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Finest Hour 166

Finest Hour 166, Winter 2015

Page 18

By Michael McMenamin

ATD-Label125 Years Ago

Winter 1889—90 • Age 15

“Anxious to Learn Drawing”

Winston came down with measles during the Christmas holidays and passed the illness on to his mother’s lover, Count Charles Kinsky. Winston wrote a letter of apology to Kinsky who wrote back on 25 January from Paris, clearly touched that his lover’s son had written to him. In his reply, Kinsky wrote, “How nice of you to think of writing to me!” and concluded, “Write to me sometimes. I shall always answer.”

A month later, Winston received an uncharacteristically pleasant letter from his father. “Very many thanks for your two letters. I am delighted to hear that you are getting on so well and hope you will be able to keep the steam up until the end of the term… the weather is vy cold and disagreeable but I have lots of work to get through at home and in the House.”

Winston apparently did not write frequently to his grandmother, the Duchess of Marlborough, but he did so in February and received a 27 February letter from her in return. “I was very happy to get your letter, and to find that you sometimes recollect your Grand Mother! I take the greatest interest in your welfare and progress. Am pleased to see you are beginning to be ambitious! You have a great example of industry in your dear Father & of thoroughness in work.”

While Churchill did not take up painting until mid-life, he began to take drawing lessons at Harrow after the winter break. He wrote to his mother that he was “very anxious to learn drawing,” explaining that he had dropped a singing class and taken up drawing instead because “Papa said he thought singing was a waste of time.” On 12 March he wrote to his mother “I am getting on in drawing and I like it very much. I am going to begin shading in Sepia tomorrow. I have been drawing little Landscapes and Bridges and those sort of things.”

100 Years Ago

Winter 1914—15 • Age 40

“Tell Them to Go & Milk  Their Cows”

On 21 November, British naval aviators made a daring air raid on the hydrogen factory and Zeppelin base at Friedrichshafen, Germany, on the north shore of Lake Constance whose south shore is in Switzerland. The raid had originated from Belfort, a base in southeast France. The hydrogen factory was destroyed along with one Zeppelin. Prime Minister Asquith wrote to Venetia Stanley that “Winston is quite pleased with his raid”.

Unfortunately, the Swiss were not and formally complained to Foreign Secretary Grey that the British aircraft had flown over Swiss territory and that a Swiss citizen had been killed in the raid. Grey passed the complaint on to Churchill who curtly replied on 23 November that the “strictest instructions” were given not to fly over Swiss territory and they had not. Besides, he added, “No bomb was dropped on Swiss territory; & if a Swiss was killed in the Zeppelin factory, it serves him right.” When Grey told him on 27 November that the British government would have to apologize, Churchill replied, “Switzerland is lucky to have Englishmen fighting the battle of small states. The least she can do is not be querulous.”

Churchill’s patience with the Swiss was exhausted when Grey passed on to him a 30 November telegram from the British Minister in Berne suggesting “a few words [of apology] in the House of Commons would have a good effect.” Churchill replied to Grey in a “Secret” memorandum:

1) The International Conference of 1910 reached no agreement on the subject of aeroplanes flying over neutral territory. There is therefore no international law on the subject, & no question can arise of breach of neutrality….
2) Nevertheless the Br aviators honestly tried to avoid Swiss territory… they believe they succeeded.
3) We must not pay too much attention to pro-German Swiss.
4) Tell them to go & milk their cows.

By December, with trenches extending from the Swiss border to the Atlantic, many high officials were seeking an alternative policy to supplement, if not replace, the current policy that Churchill described in a 29 December letter to the Prime Minister as “sending our armies to chew barbed wire in Flanders.” Lloyd George was of a similar mind. So was Maurice Hankey, the Secretary to the Cabinet, the Committee of Imperial Defence and the War Council. All three men sent long memoranda at the end of December to Asquith with their respective suggestions for a new policy.

Churchill was to become the scapegoat for the failure of the Gallipoli operation in the spring of 1915. Ironically, however, Churchill’s proposal was the only one of the three that did not involve Turkey and the only one of the three that proposed hitting at Germany directly. Lloyd George proposed two attacks, one against Austria from the south by an allied army of Serbs, Rumanians, Greeks and Montenegrins. The second attack would be against Turkey with 100,000 troops landing in Syria. Churchill’s plan—one the Admiralty had drawn up years earlier—was to invade Germany from the North Sea, the first step being the invasion of the German barrier island of Borkum in the East Frisians. The island would then be used for a subsequent invasion of Schleswig-Holstein and seizure of the Kiel Canal followed by a landing on the Pomerianian coast 100 miles from Berlin. Hankey’s plan was an invasion of Turkey on the Gallipoli peninsula preceded by a forcing of the Dardanelles by the British Navy.

The War Council actually approved in principle the attack on Borkum island on 7 January. As Churchill wrote to Admiral Jellicoe on 11 January, the capture of Borkum is “the first step in an aggressive warfare wh wd…cow the enemy, beat him into his ports, & mine and wire him in there.” Moreover, he wrote it “is the only aggressive policy wh gives the Navy its chance to apply its energy & daring, & in 6 weeks of fierce flotilla warfare we cd beat the enemy out of the North Sea altogether.”

The next day Admiral Carden, the British fleet commander in the Mediterranean, sent a telegram offering his opinion that the Dardanelles could be forced by ships alone. This was sufficient for both Kitchener and the First Sea Lord Fisher to back Hankey’s plan: Churchill’s plan to invade Germany’s coast was abandoned.

In the midst of all this, Fisher on 4 January announced his intent to resign as First Sea Lord because Churchill had not implemented Fisher’s proposed policy of shooting German prisoners of war if Zeppelins dropped any more bombs on England. Churchill immediately replied that “The question of aerial defence is not one upon wh you have any professional experience. The question of killing prisoners in reprisal for an aerial attack is not one for the Admiralty and certainly not you to decide.” Churchill promised to bring Fisher’s views to the Cabinet, which, of course, did not adopt them. Churchill was able to coax the increasingly unstable Fisher out of his tree, however, as he agreed to withdraw his resignation.

75 Years Ago

Winter 1939—40 • Age 65

“Courage Would Have Failed Them”

Churchill was feeling the same kind of frustration in the Winter of 1939-40 as he had in 1914-15—dealing with a Prime Minister and Cabinet reluctant to take any affirmative action in prosecuting a war against Germany. He had proposed mining Norwegian waters to force into the open sea ore ships carrying Swedish iron ore from the Norwegian port of Narvik to Germany. He also proposed a military landing at Narvik and an overland invasion of Sweden to seize the ore fields, arguing “it may be the shortest and surest road to the end.” Similiarly, he had proposed  mining the Rhine river. These proposals were all rejected by the Cabinet, prompting Churchill in a 15 January letter to Foreign Secretary Halifax to complain that “I see such immense walls of prevention built and building that I wonder whether any plan will have a chance of climbing over them…victory will never be found in taking the line of  least resistance.”

Meanwhile, after the Battle of the River Plate Argentina and Uruguay were acting in a manner reminiscent of the Swiss complaining in 1914 of the British overflying Swiss territory. They complained that during the battle British warships entered the new 300mile non-combatant zone recently established by the Panama Conference of American States.

Churchill responded: “Laws of war gave raider right [to] capture, or sink after providing for crews, all trade with us in South Atlantic. No protest was made about this although it injured Argentine commercial interests. Why then should complaints be made of our action in ridding seas of this raider in strict accordance with same international laws from which we had been suffering[?]”

On 16 February, Churchill had an opportunity to act against Germany without first seeking the Cabinet’s approval. He learned that the German warship Altmark, with 299 British prisoners, was steaming toward Germany in Norwegian territorial waters. Churchill believed the Altmark was violating Norwegian neutrality by transporting British prisoners-of-war to Germany. He ordered the Navy to enter Norwegian waters, seize the Altmark and liberate the British seamen. Initially, the Norwegian Navy refused to allow the British to board the German ship and had orders to resist the British by force. Upon learning of this, Churchill consulted with Halifax and then personally ordered the British captain to board the Altmark. If the Norwegian Navy fired upon the British ships, Churchill directed that “you should defend yourself using no more force than is necessary, and ceasing fire when [the Norwegians] desist.”

The Norwegians did not resist, but the Germans did when boarded by the British Navy. All 299 British seamen were liberated and returned to England. Lord Lloyd wrote that had it been any other minister in charge “Courage would have failed them.”

Finest Hour 166, Winter 2015

Page 32


“There can be no doubt that there was a certain grandeur  about the old man”—Auberon Waugh, 1976

Churchill prepares to speak at Westminster College, 1946Churchill prepares to speak at Westminster College, 1946Toronto, 1932: Words Lost in a Cavern
Foster Hewitt, hockey broadcaster

Most of the celebrities with whom I came in contact were friendly and cooperative. The individual who gave me the most trouble was not a star of stage and screen, he was a statesman and warrior—Winston Churchill. Churchill had been touring North America on a speaking tour and the itinerary included Toronto. At that time the Gardens’ acoustics were a problem but we had arranged for the speaker to use the regular stand-up type of microphone; however, when he saw it he raged in language that was later to make him famous. He emphatically protested that a microphone of that nature would just not do, and demanded a lapel mike. He had used such a type in Washington and had liked it because it gave him freedom of movement and did not tie him to one spot. However, Churchill did not appreciate that while a lapel microphone might be suitable when addressing a small auditorium audience, its effect would be lost in the cavernous Maple Leaf Gardens.

Eventually we gave in to the distinguished lecturer and arranged to get him a lapel microphone; still, for our own protection we also installed stand-up equipment so that the speaker could either wander or remain fixed. That arrangement seemed a reasonable compromise but Churchill unwisely prefaced his address by enquiring from the audience, “Can you hear me distinctly out there?” “No!” came the shouted response; whereupon the irate speaker pulled off his lapel mike, remained away from our substitute and addressed the audience in his natural voice. Unfortunately, he never reached them.
His Own Story (Ryerson Press, 1967)

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Finest Hour 166, Winter 2015

Page 27


Rodney Croft, Churchill’s Final Farewell: The State and Private Funeral of Sir Winston Churchill Available from Amazon as print-on- demand paperback, 168 pp.  $15.75 or Kindle $9.99

This is the first book written solely about Churchill’s state funeral in January 1965. Croft is a semi-retired vascular surgeon based in London. His own memories of the events surrounding Churchill’s funeral fifty years ago inspired him to begin meticulous archival research in order to catalog the details and planning that went into the operation given the code name Hope Not. Though not without errors, the result is a step-by-step account of events from the lying-in-state in Westminster Hall to the final committal at St. Martin’s churchyard in Bladon.

Croft begins by describing Churchill’s decision to be buried not at Chartwell, as he originally intended, but at Bladon where his parents were laid to rest near the ancestral home of Blenheim Palace. This necessitated planning complex railway travel from London following the funeral service. But Croft covers everything: the lying-in-state, the procession of the funeral carriage to St. Paul’s, the order of service, the transport of the coffin up the Thames from Tower Pier, the railway journey from Waterloo Station and the final committal. The intricate logistics involving seven thousand military personnel and thousands more members of the Metropolitan Police are also documented.

Finest Hour 166, Winter 2015

Page 26

By Michael McMenamin

Like other Churchill scholars, I am frequently asked what one book I would recommend for someone who wants to learn more about Churchill. My answer long has been Martin Gilbert’s In Search of Churchill. I will still recommend it, but I will also add a second choice because London Mayor Boris Johnson’s new book The Churchill Factor is as good an introduction to Churchill as there is. Unlike with Gilbert, though, my recommendation of Boris will come with a few caveats.

Ignore Boris, I will tell them, when he writes that Churchill was not “a man of principle; he was a glory-chasing, goal mouth-hanging opportunist” when he left the Tories and joined the Liberals in 1904 over the Tories’ abandonment of free trade (35). Ignore him when he writes “In the course of his forty-year parliamentary career Churchill had shown a complete contempt for any notion of political fidelity, let alone loyalty to the Tory Party” (34). Ignore him as well when he writes that Churchill “was fundamentally a Tory” (125). Ignore him on these points because he is simply wrong.

Overweening ambition (which Churchill had in spades) and devotion to political principles are not mutually exclusive. Churchill certainly was not loyal to the Tories, but he was loyal to his political principles that were rooted in nineteenth century classical liberalism. Martin Gilbert in Churchill’s Political Philosophy (1981) and Paul Addison in Churchill on the Home Front (1992) reach a similar conclusion. Boris cites both in his bibliography, so he should know better.

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Finest Hour 166, Winter 2015

Page 28


Thomas Maier, When Lions Roar: The Churchills and the Kennedys, New York: Random House, $30.

When Lions RoarThe presidential campaign of 1960 between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon was, I believe, the last great one. After all, it was the height of the Cold War, which featured heavily in their four eventful TV debates. Millions watched as the candidates paraded through big-city rallies in Chicago, Philadelphia and New York. People wore not just large campaign buttons but also jaunty “boater” hats. For those like me who have loved politics in all its spectacle, it was a time to savor—even now.

One of my personal memories of the Kennedy-Nixon race was my father’s off-hand remark that the young Democratic candidate possessed “a touch of Churchill.” What made it stand out then and long after was that ours was a Republican family, Dad very much a Nixon man. I knew of his admiration for the World War II leader. He was, after all, himself the son of an Englishman. But what explained this multi-gun salute to Jack Kennedy, this recognition that the youthful American carried even in small supply something of the great man who had saved Britain and so honored the twentieth century?

When Lions Roar: The Churchills and the Kennedys by Thomas Maier traces the influence of the great British statesman on the American president. More grandly, it explores the way in which two families of different countries managed, for better or worse, to get so often in each other’s way.

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Finest Hour 166, Winter 2015

Page 30


This review originally appeared in The Northern Mariner and is re-printed with kind permission.

Martin Thornton, Churchill, Borden and Anglo-Canadian Naval Relations, 1911-14, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. £50.00

churchill borden image Canadian naval policy has seldom generated much interest in Great Britain, with the notable exception of the Naval Aid Bill introduced to the Canadian House of Commons by Robert Borden’s Conservative government in the autumn of 1912. This legislation was intended to provide for the construction, in British shipyards, of three new “dreadnought” battleships for Britain’s Royal Navy. The naval race with Germany was placing considerable strain on British finances at this time, and the possibility that Canada might alleviate some of the burden was warmly welcomed by the British Admiralty, and especially the young First Lord, Winston S. Churchill. Behind the scenes, the up-and-coming British cabinet minister worked closely with the more senior Dominion prime minister, supplying him with information and documents to persuade Canadians that Britain urgently needed their aid. Borden’s Naval Aid Bill was highly controversial, however, and was ultimately rejected by the Canadian senate, where the Liberal Party commanded a solid majority.

These events have typically been treated either as a colourful episode in Canadian political history or as a minor distraction in the development of prewar British naval policy. This volume is the first attempt to give equal weight to events on both sides of the Atlantic, an approach that allows the author to explore the close collaboration that developed between Borden and Churchill. The two politicians corresponded regularly during this period and a strong degree of mutual trust appears to have developed. Borden was clearly impressed by Churchill’s arguments for a Canadian contribution to bolster the Royal Navy, a policy that had the added benefit, from Borden’s perspective, of upsetting the plans of his predecessor, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, to develop an autonomous Canadian navy. Churchill, on the other hand, was grateful for Borden’s efforts and was willing to take political risks on his behalf. The most obvious challenge faced by the First Lord was to make the case that Britain faced a genuine naval emergency without creating a panic in Britain or suggesting that his own preparations had been inadequate.

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Finest Hour 166, Winter 2015

Page 31


Christopher Baker, Michael L. Dockrill, and Keith Hamilton (eds.), Britain in Global Politics, vol. 1, From Gladstone to Churchill. Palgrave MacMillan, 312 pp., $92 (Kindle $73.60).

John W. Young, Effie G. H. Pedaliu, and Michael D. Kandiah (eds.), Britain in Global Politics, vol. 2, From Churchill to Blair. Palgrave MacMillan, 280 pp., $85 (Kindle $68).

Britain in Global politics imageTwenty-seven scholars contribute to this two-volume, posthumous tribute to the late Cold War historian Saki Ruth Dockrill (1952 —2009) of King’s College, London. Between them, the two volumes cover events from the 19th through the early 21st century.

Martin Thomas’s essay in the first volume is one of the best, examining post—World War I western military coercion of colonial populations (Morocco, Syria, Iraq) via air power, which demonstrated Western technical superiority as well as revealing financial weaknesses. Air power’s ability to control Third World spaces was temporary at best—a timely reminder to western politicians who intervene with air power in places like Libya, Syria and Iraq.

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Finest Hour 166, Winter 2015

Page 26


Head-StPauls"Is Boris seeking to compare himself to Winston?” ask the politicos. Anyone who has read Boris’s The Dream of Rome will be familiar with his talent for taking a subject he is familiar with and using it to illustrate a contemporary political point. But this is overlooking the merits of the book in search of an obvious and clumsy parallel.

Certainly, the willing can draw similarities between Boris and Winston. No-one called Winston “Churchill,” and everyone, friend and foe, calls Boris by his Christian name. Both reach parts of the electorate other politicians cannot. Both held political office at the same time as writing books and articles for the media. Both are idiosyncratically dressed. Both are half-American. Above all, both are possessed of a titanic work ethic. Boris knows that when he expresses admiration of Winston’s qualities, his readers will pause to consider that the same may be true of their erstwhile author.

Boris does not claim to be a Churchill scholar; throughout he gives praise and thanks to our own Allen Packwood and Warren Dockter for giving him the facts. What Boris does do is tell a cracking story.

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Finest Hour 166, Winter 2015

Page 24


The most widely noted new book about Churchill published in 2014 was that written by the ebullient Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. A robust and unapologetically pro-Churchill study by a major politician with an eye to the future calls for our full attention.  So we have departed with tradition and commissioned three different reviews: one each from a Canadian, American and British perspective. While our reviewers do not hesitate to hold Mayor Johnson to account on matters of fact and interpretation, they all admire his gusto. We are pleased that the mayor will be our keynote speaker at the 32nd International Churchill Conference, to be held 26—29 May 2015.

Boris Johnson, The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History, London: Hodder & Sroughton, 2014, 408 pages. £25, member price $22.35

Churchill FactorEnjoyed  the Read

A book by Boris Johnson, like almost any book about Winston Churchill, is bound to be interesting. The combination of this author with this subject cannot fail to be a good read—nor does it. While usually unwise and presumptuous to impute motives to an author, it seems a reasonable surmise that Johnson, currently the Mayor of London, wishes also to occupy some of the great offices held by Churchill and hopes this book will help propel him along that path. There is nothing wrong with that, and, as Johnson explains, that was sometimes Churchill’s motive in writing.

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Finest Hour 166, Winter 2015

Page 14

By Michael Shelden

With the centenary of the First World War now at hand, Michael Shelden, author of Young Titan: The Making of Winston Churchill (2013), examines Churchill’s relationship with the Prime Minister in the first year of the war and finds a transition between passing and approaching political styles.

Asquith and Churchill, 1911.Asquith and Churchill, 1911.
For Britain’s top three leaders in 1914—1915, the First World War was waged not only on the Continent and the seas but also in their neighborhood. All three men lived and worked within a short distance of each other and were able to meet on a moment’s notice to plan strategy or debate the latest issues. Each kept a wary eye on the others, like neighboring tradesmen living above their respective shops.

Prime Minister Herbert Asquith and Chancellor of  the Exchequer David Lloyd George resided, of course, in the Downing Street houses reserved for them at numbers Ten and Eleven. But it is useful to remember that Winston Churchill, as First Lord of the Admiralty, lived just over the garden wall, so to speak. Asquith’s daughter, Violet, liked to think of the Churchills as her closest friends in this highly select neighborhood and recalled with delight in later years that “only the width of the Horse Guards Parade separated the Admiralty from the garden door of No. 10, and it was often crossed hot-foot.”1

For the prime minister and his wife, Margot, Winston Churchill was not just another member of the Cabinet. He was almost like family, something similar to a distant cousin whom they didn’t quite trust but couldn’t help liking. Depending on her mood, Margot could claim him as a devoted friend or an untrustworthy foe. The prime minister also went to extremes, thinking Churchill a brilliant ally one month and complaining the next that he was a vainglorious bumbler.

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