Leadership/statesmanship

Leadership This Day

Finest Hour 174, Autumn 2016 Page 38 By Eleanor Laing “Leadership This Day” illustrates how Winston Churchill’s example guides and motivates today’s leaders. Contributors come from many fields, including business, politics, and the military. Every day, as I sit in the Speaker’s Chair in the Chamber of the House of Commons, I am acutely aware […]

Winston Churchill and the 1951 Festival of Britain

Finest Hour 174, Autumn 2016 Page 22 By Iain Wilton Iain Wilton recently completed his Ph.D. at Queen Mary, University of London. He has also written a major biography of the English sportsman, writer and politician C. B. Fry; among much else, it covers each of Fry’s key encounters with Churchill. Artist’s view of the […]

Books, Arts, & Curiosities – Leader of the Pack

Finest Hour 173, Summer 2016 Page 38 Roger Hermiston, All Behind You, Winston: Churchill’s Great Coalition, 1940–45, Aurum Press, 406 pages, £20. ISBN 978–1781313312 Review by John Campbell John Campbell’s books include major biographies of F. E. Smith, Aneurin Bevan, Edward Heath, Margaret Thatcher, and most recently Roy Jenkins. The title of this book derives […]

Churchill & France

Finest Hour 173, Summer 2016 Page 10 By Antoine Capet Antoine Capet is Professor Emeritus of British Studies at the University of Rouen. Strangely enough, we have a book on Churchill and Finland,1 but none on Churchill & France— only a number of articles and book chapters. Is it because of the sheer size of […]

Books, Arts, & Curiosities – All about Hope

Finest Hour 172, Spring 2016

Page 49

Churchill’s Secret, First broadcast by ITV on 29 February 2016

Review by Robert Courts


Sir Michael Gambon as Churchill in Churchill’s Secret

Sir Michael Gambon as Churchill in Churchill’s Secret

Churchill’s Secret is an adaptation of Jonathan Smith’s 2015 novel The Churchill Secret, KBO (reviewed FH 168), with an all-star cast, and shot in part on location at Chartwell.

It tells the story of Churchill’s 1953 stroke, suffered whilst entertaining an Italian delegation at 10 Downing Street, his struggle to recover before the Conservative Party conference that year, and the extraordinary conspiracy between the press, politicians, and Churchill’s family to keep his critical condition a secret.

The film is beautifully shot, taking full advantage of a pristine sun-dappled Chartwell in June. Like a soft-focus Downton Abbey, the camera lingers on the rooms of the house, the wooden panelling, and the sun shining in brilliant beams through small windows illuminating dust and the busts on Churchill’s desk. And this superb set is not Chartwell; the external shots are, but the internals are incredibly good representations of the originals.
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Books, Arts, & Curiosities – The Finest Hour Revisited

Finest Hour 172, Spring 2016

Page 47

Review by Robert Courts

Robin Prior, When Britain Saved the West, Yale University Press, 2015, 360 pages, $35 / £20. ISBN 978-0300166620


Britain AloneWhen I was young, I remember a book by Herbert Agar, Britain Alone, left lying on the stairs by my parents. I was intrigued by the picture of the Tommy on the cover staring in defiance at the clouds of aircraft swarming over the cliffs of Dover. I became dimly aware that this was something that had happened to my country, not so long ago, and that it was a “big deal.” When older, I read the book, which told in ringing tones what is still one of the most stirring stories in all history: the lonely, vital stand of Britain and the Commonwealth between the fall of France and Hitler’s invasion of Russia. This is the story that Robin Prior tells here, and it is told in equally memorable style.

This is an accurate, straightforward, narrative history of a compelling story. It is predominantly a military history, describing the Battle of France, the evacuation of Dunkirk, and of Fighter Command’s immortal stand. We have the detail of squadron tactics and aircraft capabilities. Consequently, there is no mention of Churchill for large sections of the book, as is right given that he is not the primary focus. He is, however, given his rightful place.
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Books, Arts, & Curiosities – To Protect and to Serve

Finest Hour 172, Spring 2016

Page 38

Review by John H. Maurer

Larry Arnn, Churchill’s Trial: Winston Churchill and the Salvation of Free Government, Thomas Nelson Books, 2015, 240 pages, $22.99. ISBN 978-1595555304


Churchill’s TrialChurchill’s Trial by Larry Arnn is a must-have book for anyone who wants to know more about Sir Winston Churchill, the challenges he faced as a leader in public life, and the values he upheld as a statesman. Arnn has achieved much in this volume: he has written a serious, learned book, without being tedious; a thoughtful meditation on leadership, without losing sight of the ugly realities and the difficult choices that confront leaders living in dark, troubled times.

To Arnn, Churchill is a heroic figure, a champion of the cause of freedom, who changed the course of history, despite sometimes having to fight against fearful odds. Hence, understanding what motivated Churchill to take up the challenges before him, to fight the trials of his era, is of great value for us in facing the dangers of our own times.

The international environment in the first half of the twentieth century presented a deadly trial for Churchill and Britain. In Nazi Germany and the Russia of Lenin and Stalin, the liberal world order was menaced by well-armed extremist regimes bent on spreading their tyrannical creeds. Arnn writes: “Nazism is understood to be a movement of the Right. There was also a growing tyranny in Europe, and eventually on other continents, of the Left. Churchill did not think this distinction between Left and Right so important: he said that the two tyrannies differ as the North Pole differs from the South” (xxvi).
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“The Blood Test”: Churchill Writing on the Battle of the Somme

Finest Hour 172, Spring 2016

Page 32

By Robin Prior


Battle of the Somme

British Vickers machine gun crew, The Battle of the Somme, 1916

The Battle of the Somme raged from 1 July to mid-November 1916. It was the largest battle the British Army has ever fought—or is ever likely to fight. When Winston Churchill came to write his history of the First World War (which he called The World Crisis) it was inevitable that he would pay considerable attention to this—particularly since he held very strong views about the manner in which it had been fought.

However, Churchill faced a particular difficulty in writing about the Somme. Earlier in the war, he had been First Lord of the Admiralty, during which time he had accumulated plentiful contemporary documents. These materials formed the basis of the first two volumes of The World Crisis, which covered the period from 1911 to 1915. Indeed, one-third of the material on this period consists of these papers and memoranda.

But the Dardanelles fiasco forced Churchill to resign. The period of the Somme saw him out of office and cut off from all official government communications. So when he came to write his narrative he lacked the foundation on which his earlier chapters had been based. Read More >

Churchill, Jutland, and The World Crisis

Finest Hour 172, Spring 2016

Page 28

By Stephen McLaughlin

Mr. Churchill spent a blissful two hours demonstrating with decanters and wine-glasses how the Battle of Jutland was fought. It was a thrilling experience. He was fascinating. He got worked up like a schoolboy, making barking noises in imitation of gunfire and blowing cigar smoke across the battle scene in imitation of gunsmoke.
—James Lees-Milne, describing an experience at Chartwell in January 19281


Churchill’s improvised table-top recreation of one of the most complex battles in naval history was remarkable not only for the fascination it held for Lees-Milne, but also because just a few years earlier Churchill had admitted to his friend, ViceAdmiral Sir Roger Keyes, that he had “only the vaguest idea of what had taken place” at Jutland.2 The indecisive battle had been fought on 31 May 1916, a full year after Churchill’s forced resignation from his position as First Lord of the Admiralty, and his only connection with it came when he was asked to make a morale-boosting statement for the press to compensate for an earlier, and depressingly honest, Admiralty communiqué.3 Though an effective piece of propaganda, his statement was not based on a deep knowledge of the events of the battle.

Two Admirals

The World Crisis

Map of the Battle of Jutland

But by 1924 Churchill’s work on his history of the Great War, The World Crisis, was approaching the point where he would have to provide some account of the battle. By this time the “Jutland controversy” was already in full swing, an unseemly quarrel between the supporters of the two chief British commanders at Jutland, Admiral Sir John Jellicoe and Vice-Admiral Sir David Beatty. Although he had not previously studied the battle in detail, Churchill was by no means a disinterested party in this debate. Beatty had served as his naval secretary for fifteen months in 1911–13, and the young admiral had impressed him deeply; in a navy that, in Churchill’s famous phrase, “had more captains of ships than captains of war,” Beatty seemed to him a man possessing “shrewd and profound sagacity” who “viewed questions of naval strategy and tactics in a different light Read More >

The Conscience of Politics: Sir Anthony Eden as Heir Apparent

Finest Hour 172, Spring 2016

Page 17

By D. R. Thorpe

“If you want to succeed in politics,” Lloyd George is said to have observed, “you must keep your conscience well under control.


Sir Anthony EdenAs Churchill approached the twilight of his final Premiership in his eighty-first year, it proved an apt precept. His relationship with the two figures who were eventually to follow him as Prime Minister—Anthony Eden and Harold Macmillan— became increasingly fractious.

In 1955 it was fifty-five years since Churchill had first entered Parliament, and he did not find enticing the prospect of going gently into the political night. Eden and Macmillan, respectively Foreign Secretary and Minister of Defence, both felt that Churchill had overstayed his welcome, and were increasingly seen by the aged Prime Minister as rivals, rather than colleagues.

Crown Prince

How different things were in 1938 at the time of Chamberlain’s meeting with Hitler at Munich when Eden and Macmillan were staunch opponents of appeasement. Churchill regarded them both as loyal, even heroic, figures, famously describing Eden as “the one strong figure standing up against long dismal, drawling tides of drift and surrender.”1 On 16 June 1942 Churchill advised King George VI that in the event of his death, “He should entrust the formation of a new government to Mr Anthony Eden.”2 Eden ruefully stated in his memoirs: “The long era as Crown Prince was established, a position not necessarily enviable in politics.”3 The Treasury benches are full of the bleached bones of future Prime Ministers. It would be thirteen years before Eden succeeded Churchill in Number 10.
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The Prime Minister and the General: Churchill and Eisenhower

Finest Hour 172, Spring 2016 Page 15 By Lewis E. Lehrman   When Winston Churchill died in January 1965, President Lyndon Johnson decided not to attend the funeral. Startled by LBJ’s decision, Dwight D. Eisenhower was equally surprised that he, the top Allied commander in Europe during the Second World War, was not named to […]

Democracy’s Champions: Churchill and Roosevelt

Finest Hour 172, Spring 2016

Page 06

By Alonzo L. Hamby


Their first meeting was not promising. In the summer of 1918, fifteen months after the United States had entered the First World War, Franklin D. Roosevelt, the American Assistant Secretary of the Navy, crossed the Atlantic to undertake an inspection tour of US naval bases and Marine combat in Europe. His first stop was London. On the evening of 29 July, he was one of the guests at a formal dinner in honor of the British war ministers. It was there that he had his first personal encounter with Winston Churchill.

Exactly what transpired is unclear. One has an impression of two big egos competing for attention. Churchill quickly forgot the event. Roosevelt nursed his annoyance. Twenty-one years later, he told Joseph P. Kennedy that Churchill had “acted like a stinker” toward him.1

Their contacts over those years were few and perfunctory. Most notably, Churchill gave President Roosevelt a copy of his multi-volume biography of the first Duke of Marlborough. Roosevelt thanked him and seems never to have gotten around to reading it. Surely, however, the president sympathized with Churchill’s opposition to Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s policy of appeasing Nazi Germany. In September 1939, a few days after the Second World War broke out in Europe, Roosevelt sent messages to Chamberlain and Churchill, who was back in the government as First Lord of the Admiralty, inviting them to stay in touch with him on matters of mutual concern. Chamberlain did not respond. Churchill, who asked for and received permission from the Cabinet, did. Neither man could have imagined that an initial brief exchange was the first of nearly 2,000 communications that would pass between them over the next five and a half years. Nor could they have foreseen the way in which an alliance of necessity would develop into a fruitful but ambiguous personal relationship.2
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Winston Churchill: In His Own Words

Finest Hour 171, Winter 2016

Page 50

The River War: Churchill’s Firsthand Account of the Charge at Omdurman

Lines printed in bold italics appeared in the first edition of The River War but not in later editions.


As the 21st Lancers left the ridge, the fire of the Arab riflemen on the hill ceased. We advanced at a walk in mass for about 300 yards. The scattered parties of Dervishes fell back and melted away, and only one straggling line of men in dark blue waited motionless a quarter of a mile to the left front. They were scarcely a hundred strong. I marvelled at their temerity. The regiment formed into line of squadron columns, and continued at a walk until within 300 yards of this small body of Dervishes. I wondered what possessed them. Perhaps they wanted to surrender. The firing behind the ridges had stopped. There was complete silence, intensified by the recent tumult. Far beyond the thin blue row of Dervishes the fugitives were visible streaming into Omdurman. And should these few devoted men impede a regiment? Yet it were wiser to examine their position from the other flank before slipping a squadron at them. The heads of the squadron wheeled slowly to the left, and the Lancers, breaking into a trot, began to cross the Dervish front in column of troops. Thereupon and with one accord the blue-clad men dropped on their knees, and there burst out a loud, crackling fire of musketry. It was hardly possible to miss such a target at such a range. Horses and men fell at once. The only course was Read More >

Books, Arts & Curiosities – The Slippery Slope

Finest Hour 171, Winter 2016

Page 42

Review by Michael McMenamin

John Kelly, Never Surrender: Winston Churchill and Britain’s Decision to Fight Nazi Germany in the Fateful Summer of 1940, New York: Scribner’s, 2015, 370 pages, $30.
ISBN 978–1476727974.


War CabinetChurchill, at his disingenuous best, wrote in his war memoirs that “the supreme question of whether we should fight on alone never found a place upon the War Cabinet agenda.”

Roy Jenkins, in his 2001 biography Churchill, called this “the most breathtakingly bland piece of misinformation to appear in all those six volumes” because, over a three-day period from 26 through 28 May, there were what Jenkins termed “nine tense meetings of the War Cabinet” on that very subject.

John Kelly has written a compelling narrative about the events leading up to the decision by Britain’s War Cabinet on 28 May 1940 not to take even preliminary steps to ascertain Hitler’s terms for peace.
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Books, Arts & Curiosities – If Only…

Finest Hour 171, Winter 2016

Page 41

Review by Manfred Weidhorn

Richard M. Langworth, Churchill and the Avoidable War: Could World War II have been Prevented? Moultonborough, NH: Dragonwyck, 2015, 122 pages, $7.95.
ISBN 987-1518690358


Churchill and the Avoidable WarThe origin of Mr. Langworth’s book is Churchill’s 1945 labeling of the Second World War as “The Unnecessary War.” Churchill proceeded to offer two “ifs,” one having to do with the United States and the other with the League of Nations. It should be noted that of the four ubiquitous conjunctions, “and” is decidedly dull, “or” involves choice, “but” is often a weasel word (“I believe in absolute free speech, but this is too much,” meaning you do not believe in absolute free speech), and “if” is a reality re-constructor (“If pigs had wings”). “If” presumes to improve on God’s creation of the world, as well as to challenge our reliance on the factual and the mundane. It is a product of, and tribute to, the imagination. And it is, of course, at the heart of counterfactual history. “Much virtue in ‘if,’” says the Bard.

Langworth lines up, like balls on a pool table, the key junctures when events could have taken a different course. The writing is compelling, the documentation rich, the arguments persuasive. Other biographers and historians have, to be sure, dealt with these flashpoints, but only in the setting of a narrative that encompasses numerous other issues. The virtue of this approach is to focus entirely on several isolated incidents and trace their common theme. The power of Langworth’s handling of the theme is that he avoids dogmatic folly. He repeatedly invokes a necessary skepticism: “We will never know,” “We do not know,” “We know now” what was not known “at the time.”
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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.