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Finest Hour 163

Finest Hour 163, Summer 2014

Page 38

By Michael McMenamin


Summer 1889 • Age 14

“I am rather shaky”

Winston’s concussion was described as “slight” by Harrow medical adviser G.C. Briggs, who said that he was put to bed “and will require careful watching for a few days.” Today, we know that even mild concussions are not to be treated lightly. Neither of Winston’s parents visited him at Harrow while he was bedridden, not for lack of requests. On 22 June his nanny, Mrs. Everest, arrived and Winston thanked his mother “for letting Woom come down.” Having mentioned that “I do not feel very fit,” he added: “Can’t you come instead—I was rather disappointed at not seeing you as I fully expected to.”

Once again, Winston’s pleas fell on deaf ears but Mrs. Everest came again the next day. He wrote to his mother: “Thanks awfully for letting Woom come down today. Both Doctor & Nurse say that they think I shall need a rest. I hope, most excruciatingly, that I do come home. Do come tomorrow….I am very delighted at the idea of coming home.”

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Finest Hour 163, Summer 2014

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Economist Thomas Sowell (www.tsowell.com) writes on the asymmetry of language between those on opposite sides of the ideological divide: “In the midst of an election campaign against the labour Party, when Winston Churchill said that there would be dire consequences if his opponents won, he said that this was because ‘they do not see where their theories are leading them.’ but, in an earlier campaign, Churchill’s labour opponent said that he looked upon WSC ‘as such a personal force for evil that I would take up the fight against him with a whole heart.’ ” In fairness Mr. Sowell should have added that Churchill also predicted “a kind of Gestapo” if labour won the 1945 election, although he didn’t call Clement Attlee “a personal force for evil,” and respected Attlee as a servant of his country, which was Sowell’s point.

“For the unduly imaginative,” wrote Florida Weekly, “the specter of Winston Churchill may haunt the grand chambers of state government in Tallahassee. That’s when 160 legislators—forty senators and 120 representatives—prepare for an eight-week round of bill-making, deal-wrangling, money-spending and bipartisan gamesmanship that shapes the way 19 million residents live in Florida. They call it ‘the legislative session.’ It begins Tuesday morning, March 4th. It was Mr. Churchill, after all, who pointed out: ‘Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.’ ” (Correctly noting that WSC did not originate this.)

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revFinest Hour 163, Summer 2014

Page 44

By Ronald I. Cohan

Mr. Peter Ochs is developing a theatre piece, “Churchill and Hitler in Their Own Words,” which he hopes will open in Vienna in August. Among Churchill’s lines are: “Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail.” Hitler, he assures us, is more prosaic: “Germany will even survive me!” (Did he really say that?)

But Mr. Ochs wished to include a much earlier Churchill speech, forty-five years before World War II—his first ever, in November 1895, in the promenade at the Empire Palace of Varieties in Leicester Square.

Churchill was quite taken with the promenade, situated just behind the dress circle. Not so London’s prudes, led by the formidably named Mrs. Ormiston Chant. The congregating of men and women, including ladies of the evening, and the drinking of alcohol, had elicited Mrs. Chant’s opprobrium. In response to her protests the London County Council ordered the theatre to erect a canvas screen between the promenade and the outer bars.

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Page 46

By Robert Courts

“Unsinkable”: Churchill and the First World War, by Richard Freeman. Spellmount Publishers, 272 pages, $32.95, Kindle $16.49.

Richard Freeman sets out to persuade his reader that Churchill’s First World War career was one of unequivocal triumph, without a hint of tragedy. Squarely aiming at the casual reader, he argues that the Churchill of the Great War was full of “energy, imagination and courage,” developing his argument with flair, humour and engaging style.

The praise is comprehensive, including such relatively obscure episodes as Churchill’s prophetic 1911 memorandum predicting how the first few weeks of a German attack in the West would develop. We read of Churchill’s work to deploy aircraft and armoured cars at Dunkirk. There is an excellent passage on WSC’s focus on “machines not men”—arguably his greatest contribution to the war. Churchill’s work at the Ministry of Munitions, often-overlooked, is well-handled in good detail, especially the political battles against colleagues.

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Finest Hour 163, Summer 2014

Page 45

By William John Shepherd

Churchill and the Mad Mullah of Somaliland: Betrayal and Redemption 1899-1921, by Roy Irons. Pen & Sword, 238 pages, £19.99, $39.95.

Churchill’s role in the 1907 campaign in Somaliland, against Mohammed Abdille (or Abdullah) Hassan, the rebellious so-called  “Mad Mullah,” has been understated. It was scarcely mentioned by Churchill in his memoirs, or in the 1923 standard work on the subject, by colonial administrator Sir Douglas Jardine. Irons corrects this with elegant writing and pithy chapter epigrams from western luminaries, including Churchill (referred to throughout as “The Giant”) and even from the Book of Ecclesiastes. He provides excellent maps and photographs, a comprehensive bibliography, and extensive endnotes sourcing letters and reports of contemporaries including serving British officers.

The British Empire’s extensive trade routes, maintained by the Royal Navy, included the port of Berbera in northern Somaliland. Here the inhabitants, devout Muslims with powerful oral traditions, belonged to patriarchal clans which constantly engaged in feuds. The “Mad Mullah” was a radical Sunni preacher, so named by his more moderate countrymen, though his followers called him “Sayyid” or Master. Responding to his resistance, British officers led Somali levies augmented by Sikhs from India and former enemies like the Sudanese and Boers. They inflicted massive casualties on the Mullah’s followers, though he always escaped, often hiding in Italian Somaliland.

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Finest Hour 163, Summer 2014

Page 47

By Christopher H. Sterling

Churchill and the King: The Wartime Alliance of Winston Churchill and George VI, by Kenneth Weisbrode. Viking/Penguin, 208 pages, $26.95, Kindle $10.99, member price $21.55.

Churchill once demanded, “Take this pudding away—it has no theme!” Such is the problem with this small book, which ostensibly assesses George VI and his prime minister during World War II. But it never rises above generalities that are already well known.

A crucial part of the author’s problem, of course, is that the core of their relationship was defined in conversations between his two subjects where no one else was present to record what took place. That situation forces him back to public source material used by many previous authors. He cites the papers of Alanbrooke, Dill, Churchill, Halifax, Ismay, Roosevelt and George VI’s diary out of Royal Archives, but the notes and citations are nearly all to secondary sources. As a result this is little more than another potted survey of Churchill in the war, where we lose mention of the King for pages on end—and hear much about other relationships.

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Finest Hour 163, Summer 2014

Page 60

By Richard M. Langworth

Churchill Seemed to Regard Most Highly the American Presidents Who Didn’t Return His Admiration

Winston Churchill experienced eleven American presidents—as many as the Queen. He did not personally meet them all, as she has; but each contributed to his outlook and policies. His relations with the seven presidents from McKinley to Hoover are only stage-setters to the main events: FDR, Truman, Eisenhower. But one of them, Theodore Roosevelt, offers interesting insights.

Churchill, aged 26, and TR, aged 42, got off to a thoroughly bad start. When Churchill met the hero who had charged up San Juan Hill two months before the Englishman had charged at Omdurman, he professed vast approval of then-Governor Roosevelt. But TR, doubtless aware of young Winston’s reputation as a publicity seeker, did not return the compliment.

“I saw the Englishman, Winston Churchill...he is not an attractive fellow,” Roosevelt confided to a friend after the meeting.1 The negative impression proved as enduring as their parallel careers—both were to shift party allegiance; both were to achieve the highest political office; both were awarded a Nobel Prize. TR was, incidentally, the only president who profusely wrote books: eighteen, against Churchill’s fifty-one—mostly about hunting and outdoor life, though it is noteworthy that both he and Churchill wrote about the War of 1812.2

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Finest Hour 163

Page 52

By Andrew Roberts


“If you are the recipient of a message which cheers your heart and fortifies your soul, which promises you reunion with those you have loved in a world of larger opportunities and wider sympathies, why should you worry about the shape or colour of the travel-stained envelope; whether it is duly stamped, whether the date on the postcard is right or wrong?...I adopted quite early in life a system of believing whatever I wanted to believe, while at the same time leaving reason to pursue unfettered whatever paths she was capable of treading.” —WSC

I could hardly be called a pillar of the Church,” Winston Churchill once famously remarked, “I am more in the nature of a buttress, for I support it from the outside.”1 The reasons why our greatest 20th century prime minister—indeed perhaps along with Elizabeth I our greatest ever national leader— was not a Christian are rather bizarre. They include a sectarian nursemaid, a long-forgotten Victorian explorer, and the officers’ mess of the 4th Hussars at Bangalore, India.

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Finest Hour 163, Summer 2014

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Raymond Campbell is a local artist based in Sussex. In 2009, through Royall Fine Art, I commissioned him to do a “Pol Roger” painting for the David Cameron-Margaret Thatcher awards dinner in London. We were most grateful to Pol Roger for donating the champagne that evening, as they have for so many Churchill Centre functions over the years.

Pol Roger was established in Epernay, south of Reims, by Jacques Pol-Roger (the family name is hyphenated) in 1849. It was one of a score of grand marques which together fixed levels of quality for champagne that still prevail. Churchill often recalled the words of Napoleon: “I could not live without champagne. In victory I deserve it, in defeat I need it.”

Churchill had been a Pol Roger customer since 1908, but his friendship with the family began in 1944, when he was introduced to me. Odette Pol-Roger by British Ambassador Alfred Duff Cooper in Paris. The grande dame of Pol Roger Champagne, Odette encapsulated Churchill’s romantic vision of France; he was as captivated by her elegance and beauty as by the champagne served that day: Pol Roger’s full-blooded ’28. He left instructions that every time he returned to Paris, Odette Pol-Roger was to be invited to dinner.

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Finest Hour 163, Summer 2014

Page 05

Quotation of the Season

The danger which threaten the tranquillity of the modern world come not from those powers that have become interdependent upon others.... They come from those powers which are more or less aloof from the general intercourse of mankind...." —WSC, HOUSE OF COMMONS, 8 MARCH 1905

Denmark Remembers

BLADON, MAY 4TH— In the annual Holger Danske Clubben ceremony, Claus Grube, Danish Ambassador to Britain, laid a wreath in commemoration of the Danish Resistance and in thanks to Winston Churchill for Denmark’s liberation. The short service, organised and attended by local British Legion groups, gave thanks for “all those who served in the Resistance and other Forces…for the life and memory of Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, who led the free world in the fight for peace during the Second World War.”

Getting to Chartwell

WESTERHAM, MARCH 20TH— Chartwell opened today and through November 2nd, although the studio, exhibition room, gardens and estate are open throughout the year. Opening times are Wednesday through Sunday from 11am to 5pm, with the last house admission at 4:15 pm. Entry fees (house and gardens) are £12.50 adults, £6.25 children, £31.25 family. Visitors may opt for a small premium, “Gift Aid on Entry,” which is a donation. For the gardens and studio only, entry is £6.25 adults, £3.10 children and £15.60 family. There are no guided tours (although guides are present to help), but there is a reduced group rate of £10.70 adults for house and gardens. Telephone (01732) 868381.

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