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Finest Hour 157, Winter 2012-13

Page 21

The Times, London, 15 February 1936 (Cohen G446)

11 Morpeth Mansions

Sir, I was discouraged from going to see St. Helena at the “Old Vic” by some unappreciative descriptions which I had read in various newspapers. However, upon the advice of Mr. Edward Marsh, a high connoisseur and keen supporter of the living stage, I went last night to see this remarkable play. In my humble judgement as a life-long but still voracious reader of Napoleonic literature, it is a work of art of a very high order. Moreover it is an entertainment which throughout rivets the attention of the audience. Nor need the sense of inexorable decline and doom sadden unduly those who have marvelled at Napoleon’s prodigious career. There is a grandeur and human kindliness about the great Emperor in the toils which make a conquering appeal.1 If it be the function of the playwright as of the historian “to make the past the present, to bring the distant near, to place the reader in the society of a famous man, or on the eminence overlooking a great battle,” this is certainly discharged. I was I think among the very first to acclaim the quality of [R.C. Sherriff’s play] Journey’s End. Here is the end of the most astonishing journey ever made by mortal man.2 I am, etc., Winston S. Churchill3

Notes by Martin Gilbert

1. In the Old Vic production, Napoleon was played by Kenneth Kent.  Other actors included Leo Genn as General Count Montholon, Anthony Quayle as St. Denis, and Glynis Johns (aged 12, in her second stage appearance) as Hortense Bertrand.

2. In his memoirs, No Leading Lady (1968), R. C. Sheriff wrote: “The takings on the night before this letter was published added up to £17 12s 6d, which means about sixty people in a theatre that could seat a thousand. For the performance on the night following the letter more than 500 people came, and on the next evening, the Saturday, the theatre was packed. Every seat sold, with people standing at the back of the pit and gallery. It must have been the most complete turnaround that had ever happened to a play before: all in a couple of nights. When I read the letter I got the car out and drove up to the theatre. I wanted to be around to see what happened, but I never expected things to happen as they did. When I got there at about ten o’clock there was already a trickle of people coming in to the box office. This in itself was an event, because until that morning there hadn’t been anybody at all. By lunchtime it had turned into a stream. There was a queue as people came across the bridge to book seats in their lunch hour....”

3. Eric Wynn-Owen, who played the Marine, writes: “We were playing to all-but-empty houses until the publication of Churchill’s letter. The result was magical. The box-office was inundated as from that same day and houses so full from then on that the play had to be transferred to the West End, the last play at the old daly’s Theatre, now replaced by the Warner Cinema, in leicester Square.” (letter to Martin Gilbert, 16 January 1982.)

From Martin Gilbert, ed., Winston S. Churchill, Companion Volume V, Part 3, 1936-1939 (london: Heinemann, 1982), 42 (Churchill Papers CHUR 1/284).

Finest Hour 157, Winter 2012-13

Page 49

By Ronald I. Cohen

Reader Arthur Lee asks: “Was the Dorothy Thompson introduction in -the second American issue of Churchill’s A Roving Commission ever reprinted? “If not, it should be.”

Dorothy Thompson (1893-1961) was a prominent writer and broadcaster, referred to in her heyday as “the First Lady of American Journalism.” Her three husbands included the Nobel Prize winning novelist Sinclair Lewis. In 1939, Time
magazine named her the second most influential woman in America next to Eleanor Roosevelt.

In reissuing A Roving Commission (U.S. title of My Early Life) in 1939, it was therefore natural for Scribners to ask Dorothy Thompson to write a new introduction. The Second American issue had only two printings, and subsequent appearances of the title dropped the Thompson introduction; copies are today quite scarce, particularly in their distinctive original orange and blue dust jackets.

War had only just broken out between Britain and Germany when Thompson sat down to write, blithely ignoring the fact that American involvement in the war was hotly opposed by the bulk of U.S. opinion. Given the hour, her words were less in praise of Churchill’s masterful autobiography than of Churchill himself—brave words under the circumstances, but Scribners evidently made no attempt to tone them down. Her appraisal of Churchill is at once arresting and in some respects unique.


A Roving Commission (U.S. title)

Second Issue, 1939, Cohen A91.5.a

It is not often that the First Lord of the Admiralty of any nation is also a writer of fine prose. Winston Churchill is one of the finest living writers of English prose. He is a stormy petrel of politics. For the past decade he has been the most pugnacious, eloquent, and scathing critic of British policy. He happens to have been right, and that is the reason he is again in the Cabinet at last.

Mr. Churchill is the kind of Englishman who cannot be classified according to his political ideas. He is too gifted and too brilliant to be disposed of by calling him a Tory—or by any other appellation. He believes with almost religious intensity that the English spirit in its finest manifestations is the world’s greatest hope for decency and freedom. He also, like Hitler, believes in the leadership principle, but unlike Hitler, he believes in noblesse oblige.

He is a doubtful democrat. His spirit is Aristotelian; he believes in aristocratic government on the wide basis of popular consent, and he would define an aristocrat as a man who is willing to take upon himself, with no thought of gain or fame, the responsibilities which the weaker shun.

He believes that leadership cannot and should not be forced. It must accrue to a man on the strength of his record. He must not usurp responsibility—the usurpation of power is gangsterism, in Mr. Churchill’s mind.

The British aristocratic tradition whereby only the oldest son inherits the lands and title has resulted in a great many younger sons who have had to use their wits—and England has profited from this. Winston Churchill’s father, Lord Randolph Churchill, the third son of the seventh Duke of Marlborough, became an eminent statesman. His son, although he belongs by birth to the English aristocracy, is not rich and has always had to earn his living. He has been a soldier, a journalist and a politician; he has been a perennial Cabinet Minister and Member of Parliament, is Lord Rector and Chancellor of two universities, and he is now, for the second time, First Lord of the Admiralty. But always he has been a writer, and his works include journalism, political biography and some of our best modern history.

Of a scintillating and sometimes devastating intelligence, a political maverick, a viveur with a gusty love of life and an unmitigated passion for England, Mr. Churchill is one of the most colorful figures on the international scene. Although he is now sixty-five years old, he seems cast in the mold of youth and is younger than the generation who could be his sons.

It would be impossible to imagine England without him.
14 OCTOBER 1939

Mr. Cohen is Churchill’s leading bibliographer and founder of the Churchill Society of Ottawa.

Finest Hour 157, Winter 2012-13

Page 42

By Michael McMenamin


Winter 1887-88 • Age 13

“I don’t want to go at all.”

With their parents in Russia, Winston and his brother Jack spent Christmas at 2 Connaught Place with their nanny, Mrs. Everest, and were visited by their Aunt Leonie and Uncle Jack (later Shane) Leslie. In the evening, they went to the Leslies’ home on Stratford Place and played games. Winston had been invited by his grandmother, the Duchess of Marlborough, to spend a week with her at Blenheim over the holiday, but Winston wrote his mother on Boxing Day, “I don’t want to go at all.” His Aunt Leonie obliged him and sent a telegram to Blenheim saying Winston would not be coming.

Leonie’s short telegram apparently arrived just after the Duchess had written her son, Lord Randolph: “I have asked Winston to come to stay a week with me. I would be responsible for him. He wrote me such a nice little letter & I never see him.” After reading Leonie’s telegram she continued: “Just got a Tel from Leonie that Winston is not to be allowed to come & see me! I feel much aggrieved & shall trouble no more about my Gd-Children. I should have thought I was able to take care of him as [well as] Leonie and Clara.”

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Finest Hour 157, Winter 2012-13

Page 09

Robert Hardy is to play Winston Churchill for the ninth time in his career, opposite Dame Helen Mirren’s Queen Elizabeth II, in the West End. Peter Morgan's new play, The Audience, begins at the Gielgud Theatre on February 15th, running eight times a week through mid-June. It depicts the weekly meetings between the Queen and her twelve prime ministers from Churchill to David Cameron. Haydn Gwynne will play Margaret Thatcher, while Paul Ritter will play John Major.

Timothy Robert Hardy has previously played Churchill eight times, including Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years and, most recently, Celui qui a dit non in Paris (in French). He played Siegfried Farnon in the classic television adaptation of James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small and is also known for starring in the Harry Potter films as Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge.

Directed by Stephen Daldry, The Audience marks a return to royal duty for dame Helen, who won an Oscar for her role in The Queen (2006), also written by Morgan.

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Finest Hour 157, Winter 2012-13

Page 47

By Richard M. Langworth

If Britain Had Fallen, by Norman Longmate, 1972, 2012. Softbound, illus., 276 pages, £12.99 from Pen & Sword Books, http://xrl.us/bny6sz.


LONDON, 1940

“Churchill...drew his pistol and with great satisfaction, for it was a notoriously inaccurate weapon, shot dead the first German to reach the foot of the steps....A burst of bullets from a machine-carbine caught the Prime Minister full in the chest. He died instantly, his back to Downing Street, his face toward the enemy, his pistol still in his hand.”

“Later that afternoon with the Germans already in Trafalgar Square and advancing down Whitehall to take their position in the rear, the enemy unit advancing across St. James’s Park made their final charge. Several of those in the Downing Street position were already dead...and at last the Bren ceased its chatter, its last magazine emptied. Churchill reluctantly abandoned the machine-gun, drew his pistol and with great satisfaction, for it was a notoriously inaccurate weapon, shot dead the first German to reach the foot of the steps.

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Finest Hour 157, Winter 2012-13

Page 48

By David Freeman

Roosevelt’s Lost Alliances: How Personal Politics Helped Start the Cold War, by Frank Costigliola. Hardbound, illus., 544 pp., $35, Kindle edition $19.25.

An old argument in Cold War history holds that if only Truman had been nicer to Stalin at the end of World War II, the subsequent Cold War might have been avoided or mitigated. A professor of history at the University of Connecticut now takes up this thesis anew, arguing that the death of Franklin Roosevelt removed the one personality who could have reassured Stalin sufficiently to produce a more agreeable postwar world.

Following Roosevelt’s death during the closing days of the war in Europe, Harry Truman became responsible for American foreign policy. Lacking any knowledge or experience of dealing with the Soviet leader, he relied on the advice of American diplomats who had served in Moscow, such as Averell Harriman and George Kennan. After witnessing many of Stalin’s atrocities and betrayal of agreements, the State Department’s “Soviet experts” counseled stern confrontation with the Kremlin boss. According to Costigliola, the notoriously insecure Stalin mainly wanted to safeguard his country against another German invasion—playing “the Cold War card…was not his first choice.”

After being challenged by Truman, however, and with the slightly sympathetic Churchill removed from power by election, the Russian leader felt constrained to take the steps he believed necessary to safeguard his country. This meant the brutal occupation of east-central Europe and the development of the nuclear arms race.

Roosevelt, it is argued, would have looked past Stalin’s atrocities and the violation of some pledges in order to achieve the greater good of a less confrontational world. A comparable example that did come to pass was Richard Nixon’s decision to open a dialogue with Communist China despite the horrifying record of Mao Tse-tung.

That at least is the theory, but counterfactual speculation is not history. Costigliola’s argument can never be proven or disproven. Tellingly, it primarily finds support among those with highly favorable opinions of Roosevelt, and dances around the grey region between respect and idolatry. Even Harri-man appears to have repented of his role in the early Cold War and to have given credence to the theory, by saying if Roosevelt had lived things could well have been different, because, Harriman said, “Roosevelt could lead the world.”

Anthony Eden once stated flatly that “the deplorable turning point in the whole relationship of the Western Allies with the Soviet Union was caused directly by the death of Roosevelt.” But there are many problems with this idea, including the need of Eden and Harri-man to protect their reputations.

It does not follow that any new agreements made by Roosevelt and Stalin would have held any more than the wartime agreements already violated, or that the Soviet establishment necessarily would go along with everything the aging Stalin pledged. Churchill is criticized for promoting a postwar Anglo-American alliance that fed Stalin’s paranoia. What else was Churchill to do? Lend-Lease and Marshall Aid were not coming from Moscow. And in their absence, whither western Europe?

Costigliola emphasizes the personal element of diplomacy, an area in which Roosevelt was unsurpassed. Thus, the President’s cardinal error in this account seems to have been not taking better care of himself and alienating advisers who could take a broad view of Stalin. But how would FDR have coped with an opposition-controlled Congress after 1946? Could he have bent it to his will while Stalin achieved similar success with the Red Army and the Politburo? Certainly personalities matter in negotiations; but the powers behind those personalities matter more.

Finest Hour 157, Winter 2012-13

Page 48

By William John Shepherd

Leaders of the Opposition: From Churchill to Cameron, ed. Timothy Heppel, hardbound, 288 pages, $95, Kindle edition $76.

The British Parliament has an opposition party with a shadow cabinet that serves as an alternate government should the ruling party resign or lose office. The effectiveness and changing role of postwar opposition leaders are examined in case studies by fifteen British political scholars headed by Timothy Heppell of the University of Leeds. Like all too many scholarly books, it is priced far too high.

Of the sixteen leaders herein, equally divided between Conservatives and Labourites, nine became prime minister. Three postwar premiers—Macmillan, Eden and Gordon Brown—are excluded because they succeeded colleagues and did not lead the Opposition. Also left out are John Major, who served only seven weeks as a caretaker after losing the 1997 election; current opposition leader Ed Miliband; and three acting leaders who served only briefly.

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Finest Hour 157, Winter 2012-13

Page 44

By David Freeman

Since 1905, when Alexander MacCallum Scott produced his account of an exciting 30-year-old Liberal MP named Winston Churchill, biographies of Britain’s greatest statesman have proliferated. One bibliographer cataloged twenty-six biographies published in Churchill’s lifetime; another, thirty-six between Churchill’s death in 1965 and the end of the 20th century. And that is just counting the ones written in English.

The 21st century has seen no diminution. Churchill loved a good race and might appreciate the steady efforts made by his chroniclers to overtake major historical figures such as Abraham Lincoln and Napoleon Bonaparte in the multiple-biography sweepstakes. But where should readers begin?

I am often asked to recommend a good Churchill biography. Before answering, I consider the potential reader’s background and ask questions about what sort of book is sought. More information is required than simply whether the reader seeks an introductory work or a serious academic study. Probably the most important question has to do with length.

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Finest Hour 157, Winter 2012-13

Page 34

By Fred Glueckstein

“...200 bricks and 2000 words a day” —WSC to Stanley Baldwin, 1928

In January 1952, Winston S. Churchill arrived in New York Harbor aboard the Queen Mary on a visit to the eastern United States. Dorothy McCardle, society reporter of The Washington Post, recorded a story told by members of the staff accompanying the Prime Minister from New York to Washington. In a delightful piece dated 13 January 1952, McCardle humorously wrote that the man Americans knew as the bulldog leader of World War II had acquired a new title for his current visit to America: “bricklayer.”

Those travelling with Churchill had related that the day before he left for the United States, he had been asked to lay a foundation stone in Bristol, where he was Chancellor of the University. WSC picked up a silver trowel provided for the occasion and looked at the foundation stone. To the surprise of everyone he laid the trowel aside and said, “The stone isn’t level.” McCardle wrote: “Red-faced officials produced measuring instruments and in a second discovered that Winnie was right. Solemnly, they adjusted the stone, and then Winnie the bricklayer nodded his approval, took up the silver trowel, and smoothed the cement.”1

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Finest Hour 157, Winter 2012-13

Page 54

By Robert Worcester


Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s The Honourable Louis Susman, in his first formal address after his appointment, told the Pilgrims Society in London: “In war and peace, in prosperity and in time of economic hardship, America has no better friend and no more dependable ally than the United Kingdom.”

And again:
“Our nations are deeply rooted in our enduring values of democracy, rule of law and tolerance; a shared history, culture and language, and a mutual ability and willingness to bring real diplomatic, financial and military assets to the table for joint action to promote and defend our common interests….While the United States of America—and this Ambassador—has many priorities, my principal priority will be to strengthen and nourish this Special Relationship, which is so critical to the United States.”

In a joint article on 24 May 2011, President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron pointed to the close relationship between our two countries, saying it is vital beyond Britain and America:

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