March 20, 2015

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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They not only kept him out of power before the war, but they threw him out as soon as possible after. But they could not silence him. While continuing to call for the defeat of the Labour politicians “whose crazy theories and personal incompetence have brought us down,” he supported the Government’s firm stand against the Russians who had established a blockade of Berlin.

He desired a holiday in France but currency restrictions limited the amount of money he could take out of England. This problem was solved when Time-Life paid for serialization rights for The Second World War in French francs. He ended the summer with a holiday in Aix-en-Provence, but a holiday for Winston Churchill was unlike that of anyone else’s, as we will see in the next installment.

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