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Finest Hour 106

Finest Hour 106, Spring 2000

Page 26


One hundred years ago:

Spring 1900 »Age 25

"Politics, Pamela, finances, books"

Spring 1900 found Churchill very much engaged in the war against the Boers, heedlessly taking chances with his life on occasions where only his death would have afforded him any publicity. On one occasion, in April 1900, Churchill, as a correspondent, joined a cavalry attempt to capture a small hill, racing a group of Boer horsemen to the summit. The Boers won and Churchill and the others were in danger of being cut off. They had just dismounted when the Boers arrived and started firing. Churchill's horse was spooked and bolted, leaving him behind and on foot. Dodging bullets, he ran towards his own men and was saved by a trooper who picked him up but whose horse was killed in the process. His son Randolph recounts that the trooper was unawed: "Oh my poor horse," moaned the trooper. "Never mind," said Churchill, "you've saved my life." "Ah," rejoined the scout, "but it's the horse I'm thinking about."

On another occasion in late May, WSC risked being shot as a spy when, based on a report from a Frenchman he had just interviewed for an article, he rode a bicycle through the middle of Boer-occupied Johannesburg, dressed in civilian clothes, carrying a British military report from General Hamilton to Lord Roberts. Manchester critically wrote: "Even the debonair Frenchman—if indeed he was what he said he was; Winston, with his own atrocious French, was no judge of that, and no one else here had ever laid eyes on the man before—conceded that armed Boers were thick in the streets. A simple search by any one of them and Winston would be shoved against the nearest wall and executed by an ad hoc firing squad."

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Finest Hour 106, Spring 2000

Page 47

"I went home for my father's ninetieth birthday....I remember when I arrived there were big crowds gathered outside the house hoping for a glimpse of my father. There were photographers and movie cameramen, and even a little group of musicians serenading under the window. When he stood, unaided but obviously with help close by in case of need, to wave from a window, there was a roar of applause from outside." -Sarah Churchill, Keep on Dancing, 1981.

Finest Hour 106, Spring 2000

Page 12

David Irving, the Hitler apologist and Churchill hater, has lost a three-month libel battle in England's High Court against Penguin Publishing and Deborah Lipstadt, whose book, Denying the Holocaust, had called him a World War II holocaust denial fanatic. The judge's summary was damning, branding Irving as a "racist and an anti-Semite" who associated with neo-Nazi groups. There wasn't a redeeming sentence in the judgement. Irving doesn't seem to be at all repentent, but we suspect his bank manager is. Estimates are that this case will have cost him at least £2 million.

1) GAME: A novel bleat was published in the February 18th Globe and Mail, Canada's national newspaper, from one David Kipling, protesting a February 16th column by Marcus Gee, who named Churchill the greatest figure of the 20th century: "Well, the man certainly scored a heck of a body count among soldiers and citizens—including a few striking Welsh miners even before the Second World War. A parliamentary tactician devoid of political commitment, with an artful line of patter straight out of Queen Anne's reign, he climbed on stage for the Hitler thing and caused less evil than Adolf. This ranks as 'great'?....Under orders 'we' had to fight each other on the beaches, but you bosses fought from cozy concrete bunkers 50 feet underground....No more 'Churchills' of any name or nation!" Finest Hour replied: "There are plenty of legitimate Churchill critics and critiques, so why give space to cranks? The Churchill Mr. Kipling says fought World War II 'from cozy concrete bunkers' had to be restrained from spending Blitz nights on the Downing Street roof, and—aged 65-70—flew around the world in cold, unpressurized aircraft, contracting pneumonia on one trip, in the interest of the war effort, which is more than we recall any other leader doing."

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Finest Hour 106, Spring 2000

Page 33

Alternative to Churchill: The Eternal Bondage, by Inder Dan Ratnu, Jaipur, India: self-published, 1995,314 pages, illus., softbound, published at Rs./1000, member price $40

The theme of this book is "the Eternal Relevance of Churchill," which the author demonstrates by combining fact and fiction. Alternative to Churchill is similar in approach to Norman Longmate's If Britain Had Fallen (reviewed FH 33), factually relating the course of World War II up to a point—then presenting an imagined scenario if a few things had happened differently.

For Longmate, the turning point is Hermann Goering's decision to concentrate the Luftwaffe assault on RAP bases instead of London, leading to a successful German invasion and the fall of Churchill, defending Number Ten Downing Street from the onrushing Wehrmacht, dying with his pistol ablaze. For Ratnu, the turning point (which he calls "the diversion") is the decision of Chamberlain's critics— Amery for the Tories, Lloyd George for the Liberals, and most of the Labour Party—to mute their May 1940 attacks on the Government for the sake of national unity. Thus Churchill does not become Premier on May 10th—or any other time. And there hangs our tale.

Although the surviving Chamberlain delegates increasing military authority to Churchill, the two split fatally over Reynaud's call for Britain to fling the bulk of her air force into Battle of France, which Chamberlain feels he cannot deny. As the British Expeditionary Force is beaten back, Chamberlain fails to withdraw around Dunkirk in a timely fashion, and 300,000 British troops are captured or killed in the greatest military disaster in British history. "Because of the absence of a dynamic, daring and driving personality at the top," Ratnu concludes, "the British fell short of taking appropriate measures well in time at every stage."

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Finest Hour 106, Spring 2000

Page 35

By Robert Franks

Churchill, by Francois Bedarida; Paris, Fayard, 576 pp. 160 F. ($25). Text in French. Will members desiring a copy please contact the editor.

No one is better qualified to write a French biography of Churchill than Francois Bedarida, a specialist in both British history and the Second World War. The risk is large, as so much has been said, but the merit of Bedarida is in presenting a more synthetic work, which delves into interesting facets of historical interpretation.

The book seeks to scrutinize the resiliency of a fantastic personality, both flamboyant and contradictory. Bedarida believes young Winston's lack of affection from his parents left "an indelible mark on his innermost being," resulting in an incessant need to attract attention and to seek recognition. Throughout his life he had to fight against his cyclothymic nature.

After mostly mediocre studies, he is admitted to the military academy at Sandhurst. But the prospect of a life in a garrison bores him and his diirst for action propels him, at the age of 21, into becoming a volunteer soldier and journalist in Cuba (1895), India (1897), the Sudan (1898) and South Africa (1899). Captured by the Boers, he escapes and writes a best-seller. Fame opens Parliament to him, where he sits among die Conservatives from 1900 on.

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Finest Hour 106, Spring 2000

Page 32

By Richard M. Langworth

Layman's Questions About Churchill, by Inder Dan Ratnu, Jaipur, India: Mumal Publishers 1998, 112 pages, illus. softbound, Rs./125, Member price $15

What Every Indian Needs to Know

Given what's come out of India on Churchill in the past (see sidebar), it is a pleasure to find an Indian author with something positive to say. Inder Dan Ratnu has been doing so for a quarter century, evidently without the total enthusiasm of his countrymen, or even his family. Finding a paperback copy of Churchill's Great War Speeches, about to be used to wrap peanuts by a Gujarat street vendor, Mr. Ratnu salvaged it and wore it out with the use for which it was intended: reading. A member of the poet community of "Charans" of Rajasthan State in Western India, he has been reciting Churchill's war speeches "as an item of entertainment" since 1974. After his first book was published (see next review), Indian readers wanted to know more about the statesman responsible for Mr. Ratnu's excitement. This book provides it. Perhaps more important to non-Indians, it gives a close glimpse of the ordinary Indian's view of Churchill—about which quite a lot needs to be done.

The author divides his book into seven closely set sections: biographic details, contemporary personalities, the war speeches, Indian independence, "controversial aspects" (charges that WSC was an imperialist, racist, dictator, etc.), "hypothetical" (Churchill and the European Union), and "conceptual" (Churchill on Britain, America, Germany, Liberty; and WSC's philosophy and achievement). All are interesting, the sections on Gandhi especially so given recent debates over the "Person of the Century," in which Gandhi was usually a strong contender.

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Finest Hour 106, Spring 2000

Page 34

Churchill and Hitler: in Victory and Defeat, by John Strawson. New York: Fromm International 1997, 540 pages, illus., published at $30, member price $22.

Comparative studies of Churchill and Hitler are surprisingly scarce. In 1942, journalists Stephen Laird and Walter Graebner (the latter was Churchill's Life editor for his serialized war memoirs) published their conversation, Hitler's Reich, Churchill's Britain (Batsford, 1942); and John Lukacs has written in The Duel and in Five Days in London about the Hitler-Churchill stand-off which he believes settled the war. Now military historian Gen. John Strawson expands the Hitler-Churchill juxtaposition by comparing their lives from childhood through World War II, with big chapters on each year of the war, ending with a "Verdict" that summarizes the views of their admirers, critics and colleagues. No revisionist, Strawson records Churchill's faults, but emphasizes his indispensability, even in the eyes of his chief military critics. He concludes that Churchill "did not want war but the war he got changed history."

The book is thick and comprehensive in its coverage, better than half of it devoted to the campaigns of 1939-45 and Hitler's and Churchill's reactions to them. But there is not much that is original or new, and the absence of source references constantly frustrates. "Where have I read that before?" one asks; "where did he get that?" The bibliography, while commendably full of German sources—which recent English revisionists rarely consult—is neither lengthy nor revealing, except of Strawson's intent to portray the German view of things. Not surprisingly (since most of it was written after 1945) this tends to corroborate the popular view that Hitler was an evil genius whose total control over the German military machine eventually lost the war—yet equally led to stunning victories that would probably not have occurred without him.

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Finest Hour 106, Spring 2000

Page 36

By Steve Walker

Elgin and Churchill at the Colonial Office 1905-1908, by Ronald Hyam. London: Macmillan and New York: St. Martin's Press, 1968. 574 pages. Typical price for fine jacketed copies $75+. Frequency: very scarce.

Read Sir Martin Gilbert's single-volume Churchill: A Life and you'll find only twenty pages covering the period 1905-1908. In the official biography, 130 pages give us a more in-depth discussion of this period encompassing Churchill's first government office. But for anyone tantalized by this period, the standard work by Cambridge lecturer Ronald Hyam provides nearly 600 pages detailing life at the Colonial Office during the tenure of Churchill, the undersecretary, and his senior, Lord Elgin (pronounced "El'-gan"). The author charmingly dedicates the work to "those of my friends who, though they will not read this book, encouraged me to persevere."

The work is divided into five parts. The Introduction comprises a fascinating presentation on Lord Elgin, a man we barely glimpse in passing as we study the life of Winston Churchill. Next come two chapters covering the formation of the great Liberal government which some historians hold the most brilliant in modern British history, which brought Elgin and Churchill together.

The bulk of the book consists of three central parts which Hyam defines in his Preface as "attitudes and policies with respect to three things": the principle of continuity of policy (1905-06); the principle of self-government (1906-07); and "the so-called native question" (1907-08). These are followed by a Conclusion, with chapters on the conduct of business at the Colonial Office, and the departure of Lord Elgin from the ministry. Also in this part is a summarizing chapter entitled "The watershed of the Empire-Commonwealth: the imperial policy of the Liberal government, 1905-1908." This last chapter alone is almost worth the cost of buying the book.

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Finest Hour 106, Spring 2000

Page 31

By Chris Bell

Churchill, Munitions and Mechanical Warfare: The Politics of Supply and Strategy, by Eugene Edward Beiriger, New York: Peter Lang, 1997. Hardbound, 188 pages, published at $39.95, member price $37.

In July 1917, David Lloyd George rescued Winston Churchill from the political wilderness by appointing him Minister of Munitions. This move provoked a storm of political protest. Churchill's judgment was widely distrusted following the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign, and leading Tories had no desire to see Churchill return to a position of power. Not surprisingly, the new minister was denied a seat on the War Cabinet. This was an arrangement which suited Lloyd George well: it enabled him to exploit Churchill's considerable administrative talents and drive for the sake of the war effort, but also kept an unpopular, controversial colleague at a safe distance from the central direction of the British war effort.

While Churchill threw himself into the task of managing munitions production, he also attempted to use his position to influence British grand strategy, just as his opponents had feared. By 1917, Churchill's strategic views no longer resembled those he had held at the beginning of the war. The failure of the Dardanelles campaign made him doubt that victory could be won quickly or easily by attacking Germany's allies in the east, but his service in the trenches helped to ensure that he never became more than a qualified "westerner."

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Finest Hour 106, Spring 2000

Page 18


The Evolution oi a Famous Image

ON 8 JUNE 1940, less than a month after Churchill became Prime Minister, the Daily Express published a cartoon by Sidney Strube. Standing pugnaciously astride a map of the British Isles was a bulldog wearing a collar with a number 10 tag and a steel helmet captioned "Go To It." Well—not quite a bulldog, because grafted onto the sturdy canine body were the unmistakable bejowled features of Winston Churchill.

Sidney Strube's association of the Prime Minister with that broad-headed, muscular breed was to become almost a latter-day personification of John Bull, the 17th century literary character deemed to be representative of the British people. Strube (1891-1956), a true Cockney, was staff cartoonist for the Daily Express from 1912 until 1948. Like David Low (FH 80) his cartoons had generally attacked Churchill before World War II united political enemies. His Churchill/bulldog association was to be picked up by many other artists throughout World War II. The slogan "Go To It" featured on many Ministry of Information posters.

Later in 1940 Henri Guignon's cartoon was issued as a colour poster in the United States. It had the same Churchill head and bulldog body combination, but this time standing astride a Union Flag with the caption, "Holding the Line!" The Nazi occupation of much of mainland Europe was causing some concern amongst many Americans over the future of world democracy and a rising debate over whether the United States should become involved in another war. The poster expressed the image of Churchill representing "the last bulwark against totalitarianism," appealing to a growing lobby of American opinion. The drawing later appeared in Britain as a postcard.

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