Finest Hour Extras

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

Winston Churchill and the First World War By John Lee

Winston Churchill: Aspects in Focus

John Lee is a noted British historian and conducts regular military battlefield tours in the United Kingdom, North America and continental Europe. He is the author of a number of works on military history including A Soldier’s Life: General Sir Ian Hamilton 1853 to 1947, The Warlords: Hindenburg and Ludendorff, and Winston and Jack -The Churchill Brothers written in collaboration with his wife Celia Lee.

Mr Lee delivered this keynote address at the Churchill conference ‘Winston Churchill: Aspects in Focus’ at the Polish Hearth Club in London on the 13th of September 2017. The day-long conference was organised by the Churchill Society of Tennessee.


While Winston Churchill is known as the ‘greatest Briton’ that ever lived, and is widely recognised as the saviour of Western civilisation for his leadership during the Second World War and his understanding of the Cold War, far fewer people are aware of the extraordinary contribution he made in the First World War. While the proverbial ‘man in the street’ might have heard his name linked to Gallipoli, it is less likely that Antwerp 1914, the development of the tank, infantry service on the Western front or control of the Ministry of Munitions is so well known.

We know that in August 1914 Winston was First Lord of the Admiralty and many historians say that, had he died about then, his immortal epitaph would have been: “When war came, the Fleet was ready”. We can’t really understand Winston’s role in the early part of the war without explaining how he came to be in that position.

Always remember that Winston, having abandoned the Conservative Party, was on the Radical wing of the Liberal Party. His ideas on taxation, land valuation and controlling unelected aristocrats in the House of Lords make him sound dangerously revolutionary. He inherits a lot of his politics from his father, Lord Randolph, the ultimate one-nation Tory. Peace, retrenchment and reform were his guiding principles. Defence spending was for the Royal Navy; the army was to be cut to the bone; but he wanted to keep the new Dreadnought programme to a bare minimum. He considered himself a friend of Germany.

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“The Creeds of the Devil”: Churchill between the Two Totalitarianisms, 1917-1945 (3 of 3)

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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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“The Creeds of the Devil”: Churchill between the Two Totalitarianisms, 1917-1945 (2 of 3)

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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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Winston Churchill, Oxfordshire, and Ditchley Park Churchill's long relationship with the county of his birth

By 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 was a venue for the 2015 International Churchill Conference.


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]

Like many famous individuals, Winston Churchill’s name is associated with numerous geographical locations. He was a freeman of numerous towns in Europe and beyond, and an acclaimed visitor to a diverse range of places including the White House, the Atlas Mountains, the French Riviera, Cairo, Marrakech, and Tehran. He is most famously associated with London, the political heartland to which he was tethered for over half a century, the city in which he resided for much of his life and in which he died. Second to that, his purchase of Chartwell in 1924 forged an abiding link with Kent, and his delight in the place (as well as Clementine’s comparative despair) is well-known. But Oxfordshire also has a claim on this most famous of Britons, and not just because of his birth in Blenheim Palace and burial in the nearby churchyard of St Martin’s Bladon. The county’s claim rests on additional factors, such as the sense of place and of English history that Churchill developed during childhood days in idyllic Oxfordshire surroundings, his family’s links with the town of Woodstock that adjoins the Marlborough estate, and his service in the yeomanry regiment the Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars. [2]

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“Memories of Winston Churchill”

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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Life with My Parents: Winston and Clementine

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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Life with My Parents: Winston and Clementine

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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Winston and Clementine

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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Churchill and Polo

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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Omdurman, 5 September 1898: The Fallen Foe

Winston S. Churchill
The River War, First Edition, 1899

“I have tried to gild war…But there was nothing dulce et decorum about the Dervish dead; nothing of the dignity of unconquerable manhood… Yet these were as brave men as ever walked the earth.”

On the 5th of September 1898, three days after the Battle of Omdurman, I rode with Lord Tullibardine of the Egyptian cavalry, to examine the scene of battle. Our road lay by the khor whereat the victorious army had watered in the afternoon of the 2nd, and thence across the sandy, rock-strewn plain to the southern slopes of Surgham Hill. And so we came at once on to the ground over which the 21st Lancers had charged. Its peculiar formation was the more apparent at a second view. As we looked from the spot where we had wheeled into line and begun to gallop, it was scarcely possible to believe that an extensive khor ran right across what appeared to be smooth and unobstructed plain. An advance of a hundred yards revealed the trap, and displayed a long ditch with steeply sloping rocky sides, about four feet in depth and perhaps twenty feet wide. In this trench lay a dozen bodies of Dervishes, half-a-dozen dead donkeys, and a litter of goat-skin water-bottles, Dervish saddles, and broken weapons.

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Chartwell Revisited

Madeleine Kingsley
Finest Hour 88, 1994

Returning to her grandfather’s beloved home brings back vivid memories for Celia Sandys.

Last November marked the 120th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s birth, and family, friends, admirers and scholars of WSC gathered in London to honour his memory.

The child, destined to give Britain her finest wartime hour, had an unpromising start in life.

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School Days: Young Winston’s Mr. Somervell

Erica and Hilda Bingham
Finest Hour 86, Spring 1995

ROBERT Somervell M.A. (Cantab), the eldest of six sons and three daughters, was born at Kendal, Cumberland on 29 September 1851. He died at Sevenoaks, Kent in 1933, three years after being cited by his 56-year-old former student, Winston Churchill, as the man who taught him that most precious heritage, the English language.

His, mother, Anne Wilson, married Robert Miller Somervell in 1849. The elder Somervell, at the age of 21, started his own business as a leather merchant in Kendal in 1842, travelling many miles selling all over England to shoemakers. Before Robert, the eldest son, was born, his father joined with a brother to form a business.

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Charles Morin and the Search for Churchill’s Nom De Palette

David Coombs

Why did Winston Churchill exhibit his paintings under the name of a real painter only recently deceased?

The first public exhibition of Churchill’s paintings was held in Paris in 1921 at the Galerie Druet, a famous and important establishment at 20 rue Royale, specializing in Post-Impressionist painters of the early 20th century. The paintings were shown under the pseudonym of Charles Morin, and six were sold.

This is the story, though the surrounding facts are curious. First, the gallery archives contain no reference to the exhibition, and second, Charles Morin was the name of a real French painter, who died in 1919.
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Frabjous Days: Chartwell Memories 1932-1965

Grace Hamblin

Remarks at the 1987 International Churchill Conference, Dallas, first published in Proceedings of the International Churchill Society 1987, reprinted in Finest Hour 117, Winter 2002-03.
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Mr. Chairman, Your Excellency, Mrs. Reves, Ladies and Gentlemen. I must first thank my hosts for the wonderful arrangements they’ve made for me, all the comfort and pleasure they’re giving me, and for having me here. And I must thank you all for your generous hospitality and the way in which you greet me. You make me feel as if you’re all my friends and you bring a very warm corner into my heart.
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Churchill as Painter The Artist and His Critics

By: Merry L. Alberigi

Ms. Alberigi chaired two Churchill Conferences and was a director of the International Churchill Society from 1988 through 1995. This article appeared in Finest Hour 85, Winter 1994-95.

For more than forty years Sir Winston Churchill found contentment in his painting pastime. The hobby he had begun on a lark one summer afternoon proved to be his constant companion until the final years of his life. Yet, as important as it was to him, this fascinating aspect of his life remained relatively unknown for years. Gradually, not the least through publication of his 1921 essay, Painting As a Pastime, in book form in 1948, people realized that he was a prolific and talented painter. One accepts the concept of a statesman painting as a hobby but few expect to admire the results of his efforts. As in so many things, Churchill was an exception.

Churchill hesitated to seek public appraisals of his art. The first public exhibition of his paintings was under an assumed name, Charles Morin,1 in France. The pseudonym eliminated the prejudice that would derive from his own name, ensuring that evaluations were neither too solicitous nor, perhaps, too unkind. Years later, he sent his first submission to the Royal Academy under another pseudonym. Finally, his confidence developed, he exhibited under his name, although only a few major shows were held in his lifetime.

How does one objectively evaluate the art of a famous statesman? One may study the reviews and comments of acknowledged art experts and other artists to form a more complete impression of his artistic talents. One can also consider the art institutions that have displayed his paintings or made them part of their permanent collections – the Royal Academy and the Tate Gallery, London; the Dallas Museum of Art; the Museum of Art in Sao Paolo, Brazil; the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. His association with these prestigious organizations gives credibility to Churchill’s work as an artist.

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The International Churchill Society (ICS), founded in 1968 shortly after Churchill's death, is the world’s preeminent member organisation dedicated to preserving the historic legacy of Sir Winston Churchill.

At a time when leadership is challenged at every turn, that legacy looms larger and remains more relevant than ever.