Churchill War Rooms, part of Imperial War Museums (IWM), includes the original Cabinet War Rooms, the wartime bunker which sheltered Churchill and his staff during the Blitz. These historic rooms once buzzed with planning and plotting, strategies and secrets. Today visitors can explore the underground headquarters for themselves, see where Churchill and his War Cabinet met, sometimes late into the night, and look through the lens of history into the Map Room, where the books and charts have remained exactly where they were left on the day the lights were switched off in 1945.
Finest Hour 175, Winter 2017
By Catherine Katz
Catherine Katz earned degrees in history at Harvard and Cambridge. She is working on a biography of Sarah Churchill.
Sarah Churchill was the essence of the modern woman living in an era that was not yet ready for her.
Judged in her day as a “Bolshie Deb,” a runaway bride, a rising star of London’s West End, and “the one that’s always in trouble,” she was in her own words endlessly “written up, written down and always written about” as “a woman who happened to be a daughter of one of the ‘greats’ of history.”1
To describe Sarah merely as Winston Churchill’s daughter would be to tell only half her story. While Sarah was certainly her father’s daughter in both fact and temperament, restricting our understanding of her to this narrow lens belies her fierce independence, depth, intelligence, professional success, and personal impact on the lives of some of the most extraordinary figures of her era.
Though a tabloid fixture in her own times, Sarah Churchill is little known today. Amongst modern audiences who are familiar with her story, her life is often condensed into a few short and unjustly unforgiving biographical lines: Sarah Millicent Hermione, the third child of Winston and Clementine Churchill, was born in October 1914, two months after the First World War commenced. She became a moderately successful actress on the stage and screen, was thrice married (with two of her husbands being entirely unsuitable), and at times grappled tragically with alcoholism and financial difficulties, particularly towards the end of her life.
Winston Churchill visited Leeds on 16 May 1942 at the height of the Second World War. Jane Brechner, the great-granddaughter of Lord Mayor, Hyman Morris, provided the accompanying family photos of her great-grandfather accompanying Churchill during his visit.
We shall go forward together. The road upwards is stony. There are upon our journey dark and dangerous valleys through which we have to make and fight our way. But it is sure and certain that if we persevere – and we shall persevere – we shall come through these dark and dangerous valleys into a sunlight broader and more genial and more lasting than mankind has ever known. Winston Churchill, Leeds, 16 May 1942
On this occasion of his visit Churchill ChurchillChusssaid in part, “In the height of the second great war, it is a great pleasure to come to Leeds and bring to the citizens a word of thanks and encouragement in all the work they are doing to promote the common cause of many nations and in many lands. That cause appeals to the hearts of all those in the human race who are not already gripped by tyranny or who have not already been seduced to its insidious voice. That cause is shared by all the millions of our cousins across the Atlantic who are preparing night and day to have their will and rights respected. It appeals to the patient millions of China, who have suffered long from cruel aggression and still fight with faithful stubbornness. It appeals to the noble manhood of Russia, now at full grips with the murderous enemy, striking blow for blow.”
Finest Hour 160, Autumn 2013
By Madelin Terrazas
During the Second World War, Peter Morland Churchill, and his colleague in the Special Operations Executive (SOE), Odette Sansom, put his name to use with panache.
Odette Sansom became part of Britain’s clandestine war effort in 1942, after mistakenly addressing a letter to the War Office rather than the Admiralty. She was responding to an Admiralty plea for information on France, to help with raids and the eventual reinvasion of the continent. Enclosing some photographs of the country, she wrote that she was French and knew Boulogne. The War Office sent her material to SOE, and she was duly recruited as an agent.
After completing training, Odette (codename “Lise”) travelled in a small fishing boat to Cassis, where she met the local SOE organiser, Peter Churchill (code-name “Raoul”). Odette’s original mission was to cross Vichy France, joining a resistance group in Burgundy. But when Vichy was occupied by the Germans on 11 November 1942, she remained Peter’s courier in Cannes and later in St. Jorioz, near Annecy, in eastern France near the Swiss border.
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Finest Hour 161, Winter 2013-14
By Gerald Hensley
New Zealand emerged from the Second World War with two convictions: the hope that international peace could be maintained and the importance of maintaining the alliance between the United States and Great Britain. The hope of collective security under the UN was quickly crippled by Soviet vetoes and the second aim became as dominant as it had been during the war.
For a few years New Zealand clung nostalgically to the hope that an imperial system of security could be reestablished. This was impractical: Britain was a fading power and the security of the Pacific clearly depended on the United States. So New Zealand joined Australia in seeking a guarantee from Washington. The U.S. was reluctant to take on a new burden but finally agreed to the 1951 ANZUS treaty as the price of getting the two southern countries to agree to a Japanese peace treaty.
New Zealand still sought regional security by working closely with Britain, again agreeing to contribute a division to British forces in the Middle East to counter an assumed Russian thrust towards the oilfields. At a prime ministers’ conference in 1953, however, Churchill pointed out that the possession by both sides of the hydrogen bomb made future war unthinkable. Australia and New Zealand, he argued, should ensure that regional “brushfire” wars did not ignite a global catastrophe.
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Finest Hour 163, Summer 2014
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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Finest Hour 156, Autumn 2012
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.
Finest Hour 156, Autumn 2012
Did Churchill Ever Admire Hitler?
The Hitler articles and Great Contemporaries
By Richard M. Langworth
One of the most controversial chapters in Great Contemporaries (And in the opinion scholars the one least like the rest) is “Hitler and his choice.” Some critics maintain that the essay implies approval of Hitler, rendering Churchill a hypocrite. Others ask if the Great Contemporaries version was a milder form of an earlier article—Andifso, whether Churchill pulled his punches. (Paintings: National Archives and Wikimedia Commons.)
The Hitler chapter in Great Contemporaries, like the rest of the book, was derived from a previous article. In this case the original was “The Truth about Hitler,” in The Strand Magazine of November 1935 (Cohen C481). Ronald Cohen notes that Strand editor Reeves Shaw, who paid him £250 for the article, wanted Churchill to make it “as outspoken as you possibly can… absolutely frank in your judgment of [Hitler’s] methods.” It was.
Churchill tells the US Congress that Britain is committed to fighting Japan
“It is the duty of those who are charged with the direction of the war to overcome at the earliest moment the military, geographical and political difficulties and begin the process so necessary and desirable of laying the cities and other munition centres of Japan in ashes, for in ashes they must surely lie before peace comes back to the world. ”
‘And here let me say: let no one suggest that we British have not at least as great an interest as the United States in the unflinching and relentless waging of war against Japan. But I am here to tell you that we will wage that war side by side with you, in accordance with the best strategic employment of our forces while there is breath in our bodies and while blood flows in our veins.
The African war is over. Mussolini’s African Empire and Corporal Hitler’s strategy are alike exploded. One continent at least has been cleansed and purged forever from Fascist and Nazi tyranny.
June 18, 1940
House of Commons
I spoke the other day of the colossal military disaster which occurred when the French High Command failed to withdraw the northern Armies from Belgium at the moment when they knew that the French front was decisively broken at Sedan and on the Meuse. This delay entailed the loss of fifteen or sixteen French divisions and threw out of action for the critical period the whole of the British Expeditionary Force. Our Army and 120,000 French troops were indeed rescued by the British Navy from Dunkirk but only with the loss of their cannon, vehicles and modern equipment. This loss inevitably took some weeks to repair, and in the first two of those weeks the battle in France has been lost. When we consider the heroic resistance made by the French Army against heavy odds in this battle, the enormous losses inflicted upon the enemy and the evident exhaustion of the enemy, it may well be the thought that these 25 divisions of the best-trained and best-equipped troops might have turned the scale. However, General Weygand had to fight without them. Only three British divisions or their equivalent were able to stand in the line with their French comrades. They have suffered severely, but they have fought well. We sent every man we could to France as fast as we could re-equip and transport their formations. Read More >