Autumn 1897 (Age 23)

Lt Churchill writes his first book

After rushing back to India, Churchill waited impatiently for word from Sir Bindon Blood that the commander of the Malakand Field Force would appoint him to his headquarters staff. On 22 August he received word that there was no room for him, but that he could join the expedition as a war correspondent. “Army Head Qrs make all appointments except personal staff and are very jealous of their patronage. I have hardly managed to get any of my pals on my staff, though I have asked for several. However if you were here I think I could and certainly would if I could, do a little jobbery on your account.”

“No ice – no soda – intense heat – but still a delightful experience.”

From India Churchill wrote a series of unsigned telegrams and letters for the Pioneer Mail. To identify them, Frederick Woods compiled a schedule of Churchill’s movements during the Malakand campaign. He notes that “the stylistic evidence in their favour is also tolerably strong.” He did not, Woods however noted, write The Risings on the North-West Frontier. But Churchill did write The War in the Indian Highlands by a Young Officer. Personally he wanted to sign them because it would advance his political career. The first of fifteen articles was published in the Daily Telegraph on 6 October, the last on 6 December. They formed the basis for his first book, The Story of the Malakand Field Force. He was paid five pounds per column.

Privately he wrote his mother about his ambitions and experiences. He warned her that he had to take risks so that his behaviour would be noted and get him attached to Blood’s staff. “I mean to play this game out and if I lose it is obvious that I never could have won any other. The unpleasant contingency is one which could have permanent effects and would while leaving me life‹deprive me of all that makes life worth living.”

About conditions, he wrote: “No ice – no soda – intense heat – but still a delightful experience.”

His First Book

As the year ended, Winston’s mother informed him that Longman’s had agreed to publish The Story of the Malakand Field Force. He was hopeful that the publicity would improve his prospects for earning money. He quoted Dr. Johnson: “No one but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.”

But he also hoped it would advance his political career as well: “The publication of this book will certainly be the most noteworthy act of my life. Up to date (of course). By its reception I shall measure the chances of my possible success in the world.”

He also knew that he had the potential to get better: “With a larger subject and with more time I am capable of a purer and more easy style and of more deeply considered views, yet it is a sample of my mental cast.” Learning was still very important to him. “I am still reading, though I prefer to write. The novel [Savrola] lies still unfinished and I am longing to take up the threads. But the balance between Inputs and Exports must be maintained.”

Reflecting on his own character and prospects, he insightfully wrote to his mother: “In Politics a man gets on not so much by what he does, as by what he is. It is not so much a question of brains as of character and originality. It is for these reasons that I would not allow others to suggest friends ­a name ­good advice well followed all these things count ­ but they lead only to a certain point. As it were they may ensure admission to the scales. Ultimately every man has to be weighed and if found wanting nothing can procure him the public confidence.”

Nevertheless he did not hesitate to promote his connections. He asked his mother relentlessly to pursue an assignment for him in Egypt and he went to Calcutta to lobby for himself. There he dined with the Viceroy and the Commander-in-Chief. Not exactly the normal social activity of a subaltern!

For recreation he played polo and distinguished himself with the 4th Hussars in the Regimental Polo Tournament, although he could not prevent a loss in the finals to the Durham Light Infantry, the only Infantry Regiment ever to win the tournament.

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