Cate Ludlow, I Love Churchill: 400 Fantastic Facts, The History Press, 2016, 160 pages, £10.
M. S. King, The British Mad Dog: Debunking the Myth of Winston Churchill, Create Space, 2016, 252 pages, $18.95.
Kathryn Selbert, War Dogs: Churchill and Rufus, Charlesbridge, 2016, 48 pages, $7.95.
Review by David Freeman
David Freemanis the editor of Finest Hour.
New books about Winston Churchill vary in size and quality. Whatever the case, Finest Hour sets out to separate the wheat from the chaff. There can be beauty in the miniature and malignancy in the meretricious.
Cate Ludlow’s I Love Churchill: 400 Fantastic Facts presents just that: 400 reliable facts about Churchill’s life in chronological order. This small but handsome paperback has sharp, modern graphics on each page to illustrate the concise but striking information. Despite the size, this quick and delightful read will not be out of place on display with its larger coffee-table siblings—a true gem. Read More >
Michael Köhlmeier, Translated by Ruth Martin, Two Gentlemen on the Beach, Haus Publishing, 2016, 280 pages, £17.99.
Review by Werner Vogt
Werner Vogt is a writer and a communications consultant in Zurich. For his article about Churchill’s links to Switzerland, see page 28. For a review of his most recent book, see page 41.
Originally published in Germany in 2014 as Zwei Herren am Strand, this novel by Michael Köhlmeier, an Austrian author of renown, deals with two great but very different men, Winston Churchill and Charlie Chaplin, and describes their relationship in general and their common problems with depression in particular. Given that Köhlmeier (born in 1949) is not only an experienced but also a well-decorated writer, expectations were of course high when the work was first published in the German-speaking world.
Köhlmeier’s endeavour was courageous, especially given that more has been written about Churchill than can be read and digested in a lifetime. It was certainly an original idea to approach the two giants of the twentieth century, their relationship and their dealing with “the black dog” (as Churchill called depression with a maximum of artistic licence) in a total and deliberate mix of fact and fiction. The idea of inventing history in a historical novel with fictional characters has a lot to it. And even when history is beefed up in order to qualify for an action thriller, as in Female Agents (starring Sophie Marceau), no one will really protest. Read More >
Warren Kimball is a member of the Editorial Board of Finest Hour and Robert Treat Professor Emeritus of History at Rutgers.
One of the challenges of writing proper history is telling what and why something happened within a broad enough context to avoid distortion-by-brevity.
A corrective, if I may, to Michael McMenamin’s telling of the Cape Town gold story in “Action This Day” (FH 171). It is a nice tale, but told in a short version tends to perpetuate two myths. Unfortunately, Winston Churchill’s war memoir contributed to the mythology. The first is the image of greedy Americans “squeezing” out all they could from what Churchill described as a “helpless debtor.” The second is the obvious assumption, by Churchill and at least two British official historians, that the proposal to ship gold across the Atlantic, risking U-boat attacks, came from those avaricious Americans.
As McMenamin described, Sir Frederick Phillips of the British Treasury (in Washington to discuss financial matters) “was told” on 23 December 1940 that Roosevelt had “arranged” for shipment of Cape Town gold to the United States. True enough, but the reality is that the suggestion of a gold transfer was not an American brainstorm. Rather it came four days earlier from Phillips himself, although he seems to have been surprised that his casual idea had been adopted and acted upon so quickly. As a Treasury official reported to the Department Secretary, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., “Phillips whether it would be possible for the Treasury…to buy gold situated in Australia or South Africa.” He even wondered if American warships might carry the gold.1 Read More >
I have some questions about Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s silence over the 1944 bombing of Monte Cassino Abbey, and his later, contradictory reconstruction of facts.
(1) Immediately after the bombing, on 15 February 1944, Churchill officially said nothing about an event on newspaper front pages all over the world. By contrast, Roosevelt tried to explain it in the White House press conference by revealing an Eisenhower letter about Italian historical monuments versus military necessity.
(2) Churchill remained silent about the bombing of the Abbey in his speech in Parliament on 22 February, although he went into great detail about the Italian military and political situation.
(3) As far as I know, Churchill described the Monte Cassino bombing only after the war, in The Second World War: “The monastery dominated the whole battlefield, and naturally General Freyberg, the Corps Commander concerned, worked to have it heavily bombarded from the air before he launched the infantry attack. The army commander, General Mark Clark, unwillingly sought and obtained permission from General Alexander, who accepted the responsibility….” Read More >
From Finest Hour 140, Autumn 2008. Excerpted by kind permission from Winston S. Churchill, vol. 2 Young Statesman 1901-1911. London: Heinemann, 1977, 374-78.
In 1911, a strike began in the coal mines at Rhondda in early November of the same year. It arose out of a dispute concerning wage differentials in the working of hard and soft seams. Many men were involved, estimates varying between 25,000 and 30,000, and many different pits were affected.
There was looting and the local authorities appealed to the War Office for troops. On hearing of this, Churchill as Home Secretary consulted the Secretary of War, Haldane, and they agreed instead to send police, but to hold some troops in reserve near by.
“The Famine in Bengal: Bullock Hackeries for Carrying Grain,” from the Illustrated London News, 1874
The editors of Finest Hour wish to bestow their 2008 Utter Excess Award on MWC (“Media With Conscience”) News in Vancouver for its November 18th editorial by Gideon Polya, charmingly entitled, “Media Lying Over Churchill’s Crimes”
“Churchill is our hero because of his leadership in World War 2,” Polya writes, “but his immense crimes, notably the WW2 Bengali Holocaust, the 1943-1945 Bengal Famine in which Churchill murdered 6-7 million Indians, have been deleted from history by extraordinary Anglo-American and Zionist Holocaust Denial.”
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