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Finest Hour 110

Finest Hour 110, Spring 2001

Page 40


One hundred years ago:

Spring 1901 -Age 26

"Rising Political Star"

The Spring of 1901, William Manchester wrote, was when Churchill "established himself as a rising political star." In the House in March, he spoke in support of the Government against an amendment seeking to appoint a Commission to enquire into the Army's dismissal of Major-General Sir Henry Colville as Commander-in-Chief of Gibraltar. Colville had been dismissed when official enquiries into his conduct in South Africa disclosed he had failed to attempt to relieve beleaguered British troops despite being in a position to do so. Colville refused to go quietly, and appealed to supporters in Parliament, claiming that he had not been criticized at the time in official dispatches.

Churchill came to the rescue of a government described by his son, Randolph, as "hard-pressed to resist" the amendment, helpfully explaining to the House that "those who have not themselves had any actual experience of war may have some difficulty in understanding" why Colville was not criticized at the time. The reason, Churchill continued, was that the military in wartime typically did not tell the truth: "I say that I have noticed in the last three wars in which we have been engaged a tendency among military officers...to hush everything up, to make everything look as fair as possible, to tell what is called the official truth....all the ugly facts are smoothed and varnished over, rotten reputations are propped up, and officers known as incapable are allowed to hang on and linger in their commands in the hope that at the end of the war they may be shunted into private life without a scandal."

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Finest Hour 110, Spring 2001

Page 47

Todd Ronnei (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) asks us to compile and puncture the most common Churchill falsehoods, some of them galloping over the Internet. Todd offers the following (some of which we've tackled—see parentheses). We will hack away at this weed growth in this space in future editions. Will readers who know where to find this stuff in FH or elsewhere please help!

Personal: • Churchill was an abuser of alcohol. • His father died of syphilis (refuted FH 93 p. 23). • He had a learning disability/stutter/dyslexia/attention deficit disorder (refuted Churchill Proceedings 1996-97, p. 83). • He was a poor student in school (refuted FH 98, p. 28). • Alexander Fleming saved him from drowning as a boy (refuted FH 102 p. 47). • Jack Churchill was not Lord Randolph's son (refuted FH 93 p. 25). • Winston's American ancestors included Iroquois Indians and Mayflower passengers (refuted FH 104 p. 31).

Historical: • An actor read Churchill's wartime speeches over the radio (refuted FH 92 p. 23). • Churchill (and FDR) knew of the impending Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor but did nothing so as to draw the United States into the war (refuted FH 101, p. 37). • WSC crushed striking Welsh miners by sending in troops (refuted FH 35 p. 8). • He opposed the India Bill out of hopelessly Victorian views of the Empire. • He had knowledge of the Holocaust during the war but did nothing about it (refuted FH 93 p. 33). • He let Coventry burn rather than reveal his knowledge of German codes (refuted, FH Al p. 10). 

Finest Hour 110, Spring 2001

Page 11

The massive (and unexpurgated) Alanbrooke Diaries—not the previously-sanitized ones published in the late Fifties—were published in May, with extracts running in the Daily Telegraph, reports Graham Robson. "It looks like dynamite to me." More grist undoubtedly for the Feet of Clay School—but a prominent member of the Churchill family tells FH: "We have broad backs"....The Sir Winston Churchill Society of Calgary held its annual dinner on April 21st, with keynote speaker Lord Jellicoe, a tremendous speaker whose remarks we know were enjoyed by our colleagues....Dwelling on Churchill's fortitude against constant disaster in the Second World War, honorary member Lord Deedes wrote in the Daily Telegraph of a recollection from Vic Oliver, WSC's son-in-law. One evening in 1941, Churchill came down from his study "looking inexpressibly grim." Scenting there had been a disaster but knowing he would not reveal it, Mrs. Churchill quietly poured him a glass of port. Oliver went to the piano and, on reflection, began Beethoven's Appassionata sonata. Churchill rose to his feet and thundered: "Stop. Don't play that!" Oliver asked, "What's the matter? Don't you like it?" Churchill replied, "Nobody plays the Dead March in my house." Knowing that Churchill was notoriously unmusical, the company laughed. Oliver turned back to the piano: "But surely, sir, you can tell the difference between this..." and he struck a few chords of the Appassionata "and..." Before he could finish Churchill

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Finest Hour 110, Spring 2001

Page 42

"I thank God from the bottom of my heart for having been allowed to work for him for 4 1/2 long and momentous years..."

By Graham Robson

Alanbrooke, by David Fraser. London: HarperCollins 1982, paperback reprint 1997, 552 pages, £9.99

What a fascinating book this is! What a marker for military history; what an authoritative story of the way that Alan Brooke, in particular, and his top aides, kept British military strategy on the right path for so long. (I'd better make it clear he was Alan Brooke, later General Alan Brooke, finally Field Marshal Brooke, who chose the title of Lord Alanbrooke when raised to the peerage in 1945.)

From Christmas Day 1941 until Churchill was booted out by an ungrateful electorate in 1945, career soldier Alan Brooke was Chief of the Imperial General Staff. No other brass hat—not Monty, not Mountbatten, not Tedder, not even Eisenhower—could outrank him, and none could out-think him.

More than anyone else during World War II, the man Winston Churchill immediately nicknamed "Brookie" was the Prime Minister's sheet anchor. Whenever die great man plunged off on another flight of strategic fancy or anodier romantic master plan, Brooke was there to haul him back into line. "Yes, Prime Minister, but...." must have been one of his frequent opening lines in a discussion.

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Finest Hour 110, Spring 2001

Page 42

By Richard M. Langworth

The Churchill Factors: Creating Your Finest Hour, by Larry Kryske. Victoria, B.C.: Trafford, 2000. Trade paperback, 230 pp., published at $17.95. Member price $16

Winston Churchill said, "I was happy as a child with the toys in my nursery; I have been happier each day since I became a man." With the sole exception of the Dardanelles episode, when his wife "thought he would die of grief," Churchill was, as his daughter has said, "a supremely blessed and happy human being."

There was no doubt about his happiness and, for the most part, his optimism. How blessed he was is a relative question. Churchill had no inherited wealth, no apparent academic proficiency. When he switched from a military career to politics, he found himself laboring to conquer a lisp, and on one early occasion lost his train of thought in the middle of a speech and had to sit down. What he did inherit was a taste for living like a grandee, but with no family money labored hard, particularly after he fell in love with a money pit named Chartwell.

Writing is not easy. It is almost always hard work, and most writers would rather face the dentist than get started on the next piece. Churchill was a self-starter, and his methods for getting one and one-half or two days out of one are well known.

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Finest Hour 110, Spring 2001

Page 44

By Re-review by David Freeman

Winston S. Churchill, 18741965: A Comprehensive Historiography and Annotated Bibliography, by Eugene L. Rasor. Bibliographies of World Leaders, No. 6. Westport, CT, Greenwood Press, 706 pages, published at $115, member price $95.

Professor Rasor's book (reviewed last issue by Christopher M. Bell, page 38) is most definitely not suited to the dealer and collector of books. Neither is it intended to be. This is a scholar's tool, of the sort in which its publisher specializes. In this respect the book succeeds admirably. The bibliography may indeed be filled with errors, but it exists to support the historiographic survey that makes up the first, and by far the more important, half of the book. Each title in the bibliography is assigned a number which is used as a cross-reference in the historiography. Factual errors exist in both halves of the book, but these are not significant enough to detract from the fact that Rasor has produced an indispensable guide.

To begin with, Rasor identifies and provides contact information for all major archival institutions with holdings relevant to Churchillian research. No errors here, and even this experienced researcher is grateful to have this knowledge brought together for easy reference. But Rasor provides much more: He catalogues other bibliographies, in addition to guides, indexes, encyclopedias, and periodicals, which supply Churchill-related information. There is an entry for the Churchill Center website, and guides to virtually every significant political, military, royal and family personality with whom Churchill ever interacted.

The heart of the work considers Churchill's career from a variety of thematic perspectives with chapters focusing on Churchill as a leader, politician, writer and artist as well as his role in major events such as the world wars and Russian or American relations. One chapter guides readers to books associated with major controversies. Another outlines areas for future research. Rasor even considers biographies of Churchill by listing titles in a spectrum format that ranges from the hagiographic to the malicious.

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Finest Hour 110, Spring 2001

Page 44

By Kirkus Reviews

Roosevelt and Churchill, Men of Secrets, by David Stafford. Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press, 360 pp., illustrated. Published at $32.50, member price $27.

This is a behind-the-scenes analysis of the relationship between a president and a prime minister—"a powerful personal link that bridged the Atlantic and helped win the war."

Stafford's previous book, Churchill and Secret Service, begins and ends this engrossing story on a bronze bench on London's New Bond Street—the lifesize sculpture of Roosevelt and Churchill unveiled in 1995 as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations for V-E Day. Much in the same manner, the author attempts to capture this close but often contentious partnership between two leaders, both of whom "played an active and crucial part in waging secret war."

Stafford argues convincingly that Churchill (who had a "fascination with cloak and dagger") and Roosevelt (whose prewar background was in naval intelligence) forged through friendship "the most important intelligence alliance in history." The story moves back and forth between the numerous meetings of the leaders (they spent more than 120 days in each other's company during the war) and the clandestine field operations organized and executed by such celebrated intelligence agents as William ("Wild Bill") Donovan of the American OSS and William Stephenson of British Security Coordination.

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Finest Hour 110, Spring 2001

Page 12


I recently had discussion with a senior state leader of Rajasthan, an old veteran who happens also to be a friend. A staunch Gandhian, he has been thrice Member of Parliament, twice a member of his state legislature, and a respected minister at both state and centre (federal) levels.

When I apprised him of my campaign of speeches about Churchill at educational institutions, a sarcastic smile crossed his face: "You must know that Churchill was the foremost enemy of India; yet you are devoted to him. Why?" I replied,"If Churchill had not defended democracy, we wouldn't have it here; people like me could never have the kind of life I am having, nor could you have become the leader you are." He denied this, saying, "Churchill's war with Hitler had nothing to do with that."

For a moment I wondered if I should invite him to one of my lectures on Churchill and Freedom, since a rebuttal right on the stage could be embarrassing, and confusing for the students. But Churchill never avoided political arguments so, gathering courage, I asked if he would attend one of my appearances. "I am asking particularly because the gulf between your ideas and mine is substantial," I said. "Why not?" he replied, "differences are a part of democracy. If you invite me I shall come."

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Finest Hour 110, Spring 2001

Page 46

BY CURT ZOLLER (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

TEST your knowledge! Most questions can be answered in back issues of Churchill Center publications but it's not really cricket to check. Twenty-four questions appear each issue, answers in the following issue. Categories are Contemporaries (C), Literary (L), Miscellaneous (M), Personal (P), Statesmanship (S) and War (W).

1129. Who was the "grocer" who became Churchill's "shadow" in 1939? (C)

1130. What book did Sir Martin Gilbert, Churchill's biographer, write about his 30-year quest for data on his subject? (L)

1131. What is the name of the publisher who will put all the Churchill papers on microfilm? (M)

1132. Who was the artist who created the Churchill statue situated at Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri? (P)

1133. In one of his early messages to Churchill (18th Jul '41), Stalin urged Churchill to open a second front. He suggested two areas. One was in France. What was the other? (S)

1134. Which company built the USS Winston S. Churchill (W)

1135. When Churchill proposed, the young actress told him she "would not be able to cope with the great world of politics." Who was she? (C)

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Finest Hour 110, Spring 2001

Page 17


Thank you for the opportunity to experience living history. My husband and I were deeply moved by the "Action That Day." The continuation of all that Sir Winston represented and fought for is much needed for future generations. You must feel pride in seeing your vision of The Churchill Center touching lives and preserving history.


From the arrival of platform guests, the march on the Colors, the National Anthem, the invocation and addresses, the speakers were clear, concise and short from that point on I have never been so impressed. Cdr. Franken's placing the ship in commission and assuming command were the most moving experiences I can remember. Charged with emotion and full to overflowing we watched as the young men and women ran to the ship to set the first watch. As the crew disappeared up the gangway the funnels issued steam, bells and whistles sounded, and the ship came alive. There were tears in the eyes of many tough old men.


As a past crew member of HMS Churchill (SSN04), may I extend to the Captain, officers and crew of USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG81) all the best for her commissioning. My Churchill took good care of me for many years and it brought a tear to my eye when I watched her go. It is only recently that I began to close down on my old friends and I was pleased to see the great name carried forward. I wish the crew fair weather and good hunting.
- M. A. WEBSTER (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

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