March 20, 2015

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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“His mind was fixed on the conduct of the war. Occasionally, late at night, we might talk about the Dardanelles…. He didn’t do very much work. He wanted company. He painted most of the time.”

Churchill had a different perception. He had written Clementine that “I came here to play, but in fact it has only been Work under physically agreeable conditions.”

This holiday also gave him a break from the English political scene, and it appears he was in great need of this respite. He wrote Clementine that “England and politics seem very different here. I continue to be depressed about the future. I really do not see how our poor island is going to earn its living when there are so many difficulties around us and so much ill will and division at home.”

In early January Deakin returned to England with twelve chapters of the book. At the same time Lord Moran and Clementine arrived to tend to Churchill, who was feeling ill. Moran found that Churchill did not have pneumonia and his patient was in fine form very quickly. Moran wrote a long entry in his journal about his visit to Marrakech. He dated it 7 December 1947, but Martin Gilbert points out that the correct dating is 3 January 1948.

Moran suggests that Churchill was intolerant of criticism. If that was true, this was a very difficult time for the author of The Second World War. Among the people who gave very detailed criticism of his drafts were Isaiah Berlin, Edward Marsh, Clementine and, especially, Emery Reves. The significance of Reves’s comments was that the text would have to be largely rewritten. Reves had shown the manuscript to the judges of the Book-of-the-Month Club (Henry Seidel Canby, Dorothy Canfield Fisher, Christopher Morley, John P. Marquand and Clifton Fadiman). They were impressed with the work but agreed with Reves’s recommendations. Churchill made enough changes to please both Reves and himself.

Once again discussions ensured regarding the title of Volume I. Churchill first considered Downward Path; Reves suggested Gathering Clouds, or The Brooding Storm and the eventual winner, The Gathering Storm. It was the best possible choice.

In February Churchill returned to England to face a new gathering storm: aggressive Communist political and military activity. Most ominous was the Communist takeover in Czechoslovakia and the mysterious death of Churchill’s friend the non-Communist foreign minister, Jan Masaryk.

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