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Finest Hour 115

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Young Winston’s American Mentor Bourke Cockran. Teaching the Next Generations (3 articles). Churchill Holograph Thank-you Notes. Why did Churchill Forgive the Germans? Churchill Secretary Patrick Kinna. Myths: “Alexander Fleming Saved Churchill’s Life Twice.” Cover: Last Painting from life, B. Hailstone, 1957.

Finest Hour 115, Summer 2002

Page 46

The fable that Sir Alexander Fleming saved Churchill from drowning as a boy and from pneumonia many years later by his discovery of penicillin had quite a run on the Internet a year or so ago, and the question still comes up occasionally. Charming as it is, it is certainly fictitious.

The story goes at least as far back as Worship Programs for Juniors, by Alice A. Bays and Elizabeth Jones Oakbery, published ca. 1950 by an American religious house, in a chapter entitled “The Power of Kindness.” This is an odd source for an original myth, and we suspect the tale goes back before that.

According to Bays and Oakbery, Churchill is saved from drowning in a Scottish lake by a farm boy named Alex, who grows up wanting to become a doctor. (Other versions say WSC is saved by Alex’s father.) Churchill telephones the Flemings in Scotland to say that his parents, in gratitude, will sponsor Alex’s otherwise unaffordable medical school education. Alex graduates with honours and in 1928 discovers that certain bacteria cannot grow in certain vegetable molds. In 1943, when Churchill becomes ill in the Near East, Alex’s discovery, penicillin, is flown out to effect his cure. Thus once again Alexander Fleming saves the life of Winston Churchill.

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Finest Hour 115, Summer 2002

Page 14

By Curt J. Zoller

When young Winston Churchill traveled to New York in 1895 on his way to Cuba, he was greeted by William Bourke Cockran1, a New York lawyer, U.S. congressman, friend of his mother’s and of his American relatives. Clara Jerome,2 Jennie’s sister, was married to Moreton Frewen, the peripatetic “Mortal Ruin” who would commit all those typos in the editing of Churchill’s first book, The Story of the Malakand Field Force. For many years Frewen had been a friend of Cockran, who would grow to become one of Winston Churchill’s lifelong inspirations.

Churchill later wrote of “the strong impression which this remarkable man made upon my untutored mind. I have never seen his like, or in some respects his equal. With his enormous head, gleaming eyes, flexible countenance, he looked uncommonly like a portrait of Charles James Fox. It was not my fortune to hear any of his orations but his conversations, in point, in pith, in rotundity, in antithesis, and in comprehension, exceeded anything I have ever heard.”3

William Bourke Cockran was born on 28 February 1854 in County Sligo, Connaught Province, Ireland. The family name was derived from the old Irish Corcoran or O’Corcorain.4 Bourke’s father Martin owned a large farm and had other business interests. His mother, Harriet, was from a distinguished and well-to-do family, descendants of John Bourke of Cahirmayle, County Limerick, who had lost all his property during the reign of William III.

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Finest Hour 115, Summer 2002

Page 26

By Michael McMenamin

125 Years Ago:

Summer 1877 • Age 2

“Radiant, Translucent, Intense”

Lord Randolph’s summer routine in Dublin was described in his biography, written years later by Winston:

“Often on a summer’s afternoon he would repair to Howth, where the east coast cliffs rise up into bold headlands which would not be unworthy of the Atlantic waves. Here in good company he would make the ‘periplus’ as he called it— or, in other words, sail round ‘Ireland’s Eye’...catch lobsters, and cook and eat them on the rocks of the island. In the evenings he played half-crown whist in Trinity College or at the University Club or dined and argued with...his friends. Before long he had been in Donegal, in Connemara, and all over the place—‘Hail fellow, well met’ with everybody except the aristocrats and the old Tories.”

Meanwhile, Churchill’s mother was making her own impression. Edgar Vincent, an international banker in Turkey and former Ambassador to Berlin, wrote in his memoirs his impression of Lady Randolph:

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Finest Hour 115, Summer 2002

Page 11

John Updike’s “Remember the Lusitania” in the July 1st New Yorker reminded us of what Churchill said during the 1897 Malakand expedition: Everybody was shot at without result:

“To what extent was Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, distracted from his duties in the U-boat war by his cherished, though ill-advised, campaign to seize the Dardanelles? He was off in Paris concluding an agreement on the use of the Italian Navy in the Mediterranean when the Lusitania sank.… Churchill’s commitment to the safety of noncombatant shipping was less than keen: three months before the sinking he wrote to the President of the Board of Trade that it was ‘most important to attract neutral shipping to our shores in the hope especially of embroiling the USA with Germany...For our part, we want the traffic—the more the better; if some of it gets into trouble, better still.’”

Numerous historians have recorded that the Dardanelles campaign was not so much ill-advised as ill-managed; and it does not seem to have occurred to Mr. Updike that RMS Lusitania was not “noncombatant shipping.” We are left with an indiscreet remark in a private letter—testifying mainly to Churchill’s curious determination to win wars—which letter Mr. Updike wouldn’t even know about, had the Churchill family kept the papers locked up. We could do with more of Churchill’s indiscretion and determination at the moment. —EDITOR

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Finest Hour 115, Summer 2002

Page 44

By Georgina Landemare, the Churchill family cook, 1940s-1950s, updated and annotated for the modern kitchen by Barbara Langworth (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

In the fascinating life of her mother, Clementine Churchill: The Biography of a Marriage, Lady Soames acquaints us with Georgina Landemare:

“Mrs. Landemare was a superb cook, combining the best of French and English cooking. She had learned her craft the hard way, starting as No. 6 in the kitchen over which reigned the French chef, Monsieur Landemare, whom she eventually married. Clementine had come to know and appreciate her talents and her delightful personality during the Thirties, when she used to come to Chartwell for special parties or busy weekends to boost and teach the rather inexperienced cooks or promoted kitchenmaids that Clementine could then afford. When they moved into Downing Street, Mrs. Landemare came to cook for Winston and Clementine on a permanent basis. Through all the difficulties of wartime rationing, she managed to produce delicious food. After the war she stayed with us until 1953 when she retired, aged seventy.” Lady Churchill later wrote the foreword for Mrs. Landemare’s book, Recipes from No. 10, which may be republished by her granddaughter.

These delectable morsels from Mrs. Landemare's kitchen were a particular favorite of the Churchill family.

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Finest Hour 115, Summer 2002

Page 33

By David Freeman

Churchill’s Anchor: The Biography of Admiral of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound OM, GCB, GCVO, by Robin Brodhurst. Barnsley, South Yorkshire: Leo Cooper, 320 pp., illus. Regular price $36.95, member price $30.

While accompanying the Prime Minister to Washington for talks with the American high command in May 1943, Britain’s First Sea Lord, Sir Dudley Pound, was asked by a journalist: “Can you give us anything on the battle of the Atlantic? How’s it really going?” Pound looked grave, stroked his chin, and chatter died away as the entire room listened for his answer. Eventually, after long consideration, he said, still with a deadly serious expression: “I can tell you this, my boy. I’d rather be Ernie King or Dudley Pound than that fellow Doenitz!”

Victory in the crucial Battle of the Atlantic owed as much to the strategic vision of Pound as it did to the thousands of sailors who waged the struggle on salt water. For it was Pound who understood from the war’s beginning and made clear to his colleagues and superiors the salient point: “If we lose the war at sea, we lose the war.”

Amazingly, perhaps, for a subject as well documented as World War II naval history, there has never before been a dedicated biography of the man who led Britain’s Senior Service during the war’s first four years. Robin Brodhurst, who is Head of History at Pangbourne College, has at last filled the gap with this admirable work made possible, appropriately, by means of a Churchill Fellowship. Agreeably, Brodhurst, like Churchill, graduated from Sandhurst and served in the army before pursuing his interests in writing the history of naval affairs. As the title implies, Churchill figures prominently in this book, over half of which is given over to the Second World War.

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Finest Hour 115, Summer 2002

Page 36

By Jari Lybeck

Translation by Riikka Forsström

Churchill ja Suomi [Churchill and Finland] 1900-1955, by Markku Ruotsila. Helsinki: Otava 2002. Subtitle translates, “Winston Churchill’s Ideas and Action Related to Finland.” Text in Finnish. Anyone interested in acquiring this title should contact the editor; one order will be placed.

This doctoral thesis is the first of its kind in Finnish historiography. It deals with Churchill’s opinions related to Finland and the importance of Finland for Churchill in a wider, international context.

According to Ruotsila, Churchill knew little of Finland or its culture, and was interested in the country only as a part of a larger totality containing two sides: geo-strategical and ideological. Churchill’s leading ideological idea was anti-Communism. His geo-strategy concerned the balance of power in international relations.

Churchill became interested in Finland after the Bolsheviks came to power in Russia and the Western Powers thought to undermine their control. In 1919, Churchill’s vehement campaign to help the White Russians against the Reds found sympathy with Finland’s Marshal Mannerheim; they even made common plans for an Anglo-Finnish capture of St. Petersburg. But Churchill’s influence was limited, and neither Prime Minister Lloyd George nor the United States was much interested. Mannerheim found little support in Finnish ruling circles, and Churchill in frustration held Finland partly responsible for the failure “to strangle Bolshevism in its cradle.”

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Finest Hour 115, Summer 2002

Page 35

By Paul H. Courtenay

The Wicked Wit of Winston Churchill, compiled by Dominique Enright, published by Michael O’Mara Books Ltd, 2001. Hardbound, 162 pages, £10/$16.95, member price $10.

At first glance this is an attractive looking little book, but the first sentence of the introduction quickly raises doubts. Ms. Enright tells us that Churchill was born a nephew of the Duke of Marlborough!

From this point the reader’s confidence is undermined, and it is easy to spot other errors of fact before even reaching the twelve chapters of quotations, many of which are close enough, but inaccurately recorded. The author has clearly lifted many of her quotes— often word for word—from an earlier book of this genre which is itself full of inaccuracies and inventions.

A typical misquotation occurs over Churchill’s famous definition of a lie in an early debate over what some had called “Chinese slavery”: “...it cannot in the opinion of His Majesty’s Government be classified as slavery in the extreme acceptance of the word without some risk of terminological inexactitude.” For this Enright substitutes: “Perhaps we have been guilty of some terminological inexactitudes.”

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Finest Hour 115, Summer 2002

Page 32

By Richard M. Langworth

“The Gathering Storm,” a film for television produced by BBC Films and HBO Inc., starring Albert Finney as Winston Churchill and Vanessa Redgrave as Clementine. Script by Hugh Whitemore, directed by Richard Loncraine. 90 minutes. We have eight brand new reviewer’s videotapes (USA format), $40 postpaid in USA, elsewhere enquire; make payable to The Churchill Center.

Churchill films seldom engender unanimity among reviewers, but everyone in the room watching the preview, by kind invitation of the British Consul in Boston, had the same reaction: astonishment at just how good this film is. Even in a cynical and antiheroic age, filmmakers still can recreate what Lady Soames calls “The Saga” without reducing her father to a flawed burlesque or a godlike caricature. With the exception of one huge gap in the story line, “The Gathering Storm” is a masterpiece.

Unexpectedly in the male-dominated world of the 1930s, but perhaps intentionally in 2002, the greatest supporting roles are female. Clementine Churchill is one of these. Badly misplayed by Sean Phillips in the “Wilderness Years” documentary two decades ago (FH 38), Clemmie gets justice at the hands of Vanessa Redgrave.

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Finest Hour 115, Summer 2002

Page 24


Don’t be taken in—they look genuine, but they’re reproductions.


Autograph Letter Signed by Winston S. Churchill, British Prime Minister, on debossed House of Commons Notepaper, thanking a well-wisher for a kind message on his birthday, 1947. Folded once, slightly yellowed from age, otherwise a fine copy. $1200.” (This was an actual offer on the Internet, but the honest seller, alerted by an observer, conscientiously withdrew the item.)

More than one seller or collector has been taken in by these remarkable facsimile holograph notes, produced by Churchill’s Private Office from 1945 through at least 1959— some of them so convincing that casual observers swear they are originals. But distinguishing one is easy: if there is no salutation, it’s a facsimile.

The Private Office acted in self-defense. From the time Winston Churchill was thrown out of office in the July 1945 General Election almost until the end of his days, letters, cards, and gifts flowed to Hyde Park Gate, Downing Street and Chartwell, attesting to the esteem in which he was held by ordinary people all over the world.

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