Finest Hour 119


Finest Hour 119, Summer 2003

Page 51

On Armistice Day, 11 November 1944, Churchill was in Paris, walking the Champs Elysees with General de Gaulle to popular acclaim. This wonderful photo appears by kind courtesy of Ben and Dominic Winter, London auctioneers; it has since been sold. It is signed by Eden, Churchill and, just possibly, Charles de Gaulle (upper left), which makes it indeed a historic piece.

The figures from left to right: a French official (possibly security—from other angles he is walking quite a way behind the main party); British Ambassador Alfred Duff Cooper; Cdr. C. R. “Tommy” Thompson, Churchill’s Naval Aide; Anthony Eden; [bald man between Eden and WSC unidentified]; Churchill;

Rene Massigli, French ambassador to Britain (just visible right of Churchill’s nose); Gen. Sir Hastings Ismay, staff officer to WSC; de Gaulle’s son Philippe, who later became a rear admiral (just behind de Gaulle in naval uniform, glancing right); and General de Gaulle.


Finest Hour 119, Summer 2003

Page 50

Edited and annotated by Paul H. Courtenay

Question Time is that period in the Parliamentary week where Members are allowed to ask the Prime Minister any question, governed only by decorum and the judgment of the Speaker as to whether they are genuinely asking questions or (commonly) giving a speech, Churchill was a master of Question Time, as Mr, Courtenay demonstrates.

Retirement Not

In 1953, a Member tried to provoke Churchill by dropping a hint about his retirement. Churchill turned to Captain Christopher Soames, his Parliamentary Private Secretary. WSC: “Bring me my hearing aid. I don’t want to miss any of this.” Then, with his hearing aid installed but ostentatiously and elaborately turned off: “Would you mind repeating what you’ve just said?”

Out of His Depth

On 18 November 1952 Mr. Lewis (Lab.) asked: “Is the Prime Minister aware of the deep concern felt by the people of this country at the whole question of the Korean conflict?” WSC: “I am fully aware of the deep concern felt by the Hon. Member in many matters above his comprehension.”
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Finest Hour 119, Summer 2003

Page 48

Winston Churchill reflects on the public image of his grandfather.


Jeanette Gabriel: Let’s return to your grandfather later on. You knew him intimately. Why do you think people have such a love for this man, with all his faults, real or imagined? People all over the world feel this way.

Winston Churchill: He was a very lovable human being, but what I think it comes down to is this: On the day my grandfather became Prime Minister, Hitler launched his Blitzkrieg against France and the low countries, and the British people in their hour of need turned to him. Had it not been for him, I firmly believe that Britain would have surrendered in the summer of 1940. The situation on its face was hopeless. By midJune the huge French Army, many time the size of ours, had surrendered. Hitler was the master of Europe.

With Britain out, Hitler’s troops would have gone East, defeated Stalin, since he’d have had all his force. Having made a meal of the Russians, he would have come back and devoted his attentions to us, and the full operations of the Gestapo and the concentration camps would have been established here. There would have been no possibility of the United States launching a D-Day type liberation from three thousand miles away across the Atlantic.
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Books, Arts & Curiosities – What Else Might Churchill Have Done?

Finest Hour 119, Summer 2003

Page 46

By Michael McKernan

The Politics of War—Australia at War 1939-1945: From Churchill to MacArthur, by David Day. HarperCollins, 750 pp., $49.95. CBC will place one order; any reader interested should notify The Churchill Centre.

It would be easy to think this book is a tract for the times: a timely return to the story of Australia in World War II to find out how alliance politics works between powerful and less powerful friends. But it isn’t that, although Prime Minister John Howard, who admits to reading Day’s prime ministerial biographies on the long flights to visit George Bush and Tony Blair, might still find in it plenty to ponder.

Day argues that Australian prime ministers throughout World War II were routinely misinformed, ignored and treated with barely concealed contempt by their alliance partners, particularly Churchill. Day reveals, with example piled upon example, how Churchill simply could not get the idea that the colonies had grown up. The Australian decision to take their remaining troops from the siege at Tobruk, for instance, caused fury in Whitehall and charges of cowardice from the British. In punishment for this exercise of limited Australian independence, Churchill and his cronies seemed to delight in thwarting legitimate expectations of help in Australia’s darkest hour, 1942.
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Reassessment in a New Century – Two Viewpoints

Finest Hour 119, Summer 2003

Page 45

Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, Sixth Series, Volume XI. “Churchill in the Twenty-First Century: A Conference held at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London, 11-13 January 2001.” Cambridge University Press, 450 pages, $40, member price $30.

Note: Transactions is the annual collection of historical writings published by the RHS. It contains essays on subjects ranging from 15th century British politics to 20th century blues and folk music. This review considers only the Churchill material in the second half of the volume.

1. Spectrum or Opinion

By Christopher H. Sterling

To have been the proverbial fly on the wall at this conference! For while this book presents edited versions of eleven papers in an insightful anthology, the discussions and related conversations must have been fascinating.

After all, here was a remarkable spectrum of opinion—Paul Addison, John Charmley, Chris Wrigley, David Cannadine, not to mention Tony Benn and Lady Soames—all gathered in the same place to assess Churchill a half century after the end of his active government years. The conference celebrated the centennial of the beginning of Churchill’s six decades in Parliament.
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Books, Arts & Curiosities – Man or the Century, Book or tne Year

Finest Hour 119, Summer 2003

Page 44

By David Freeman

Man of the Century: Winston Churchill and his Legend Since 1945, by John Ramsden. Harper Collins, 652 pp., £25. U.S. edition in October at lower prices; orders taken.

If you enjoy the Finest Hour book section, this book is a must: a tour d’horizon of all things Churchill by the dean of Conservative Party historians. Only John Ramsden with his encyclopedic knowledge of twentieth-century British politics (he edited the standard work on the subject) could have produced this magnificent work. Bulging with little known facts and thoughtful insights, it will keep anyone with an interest in Churchill transfixed for hours.

Mountains of recent Churchill books travel well-trod ground; Ramsden shows that there are still unknown facets to the never-ending saga. He set out to examine how Churchill fashioned his own legend, and how that image has played out and been transformed over time. The survey, however, includes so much Churchill trivia that enthusiasts will be absorbed by the scenery alone.

The book begins with Churchill’s “GDE” (Greatest Dying Englishman) period, his death and funeral, and then works back to chronicle the earlier “GLE” (Greatest Living Englishman) era. Indeed, as Ramsden notes, these very terms were used without need for explanation, just as Victorians referred to Gladstone as the GOM (Grand Old Man).
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Finest Hour 119, Summer 2003

Page 43

By Paul Alkon

Churchill predicted that “Lawrence’s name will live in English letters…in the traditions of the Royal Air Force…in the annals of war and in the legends of Arabia.” Churchill’s Few have outshone Lawrence, but he retains an honorable place in RAF history for helping to develop fast boats for rescuing downed aircrew at sea.

In the annals of war Lawrence remains noteworthy as a warrior-diplomat. While fighting with the Arabs against the Turkish army, he became a theoretician of what we now call asymmetric warfare: using a small force to tie down, demoralize, and perhaps ultimately defeat a larger force. Lawrence did not invent guerrilla warfare, but his success against the Turks earned a wide audience for his articulation in Seven Pillars of Wisdom of principles governing such campaigns—principles studied by the likes of Mao Tse-Tung and still included in the curricula of war colleges and military academies in the United States and elsewhere. Though Lawrence never targeted civilians, his theories of asymmetric warfare remain relevant as we now learn how to cope with horribly expanded versions of that way of war.

Also of enduring relevance is Lawrence’s diplomatic role trying—often vainly—to harmonize the aspirations and outlooks of societies with apparently irreconcilable differences. Lawrence dismissed his campaign as a side show of a side show. Whatever its actual importance, there are few better ways to start getting historical perspective on Middle Read More >

The T. E. Lawrence Society

Finest Hour 119, Summer 2003

Page 42

The Society was formed in 1985, not far from Cloud’s Hill at Wareham, Dorset, by a group of enthusiasts who believed that Lawrence’s writings and personality had much to offer to our present day lives. The Society has grown to 600 members worldwide and is now a non-profit organization registered under British tax law as an educational charity with the express purpose of advancing the education of the public in the life and works of Thomas Edward Lawrence.

The Society’s membership receives four newsletters and two journals per year. Members are encouraged to form regional groups in order to organize lectures, tours and social gatherings, all of which are reported in the newsletter. Several trips to the Middle East have already been arranged with members visiting areas involved in the Arab Revolt.

A key event in the Society’s calendar is the T. E. Lawrence Symposium, held biennially in Oxford. It brings members together for a weekend to share in the various aspects of Lawrence’s life on both a popular and academic level. Topics have ranged from Lawrence’s childhood interests, his life as an archaeologist, the Arab Revolt, his contributions to literature, his interests in art and music, his work in the Royal Air Force, his friends (famous and humble), and the myths that have developed around Lawrence over the decades. Some of the speakers have been Jeremy Wilson (the authorized biographer of Lawrence), Malcolm Brown (a BBC Television producer), Dr. Rupert Chapman of the Palestine Exploration Fund and John Adair, Professor of Leadership at the University of Surrey.
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T. E. Notes: The Lawrence Newsletter

Finest Hour 119, Summer 2003

Page 42

A newsletter devoted to T. E. Lawrence and his world, 77 E. Notes was begun in 1990 by Denis and Mary E. McDonnell and Janet A. Riesman. Thick and erudite, it includes articles about all periods of Lawrence’s intriguing life: his boyhood growing in Oxford, his days working on archaeological sites in the Near East, his scholarly work (including a translation of Homer’s Odyssey), his role in the Arab Revolt, his final years as a mechanic in the Royal Air Force. Essays cover a broad range of topics: collecting books in the Lawrence canon, reminiscences of people who knew Lawrence, accounts of his Arabian experience, literary analyses of his outstanding writings, reflections on what Lawrence meant to those fascinated and inspired by his life and values, questions about his ill-understood search for happiness in the RAF, and debates and controversies concerning his character and psychological make-up, to say nothing of the perennial mystery surrounding his untimely death in 1935 at age 46 in a motorcycle crash.
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Finest Hour 119, Summer 2003

Page 37

By Paul Alkon

Churchill’s Advice for Alexander Kordas Stillborn Film, “Lawrence of Arabia”

Accounts of Churchill’s involvements with cinema have not gone much beyond anecdotes. Frequently mentioned is his fondness for movies as a means of late-night relaxation from wartime tensions during his first Premiership. Often the spotlight hovers on his unquenchable appetite for “Lady Hamilton” (“That Hamilton Woman” in the U.S.), Alexander Kordas 1941 patriotic epic starring Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh. Churchill is said to have seen it seventeen times.1

We are invited to admire the old bulldog beaming in approval at this tale of Nelson’s defiance of Napoleon and glorious victory at Trafalgar. Equally admirable are the tears reportedly shed by Churchill at each reiteration on screen of Nelson’s heroic death and Emma Hamilton’s subsequent sad neglect by an ungrateful country. There are whispers that Churchill had some hand not only in urging Korda to make the film in Hollywood as pro-British propaganda to counter American isolationism, but even in writing its script of Nelson’s speech, insisting that “You cannot make peace with Dictators. You have to destroy them.”2 Alas, there is no evidence that Churchill wrote this.3
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Finest Hour 119, Summer 2003

Page 32


“Instead of being proud of what we did together, I was continually and bitterly ashamed.”


On George Bernard Shaw’s advice this “introductory chapter” of Seven Pillars was suppressed in the editions during and shortly after Lawrence’s lifetime. It was released in 1939 by TEL’s brother and has been included in subsequent printings.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom was first written out in Paris during the Peace Conference from notes jotted daily on the march, strengthened by some reports sent to my chiefs in Cairo. Afterwards, in the autumn of 1919, this first draft and some of the notes were lost. It seemed to me historically needful to reproduce the tale, as perhaps no one but myself in Feisal’s army had thought of writing down at the time what we felt, what we hoped, what we tried. So it was built again with heavy repugnance in London in the winter of 1919-20 from memory and my surviving notes. The record of events was not dulled in me and perhaps a few actual mistakes crept in—except in details of dates or numbers—but the outlines and significance of things had lost edge in the haze of new interests.
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Cover Story: The John Portrait

Finest Hour 119, Summer 2003

Page 31

From An Iconography The Portraits of T.E. Lawrence by Charles Grosvenor, The Otterden Press 1988

“Partnership’s off! Daily Express has torn it: says you fail completely to express your sitters who use their brains: but succeed conspicuously in two portraits of men of action—Col. Lawrence and the Emir Feisal.”

So wrote Lawrence to Augustus John, prompted by a review of the artist’s 1920 exhibition, at London’s Alpine Club Gallery, including several portraits of Lawrence and one of Feisal, painted in Paris during the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. Lawrence and Feisal were several times together with John in the artist’s studio, speaking to each other in Arabic as John painted. At times they were accompanied by Gertrude Bell, who termed Lawrence, attired in his Arab robes, “the most picturesque figure” at the Conference.
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Finest Hour 119, Summer 2003

Page 30

By Paul Alkon

I went up the Tigris with one hundred Devon Territorials, young, clean, delightful fellows…. And we were casting them by thousands into the fire and to the worst of deaths, not to win the war but that the corn and rice and oil of Mesopotamia might be ours All our subject provinces to me were not worth one dead Englishman.“—T. E. Lawrence

Writing Seven Pillars of Wisdom was for Lawrence an extended effort almost as exhausting as participation in the Arab Revolt itself. Reliving that adventure, while writing about it in successive drafts over seven years, greatly contributed to his post-war anomie.

The initial manuscript was begun in Paris during the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919 and lost in November of that year when a suitcase containing it was stolen at Reading railway station—or so Lawrence claimed in one of several versions he gave of the first draft’s disappearance. He reports that he reluctantly wrote it again “with heavy repugnance in London in the winter of 1919-20 from memory and . . . surviving notes.”1 Dissatisfied, he burned this second draft on 10 May 1922—except, oddly, for one page retained as a kind of souvenir.
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Finest Hour 119, Summer 2003

Page 26

Selected by Paul Alkon

In attempting to capture the flavor of the ChurchillLawrence correspondence, my inclination has been to include entire letters; I prefer fewer letters to cutting parts of them. An entire letter, even—or perhaps especially—when some of it seems off on a tangent, gives a better idea of the situation of Lawrence and Churchill at the time it was written, and of Lawrence’s personality and letter-writing style. Though not every one is a masterpiece, Lawrence’s letters are regarded as literary work, and are ranked high among 20th century correspondence. They form a noteworthy part of his own oeuvre. One critic, Jeffrey Meyers, has remarked, “After Seven Pillars of Wisdom, the letters are Lawrence’s most extensive and significant literary production.”

In 1923 Lawrence changed his last name to Shaw. Consequently some of the letters are from T. E. Lawrence (abbreviated here as TEL) and some are from T. E. Shaw (abbreviated here as TES).

Acknowledgment to Sir Martin Gilbert for so faithfully compiling those rich treasures the companion volumes to the official biography (London: Heinemann), from which these are quoted. “CV4/3” is Companion Volume IV, Part 3, 1977. “CV5/1” is Companion Volume V, Part 1, The Exchequer Years 1922-1929, 1979. “CV5/2” is Companion Volume V, Part 2, The Wilderness Years 1929-1935, 1979. Some of the shorter letters may have been abbreviated from the originals but contain every word published in the companion volumes.
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Finest Hour 119, Summer 2003

Page 18

By Richard M. Langworth

“The only thing that’s new in the world is the history you don’t know” —WSC

If the Almighty dabbles in the creation of individuals, He must have chortled when He conjured up Lawrence of Arabia. For here was the ideal companion, surrogate, adviser, foil and friend of Winston Spencer Churchill. To paraphrase Churchill’s famous quip, Lawrence possessed all the vices WSC admired, and none of the virtues he deplored.

He was indeed as Churchill said untrammeled by convention, independent of the ordinary currents of human action: the fair-haired westerner who helped lead the Arabs in their finest recent hours, wresting their homeland from the Ottoman Turks in World War I. Then he wrote a book about it, of the same lofty quality and style as Churchill himself. Like another of Churchill’s longtime collaborators, Louis Spears (and WSC himself), Lawrence combined a noble war record with prodigious writing talent. An admiring Churchill leaned heavily on Spears during World War II, and mourned the loss of Lawrence in the years leading up to it.

From the early Twenties until his untimely death in 1935, Lawrence was a ranking Chartwell favorite. Like such cronies as Clementine Churchill’s “three dreadful Bs,” Bracken, Beaverbrook and Birkenhead, there was an air of disrepute about Lawrence, which he’d earned by consistently defying, disappointing and repelling the Establishment. Essentially self-made, he claimed to care not a fig about his reputation, changed his name twice to stop it pursuing him. Yet this was to some extent an affectation. Churchill in later life remarked of Lawrence to Anthony Montague Browne: “He had the art of backing uneasily into the limelight. He was a very remarkable character, and very careful of that fact.”
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