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GUNS OF AUGUST 1914-2014 – The “Kingly Conference,” 1914: Churchill’s Last Try for Peace

Finest Hour 163, Summer 2014

Page 20

By Max E. Hertwig

Churchill’s faith in personal diplomacy—in solving intractable problems by meetings at the highest level—was famously expressed during his World War II meetings with Stalin and Roosevelt. It surfaced again in 1953-55, when he strove unsuccessfully to promote “a meeting at the summit” with Eisenhower and Stalin’s successors. Far less widely known, however,  is Churchill’s proposal for a “conference of sovereigns” or heads of state (including, it seems, the French president) in the last days of peace before the world was convulsed by war in 1914. Like his “Naval Holiday,” the scheme failed, but certainly not for Churchill’s lack of trying.


At this stage in his career, even Churchill did not have the temerity to suggest himself as Britain’s –plenipotentiary, although as Professor Maurer has shown, he was quite ready to meet personally with his counterpart von Tirpitz, head of the German Navy. That having failed, Churchill tried in the final days to promote an even higher-level meeting, between the kings and emperors themselves. This was not unprecedented; some sources state that Kaiser Wilhelm proposed a peace conference after the Sarajevo assassinations, and private messages were being exchanged between the Kaiser and Czar Nicholas in the days before war was declared.
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GUNS OF AUGUST 1914-2014 – Churchill’s “Naval Holiday”: His Plan to Avert the Great War

Finest Hour 163, Summer 2014

Page 10

By John H. Maurer

In the spring of 1914, Winston Churchill’s arms-control initiative was, in the eyes of the German government, nonsense. As the war that broke out that summer would show, Berlin would have better served its own interests and the well-being of the German people had it worked with Churchill, rather than thwarting him.


Winston S. Churchill is best remembered as a valiant leader in times of war. He should also be remembered for his efforts to prevent the catastrophic great wars that would dominate and scar the history of the 20th century. While largely forgotten today, on the eve of the First World War Churchill made a remarkable and persistent attempt to halt the head-to-head competition in naval armaments that was turning Great Britain and Germany into adversaries.

In a bold and unconventional initiative as First Lord of the Admiralty, Churchill publicly invited Germany’s rulers to take a “holiday” from the competitive building of battleships, on three separate occasions before 1914. Behind the scenes, he pressed for negotiations, with this proposal as the starting point. It was Churchill’s earnest hope that the Naval Holiday would stop the action-reaction dynamic of the arms race—what statesmen of that era called “the sea war waged in the dockyards.”1 Rather than Britain and Germany being arrayed in opposing camps, he wanted to promote cooperation between Europe’s two leading great powers.
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Moments in Time – HMS Renown, 19 September 1943

Finest Hour 156, Autumn 2012

Page 39

Moments in Time – HMS Renown, 19 September 1943

By Tina Knowles Billing


I have a photograph of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, his wife and daughter and Brendan Bracken, saying good-bye to a ship’s captain, dated 19 September 1943. It was taken by my father, John Knowles, who served on that ship. Are you able to provide me with details of the ship and the occasion? —Tina Knowles Billing, Australia.


The ship is the battlecruiser HMS Renown (1916-1948). In “Glimpses from the ‘Taxi'” (FH 113: 24-25), Vic Humphries, who served as a radar operator, discussed Renown‘s two voyages with Churchill. The first was from Halifax to the Clyde after the “Quadrant” Conference with Roosevelt at Quebec. Your father’s photograph was taken when the Churchills were leaving the ship in Scotland. The Prime Minister was aboard for another voyage, from Plymouth to Alexandria in November 1943, for a meeting with Roosevelt before Teheran. Churchill’s daughter Mary was his aide-de-camp on the first voyage, his daughter Sarah on the second. Mary (as she recounts in her new book, A Daughter’s Tale; reviewed in FH 153:43) was almost washed overboard in the high seas.

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