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Finest Hour 161

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Finest Hour 161, Winter 2013-14

Page 12

By Mike Groves

Mr. Groves is founder of the Churchill Dining Club of Auckland (FH 158: 7). He retired in 2010 from twenty-two years in teaching and management work at the University of Auckland Business School, before which he had a career in marketing.

“New Zealand has never put a foot wrong from the start.” —WSC

Winston Churchill never visited New Zealand. Yet he thought so much of the country as to remark, during a visit by N.Z. Deputy Prime Minister Keith Holyoake, that since India had become a republic, it was his view that New Zealand was now “the brightest gem in the British crown.”1

Churchill’s earliest known involvement with New Zealand was in 1893, when he was sitting the Sandhurst entrance exam for the third time. He had been told that there would be a question on one particular country in the following day’s exam. Young Winston put the names of all the countries in the atlas into a hat and drew out New Zealand:

I applied my good memory to the geography of that Dominion. Sure enough the first question in the paper was: ‘Draw a map of New Zealand.’ This was what is called at Monte Carlo an en plein, and I ought to have been paid thirty-five times my stake. However, I certainly got paid very high marks for my paper.2

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Finest Hour 161, Winter 2013-14

Page 42

By Michael McMenamin


Winter 1888-89 • Age 14

“My holidays are utterly spoilt”

Winston spent Christmas at home with his brother Jack and their parents. Lord Randolph wrote to his mother, the Duchess of Marlborough, on 30 December that  “Of course the boys have made themselves ill with their Christmassing, & yesterday both were in bed…Jack is better this morning but Winston has a sore throat & some fever.” WSC’s son writes in the Official Biography that “this did not seem to have prevented Lord and Lady Randolph from going away.”

Winston kept his mother advised, writing on January 2nd:  “My throat is still painful & swelled - I get very hot in the night - & have very little appetite to speak of…How slow the time goes - I am horribly bored - & slightly irritable – no wonder my liver is still bad – Medicine 6 times a day is a horrible nuisance. I am looking forward to your return with ‘feelings, better imagined than described.’”

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Finest Hour 161, Winter 2013-14

Page 7

A BBC documentary claimed to have found proof that the WW2 broadcaster J.B. Priestley was sacked by Winston Churchill for anti-WSC statements. Historian Richard North said this occurred after Priestley “became increasingly vocal in his criticism of the Conservative government.” Wait! It was a coalition not a Conservative government. Since we never heard of the story, we asked a British colleague: “It contravened the BBC charter to be political,” he wrote, “so if Priestley was criticising the government it was against the BBC Charter and regulations, and he deserved everything he got.”


A Syrious Situation: Will Durst (http://xrl.us/bpsngf) wrote: “Everyone pretends not to be knee-deep in the icky, tricky, sticky Syria situation. You might say Washington is in a Semi-Syrious mode right now...This whole affair is riddled with enigmas and mysteries enough to make Winston Churchill spin his conundrums right off.  And rumor has it, he harbored huge conundrums.”

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Finest Hour 161, Winter 2013-14

Page 31

By Curt Zoller

A remarkable number of books about Churchill, not counting his own, have appeared in Dutch. The numbers herein are from Curt Zoller’s Annotated Bibliography of Works about Sir Winston Churchill (Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe, 2004). All texts are in Dutch. Omitted are Dutch translations of works first published in other languages. Churchill’s 1946 visit to Holland was covered by four individual works.

A109. Unknown, Winston Spencer Churchill. Helmond: Boekdrukkerij “Helmond,” n.d. [1945], 128 pp., paperback.

Anonymous biography.

A112. A.B.M. Brans and E. Cancrinus, Winston Churchill bezoekt Nederland: 8 tot en met 13 Mei 1946. Leiden: A.W. Sythoff Publishers, 1946, 64 pp., illus., paperback.

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Finest Hour 161, Winter 2013-14

Page 45

By Paul H. Courtenay

Churchill’s First War: Young Winston and the Fight Against the Taliban, by Con Coughlin. Macmillan, 456 pp., £25, Kindle £9.59. Thomas Dunne U.S. edition subtitled At War with the Afghans, 320 pp., $26.99, Kindle $12.99, member price $21.59.

Con Coughlin is the Daily Telegraph’s Defence editor, who well understands the current conflict in Afghanistan. His book is a well-informed study of the turbulent North West Frontier of the former Indian empire, now part of Muslim Pakistan, and how Churchill came to become involved there in 1897.

The first chapter has Churchill commissioned in 4th Queen’s Own Hussars (valuable for those new to his youth); four more chapters marry his early years as a cavalry officer with the background of the Frontier’s instability and turmoil. We then reach the nub of the story and learn in detail about his first direct experience of active military operations (not counting two weeks in Cuba in 1895—more like an occasionally dangerous holiday).

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Finest Hour 161, Winter 2013-14

Page 51

Churchill and Empire: Portrait of an Imperialist, by Lawrence James. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 464 pp., £25, available from Amazon UK.

The British people, generally speaking, were fighting in defence of their own country. Their aim was to beat the Nazis and return to a quiet life. For Churchill himself the aim was larger and more elevated: the preservation of Britain’s empire and the Great Power status it conferred. He was, and always had been, a passionate imperialist, a rich biographical theme explored by Lawrence James.

So much has been written about every phase and episode of Churchill’s life that James has to travel many a well-trodden path. Fortunately he writes extremely well and refreshes a multitude of familiar topics with narrative skill. The clarity, pace and punch of his prose carry the reader along. On the debit side it has to be said that, although he has done plenty of homework, he could have done more. It is puzzling that he seems to have made no use of the Churchill Papers. Nor is he always accurate on matters of detail. Churchill, he claims, denounced the Hoare–Laval Pact of December 1935. Up to a point, Lord Copper!* When the crisis arose he was on holiday in Majorca, and there he stayed, absenting himself from the parliamentary debate and issuing no statement for or against the Pact.

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Finest Hour 161, Winter 2013-14

Page 47

By Jack Mens

‘Blood, Sweat and Tears’: Churchills onwrikbare geloof in de overwinning [Churchill’s Unshakable Faith in Victory], by Harry van Wijnen. Text in Dutch. Balans, Amsterdam, 350 pp., €29.95. For available copies see bookfinder.com.

May 10th, 1940 is of dual importance: this was the day Hitler launched his assault on France and the Low Countries, and the day Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of Great Britain. Hitler expected the Dutch, a Germanic race, to believe in and accept his New Order, and welcome them into their country. But only 1 1/2% of the population were members of the Dutch NSB Party (equivalent to the National Socialists). The rest hated the Nazis and all they stood for.

Harry van Wijnen (born 1937) served as parliamentary editor for the Amsterdam daily Het Parool, and editor of the prestigious NRC Handelsblad. He was also Professor of Media at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam. His previous works include books on the Dutch press and monarchy and a biography of the Rotterdam tycoon D.G. van Beuringen.

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Finest Hour 161, Winter 2013-14

Page 44

By Michael Richards

Love Actually, starring Hugh Grant, written and directed by Richard Curtis, music by Craig Armstrong. Working Title Films, Universal Pictures, 2003, 135 minutes.

Many American friends of Britain (and, we trust, vice versa) think the “Special Relationship” invented by Churchill tends nowadays to work in only one direction. I was reminded of this by an unlikely source, Hugh Grant, playing the British Prime Minister, in a syrupy, sentimental but amusing ten-year-old comedy. Variety described it as “doggedly cheery,” with “cheeky wit, impossibly attractive cast, and sure-handed professionalism.”

Love Actually is a multiple romance about ten different love affairs going on simultaneously around Christmastime in London, with an accomplished cast: Colin Firth (The King’s Speech), Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean, the mute comic), Emma Thompson (Shakespeare to Harry Potter). There’s also Liam Neeson, who for once isn’t killing the Ungodly but trying to be a good step-dad to his ten-year-old son, who is in love with an American 10-year-old. Quite a cast—not the least Martin Freeman and Joanna Page, who meet as body doubles for movie sex scenes. One says (while naked and simulating sex): “it is nice to have someone I can just chat to.” They fall for each other and she takes him home and invites him in. He says, “Are you sure this is all right? I’ve never done this before.”

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Finest Hour 161, Winter 2013-14

Page 44

By June Hopkins

Rendezvous with Destiny: How Franklin Roosevelt and Five Extraordinary Men Took America into the War and into the World, by Michael Fullilove. Penguin, 466 pp., $29.95. Member price $23.96.

Australian Michael Fullilove offers an extremely readable and illuminating history of the crucial months leading up to America’s entry in World War II. From September 1939 when Hitler invaded Poland, to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, America remained staunchly isolationist. The Neutrality Acts largely prevented President Roosevelt from aiding Great Britain and France, despite his sympathy for those besieged nations. Nevertheless, he did engage the U.S. in actions “short of war” to contribute to the British war effort.

With meticulous research and graceful prose, Fullilove explains how Roosevelt bypassed Congress and the State Department and directed foreign policy through five personal envoys: Undersecretary of State Sumner Wells; Colonel William J. Donovan; Republican presidential candidate Wendell Wilkie; businessman Averell Harriman; and presidential aide and confidante Harry Hopkins. Their role was to gather information and open lines of communication with Prime Minister Churchill and, after June of 1941, Marshal Stalin. Thus the President furthered his foreign policy agenda while avoiding official channels. To Fullilove this was FDR’s style of governance: aversion to bureaucracy, and political practicality.

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Finest Hour 161, Winter 2013-14

Page 49

By Robert Courts

The Essential Churchill: Collected Words, Speeches and Sayings of Sir Winston Churchill, edited by J.A. Sutcliffe, with an introduction by Robert Blake. Duckworth Overlook Press, 112 pp., $12.95. A Little Bit of Churchill Wit , edited by Edward Green. Summersdale Publishers, 160 pp., $5.95.

Can any new Churchill quotation book justify shelf space? After over half a century of the genre, from the large (Czarnomski) to the tiny (Jarrold’s), from the reliable to the myth-perpetuators, the market is full.

The elegant Sutcliffe volume is not a new book, last seen in Duckworth’s “Sayings” series in 1992. A step up from that rather workaday booklet, this is an attractive hardback with dustcover and clean design, but retains the original’s topical chapter headings.

It offers the familiar selection of quotes about people from speeches and published works, largely well-sourced and accurate. There is the odd mistake in attribution: “Young men have often been ruined through owning horses.” is from My Early Life not Great Contemporaries, whilst the archetypal red herring, “jaw-jaw is better than to war-war,”—Macmillan’s line on a similar theme from Churchill, makes its unabashed appearance. To the book’s credit, some of these dubious entries are marked “Attrib.”—such as, “a sheep in sheep’s clothing” which Churchill denied saying about Attlee.

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