Finest Hour 183, First Quarter 2019
By Cita Stelzer
Cita Stelzer is author of Working with Winston: The Unsung Women behind Britain’s Greatest Statesman to be published this May and from which this article is adapted.
In the course of his long career, Winston Churchill published numerous histories (earning him the Nobel Prize for Literature) containing some thirteen million words. He also produced untold memoranda, letters, directives, and an estimated 5,000 speeches for delivery in the House of Commons and to audiences in Britain, America, Canada, the Soviet Union, and other countries, as well as over the wireless. When completed, The Churchill Documents, published by Hillsdale College, will consist of twenty-three hefty volumes. And those volumes do not include his published books. Without the help of his many talented and devoted personal secretaries, such an enormous, high-quality output would almost certainly have been impossible. Most of it was dictated to his teams of ever-present secretaries, some of it while in cars, planes, trains, and some of it while in bed at 8 AM or again after dinner until 2 AM. Whether preparing to correspond with President Roosevelt, Joseph Stalin, or his wife Clemmie, or to transmit instructions to his generals, Churchill knew that the shout of “Miss” would instantly produce a young lady to “take down.”
Churchill was a non-stop worker, especially during the Second World War when he rigorously enforced his rule (a blessing for later historians) that every instruction, every thought, must be reduced to written memoranda to avoid confusion, or perhaps deliberate misinterpretation. This made accurate transcription of his words essential to his direction of Britain’s war effort. True, he did take an occasional afternoon off to paint except during the war, but even then it was the job of his secretaries to see to it that proper paints, brushes, and canvasses arrived wherever he might be when he found time to relax. And the blue paint requested was not just any blue, but often a specific hue, such as cobalt. Read More >