Summer 1918 (Age 43)

Toward Final Victory

On 4 July Churchill spoke to the Anglo-Saxon Fellowship at Westminster about the war. ‘I am persuaded that the finest and worthiest moment in the history of Britain was reached on that August night, now nearly four years ago, when she declared war on Germany.’ He saw the war as “an open conflict between Christian civilisation and scientific barbarism’ and declared that not only must Germany be beaten but ‘she must feel that she is beaten’ in order to ‘deter others from emulating her crime.’

Labour problems plagued the production objectives of the Minister of Munitions. In some cases he blamed management. The Government assumed control of the Alliance Aeroplane Works because Churchill disapproved of their labour relations practices. In another case, he argued for conscripting the workers whose strike impeded tank production.

On 8 August the British offensive in France began and Churchill insisted on being present in order to observe the effectiveness of tanks in the battles. East of Amiens he came within a few thousand yards of the front. What he saw convinced him that, despite the apparent inferiority of some British equipment, the tide had turned and victory was inevitable. He returned to Paris where he lived comfortably at the Ritz and met with allied leaders regarding munitions problems. He also visited French Premier Georges Clemenceau, who complained about British manpower shortages. Churchill, for his part, argued against the transfer of manpower from munitions production to the fighting forces. He wanted priority given to tank production. He also wanted to increase the production of airplanes for bombing. “This is the moment to attack the enemy, to carry the war into his own country, to make him feel in his own towns and in his own person something of the havoc he has wrought in France and Belgium. This is the moment to affect his morale, and to harry his hungry and dispirited cities without pause or stay.’

On their tenth wedding anniversary Churchill wrote to his wife that “I am vy happy to be married to you my darling one, and as the years pass I feel more and more dependent on you and all you give me.’ He acknowledged the fear she felt about his flying but could not give it up because ‘it gives me a feeling of tremendous conquest over space.’

Throughout the frenetic pace of his work, the poet in Churchill was seldom far below the surface. After quoting some anti-war poetry by Siegfried Sassoon, he expressed the desire to make amends to the novelist and poet for how he had been treated because of his anti-war views. When advised to be careful Churchill replied: “I am not a bit afraid of Siegfried Sassoon. That man can think. I am afraid only of people who cannot think.” He later met Sassoon who made the following remarks in his book, Siegfiied’s Journey: “.. To my surprise he seemed interested to hear my point of view … he evidently wanted me to have it out with him … for him war was the finest activity on earth. Nevertheless he was making me feel that I should like to have him as my company commander in the front line.”

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