FINEST HOUR 154, SPRING 2012
DIRECTORY OF AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS
Please send updates to this list to firstname.lastname@example.org
THE CHURCHILL CENTRE AUSTRALIA
Alfred James, President
Tel. (2) 9489-1158
INTL. CHURCHILL SOCIETY, CANADA
Randy Barber, President
Tel. (905) 201-6687
Independent Societies: AB-CALGARY:
Sir Winston Churchill Society of Calgary
Robert W. Thompson QC • Tel. (403) 298-3384
AB-EDMONTON: Rt Hon Sir Winston
Spencer Churchill Society of Edmonton
Dr. Roger Hodkinson • Tel. (780) 433-1191
BC-VANCOUVER: Rt Hon Sir Winston Spencer Churchill Society of British Columbia
April Accola • Tel. (778) 321-3550
BC-VICTORIA: Sir Winston Churchill Society of Vancouver Island
ON-OTTAWA: Sir Winston Churchill Society of Ottawa
Ronald I. Cohen • Tel. (613) 692-6234
ON-TORONTO: Churchill Society for the Advancement of Parliamentary Democracy
Robert A. O’Brien • Tel. (416) 977-0956
CHURCHILL SOCIETY OF ISRAEL
Robert Rothstein, President
Tel. (54) 489-2113
INTL. CHURCHILL SOCIETY PORTUGAL
João Carlos Espada, President
Tel. (21) 7214129
THE CHURCHILL CENTRE UNITED KINGDOM
Allen Packwood, Executive Director
Tel. (01223) 336175
ESSEX: TCC-UK Woodford/Epping Branch
Tony Woodhead • Tel. (0208) 508-4562
KENT: TCC-UK Chartwell Branch
Nigel Guest • Tel. (01883) 717656
N.YORKSHIRE: TCC-UK Northern Branch
Derek Greenwell • Tel. (01432) 863225
THE CHURCHILL CENTRE UNITED STATES
Lee Pollock, Affiliates Coordinator
Tel. (888) WSC-1874
AK: Rt Hon Sir Winston
Spencer Churchill Society of Alaska
Judith & James Muller • Tel. (907) 786-4740
CA-BAY AREA: Churchillians-by-the-Bay
Jason Mueller • Tel. (831) 722-1440
CA-LOS ANGELES Churchillians of So. Calif.
Leon Waszak • Tel. (818) 240-1000 x5844
CO: Rocky Mountain Churchillians
Lew House • Tel. (303) 661-9856
CT: Churchill Society of Connecticut
Roger Deakin • Tel. (860) 767-2817
DC: Washington Society for Churchill
Robert Rosenblatt • Tel. (703) 698-9647
FL-NORTH: Churchill Centre North Florida
Richard Streiff • Tel. (352) 378-8985
FL-SOUTH: Churchill Society of South Florida
Rodolfo Milani • Tel. (305) 668-4419
GA: Winston Churchill Society of Georgia
Joseph Wilson • Tel. (404) 966-1408
IL: Churchill Centre Chicagoland
Phil & Susan Larson • Tel. (708) 352-6825
LA: Churchill Society of New Orleans
J. Gregg Collins • Tel. (504) 799-3484
MI: Winston Churchill Society of Michigan
Richard Marsh • Tel. (734) 913-0848
NE: Churchill Round Table of Nebraska
John Meeks • Tel. (402) 968-2773
NEW ENGLAND: New England Churchillians
Joseph L. Hern • Tel. (617) 773-1907
NY: New York Churchillians
Gregg Berman • Tel. (212) 318-3388
NC: North Carolina Churchillians
Craig Horn • Tel. (704) 844-9960
OH: Churchill Centre Northern Ohio
Michael McMenamin • Tel. (216) 781-1212
OR: Churchll Society of Portland
William D. Schaub • Tel. (503) 548-2509
PA: Churchill Society of Philadelphia
Earl M. Baker • Tel. (610) 647-6973
SC: Bernard Baruch Chapter
Kenneth Childs • Tel. (803) 254-4035
TX-DALLAS: Emery Reves Churchillians
Jeff Weesner • Tel. (940) 321-0757
TX-HOUSTON: Churchill Centre Houston
Chris Schaeper • Tel. (713) 660-6898
TX-SAN ANTONIO: Churchill Centre South Texas
Don Jakeway • Tel. (210) 333-2085
WA: Churchill Centre Seattle
Simon Mould • Tel. (425) 286-7364
FINEST HOUR 154, SPRING 2012
BY JOHN G. PLUMPTON
Mr. Plumpton is one of the earliest members of the International Churchill Society (predecessor to TCC) and has contributed to its publications since the 1970s. He produced the first Finest Hour index, a series of fifty-year anniversary calendars in 1990-95, co-chaired several international conferences, and served as TCC President in 2000-03. On behalf of The Churchill Centre he issues tweets on Churchill’s notable activities each day of the year. Follow him on Twitter: @ChurchillToday.
With the defeat of Stanley Baldwin’s government in 1929, Winston Churchill, though re-elected, seemed to be at the end of his political career. In new-found leisure he planned a lengthy journey throughout North America to lecture, promote his new book, The Aftermath, and write articles for the Daily Telegraph.
Canadians enthusiastically welcomed the former Chancellor of the Exchequer (often introduced as a “senior Empire statesman”). His lectures in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and other Canadian cities were well attended. The Ottawa Journal gave some indication of the warmth Canadians felt towards their famous visitor: “[He] is one of the stormy petrels of British politics. But Canadians can salute Mr. Churchill as somebody more than that. Journalist, author, soldier, politician, orator, Mr. Churchill is one of the most extraordinary, one of the most salient figures of our time, a man who has impressed his personality and genius not only upon the British Empire but upon the whole structure of the world.”
Reciprocating these feelings, Churchill wrote his wife from the Banff Springs Hotel in Alberta: “I have made up my mind that if N. Ch. is made leader of the CP or anyone else of that kind, I clear out of politics and see if I cannot make you and the kittens a little more comfortable before I die. Only one goal still attracts me, and if that were barred I shd quit the dreary field for pastures new….Darling, I am greatly attracted to this country. Immense developments are going forward. There are fortunes to be made in many directions. The tide is flowing strongly. However, the time to take decisions is not yet.”
Though Neville Chamberlain did win the leadership of the Conservative Party, Churchill remained in British politics—to the everlasting gratitude of people throughout the free world, including Canadians, who are still glad to remember that he was available in 1940 to lead the battle against the Nazis.
Churchill had first visited Canada in 1900 to lecture on his adventures in South Africa. His American audiences had been small and unenthusiastic, even hostile, and the anticipated income was disappointing. Audiences in Canada were larger and more welcoming, but by the time he got to Toronto he was blaming his promoter, Major J.B. Pond, “a vulgar Yankee impresario,” for making him speak to private dinner parties “like a conjurer”—and keeping a disproportionate share of the revenue.
When the news of the death of Queen Victoria “reached us at Winnipeg, this city far away among the snows—fourteen hundred miles from any British town of importance —began to hang its head and hoist half-masted flags.” On the day Europe’s royalty formed the Queen’s funeral procession, the young Winston sailed out of New York harbour, ready to resume a political career that would last as long as the Queen had ruled.
In America Churchill had met very important people, President McKinley and Mark Twain among them. In Canada, perhaps his most important contact was William Lyon Mackenzie King, the future Prime Minister. King called on Churchill, whom he found drinking champagne in mid-morning, and attended his lecture in Ottawa.
There had also been a personal event: while staying with Governor-General Lord Minto in Ottawa, Churchill had a reunion with Pamela Plowden, to whom he had once proposed. The flame was not rekindled, but he did tell his mother that “there is no doubt in my mind that she is the only woman I could ever live happily with.” Happily, a few years later, Clementine Hozier would change all that.
Churchill’s next significant contact with Canadian figures occurred at a conference of British and Colonial leaders in 1907 to discuss matters of common interest. Churchill was Under-Secretary for the Colonies and Canada was represented by its Prime Minister, Sir Wilfrid Laurier.
In 1911 Churchill was introduced to Max Aitken, the future Lord Beaverbrook, a Canadian millionaire who had made a fortune before moving to England to advance the cause of Empire unity through tariff reform. Aitken quickly learned enough about British politics to help obtain the leadership of the Conservative Party for his friend and fellow Canadian, Andrew Bonar Law.
Although Churchill and Beaverbrook disagreed over Imperial Preference, they did share a common interest in Imperial unity in the face of the growing threat from Germany. After Churchill became First Lord of the Admiralty the issue arose as to whether Canada should create her own navy (supported by Laurier’s Liberals) or make a donation towards the construction of dreadnoughts for the Royal Navy (supported by Sir Robert Borden’s Conservatives.) Beaverbrook strongly endorsed the Borden position and offered to make all the necessary contacts for Churchill to travel to Canada in order to convince the Canadian public to support their policy.
“Winston Down, facing defeat, is magnificent. Winston Up, in a position of uncontrolled power and authority, can be frightening.” —LORD BEAVERBROOK, CA. 1920s
Party politics was at play in both countries and, not surprisingly, Beaverbrook was playing both sides. While he supported the Liberal Churchill’s military objectives, he did not want to hurt the Conservative Bonar Law’s political fortunes. So, while encouraging Churchill to go to Canada, Beaverbrook was working with his close friend and future Canadian Prime Minister R.B. Bennett to prevent that visit. Churchill did not go to the Dominion and war erupted before the matter was resolved in the Canadian Parliament.
The Canadian Government of Sir Robert Borden (1911-20) provided unstinting support for Britain during World War I and many Canadians met Churchill on the front, including future Governor-General Georges Vanier and Conservative leader George Drew. Future Prime Minister John Diefenbaker observed him in the House of Commons when Churchill returned from the battlefields in 1916.
By 1922 Canada was beginning to take a more independent stand on geopolitical matters and looked at every event with its own interests in mind. In 1922 its Prime Minister was Mackenzie King, and Churchill was Britain’s Colonial Secretary when the Government of Lloyd George requested Empire support against Turkey in the Chanak Crisis, occasioned by the massing of Turkish army troops before British and French military garrisons near Chanak.
Rather than providing unquestioned aid, the Canadian government requested “further information,” a stance that surprised Britain. The crisis was resolved before anything further developed, but it sent a strong message to the Mother Country that the Dominion was growing up.
Churchill’s 1929 journey across Canada was successful, but he did not pursue his whim of moving there. Instead he returned home focused on recouping his financial losses from the Wall Street stock market crash of October 1929. Thus, while visiting the United States in 1932, he could not decline an offer of $2500 from Simpsons, one of Canada’s leading department stores (now Sears), to lecture at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens. Former Prime Minister Arthur Meighen presided and the 48th Highlanders’ Band played. Churchill stayed at the Royal York, which advertised itself as the largest hotel in the Empire.
In Ottawa Churchill again met the Liberal Mackenzie King, now Leader of the Opposition. King wrote in his diary that he “dreaded the venture but it turned out to be quite the most pleasant and profitable visit.” It was during the same visit that Canadians got an insight into Churchill’s “row” with Baldwin over the India Act, and learned that he “could not stand Ramsay [Macdonald]—never could.”
Memories were still raw in Canada over the “King-Byng Affair” in which Lord Byng, the Governor-General, had refused Mackenzie King’s request to call an election and had then invited Conservative Arthur Meighen to form a Government. He then granted Meighen’s request to call an election that King won. Churchill, while wanting to stay out of Canadian politics, privately shared the view of a later Governor General, Lord Beesborough, that Byng was right in refusing a dissolution to King, in that the latter recommended it at a time when Parlt. was only eight months old; that he was right in calling upon Meighen to form an Administration; but that he was wrong in granting a dissolution to M. only a few days later, having refused it to King so short a time previously. Lord B. should have accepted Meighen’s resignation, and then, having sent for King again, should have granted to the latter his original request for a dissolution.
“The ‘V’ has different meanings. For Churchill it means Victory. For King it means Votes.” —JOHN DIEFENBAKER, 1941, AS MACKENZIE KING FLASHED THE “V” SIGN IN OTTAWA
Such was the respect of Canadian leaders for the now out-of-office British statesman that both King and Meighen met with WSC later to give him their sides of the story.
Despite the ups and downs of his Wilderness Years, Churchill suffered no diminution in the affection of Canadians. Thus, when he came to power in 1940, there was a well of good-will and support for him.
World War II provided many opportunities for the continuation of a special relationship between Churchill and many Canadians. In November 1940 Canadian Defence Minister J.L. Ralston, accompanied by his assistant Richard Malone (later publisher of the Globe and Mail), visited Churchill to discuss how Canada could assist in the war effort. A question Ralston had earlier posed to Anthony Eden (“How in hell was Britain going to win the war?”) had already reached Churchill’s ears.
One evening after dinner, Churchill got up from the table and proceeded to answer Ralston’s question in very vigorous, free-swinging language as he marched around the table. At one point, he seized an orange from a plate on the table to illustrate his point. “We’ll Namsos these bastards yet,” the Prime Minister growled (making a Churchillism of the name of the Norwegian port, target of a British diversionary attack in 1940). “We must fight to regain our mobility at sea. Britain has never been a great land power. We must always preserve our freedom of movement around Europe with our navy and air force….then choose the time and place for our attack.” He jabbed his finger into various sides of the orange. “The rotten spots will show up; then we will know where to attack.” He was describing how he intended to clear the Germans out of the Mediterranean and North Africa—the “soft underbelly” strategy was already in his mind.
During these early years of the war, when the relationship between Churchill and U.S. President Roosevelt was still ripening, Canada’s role as what he called “the linchpin of the English-speaking peoples” came into its own.
Immediately following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Churchill visited Washington and Ottawa. After addressing the Canadian Parliament, he posed for one of the most famous photographs in history. Yousuf Karsh’s “Roaring Lion” photograph is immortal but the lesser known “Smiling Lion” gives the world a look at the true humanity of a man under incredible pressure and recovering from a recent heart attack in Washington.
After the photo shoot came a small, informal dinner party hosted by Prime Minister King. Here Churchill had an opportunity to swap stories with Canadian Air Vice-Marshal Billy Bishop VC, who had shot down seventy-two enemy aircraft while serving with the Royal Flying Corps during World War I.
Before the Roosevelt relationship grew close, Canadians had flattered themselves that they were essential interpreters between Britain and the United States, able to speak both “English” and “American.” In June 1940 they had an opportunity to make that claim a reality. Churchill contacted King, asking him to ask Roosevelt for certain specific aid. That request went to Washington via a senior government official, Hugh Keenleyside. From these discussions Keenleyside carried a message back to King, who passed it to Churchill, that Roosevelt hoped that, in the event of a British collapse, the British Fleet would be transferred to Canada and not allowed to fall into German hands.
Determined that the Americans and the world should realize the British were far from done, Churchill promised that Britain would fight on the beaches, landing grounds, fields, streets and hills, and never surrender “until, in God’s good time, the new world, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.” Thus Canadians may take some credit for one of the most important speeches of the war, one that gave Roosevelt a strong argument against fellow Americans like Joseph Kennedy and Charles Lindbergh, who believed Britain had no chance of winning.
Twice Churchill and Roosevelt met at Quebec City. Prior to the 1943 meeting Churchill visited Springwood, the Roosevelt estate in Hyde Park, New York, stopping at Niagara Falls on the way to Quebec. After returning to the Quebec conference they agreed on the invasion of Normandy and a Southeast Asia command under Mountbatten. Following the conference, Churchill rested and fished at a secluded lake north of Quebec City.
The following year he again crossed the Atlantic on the Queen Mary to meet again with the President at Quebec. On the final day of the conference, McGill University of Montreal conferred honorary degrees on Churchill and Roosevelt on the terrace of the historic Citadel.
Senior Canadian military commanders had ample opportunities to meet with Churchill. He had a high opinion of Andy McNaughton, but that did not prevent British pressure to replace him as the Commander-in-Chief of Canadian forces with Harry Crerar. Churchill generally stayed out of the ongoing battles between the Canadian commanders and Montgomery over whether the Canadians would fight under direct British command or as an independent unit.
Churchill also visited Canadian troops after the D-Day invasion, and on one of those visits he asked to see active service. He was taken to a battery out of harm’s way where they trundled out a 275-pound shell on a trolley and handed Churchill some chalk. “He bent over and printed on the casing a message to Hitler. It was, General Crerar said, “most insulting.”
The battery crew rammed it into the breach and Churchill, standing as directed, pulled the lanyard. The shell went off with a great roar. Churchill beamed.
Ordinary Canadian soldiers also had an opportunity to meet with Churchill. He visited their encampments in Britain, and some even had the honour of guarding Chartwell. On one of his infrequent wartime visits to his country home, Churchill was saluted by a soldier of the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment.
“Why don’t you challenge me, Canada?” growled Churchill.
“I know who you are, sir.”
“Oh, how do you know me?”
“By your cigar, bald head, double chin, short neck and fat belly, sir.”
“But that could also describe a German.”
“You’re right, sir, but they would do up the bottom button on their vests.”
When the soldiers complained about the incessant rain in England, Churchill boosted their morale by assuring them that it was also raining on the Germans.
Future Prime Minister Lester Pearson first met Churchill when he assisted with WSC’s famous 1946 Iron Curtain speech; they met subsequently many times. At their December 1951 luncheon, Churchill and Pearson, then Foreign Secretary, pondered the future of Europe. Pearson recalled:
It was the pre-de Gaulle era when France was pleading for a European army and European unity. The PM was emphatic that Britain would not and should not join or support it in the form proposed. Forgetting the lessons of this century, he insisted that the British would fight with, but not in, European forces. The proper way to bring armies and peoples together, he asserted, was to maintain their national identities, to bring them together as a “bunch of sticks” bound by common interest in their own salvation. He did not believe in the “wood pulp” theory of unity.
When Churchill visited Ottawa in 1952, he discussed the appointment of a new Governor-General with Prime Minister Louis Saint Laurent. The incumbent Governor-General, Viscount Alexander of Tunis, was returning to London as Churchill’s Minister of Defence. Both Churchill and King George VI agreed with Saint Laurent that the new Governor-General should be Canadian-born, and were delighted with the nomination of Vincent Massey, whom they had known as Canadian High Commissioner in London during the war.
When Saint Laurent stopped off at London on his world tour in 1954, he received invaluable personal advice from a seasoned traveller. He had made several such trips, Churchill confided, and he found that the schedule was almost always overcrowded and exhausting. Consequently, he made it a practice when travelling never to stand when he could sit, never to sit when he could lie down, never to walk when he could ride, and never to miss an opportunity to visit a bathroom.
“He often peers at me over his glasses as if he is wondering what I may be up to. Everything he does is dramatized and full of life.” —LESTER PEARSON, LONDON, 1955
Future Prime Minister John Diefenbaker’s encounter with Mackenzie King over Churchill is related in Turner’s interview but, as a Canadian historian points out, “Churchill was both a talisman and a weapon” for Diefenbaker.
After the “teetotaller incident”, Mrs. Diefenbaker admitted that her husband did indeed take a glass of sherry now and then. This confession did not mollify Churchill, who remarked that the worst defeat of his life was the time he lost an election to a prohibitionist.
Contemplating Churchill’s postwar appeal to the English-Speaking Peoples, Professor John Ramsden wrote:
Canada occupied a position of special prominence. This was partly because Canada itself had a place of special affection in Churchill’s heart, but also because regular visits, extensive personal friendships and years of practical cooperation after 1940 all helped to reinforce—and to make more lasting—the Churchill message to Canada.
Even as Canada exerted an independence of mind and interests throughout the war, Churchill never forgot that “the Senior Dominion” had declared war on Germany within a week of Britain itself, and he knew and appreciated that the First Canadian Division had arrived in Britain as early as December 1939. Meeting with the Canadian War Cabinet during the 1944 Quebec Conference, he expressed his gratitude in an impromptu speech, according to a Canadian cabinet minister present:
He set out to thank Canada for what was done in this war. His feelings got somewhat the better of him and he spilled over almost in tears. It was not only that we came in at the start and stayed in, but that we had carried the United Kingdom by outright gifts these past three years or so and, he prayed, would not let her go down when the war was over. Had it not been for the gifts, he said that the UK could not have pulled her weight in the war and in all truth cannot come through the troubles ahead. He said that the UK is now the greatest debtor country in the world. Our gifts, being largely raw materials, were the very base of her war industry and food supplies.
Churchill’s prayer was answered. After the war Canada cancelled all debts owed by Great Britain. Not the least of the reasons was the debt that Canadians felt they owed to Winston Churchill.
“My impression of him is that he was the greatest man of the 20th century. He rescued Britain and saved the free world.” —JOHN TURNER, 2011
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