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Finest Hour 139

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Critics Left and Right: Nicholson Baker and Pat Buchanan. Churchill’s Best Friend: F.E. Smith Lord Birkenhead. Churchill’s Cats. WSC’s Words and Vision in World War II. Churchill Proceedings: Churchill and Orde Wingate, Prince of Wales and Repulse, Singapore and the Imperial Imperative. Cover: F.E. Smith in Spy magazine, 1912

Finest Hour 139, Summer 2008

Page 50

“Cats Look Down on You...” Churchill’s Feline Menagerie

By Fred Glueckstein

Mr. Glueckstein thanks Lady Soames for kindly reviewing this article. His previous pieces were “Winston Churchill and Colonist II” (FH 125) and “The Statesman John Kennedy Admired Most” (FH 129).

Sir Winston Spencer Churchill left such a large record, so much of it crafted by himself, that even the best scholars fail to get their arms around him. And there are so many fascinating side issues to distract us! Take for example his passion for and genuine love of animals.1

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Finest Hour 139, Summer 2008

Page 20

By Warren F. Kimball

Professor Kimball, Treat Professor of History at Rutgers University, has written extensively on Roosevelt and Churchill and is editor of three volumes of their correspondence.

OK. I have forced myself to sit down and write a review of the non-book entitled Human Smoke. What is it? Why is it so difficult to review? I finally realized that it is not possible critically to review a mantra: an unthinking chant, like prayer wheels, rosaries and worry beads. Monotonous repetition may be an effective appeal, but it is an appeal to emotion, not reason. It is not history.

History has some simple demands: a marshaling of evidence; an honest analysis of cause and effect; a story based on that evidence. Baker’s non-book offers, at best, disjointed fragments of the truth. (Please, no existentialist arguments about “what is truth?” I am happy to go on about historical truth as an artistic conclusion based upon the best evidence, but this is not the place.) In the words of my 18-year-old grandson, the fragments “read like beat poet Allen Ginsberg writing history for USA Today, only without the goofy graphics.”

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Finest Hour 139, Summer 2008

Page 26

By Michael McMenamin

Spring 1883 • Age 8
“Only 18 more days...”

Winston was counting the days until the school term ended and he regained his freedom. On 2 July he wrote his mother: “It was so kind of you to let Everest come down here. I think she enjoyed herself very much. Only 18 more days. Now I will say goodbye. With love & Kisses I remain, Your affect. Winston”

When school was out, Jennie took both her sons for a visit to Blenheim Palace. Lord Randolph’s father had died in July 1883 and Randolph and his brother Blandford, the new Duke of Marlborough, were touring Europe at the time. Jennie left Winston and Jack there alone with their twelve-year-old cousin Sunny. Randolph wrote to express concern: “I think it is rather rash of you letting him be at Blenheim without you. I don’t know who will look after him & Sunny & keep them in order.”

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Finest Hour 139, Summer 2008

Page 58

Ampersand - Henry George and Churchill’s Lost Opportunity

By Richard M. Langworth

In “The People’s Rights: Opportunity Lost?” (FH 112, Autumn 2001, 42) Andrew MacLaren wrote about the tax on land, proposed by the American economist Henry George and strongly championed by the young Churchill in his radical-liberal period in the early 1900s. George propounded that while people have the right to possess what they produce, or receive in exchange for work, there is no right to private ownership of elements: air, water, sunshine and (the most contentious element) land. It became “a major point of Liberal policy,” MacLaren wrote, “to shift taxation from production and to raise taxation upon the value of land...The justice and practicality of this proposition can rarely if ever have enjoyed a more brilliant advocate than Winston Churchill.”

Purely by accident, while looking up quotations, we fell over Churchill’s explanation of why the tax on land didn’t work, and remained a lost opportunity for him and the Liberals.

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Finest Hour 139, Summer 2008

Page 13

“Everyone threw the blame on me. Ihave noticed that they nearly always do.” —WSC, MY EARLY LIFE, 1930, 240.

By David Freeman

Professor Freeman teaches history at California State University Fullerton.

Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World, by Patrick J. Buchanan. Crown, 518 pages, $29.95, member price $23.95

Although there is no indication in this book that Pat Buchanan is familiar with the work of the late Harry Elmer Barnes,1 he has nevertheless arrived at many of the same arguments that Barnes first pressed more than fifty years ago. His book is, then, the latest entry in the revisionist canon, recycling old arguments so familiar that The Churchill Centre long ago added a website section to refute them: “Leading Churchill Myths” (http://xrl.us/fk6by).

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Finest Hour 139, Summer 2008

Page 40

By Barry Gough

The author is Professor Emeritus of History at Wilfrid Laurier University, where he taught from 1972 to 2004. His next book is Titans at the Admiralty: Winston Churchill and Admiral Lord Fisher.

I was opening my boxes,” Churchill wrote in his war memoirs, “when the telephone at my bedside rang. It was the First Sea Lord [Admiral Sir Dudley Pound]. His voice sounded odd. He gave a sort of cough and gulp, and at first I could not hear quite clearly. ‘Prime Minister, I have to report to you that the Prince of Wales and the Repulse have both been sunk by the Japanese—we think by aircraft. [Vice Admiral] Tom Phillips is drowned.’ ‘Are you sure it’s true?’ ‘There is no doubt at all.’ So I put the telephone down. I was thankful to be alone. In all the war I never received a more direct shock. The reader of these pages will realise how many efforts, hopes, and plans foundered with these two ships. As I turned over and twisted in bed the full horror of the news sank in upon me. There were no British or American capital ships in the Indian Ocean or the Pacific except the American survivors of Pearl Harbour, who were hastening back to California. Over all this vast expanse of waters Japan was supreme, and we everywhere were weak and naked.”

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Finest Hour 139, Summer 2008

Page 48

Churchill Proceedings - Singapore Reprise / 1. The Imperial Imperative

By Warren F. Kimball, Rutgers University

The excellent papers published in FH 138 about the fall of Singapore frame the debate nicely. I would add just one all-important perspective.

By the 1920s, probably earlier, Great Britain had become the victim of Imperial over-reach. The Empire was too big, too complex, too full of energy and challenges, to be controlled without being able to discipline the wayward. Yet the tool Britain had used before—the aura of power and strength that was only sparingly, even “surgically” applied—had become hollow. The aura remained, but the power and strength had to be rationed—and what the British called the “Far East” got short rations. Because of those short rations, what I call the Imperial Imperative asserted itself. The concep t was simple: Never address the stark reality that Britain could no longer afford to provide physical protection for its entire Empire. Choices had to be made, but those choices—the Ten-Year Rule, for example—were always disguised as postponements or sensible efficiencies. Rare was the admission that Britain could not perform its dominant role—only play it.

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Finest Hour 139, Summer 2008

Page 49

Churchill Proceedings - Singapore Reprise / 2.“God Fought for Us”

By Greg Hughes, Emerald, Queensland

“Tom, don’t get out from under your air cover. If you do, you’ve had it.” —Air Marshal Harris to Admiral Tom Phillips, in A.J.P. Taylor, The Second World War: An Illustrated History (1974), 102.

Amongst my countrymen, Churchill often gets a bad rap, which boils down to two irritants: Gallipoli and Singapore. The first really should have been debunked by now. Singapore is a bit more complex, not least because the survival of Australia was perceived to be in question. Again the local commanders were, to put it gently, not of the first rank. Like Gallipoli, the battle was lost at almost precisely the moment that the enemy (in this case Yamashita) ran out of ammunition. As for Churchill’s culpability, only a barking madman would have put his best generals in a zone at peace when there was real fighting to be done elsewhere. Churchill was reprising exactly what Australian Command had done: in 1941, all our best officers were in the Middle East.

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Finest Hour 139, Summer 2008

Page 36

By Raymond E. Callahan

Raymond Callahan is Professor of History Emeritus, University of Delaware. In 1988 he was among the first group of academics invited to present papers at the International Churchill Conference at Bretton Woods. His latest book is Churchill and His Generals.

Churchill’s relations with the British Army’s generals are often reduced to colorful anecdotes. The PM, on a fraught evening at Chequers in the spring of 1941, threatening to put some of them in front of firing squads if they failed to hold Egypt against Rommel, is a celebrated one. While such episodes make good theater, they do no justice to how complex the relationship between political and military leaders really is, especially under the pressures of war.

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 “Cats Look Down on You...”


 Mr. Glueckstein is a freelance writer from Maryland and a frequent FH contributor. He thanks Lady Soames for kindly reviewing this article. His previous pieces were “Winston Churchill and Colonist II” (FH 125) and “The Statesman John Kennedy Admired Most” (FH 129).

Sir Winston Spencer Churchill left such a large record, so much of it crafted by himself, that even the best scholars fail to get their arms around him. And there are so many fascinating side issues to distract us! Take for example his passion for and genuine love of animals.1

Cats were part of Churchill’s life at both his official and private residences. Grace Hamblin, who was both his secretary and his wife’s at Chartwell from 1932 to 1965, addressed the unportentous side of his life at the 1987 International Churchill conference:

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