A comment under an article in the nationalist newspaper the National during the controversies about Churchill’s reputation, early in 2019. By the time I took the screenshot, seventeen people had “liked” it.
Finest Hour 189, Third Quarter 2020
By Gordon J. Barclay
Dr. Gordon J. Barclay is an archaeologist and historian. His most recent book The Fortification of the Firth of Forth 1880–1977: “the Most Powerful Naval fortress in the British Empire” (with Ron Morris) was published in 2019.
The real, complex, and historically important Churchill is increasingly disappearing behind crudely mythologised versions erected by those who wish to defend a political position or a series of values, and those who wish to attack them. On the one hand there is the faultless secular saint; on the other, a villain for all seasons. Oddly, at both extremes, these positions can often be characterised as “nationalistic.” In much of this rhetoric, “Churchill” often seems merely to be a personification of Britain, England, or the Empire for those whose nationalism either idolises or denigrates what they stand or stood for. It appears to have little connection to the real man in the context of the times he lived through.
A particular strand of Scottish nationalism seems to believe that the cause of Scottish independence will be furthered by promoting division and distrust between the Scots and the English. On social media, their rhetoric can cross the line into something like hate speech.
Historical grievances are being resurrected, exaggerated, or just invented. In particular, there are what I have termed the four twentieth-century “military myths,” and it will perhaps come as no surprise to the reader that Churchill features in three of them. It is these three that I discuss here. The fourth, claiming that Scotland suffered disproportionately high casualties in the First World War—between 25% and 28% of enlisted men—has been discredited by Patrick Watt.1
Churchill visiting Eisenhower in Washington, 1959, with his private secretary Sir Anthony Montague Browne
Finest Hour 186, Fourth Quarter 2019
By Sir Winston S. Churchill
Winston Churchill’s views on the Cold War are fairly represented in two different sets of remarks that he composed at the time. The first came in a speech he made in Washington. The second came in what was his last work of original writing intended for publication.
IN CONGRESS, 17 JANUARY 1952
Shortly after he became Prime Minister for the second time in October 1951, Churchill travelled to Washington for high-level meetings with President Truman (see story on page 18). During this visit, Churchill was invited to speak before a meeting of both houses of Congress for the third time. Here follow excerpts from that speech:
The changes that happened since I last spoke to Congress [in 1943] are indeed astounding. It is hard to believe that we are living in the same world. Former allies have become foes. Former foes have become allies. Conquered countries have been liberated. Liberated nations have been enslaved by Communism.
Russia, eight years ago our brave ally, has cast away the admiration and good will her soldiers had gained for her by their valiant defence of their own country. It is not the fault of the Western Powers if an immense gulf has opened between us. It took a long succession of deliberate and unceasing works of acts and hostility to convince our peoples—as they are now convinced—that they have another tremendous danger to face and that they are now confronted with a new form of tyranny and aggression as dangerous and as hateful as that which we overthrew. Read More >
The Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Winston Churchill, MP, with men of the 50th Division who took part in the D-Day landings. Behind the Prime Minister is General Sir Bernard Montgomery. Image was created and released by the Imperial War Museum on the IWM Non Commercial Licence. Malindine E G (Capt), No 5 Army Film and Photographic Unit.
By Edward E. Gordon and David Ramsey
The special relationship between Great Britain and the United States was key to the development and execution of the Normandy campaign. It began with the close collaboration of Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Franklin D. Roosevelt even before America’s entrance into the war. During 1940 and 1941 the two countries developed very close ties as German victories threatened all of Europe. Their joint military and logistical planning foreshadowed their ultimate alliance.1
The Debate Begins
D-Day’s seeds were first planted on Dunkirk’s beaches. Almost from the day in 1940 when the British and French forces were evacuated from France, the British began to consider where, when, and how they would return to free northwestern Europe from Nazi occupation. Much of this speculation was premature. Only when the United States dropped its neutrality would the combined manpower and firepower of Britain and America be available to guarantee the success of such a massive amphibious invasion of northwestern Europe. However it still remained very difficult for the Allies to decide on when and where to launch this invasion.
Nigel Hamilton is Senior Fellow in the McCormack Graduate School, University of Massachusetts Boston. War and Peace, the final volume of his “FDR at War” trilogy, will be published in May 2019.
David Reynolds and Vladimir Pechatnov, eds., The Kremlin Letters: Stalin’s Wartime Correspondence with Churchill and Roosevelt, Yale University Press, 2018, 660 pages, $35. 978–0300226829
At first glance The Kremlin Letters: Stalin’s Wartime Correspondence with Churchill and Roosevelt promises to be the book we—those of us still deeply interested in the history of the Second World War—were waiting for. David Reynolds is a distinguished historian of Anglo-American relations and Vladimir Pechatnov a leading scholar of Soviet relations with the West, having access to significant new primary sources.
The good news for readers is that the seventeen-page introduction—clearly penned by Professor Reynolds—is worth the price of the book alone: a wonderful, essayistic tour d’horizon of the three great leaders of the Allied coalition in the Second World War: their different personalities, their political aims, and their strengths and weaknesses, spiced with wonderful quotations. Told in 1944 that they resembled the Holy Trinity, Marshal Stalin—who had studied for six years at the Tiflis Russian Orthodox seminary—quipped: “If that is so, Churchill must be the Holy Ghost. He flies around so much.”
Courage meant a great deal to Winston Churchill. In his 1931 profile of Spain’s King Alfonso XIII titled “Alfonso the Unlucky,” subsequently published as a chapter in Great Contemporaries, Churchill wrote,
Men and kings must be judged in the testing moments of their lives. Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because, as has been said, it is the quality which guarantees all others.
Indeed, courage was a personal quality frequently attributed to Churchill himself. Colonel Thomas (Tommy) Macpherson, a highly decorated Second World War officer, wrote of Churchill’s “extraordinary mixture of emotional sentimentality and steely courage.” Churchill’s, Macpherson elaborated, was “not heedless, reckless, momentary animal courage, but the self-disciplined, durable mental courage knowing all the dangers and still holding course.”
Two of Winston Churchill’s longest serving private secretaries were, like the man they worked for, keen and sharp-witted observers, as shown here.
John (known as “Jock”) Colville (1915–87) was as an Assistant Private Secretary to Churchill twice during the Second World War, his service interrupted by time in the RAF. He served Churchill again, as a Joint Principal Private Secretary, in 1951–55. He also worked briefly for Clement Attlee in 1945. When Attlee praised one of his own appointments as someone who “was at Haileybury, my old school,” Colville recorded in his diary that “Churchill, though he sometimes said nice things about me, never included in his recommendations that we were both Old Harrovians. I concluded that the old school tie counted even more in Labour than in Conservative circles.”
Anthony Montague Browne (1923–2013) also served as an RAF pilot during the Second World War and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for actions against the Japanese in Burma. He joined Churchill’s staff when he was chosen to be Private Secretary for Foreign Affairs to the Prime Minister in September 1952. After Churchill’s retirement in 1955, Montague Browne continued to serve Churchill as Private Secretary until Churchill’s death ten years later. When the behavior of Foreign Secretary Sir Anthony Eden became increasingly difficult to cope with in 1953, Montague Browne remarked to Eden’s Private Office: “The difference between us is that I work for a great historical figure, and you work for a great hysterical one.”
British Government leaflets advising citizens on how to respond to a German invasion.
Finest Hour 181, Summer 2018
By Ronald I. Cohen
Ronald I. Cohen MBE is author of A Bibliography of the Writings of Sir Winston Churchill, 3 vols.(2006).
An Ottawa Churchill Society member and good friend referred me to an online article he had spotted by Colin Marshall entitled “Winston Churchill’s List of Tips for Surviving a German Invasion: See the Never-Distributed Document (1940).” Given the apparent obscurity of the leaflet to which it refers (to judge by the title of Marshall’s article), my Churchillian friend wondered if I was aware of the document. I was indeed.
I should note straightaway that, while it is designated by Marshall as “Churchill’s” list of tips, they were not initially drafted by him, although he certainly did comment on them and ultimately approved their substance—more on that following the issue of distribution.
Timothy Riley is Sandra L. and Monroe E. Trout Director and Chief Curator of the National Churchill Museum
On Tuesday, 10 April 1945, the Allied Forces and Winston Churchill had every reason to be confident that the end of the war was near. It was the beginning of the end of the war in Europe. It marked the day the American Ninth Army captured Hanover, the day Soviet forces entered central Vienna, and it was the day the 8th Air Force set a new single-day record by destroying 245 Luftwaffe aircraft. The road to Berlin was open and ultimate victory at hand.
Churchill’s spirits were high. The day before, the confident Prime Minister told the War Cabinet he hoped the victory celebration, when it ultimately arrived, should be called “VE Day.”1
10 April was also the day the London Gazette, the venerable journal of record of the British Government, published the news that “Junior Commander Mary Spencer Churchill of the Auxiliary Territorial Service” was awarded the MBE. Churchill’s youngest daughter would become a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in recognition of her military service.2
Edward E. Gordon and David Ramsay are co-authors of Divided on D-Day: How Conflicts and Rivalries Jeopardized the Allied Victory at Normandy (Prometheus Books, 2017).
The commander sighed. “Well, there it is: it won’t work but you must bloody well make it.”1 With these words Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke, chief of the Imperial General Staff, instructed Lieutenant General Sir Frederick E. Morgan in 1943 to begin preparing a cross-channel invasion plan. From the first day of the war, America’s leaders were determined to confront and defeat the German army speedily by invading northwestern Europe. But because the British had recently been decisively defeated by German forces at Dunkirk as well as in Norway and Greece, Churchill and the British armed forces chiefs of staff were much more cautious. They still remembered the slaughter of an entire generation on the Western Front during the First World War.
Britain’s war leaders also harbored grave doubts about the battle readiness of US soldiers, believed that American generals lacked combat experience, and were skeptical about America’s ability to increase the production of war materials rapidly.
125 Years ago
Winter 1893 • Age 18
“Distinctly Inclined to Be Inattentive”
Winter was not kind to Winston, but, as usual, he had no one but himself to blame. It began on 10 January during his holiday at the estate of his aunt Lady Wimborne. While being chased by his younger brother Jack and a cousin, Winston was cornered on a long bridge across a ravine some thirty feet below. There were a number of pine trees around whose tops reached the level of the bridge. Winston climbed over the railing. As he later wrote in My Early Life, “Would it not be possible to leap on to one of [the trees] and slip down the pole-like stem, breaking off each tier of branches as one descended until the fall was broken? To plunge or not to plunge, that was the question! In a second, I had plunged, throwing out my arms to embrace the summit of the fir tree. The argument was correct; the data were absolutely wrong. It was three days before I regained consciousness.”
It was a long fall onto hard ground and, in addition to a ruptured kidney, he had also broken his thigh, although the latter injury was not discovered until 1963 when an x-ray was taken aft er he had a fall in Monte Carlo.
NORMANDY TO EDINBURGH • JULY 17–25, 2018 • CULTURAL TOUR $9,999 • GOLF TOUR $12,999*
Book by November 17, 2017, and save $2,000 per couple
Join The National WWII Museum on an all-new tour of Normandy and Scotland which pairs the treasured pastime of golf with a highlevel travel experience for what is sure to be a once-in-a-lifetime tour opportunity. Featuring top golfers, leading historians, and the most knowledgeable guides, guests will play some of the most historic courses in the world and honor the servicemen of World War II who postponed their dreams and ambitions to answer the call of duty. In Normandy, visit the drop zones of the American Airborne and stand on Omaha Beach. Play the championship courses at Omaha Beach Golf Club and Barriere Golf Club at Deauville. Visit the Museum of Flight in Edinburgh, play rounds at historic Gleneagles and Edzell courses, and attend the final round of the British Open at Carnoustie. Stay on for our post-tour extension to watch five-time Open Championship winner and three-time Senior Open Champion Tom Watson as he returns to St. Andrews for the 2018 Senior Open Championship.
A professional army officer by training, Winston Churchill became forever linked with the Royal Navy as a result of his service as First Lord of the Admiralty in the early months of both world wars. This service Churchill himself immortalized in his many Second World War messages to President Roosevelt, where the Prime Minister referred to himself as a “Former Naval Person.”
When the guns of August sounded in 1914, Churchill had already been on the job at the Admiralty for three years. During the pre-war years, he had to contend with what was known as the “New Navalism,” which W. Mark Hamilton shows was a commitment to the principles of Alfred Thayer Mahan: developing and maintaining powerful modern navies. But Churchill also found time to improve the pay and working conditions of the common sailor, as Matthew S. Seligmann shows.
When the First World War began, Churchill was all for action. Not content to sit behind a desk in London, he went to Belgium in the opening weeks of the war and wound up organizing Antwerp’s defenses. Barry Gough explains the heavy criticism that followed. Undaunted, Churchill cast around for offensive operations off Germany’s northwest coast. Stephen McLaughlin demonstrates how this effort ultimately led to a campaign much further afield at the Dardanelles. With respect to that climacteric, Christopher M. Bell has carefully studied the historical record and finds that Churchill did run so far ahead of his professional advisers as his critics found it politically expedient to claim.
邵力競 (Shao Lijing) 亂世領袖 學: 邱吉爾二戰英雄記 (Leadership in an Age of Turbulence: the Heroic Legacy of Winston Churchill in World War II), Enrich Publishing and Hong Kong Economic Journal, 2015, 254 pages, HK$118. ISBN 978–9888292653
Western writers have long explored the unique legacy of Winston Churchill. Chinese writer Shao Lijing takes a reflective approach, arguing that only when politicians learn the art of politicking itself can effective leadership be established for upholding democracy.
Born in Shanghai, Shao was educated in Hong Kong and earned his Ph.D. at Oxford. Previously he wrote a series of articles called 十四年亂象回顧 (The Reflection on Fourteen-Year Frenzied Phenomena). These articles analyze in depth the issues involved in the governing of Hong Kong. Shao suggests that Hong Kong’s leadership should borrow Churchill’s knowledge of statecraft and adapt it to today’s rapidly-changing and more challenging world, that people need to ponder how the British Parliament kept running even during the most difficult times of the War, and that historians and government officials need to rethink in what way the post-war powers were reconstructed, how colonialism and nationalism evolve, and what challenges democracy is facing today.
To find lessons in the most effective methods for running a democratic government facing a mortal threat, Shao examines Churchill’s Memoirs of the Second World War. For Shao, to learn the lessons of war is to avoid the actuality of war. He argues that wars in the 1920s, economic and political, led to the Second World War. Future tragedies can result if people do not now reflect upon the causes of these earlier conflicts. Taking the surrender of Singapore as an example, Shao suggests that many politicians in Hong Kong need to learn from Churchill and not act like “事後孔 明 [the wise man after the event]” (85).
Andrew Dewar Gibb, With Winston Churchill at the Front, Frontline Books, 2016, 256 pages, $39.95/£19.99. ISBN 978-1848324299
In the past few years renewed interest in Winston Churchill’s military career has been accompanied by publication of new books on his active service in Cuba in 1895, on the North-West Frontier of India in 1897, in Sudan in 1898, and in the Second Boer War, 1899– 1900. Frontline Books has done a signal service to Churchillians and military historians by returning to print an important contemporary account of Churchill’s frontline service in the Great War.
With Winston Churchill at the Front by “Captain X” (Andrew Dewar Gibb) was originally published in 1924 by Cowens & Gray, Ltd., as a small (3-1/4 by 6-3/8 inch) paperback priced at one shilling. Long out of print, first editions are now rare and priced in the hundreds of dollars. This reprint, however, is a handsome, hardcover book with a striking dust jacket. This is a welcome addition to the Churchill literature of an almost forgotten classic.
The new edition is much expanded from the original. There is a forward by Churchill’s great-grandson and ICS President Randolph Churchill and an introduction by Gibb’s son Nigel. Also included are excellent photographs and maps of “Plugstreet,” the area of the Western Front defended by the 6th Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers while under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Churchill from January through May 1916.
The current edition is divided into three parts. The first consists of four well-done essays written by John Grehan, a senior editor at Frontline Books. These set out Churchill’s army service in four earlier wars together with a capsule history of the Gallipoli Campaign, which led to his leaving the cabinet and rejoining the army to serve in France. Part II contains the original nine-chapter text written by Gibb. Part III provides a streamlined summary of Churchill’s political career from the time he left the front until he became prime minister. There is also a detailed “Visitor’s Guide to Plugstreet” for the modern traveller.
The Wall Street Journal Featured Review
By Arthur Herman, Pulitzer Prize nominee for “Gandhi and Churchill”
“Lewis Lehrman’s “Churchill, Roosevelt & Company” offers a detailed look at the special relationship, especially during World War II, when Anglo-American cooperation achieved its most impressive results and faced its most formidable challenges. The book is packed with fascinating detail and illuminates not only the past but the challenges of the present day. The subtitle is “Studies in Character and Statecraft”: Mr. Lehrman makes it clear that, in geopolitics, the two go together.”
Synthesizing an impressive variety of sources from memoirs and letters to histories and biographies, Lewis Lehrman explains how the Anglo-American alliance worked–and occasionally did not work–by presenting portraits and case studies of the men who worked the back channels and back rooms, the secretaries and under secretaries, ambassadors and ministers, responsible for carrying out Roosevelt’s and Churchill’s agendas while also pursuing their own and thwarting others’. Scrupulous in its research and fair in its judgments, Lehrman’s book reveals the personal diplomacy at the core of the Anglo-American alliance.
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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.