1935-1939

Spring 1936 (Age 61)

Britain’s relations with the great powers of the continent dominated Churchill’s political and literary attention.

His work on the third volume of Marlborough (Woods A40) was aided by the arrival of a new research assistant, Bill Deakin. Deakin later attributed Churchill’s ability to write in the midst of international crises to his “ruthless partition of the day, the planning of things all the time. There was never a wasted moment. He had intense control.”

His concerns with defense were outlined in a series of articles serialized in the Evening Standard and subsequently published in Step by Step (Woods A45).

Some friends, impressed by Hitter, tried to change his mind on Germany. His cousin Lord Londonderry wrote: “I should like to get out of your mind what appears to be a strong anti-German obsession because all these great countries are required in the political settlement of the future . . .”

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Winter 1935-1936 (Age 61)

In December, Winston and Clementine left for Majorca where they heard of the Hoare-Laval proposal to placate Mussolini over Abyssinia. Churchill’s friends, confident that Baldwin would have to include him in a restructured Cabinet, advised him to stay away “because you will be in a unique position of strength since you will neither have supported the Government, compromised yourself by hostility, nor taken the negative though semi-hostfle line of abstention.”

Clementine came home for Chistmas, and Winston accompanied “Prof” Lindemann to Marrakesh and a visit with Lloyd George.

On 20 January King George V died and Churchill returned to England to present the Address of the House to the new King, Edward VIII. Pressure was exerted on the Government to appoint Churchill to the new Ministry of Defence, but Baldwin was determined to resist it – chiefly, said Sir Samuel Hoare, “for the risk that would be involved by having him in the Cabinet when the question of his (SB’s) successor became imminent.” Lindemann called it “the most cynical thing. . . since Caligula appointed his horse as consul.” Clementine said that “perhaps it is a case of ‘those whom the Gods wish to destroy . . .”
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Summer 1935 (Age 60)

In June, Ramsay MacDonald resigned as Prime Minister and was succeeded by Stanley Baldwin. Churchill cabled his son,”Reconstruction purely conventional,” meaning that he would not be brought in from the wilderness.

He attempted to establish, for Defense, a Conservative back-bench “ginger group,” similar to what had existed during the India Bill controversy. He accepted an invitation to join a Parliamentary sub-committee on Defense, conditional on being free to particpate in Parliamentary and public discussion. Mussolini rattled some sabres at Abyssinia and broke off negotiations with Britain and France. Churchill was incensed, and pressed for strengthening the Mediterranean fleet and collective action by the Allies.

The death of Huey Long at the hands of an assassin gave him hope that an abrupt end awaited others. “The Louisiana Dictator has met his fate. ‘Sic semper tyrannis’ which means so perish all who do the like again. This was the most clownish of the Dictator tribe. Let us hope that more serious tyrants will also lose their sway.”

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Autumn 1935 (Age 61)

On 1 September Churchill left for a holiday at Maxine Elliot’s villa in the south of France. For relaxation he painted.

World news was dominated by Mussolini’s threat to invade Abyssinia. Churchill advocated British support of League of Nations, action. But the real threat was still Nazi Germany which he saw as “an armed camp … with a population being trained from childhood for war.” The Germans, anticipating his inclusion in a Baldwin Cabinet, gave prominence to his speeches. In response to a Churchill article in Strand, “The Truth About Hitler” (Woods C282), the Nazi leader is purported to have said, “What is to be the fate of the Anglo-German Naval Agreement if the writer of this article is to be made a Minister of the British Navy?”

After the Tory victory in the November general election, however, WSC was not made a Minister. He had wanted to be First Lord, but Baldwin said to others, “If there is going to be war … we must keep him fresh to be our Prime Minister.”

Before leaving for a Mediterranean holiday to work on Volume III of Marlborough (A40) and draft chapters of A History of the English-Speaking Peoples (AI38), he reviewed Duff Cooper’s Haig, Volume I (C278): “Haig’s mind … was thoroughly orthodox and conventional. He does not appear to have had any original ideas.” He charged that Haig did not make effective use of tanks, nor was he aware of other theatres of war.

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Spring 1935 (Age 60)

Aboard the same yacht which took Clementine on a journey to the Dutch East Indies was Terence Philip, a bachelor who was much sought-after by London hostesses. In the heady and romantic atmosphere of the tropic islands, Clementine fell in love. On their return to England, he visited her several times at Chartwell but their relationship, writes her daughter Mary Soames, “was like a fragile tropical flower which cannot survive in greyer, colder climes.”

While his wife was away, Churchill sent her numbered Chartwell Bulletins as domestic reports on family doings: redecorating the house, replanting of orchard, the building of a new wall. Often, after late debates in the House, a tired Winston declined to drive to Chartwell and stayed in a flat they owned in Morpeth Mansions, near Westminster Cathedral.

Despite the acrimony of the India Bill debate, WSC attempted to make peace with Tory leaders in the hope that Stanley Baldwin would invite him to join the Government upon the retirement of Ramsey Macdonald. Against a German situation which Churchill found “increasingly sombre,” he advocated collective European security as the best guarantee of peace. Others began to heed his warnings. The Daily Express apologized for ignoring his comments and Desmond Morton told him that “you alone seem to have galvanized the House.”

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