March 20, 2015

“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.

The valley was the death of Churchill’s brother Jack. “There couldn’t have been a more perfect relation between two brothers than yours with him,” wrote Eddie Marsh. Churchill said that “the only thing Jack worried about was England. I told him it wd be all right.”

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Observing the Nuremberg trials, Churchill commented to Lord Ismay, “It shows that if you get into a war it is supremely important to win it. You and I would be in a pretty pickle if we had lost.”

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