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Finest Hour Extras

Here you will find Finest Hour Extras that were submitted for publication in the journal. 

By Antoine Capet

Université de Rouen (France)

Part 1 of 3

Last March, I was invited to deliver a keynote lecture on ‘Churchill, Fascism and the Fascists’ at the University of Lille (France),[1] and when Dr Michael Kandiah[2] asked me later in the spring if I were interested in giving a paper at the Cold War Conference which he was organising,[3] I immediately thought of ‘Churchill and Bolshevism’[4] as the obverse of the same coin.[5]

Probably the image of Churchill which continues to prevail in the remotest corners of the globe is that of the ‘Bulldog’ relentlessly resisting and finally defeating the Fascist Dictators – including of course their archetype, Hitler.[6] But David Carlton, who has devoted a monograph to the study of Churchill’s attitude to Soviet Communism[7] – or Bolshevism as it was better known before the Second World War – argues that Churchill’s real relentless struggle was against the Bolsheviks and Soviet Communists, a protracted one, in fact almost a lifelong task from the 1917 Revolution until his retirement from active politics, with the period from 1941 to 1945 not even constituting the lull which mainstream historians and biographers like to emphasise.

Carlton summed up the gist of his book in a paper which he gave at the Institute of Historical Research in January 2001 and published in the Transactions of the Royal Historical Society. Concluding the paper on a minute sent to Eden on 6 December 1953 in which Churchill addressed the Soviet threat in no uncertain terms, this is what Carlton has to say:

These are not the words of a serious pioneer of détente. For with great certitude they depict the Soviets as unreformable creatures of tireless aggression. In fact they represent the convictions of the visceral anti-Soviet that Churchill had never ceased to be since the first days of the Bolshevik Revolution. In short, his anti-Nazi phase, for which ironically he will always be principally remembered, was for him something of a digression, however necessary, in his extraordinarily long career. Thus, once the Battle of Britain had been won and the Americans had entered the war, the struggle to defeat Germany became for him no more than a second-order crusade. For in his own eyes at least the contest with Soviet Bolshevism was what gave his political life the greatest continuity and meaning.[8]

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Ashley Jackson

Ashley Jackson (http://ashleyjackson.org) is Professor of Imperial and Military History at King's College London and a Visiting Fellow, Kellogg College Oxford. This article is the unabridged version of a briefer, unfootnoted account in  Finest Hour 165, Autumn 2014. Ditchley Park is a venue for the 2015 International Churchill Conference.

 
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This article has two points of origin. The first was the desire to explore Winston Churchill’s Oxfordshire connections more thoroughly than is usual in biographical accounts of his overloaded life. The second was the invitation of the Churchill Centre (UK) to give a talk at Ditchley Park on the 139th anniversary of Churchill’s birth. This afforded an opportunity to conduct further research into Churchill’s wartime visits to this secluded Oxfordshire estate, the results of which are presented in this article. [1]

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Anthony Montague Browne
Finest Hour 50, Winter 1985-86

My very kind hosts. Mary and Christopher. Ladies and gentlemen. I won't start off with a pun. I was truly moved by what Mary said. It was, and I''m not exaggerating, more than I deserved. Certainly the rewards of those 13 years were worth more than the little dust that there was. You expressed yourself very movingly, and I am deeply grateful to you. As for the privilege I had of that association at that time, I don't think that I would have enjoyed it more, whatever the period of your father's great life it had been. I am moved by your words. I will say no more about that.

Speaking now between Mary and Christopher. I feel rather like a priest in a small Italian village, getting up to make a sermon and finding not one but two popes sitting there.

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Page 2 of 3

MacDonald, the Leader, declared in connection with Churchill’s anti-Bolshevik campaigns ‘If the Labour Party can’t fight this, it can fight nothing’.[1] Technically, however, he was still a Liberal. He only crossed the Floor of the House again in 1924, standing as an Independent Anti-Socialist candidate at a by-election in March, in which he was narrowly defeated by the official Conservative candidate, and as a Constitutionalist candidate at the October General Election, with official Conservative backing. He won the seat of Epping, which he kept until 1964. In November 1924, he became Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Conservative Government led by Baldwin.

In May 1926 he was at the forefront of the Government’s efforts to defeat the General Strike, notably editing the British Gazette, the official Government newspaper in the absence of the usual commercial newspapers. Churchill emerged from the episode with a reinforced reputation as the enemy of the working man, the more so as he initially opposed the distribution of welfare payments to the coalminers who continued with the strike until the autumn. He was presented as the extremist of the General Strike, not without justification.[2]

His image as a man of the authoritarian Right was made even worse by his disastrous public pronouncements following his trip to Rome in January 1927, when he met the Pope and Mussolini. In fact he had already expressed his admiration for Mussolini in January 1926, in a speech before Treasury officials :

Italy is a country which is prepared to face the realities of post-war reconstruction. It possesses a Government under the commanding leadership of Signor Mussolini which does not shrink from the logical consequences of economic facts and which has the courage to impose the financial remedies required to secure and to stabilise the national recovery.[3]

This is what we could call the ‘classic’ defence of Fascism – its economic efficiency at a time when the democracies were at a loss to find a coherent economic policy. Mosley was to put it more concisely later when he repeated that the British Fascists wanted to turn Parliament ‘from a talk-shop to a work-shop’. When Churchill praised Mussolini’s Italy for its economic realism, it was of course the British Chancellor of the Exchequer envying the Fascist dictator for the room for manoeuvre which the absence of an effective opposition gave him.

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Page 3 of 3


There is the question of the relations between Germany and Japan. It seems to me that that is a matter which must be in the thoughts of everyone who attempts to make an appreciation of the foreign situation.[1]

The extant published sources, however, include a disabused letter to his wife dated 17 January 1936, in which he wrote that ‘One must consider these two predatory military dictatorship nations, Germany and Japan, as working in accord’[2] and an important article following the signing of the Anti-Comintern Pact between Germany and Japan, published in November 1936 and reprinted in Step by Step (1939).

It is important because in it Churchill stresses (pace Carlton again) that all forms of anti-Communism are not virtuous – something of course which he would never have admitted fifteen years before:

Communism in Japan as in Germany is held fast in the grip of a highly efficient, all-pervading police force, eagerly waiting to smite the smallest manifestation. Yet these two great powers in opposite quarters of the globe use the pretext of their fears of Communism to proclaim an association the purpose of which, and the consequences of which, can only be the furtherance of their national designs.[3]

But unfortunately, one has to take the complexity of the character into account. His position of advocating a strict neutrality during the Spanish Civil War – a neutrality which in fact favoured the Fascist camp – showed that he still believed that the Right, even the extreme Right, had a duty to fight what he saw as Communist infiltration:

[I]t seems certain that a majority of Spaniards are on the rebel side.[4] Four and a half millions of them voted only last spring[5] for the various Conservative parties of the Right and Centre against four and a quarter millions who voted for the parties of the Left. One must suppose that those people who were then opposed to constitutional Socialism, are to-day all the more hostile to the Communist, Anarchist and Syndicalist forces which are now openly warring for absolute dominance in Spain.[6]


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Lady Soames, Patron of the Churchill Societies, is Sir Winston and Lady Churchill's only surviving child and her mother's biographer. Naim Attallah talked to her about life with them and sought her views on the current reevaluation of her father's legacy. 

Published by kind permission of Sarah Wasley and Quartet Books Ltd., London. 

Finest Hour 
Issue 91, Summer 1996.

NAIM AITALLAH: When writing about your child­hood you say that although elements of anxiety, sorrow and disappointment began to appear as the years went by, in your own recollection it is the happiness which pre­ dominates. Is that in effect a tribute to your parents, who helped shield you from the darker side of life?

LADY SOAMES: I wrote those lines after describing life at Chartwell and the wonderful Christmases we had there. As life went on and I became a teenager I began to know that life wasn't a garden of Eden, and it was disquieting to me because of my idyllic childhood at Chartwell. The first time I saw my mother cry was one of the most traumatic moments of my young life. I had very rarely seen grown-ups cry and to see this beautiful woman, whom I loved and admired and also rather feared, weeping and completely disintegrated with grief was a terrible shock to me. I saw my parents a lot because we children were never kept away in the nursery wing, and also I was very much the Benjamin, so I strayed around all over the house and never felt I was excluded from my parents' life when they were at Chartwell.

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A few questions for Lady Soames


NAIM AITALLAH : When writing about your child­hood you say that although elements of anxiety, sorrow and disappointment began to appear as the years went by, in your own recollection it is the happiness which pre­dominates. Is that in effect a tribute to your parents, who helped shield you from the darker side of life?

LADY SOAMES: I wrote those lines after describing life at Chartwell and the wonderful Christmases we had there. As life went on and I became a teenager I began to know that life wasn't a garden of Eden, and it was disquieting to me because of my idyllic childhood at Chartwell. The first time I saw my mother cry was one of the most traumatic moments of my young life. I had very rarely seen grown-ups cry and to see this beautiful woman, whom I loved and admired and also rather feared, weeping and completely disintegrated with grief was a terrible shock to me. I saw my parents a lot because we children were never kept away in the nursery wing, and also I was very much the Benjamin, so I strayed around all over the house and never felt I was excluded from my parents' life when they were at Chartwell.

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Lady Diana Cooper, 1892-1986

Famed for her beauty and the "durable fire" of her marriage to Alfred Duff Cooper, First Viscount Norwich, Lady Diana Cooper was early admitted to a delightful friendship with Winston and Clementine Churchill. Few write better of the happiness they shared. 

From the solemn moment when the world knew that Winston Churchill had breathed his last, a roll of honour of some seventeenth-century poet elusively haunted me. To lay it I asked friends, poets, and publishers, even All Souls College. All remembered it, but none could place the lines that say:

O that Sir Philip Sidney should be dead

O that Sir Walter Raleigh should be dead.

Many another glorious name be listed, and now we can add:

O that Sir Winston Churchill should be dead.

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In 1949, after "the best feast of conversational entertainment ever enjoyed" and an uncanny prophecy, Churchill suffered his first stroke—within an hour of removing for the first time his father's ring from his hand. Lord Beaverbrook's companion offers rare insights into the Churchill persona, his long friendship with "Max"—and words which bear an uncanny relevance today.


By Michael Wardell1

It was raining heavily on the French Riviera on an August morning of 1949. Sir Winston Churchill, Lord Beaverbrook, and I were sitting in the drawing room of La Capponcina, Lord Beaverbrook's villa at Cap d'Ail, across the bay from Monte Carlo. The gramophone was playing a selection of records picked more or less at random by Lord Beaverbrook. There were the French songs of the popular fancy that summer, La Seine, Polygon, Clopin-Clopant, mixed with a new rendering of Old Folks at Home, Grieg's Homage March, pieces from Cavalleria Rusticana, and finally the Miserere from Il Trovatore.

"Let's have some more, Max," said Churchill.

"What sort do you want, popular or classical?" asked Beaverbrook.

"Let's have some beautiful music like the last," Churchill replied.

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Barbara Langworth

The Hot Pursuit of his Other Hobby

"He rides in the game like heavy cavalry getting into position for the assault. He trots about, 
keenly watchful, biding his time, a matter of tactics and strategy. Abruptly he sees his chance, and he gathers his pony and charges in, neither deft nor graceful, but full of tearing physical energy - and skillful with it too. He bears down opposition by the weight of his dash, and strikes the ball. Did I say strike? He slashes the ball."1

Thus Patrick Thompson, a contemporary writer, compared "Churchill's angle in life" to his game of polo. An apt comparison it was, for Churchill loved the sport, which he always called ''The Emperor of Games."

From obscure beginnings in the Orient, the modern version of polo was developed in 1863 by British army officers stationed in the Punjab, India; they had learned the game from the Manipuri, an Indian border tribe. Six years later, polo was introduced in England.2

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