trained reservist, he was mobilised in September 1939 and was posted to the Admiralty and put in charge of the map-room on the day after Churchill’s re-appointment as First Lord. In May 1940 Pim was promoted to Captain and accompanied Churchill to Downing Street. Pim remained in this position until July 1945 and often was called to brief his master several times a day.

Pim reported to the Prime Minister each morning with a summary of overnight reports. At the time of the Dunkirk evacuation, he asked Churchill for temporary leave of absence so that he could take a boat across the English Channel. He was allowed to do this for a period of four days, when he captained a flat-bottomed barge that carried a number of motor-boats that were launched to bring parties back from shore to ship. It is estimated that he rescued some 3,500 men, including a number of sailors from sunken vessels. Later, at a period of the war when nothing seemed to go right, Churchill told Pim that he was seriously thinking of handing over his load of responsibilities to other shoulders; Pim is reported to have replied, “By God, Sir, you can’t do that!”
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