March 20, 2015

Malta, Alexandria, Tunis, Carthage then recovery in Marrakech

While “closing the ring’ the issue of postwar boundaries in Eastern Europe had to be resolved. Stalin desired a resolution now but Churchill wanted to wait until after the war was won. Concerning Poland, die British Prime Minister said, “we should do everything in our power to persuade the Poles to agree with the Russians about the Eastern frontier, in return for gains in East Prussia and Silesia. We could certaiinly promise to use our influence in that respect.”

“Unless there is a German collapse, the campaign of 1944 will be far the most dangerous we have undertaken and personally.”

Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin did agree on the surrender terms for Italy and, on October 15th, the Royal Italian Government declared war on Germany, even though Rome would not be liberated for many months.

Churchill’s attention then turned to freeing the islands of the Aegean where he had long had strategic interests. His plan, however, was not supported by Roosevelt, who agreed with Eisenhower that re- sources should not be diverted from the planned invasion of Normandy.

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Stalin’s distrust of his allies’ intention to establish a second front would have to be addressed at a meeting of the “Big Three.” The appointment of a supreme commander was essential and Churchill was confident it would be George Marshall. In December Roosevelt informed him that he needed Marshall in Washington and that the appointment would go to Dwight Eisenhower.

A foreign ministers’ conference in October set the stage for a meeting of the “Big Boys” at Tehran in December. Eden told Churchill that Stalin knew the British were committed to defeating Germany, but that the Soviet leader believed Churchill “had a tendency to take the easy road and leave the difficult job to the Russians.”

As Churchill prepared to leave for the conference he was far from well. He had a heavy cold and sore throat and he was affected by typhoid and cholera inoculations. His health would deteriorate during the trip.

On 12 November Churchill boarded HMS Renown at Plymouth for a journey that would keep him from England for three months. After he arrived in Alexandria, Egypt, following a stop in Malta, he was vexed that the presence of Chiang Kaishek distracted American attention, and that Roosevelt seemed more interest in China-related issues. Nevertheless, Churchill was particularly charmed by Madame Chiang Kaishek.

On the personal level, the British were invited to join the Americans for Thanksgiving. Churchill later described the event: “After the meal was over we returned to the big room. Dance music from gramophone records began to play. Sarah was the only woman present and she had her work cut out, so I danced with ‘Pa’ Watson [FDR’s trusted old friend and aide], to the delight of his chief, who watched us from the sofa.’

On 27 November they flew to Tehran to meet Stalin. After those meetings Churchill telegraphed Attlee. ‘relations between Britain, US and USSR have never been so cordial and intimate. All war plans are agreed and concerted.”

Back in Cairo Churchill carried out a punishing work schedule depite his continued poor health.

Nevertheless, he flew to Tunisia and then on to Carthage where more medical attention was required. He had pneumonia. In December his wife arrived and they were joined by Randolph and Sarah. Clementine knew that he was improving when he ‘consented not to smoke, and to drink only weak whisky and soda.”

They had been at Carthage long enough for the Germans to locate them so it was time to move. Lord Moran insisted on a three-week convalescence and Churchill chose Marrakech. Under the protection of the Coldstream Guards, the Brifish Prime Minister recovered in the shadow of the Atlas Mountains.

In October Churchill had cabled Roosevelt. ‘Unless there is a German collapse, the campaign of 1944 will be far the most dangerous we have undertaken and personally, I am more anxious about its success than I was about 1941, 1942, or 1943.”

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