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Finest Hour 118

Finest Hour 118, Spring 2003

Page 34

In 1900 The Chicago Tribune began publishing "the highly colored dispatches of an upstart war correspondent anxious to parlay his South African heroics into a seat in Parliament."1 Fifteen years later the Tribune's publisher, Colonel Robert R. McCormick, after a friendly interview with Churchill, said he was "the most aggressive person I ever met."2

Given McCormick's well-known anti-British prejudice and isolationist bent, a surprisingly close relationship developed between the two magnificoes in the years leading up to World War II. A Tribune editor wrote, "Winston Churchill caused much gossip when he came to Chicago, because he was the guest of one of Chicago's most anti-British pillars....the last person Chicagoans expected to be host. [Yet] the two men couldn't have been a happier combination."3

McCormick's Anglophobia allegedly stemmed from personal effronteries he'd experienced as a schoolboy in England.4 Although he felt comfortable fox hunting and enjoying an English-like country house, he had no qualms about comparing the British Empire to the Third Reich, or saying that "Rhodes scholars were British spies planted in Uncle Sam's bosom."5

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Finest Hour 118, Spring 2003

Page 36


What Is The Churchill Centre? What Does It Stand For? And Where Is It Going?

In late December, at the request of one of its committees, The Churchill Centre invited a famous world figure to deliver a major address. On February 6th, the same committee unanimously voted to rescind the invitation.

What happened in the interim was a speech in which the individual fell short of his reputation: he delivered inflammatory and insulting remarks about, as Churchill might say, "a certain great personage." The remarks were ill-considered, intemperate, and unjustified. The Centre was threatened with a mass walk-out should the speaker appear at the event in question.

The identity of the speaker or the event are not the point. The point has to do with questions of much greater importance: What is The Churchill Centre? What does it stand for? And where is it going?

Our mission is plain enough: "To foster leadership, statesmanship, vision and boldness among democratic and freedom loving peoples worldwide, through the thoughts, words, works and deeds of Winston Spencer Churchill." Does this suggest only congenial and chummy meetings, limited to right thinking guests who agree with us? Or does it imply principled, learned discussion of controversial issues of statesmanship in the Churchill context, with people we respect? Do we "strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends," as members of the legal profession are encouraged to do? Do we subscribe to Churchill's famous Rule 12 of The Other Club: "Nothing in the rules of the Club shall interfere with the rancour and asperity of party politics"?

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Finest Hour 118, Spring 2003

Page 05

For many of us, The Churchill Centre was founded to serve as the worldwide focal point of interest in Winston Churchill: to assist "Churchillians"—critics and admirers alike—in pursuing their varied interests in the people and events Churchill touched during his unprecedented career as statesman, writer, speaker, painter, and sage. We exist equally to awaken and mobilize the appreciation of Churchill and his achievements which resides—however unrecognized—in vast numbers of people who cherish liberty, and are willing to defend it.

Although headquartered in Washington, D.C., the Centre is not a reincarnation of the now-dormant International Churchill Society of the United States. The Centre is a new entity with a worldwide mandate, international leadership and, we hope and believe, universal appeal to anyone whose political and personal freedoms are of high importance.

This international aspect cannot be overemphasized—and that is why our Board of Governors voted unanimously in January to "internationalize" the spelling of our name. The Churchill Centre has no national borders.

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Finest Hour 118, Spring 2003

Page 16

By Michael McMenamin

125 Years Ago:

Winter 1877-78-Age 3

"An occasion to strike at the Government safely"

In early 1878, after an armistice had been signed in the Russo-Turkish War with the Russian armies at the gates of Constantinople, the Disraeli government was prepared to go to war with Russia if it seized the Dardanelles. Lord Randolph was opposed to his own government's policy. In a letter to Winston's mother prior to a Commons debate, Lord Randolph expressed the quandary in which he found himself:

"I am sure the debate will be very stormy. I am in great doubt what to do. I think I could make a killing speech against the Government....Of course, I have my future to think of, and I also have strong opinions against the Government policy. It is very difficult. I shan't decide until the last night of the debate...." In the event, Lord Randolph did not vote against the Government and engaged in secret correspondence during February with his friend and a leading Liberal politician, Sir Charles Dilke, on introducing a motion of censure on his party's policy, and whether the Liberal Party would support him.

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Finest Hour 118, Spring 2003

Page 18

125 Years Ago:

Spring 1878-Age 3

"This silent youth could bite"

In March, Lord Randolph Churchill seized an opportunity to make his first major impression on the House of Commons and bring himself to the attention of the Conservative leadership. He attacked Mr. Sclater-Booth, President of the Local Government Board, and his reform proposal ("this crowning desertion of Tory principles, this supreme violation of political honesty"). Winston later wrote that "such language had not been heard in the House of Commons since Lord Cranborne had fought the Franchise Bill and, coming as it did from a member who so seldom addressed the House, at a time when party discipline was so good and the prestige of the Government so high, it created quite a commotion."

In the event, the reform proposal was dropped by the Government and Lord Randolph thought he had not suffered politically: in fact quite the opposite. In a letter to his father, the Duke of Marlborough, Randolph wrote, "I do not think the Government is at all ill disposed towards me for my speech against them. I have found them lately singularly civil. Nobody regrets the Bill, except Sclater-Booth, who is unapproachable on the subject."

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Finest Hour 118, Spring 2003

Page 46


Timeline: Milestones in the Life of Winston S. Churchill

With the encouragement of many on our internet Listserv, I have developed this prototype timeline of Winston Churchill's life, an ongoing project: what you see here is the first draft.

Ideally I wanted to record a similar date for each office Churchill held, but the varying methods of appointment for different offices and changing parliamentary procedures prevent this. The only consistent dates that can be quoted are the resignations of Prime Ministers, whereupon the old government goes into caretaker mode, and when the monarch commissions the leader of a party to form a new government. I have elected to sacrifice consistency for added accuracy and detail.

Some of the dates listed here differ from those in "Ampersand" in Finest Hour 114, page 46, and I would like to explain why. (References to the official biography are "BV" for biographic volumes, "CV" for companion ; volumes. "BV5" means Biographic Volume 5; "CV2/2" means Companion to Volume 2, Part 2.)


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Finest Hour 118, Spring 2003

Page 12

Actor Albert Finney, who played a creditable Winston Churchill in the BBC/HBO presentation of "The Gathering Storm" (FH 115:32) received an "Emmy" from the American Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Accepting the award Finney launched into Winston-speak we'd never have had from Robert Hardy: "Dearest Emmy! You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: victory, victory at all costs and over all who would seize this honour from us. You ask, what shall I say to those who would venture into the Empire of this new medium, made more sinister by the stage lights of perverted science? I answer that we shall cast them on the couches, we shall cast them on Long Beaches, we shall cast them where no studio can entertain their wiles; we shall never surrender....Never in the field of television production was so much owed by so many to so few....Now this is not the end of this speech. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is the end of the beginning. I ask you all, therefore, to follow me on to the sunlit uplands of this podium...." (There was much more of this, but enough is enough.)

British satirical magazine Private Eye (with tongue firmly in cheek): "Was Churchill the Most Evil Man of the 20th Century?...A leading German historian has produced new evidence to suggest that Churchill deliberately ordered the mass bombing of German cities in which millions of women and children were murdered; gave instructions that German U-boats should be sunk on sight; was responsible for starting the war in order to further his long-standing ambition to become prime minister. In his new book, Churchill Worse Than Hitler, Professor Wolfgang B claims that the so-called 'London Blitz' never took place and was simply a fabrication of 'Churchill's lie machine.' But British historian David Irving accused his German colleague of'outrageous plagiarism,' saying all these theories were 'copied out of my own book, Churchill Worse Than Hitler, now accepted as the only true record of what happened in WW2, when Germany stood alone against the armed might of Britain's hated and feared Home Guard....'" 

Finest Hour 118, Spring 2003

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"Summitry and The Special Relationship" is the theme of the 20th International Churchill Conference in Bermuda. There could be no more exciting or relevant location: half a century ago here, President Eisenhower, Prime Minister Churchill and Prime Minister Laniel of France met in the first postwar "summit" to discuss weighty issues of peace and war.

In January 1953, with the Cold War increasing in intensity, Dwight Eisenhower took the oath of office as President of the United States. Two months later Stalin died, and new, unknown leaders took control of the Kremlin, just as the Soviets successfully tested their first hydrogen bomb. An uneasy truce divided Korea, with Communist China on one side and United Nations forces on the other. In Germany, inadequate in numbers, American, British and French soldiers faced overwhelmingly powerful Soviet armies across the Elbe. In the Middle East the nascent state of Israel was surrounded by hostile, aggressive Arab nations bent on its destruction, while the Egyptians exerted increasing pressure to force the stretched British contingent from the Suez Canal zone. In the Far East, French appeals to America for help against Communist insurgents in Indo-China fell on deaf ears.

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Finest Hour 118, Spring 2003

Page 41

"What a downy bird he is. He will always stoop to conquer."~wsc

Marlborough: His Life and Times, by Winston S. Churchill. Two volumes, 2000 pages, University of Chicago Press, $170 hardbound, $50 softbound. Member prices $155 hardbound, $38 softbound.

At last Churchill's greatest biography has been republished in softbound and hardbound format: the first unabridged appearance since the Folio Society edition twelve years ago, and far more affordable.

The books are offprinted from the postwar two-volume Harrap edition (Woods A40d), which is completely unabridged. Though the type size is relatively small compared to the 1930s editions, Churchill made many corrections to the original work; thus we have here his final approved text. The new books are much more durable and readable than the postwar sets, which cost considerably more in fine jacketed condition. And for students and readers, the softbound version is a bargain— much nicer than the small English paperbacks we have had to get by with to date for reading copies.

The hardbound set lists for $170 and the softbound set for $50. Since we can't imagine anyone wanting just one, the Churchill Book Club will offer them as two-volume sets, at lower than either of the major internet booksellers—with a generous $15 discount off retail for the hardbacks.

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Finest Hour 118, Spring 2003

Page 37


Churchill at War 1940-45, by Lord Moran. Carroll & Graf, 352 pp. softbound, $18, member price $12

May 10th, 1940 is surely a date as ominous as December 7th or September 11th. It marked the true beginning of World War II, when Hitler's explosive invasion of Belgium and the Netherlands presaged their early fall and the conquest of France in six weeks. On the other hand, May 24th, 1940, is not a date that today strikes a chord. But to Prime Minister Winston Churchill, only two weeks in Downing Street, it was probably the most despairing day of his life.

The French had been overwhelmed by the new blitz offensive and their surrender was already contemplated. One British army was holding off the Germans at Calais in the desperate hope of giving the rest of the British Expeditionary Force time to regroup or—as they came to do—to abandon all their weapons and materiel on their retreat and then embark for England from the port of Dunkirk.

Churchill, on the morning of May 24th, decreed that no more troops or planes should be sent to France. As the Nazis began to fortify the French coast only twenty-one miles from the cliffs of Kent, he ordered fifty aircraft to mine the sea lanes and overnight evacuated residents of the coastal towns to prepare for an imminent invasion. At this "darkest hour," as Churchill called it, Hitler offered peace terms, which the British ambassador in Washington, for one, found very attractive. The gist of Hitler's offer was: "I'll keep Europe, you keep your empire and I will respect your island independence."

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