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Myths

Winston Churchill said that Alan Turing made the single biggest contribution to Allied victory in the war against Nazi Germany.

by Jonathan Schilling

Alan TuringAlan TuringAlan Turing (1912-1954) was a brilliant mathematician and a founder of computer science. He was one of the codebreakers who worked at Bletchley Park during World War II and who played a major role in breaking the cipher systems used on the German Enigma machine thereby generating the Ultra intelligence that proved a key factor in many Allied successes during the war. From at least the mid-1980s on, the claim has been made in various news articles, websites, and a few books that Churchill said that Turing made the single biggest contribution to the Allied victory against Germany.

Churchill was introduced to Turing during a visit to Bletchley Park in September 1941 and the following month Turing and three other cryptographers wrote directly to Churchill asking for more administrative resources, a request which the Prime Minister immediately granted. Undoubtedly Churchill believed Ultra intelligence was of vital importance during the war. However, no documentation has ever been found in which Churchill specifically praises Turing, and the claim does not supply a date or a context in which this statement was supposed to have been made. Certainly Churchill made no such declaration in public during his lifetime since the existence of Ultra remained fully under wraps until nearly a decade after his death.

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Leading Churchill Myths

by Randolph S. Churchill

From Finest Hour 140, Autumn 2008. Excerpted by kind permission from Winston S. Churchill, vol. 2 Young Statesman 1901-1911. London: Heinemann, 1977, 374-78.

In 1911, a strike began in the coal mines at Rhondda in early November of the same year. It arose out of a dispute concerning wage differentials in the working of hard and soft seams. Many men were involved, estimates varying between 25,000 and 30,000, and many different pits were affected.

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by Martin Gilbert

Finest Hour 141, Winter 2008-09

Although Finest Hour has covered this subject before we asked Sir Martin for his own rendition based on his most recent research.



On the night of 14 November 1940, three hundred German bombers dropped 500 tons of explosives, 33,000 incendiary bombs and dozens of parachute mines on the industrial city of Coventry. During the raid, 507 civilians were killed and 420 seriously injured.[1]

A play at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry, One Night In November, repeated the frequently made claim that Winston Churchill knew of the attack several days in advance, but that he held back the information to protect the most important secret of the war: the breaking of the German Enigma code at Bletchley Park. In the words of the press publicity: "... the play examines the idea that Winston Churchill had advance warning of the attack. Was Coventry sacrificed for the greater good? Or to provoke America into the war?"[2]

The truth about the bombing of Coventry is very different. On 12 November 1940, Enigma decrypts made it clear that a major German bombing raid was imminent. Its code name, Moonlight Sonata, had been read in the decrypts. But the decrypts gave no clue as to the destination of the German bombers.

The Air Intelligence report that Churchill received on 12 November gave, on the basis of the latest intelligence, five possible targets: Central London, Greater London, the Thames Valley, or the Kent or Essex coasts.[3]

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We have two authoritative articles to explore this topic. Please follow this links below for further reading. 
Churchill-in-ConventryChurchill visits Coventry Cathedral 28 September 1941
Coventry: What Really Happened, by Sir Martin Gilbert. Published in Finest Hour 141, Winter 2008-09.

Churchill Let Coventry Burn, by Peter McIver. Published in Finest Hour 114, Spring 2002.

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If we must die

By David Freeman

Originally published in Finest Hour 125, Winter 2004-025

As Jamaica celebrates its 50th anniversary of independence, The Churchill Centre receives inquiries seeking verification of the story that Winston Churchill at one time or another quoted all or part of the famous sonnet by Claude McKay "If We Must Die." There is no evidence to support this claim.


If we must die, let it not be like hogs

Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursed lot.
If we must die, O let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one death blow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we'll face the murderous cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

As Jamaica celebrates its 50th anniversary of independence, The Churchill Centre receives inquiries seeking verification of the story that Winston Churchill at one time or another quoted all or part of the famous sonnet by Claude McKay "If We Must Die." There is no evidence to support this claim.

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Richard M. Langworth and Warren F. Kimball

It is occasionally suggested, particularly on the World Wide Web, that Churchill favored withholding food and medical aid to occupied Belgium, and other countries under the Nazi boot, in an effort to cause revolts against the Germans, while President Roosevelt insisted on shipping aid to the needy. This is an inaccurate interpretation of the views of both leaders, not borne out in the documents, including memoirs of the principals.

Professor Kimball is editor of Roosevelt and Churchill: The Complete Correspondence, 3 vols. (Princeton University Press, 1984. Mr. Langworth is editor of Finest Hour.)

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It is occasionally suggested, particularly on the World Wide Web, that Churchill favored withholding food and medical aid to occupied Belgium, and other countries under the Nazi boot, in an effort to cause revolts against the Germans, while President Roosevelt insisted on shipping aid to the needy. This is an inaccurate interpretation of the views of both leaders, not borne out in the documents, including memoirs of the principals.

The Allies blockaded Nazi-occupied Europe as part of the war effort. But it is unlikely that Churchill would entertain such Machiavellian thoughts, and no such evidence has turned up. Churchill did, however, object in principle to sending food to countries occupied by the enemy. And so, apparently, did FDR.

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by John H. Mather, M.D.

It is impossible to say at this late date what killed Sir Winston Churchill's father.  But it is no longer possible to say that he died of syphilis.

The decade of the 1880s "saw the meteoric rise and catastrophic fall of the brilliant Lord Randolph Churchill."1 An intense personality of shining wit and piercing sarcasm propelled him to great political heights, but before he reached the pinnacle, his career was instantaneously extinguished when he resigned as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Then the spark of life itself was snuffed out. His death at age 45, reportedly from syphilis, cast a pall over his early fame. Now that pall may be lifted. Lord Randolph Churchill's main symptoms are much more consistent with a less titillating but far more logical diagnosis.

Randolph Henry Spencer-Churchill, younger son of the 7th Duke of Marlborough, was born 13 February 1849. Like other young men of his time, he joined in the merry life of the Marlborough House set, where the tone was set by his friend the Prince of Wales.2 In 1874 at age 25, he married Jennie, the beautiful second daughter of Leonard and Clara Jerome of New York. He was elected a Member of Parliament for Woodstock and embarked upon a tumultuous political career.

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by John Mather, M.D.

The Baltimore Sun Sunday November 17,2002, raises the issue as to whether Churchill was a stutterer or simply had a lisp.  The American Stuttering Foundation claims that he was a stutterer and continues to use him as their “pin-up boy” in its advertisements in medical journals, claiming that this is documented in several books.

Fiona Reynoldson’s book Winston Churchill, which seeks to capture the imagination and attention of younger readers comments that, “Churchill came home on leave in 1897 and went to see a doctor in London about his lisp.  He pronounced “s” as “sh”.  Nothing was found to be wrong, but the lisp never went away.  Despite this, he made his first political speech during his leave and later became a great orator in the House of Commons.”

So what is the correct diagnosis: "stuttering" or a "lisp"?

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From Finest Hour 98, Riddles, Mysteries, Enigmas

Q: I was mortified today when unable authoritatively to rebut a coworker's repetition of the "Churchill was a dunce at school" canard (with the usual emphasis on Latin and Greek). --Andrew Isaac

A: See Jim Golland's Not Winston, Just William? (Harrow: Herga Press 1988), a revisionist account of Churchill's Harrow Schooldays -- revisionist in that it proved that he was not the dunce he and others said he was. Golland noted that anyone who could recite 400 lines of Macaulay's Lays of Ancient Rome, and write a future history of an attack on Russia which presaged what actually happened in later years, could not be stupid.

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by Ron Helgemo

Did Churchill know of the impending Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor-but do nothing so as to draw the United States into the war?"Opium for the People"

Mr. Helgemo, whose career includes a spell at the CIA, was president of the Washington Society for Churchill. His article first appeared in Finest Hour 101, Winter 1998-99.

Betrayal at Pearl Harbor: A Television Documentary aired on the History Channel (USA)

On the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, the History Channel, whose programs vary between solid history and opium for the people, ran a BBC-produced documentary claiming that President Roosevelt knew all about the surprise attack and allowed it to happen to get the United States into the war. The program, as Arthur Balfour might have said, contained much that is trite and much that it true, but what was true was trite, and what was not trite was not true.

That "Betrayal at Pearl Harbor" should not be taken seriously is manifestly evident. Examples of why it shouldn't begin with its interview of Robert Ogg, which approaches dishonesty. The producers fail to inform the audience that Mr. Ogg is the infamous "Seaman Z" immortalized by John Toland, an early conspiracy theorist who wrote that Pearl Harbor was plotted by Franklin Roosevelt.

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