A compendium of facts eventually to appear as a reader’s guide.
The Rt Hon Sir Winston Churchill, KG, OM, CH, TD, PC, FRS, MP had several other “letters,” often represented by that most coveted citation, “the Order of Etcetera.” Here are the usual letters attached to his name, in the order of precedence:
Rt Hon: Right Honorable, a prefix denoting peers and peeresses below the degree of Marquess/Marchioness, all members of the Privy Council, and Lord Mayors of certain principal cities. Churchill became a Rt Hon by becoming a PC in 1907.
KG: Knight of the Garter. The highest honour for military and civil service a Briton may receive. Selection is made personally by the Sovereign and is given in only one class, knight. Membership is limited to the Sovereign and twenty-five knights. Churchill was invested with the Garter on 24 April 1953 and was formally installed at Windsor on 14 June 1954. As a knighthood, it takes precedence in the titles after his name. Read More >
Our executive director and editor daily answer Churchill questions from all over the world, which are often familiar, but occasionally intriguing. In September we had an urgent request from the Kenton County, Kentucky Sheriff’s Office for information on Churchill’s last speech in America, and whether he used his famous Harrow quote, “never give in.”
Do you know the answer? We didn’t until we referred to the excellent chronology in volume 8 of Robert Rhodes James’s Winston S. Churchill: His Complete Speeches 1897-1963 (New York: Bowker, 1974). Knowing that Churchill last spoke to Congress on 17 January 1952, we worked forward from there. There is only one later entry, from a press conference in Washington on 25 June 1954:
“I have come with Anthony Eden to talk over a few family matters, and to try to make sure that there are no misunderstandings. The English-speaking family—or brotherhood—is a rather large one, and not entirely without a few things here and there. If we can work together, we may get along all right ourselves and do a lot to help our neighbours in the world, some of whom, on both sides of the Iron Curtain, seem to face even greater problems than we do ourselves.” Read More >
FDR in 1944: A Diminished President, by Matthew B. Wills. Ivy House, 192pp., illus., $22.95. Order from the publisher, (800) 948-2786.
There seems to be a growing fascination with and trend toward issuing studies of great persons in the context of their personal histories—medical and matrimonial. Recent studies of John Kennedy and Princess Diana are but two examples. This privately-published volume is such a book—a warm and feeling description of the last full year of Franklin Roosevelt’s life as his health worsened, though this vital fact was withheld from all but a tiny handful of close aides. Wills’s focus is on the impact of that disastrous decline on American policy as the war turned solidly in the Allies’ favor.
The author practiced law for a third of a century in Colorado before retiring and turning to his love of American history. He had a published study of the many wartime missions of Harry Hopkins to his credit before undertaking this analysis of the complex tale of Roosevelt’s decline. Not a medical man himself, Wills seems to have sought good advice from others as he pored over papers from the FDR Library and other resources better to understand and relate how the President’s declining faculties affected political and military decision-making in Washington, and with the Big Three, including Churchill. Only when FDR reported to Congress early in 1945, just after returning from the Yalta conference, was his obvious decline on public display for all to see. He died just three months later. Read More >
Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill, A Brief Account of a Long Life, by Gretchen Rubin. Ballantine, 308 pages, $22.95. Member price $16.
Gretchen Rubin teaches at Yale Law School and School of Management. She has mined the work of other authors to compile this book and present her case in a “Churchill vs. Churchill,” pro vs. con format. In paired chapters, a positive, admirable, likeable Churchill emerges, only to be dashed by a pursuing chapter of negative rancor.
If you read the jacket of this book, you may be inclined to buy it. It has an intriguing title, and declares it is for 21st century readers. Rubin’s only other work, Power Money Fame Sex: A User’s Guide—a very 21st century title reminding one of supermarket check-out stand headlines—may explain the author’s inclusion of lurid, attention-grabbing headings such as “Churchill the Drinker,” “Churchill the Spendthrift,” “Churchill and Sex,” and “Churchill as Husband.” I was reminded of Celia Sandys’s remark quoted in The Los Angeles Times (Calendar, July 27th): “People think, ‘Ah, if I write a book with Churchill in the title it’ll sell a few copies. But if I say something nasty about him it will—shock, horror—sell more.'”
The table of contents lists forty chapters. Why forty? Rubin tells us that historically, “forty meant many.” Some chapters are only a page or two, and some give the impression that a stretch was needed to meet the required forty. Read More >
The blistering volume of Churchill publishing—print, digital, and video—continues apace, straining our resources to keep up. Among the offerings this season are a fine new catalogue of Churchill paintings produced by the literary marriage of David Coombs and Minnie Churchill; another attempt at marrying Winston Churchill to the “brief life” treatment; and a three-hour television opus which might have better served as an obituary, except for its length. Together these productions remind me of the title of a 1994 Hugh Grant film. Let’s take the funeral first.
Very Nice, and. Very Dull
Churchill, a three-hour documentary produced by TWI (UK) and PBS (USA). Narrated by Sir Ian McKellen.
No runs, no hits, no errors,” the American baseball expression for an inning in which nothing happens, well summarizes this three-hour lullaby. In Britain it runs in three separate parts, which may keep more people watching. Read More >
Henry Alexander Laughlin was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1892 and attended Princeton University. After distinguished artillery service in World War I, he joined Houghton Mifflin Company’s Riverside Press as an editor. By 1939 he had become president of Houghton Mifflin, and began to make a series of highly controversial decisions that eventually made the publishing company stronger both financially and in prestige. The first of these decisions was to publish Mein Kampf, by Adolf Hitler, because he felt it could be used to demonstrate the true nature of the man who led Germany. The second was to secure the war memoirs of Winston Churchill. Many inside Houghton Mifflin, and in the greater publishing world, thought it foolish to assign a statesman to write his war memoirs so soon after the war was over, while others believed that war memoirs would not sell well to a war-weary public. But Churchill’s The Second World War became one of the best-selling books of all time. Laughlin continued to publish great works from distinguished authors, including Bernard De Voto, John Kenneth Galbraith, Rachel Carson and]. R. R. Tolkien. He ended his long stewardship in I960 and lived in pleasant retirement with his wife Rebecca until his death in 1978. His memoir of Churchill, read at the January 1965 meeting of the Massachusetts Historical Society, just before WSC’s stroke and death, is probably the last speech about Sir Winston delivered in his lifetime. It was brought to our attention by Ted Hutchinson, and is published here by kind permission of the Society.
So much has been said and written about Sir Winston, so many anecdotes told, actual or legendary, that you may wonder why I should feel justified in adding to the list. The only reason I can put forward is that, while I have no new breathtaking revelations to offer, I have been with him a good number of times, and after each, I sat down and put on paper everything I could remember of what had happened or what I had seen. I have had to make selections and omit many details, even on the limited number of glimpses I shall tell you of, but whatever I do say comes to you at first hand. Read More >
Winston Churchill first visited the island of Madeira on 17 October 1899. He was sailing on the Dunottar Castle to South Africa as a newspaper correspondent covering the Boer War. Also on board was the Army Commander-in-Chief, Sir Redvers Buller. Churchill writes in My Early Life that there was no wireless in those days and for the duration of the voyage they “dropped completely out of the world.” While in Madeira he wrote to his Mother, “We have had a nasty rough voyage and I have been grievously sick.” (See also page 17.)
He was not to visit the island for another fifty years; in the intervening years, however, he enjoyed the fruits of Madeira vines and once commented when drinking a vintage from the late 1700s, “My God, do you realize this Madeira was made when Marie Antoinette was still alive?” Read More >
Transportation writers hold a handful of passages in special respect: Ken Purdy’s sketch ofTazio Nuvolari, the greatest racing driver who ever lived; Lucius Beebe’s paean to The 20th Century Limited, greatest train in the world; Don Vorderman’s tribute to Simon Templars Hirondel, the greatest car in all fiction. Churchill’s long association with the Cunard-White Star Queens suggests that another such piece by John Malcolm Brinnin, reprinted by permission from his book, Sway of the Grand Saloon (NY: Barnes & Noble, 2000), is not out of place here. —Editor
Twelve-ten AM, 25 September 1967. The Royal Mail Ship Queen Elizabeth, largest ship in the world, twenty-seven years old, is bound westward. At some point in the early morning she will meet and pass the Queen Mary, the next-largest ship in the world, thirty-one years old, bound east. This will be their final meeting, their last sight of one another, ever.
For more than two decades they have been the proudest sisters on the ocean, deferential to one another, secure in the knowledge that they are the most celebrated things on water since rafts went floating down the Tigris and Euphrates. Read More >
‘Queen Mary’ leaves Southampton, UK, on her maiden voyage to New York, USA – 27 May 1936The building of the Queen Mary represents the decision of Great Britain to regain the Blue Ribbon of the Atlantic passenger service. This decision has been long delayed and many circumstances most vexatious to British minds have obstructed it.
After the Great War was over, as part of the conditions of peace, Germany was obliged to yield up her transatlantic liners in replacement of the far greater volume of tonnage sunk by the U-boats. We therefore received the two prewar German liners, Imperator and Bismarck, which were renamed respectively the Berengaria and Majestic. These vessels had been built as long ago as 1912. They belonged to the epoch before men’s minds had been stretched by the terrible convulsions of the war. They were magnificent ships, the equals in many respects of their contemporaries, the Mauretania, Lusitania and Aquitania. But the possibilities of science, the modern ideas of comfort, convenience and luxury, rendered it possible to design and construct after the war vessels which were finer and faster. Read More >
(Includes all liners cited, listed alphabetically)
Berengaria (1912-1938, 52,226 tons, 883 feet, three funnels, quadruple screws, and top speed of 23.5 knots), served briefly as Hamburg American’s Impemtor, laid up in Germany during the war, became a Cunarder in 1919. See Les Streater, Berengaria: Cunard’s “Happy Ship” (Charleston, SC: Tempus, 2001). Paul Knapp, The Berengaria Exchange (New York: Dial, 1972) details the transatlantic trip immediately preceding the one on which Churchill sailed.
Britannia (1887-1909, 6,525 tons, 465 feet, two funnels, single screw). With Victoria and Oceania, part of the “Jubilee” class liners, then P&O s fastest and largest vessels, built to honor the Queens golden jubilee. This and other P&O ship information is found in Duncan Haws, Merchant Fleets in Profile 1: The Ships of the P&O, Orient and Blue Anchor Lines (Cambridge: Patrick Stephens, 1978).
Carthage and Rome (1881-1903/12, 5,013 tons, 430 feet, two funnels, single screws). First P&O ships over 5,000 tons. Rome became the cruise ship Vectis, 1904-12. Read More >
Dr. Sterling is on the faculty of The George Washington University and is editor of The Churchillian, published by the Washington Society for Churchill. His “Churchill and Air Travel” appeared in FH 118.
Throughout his long life, Winston Churchill was a prolific traveler. He enjoyed a variety of modes of transport, including on one notable and photographed occasion, a camel.1 Of the many ships on which he took passage, Churchill is most closely identified with the Cunard liner Queen Mary, on which he sailed numerous times (more than any other single vessel) during and after World War II—and about which he wrote the tribute published in this issue.
Churchill sailed on at least fifteen different liners over nearly six decades.2 His trips varied considerably in length and the conditions under which he sailed, but few sources detail them. Passing reference is often made (“Churchill sailed…”), offering no information on the ship involved. What follows is culled from a wide variety of sources on ships and Churchill. Read More >
After Lord Randolph’s scathing attack on the President of the Local Government Board earlier in the year, nothing more was heard from Lord Randolph on the political front. As Winston wrote in his biography of his father, “For the rest of the Parliament Lord Randolph was mute. Scarcely a mention of his name occurs in the ‘Debates.’ He was absent from many important divisions. His relations and feelings towards the Government seem somewhat to have improved as the Russian war crisis receded, and he remained an impassive spectator of their doings in Afghanistan, in Zululand, and the Transvaal.”
Meanwhile, Churchill’s parents continued during the winter their extensive travels throughout Ireland. As Lord Randolph wrote to his mother, “This weather is certainly very wintry and does not seem to lend itself to anything congenial, while anything more odious or unfortunate for fishing cannot be well imagined. I fished for two days in the Suir and never moved a fish, nor did anyone else. However, I have added another Irish county (Tipperary) to my peregrinations in this island.” Read More >
Crown Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia was born in Suite 212 at Claridge’s Hotel in London, recalls the Los Angeles Times. “Yet for the heir to the throne ever to lay claim to his kingdom, just vacated by the Nazis, he had to be born on Yugoslav territory. Luckily for King Peter II and his wife, Princess Alexandra of Greece, Churchill came to the rescue, declaring the luxurious hotel room in central London a slice of Yugoslavia.” Can anyone confirm this?
The originator of the campaign to recall California Governor Gray Davis, Congressman Darrell Issa, told CNN that one of the leading Republican contenders, Tom McClintock, had promised him months ago that he would abort his candidacy if it would split the Republican vote with Arnold Schwarzenegger. McClintock replied that Winston Churchill would call this Issa’s comment a “terminological inexactitude,” because the word “lie” was disallowed in parliamentary debate Read More >
Q: I’ve been set what I thought was • an easy research question about Churchill, but despite looking at websites and books I’ve been unable to find out the exact dates he was Prime Minister.
A: Blow your teacher away by • reporting that he was technically Prime Minister three times. The extra one was when the wartime coalition broke up and he formed a “caretaker” government of Conservatives until the 1945 election. The exact dates are: Coalition Prime Minister, 10May 1940 to 23 May 1945; Conservative Prime Minister, 23 May 1945 to 26 July 1945; Conservative Prime Minister: 26 October 1951 to 5 April 1955. See also “Timelines” in FH 116.
Q: In its obituary of Lord , Shawcross, The Times of July 11th vehemently denied that, as attorney-general in the post-World War II government, he ever said, “We are the masters now.” I have always believed he did. Moreover, I understood that the then-Leader of the Opposition, Winston Churchill, retorted, “Oh no you’re not. The people put you there and the people will put you out again.” Can anyone provide the definitive version? (Alistair Cooke has already corrected two factual errors in this same obituary.) —James Bell, Scotland
A: Shawcross always defended • himself over this matter by saying that the famous quote was not complete and that what he said was: “We are the masters at the moment, and not only at the moment, but for a very long time to come.” I suspect that the Churchill comment is apocryphal. —PHC
George Lewis became treasurer of the then-International Churchill Society following the death of Dalton Newfield in 1982. At the time, our worldly wealth was $389.64.
I often recall our conversations in the early Eighties, just before I would send each 12- or 16-page issue of Finest Hour to press. George would call to give the green light—meaning that he could actually write a check to pay the printing bill without being arrested: “Well, we have $1503.40 in the bank, and we haven’t sent out this quarter’s renewal notices yet. So if the bill is under $2000, we can probably cover it by the time it arrives, and the postage along with it, and even have a little bit left over!”
George held the treasurer’s job for a record fifteen years until 1997, after the old ICS had been folded into the new Churchill Centre. When he left, the treasury was substantially healthier. George became a founding member of The Churchill Centre and contributed, over the years, generous gifts to its endowment fund. He also served for more than his five year term as a Churchill Centre Trustee, a position from which he has just retired; and here again his advice and ideas were always welcome. Read More >
Join NowPlease join with us to help preserve the memory of Winston Churchill and continue to explore how his life, experiences and leadership are ever-more relevant in today’s chaotic world. BENEFITS >BECOME A MEMBER >
Finest Hour Image
The most recent issues of Finest Hour are available online to members. Join to automatically receive a subscription to BOTH Finest Hour and the Churchill Bulletin.LEARN MORE >VISIT FINEST HOUR ARCHIVE >
The International Churchill Society (ICS), founded in 1968 shortly after Churchill death, is the world’s preeminent member organisation dedicated to preserving the historic legacy of Sir Winston Churchill.
At a time when leadership is challenged at every turn, that legacy looms larger and remains more relevant than ever.