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Finest Hour 120

Finest Hour 120, Autumn 2003

Page 48

Oil Painting by Winston S. Churchill, 1938
Coombs 286, 24 x 36 inches, unsigned.
Inscribed on the reverse:
"Painted by my husband. Clementine S. Churchill"

Reproduced by courtesy of Wylma Wayne, Minnie Churchill and Churchill Heritage Ltd. A framed, limited edition of this painting is being presented to Benefactor registrants of the 20th International Churchill Conference in Bermuda in November 2003. A few remaining copies are available from The Churchill Centre in Washington. Please contact Daniel Myers, Executive Director.

Churchill painted "View of Chartwell" in 1938 from high on the hill to the left of today's car park, his ponds in the foreground and the Weald of Kent stretching out behind. It was Churchill's favorite vantage point to survey his estate. He once told his secretary Grace Hamblin, "You're a fool if you haven't been up there."

Recalling her memories of half a century at Chartwell for the Fourth International Churchill Conference in 1987, Miss Hamblin wrote:

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Finest Hour 120, Autumn 2003

Page 05

"The following list of Churchill Centre accomplishments was published in a recent Chartwell Bulletin, but I deem it important enough to repeat in our journal of record:

Symposia and Seminars: Churchill as Peacemaker, Churchill's Iron Curtain Speech, Churchill in the Postwar Years, Churchill's Marlborough, Manard E. Pont Seminar, Churchill and the American Civil War, eight Student Seminars since 1995, seventy academic panels since 1988, American Political Science Association Churchill programs since 1996.

The Churchill Lecture: Amb. Raymond Seitz, College of William & Mary, 1998: Christopher Matthews, George Washington University, 2001:David Fromkin, GWU, 2003.

Scholarships: University of Dallas Churchill's England Program; Centre for Second World War Studies, University of Edinburgh.

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Finest Hour 120, Autumn 2003

Page 28

By Michael McMenamin

125 Years Ago:

Autumn 1878 • Age 4

"A woman of exceptional capacity"

Famine had come to Ireland again in 1877 with the failure of the potato crop, and continued for two years while young Winston was still in residence with his parents and grandparents. Government aid was totally insufficient and Churchill's grandmother, the Duchess of Marlborough, initiated a famine relief fund.

In his biography of his father, Churchill described his grandmother as "a woman of exceptional capacity, energy and decision, and she laboured earnestly and ceaselessly to collect and administer a great fund. Its purposes were to supply food, fuel and clothing, especially for the aged and weak; to provide small sums to keep the families of able-bodied men in temporary distress out of the workhouse; and thirdly, while carefully guarding against any kind of proselytism, to give grants to schools, so as to secure free meals of bread and potatoes and, if possible, a little clothing for the children attending them."

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Finest Hour 120, Autumn 2003

Page 47

A compendium of facts eventually to appear as a reader's guide.


Listed are works generally considered to be stand-alone and book-length, including all the speech collections (*) and derivative works from previously published books (**) —but not individual speech volumes bound as volumes, such as Grabhorn or Overbrook Press wartime productions or the Danish Taler I Danmark. The 2003 total: fifty-one works (twelve posthumous) in eighty-one volumes (twenty-two posthumous).

1. The Story of the Malakand Field Force, 1898
2. The River War (2 vols.), 1899
3. Savrola: A Tale of the Revolution in Laurania, 1899
4. London to Ladysmith via Pretoria, 1900
5. Lan Hamilton's March, 1900
6. Mr Brodrick's Army, 1903*
7. Lord Randolph Churchill (2 vols.), 1906

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Finest Hour 120, Autumn 2003

Page 36


With Churchill, what you saw was usually what you got.
With Roosevelt what you saw was rarely what you got.

Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship, by Jon Meacham. Random House, 512 pp., illus., $29-95. Member price $22.

For me, a child born in the American South in 1969, "Winston Churchill" began as a byline. My grandfather, a Tennessee judge, liked to read and re-read his way through Churchill, from The Second World War to The Story of the Malakand Field Force. I can still picture those volumes on his desk, and I remember the first time I read My Early Life, loving the images of martial splendor and the crack of gunfire.

All of this resonated, I think, because I spent my own first years on a Civil War battlefield—Missionary Ridge, overlooking Chattanooga. Great battles and heroes were the things many boys of my age and place dreamed about. Later, the story of Churchill's defiance between May 1940 and Pearl Harbor took on a particular meaning when I discovered that my grandfather, impressed and inspired by the PM's courage, had joined the navy in mid-1941, serving until the end in 1945.

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Finest Hour 120, Autumn 2003

Page 15

Speaking in defense of the Patriot Act, which gives unprecedented powers to investigators of terrorist activities, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft told the American Enterprise Institute: "In the long winter of 1941, Winston Churchill appealed to the United States for help in defending freedom from Nazism with the phrase, 'Give us the tools and we will finish the job.' In the days after September 11th, we appealed to Congress for help in defending freedom from terrorism with the same refrain....Congress responded by passing the USA Patriot Act by an overwhelming margin. And while our job is not finished, we have used the tools provided in the Patriot Act to fulfill our first responsibility to protect the American people." Ashcroft is now defending the act, which opponents say violates civil liberties.


The United States Congress is presenting Prime Minister Tony Blair with a Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of his support for America since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, and his willingness to join the United States in war against Iraq. The last British leader to be so honored was Winston Churchill.

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Finest Hour 120, Autumn 2003

Page 20


"If it weren't for painting I couldn't live; I couldn't bear the strain of things."

As an artist and art therapist, I first . began to study Churchill through his painting. After hearing Edwina Sandys discuss her grandfather's artwork at the Fulton, Missouri conference in 1996, I was inspired to cover the same subject at our Northern Ohio Churchill Centre group. But it was a poster over the door of a room at the mental health center where I practice art therapy that interested me in exploring the psyche of Churchill.

The poster, put up by the National Association for the Mentally Ill to inspire mental patients to imagine and create useful lives, listed Churchill among illustrious deceased individuals said to have suffered mental illness. There certainly couldn't be a better "poster child" than Churchill—but what illness were we talking about?

The poster seemed to credit a commonly held belief that Churchill suffered from what is now called Bi-Polar Disorder or more commonly "manic-depression." This bothered me a bit, because the periodic episodes of depression I had read about in Churchill's biographies were all connected to sad or tragic life events and we are not classifying people who are grieving as mentally ill. Although not particularly a follower of the Freudian tradition, I decided to read about Churchill's childhood to find the roots of his supposed illness. There I was presented dramatically with a very different diagnosis than manic-depression.

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Finest Hour 120, Autumn 2003

Page 34


Churchill as Historian, by Maurice Ashley. London: Seeker & Warburg; New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1968, 246 pp., illus. Frequency on the secondhand market: uncommon.

Most people think of Winston Churchill as a statesman and Prime Minister. But it was his writing that first brought Churchill fame, and the remuneration from his writing enabled him to leave the army and enter and remain in politics. So important an aspect of his life deserves serious attention, and thirty-five years ago, Maurice Ashley attempted to provide it with Churchill as Historian: the first of what are now several works devoted to that subject.

If the book delivered on its promise of being the first study of how and why Churchill wrote history, and an assessment of what he wrote, this would be a valuable work. Unfortunately, Ashley spends too much time retelling the stories contained in Churchill's own books and too little time analyzing them, or the man behind them. As a result, the book is a decent primer to those first learning about Churchill's writing, but provides little insight to the moderately wellinformed Churchillian.

Ashley opens with three chapters introducing himself and his subject. Hired by Churchill out of Oxford to act as research assistant on Marlborough, he had ample opportunity to observe Churchill at work and leisure. As with so many biographies, especially those about so idiosyncratic a personality, this is the most interesting part of his book.

Ashley's focus on literary pursuits provides an unusual angle of attack and a good sense of what is to follow. But, gifted more as a researcher than a writer, Ashley seems loath to exclude any fact, even if it does not fit smoothly into his narrative. Thus much of the introduction reads like a string of anecdotes lacking a central thread.

The fourth chapter is entitled "Early Works" but examines only the Malakand Field Force and The River War. (Ashley excludes London to Ladysmith and Ian Hamilton's March as ahistorical journalism and Savrola because it is fiction.) Opening with a summary of both works, we move on to consider the insight they provide of Churchill the man. He treats Churchill's second-guessing of commanders in both campaigns with great delicacy. The examination of the changes made—or not made—in the abridged editions of The River War elaborate on this point.

Such changes illuminate two other factors which Ashley thinks tainted much of Churchill's work. The first is an excessive love of the wellwritten phrase. Churchill, he says, could not be prevailed upon to excise sections he had written in praise of General Gordon, even after he learned they were false, because he could not bring himself to waste such beautiful language. The irony is that Ashley doesn't recognize his own tendency to hang on to every fact.

The second is Churchill's magnanimity, or, less generously, the anticipation that his subjects might figure in his future career, which tended to obscure his objectivity. If Churchill's criticism of Kitchener in The River War had not been tempered by the revised editions, Ashley argues, their relationship during the Great War might have been untenable.

For the remainder of his study Ashley examines each of Churchill's books individually, generally dedicating a chapter to every two volumes. While he begins strongly with Lord Randolph Churchill, which he considers Churchill's second-greatest book after Marlborough, the value of the text fades quickly. Beginning with The World Crisis, the book reads more like "Ashley as Historian." While summaries of the topics Churchill covers may help new readers to decide what to read, they provide little insight.

Moreover, many of Ashley's conclusions appear jarringly unfounded— and undefended. For example, he criticizes Churchill for blaming the naval defeat at Coronel in 1914 on "faulty wording of naval messages." (78) Wasn't Churchill himself "a master of words," who "had been installed in the Admiralty in 1911 to overhaul the naval staff"? That a man as prolix as Churchill, not to mention as intelligent and fond of "good" words, would be expected to be a "master" of telegramming—which he may not have personally drafted—is a claim hardly worth crediting, and Ashley takes no time to defend this point.

The strong examination of Churchill's motives behind writing Lord Randolph and the contrast of his take in The Eastern Front from that of other historians are the exceptions which ought to have been Ashley's rule. With Marlborough, the author's bias is too strong to go without defense or comment. Ashley slights his reader by breezing quickly through the few examples he gives of the research failures which marred that work.

At 246 pages, Churchill as Historian is certainly not an overly long read, and the neophyte looking to gain a sense of what Churchill wrote or how he went about writing will benefit from it. The serious Churchillian is likely to regret the time he has spent. Even the scholar, however, can gain some benefit from a cursory glance. By skipping sections where Ashley is the only subject, one may glean value from sections devoted to his far more interesting subject.

Mr. Risher is "a petulant, pedantic and curmudgeonly private citizen" of Washington, D. C.

Finest Hour 120, Autumn 2003

Page 32


Clementine Churchill, by Mary Soames. Updated and revised edition. Mariner books, softbound, 752 pp., illus. $18. Member price $14.

We Shall Not Fail: The Inspiring Leadership of Winston Churchill, by Celia Sandys and Jonathan Littman. Portfolio/Penguin, 270 pp., $24.95. Member price $20

Churchill, by Sebastian Haffner, translated by John Brownjohn. David & Charles, 182 pp., softbound, $15.95. Member price $13.

Lady Soames's first book, published in 1979, a loving yet measured biography of her mother, is now brought up to date and expanded. The new version is a mite easier on the eyes (slightly larger print size) and the main text runs about fifty pages longer than in the original. Even the photographs have been extended— there are now 131 of them.

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Finest Hour 120, Autumn 2003

Page 30

Family Industry: Four New Books by Sir Winston's Granddaughter, Grandson, and Daughter


Chasing Churchill: The Travels of Winston Churchill, by Celia Sandys. Carroll & Graf, 288 pp., illus, $25. Member price $18.

Never Give In! The Best of Winston Churchill's Speeches, selected and edited by his grandson, Winston S. Churchill, 592 pp., illus., $27.95. Member price $21.

We were recently obliged to write a major newspaper in defense of the Churchill family's "cottage industry": writing about Sir Winston, which the spokesman for an alleged Churchill organization had termed "Somewhat Disreputable" (page 7)—unthinkingly, since Churchill himself began the practice in 1908 with his biography of his father. Besides, what his family with its special perspective delivers is usually good material which we wouldn't get from outsiders in quite the same way.

Take Celia Sandys, for example, who has now published five books about her grandfather, among which Chasing Churchill is something only a family member could properly write. Given special entree as a close relative around the world, she traveled widely in Winston Churchill's footsteps, learning much that is new about his travels.

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