Summer 1944 (Age 69)

Liberation of Paris

In a note to Stalin, Churchill summed up the military situation: “The enemy is burning and bleeding on every front at once.”

The enemy was still capable of inflicting serious injury, however, and many casualties resulted from the flying bomb attacks against London. Unfavorable weather made it difficult for Allied planes to find the launch sites. An even greater threat was imminent from V2 rockets being tested by the Germans.

On 7 July Churchill received a full report on the situation in Auschwitz. His instructions to Eden were to provide as much assistance as possible to prevent the Germans from transporting prisoners to the concentration camp, and to “invoke my name if necessary.”

“The enemy is burning and bleeding on every front at once.”

Churchill’s family was very important to him. Whenever possible he took some time to be with them at Chequers. On one occasion, as he left to return to London, his grandchildren, Winston Churchill and Celia Sandys, cried to the departing car: “Don’t go Grandpapa.” Churchill commented to his secretary: “What a world to bring children into.” He was relieved to hear that Randolph had survived an air crash upon his return to duty in Yugoslavia, but greatly distressed when the marriage of Randolph and Pamela broke up.

On the day German officers attempted to assassinate Hitler at the Wolf’s Lair, Churchill flew to Cherbourg. From there he drove to Utah Beach and boarded a torpedo boat to Armmanches. After touring among the British troops an officer remarked how much it meant to the soldiers to have Churchill “see them at work in the gun pits.”

In early August the inhabitants of Warsaw rose up against the German occupier. Churchill appealed to Stalin for assistance on their behalf. He was very concerned about a “summit,” yet both Stalin and Roosevelt declined his invitation to come to Britain; but he and the American President agreed to meet in Quebec in September.

Before that meeting, Churchill flew to ltaly where he met Tito at the Vifla Rivalta in Naples. While there, he had time for relaxation and on several occasions he swam in the Bay of Naples. “My vigour has been greatly restored,” he wrote the King. From Naples he drove to the battlefield at Cassino and then flew to Siena for discussions with Alexander, “whose splendid army,” he lamented, “is pulled to pieces by American policy,” meaning the resource requirements of the invasion of the south of France.

On 23 August, while the French Resistance revolted in Paris, Churchill had an audience with Pope Pius XII. “We had no lack of topics for conversation” but the most important to both was the danger of communism. As they left the Vatican, Lord Moran remembers Churchill “declaiming a fine passage from Macaulay’s essay on Ranke’s History of the Papacy.” Paris was liberated on 25 August.

Although ill on his return voyage to Britain he immediately began to prepare to meet Roosevelt at Quebec. After crossing the Atlantic on the Queen Mary, they arrived at Halifax amid “great cheers and cameras clicking,” then boarded a Canadian National Railways “in for Quebec. At the Conference, Churchill and Roosevelt were awarded honorary degrees by officials of McGill University in Montreal, who had come to Quebec for the ceremony.

On 17 September, while British airborne troops were landing at Arnhem, Churchill went by train to Roosevelt’s home at Hyde Park, New York. From Hyde Park he returned to New York City where he boarded the Queen Mary for the journey home. Upon his return to Britain his good health returned and he immediately prepared to leave for Moscow.

Churchill was always a peripatetic leader. There was never a time when he was more so as he prepared for the final victory over Germany and the creation of a postwar world. It was an incredible feat for a man about to celebrate his 70th birthday.

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