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Finest Hour 160

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Finest Hour 160, Autumn 2013

Page 42

By Michael McMenamin


Autumn 1888 • Age 14

“It spoils my afternoon”

Six of Winston’s nine letters to his parents this season contained pleas to visit him at Harrow. His father never did; his mother came once. Writing in anticipation of her visit he said: “try and come early because it spoils my afternoon to wait at the Railway Station.” Next he wrote: “Would you let me have a line to say by what train you could come? Do let me know because it is rather ‘stale’ waiting.” On 26 October, the day before her arrival, he again wrote: “Will you come tomorrow morning as early as possible. Do come, you can take me out to luncheon & we can be very happy. I have a lot to tell you but as I am expecting you tomorrow I shall wait.”

Winston wrote to his father on the 28th, the day after his mother’s visit, and told him of the “grand Sham fight” between the Harrow Rifle Corps and Cambridge, which his mother had witnessed. “I am going to learn 1000 lines of Shakespeare this term for the Prize,” Winston added. “I hope I shall get it.” In the event he did not, but he put a positive spin on his effort. “I lost the Shakespeare Prize for the Lower School by 27 marks,” he wrote his mother the next day. “I was rather astonished as I beat some twenty boys who were much older than I.” He did not tell his father until November: “I came out 4th for the Lower School among some 25 boys— some of whom were not less than 7 forms above me. I got 100 marks & the boy who got the prize got 127.”

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Finest Hour 160, Autumn 2013

Page 05

Lord Lexden writes to correct his and our friend, novelist Lord (Michael) Dobbs, who said Neville Chamberlain’s gout contributed to his “disastrous months in Downing Street.” The gout, says Lexden, was severe only once in 1937, and did not interfere with Chamberlain’s “courageous quest to preserve peace, which involved taking defence spending to record levels.” He cites a note in Chamberlain’s diaries: “I can never forget that the ultimate decision, the Yes or No which may decide the fate not only of all this generation, but of the British empire itself, rests with me.” Quite accurate in every respect. Churchill couldn’t have won the Battle of Britain without the aircraft commissioned under Chamberlain.


Allie Jones in The Atlantic Wire reports: “Liz Cheney [running for Wyoming Senator] compared herself to ‘Churchill standing up to Hitler’ on September 2nd, when declaring her stand against American air strikes in Syria—the latest in a series of Liz-Cheney-thinking-rather-highly-of-Liz-Cheney moments.” The latter comparison strikes us as a mouse standing up to a piece of cheese. Where do these speeches come from?

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Finest Hour 160, Autumn 2013

Page 49

Abstract By Antoine Capet


Christopher M. Bell, “On Standards and Scholarship: A Response to Nicholas Lambert,” in War in History 20:3, June 2013, pages 381-409.

This article examines Nicholas A. Lambert’s criticisms (“On Standards: A Reply to Christopher Bell, War in History 19, 2012) of Professor Bell’s article, “Sir John Fisher’s Naval Revolution Reconsidered: Winston Churchill at the Admiralty, 1911-1914” (War in History 18, 2011).

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Finest Hour 160, Autumn 2013

Page 48

By Richard Davis: Author's Abstract

“The Geometry of Churchill’s ‘Three Majestic Circles’: Keystone of British Foreign Policy or trompe l’œil?” in Mélanie Torrent and Claire Sanderson, eds., La puissance britannique en question: Diplomatie et politique étrangère au 20e siècle / Challenges to British Power Status: Foreign Policy and Diplomacy in the 20th Century. Series Enjeux internationaux, 25. Brussels: Peter Lang, 2013, 79-92.

"As I look out upon the future of our country in the changing scene of human destiny I feel the existence of three great circles among the free nations and democracies. I almost wish I had a blackboard. I would make a picture for you…. The first circle for us is naturally the British Commonwealth and Empire, with all that that comprises. Then there is also the English-speaking world in which we, Canada, and the other British Dominions and the United States play so important a part. And finally there is United Europe. These three majestic circles are co-existent and if they are linked together there is no force or combination which could overthrow them or even challenge them.

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Finest Hour 160, Autumn 2013

Page 31

Compiled By Dana Cook

A Memory for Faces, 1932

SOUTH CAROlINA— Winston Churchill and his daughter Diana came for a brief visit. They had been vacationing in The Bahamas, where Diana picked up one of the earlier Calypso songs which she chanted. The weather at Hobcaw [Baruch's estate in Georgetown, S.C.] was bad. I invited in a number of Georgetown's leading citizens and other noted South Carolinians. Several times in later years Mr. Churchill would ask me about some of the people he had met. He had forgotten their names but would ask, “What has happened to that little storekeeper with the bald head?”

Opportunity Lost, 1936

LONDON— I had a rather droll experience with Churchill…It happened a day or two after I had flown from Vienna to london to give an uncensored report on the Anschluss [annexation of Austria by Nazi germany]. CBS, for which I was a correspondent in europe, asked me to get Churchill to broadcast on the crisis, but it would pay him only fifty dollars, which was a ridiculous sum. From the way he talked I concluded he would accept five hundred dollars. But William Paley (see this column, the head of CBS, FH 147) was adamant. He would not pay more than fifty, and we lost the broadcast.
—William L. Shirer,  Writer and Historian, A Native’s Return (1990)

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Finest Hour 160, Autumn 2013

Page 44

By Paul H. Courtenay

Churchill’s First World War. A ninety-minute BBC Television production, aired 30 July 2013.

This new BBC programme (with no commercial breaks) kept interest high for its duration. A well-known historian, Professor Gary Sheffield, led the presentation, which, as the title reveals, dealt with Churchill’s activities during the Great War. Interestingly, nearly all the academics who were invited to speak were largely unknown to Churchillians, so one or two new angles on the story had their opportunities.

With occasional references to Churchill’s earlier and later life experiences (it was good to see Chartwell’s House & Collections Manager Alice Martin), the story really began with Churchill’s time as First Lord of the Admiralty (1911-15), and how he ensured that the Royal Navy was fully prepared by the outbreak of war in 1914. Next came Antwerp, which was accurately covered; Churchill’s offer to remain there as the commanding general was described with some scorn, as it was by the prime minister at the time—in fact, as notable historians have mentioned, the few days gained by his personal leadership undoubtedly reduced the risk of the Channel ports being overrun. This achievement could have been more charitably appreciated, both then and now.

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Finest Hour 160, Autumn 2013

Page 47

By Warren F. Kimball

Conspiracy of One: Tyler Kent’s Secret Plot against FDR, Churchill and the Allied War Effort, by Peter Rand. Lyons Press, hardbound, illus., 272 pp. $26.95, Kindle $12.90, member price $21.60.

More years ago than I care to remember, I suggested to a bright undergraduate at Rutgers College that his Honors thesis was worth pursuing further. That began my longstanding fascination with the tale of Tyler Kent and his unauthorized, possibly illegal, copying of correspondence between President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill, along with some 1500 other pieces of classified material. The student (Bruce Bartlett, onetime economic adviser to George H.W. Bush, now a commentator on economic policies) and I churned out a piece, based on research in U.S. and British archives, outlining the details of the Tyler Kent episode.

For the most part, the “Kent Affair” became a throwaway line in diplomatic history textbooks. Even biographies of both Roosevelt and Churchill paid only cursory attention. Yet three books, now a fourth, followed. (None was written by us; none attracts much attention, nor alas did we.)*

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Finest Hour 160, Autumn 2013

Page 46

By William John Shepherd

Churchill Versus Hitler: The War of Words, by Peter John. Bennion Kearny Limited, soft- bound, 354 pp., $17.99, Kindle edition $9.99.

Based upon three years of archival research Mr. John, an economist and former economic adviser to the British government, believes few feuds in history compare in scope to that of Churchill and Hitler. Much has been written comparing them, so saying something new is a challenge.

The two antagonists addressed diplomatic and military events before and during the Second World War in their speeches, writings and private conversations, often taunting each other with colorful and original epithets. Churchill called Hitler a “monstrous abortion of hatred and defeat” (179) and a ”blood-thirsty guttersnipe” (200). Hitler called Churchill an “undisciplined swine” (224) and “senile clown”(274). The author logically uses a chronological rather than thematic approach and early poses a thoughtful question: when did each first become aware of the other?

There is no definitive answer, but John makes a convincing argument that Hitler must surely have known of Churchill soon after the latter became First Sea Lord in 1911, given the budding tension and wide reportage of the Anglo-German naval rivalry. Hitler first came to prominence in the English speaking world via The Times, which reported on his failed “Beer Hall Putsch” of 1923 and his subsequent trial.

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Finest Hour 160, Autumn 2013

Page 45

By Erica L. Chenoweth

Winston Churchill, CEO: 25 Lessons for Bold Business Leaders, by Alan Axelrod. Sterling, hardbound, illus., 288 pp., $22.95.

Publishers print thousands of “business books,” shove them into stores or websites, and expect readers who are too busy to read to snatch them up. The genre’s raison d'être is the premise that it is good to learn from the experience of others. Alas, the result, as stated by management consultant Dave Logan, is that “95% go on one of two lists: ‘if you don’t know this already, you should be working at the DMV’ (Department of Motor Vehicles). And, ‘if you do these things, your company will become the DMV.’” All due respect to the DMV, but Alan Axelrod’s book is no exception.

Axelrod holds a doctorate in English literature and once published fourteen books in one year. Authors with outputs like that cannot be expected to be expert on Churchill o r business, so his book provides little insight into either. CEO could be read like a synopsis of Churchill’s life by an enthusiastic author who has spent limited time with Churchill’s writings and biographies.

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Finest Hour 160, Autumn 2013

Page 12

By Justin D. Lyons

Because the realization of peace was -not preordained, Winston Churchill devoted much more thought than President Wilson to practical steps that could bring it about. Wilson’s vision was in large part unaccompanied by many practical suggestions. Churchill repeatedly emphasized that collective security does not work without collective force.

Woodrow Wilson is the American president about whom Churchill’s reflections are perhaps least known. Wilson necessarily appears as a key figure in The World Crisis, Churchill’s account of the First World War, and WSC adorns him with vibrant prose, writing that “he played a part in the fate of nations incomparably more direct and personal than any other man….a monument for human meditation.”1 But Churchill’s complete judgment of Wilson was not one of unqualified praise.2

Churchill also finds fault with Wilson, “the inscrutable and undecided judge….He would have been greatly helped in his task,” Churchill continues, “if he had reached a definite conclusion where in the European struggle Right lay.”3 The President’s refusal to admit the implications of German aggression kept the United States out of the war during crucial years, whose suffering the world might have been spared:

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