• Search
Share

1935-1939

Aboard the same yacht which took Clementine on a journey to the Dutch East Indies was Terence Philip, a bachelor who was much sought-after by London hostesses. In the heady and romantic atmosphere of the tropic islands, Clementine fell in love. On their return to England, he visited her several times at Chartwell but their relationship, writes her daughter Mary Soames, "was like a fragile tropical flower which cannot survive in greyer, colder climes."

While his wife was away, Churchill sent her numbered Chartwell Bulletins as domestic reports on family doings: redecorating the house, replanting of orchard, the building of a new wall. Often, after late debates in the House, a tired Winston declined to drive to Chartwell and stayed in a flat they owned in Morpeth Mansions, near Westminster Cathedral.

Despite the acrimony of the India Bill debate, WSC attempted to make peace with Tory leaders in the hope that Stanley Baldwin would invite him to join the Government upon the retirement of Ramsey Macdonald. Against a German situation which Churchill found "increasingly sombre," he advocated collective European security as the best guarantee of peace. Others began to heed his warnings. The Daily Express apologized for ignoring his comments and Desmond Morton told him that "you alone seem to have galvanized the House."

Read more

In June, Ramsay MacDonald resigned as Prime Minister and was succeeded by Stanley Baldwin. Churchill cabled his son,"Reconstruction purely conventional," meaning that he would not be brought in from the wilderness.

He attempted to establish, for Defense, a Conservative back-bench "ginger group," similar to what had existed during the India Bill controversy. He accepted an invitation to join a Parliamentary sub-committee on Defense, conditional on being free to particpate in Parliamentary and public discussion. Mussolini rattled some sabres at Abyssinia and broke off negotiations with Britain and France. Churchill was incensed, and pressed for strengthening the Mediterranean fleet and collective action by the Allies.

The death of Huey Long at the hands of an assassin gave him hope that an abrupt end awaited others. "The Louisiana Dictator has met his fate. 'Sic semper tyrannis' which means so perish all who do the like again. This was the most clownish of the Dictator tribe. Let us hope that more serious tyrants will also lose their sway."

Read more

On 1 September Churchill left for a holiday at Maxine Elliot's villa in the south of France. For relaxation he painted.

World news was dominated by Mussolini's threat to invade Abyssinia. Churchill advocated British support of League of Nations, action. But the real threat was still Nazi Germany which he saw as "an armed camp ... with a population being trained from childhood for war." The Germans, anticipating his inclusion in a Baldwin Cabinet, gave prominence to his speeches. In response to a Churchill article in Strand, "The Truth About Hitler" (Woods C282), the Nazi leader is purported to have said, "What is to be the fate of the Anglo-German Naval Agreement if the writer of this article is to be made a Minister of the British Navy?"

After the Tory victory in the November general election, however, WSC was not made a Minister. He had wanted to be First Lord, but Baldwin said to others, "If there is going to be war ... we must keep him fresh to be our Prime Minister."

Before leaving for a Mediterranean holiday to work on Volume III of Marlborough (A40) and draft chapters of A History of the English-Speaking Peoples (AI38), he reviewed Duff Cooper's Haig, Volume I (C278): "Haig's mind ... was thoroughly orthodox and conventional. He does not appear to have had any original ideas." He charged that Haig did not make effective use of tanks, nor was he aware of other theatres of war.

Read more

In December, Winston and Clementine left for Majorca where they heard of the Hoare-Laval proposal to placate Mussolini over Abyssinia. Churchill's friends, confident that Baldwin would have to include him in a restructured Cabinet, advised him to stay away "because you will be in a unique position of strength since you will neither have supported the Government, compromised yourself by hostility, nor taken the negative though semi-hostfle line of abstention."

Clementine came home for Chistmas, and Winston accompanied "Prof" Lindemann to Marrakesh and a visit with Lloyd George.

On 20 January King George V died and Churchill returned to England to present the Address of the House to the new King, Edward VIII. Pressure was exerted on the Government to appoint Churchill to the new Ministry of Defence, but Baldwin was determined to resist it - chiefly, said Sir Samuel Hoare, "for the risk that would be involved by having him in the Cabinet when the question of his (SB's) successor became imminent." Lindemann called it "the most cynical thing. . . since Caligula appointed his horse as consul." Clementine said that "perhaps it is a case of 'those whom the Gods wish to destroy . . ."

Read more

Britain's relations with the great powers of the continent dominated Churchill's political and literary attention.

His work on the third volume of Marlborough (Woods A40) was aided by the arrival of a new research assistant, Bill Deakin. Deakin later attributed Churchill's ability to write in the midst of international crises to his "ruthless partition of the day, the planning of things all the time. There was never a wasted moment. He had intense control."

His concerns with defense were outlined in a series of articles serialized in the Evening Standard and subsequently published in Step by Step (Woods A45).

Some friends, impressed by Hitter, tried to change his mind on Germany. His cousin Lord Londonderry wrote: "I should like to get out of your mind what appears to be a strong anti-German obsession because all these great countries are required in the political settlement of the future . . ."

Read more

As Churchill gathered evidence on the Government's inability to meet the growing German challenge, he was urged to be cautious by his friend and cousin, Freddie Guest: "I am convinced this is the psychological moment in your career. . . . You can lead the Conservative Party, but you cannot break the Conservative machine."

Others encouraged him to continue to speak out. He followed the latter advice, charging that "half- measures and procrastinations are the order of the day." Throughout the summer his speeches, in and out of Parliament, widened the breech with the Conservative leadership.

He joined with Austen Chamberlain and the 4th Marquis of Salisbury In leading a Parliamentary deputation to Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin on the need for rearmament. Baldwin told them that most of them sat for safe seats, yet there was a strong pacifist and collectivist feeling in the country: "People will only learn, unfortunately, in a democracy, by butting their heads against a brick wall." He warned of the difficulty in "scaring the people without scaring them into fits."

Read more

While in France Churchill began work on a series of articles on "Great Events of Our Time" which would eventually appear in the News of the World (Woods C337).

Although he publicly maintained neutrality on the Spanish Civil War, he wrote Clementine, "I am thankful the Spanish Nationalists are making progress ... better for the safety of all if the Communists are crushed."

After observing the French army he commented, "The officers of the French army are impressive.... One feels the strength of the nation resides in its army." He rejected the growing view that Europe must go either fascist or communist. "Between the doctrines of Comrade Trotsky and those of Dr. Goebbels there ought to be room for you and me, and a few others, to cultivate opinions of our own."

His speeches received close attention both at home and abroad and his stature within the Conservative Party increased, as many saw him the logical choice for Prime Minister in a crisis. He was also observed closely by the Germans. who accused him of favouring their "encirclement and oppression."

Read more

During December Churchill was in the forefront of the defence of King Edward VIII.

Notwithstanding his loss of popular and political support over that issue, the country continued to listen to him on military preparedness. Much of his information came from allies within the Government and he was grieved when one of them, Ralph Wigram, committed suicide on New Year's Eve.
"Some pretty good duds are in the big positions."
Although he advocated non-intervention in the Spanish Civil War, he aroused resentment with his sympathy for what he called "the Anti-Red Movement." But he saw both Nazism and Communism as "those non-God religions." He compared Fascism and Communism to the Arctic and Antarctic Poles - both similar in their wastes of snow and icy winds.

Read more

Anticipating Neville Chamberlain's succession of Stanley Baldwin as Prime Minister, Churchill told his wife that he planned to leave politics for business and writing two long works - Marlborough (Woods A40) and A History of the English-Speaking Peoples (Woods A 138).

Before a Royal Commission on Palestine, he testified on his actions as Colonial Secretary in 1922: "We did not adopt Zionism entirely out of altruistic love of starting a Zionist colony ... It was a potent factor on public opinion in America." Privately, he told David Ben Gurion that after England woke up and defeated Mussolini and Hitler the Jews' hour' will also come" and a Jewish state in Palestine would be created.

In March Austen Chamberlain, a former Cabinet colleague and long- time friend, died, followed by Freddie Guest, a cousin and life-long friend, in April.

Read more

Churchill's literary efforts were prodigious. While he worked on A History of the English-Speaking Peoples he came closer to the completion of Marlborough with the assistance of William Deakin.

He continued his criticisms of government defense policies. particularly the Air Force but also the Royal Navy. But his credibility was at an all-time low following his stand on the Abdication. As his daughter, Lady Soames, later wrote: "His warnings of the national peril ahead had been practically unheeded, and now discredit was cast on him by the feeling that his support of the King sprang from ulterior motives, and was largely prompted by antipathy to Baldwin." Clementine realistically recognized that only a national crisis would now bring her husband to power and, for his part, Winston believed that his life was probably in its closing decade."

Together the Churchills attended the Coronation of King George VI. As Queen Elizabeth was being crowned, Winston turned to his wife and whispered, "You were right, I see now that 'the other one' wouldn't have done."

Read more

JOIN TODAY to receive the print edition of Finest Hour.

Finest Hour Archive
174
The Most Recent Issues of Finest Hour are Available Online to Members
Members Login for Access|Non-Members Join Today for a Print and Online Subscription