A World War II flight engineer dishes on the most "I" of the VIPs he flew with.
By Graham Chandler
Winston Churchill was anxious to leave the country. It was July 1942, and he wanted to go to Cairo and Moscow to confer with his generals and with Soviet leader Josef Stalin, but the pilot assigned to fly him urged caution. "I'd like...a bad night to get out of England to go to Gibraltar," William J. Vanderkloot told the British prime minister. Years later, he explained to his son, Bill, "I didn't want to get shot down over England." Read more...
"Into the Storm," a television drama broadcast by the BBC and HBO, produced by Ridley Scott, directed by Thaddeus O'Sullivan, with Brendan Gleeson as Winston Churchill and Janet McTeer as Clementine. Screenplay by Hugh Whitemore.
Then out spake brave Horatius, The Captain of the Gate: "To every man upon this earth Death cometh soon or late. And how can man die better Than facing fearful odds, For the ashes of his fathers, And the temples of his gods..." -"Horatius," stanza XXVII in Lays of Ancient Rome, by Thomas Babbington Macaulay. Recited at the beginning and at the end of "Into the Storm."
Here is a TV docudrama packing exceptional honesty. An old man, at an age when most men retire (or in his time die), is handed command of his nation, when no one else wants it, in the greatest crisis of her history. They fight alone, save for their kith and kin, "the old lion and her lion cubs," as he put it, "against hunters who are armed with deadly weapons." And they win-only to see the old man dismissed in the moment of victory.
LONDON.- Did you know that military leader Lord Kitchener developed a knitting pattern for seamless socks, or that Lily Allen trained as a florist?
The National Portrait Gallery today launches an innovative marketing campaign which highlights the hidden stories behind its portraits of well known Britons. The new campaign - which encourages people to 'Take another look' at the Gallery's permanent collection - builds on research which showed that its visitors enjoyed picking up unexpected information behind the portraits. Read more...
Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 June 2010 14:40
How Churchill Became Churchill
Reason.tv: How Churchill Became Churchill-rediscovering young Winston's classical-liberal American mentor, Bourke Cockran
But in praising 1984, Harris finds the need to take a whack at Churchill-which he does with singular inaccuracy: "Given that only five years previously Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin had divided up the world into ‘zones of influence' at the Teheran conference, [Orwell's] vision did not seem entirely fantastic."
What is fantastic is where people get such notions. "Zones of influence" came up not at Teheran but at the Moscow ("Tolstoy") conference between Churchill and Stalin a year later, with the Red Army now far advanced in eastern Europe. Its only effect was to allow Churchill to save Greece from a communist revolution (temporarily; Stalin had another go a few years later). And the only reason we even know about the Moscow agreement was because Churchill freely described it in his war memoirs.
LONDON, JANUARY 12TH (REUTERS)- The classic British bulldog, a symbol of defiance and pugnacity, may now disappear. A shake-up of breeding standards by the Kennel Club has signalled the end of the dog's Churchillian jowl. Instead, the dog will have a shrunken face, a sunken nose, longer legs and a leaner body. THE British Bulldog Breed Council is threatening legal action against the Kennel Club. Chairman Robin Searle said: "What you'll get is a completely different dog, not a British bulldog."
Finest Hour referred this one to longtime colleague, prominent motoring writer and bulldog partisan Graham Robson, who wrote: "As a long-time bulldog owner (your editor has met various of my much-loved mutts) I am at once delighted and appalled by what is being proposed. Loud-mouthed critics of ‘traditional' bulldogs talk about breathing difficulties (usually untrue), too-fat bodies (only some breeders encourage this-mine never), heads too large and legs too short (arguable-none of mine were ever grotesque), and difficulties in delivering puppies without a vet's help (unfortunately true).
The Churchill Centre honored its Patron, The Lady Soames LG DBE, Sir Winston's daughter, with a unique dinner at The Pierre Hotel in New York City on Thursday, May 28th. Chairman Laurence Geller and Mr. and Mrs. Winston Churchill hosted the event, held in support of the Centre's work. Also attending were Sir Winston's granddaughter, the Hon. Celia Sandys. Most attendees were from the New York City area but others, including Marcus and Molly Frost, traveled across the country to be part of this wonderful evening.
Lady Soames became the Centre's second Patron in 1983, following Lord Mountbatten of Burma, who was killed by terrorists in 1979. Her first event was a London dinner during the first of seventeen Churchill Tours sponsored by the organization, and numerous events since have been honored by her presence. Centre events since. Patron is a role we don't try to define too narrowly, but it certainly includes acting a guide and sounding board to every initiative, even to the material in our publications.
"All the black swans are mating, not only the father and mother, but both brothers and both sisters have paired off. The Ptolemys always did this and Cleopatra was the result. At any rate I have not thought it my duty to interfere."
-WSC to his wife, Chartwell, 21 January 1935
WESTERHAM, KENT, MAY 26TH- Seventy-five years ago Lady Diana Cooper surveyed Chartwell's birds: "five foolish geese, five furious black swans, two ruddy sheldrakes, two white swans-Mr. Juno and Mrs. Jupiter, so called because they got the sexes wrong to begin with, two Canadian geese (‘Lord and Lady Beaverbrook') and some miscellaneous ducks." Chartwell's black swans have been looked after as zealously as the apes on Gibraltar (Finest Hour 125:6), but over the years marauding foxes and mink reduced the population, which reached zero last year. Happily last winter, Chartwell head gardener Giles Palmer installed a new floating "swan island" to provide natural protection, and two new black swans (Cygnus atratus) are now cruising the ponds designed by Sir Winston himself.
WASHINGTON, JUNE 3RD- One of four 2009 Bradley Prizes, each carrying a stipend of $250,000, was presented to CC Honorary Member and Trustee Sir Martin Gilbert, at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
"The Bradley Foundation selected Sir Martin Gilbert for his compelling work in historical research and his commitment to freedom," said Foundation President and CEO Michael W. Grebe. "Sir Martin's seminalwork in history has been widely acclaimed, and his work is considered the standard in its field." Sir Martin was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1995 for "services to British history and international relations," and earlier was made a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. He is an Honorary Fellow at Merton College, Oxford, a Distinguished Fellow at Hillsdale College, and the author of seventy books, specializing in the two World Wars, the Holocaust and scholarly atlases in addition to his Churchill work.
On Eleuthera, where we live from December to April, there was vast fascination, as one might expect, in the recent U.S. Presidential election. One of the virtues of this Bahamas island far out in the Atlantic is that racism, in the sense we all know it in the so-called First World, doesn’t really exist. On our easy-going tropical strand, amid the smiles of welcoming locals and old friends who have known each other for years, it just doesn’t seem to matter whether the face in front of you is black or white.
So it was perfectly natural for the wife of our local grocer to ask me in all innocence and without rancor: “Is it possible for a non-white to be elected President?”…
…And for me to reply without even a thought: “Sure. In fact it was possible twelve years ago, if the ticket had been Colin Powell and Jack Kemp.”
LONDON, MARCH 20TH- A Churchill will once again hold dominion over Westminster. Duncan Sandys, Sir Winston's affable 35-year-old great grandson who sits as a Conservative councillor on the city council, is a shoo-in as the next Lord Mayor of Westminster, after he was put forward as the official Tory candidate for the election in May. Sandys, who serves on the Churchill Memorial Trust Council and is a grandson of Lord Duncan-Sandys, the former cabinet minister, will be the youngest person to occupy the role.
-Tim Walker, Daily Telegraph
Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 June 2010 14:44
Obama Misquotes Churchill
Obama, Churchill and Torture Not Quite the Great Man's Words by Richard M. Langworth
--- Mr. Langworth (www.richardlangworth.com) is editor of the Churchill Centre quarterly Finest Hour and of Churchill by Himself, an annotated collection of 4000 Churchill quotations.
In his press conference of 29 April, in response to a question on the disclosure of top secret memos on the use of “enhanced interrogation methods,” Mr. Obama said:
I was struck by an article that I was reading the other day talking about the fact that the British during World War II, when London was being bombed to smithereens, had 200 or so detainees. And Churchill said, ‘We don’t torture,’ when the entire British—all of the British people—were being subjected to unimaginable risk and threat….the reason was that Churchill understood — you start taking shortcuts, over time, that corrodes what’s best in a people. It corrodes the character of a country.
While it’s nice to hear the President invoke Sir Winston, the quotation, including paraphrases and key sections of it, is unattributed and almost certainly incorrect. While Churchill did express such sentiments with regard to prison inmates, he said no such thing about prisoners of war, enemy combatants or terrorists, who were in fact tortured by British interrogators during World War II.
Obama seems to have been misled by Andrew Sullivan’s recent article in The Atlantic,“Churchill vs. Cheney,” which calmly urges that Vice President Cheney be prosecuted. The British, Sullivan wrote,
captured over 500 enemy spies operating in Britain and elsewhere. Most went through Camp 020, a Victorian pile crammed with interrogators. As Britain’s very survival hung in the balance, as women and children were being killed on a daily basis and London turned into rubble, Churchill nonetheless knew that embracing torture was the equivalent of surrender to the barbarism he was fighting….
“Churchill nonetheless knew” appears suddenly and with no evidence to back it up. Sullivan makes no other reference to Churchill, or to how he divined Churchill’s views on torture.
Sullivan likely picked this up in a three-year-old article about Camp 020’s chief interrogator, Col. Robin “Tin Eye” Stephens. In “The Truth that Tin Eye Saw,” by Ben Macintyre (London Times Online, 10 February 2006), Stephens is identified as an MI5 officer who extracted confessions out of Nazis: “a bristling, xenophobic martinet; in appearance, with his glinting monocle and cigarette holder, he looked exactly like the caricature Gestapo interrogator.” Stephens was terrifying, Macintyre wrote:
Suspects often left the interrogation cells legless with fear after an all-night grilling….he deployed threats, drugs, drink and deceit. But he never once resorted to violence….This was no squishy liberal: the eye was made of tin, and the rest of him out of tungsten. (Indeed, he was disappointed that only sixteen spies were executed during the war.) His motives were strictly practical. “Never strike a man. It is unintelligent, for the spy will give an answer to please, an answer to escape punishment. And having given a false answer, all else depends upon the false premise.”
Nowhere does Macintyre mention or quote Churchill. Incidentally, Stephens was cleared of a charge of “disgraceful conduct of a cruel kind” and told he was free to apply to rejoin his former employers at MI5.
The CIA argues that “enhanced interrogation” works, John McCain says it does not. Whoever is right, the “Tin Eye” Stephens story is not the whole story. According to recent research the British did use such methods: in the “London Cage,” a POW camp in the heart of London, “where SS and Gestapo captives were subject to beatings, sleep deprivation and starvation.”*
Churchill spoke frequently about torture, mostly enemy treatment of civilians. I thank Larry Kryske for this example, from Churchill’s World War I memoir, The World Crisis, vol. 1, page 11: “When all was over, Torture and Cannibalism were the only two expedients that the civilized, scientific, Christian States had been able to deny themselves: and these were of doubtful utility.” (His general sentiment is clear enough, though combined with “cannibalism,” this seems likely to refer to practices of invading armies.)
In World War II, when he had plenary authority, it is hard to imagine Churchill being unaware of activities at places like the “London Cage.” His daughter once told me, “He would have done anything to win the war, and I daresay he had to do some pretty rough things—but they didn’t unman him.”
If Churchill is on record specifically about “enhanced interrogation,” his words have yet to surface. The nearest I could come to his sentiments on torture technique refers not to terrorists or enemy combatants but to prison inmates. In 1938, responding to a constituent who urged him to help end the use of the “cat o’nine tails” in prisons, Churchill wrote: “the use of instruments of torture can never be regarded by any decent person as synonymous with justice.”**
If that line appeals to Mr. Obama, he can certainly use it with confidence.
* Ian Corbain, “The Secrets of the London Cage,”The Guardian, 12 November 2005. The Cage was kept secret, Corbain, wrote, though a censored account appeared in the memoirs of its commandant, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Scotland. Corbain does not mention Churchill, but to believe Churchill wasn’t aware of this activity would be asking a lot.
** Martin Gilbert, editor, Winston S. Churchill, Companion Volume V, Part 3: Documents: The Coming of War 1936-1939. London, Heinemann: 1982,1292. n.2.
FEBRUARY 15TH- We were amused by a Churchill-derived comment describing the new digital activity known as "blogging" (personal web logs) and Internet chatrooms: "Never have so many people with so little to say said so much to so few." However, some bloggers have interesting angles.
Take for example "Amazing Ben" (www.badassoftheweek.com): a 28-year-old college administrator, whose style is, well, different.
Churchill, Ben says, was known "for his unyielding tenaciousness and his awesome ability to train killer attack hounds to run up and bite Fascists in the jugular when they weren't looking...one of the most badass world leaders of the modern era. This dude was a totally righteous asskicker who enjoyed puffing on Cuban cigars, shooting guns, drinking copious amounts of booze, and kicking Nazis in the ___ ___ with a size 10 steel-toed boot, and he didn't give a crap about anything that didn't further his goal of accomplishing one of those four tasks. He fought hard, partied hard, wore a lot of totally awesome suits, and pretty much always looked like he'd just stepped out of a badass 1930s pulp fiction detective story."