Before he passed away on 13 March, Stephen Hawking sent the following letter to the International Churchill Society. We publish this tribute from a great scientist to a great statesman in honor of both men.
CAMBRIDGE—Churchill was the right man at the right time for the right job to fight a very nasty disease spreading throughout Europe—Nazism and Fascism.
For this Churchill spared no expense for Bletchley Park to fund Alan Turing and his colleagues to break the enigma code and win the war. His support of scientific development in those dark years has carried forward positively into more enlightened times. We thank him for not giving up.
Churchill and I have a couple of things in common:
‘Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…’
‘I devoured Gibbon. I rode triumphantly through it from end to end and enjoyed it all. I scribbled all my opinions on the margins of the pages, and very soon found myself a vehement partisan of the author against the disparagements of his pompous-pious editor.… From Gibbon I went to Macaulay. I had learnt [as a boy] The Lays of Ancient Rome by heart, and loved them; and of course I knew he had written a history; but I had never read a page of it.…I accepted all Macaulay wrote as gospel, and I was grieved to read his harsh judgments upon the Great Duke of Marlborough. There was no one at hand to tell me that this historian with his captivating style and devastating self-confidence was the prince of literary rogues, who always preferred the tale to the truth, and smirched or glorified great men and garbled documents according as they affected his drama.’
– Winston S Churchill, My Early Life, 1930. Read More >
‘[Lloyd George had a moderately phrased amendment but] soon became animated and even violent. I constructed in succession sentence after sentence to hook on with after he should sit down.…Then Mr. Bowles whispered “You might say ‘instead of making his violent speech without moving his moderate amendment, he had better have moved his moderate amendment without making his violent speech.’” Manna in the wilderness was not more welcome!.…I was up before I knew it, and reciting Tommy Bowles’s rescuing sentence. It won a general cheer.…Everyone was very kind. The usual restoratives were applied, and I sat in a comfortable coma till I was strong enough to go home.’
– Winston S Churchill, My Early Life, 1930. Read More >
J.E.C. Welldon, Winston’s Harrow head master, wrote to Lord —Randolph in April to advise that he would be taking Winston into his own house during the next term “He has some great gifts, and is, I think, making progress in his work.” Welldon encouraged Lord and Lady Randolph to visit the school in May or June: “You would have, if nothing else, at least the opportunity of seeing what Winston’s school life is like.”
Winston continued constantly and fruitlessly to importune his parents to visit. In June he wrote to his mother: “Do do come down tomorrow. I would be disappointed if you did not come. I am looking forward to tomorrow tremendously.” Read More >
“It was to the interest of the parties concerned after they were the prisoners of the Allies to dwell upon their efforts for peace. There can be no doubt however of the existence of the plot at this moment, and of serious measures taken to make it effective.” —Churchill, The Gathering Storm, 1948
“I myself still believe that Hitler missed the bus last September and that his generals won’t let him risk a major war now.” —Neville Chamberlain to his sister, May 1939
“A mind sequestered in its own delusions is to reason invincible.” —Dante
In the early morning hours of 28 September 1938, a fifty-man Stosstrupp, a commando raiding party, assembled at Army headquarters of the Berlin Military District, home to General Erwin von Witzleben’s Third Army Corps. Commanded by Captain Friedrich Wilhelm Heinz of the Abwehr (Military Intelligence) the group comprised young, hand-picked anti-Nazis, half of whom were serving officers. The men were issued automatic weapons, ammunition and hand grenades furnished by Lieutenant Colonel Helmuth Groscurth of the Abwehr, who had been ordered to do so by Abwehr chief Admiral Wilhelm Canaris.1 Read More >
“You have only to look at the map…to see that nothing that France or we could do could possibly save Czechoslovakia from being overrun by the Germans, if they wanted to do it. I have therefore abandoned any idea of giving guarantees to Czechoslovakia, or to the French in connection with her obligations to that country.” —Neville Chamberlain to his sister, 20 March 1938
“How erroneous Mr. Chamberlain’s private and earnest reasoning appears when we cast our minds forward to the guarantee he was to give to Poland within a year, after all the strategic value of Czechoslovakia had been cast away, and Hitler’s power and prestige had almost doubled!” —Winston S. Churchill, The Gathering Storm, 1948
“In consequence of Wehrmacht demands and unlimited construction on the Westwall, so tense a situation in the economic sector occurred that the continuation of the tension past October 10 would have made a catastrophe inevitable.” —Reich Defense Committee, October 1938 Read More >
LONDON—A meeting at Brendan Bracken’s house to decide what we are going to do. Are we to vote against the government or are we to abstain? We agree that the effect of our action would depend upon its joint character. It would be a pity if some of us voted against, and some abstained. It would be far more effective (since there is little hope of many voting against), if we all abstained. Winston says he refuses to abstain, since that would mean that he half agreed with Government policy. We decide that we must all do what we think best. [Thirty abstained, including WSC.] —HAROLD NICOLSON, MP (DIARY)
Winston Not, 5 October
LONDON—The reconstruction of the Government is urgent. I do not believe that there is any basis of a working agreement between Winston and ourselves. But as to Anthony [Eden], I would get him back if and when you can. —Samuel Hoare, Home Secretary
Weaker Brethren, 9 October
LONDON— I had to fight all the time against the defection of weaker brethren and Winston was carrying on a regular campaign against me…. I tried occasionally to take an antidote to the poison gas by reading a few of the countless letters and telegrams which continued to pour in expressing in most moving accents the writers’ heartfelt relief and gratitude. All the world seemed to be full of my praises except the House of Commons…. —Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister
Ought to Be interned, 11 October
NEW DELHI—Why, when there is a crisis, does Mr. Winston Churchill go to 10 Downing Street? Is he invited? I have got the greatest possible admiration for Mr. Churchill’s Parliamentary powers, and his artistic powers, but I have always felt that in a crisis he is one of the first people who ought to be interned. —Lord Zetland, Secretary of State for India
Beautiful Speech, 23 October
NEW DELHI—What a beautiful speech that was of Winston’s….Lady Astor’s interpellations singularly inept! It must surely be true that those countries will, one after another, be drawn into this vast system of power politics….[Many] dread the power of Nazi Germany and of our becoming dependent upon their good will and pleasure. I can “arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.” Grand words…coming as they do from Winston—I never shall understand why we can’t have him in the Government. —P.J. Grigg, Chairman, Inland revenue
The Last Seven Years, 26 October
TIDWORTH, WILTS.— The Government are blaming their failure to rearm in public on the Labour Party and in private on Lord Baldwin.…Neither are blameless, Baldwin more probably more culpable than any other individual BUT the big 4 [Chamberlain, Hoare, Halifax, Simon] have all held high office in British Cabinet for at least a year longer than Hitler has been Chancellor. Three of them date back to ’31 and Halifax to ’32….From every point of view I’m sure it is advisable to shift criticism from the events of September to those of the last 7 years. —Randolph Churchill, Army Officer
Idiocy and Stupidity, 6 November
WEIMAR— Mr. Churchill has declared openly that in his opinion the present regime in Germany should be abolished in cooperation with internal German forces who would put themselves gratefully at his disposal for the purpose. If Mr. Churchill had less to do with emigres, that is to say exiled foreign paid traitors, and more to do with Germans, then he would see the whole idiocy and stupidity of what he says. I can only assure this gentleman that there is in Germany no such power as could set itself against the present regime. —Adolf Hitler, Chancellor and Führer
Churchill replied: “I am surprised that the head of a great State should set himself to attack British Members of Parliament, who hold no official position, and who are not even the leaders of parties…. Since he has been good enough to give me his advice I venture to return the compliment. Herr Hitler also showed himself unduly sensitive about suggestions that there may be other opinions in Germany besides his own. It would be indeed astonishing if among eighty millions of people so varying in origin, creed, interest and condition, there should be only one pattern of thought. It would not be natural. It is incredible. That he has the power, and alas the will, to suppress all inconvenient opinions is no doubt true. It would be much wiser to relax a little, and not try to frighten people out of their wits for expressing honest doubts and divergences.
Warmongers, 13 November
LONDON— There is a deliberate German campaign to represent Anthony Eden, Winston, etc as warmongers so as to debar their return to power, as it is felt in Germany that they are the only people who understand the danger and would be able to rouse this country to take appropriate action. —Oliver Harvey, Diplomat
From: Sir Martin Gilbert, The Churchill Documents, vol. 13 (Hillsdale College Press).
Politico says: “Senator Ted Cruz is, to paraphrase Winston Churchill’s quip about Secretary of StateJohn Foster Dulles, a bull who carries a china shop with him.” Cruz instituted a 21-hour-long speech in an attempt to stop the Affordable Care Act, a kamikaze remindful of Churchill’s vain attempt to salvage Edward VIII in 1936. Both acts deserved top marks for fortitude and zero for strategy, but Churchill was more decorous. Cruz compared Senator Harry Reid to the Hitler appeasers, while Reid pleasantly referred to Cruz as a terrorist. Cruz’s grass roots cheered, continued Politico: “They are desperate for gumption and imagination and, above all, fight.” Fight is fine, but Churchill retained his sense of humor and collegiality.
The San Francisco 49ers played a U.S. football game on 27 October in Wembley Stadium, London, where coach Jim Harbaugh said he used Churchill’s words to inspire his team. This is a team tradition: former Niners athletic coach Johnny Parker spoke about inspiring football players with Churchill at our 1995 Boston conference. Churchill is “my favorite figure of all time,” Harbaugh said. “As the decades go on, the world appreciates his leadership, his character, the titanium in his spine, the iron will of Winston Churchill.” The Niners beat Jacksonville 28-0. —Charles Montgomery on Churchillchat. Read More >
I’ve always thought FH superb, but “Gadflies, Gods and Presidents” (FH 160:11) resonated strongly. With three young children, I do not get to as many events as I would like, even though I have been a member since arriving in Britain in 1999. But I have upgraded my support for the Churchill Centre UK and am especially pleased to have got to know Allen Packwood. I am now going to download from our website the list of speeches you recommend in your article. JAMES AITKEN, LONDON
“Leading Myths” on Churchill and Lethal Gas (FH 160:26) was very well done. It ought to drive a stake through the heart of this particular canard. But journalists being what they are, it probably won’t. PROF. RAYMOND CALLAHAN, NEWARK, DEL. Read More >
The House of Commons is designed so that opposing MPs are far enough away from each other to prevent swordplay. Exactly how far is that?
Good question! The two sides are separated by 13 feet, said to be two swords’-lengths apart. —Paul. H. Courtenay
In which hotel did Churchill stay when he was in Munich, where he almost met Hitler, in 1932? —Dr. Holley Martlew, Via Email
The official biography and its document volumes do not state the hotel, but Churchill says it was the Regina, while Ernst “Putzi” Hanfstaengl, the intermediary with Hitler, says it was the Continental.
Churchill (The Gathering Storm, London: Cassell, 1948, 65) wrote:
“They never had to face, as we have done, and still do, the possibility of national ruin… World revolution, mortal defeat, national subjugation, chaotic degeneration, or even national bankruptcy, had not laid steel claws upon their sedate, serene, complacent life.” -WSC, “The Earl of Rosebery,” 1929 (Page 20)
Churchill in His Own Words: The Life, Times and Opinions of Winston Churchill, Richard M. Langworth, ed. Ebury Press, softbound, illus., 620 pp., £10.50 ($17) Amazon UK (amzn.to/P9K7n1). A RosettaBooks E-book will follow.
By Paul H. Courtenay
Richard Langworth OBE (our esteemed editor) first published this book in 2008 with the title Churchill By Himself, with a second revised edition in 2010. After six months’ prodigious checking and rechecking every entry against original appearances (some of which disagree with each other!), it has been republished under a new title with a snappy and evocative cover. My only minor and constructive criticism is that one or two of the captions still require fine-tuning. So far the book is available in the U.S. only online from Amazon UK, but an e- book will follow by the end of the year.
These quotes make for good storytelling but popular myth has falsely attributed them to Winston Churchill
Conservative by the Time You’re 35
‘If you’re not a liberal when you’re 25, you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 35, you have no brain.’
There is no record of anyone hearing Churchill say this. Paul Addison of Edinburgh University made this comment: ‘Surely Churchill can’t have used the words attributed to him. He’d been a Conservative at 15 and a Liberal at 35! And would he have talked so disrespectfully of Clemmie, who is generally thought to have been a lifelong Liberal?’
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
This quote is very often attributed to Churchill but appears nowhere in the Churchill canon.
Cross of Lorraine
“The hardest cross I have to bear is the Cross of Lorraine.”
This remark about the intractable Charles de Gaulle was actually made by General Spears, Churchill’s envoy to France.
Going Through Hell
“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
We haven’t seen any correct attribution of this quote that appears frequently on the Internet and printed on motivation posters. It’s not a phrase that is contained anywhere in the canon of Winston Churchill’s written or spoken words. Read More >
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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.