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Finest Hour 158

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Finest Hour 158, Spring 2013

Page 42

By Michael McMenamin



125 YEARS AGO

Spring 1888 • Age 13

“It is awfully jolly.”


Winston entered Harrow School in April 1888, and on 20 April wrote his mother, “I like everything immensely.” But some things never change and in the same letter he added, “I am afraid I shall want more money.” The next day wrote: “Please send the money as soon as possible you promised me I should not be different to others.”

Military training was part of the Harrow curriculum and he particularly enjoyed this, telling his father in a June 3rd letter, “I am getting on very successfully in the corps especially in the Shooting. We use the full sized Martini-Henry rifle and cartridges, the same as the Army. The rifles kick a good deal, it is awfully jolly.”

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Finest Hour 158, Spring 2013

Page 9



Namrata Singh in The Times of India writes: “extraordinary situations demand extraordinary leadership. But once the situation is diffused, the very remarkable traits in a leader can at times lead to his redundancy.  In 1945, even after Churchill successfully led Britain through World War II, displaying super-leadership qualities, he lost the election. Cut to the present:  Vikram pandit, a year after he was named CeO of Citigroup, had to fire-fight a rather unforeseen crisis situation that gripped the global financial world. Some doubted his capabilities, but after suffering deep losses, the bank under Pandit's leadership returned to profit in 2010 after paying off the government aid which it got in a bailout in 2008. Last week Pandit resigned, much to the shock of the investor fraternity.” Well, Churchill never did that.

*****

“The Conservative party can never get too much of Churchill,” says Larry Elliott in The Guardian, “so there will be many who will be hoping that his words [‘the end of the beginning’] are as appropriate for describing the state of the economy today as they were for outlining the global balance of power in 1942. Make no mistake,” elliott continues, “news that Great Britain’s economy grew by 1% in the third quarter of 2012 does not mark the end of the downturn that began more than five years ago….Over the past twelve months, national output has been flat and remains 3% lower than in early 2008. Recovery has been weaker and slower than in any cycle for which reliable records exist, including the Great depression of the 1930s.” Things were pretty grim in 1945, too.

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Finest Hour 158, Spring 2013

Page 48

By Richard M. Langworth

Churchill World Stamp Catalogue, by Celwyn, Patricia and Alison Ball. AJBukz Productions, softbound in full color, 218 pages, $89.95. Available online in two different bindings: perfect bound http://bit.ly/VQssjA; spiral bound http://bit.ly/VQuBvI. Member price $76.



One of the earliest members of The Churchill Centre, Celwyn Ball served from 1983 to the early 1990s as chairman of the International Churchill Society of Canada and, with his late wife Patricia, he attended many conferences in North America and England. In 2002 he received the Blenheim Award, an overdue recognition of his contributions to the memory of Sir Winston and to the Centre and Societies; but his masterwork was still to come.

Celwyn’s Churchill interest was kindled after he served with the British First Army during the campaign in North Africa. As an Intelligence sergeant in the Reconnaissance Corps, he helped protect Generals Dwight Eisenhower and Mark Clark. “General Clark was six and a half feet tall,” Celwyn remembers, “and we were told to ‘keep our holsters open’ to protect such an easy target, not to mention all the colonels and majors around him.” Modestly describing himself as a “lowly sergeant,” he sustained wounds that he never quite got over, like so many heroes of the Desert Armies. A welder, draftsman and engineer, his projects included design and development of new bridges, overhead cranes and large-scale mobile equipment. He emigrated to Canada in 1957.

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Finest Hour 158, Spring 2013

Page 56

By Suzanne Sigman & Amy Cohn

War Dogs: Churchill and Rufus, by Kathryn Selbert. Charlesbridge, hardbound, color illus., 48 pp., $17.95, E-book $9.95.



At last there is a picture book about Churchill we can recommend unreservedly. It is billed for ages 7-10, but children as young as five should find this an intriguing and worthwhile story. The text features London, Churchill and Rufus, his beloved miniature poodle.

The action begins with the advent of war in 1939 and culminates with Churchill’s return to Chartwell in 1945. Along with the primary narrative, Churchill’s own words tell a parallel story: a Churchill quote appears on most double-page spreads. Together, these presentations paint a clear and insightful picture of Churchill’s wartime leadership. For example, every day Rufus visits “Winston’s secret office, hidden beneath the buildings of London. Messages chatter through typewriters, and candy-colored phones rattle and ring. News arrives from all corners of the globe.”

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Finest Hour 158, Spring 2013

Page 55

Churchill: The Prophetic Statesman, by James C. Humes. Regnery, hardbound, 300 pp., $27.95, Kindle edition $14.99, audiobook $19.95. Member price $22.36.



Churchill is more celebrated for his prophecies which came true—the two World Wars, becoming prime minister, the Nazi and Soviet threats, guided missiles, nuclear bombs, even cell phones—rather than the prophecies that didn’t—Anglo-American condominium, a settlement with the Soviets and a truly united British Commonwealth, not to mention the invulnerability of France, Tobruk, Singapore, and the survival of capital ships in concentrated air attacks.

James Humes compiles Churchill’s many accurate predictions, probably more than WSC would have labeled as such. “I always avoid prophesying beforehand,” he said in 1943, “because it is much better policy to prophesy after the event has already taken place.”

Although there is nothing new here, Mr. Humes has thoroughly plumbed the literature to produce a comprehensive catalogue. Twenty-eight chapters are subdivided into six parts: World War I (predicted as early as WSC’s school years); Military Weaponry (aircraft and tanks); Domestic Affairs (the age of technology, a “middle way” between capitalism and socialism); the Totalitarian Age (foreseen as early as his 1900 novel Savrola); World War II (Bolsheviks, Fascists, Nazis, the certainty of victory, his loss of the election); and the Cold War (Iron Curtain, United Europe, collective security, the Soviet collapse). I don’t think any major prediction that came true is left out.

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Finest Hour 158, Spring 2013

Page 56

By Christopher H. Streling

The Defence of the Dardanelles: From Bombards to Battleships, by Michael Forrest. Pen & Sword Books, hardbound, illus., 254 pp. $39.95. Member price $31.95.



Yet another book on the “damned Dardanelles” (to bowdlerize Admiral Fisher)? Yes, though this one is quite different from the existing accounts. Forrest argues that Churchill and the admirals should have known better than to try and force the waterway with ships alone—since British Intelligence had a pretty good idea how the Turks would resist. But rather than highlight politics or inter-service squabbles, this well-illustrated volume focuses on the development and effective use of the forts, batteries and minefields that stopped the Allied fleet cold in March 1915.  This was long before Allied landings on Gallipoli, and before Germans under the command of Gen. Liman von Sanders appeared on the battlefields.

Churchill crops up in several places in this narrative of the building, manning and eventual impact of what emrged as a highly effective Turkish system of coastal fortification. Forrest begins (briefly) with the castle-like forts built in the late 1600s, and carries the story through the Chanak crisis of 1922 that helped to bring down the Lloyd George government. The focus, however, is on the events of 1915.

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Finest Hour 158, Spring 2013

Page 49

By Christopher H. Sterling

Churchill and Sea Power, by Christopher M. Bell. Oxford University Press, Hardbound, illus, 430 pp., $34.95. Member price $27.95. For more on this book visit http://christophermbell.ca.



Ranging over events covering nearly half a century, this is an important addition to the -already vast literature on Churchill as a military leader. A historian at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Christopher Bell has published widely on naval history. His newest study provides a quite different view of Churchill’s role compared to the rather negative perception that for decades has dominated writing on the subject.

Stephen Roskill wrote the official Royal Navy multi-volume history, The War at Sea (1954-61), and followed that with his even more critical Churchill and the Admirals (1977). In both works, Roskill presented a severe view of Churchill’s role and impact, arguing that too often he overruled his senior naval advisers, sometimes with disastrous results (such as the bungled 1940 campaign in Norway and the loss of “Force Z” off Singapore late in 1941). Roskill’s Churchill is tempestuous and impatient for action, sometimes to the detriment of the Senior Service. Two other studies, Richard Hough’s Former Naval Person: Churchill and the Wars at Sea (1985), and, to a lesser degree, Peter Gretton’s Former Naval Person: Winston Churchill and the Royal Navy (1968), followed Roskill’s lead. So did many other more specialized studies, including books on the two world wars.

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Finest Hour 158, Spring 2013

Page 51

By Fred Glueckstein

Winston Churchill: The Story of the Great British States man (Real Lives Series), by Harriet Castor. A&C Black 2011. Softbound, illus., 128 pp. £5.99, Kindle edition $7.99.



At the age of twelve, Harriet Castor’s first book, Fat Puss and Friends, about a cat she befriended, was published by Penguin. Since then Castor, who was born in Cambridge, has written over forty fiction and non-fiction books for children and young adults. Her latest (not her first) Churchill effort is a well-written and attention-grabbing mini-biography.

Castor’s interest in Churchill began in 2000, when she was commissioned to write a children’s book about famous British statesmen. Her Winston Churchill, in the Famous People series (2002),  allowed her to dig into the saga. “And I became enthralled, amazed, gob smacked [extremely surprised] by the man. All my suspicions evaporated. I was awed by his chutzpah, the foresight, the courage—not just his physical bravery (astonishing enough and demonstrated consistently, decade after decade, war after war), but by his mental toughness. I admired the humanity, the drive, the refusal to give up whatever the situation, the willingness to say what he thought, whatever the reaction it brought, his wit, his wonderful way with the English language, his sheer force of personality….”

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Finest Hour 158, Spring 2013

Page 50

By Terry Reardon

Churchill and De Gaulle: The Greatest Allies, by Clifford Alain Stossel. Headcorn Instrumentation, softbound, illus., 340 pp. In and out of stock regularly, is available for as little as £6 from Amazon UK.



Self-publishing is quite acceptable, but a book should conform to normal standards. In this case there is no index and no notes; the reader has no reference information to judge the accuracy of the material.

Besides numerous spelling errors such as a Canadian premier (correctly shown as Mackenzie King, but also MacKenzie-King and MacKenzie King), there are many errors of fact. For instance, “the defeat of Dunkirk caused the unseating of Neville Chamberlain,” (Chamberlain resigned 10 May 1940, the Dunkirk evacuation began on 26 May). The Russo-German non-aggression pact was signed in August 1939, not January 1941. The islands St Pierre et Miquelon were occupied by the Free French on 24 December 1941, not prior to the Dakar attack of 23 September 1941.

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Finest Hour 158, Spring 2013

Page 54

Monty Porch: A Charmed Life, by Roger Parsons. Self-published, soft- bound, illus., 48 pp., £8 ($12) from the author via Paypal or cheque. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



Roger Parsons has done history a favor with a captivating biography of the Edwardian gentleman who sought fortune in the Empire, fell in love with a woman thirty years his senior, and became Winston Churchill’s second stepfather, three years younger than Churchill himself.

The second son of a prominent Glastonbury family, Montague Porch had no prospect of vast inheritance, but was educated at Oxford, made archeology digs in Sinai, and in 1908 joined the civil service as Third British Resident in Nigeria, building a grand home in Zaria City which has since become a landmark. He also served gallantly in the Boer War and World War I.

Porch met Lady Randolph in Rome in 1914. He was thirty-seven, she was sixty, but she still had the dazzle that had captivated Lord d’Abernon three decades earlier: “…a dark, lithe figure… radiant, translucent, intense. A diamond star in her hair, her favourite ornament—its lustre dimmed by the flashing glory of her eyes. More the panther than the woman in her look….”

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