Churchill was still recuperating in the Autumn of 1949 from the minor stroke he had suffered while on holiday in France. He continued to work on his memoirs of World War II, submitting draft chapters for comment to a wide variety of people including his wife, Clementine, who told him one night at dinner: “Winston, I have now finished volume III and I hope you will pay some attention to the little notes I have made in the margins. You must make a great many changes. I got so tired of the endless detail about unimportant battles and incidents. So much of the material is pedestrian.”
Kept informed by Prime Minister Clement Attlee of significant defense and foreign policy developments, Churchill privately gave advice to Attlee on these issues. On defense policy, he wrote Attlee that Britain could not help defend Europe unless it could first defend itself:
“A defenceless Britain can play no part in the defence of Europe. Her power to help in the past has arisen from an integral, insular security. If this falls, all falls. If it endures, all may be defended or regained. Mere contributions, however generous, to European schemes of defence will be useful to Europe if Britain is herself no longer a living military entity. It is certainly not isolationism to set this first objective first, On the contrary it is the only foundation upon which effective help can be given to Europe and to other parts of the Empire.”
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“En garde, français!”
Churchill continued working on the third volume of his war memoirs, spending much time in Italy on holiday with Clementine and his entourage, described on this occasion by Walter Graebner. No matter how far he went, whether by rail or air, Churchill took with him all the equipment for an office, other than tables and chairs. Nothing was left to chance: he wanted an office functioning within an hour or two after his arrival. Crates and black dispatch boxes were filled with typewriters, paper clips, pencils, ink, paper, paste, scissors, pins, envelopes, sealing-wax, seals and string. The management of this vital part of the holiday operation was entrusted to two secretaries from the London staff, one of whom was available whenever Churchill called between 8AM and 2PM.
There were always about a dozen people in the Churchill entourage. Two were Scotland Yard detectives, who worked twelve-hour shifts each so that Churchill was never left unguarded. Since they were the same team assigned to him in England they felt quite at ease in the party, and on painting and picnic excursions they pitched in and helped like everyone else. Also present was a valet, who not only dressed Churchill and looked after his other needs in the bedroom, but squeezed the tube when his master wanted more paint, saw that a fresh cigar was never more than a few feet away, and did hundreds of other little things which added to his comfort.
Immediately prior to departing on holiday, Churchill addressed a Conservative rally in Wolverhampton in which he harkened back to his 1924 theme of excessive taxation:
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Unwilling to “accept any reproach…from any Conservative”
Churchill was in New York on 25 March 1949 where he spoke at a dinner given by Time publisher Henry Luce on the requirements for European freedom and why the Soviet Union had erected the Iron Curtain of which he had warned three years earlier in his Fulton, Missouri address:
“Gentlemen, some time ago, you may possibly remember, I made a speech in Missouri at Fulton‹I got into great trouble for that. But now not so much. Now it is thought better of….But what has brought this great change from the time when I was so scolded three years ago for what I said at Fulton?….No one could possibly have done it but Mr. Stalin. He is the one….And that brings me to a question which we must ask ourselves. What is the explanation of the Soviet policy? Why have they deliberately united the free world against them. I will hazard the answer….It is, I am sure, because they feared the friendship of the West more than they do its hostility. They can’t afford to allow free and friendly intercourse between their country and those they control, and the rest of the world. They daren’t see it develop‹the coming and going and all the easements and tolerances which come from the agreeable contacts of nations and of individuals. They can’t afford it.”
Upon his return to England, Churchill found himself under attack within the Conservative Party for accepting the Labour Government’s position that India could remain in the Commonwealth as an independent republic. Churchill, whose wilderness years out of power in the 1930s were attributable in part to his unwillingness to accept the Conservatives’ compromise over India, was unsympathetic. As he wrote to Lord Salisbury on 7 May 1949:
“I consider that the fatal step towards India was taken when Baldwin supported the Ramsay MacDonald plan in 1930 and enforced it upon the Conservative Party in 1931. I and seventy Conservatives and your Father resisted this for four long years, and were systematically voted down by the Baldwin-Ramsay MacDonald combination, supported for this purpose, I need hardly say, by the Socialist Party in opposition. Once the Conservative Party cast aside its duty to resist the weakening of the Imperial strength, the gap could not be filled, and from this point we slid and slithered to the position we have reached today. I could not therefore accept any reproach for the present situation from any Conservative who supported the Baldwin and Chamberlain policies.”
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Out of Power, But Optimistic
Twenty-five years later saw Churchill as Leader of the Opposition making the same attacks on Socialists, speaking against a bill to nationalize the iron and steel industries: “I say this is not a Bill, it is a plot; not a plan to increase production, but an operation in restraint of trade. It is not a plan to help our patient struggling people, but a burglar’s jemmy to crack the capitalist crib. [Laughter.] The Rt. Hon. Gentleman laughs, but he lives on the exertions of 80 percent of industries still free and all his hopes are founded on their activities. Those free industries constitute practically the whole of our export trade…but still they are carrying the whole burden of our life and represent our only solvent economic earning power.”
While complimenting the Labour Government’s stand against the Soviet Union and its blockade of Berlin, he was critical of its refusal to recognize the new state of Israel, for which he blamed the anti semitism of Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin. “Whether the Rt. Hon. Gentleman likes it or not, and whether we like it or not, the coming into being of a Jewish State in Palestine is an event in world history to be viewed in the perspective, not of a generation or a century, but in the perspective of a thousand, two thousand or even three thousand years….I say that the Conservative Party has done a great task over twenty-five years, with Parliaments which had a Conservative majority, in trying to build a Jewish National Home in Palestine, and now that it has come into being, it is England that refuses to recognize it, and, by our actions, we find ourselves regarded as its most bitter enemies. All this is due, not only to mental inertia or lack of grip on the part of the Ministers concerned, but also, I am afraid, to the very strong and direct streak of bias and prejudice on the part of the Foreign Secretary. I do not feel any great confidence that he has not got a prejudice against the Jews in Palestine.”
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Publishing Volume I
A holiday for Winston Churchill was a trying time for everyone around him. His daughter Sarah called him “Hard, hard working wonderful Papa.”
Martin Gilbert records a telephone call between Churchill (in Aix-en-Province) and William Deakin (at Chartwell) which illustrates the demands placed on assistants.
“WSC: Bill, I am very hard pressed. I want you to come down right away. Take tomorrow’s plane. I’ll have a car meet you at the airport.
“Deakin: I’m so sorry, Sir, but I can’t get away that early. I have a lot of work to wind up at Oxford and can’t leave for a least four days.
“WSC: What’s that you say? I can’t hear you need you down here F ~rery much. Get on the plane as fast you can. We’ll arrange everything from this end.
“Deakin: But. Sir, I said I can’t possibly do it. There is work I must finish up here first.
“WSC: This connection is very bad. Can’t hear a word you say. We’ll see you tomorrow then. Good-bye.”
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Offending passages of The Gathering Storm
Many Poles objected to certain comments made by Churchill in the U.S. edition of his first volume of The Gathering Storm. He deleted the offending passages from the British edition, explaining to Eddie Marsh that “it was written in a feeling of anger against the behaviour of the present Polish Government and the temporary subservience of the Polish people to them.”
“Mr. Churchill’s account of the events leading up to the Second World War is a puzzling book.”
Rebecca West reviewed the book in The Saturday Review of Literature: “Mr. Churchill’s account of the events leading up to the Second World War is a puzzling book. It is clear as crystal about everything except the man who wrote it. He is without match in his generation for his exquisitely feline portraits of his enemies. But Churchill is the leader of the Tory Party, and he is not going to make it lose face altogether, so though he gives Baldwin away entirely, and frankly reveals Neville Chamberlain’s incompetence at certain periods, he preserves certain reticences. This leads him at times into slight falsifications of history.
“This volume indicates that some of Mr. Churchill’s difficulties with his colleagues may be due to his phenomenal egotism. England loves him; it distrusts him, it fears him. England has always kept Winston Churchill because behind him they see the towers and parks of the great houses which were the nerve centres of the old order; in him they fear the insolence which was the occupational disease of those who lived in the great houses.We sigh in astonishment at the fools who year in, year out, kept out of power the man to whom we British owe our lives.”
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During the spring the first volume of The Second World War, The Gathering Storm, was published (over 200,000 copies) and work began on the second, Their Finest Hour. Walter Graebner and Emery Reves helped Churchill with the former and William Deakin headed up the team of researchers for the latter. L~fr began publishing its excerpts in April. The book was also serialized in the Daily Telegraph, the Glasgow Herald and The New York Times.
John Colville visited Churchill, who took the opportunity to express his views about a couple of his wartime colleagues and allies. About Montgomery, Churchill spoke scathingly of Monty’s self-advertising stunts and said that “he presumed British soldiers would soon have to be called Monties instead of Tommies.” With regard to the issue of the Americans and the second front, Churchill said: “No lover ever studied every whim of his mistress as I did those of President Roosevelt”
Lord Moran wrote: “When I examined Winston’s retinal arteries with my ophthalmoscope, I found definite hardening of the vessels, but not more than I one would expect after the stress of the war years. There is plenty of evidence that his circulation is sluggish”
Three of Churchill’s oils (Blenheim Tapestries, Goldfish pool, Chartwell and The Blue Sitting Room, Trent Park) were accepted by the Royal Academy and given prominent display. Churchill was also elected honorary Academician Extraordinary of the Royal Academy, the first Briton to receive this honour. He revealed that his magnificent moral for his war memoirs—”In War: Resolution; In Defeat: Defiance; In Victory: Magnanimity; In Peace: Good Will”— was written for a monument in France, but had been rejected.
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The War Memoirs
Lord Moran describes Churchill in a restless state of mind brought on by being out of office and the knowledge that some of his colleagues wanted him to step aside as Leader of the Opposition. Churchill told Moran that he didn’t need a rest but “psychologically one needs change from time to time.” He decided to take a vacation in a warmer climate, but currency restrictions prevented him from taking sufficient funds out of the country.
Churchill accepted an offer from Time-Life to stay at the Hotel Mamounia in Marrakech. Sarah Churchill, who accompanied him, described the visit in a letter to her mother: “So far he has not left the hotel, he paints from a high balcony of the new wing of the hotel ‹and as it has till now been cold, I am glad. But today a sortie is planned‹just a small one‹to the pink walls. He is inclined to work a little too late.”
Churchill himself described his routine to Clementine: “Wake about 8 a.m., work at Book till 12:30, lunch at one, paint from 2:30 till 5, when it is cold and dusk, sleep from 6 p.m. till 7:30, dine at 8, Oklahoma with the Mule [cards with Sarah].ŠAt 10 or 11 p.m. again work on the Book. Here I have been rather naughty; the hours of going to bed have been one o’clock, two, three, three, two, but an immense amount has been done and Book II [of The Gathering Storm] is practically finished. I am not going to sit up so late in future. The painting has not gone badly but I only have these two and a half short hours of good light.”
Literary aide Bill Deakin gave his version of the events to Martin Gilbert in 1975: “He liked excursions. They were working sessions. Sometimes he would write a piece of his own, without any documents. When I got to Marrakech I found an awful piece about the Spanish Civil War. I said: ‘But these weren’t your views at the time.’ He shouted at me; ‘you God-damn, damn you, you always think you’re right.’
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“My Dear Harry…”
“My dear Harry” was the salutation of Churchill’s letter to U.S. President Harry Truman, thanking him for the Marshall Plan which was “saving the world from Famine and War.” In his response, Truman made an interesting observation about the Soviet Union which “seem most ungrateful for the contribution which your great country and mine made to save them. I sometimes think perhaps we made a mistake‹and then I remember Hitler. He had no heart at all. I believe that Joe Stalin has one but the Polit Bureau [sic] won’t let him use it.” Churchill shared Truman’s concerns. In an address broadcast to America he said the Soviets were directing an “unceasing stream of abuse upon the Western World and they have accompanied this virulent propaganda by every action which could prevent the world settling down into a durable peace.” To meet the world’s challenges he called for a “fraternal association” between the British Empire and Commonwealth, the European Union and the United States, with Britain serving as “the vital link between them all.”
Looking towards India he reminded people of his warnings in the early 1930s: “We are of course only at the beginning of these horrors and butcheries, perpetrated upon one another, men, women and children, with the ferocity of cannibals, by races gifted with capacities for the highest culture and who had for generations dwelt side by side in general peace under the broad, tolerant and impartial rule of the British Crown and Parliament.” In speaking to the Conservative Party Conference he forecast that “the consequences of Socialist spite, folly and blundering” would lead to a general election for which the Tories must prepare.
At Chartwell he worked on his war memoirs. His draft was challenged by Henry Luce, who had agreed to publish excerpts in Life magazine. Luce felt that there were too many documents which “mar the architectural sense” and too little “analytical insight.” Churchill agreed to make changes.
In November the Churchills attended the wedding of Princess Elizabeth to Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, R.N. at Westminster Abbey. Clementine made some interesting observations about other notables in attendance: “Smuts [Prime Minister of South Africa]…really cares for Winston and is a source of strength and encouragement for him. Mackenzie King [Prime Minister of Canada] is unchanging as a Chinese image, and General Marshall the hope of Mankind.”
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Recovering at Chartwell
As Churchill went into surgery for a hernia operation he told the doctor: “Wake me up soon, I’ve got lots of work to do.” In addition to his political duties, he was eager to get on with his six-volume war memoirs (and he still had to publish his four-volume The History of the English-Speaking Peoples and numerous books of speeches). Upon returning to Chartwell, the bed-ridden recuperating patient received enough visitors to tire a perfectly healthy middle-aged person. He was 72 years old! At the same time he was concerned with the health of Clementine. “Cast care aside,” he wrote her. “What we may have to face cannot be worse than all we have crashed through together.”
“Wake me up soon, I’ve got lots of work to do.”
Before he could return to London, some backroom politicians plotted to create a Coalition Government led by Ernest Bevin, but the opposition of Anthony Eden and Harold Macmillan killed the plan. Several Conservatives wanted Churchill to retire as party leader but none was willing to make the suggestion directly to him.
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Receiving the Médaille Militaire in Paris
The prewar years were very much on Churchill’s mind as he worked on his Second World War memoirs. His thoughts were carried into the debates of the House of Commons. Speaking on the National Service Bill, he chided Labour for bringing in a conscription bill “after two years of peace, when all our enemies have surrendered unconditionally. Why, these were the very politicians who, four months before the outbreak of the war, led their followers into the Lobby against the principle of compulsory military service, and then had the face to accuse the Conservative Party of being guilty men.” Nonetheless, the Churchill-led Conservatives supported the Bill.
“I feel the blue uniform is for you fancy-dress, and I am proud of my plain Civilian Pig.”
This debate launched a verbal battle between Churchill and Clement Attlee. The Labour Prime Minister retaliated by calling Churchill the “most disastrous Chancellor of the century” for putting Britain back on the gold standard. “He sinned, no doubt in all ignorance, but much of our troubles today can be traced back to that error of ignorance and his simple trust of others in a field where he had little knowledge.” Churchill responded that while he Chancellor “the real wages of our workpeople steadily and substantially increased.” He accelerated his attacks by asking why Britain should be “the only debtor country in the world, while those she had rescued and those she had conquered went into the future without having to drag a terrible chain of debts behind them.” This attack led to a reduction of the British war debt.
Churchill’s Conservatives also supported Labour initiatives on the Indian subcontinent, provided they led to Dominion status for India and Pakistan. Attlee had appointed two Churchill supporters to bring India to independence: Lord Mountbatten and Lord Ismay. But Churchill disagreed with the name “Indian Independence Bill.” Dominion status, he said, “is not the same as Independence, although it may freely be used to establish Independence. It is not true that a community is independent when its Ministers have in fact taken the Oath of Allegiance to the King.” This would have been news to Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans. In this case, Churchill was not clearly understanding the evolution of the Empire into the Commonwealth. His attention was focused on Europe, its rebuilding, restructuring and defence. He continued to support the concept of a United Europe and acknowledged the importance of the support of the United States, particularly the recent passage of the Truman Doctrine.
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“A year of recovery”
On his seventy-second birthday, Churchill declared, “we are the past, and that is done with. Mary is the future.”
But he wasn’t quite the past yet. From the Opposition benches he hammered the government on its policies toward both Palestine and India. In the former, he thought they were moving too slowly; in the latter, too quickly. He spent most of a bitterly cold winter at Hyde Park Gate and Chartwell, working on his Second World War memoirs with Bill Deakin and a battery of secretaries. Lord Ismay also provided considerable assistance. Lord Moran recorded that Churchill’s “spirits have risen and his vigour has come back. He has put vain regrets away; once more there is a purpose in life. He is very happy at Chartwell, arming and painting and dictating his book. In short, it has been a year of recovery.”
February was a peak and a valley emotionally for the Churchills. The peak was Mary’s marriage, at St. Margaret’s Church in Westminster, to Christopher Soames, assistant military attache at the British Embassy in Paris. He had been a Captain in the Coldstream Guards and served from Cairo through the Western Desert to Tunis, before joining an Intelligence unit in Italy and France. Churchill took to his new son instantly and “their friendship grew into a most warm and moving relationship.” Clementine was slower in her acceptance, but she also began to appreciate her new son-in-law, whom they affectionately called “The Chimp.” Years later Christopher joked with Clementine about her original lack of confidence and liking: “Yes, darling, but I’ve made up for it since,” she responded, patting his hand.
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Beginning work on The Second World War
After his speech at Zurich Churchill returned to London. Then, accompanied by his wife and daughter Mary, he went to Brussels and to Paris, where Mary met her future husband, Christopher Soames; the Assistant Military Attaché at the British Embassy.
At home again. Churchill resumed work on his war memoirs. Aware that he was dealing with topics and documents which remained sensitive, he outlined his plans to the Secretary of the Cabinet: “I should of course not wish to publish any paper which’ was not considered in the public interest by the Government of the day, and I should be quite ready to discuss the omission of any particular phrase, sentence or passage in any memorandum otherwise unobjectionable. Moreover I do not expect that any publication can take place for two or three years and I may not live so long.” The proposal was submitted to the Cabinet, which approved Churchill’s proposal on condition that a final revision would be subject to approval “in the light of the situation existing at the time.”
Churchill renewed his prewar relationship with Bill Deakin, who coordinated all the documentary evidence. Deakin later recalled the experience for Martin Gilbert:
“Winston and I would discuss together, alone, a sort of synopsis, which he would think out in his head and discuss with me. I would work into that frame. I would look up what happened. He then would dictate away what he remembered about people. He would also send me to talk to people, as a kind of interpreter. When I would produce a memorandum, this would provoke his personal memory. He would stop completely. No more documents. He would dictate his feelings (when he became First Lord, when he became Prime Minister). I would go to Chartwell for days at a time. Everything was devoted to his memoirs. He concentrated ruthlessly on this. He saw it as his monument.”
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“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster…”
In June Lord Moran recorded in that his famous patient seemed to be ready to come back. “A short time ago,” Churchill told him, “I was ready to retire and die gracefully. Now I’m going to stay and have them out….I’ll tear their bleeding entrails out of them. I’m in pretty good fettle [which I attribute to] the the Jerome blood.” However, the next month Moran found Churchill “in poor heart — one of his black moods. ‘I’m fed-up,’ he said. ‘Victory has turned to sackcloth and ashes.'” This feeling would be later expressed in Churchill’s reference to Clemenceau’s post-World War I book Le Grandeur et la Miserede la Paix.
After this war,” said Churchill, “it is all misere and no grandeur.” An additional month later Moran recorded: “Winston is happy at Chartwell, as happy as he can be when the world has gone all wrong.”
Churchill expressed concern about a book by Elliott Roosevelt (FDR’s son) which expressed the view of some Americans that Churchill had unnecessarily delayed the cross-Channel invasion of Europe for two years. Churchill said: “I asked Monty whether we could have invaded France before we did and Monty answered that it would have been madness. We could not have done it without the landing craft.”
Churchill was more concerned about the future, especially the prospect of war between Russia and the Anglo-Americans. He was expressing more concern about Russia’s intentions, which had become very clear to him at Potsdam. He helped prepare for any coming clash by advocating European unity. In France he recalled his visit to Paris in 1883, when his father had explained the Franco-German fight over Alsace Lorraine; and his visit to the’ French Army in 1907, when he “felt that by those valiant bayonets the rights of man had been gained and that by them these rights and also the liberties of Europe would be faithfully guarded. The road has been long and terrible,” he reflected. “I am astonished to find myself here at the end of it all.” He called on the two nations to “preserve and fortify our united action. Never let us part.”
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Honours and Reflections on a Long Life
Upon their return from America Winston and Clementine were greeted by their daughter, Mary, who was being demobilized. That spring mother and daughter decided to catch up on their education by visiting galleries, museums and exhibitions. Each weekend they went to Chartwell which was now being refurbished after wartime neglect.
Churchill was the recipient of many honours, and would often use those occasions to speak out on world and domestic affairs. On receiving the Freedom of Westminster he reflected on how “the human story does not always unfold like an arithmetical calculation on the principle that two and two make four… I The element of the unexpected and the unforeseeable is what gives some of its relish to life and saves us from falling into the mechanical thralldom of the logicians.”
On a visit to Holland he spoke on a favourite subject, the unification of Europe. “I see no reason why, under the guardianship of the world organization, there should not ultimately arise the United States of Europe, both those of the East and those of the West, which will unify this Continent in a manner never known since the fail of the Roman Empire.” The cornerstone of the new organization would be Anglo-French friendship and he wrote Prime Minister Attlee for approval to accept an invitation from the Mayor of Metz.
Mrs. Churchill also received honours in her own right including this letter from Clement Attlee: “I feel very sincerely that it would not be fitting if the Victory Honours lists did not include your name. I hope, therefore, that you will allow me to submit your name to His Majesty for appointment as a Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire in recognition, not only of your work for the Aid to Russia Fund, and for the promotion of Anglo-Russian understanding, but also of those other many services which made so marked and brave a contribution during the years of the war. I hope this will be agreeable to you, for I am sure it would be an houour which would be widely acclaimed”
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