Catherine Grace Katz is author of The Daughters of Yalta: The Churchills, Roosevelts, and Harrimans: A Story of Family, Love, and War, which will be published in September.
February 4–11 this year marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the hotly debated Yalta Conference, the second and last wartime meeting between Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, and Joseph Stalin, where the Big Three attempted to lay the grounds for peace in the postwar world. By the end of the following summer, however, much had changed: Roosevelt was dead, Churchill had been voted out of office, and the world had entered the nuclear age.
While it is easy to think of Yalta in the impersonal terms of sweeping geopolitical forces that lay on a collision course, it is important to remember that it was also a deeply human experience for all of the conference participants. After so many years of war, they looked to the future with hope. Alongside heated debates and disagreements, Yalta was also filled with moments of levity—a bathroom shortage led Stalin’s panicked guards to think the Americans had kidnapped their leader; high-ranking generals queued for the loo; and goldfish magically appeared in fish tanks. In addition, there was intrigue of a serious nature, with double agents operating undetected in the sanctum of power. Read More >
125 Years ago
Spring 1893 • Age 18 “A Little Paternal Advice”
Winston spent the spring of 1893 “cramming” with Captain Walter James for the Sandhurst Entrance Examination scheduled for late June. Having twice failed the examination, Winston would have been expected to redouble his efforts, especially after Captain James had written to Lord Randolph in early March to say that Winston “means well but he is distinctly inclined to be inattentive and to think too much of his own abilities” and was “too much inclined up to the present to teach his instructors instead of endeavouring to learn from them.”
True to form, Winston did not meet those expectations in the seven weeks following that letter. On 29 April, Captain James once more wrote to Lord Randolph that, while he had no definite complaints to make, “I do not think his work is going on very satisfactorily.” James told Lord Randolph that he had spoken to Winston about this and suggested that he give his son “a little paternal advice and point out, what I have done, the absolute necessity of single-minded devotion to the immediate object before him.” Read More >
Important New Work by National Humanities Medal Recipient Lewis E. Lehrman
“Lewis E. Lehrman’s arresting and deeply researched study of the Anglo-American alliance during the Second World War brilliantly establishes how Roosevelt and Churchill … found and relied on the right people …. Rich in historical immediacy, Churchill, Roosevelt & Company demonstrates how generals, diplomats, spies, businessmen, economists, and other key figures served the needs of both Prime Minister and President in their unyielding defense of democratic government.” – Prof. Richard Carwardine, Rhodes Professor of American History at Oxford University
“Lewis E. Lehrman demonstrates an almost uncanny feel for all the senior personalities around Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Second World War; he understands their characters, viewpoints, and motives … coupled with an impressively objective judiciousness ….[the book is] well researched, well-written, and profoundly thoughtful …” – Prof. Andrew Roberts, King’s College, London, author of Masters and Commanders and Storm of War.
“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 Read More >
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.
In peace and in war, Abraham Lincoln became a master of his craft by intense study. Military historian T. Harry Williams argued that President Lincoln was “a great natural strategist, a better one than any of his generals.” But the commander-in-chief had also studied the works of great military strategists in books drawn from the Library of Congress. As President during the Civil War, Lincoln found himself in uncharted territory—legally and militarily. He needed to feel and study his way into both spheres.1 General Grant wrote in his memoirs of Lincoln: “All he wanted, or had ever wanted was someone who would take the responsibility and act, and call on him for all the assistance necessary, pledging himself to use all the power of the government in rendering such assistance.”2
The presidency of Abraham Lincoln began and ended in a civil war of national survival. The first prime ministership of Winston S. Churchill began and ended in a global war of national survival. Churchill had inherited his war. Lincoln’s war had not yet begun when he took office. Many generals in America and Britain scoffed at the military strategy and tactics of Lincoln and Churchill. Both proved essentially sound in their strategy of deploying an anaconda-like armed embrace of the enemy to squeeze the life from it. Subordinates would chafe at their suggestions.
Developing a Strategy
T he reality of the Civil War presented itself as largely an ad hoc affair—necessarily with ad hoc strategy and tactics. Corelli Barnett wrote of Lincoln: “Unlike Churchill in 1940, he had no previous experience as a member of a wartime administration. Unlike Churchill again, he had never taken a deep interest in military and naval history.”3 Yet during the first year of the war, Lincoln developed his own strategy for a coordinated series of actions in both the eastern and western United States, which he defined in a letter to General Don Carlos Buell: “I state my general idea of this war to be that we have the greater numbers, and the enemy has the greater facility of concentrating forces upon points of collision; that we must fail, unless we can find some way of making our advantage an over-match for his; and that this can only be done by menacing him with superior forces at different points, at the same time; so that we can safely attack, one, or both, if he makes no change; and if he weakens one to strengthen the other, forbear to attack the strengthened one, but seize, and hold the weakened one, gaining so much.”4
Bradley Tolppanen is the author of Churchill in North America 1929 (2014).
After disembarking at New York on 8 December 1900 after a six-day voyage from Liverpool, Winston Churchill was met by Major J. B. Pond, America’s leading lecture agent. He had come to North America at Pond’s invitation to undertake a lecture tour that would eventually encompass at least thirty-seven lectures in thirty-one cities. Unlike Churchill’s first visit to America five years before, this trip was about earning money, as Churchill wrote a friend, “I pursue profit not pleasure in the States this time.”1
At twenty-six Churchill had high expectations for the lecture tour. After garnering £3,700 the previous month for lecturing in Britain, he arrived in New York with a £1,000 guarantee and the hope for as much as £5,000. Churchill was encouraged in his expectations by James Burton Pond, who in his career as a lecture agent had done much to “revolutionize” the field of booking prominent figures for speaking engagements. He had managed “all the famous speakers in the country,” including Mark Twain. While he liked Pond, Twain also observed that he was “neither truthful nor sensible.”2
After receiving a letter from Pond in March 1900 while he was still with the army in South Africa, Churchill followed up with the agent that summer after he was back in London. They exchanged letters confirming the date and length of the tour as well as the material for the lectures. Titled “The War as I Saw It,” Churchill’s lecture narrated his capture and escape from the Boers, the relief
Terry Reardon is the author of Winston Churchill and Mackenzie King: So Similar and So Different (2012).
The Victorian era was the zenith of the British Empire. It was then the superpower of the world holding sway over 300 million people, one-quarter of the world’s population.
Winston Churchill was born into the upper class, and his formative years were steeped in the belief of the greatness and righteousness of the British Empire, upon which the sun never slept. This romantic view of Britain’s position in the world remained constant all through his life.
But being a member of the upper class did not necessarily mean an upper income, and it certainly did not in the case of Winston Churchill. Thus he took full advantage of the international reputation he had earned by way of his exploits and heroics in the Boer War by embarking on a lecture tour of Britain and then North America.
He arrived in New York on 8 December 1900 and spoke in ten cities. In the United States he had faced audiences often in sympathy with the Boers; thus he was relieved when he crossed the border into Canada, where he was greeted by enthusiastic throngs—he spoke in Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto on the theme “The War as I Saw It.” The Toronto Globe reported that every seat in the vast hall was occupied and that Churchill possessed a vein of humour, upon which he drew with excellent effect.
REYKJAVIK—The President of Iceland was delighted to receive representatives of the Churchill Club of Iceland and be presented with copies of Finest Hour containing Magnús Erlendsson’s article about Churchill’s visit to our country.
Churchill in Stratford
HITCHIN, HERTFORDSHIRE— With regret I write to inform you that my father, Jack Darrah, passed away peacefully on 27 September 2016. Dad was ninety-one. During his lifetime he had many hobbies and interests. Winston Churchill had been an inspiration to him, and he was so proud to live to see his collection placed at the Stratford Armouries. Thank you to everyone in the Churchill fraternity, who has been in contact since Dad’s passing, and also for the support over the years.
2016 Churchill Conference Washington, D. C., 27–29 October
Gabriel Gorodetsky, ed., The Maisky Diaries, Red Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s 1932–1943, Yale University Press, 2015, 632 pages, $40.
Review by D. Craig Horn
D. Craig Horn is a former Russian linguist for the United States Air Force currently serving in the North Carolina General Assembly. He is chairman of the Churchill Society of North Carolina and serves on The Churchill Centre’s Board of Trustees.
Winston Churchill once famously described Russia as “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” Such terms can be equally applied to Ivan Mikhailovich Maisky, Soviet ambassador to London from 1932–43. Just think for a minute about the world-shaking events of those years. In every instance, Ivan Maisky chronicled them in fascinating detail.
The Maisky Diaries present not only a behind-the-curtain look at diplomacy and deception but also a story of intrigue and survival. Ambassador Maisky wormed himself into the innermost workings of the British government; he was the ultimate maker of friends in high places. His address book included private contacts at the highest levels of officialdom, journalism, diplomats, and political insiders. Through sheer ability and a cunning strategy, Maisky constantly put himself in the right place at the right time. Read More >
Antoine Capet is Professor Emeritus of British Studies at the University of Rouen.
Churchill and de Gaulle parade down the Champs-Élysées, 11 November 1944
Strangely enough, we have a book on Churchill and Finland,1 but none on Churchill & France— only a number of articles and book chapters. Is it because of the sheer size of the task, considering the vast available sources, including Churchill’s own publications and private correspondence? Or is it because of the contradictory nature of much of this material, which makes it extremely difficult to master? Thirty years after Churchill’s death, Anthony Montague Browne gave us what is arguably the best short summary of Churchill’s attitude to France, from someone who accompanied him in many of his later travels to the country and heard what he had to say at first hand:
When it came to France, ambivalence was again evident. WSC’s love of France was sentimental and long-standing, based on personal experience in peace and war. His greatest heroine, or indeed hero for that matter, was Joan of Arc. But this did not deter him from taking a firm line with the French if he felt it was required, and he told me that after 1940, and their breaking of a solemn agreement not to sue for a separate peace, he never felt the same about them.2
One might add that this ambivalence is often in evidence according as it is Churchill-the-statesman and impeccable British patriot speaking or Churchill-theprivate-man and Francophile. When the interests of France coincided with those of Britain, all was well— there was no conflict of loyalties deep in his heart. But when he felt that they did not and that British interests were threatened, he naturally gave Britain priority. As “Jock” Colville later put it, “de Gaulle’s loyalty was… to France alone. Churchill’s…was merely to Britain first.”3 But when divergences inevitably occurred, Churchill somehow suffered from a sense of guilt towards France which made him irritable, often Read More >
Seven Lessons in Speechmaking From One of the Greatest Orators of All Time
By Thomas Montalbo, DTM Finest Hour 69
He wasn’t a natural orator, not at all. His voice was raspy. A stammer and a lisp often marred many of his speeches. Nor was his appearance attractive. A snub nose and a jutting lower lip made him look like a bulldog. Short and fat, he was also stoop-shouldered.
Yet this man—Sir Winston Churchill—became probably the greatest orator of our time and won the Nobel Prize for his writings and “brilliant oratory.” How did he do it? And what lessons can all Toastmasters learn from him to help them make better speeches?
In school, Winston Churchill was a backward student. But he wasn’t stupid. He later explained, “Where my reason, imagination or interest were not engaged, I would not or I could not learn.” But the English language fascinated him. He was the best in his class.
Macaulay and Gibbon, two of England’s most famous historians, dazzled him with their styles of writing. The impact these authors made on his mind stayed with him for life, as his speeches show. Because their styles were markedly different and yet both charmed him, he believed this showed, as he put it, “What a fine language English is. . .”
His English teacher once said, “I do not believe that I have ever seen in a boy of 14 such a veneration for the English language.” Churchill called the English sentence “a noble thing” and said, “The only thing I would whip boys for is not knowing English. I would whip them hard for that.” Lord Moran, his physician and intimate friend, wrote:
The conventional narrative of the Second World War tends to assume that from the moment he succeeded Chamberlain in May 1940 and rallied the nation with his heroic defiance when Britain stood alone against the Nazi threat, through to the eventual victory of the Allies five years later, Churchill’s ascendancy within Britain was unquestioned.
It is true that he never faced a serious parliamentary challenge nor, even in the darkest days of 1941–42, any plausible rival who might have displaced him, as Lloyd George supplanted Asquith in the middle of the First War. Nevertheless there was a good deal more grumbling, and more unrest in many parts of the country, than is generally remembered in the warm myth of national unity. During the period of electoral truce between the major parties the coalition government lost ten by-elections to a variety of mainly left-leaning Independents: a little-noticed undercurrent of dissent that accurately presaged Labour’s landslide victory in 1945, which so shocked observers who assumed that the electorate would naturally, as in 1918, register its gratitude to the great war leader.
If there was one man who not only anticipated this historic upset but, by his persistent criticism of Churchill’s leadership, contributed to it more than any other, it was the left-wing Labour MP Aneurin “Nye” Bevan. These days Bevan is remembered primarily as the architect of the National Health Service and, on the left, as the socialist hero to whose mantle Labour leaders still lay claim, even when they have long rejected socialism as Bevan understood it. Read More >
Michael Arnold, Hollow Heroes: An Unvarnished Look at the Wartime Careers of Churchill, Montgomery, and Mountbatten, Casemate, 2015, 304 pages, $34.95.
There are as many biographies as there are biographers: some serious, some not. Plus others that purport to be serious, but are not. Into which category does Michael Arnold’s Hollow Heroes fall?
A former insurance salesman, Mr. Arnold has a passion for polemic. His first book, The Bodyline Hypocrisy, was a book of conversations (with Harold Larwood) about the great cricket conundrum: should bowlers be allowed to bowl straight at the batsman to intimidate him, as in the famous 1932–33 Ashes tour between England and Australia?
After this, Mr. Arnold plunged into another form of polemic: military history. His work when published was titled Sacrifice of Singapore: Churchill’s Biggest Blunder. According to the publisher’s blurb: “when, inevitably, Singapore fell to the Japanese in February 1942, Churchill attempted to deflect criticism by accusing the defenders there of spineless capitulation. Recently released information from the Office of Naval Intelligence in Washington reveals that United States President Franklin Roosevelt not only knew of the impending attack on Pearl Harbour but actually instigated it. Although Roosevelt promised a shield of B-17 aircraft for Singapore from Manila, General Douglas MacArthur in the Philippines had been told to do nothing until after the Japanese attacks there and at Pearl Harbor so that the United States could claim an unprovoked assault that would allow them to declare war on Japan.” Read More >
Steve Cliffe, Churchill, Kitchener, and Lloyd George: First World Warlords, Fonthill, 2014, 160 pages, £14.99.
Of the three “First World Warlords” who are the subject of this enjoyable volume, it is Horatio Kitchener who presents the greatest enigma. Churchill was an extremely prolific writer and speaker. Although he was not always straightforward, he frequently wore his heart on his sleeve; he sometimes attempted to be devious but he was not very good at it, so it was generally fairly clear to other people what he was up to. Lloyd George was—in his prime—a much more effective manipulator and, unenthusiastic about letter writing, left a much less extensive paper trail for historians to follow. Nevertheless, the records of three key diarists (Lord Riddell, Frances Stevenson, and A. J. Sylvester) allow a great deal of insight into his views and actions.
Kitchener, by contrast, was closed-off and inscrutable. He had insight and talent—if not quite as much as was popularly attributed to him—but was a difficult colleague, particularly after he joined the cabinet at the outbreak of war in 1914. He was one of the first to predict that the conflict would be long and drawn-out and would require an enormous number of Read More >
In the winter of 1945–46, the first after the war, Winston Churchill was still an exhausted man. Having just celebrated his seventy-first birthday in November, and with his Lake Como rest holiday in August already a mere memory, Churchill found his doctor less than sympathetic with the level of his activity as Leader of the Opposition, not to mention his devotion to his writing.
Medical pressure and his own desire to travel for pleasure after so much wartime movement for necessity made Churchill decide to take two months off from his always ferocious schedule to rest and recuperate. Even though he knew that there would be considerable speculation over such a lengthy period away from the House of Commons, and that some would see it as a prelude to his retirement from political life after his stunning electoral defeat of July 1945, there was little choice but to take a rest, and a lengthy one after his doctor insisted.
After so many wartime winters in England, Churchill wanted to take his break somewhere in the sun where he could paint and relax. The perfect solution arose when a Canadian friend invited Churchill to use his winter home near Miami. Read More >
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Welcome to the finale of our series “Work Hard – Play Hard: Churchill and His Hobbies.” Did you know Churchill loved to fly? Less than a decade after the Wright brothers first soared, he began taking lessons. His enthusiasm amazed even his instructors. He flew several times per day, finding true peace when airborn. “I have lived entirely in the moment, with no care for all these tiresome party politics.” But his friends and family were terrified. Early aviation was extremely dangerous, as he soon realized. “I have been naughty today about flying” he confessed. When Clementine had a new baby, he knew it was time to stop. “I will not fly any more, until at any rate you have recovered from your kitten.” The First World War kept him grounded. But when it ended, he eagerly resumed his lessons. Finally, after a wild crash landing, he gave it up. Sadly, he never earned his pilot’s license. But, as First Lord of the Admiralty, his early passion for flying gave birth to the Royal Naval Air Service. This helped form the Royal Air Force, to whom we owe so much. The mighty RAF still soars to this day, thanks in part to Churchill. We hope you enjoyed this series, and that you, like Churchill, get some leisure time this weekend. … See MoreSee Less
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.