Finest Hour 120

AN AUTHOR’S REFLECTIONS – The President and Prime Minister

Finest Hour 120, Autumn 2003

Page 36


With Churchill, what you saw was usually what you got.
With Roosevelt what you saw was rarely what you got.

Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship, by Jon Meacham. Random House, 512 pp., illus., $29-95. Member price $22.

For me, a child born in the American South in 1969, “Winston Churchill” began as a byline. My grandfather, a Tennessee judge, liked to read and re-read his way through Churchill, from The Second World War to The Story of the Malakand Field Force. I can still picture those volumes on his desk, and I remember the first time I read My Early Life, loving the images of martial splendor and the crack of gunfire.

All of this resonated, I think, because I spent my own first years on a Civil War battlefield—Missionary Ridge, overlooking Chattanooga. Great battles and heroes were the things many boys of my age and place dreamed about. Later, the story of Churchill’s defiance between May 1940 and Pearl Harbor took on a particular meaning when I discovered that my grandfather, impressed and inspired by the PM’s courage, had joined the navy in mid-1941, serving until the end in 1945.
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Books, Arts & Curiosities – Another Look: Ashley as Historian?

Finest Hour 120, Autumn 2003

Page 34


Churchill as Historian, by Maurice Ashley. London: Seeker & Warburg; New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1968, 246 pp., illus. Frequency on the secondhand market: uncommon.

Most people think of Winston Churchill as a statesman and Prime Minister. But it was his writing that first brought Churchill fame, and the remuneration from his writing enabled him to leave the army and enter and remain in politics. So important an aspect of his life deserves serious attention, and thirty-five years ago, Maurice Ashley attempted to provide it with Churchill as Historian: the first of what are now several works devoted to that subject.

If the book delivered on its promise of being the first study of how and why Churchill wrote history, and an assessment of what he wrote, this would be a valuable work. Unfortunately, Ashley spends too much time retelling the stories contained in Churchill’s own books and too little time analyzing them, or the man behind them. As a result, the book is a decent primer to those first learning about Churchill’s writing, but provides little insight to the moderately wellinformed Churchillian.

Ashley opens with three chapters introducing himself and his subject. Hired by Churchill out of Oxford to act as research assistant on Marlborough, he had ample opportunity to observe Churchill at work and leisure. As with so many biographies, especially those about so idiosyncratic a personality, this is the most interesting part of his book.

Ashley’s focus on literary pursuits provides an unusual angle of attack and a good sense of what is to follow. But, gifted more as a researcher than a writer, Ashley seems loath to exclude any fact, even if it does not fit smoothly into his narrative. Thus much of the introduction reads like a string of anecdotes lacking a central thread.

The fourth chapter is entitled “Early Works” but examines only the Malakand Field Force and The River War. (Ashley excludes London to Ladysmith and Ian Hamilton’s March as ahistorical journalism and Savrola because it is fiction.) Opening with a summary of both works, we move on to consider the insight they provide of Churchill the man. He treats Churchill’s second-guessing of commanders in both campaigns with great delicacy. The examination of the changes made—or not made—in the abridged editions of The River War elaborate on this point.

Such changes illuminate two other factors which Ashley thinks tainted much of Churchill’s work. The first is an excessive love of the wellwritten phrase. Churchill, he says, could not be prevailed upon to excise sections he had written in praise of General Gordon, even after he learned they were false, because he could not bring himself to waste such beautiful language. The irony is that Ashley doesn’t recognize his own tendency to hang on to every fact.

The second is Churchill’s magnanimity, or, less generously, the anticipation that his subjects might figure in his future career, which tended to obscure his objectivity. If Churchill’s criticism of Kitchener in The River War had not been tempered by the revised editions, Ashley argues, their relationship during the Great War might have been untenable.

For the remainder of his study Ashley examines each of Churchill’s books individually, generally dedicating a chapter to every two volumes. While he begins strongly with Lord Randolph Churchill, which he considers Churchill’s second-greatest book after Marlborough, the value of the text fades quickly. Beginning with The World Crisis, the book reads more like “Ashley as Historian.” While summaries of the topics Churchill covers may help new readers to decide what to read, they provide little insight.

Moreover, many of Ashley’s conclusions appear jarringly unfounded— and undefended. For example, he criticizes Churchill for blaming the naval defeat at Coronel in 1914 on “faulty wording of naval messages.” (78) Wasn’t Churchill himself “a master of words,” who “had been installed in the Admiralty in 1911 to overhaul the naval staff”? That a man as prolix as Churchill, not to mention as intelligent and fond of “good” words, would be expected to be a “master” of telegramming—which he may not have personally drafted—is a claim hardly worth crediting, and Ashley takes no time to defend this point.

The strong examination of Churchill’s motives behind writing Lord Randolph and the contrast of his take in The Eastern Front from that of other historians are the exceptions which ought to have been Ashley’s rule. With Marlborough, the author’s bias is too strong to go without defense or comment. Ashley slights his reader by breezing quickly through the few examples he gives of the research failures which marred that work.

At 246 pages, Churchill as Historian is certainly not an overly long read, and the neophyte looking to gain a sense of what Churchill wrote or how he went about writing will benefit from it. The serious Churchillian is likely to regret the time he has spent. Even the scholar, however, can gain some benefit from a cursory glance. By skipping sections where Ashley is the only subject, one may glean value from sections devoted to his far more interesting subject.

Mr. Risher is “a petulant, pedantic and curmudgeonly private citizen” of Washington, D. C.

Books, Arts & Curiosities – Old Subjects Renewed – Clementine II

Finest Hour 120, Autumn 2003

Page 32


Clementine Churchill, by Mary Soames. Updated and revised edition. Mariner books, softbound, 752 pp., illus. $18. Member price $14.

We Shall Not Fail: The Inspiring Leadership of Winston Churchill, by Celia Sandys and Jonathan Littman. Portfolio/Penguin, 270 pp., $24.95. Member price $20

Churchill, by Sebastian Haffner, translated by John Brownjohn. David & Charles, 182 pp., softbound, $15.95. Member price $13.

Lady Soames’s first book, published in 1979, a loving yet measured biography of her mother, is now brought up to date and expanded. The new version is a mite easier on the eyes (slightly larger print size) and the main text runs about fifty pages longer than in the original. Even the photographs have been extended— there are now 131 of them.
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Books, Arts & Curiosities – Right on Track

Finest Hour 120, Autumn 2003

Page 30

Family Industry: Four New Books by Sir Winston’s Granddaughter, Grandson, and Daughter


Chasing Churchill: The Travels of Winston Churchill, by Celia Sandys. Carroll & Graf, 288 pp., illus, $25. Member price $18.

Never Give In! The Best of Winston Churchill’s Speeches, selected and edited by his grandson, Winston S. Churchill, 592 pp., illus., $27.95. Member price $21.

We were recently obliged to write a major newspaper in defense of the Churchill family’s “cottage industry”: writing about Sir Winston, which the spokesman for an alleged Churchill organization had termed “Somewhat Disreputable” (page 7)—unthinkingly, since Churchill himself began the practice in 1908 with his biography of his father. Besides, what his family with its special perspective delivers is usually good material which we wouldn’t get from outsiders in quite the same way.

Take Celia Sandys, for example, who has now published five books about her grandfather, among which Chasing Churchill is something only a family member could properly write. Given special entree as a close relative around the world, she traveled widely in Winston Churchill’s footsteps, learning much that is new about his travels.
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Datelines – Local and National Events

Finest Hour 120, Autumn 2003

Page 10

Events are also now covered by our fraternal publication, the Chartwell Bulletin.


WASHINGTON, MAY 21ST— For a brief two months in early 1953 there was a chance that Churchill’s push for a Big-Three Summit meeting might have had some effect. Stalin had died in March and the new Soviet leadership, less sure of itself and perhaps more flexible, might have been willing to meet face-to-face with Churchill and newly-elected U.S. President Eisenhower. But that chance vanished two months later when riots broke out in East Berlin in June. The old rigid Soviet approach to a threat reasserted itself, and the potential Summit moment was gone.

So suggested Dr. Klaus Larres in remarks to thirty members of the Washington Society for Churchill at a dinner tonight. Holder of the Kissinger Chair at the Library of Congress in 2002-03, and now taking up the Chair in International Relations and Foreign Policy at London University, Larres is the author of the well-received Churchill’s Cold War and numerous other books. He spoke of Churchill’s steady but ill-fated push after the war for continued summitry as perhaps the best way to reduce Cold War tensions. Larres argued that this was very much in Churchill’s character, dating all the way back to a 1914 proposal that key British leaders seek out a face-to-face meeting with Germany’s Grand Admiral Tirpitz in an attempt to lower the temperature of the naval arms race that was peaking on the eve of what became the Great War.
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Getting There Sans Automobile: Chartwell

Finest Hour 120, Autumn 2003

Page 08

Alas the Chartwell Explorer coach from Victoria Station no longer runs. We continue to recommend the Capital Coast Express, or any other train marked, “to East Grinstead and calling at Oxted,” from Victoria. You must get one that stops at Oxted, which is the closest rail station to Chartwell. Cab fare with tip is about £7-8. Either arrange with the taxi driver to meet you at Chartwell for the ride back or get his cell number so you can ring him. If you make a mistake and go via Sevenoaks, the taxi fare could be three times as high. Direct trains to London depart Oxted at 24 and 54 minutes after the hour except between 4pm and 6pm, so if you want a direct train back, you have to be back at Oxted station by say 3:45. Alternative for those who find this too limiting: overnight at the Vicarage, a B&B in Westerham village, which happens to be the birthplace of General Wolfe.


CC President Bill Ives and Executive Director Dan Myers recently took the train from Kings Cross to Cambridge to visit the Churchill Archives Centre. Return fare for the day trip was £15 each and the ride is under an hour. Archives director Allen Packwood can arrange to show you around. Please contact him in advance: telephone (01223) 336087, email There is an exhibition in the lobby. “I highly recommend calling Allen and making the trip,” says Mr. Myers. “Besides Churchill College, the other Cambridge colleges are lovely in their own right and well worth the visit.”


Finest Hour 120, Autumn 2003

Page 06

WASHINGTON, AUGUST 29TH— At the request of our Patron, The Churchill Centre is assisting the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office by providing a complete set of her father’s books to a Churchill Room at Livadia Palace, Yalta, which she was instrumental in convincing them to create. Another room for President Roosevelt is being created by the USA. Please note that the Livadia exhibit is a monument to international cooperation, not to Stalin or the Yalta conference.

We were not asked for rarities or expensive first editions. Lady Soames herself donated all of her own works, and several others she owns such as the Churchill-Roosevelt Correspondence, Winston Churchill is similarly assisting. Our Governors and Trustees responded with generous commitments from Laurence Geller, David Boler, Randy Barber, Richard Langworth, and Craig Horn. After individual donations are collected, will donate the remaining titles, including a Russian translation of the War Speeches.

The books will be available for reading and study by visitors to the Livadia exhibit but will not be loaned and will be secure. Each will bear a bookplate stating that it is the gift of the The Churchill Centre and the individual donor, much like the exhibit of books we supplied to Chartwell.
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“View of Chartwell”

Finest Hour 120, Autumn 2003

Page 48

Oil Painting by Winston S. Churchill, 1938
Coombs 286, 24 x 36 inches, unsigned.
Inscribed on the reverse:
“Painted by my husband. Clementine S. Churchill”

Reproduced by courtesy of Wylma Wayne, Minnie Churchill and Churchill Heritage Ltd. A framed, limited edition of this painting is being presented to Benefactor registrants of the 20th International Churchill Conference in Bermuda in November 2003. A few remaining copies are available from The Churchill Centre in Washington. Please contact Daniel Myers, Executive Director.

Churchill painted “View of Chartwell” in 1938 from high on the hill to the left of today’s car park, his ponds in the foreground and the Weald of Kent stretching out behind. It was Churchill’s favorite vantage point to survey his estate. He once told his secretary Grace Hamblin, “You’re a fool if you haven’t been up there.”

Recalling her memories of half a century at Chartwell for the Fourth International Churchill Conference in 1987, Miss Hamblin wrote:
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Finest Hour 120, Autumn 2003

Page 47

A compendium of facts eventually to appear as a reader’s guide.


Listed are works generally considered to be stand-alone and book-length, including all the speech collections (*) and derivative works from previously published books (**) —but not individual speech volumes bound as volumes, such as Grabhorn or Overbrook Press wartime productions or the Danish Taler I Danmark. The 2003 total: fifty-one works (twelve posthumous) in eighty-one volumes (twenty-two posthumous).

1. The Story of the Malakand Field Force, 1898
2. The River War (2 vols.), 1899
3. Savrola: A Tale of the Revolution in Laurania, 1899
4. London to Ladysmith via Pretoria, 1900
5. Lan Hamilton’s March, 1900
6. Mr Brodrick’s Army, 1903*
7. Lord Randolph Churchill (2 vols.), 1906
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Churchill Trivia

Finest Hour 120, Autumn 2003

Page 45


Questions concern Contemporaries (C), ‘Literary (L), Miscellaneous (M), Personal (P), Statesmanship (S) and War (W).

1351. Who said about Churchill in the House of Commons: “He was in a very real sense a child of the House and a product of it, and equally, in every sense, its father”? (C)

1352. Who did Churchill describe (in Thoughts and Adventures) as “…a green-eyed young Antipodean radical….”? (L)

1353. When Winston Churchill resigned as Premier in April 1955 he gave a farewell dinner to Queen Elizabeth II and her consort. Which Prime Minister originated the tradition of a retirement dinner? (M)

1354. In 1876, Churchill’s grandfather was appointed to the “most magnificent vice-regal position in the Empire.” What was it? (P)

1355. Admiral of the Fleet Sir Alfred Dudley Pound was First Sea Lord during WW2 and although Churchill was attached to him, he made one massive blunder. What was it? (S)
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Churchilliana – More on the Sarah Churchill Curtis Hooper Intaglio Prints

Finest Hour 120, Autumn 2003

Page 44


In Finest Hour 117 we pictured sixteen of a what remain an unknown variety of intaglio drawings by Curtis Hooper, published by Sarah Churchill in the 1970s as “A Visual Philosophy of Winston Churchill,” from the Jaffa Collection at Hillsdale College. We failed to publish the descriptive material sent us by the college, which follows herewith; please compare with FH 117.

We continue to find additional examples of the Churchill/Hooper intaglio prints, two of which are published above. We are determined eventually to publish a set of thumbnails showing every last one of them. The search continues!

The larger of two sizes of prints produced are limited editions of 350-400. Each measures about 22.5 x 34.5 inches, signed in pencil and numbered by Sarah Churchill. Each is accompanied by an engraving, which sometimes coincides with the print. Here are descriptions in the order in which they appeared:
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EULOGIES – “A Lonesome Place Against the Sky”

Finest Hour 120, Autumn 2003

Page 42


Washington National Cathedral 28 January 1965

Today we meet in sadness to mourn one of the world’s greatest citizens. Sir Winston Churchill is dead. The voice that led nations, raised armies, inspired victories, and blew fresh courage into the hearts of men is silenced. We shall hear no longer the remembered eloquence and wit, the old courage and defiance, the robust serenity of indomitable faith. Our world is thus poorer, our political dialog is diminished, and the sources of public inspiration run more thinly for all of us. There is a lonesome place against the sky.

So we are right to mourn. Yet, in contemplating the life and spirit of Winston Churchill, regrets for the past seem singularly insufficient. One rather feels a sense of thankfulness and encouragement that, throughout so long a life, such a full measure of power, virtuosity, mastery, and zest played over our human scene.

Contemplating this completed career, we feel a sense of enlargement and exhilaration. Like the grandeur and power of this masterpiece of art and music, Churchill’s life uplifts our hearts and fills us with fresh revelation of the scale and reach of human achievement. We may be sad; but we rejoice as well, as all must rejoice when they “now praise famous men” and see in their lives the full splendor of our human estate.
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Woods Corner – Limited and Recent Editions

Finest Hour 120, Autumn 2003

Page 40


• Eightieth Birthday Tribute to Winston Churchill, by Churchill & Gernshein, 1955 Beaulieu Heritage Limited Edition
• Riconquistare Khartoum, by Winston S. Churchill, 1999 Piemme Edition
• Savrola, by Winston S. Churchill, 1950 Illustrator’s Limited Edition
• Homage to Kipling, by Winston S. Churchill, 1937
• Churchill and Hitler: Secrets of Leadership, by Andrew Roberts, 2003
• India, by Winston S. Churchill, 1991 American Edition


A reader asked us to appraise a limited edition (3000) Eightieth Birthday Tribute to Winston Churchill “personally signed by Churchill.” This was a special full red morocco binding of Randolph Churchill’s and Helmut Gernsheim’s Churchill: His Life in Photographs (1955) published by Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, an admirer of Sir Winston.

This was not good news to our reader, but so far as we know, all “inscribed” copies of the Beaulieu edition are forgeries, including copies with both Winston and Clementine Churchill signatures. If the Winston signature matches in style the gilt facsimile signature on the cover, it is one of these.
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President Roosevelt

Finest Hour 120, Autumn 2003

Page 37

Winston S. Churchill, House of Commons, 17 April 1945

My friendship with the great man to I whose work and fame we pay our tribute today began and ripened during this war. I had met him, but only for a few minutes, after the close of the last war, and as soon as I went to the Admiralty in early September 1939, he telegraphed inviting me to correspond with him direct on naval or other matters if at any time I felt inclined. Having obtained the permission of the Prime Minister, I did so. Knowing President Roosevelt’s keen interest in sea warfare, I furnished him with a stream of information about our naval affairs, and about the various actions, including especially the action of the Plate River, which lighted the first gloomy winter of the war.

When I became Prime Minister, and the war broke out in all its hideous fury; when our own life and survival hung in the balance; I was already in a position to telegraph to the President on terms of an association which had become most intimate and, to me, most agreeable. This continued through all the ups and downs of the world struggle until Thursday last, when I received my last messages from him. These messages showed no falling off in his accustomed clear vision and vigour upon perplexing and complicated matters. I may mention that this correspondence which, of course, was greatly increased after the United States entry into the war, comprises to and fro between us, over 1700 messages. Many of these were lengthy messages, and the majority dealt with those more difficult points which come to be discussed upon the level of heads of Governments only after official solutions have not been reached at other stages. 
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Action This Day – Autumn 1878, 1903, 1928, 1953

Finest Hour 120, Autumn 2003

Page 28

By Michael McMenamin

125 Years Ago:

Autumn 1878 • Age 4

“A woman of exceptional capacity”

Famine had come to Ireland again in 1877 with the failure of the potato crop, and continued for two years while young Winston was still in residence with his parents and grandparents. Government aid was totally insufficient and Churchill’s grandmother, the Duchess of Marlborough, initiated a famine relief fund.

In his biography of his father, Churchill described his grandmother as “a woman of exceptional capacity, energy and decision, and she laboured earnestly and ceaselessly to collect and administer a great fund. Its purposes were to supply food, fuel and clothing, especially for the aged and weak; to provide small sums to keep the families of able-bodied men in temporary distress out of the workhouse; and thirdly, while carefully guarding against any kind of proselytism, to give grants to schools, so as to secure free meals of bread and potatoes and, if possible, a little clothing for the children attending them.”
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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.