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1915 - 1929: Nadir and Recovery

June 5, 1915. Dundee

The Ministerial Crisis of May 1915 is a highly complex episode in British political history The immediate cause was Lord Fisher's resignation on May 15, but other elements—notably a sensational attack in the Times the previous day, alleging a severe shell shortage in France—played their part. A reconstruction of the Government was inevitable and after days of complex negotiations the first Coalition Government of the war was formed. Churchill's removal from the Admiralty was a sine qua non for the Opposition. He struggled desperately to remain, but the pressures upon Asquith and not only from the Opposition were too great. He became Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, with a seat in the Cabinet. It was a shattering demotion. "At a moment when every fibre of my being was inflamed to action " he subsequently wrote, "I was forced to remain a spectator of the tragedy. "

On June 5, in his constituency, he defended his role in the Dardanelles. — RRJ


I thought it right to take an opportunity of coming here to my constituency in view of all the events which have recently taken place, and also of the fact that considerably more than a year has passed since I have had the opportunity of speaking in Dundee. I have not come here to trouble you with personal matters, or to embark on explanations or to indulge in reproaches or recriminations. In war time a man must do his duty as he sees it, and take his luck as it comes or goes. I will not say a word here or in Parliament which I cannot truly feel will have a useful bearing upon the only thing that matters, upon the only thing I care about, and the only thing I want you to think about—namely, the waging of victorious war upon the enemy. [Cheers] I was sent to the Admiralty in 1911, after the Agadir crisis had nearly brought us into war, and I was sent with the express duty laid upon me by the Prime Minister to put the Fleet in a state of instant and constant readiness for war in case we were attacked by Germany. [Cheers.]

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November 4, 1920. United Wards Club Luncheon, Cannon Street Hotel, London

I am accustomed at the present time rather to judge world events and world tendencies from the point of view of whether they are Bolshevist or anti-Bolshevist, and I saw in the vote of the American nation in the Presidential election a great repulsion by both the great parties in the United States of the doctrine of world-wide revolution as preached and practised by Lenin and Trotsky. I think we say what sentiment repeated in the municipal elections here. Indeed, the truth of the words which I uttered at the beginning of the year, that the Labour Party -or the Socialist Party, which is a better name in its present state of development was unfit to govern the country [cheers] have not been diminished by what has since taken place.

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May 7, 1924. Working Men's Conservative Association and Women's Unionist Federation Joint Meeting, Sun Hall, Liverpool

This meeting - the first Conservative gathering Churchill had addressed for twenty years - was organised by Sir Archibald Salvidge, who had also organised the last Liverpool meeting of Lord Randolph Churchill in 1893. It marked a major turning point in Churchill's attempt to rehabilitate himself with the Conservative Party.

This is the first great Conservative meeting I have addressed for twenty years, but for nearly ten years I have been working in close accord in the Cabinet, or outside, with many of the principal leaders of the Conservative party. I do not feel, therefore, that my presence at this meeting need be taken as marking any exceptional or extraordinary departure either by my audience or myself.

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May 4, 1925. House of Commons

I was greatly puzzled when I read the Order Paper at the form of the official Amendment of the Labour party, and now, having heard the whole of this Debate, I cannot say that my bewilderment has to any very great extent been removed. I have heard no case put forward of sufficient weight and sufficient breadth, supported by arguments of sufficient number and vehemence, to justify the very serious step which they have taken in placing this Amendment on the Order Paper.

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May 3, 1926. House of Commons.

The Royal Commission on the coal-mining industry, under Sir Herbert Samuel's chairmanship, had reported on 11 March. Its principal positive recommendations were for the future; its short-term proposals involved a reduction of wages for the miners. The owners also wanted longer hours. These terms were unacceptable to the unions,  and deadlock occurred. On 1 May the miners were locked out, and a special trade union meeting approved plans for a national strike to take place on 3 May. Negotiations took place throughout 2 May, and were broken off by the Government late at night when it learned that the Daily Mail compositors had refused to typeset the newspaper in protest against a fiery leader (editorial) by the editor, Marlowe. In such confused circumstances Britain lurched towards her first general strike. The feeling that Churchill had been one of the ministers most hostile to a negotiated settlement seriously damaged his relations with organised labour until the Second World War, and to some extent even after it.

—Sir Robert Rhodes James


The right hon. Gentleman has certainly preserved the calm and restraint which he enjoined upon others and, indeed, the extreme self-control which the House has shown throughout this Debate is the measure of the deep anxiety and sorrow we all feel at the miserable turn which the fortunes of our country have taken. We gladly recognise the efforts for peace which have been made by the Trade Union Committee, by the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last and, of course, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas), who has striven with all the compulsive and persuasive powers of his nature and of his experience to bring about a warding-off of this shocking disaster in our national life.

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24 October 1928. Aldersbrook (Excerpt)

The newspapers have been pressing during the past two months for the publication of all the papers relating to the Anglo-French Agreement, and when at last they had been made public they were very indignant to find there was nothing that anyone could possibly object to in all that had been done. They then complained that it was not all made public before. When there is nothing of any serious consequence to make public it is very difficult to make it public.

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14 June 1929, Chingford, Essex

(Constituency Address)

Events have fallen out as I warned you they would unless all the Conservative forces gave Mr. Baldwin the same support as they did in 1924. A Socialist Government is now in control of our affairs. They are in office, but fortunately they are not in power. We are to have another spell of Socialist minority rule. The Conservative party, although sadly depleted, is strong enough to be an effective check upon the Socialist Administration.

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