Finest Hour 161

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POEMS CHURCHILL LOVED – St. Crispin’s Day

Finest Hour 161, Winter 2013-14

Page 52


This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day and comes safe home,  
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day and see old age,  
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say “To-morrow is Saint Crispian”:  
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say “These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.”

Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember with advantages  
What feats he did that day: then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words,
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember’d.
This story shall the good man teach his son;  
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,  
But we in it shall be remember’d;

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,  
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed  
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks  
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

Henry V, William Shakespeare

Churchill Proceedings – Looking Back on the Cataclysms – How Canada Saw Churchill, (and Vice Versa), 1914-39

Finest Hour 161, Winter 2013-14

Page 58

29TH INTERNATIONAL CHURCHILL CONFERENCE, TORONTO, ONTARIO, 12 OCTOBER 2012

By Terry Reardon

“IF LARGE NUMBERS OF OUR FELLOW-SUBJECTS IN THE DOMINIONS LIKE TO THINK, AND LIKE TO SEE IT IN PRINT,  THAT THE BONDS OF EMPIRE REST ONLY UPON TRADITION, GOOD WILL AND GOOD SENSE, IT IS NOT OUR POLICY—EXCEPT AS I SHALL HEREAFTER MENTION—IT IS NOT OUR POLICY OR OUR INTEREST TO GAINSAY THEM.” —WSC, 11 NOVEMBER 1931


The result of the First World War was a redrawing of the map of continental Europe. The United States entering the war had been, in Churchill’s words, decisive in the defeat of Germany, and Canada emerged as an  independent power in her own right.

When King George V had declared war in 1914 Canada was automatically at war. However as R.H. Thomson recounted this morning, the country lost 68,000 in the war from a population of just eight million, and at the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, Canada’s Prime Minister, Sir Robert Borden, insisted that Canada should sign separately from Britain.

This first gesture of Canadian independence was followed by a second, three years later. Turkey, a German ally in the war, had signed a separate treaty which abolished the Ottoman Empire. But a charismatic and brilliant military leader, Mustafa Kemel, “Ataturk,” led resistance to the Treaty, formed a provisional government and in 1922 routed the occupying Greeks from Turkish soil.

Kemel’s troops then marched on the small British contingent stationed in the town of Chanak on the Asiatic shore of the Dardanelles.

Canada’s newly elected prime minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King, was about to go into the temple of peace at Sharon, north of Toronto, when he was confronted by a Toronto Star reporter who asked him about Britain’s request that Canada join a military action against the Turks. King knew nothing about it but diplomatically replied that any representation from Britain would be addressed by the Canadian Cabinet when he returned to Ottawa. There he was given a cable from the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Winston Churchill, sent via the normal time-wasting route through the Governor General. King replied to Churchill that the request would have to be addressed by the Canadian Parliament, which would require the recalling of the Members, and this would take some time. Actually King had no intention of recalling Parliament, knowing the public “were in no mood for further blood letting.”

Churchill was not satisfied with the response and a follow-up came from the Prime Minister himself, David Lloyd George, who wrote that “the attitude of Canada is most important: a definite statement that Canada will stand by the Empire will do much to ensure the maintenance of peace.” Eventually Chanak was settled without military intervention, and without a Canadian decision on the request Canada had received.

Interestingly, Churchill in his book The Aftermath stretched the truth by writing: “Nevertheless all the Dominions responded to the call and declared their readiness, if a great emergency arose, to bear their part, subject of course to the consent of their Parliaments.”

Mackenzie King was a strong Anglophile, but he was suspicious that the British were determined that Canada should continue in a subservient position. Two years later in 1923 he would encounter further evidence. At an Imperial Conference in London the autocratic British foreign minister, Lord Curzon, proposed “that the Foreign Minister of Britain, when he speaks, may speak not for Britain alone, but for the whole of the British Empire.” Australia and New Zealand supported the motion, since they looked to Britain for protection; Canada did not. King stated that any policy would be decided by the Canadian Parliament.

King won that round and in the next conference in 1926 he put forward a motion, recalling the Chanak request, that all communications between Britain and a Dominion government would come direct and not through the Governor General. This was adopted. Further progress in Canada’s independence was the appointment in 1927 of its first minister to the United States.

Churchill was not in favour of watering down the ties of the dominions to the mother country. But the subsequent Treaty of Westminster stated that the dominions were “autonomous communities within the British Empire, equal in status and in no way subordinate one to another, in any respect.” Churchill actually voted for that legislation, but his comments in the House of Commons, showed his disappointment: “If large numbers of our fellow-subjects in the Dominions like to think, and like to see it in print, that the bonds of Empire rest only upon tradition, good will and good sense, it is not our policy—except as I shall hereafter mention—it is not our policy or our interest to gainsay them.”

Canadian ears may have pricked at the exception, but he quickly explained: “Canada, for instance, stipulates that nothing in this Act shall be deemed to apply to the repeal, amendment, or alteration of the various British North America Acts from 1867 to 1930….They assert the inviolability, so far as they are concerned, of the Imperial Statutes upon which their houses are founded.”

Fair enough, most probably concluded: but with the Treaty of Westminster, Canada had political independence and the 1930s would see the country move closer to the United States, which supplanted Britain as her largest trading partner.

Churchill’s political career was in the ascendency in the mid-1920s, when he was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer, a position he held for almost five years. But he received a setback in May 1929, when the Conservative Party lost in a general election. Churchill won his own seat in Epping, but he was now out of office. He took advantage of what he hoped would be a brief lull in his upward trajectory by embarking on a journey to Canada and the United States with his son Randolph, brother Jack and nephew Johnny.

The Canadian Pacific Railway offered a special rail car for their use when travelling across the country, and Churchill received a great reception at all his stops. He wrote to his wife of “the immense size of this country which goes on for thousands of miles of good fertile land, well watered, well wooded, unlimited in possibilities. How silly for people to live crowded up in particular parts of the empire, when there is so much larger and better a life open here for millions.”

He spoke in Montreal and Ottawa and on 16 August 1929 arrived in Toronto, to speak—here in the Royal York Hotel, which had only been open for two months and at that time was the tallest building in the British Empire.

The Toronto Star reported that well before his speech, long queues formed outside the hall, with a further 3000 listening by way of loudspeakers placed outside the hotel: “He roused his vast audience to applause as he spoke of the ties of love that bind the overseas dominions to the Motherland.”

Churchill continued his journey across the country. From the Banff Springs Hotel he wrote to Clementine: “Darling I am greatly attracted to this country. Immense developments are going forward. There are fortunes to be made in many directions. The tide is flowing strongly. I have made up my mind that if Neville Chamberlain is made leader of the Conservative Party or anyone else of that kind, I clear out of politics and see if I can make you and the kittens a little more comfortable before I die. Only one goal attracts me [he meant of course the premiership] and if that were barred I should quit the dreary field for pastures new….However the time to take decision is not yet.”

Was Churchill serious? If he was, he had ample reasons to emigrate in the years ahead.

After speaking in Vancouver, Churchill’s Canadian journey ended. His son Randolph wrote in his diary, “We are now on a ship bound for Seattle: American soil and Prohibition. But we are well equipped. My big flask is full of whisky and the little one contains brandy, and I have reserves of both in medicine bottles.” The trip concluded with a week in New York City, which coincided with the Wall Street Crash; Churchill opined incorrectly that this was a passing episode.

When he returned to Britain he was faced with a situation which he could not accept: dominion status for India. This was put forward by the ruling Labour Party and supported by the official Conservative opposition. Churchill’s strong stance against the plan led to him being stripped of his position as Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer; and thus the start of his so-called Wilderness Years.

In the 1920s Churchill stated that the foremost enemy facing the English-speaking peoples was the Soviet Union and communism. Shortly into the next decade he changed his opinion, the foremost enemy now being Germany and fascism. Churchill became a lone voice with his demands for increased military spending and a tougher attitude by the British government. In 1934 he told the House of Commons: “I dread the day when the means of threatening the heart of the British Empire should pass into the hands of the present rulers of Germany….I dread that day, but it is not perhaps, far distant.”

In October 1936 in London, Mackenzie King sat next to Churchill at a dinner and was told, as he recorded, that “England was never in greater danger and it was possible that inside five years Britain would be a vassal state of Germany.” The following month Churchill berated the government in the Commons: “Thus they go in a strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent.”

In May 1937, when Mackenzie King was in England for the coronation of King George VI, he met with the German Ambassador to Britain, Herr von Ribbentrop, who suggested that King go to Berlin to meet Hitler. This was duly arranged and the two met on June 29th.

King’s diary of the meeting makes fascinating reading. Hitler, he wrote, went to great lengths to show he was a man of peace. “We have no desire for war,” Hitler told King: “our people don’t want war and we don’t want war. Remember that I, myself, have been through a war. We know what a terrible thing war is, and not one of us wants to see another war.”

As we now know, Hitler was not being entirely dishonest—as long as he got what he wanted, there would indeed be no war. While King was obviously impressed with Hitler, to his credit he did state that if war came, Canada would be at Britain’s side.

On 12 March 1938 Churchill met with von Ribbentrop. The occasion was a formal luncheon given by the British government for the German ambassador. Churchill was surprised to be invited, but, as he said to someone at the function,  “I suppose they invited me to show him that if they couldn’t bark themselves, they kept a dog who could bark and might bite.”

At the same function Ribbentrop is reported to have said to Churchill: “Don’t forget that if there is a war we will have the Italians on our side.” This elicited WSC’s alleged response (not proven) recalling World War l: “It is only fair. We had them last time.” We do know Churchill warned Ribbentrop that if Germany should plunge the globe into war, Britain would “bring the whole world against you, like last time.”

In his earlier civil service and political life Mackenzie King had made his reputation in negotiating and settling labour disputes, and he strongly supported the Appeasement policy of Neville Chamberlain. In September-October 1938, when Chamberlain flew to see Hitler and signed the infamous Munich Agreement, King recorded in his diary: “It is well for Chamberlain that he was born into this world, and for the world he was born into. His name will go down in history as one of the greatest men who ever lived—a great conciliator.”

One British politician who took another view was Churchill, declaring in the House of Comons: “The German dictator, instead of snatching his victuals from the table, has been content to have them served to him course by course….And do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigour, we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.”

Churchill’s predictions of Germany’s unappeased further ambitions came true six months later, when in March 1939 German troops occupied the rest of Czechoslovakia.

Looking back at this time, it seems to many that Chamberlain, then realizing that his appeasement policy had failed, would have resigned. But there was little pressure on him to do so. He was still widely trusted, supported by a vast majority in Parliament. He had—which is little remembered—begun to rearm, at a much faster pace than Britain before the Great War. And when on 31 March 1939 he announced that Britain had guaranteed Polish independence, this was applauded from every quarter, including Winston Churchill. Most didn’t notice that Poland was far less defensible and supportable than the Czechs of 1938, who at least had had a strong fortress line, a powerful modern military machine and a potent armaments industry.

Chamberlain considered bringing Churchill back into the government but as he wrote to his sister, the benefits to having Churchill on the front bench would be outweighed by the damage he could do in the Cabinet itself, where he would wear down Chamberlain with “rash suggestions.” And Chamberlain was no mean politician; even with the darkening scene, he knew he had strong control. Bringing in potential rivals, such as Churchill and also Anthony Eden could only serve to weaken it.

On 20 April 1939 Churchill spoke at a Canada Club dinner in London for former Canadian Prime Minister R.B. Bennett. Churchill said: “We all hope for a peaceful outcome, but everyone can see that danger is afoot. It may not be long before the British Empire will have, once again, to marshal and reveal its latent strength.”

As he had observed in the First World War the importance of a close relationship with the United States was essential for the European democracies, and Canada was the key, as Churchill continued: “Canada has a great part to play in the relations of Great Britain and the United States. She spans the Atlantic Ocean with her loyalties; she clasps the American hand with her faith and goodwill. That long frontier from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans, guarded only by neighbourly respect and honourable obligations, is an example to every country and a pattern for the future of the world.”

Canada had grown steadily closer to the United States, economically and also culturally. However the attitude of the vast majority of the population to the Mother Country had not changed. Except in the province of Quebec the people were strongly attached to Britain and the Imperial Crown.

This attachment became even stronger in May 1939, when, in spite of war clouds gathering. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth kept a previous commitment, arriving for a royal tour of Canada. It was a great success and augmented the ties of Canada to Britain.

When Britain declared war on 3 September 1939, there was a short debate in the Canadian Parliament, with Prime Minister King, speaking of the task ahead, uttering Churchillian phrases:

“When it comes to a fight between good and evil, when the evil forces of the world are let loose upon mankind, are those of us who believe in the tenets of Christianity, and all that Christianity means, going to allow evil forces to triumph without, if necessary, opposing them by our very lives?” With almost unanimous support in Parliament, Canada was once more at war at Great Britain’s side.


Mr. Reardon, a retired banker, is Vice-Chairman of the International Churchill Society – Canada, a contributor to Finest Hour, winner of its Somervell Award for the best article of 2005-06, and author of Winston Churchill and Mackenzie King (2012).

Special Places – Bladon today

Finest Hour 161, Winter 2013-14

Page 57

By Robert Courts

Sir  Winston Lies Where He Wished, in a  Visual Reminder of the Long Continuity of History


Bladon, near Woodstock, is a quiet Oxfordshire village with a lot of visitors. The Parochial Church Council and the Churchill family together ensure those who come to pay their respects to Sir Winston find a gravesite that is dignified. Every now and again, one sees ill-informed speculation on the Internet that suggests the grave is in a poor condition. It is fitting therefore that an update on its condition be made for those who are not able to visit in person.

Bladon is a typical English country churchyard, and in fact it is closed to new burials. The gravestones and memorials are old, in many cases considerably exceeding 100 years, and the stones are well weathered, with substantial growth of lichen. The scene is one of gentle weathering; of monuments that are in keeping with a church some 150 years old, in a place where a church has existed in one form or another since medieval times.
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Cohen Corner – MYSTERIOUS MALAKAND – Probably One of a kind

Finest Hour 161, Winter 2013-14

Page 56

By Ronald I. Cohen

Ostensibly a Silver Library Edition, the mystery book (center) bulks as thick as the first edition (left), but thicker and taller than the Silver Library or second edition (right)


I thought my analysis of scarce issues of Churchill’s first book, The Story of the Malakand Field Force (FH 141), had covered the waterfront until Marc Kuritz showed me another anomaly. Marc had a copy “ostensibly of a Silver Library edition, but the title page doesn’t match any Silver Library edition.” He added that the volume included an errata slip— odd, since the purpose of this edition was to correct first edition errata. Why an errata slip at all?

Curiouser and curiouser, Marc’s errata slip was not the domestic but the more obscure Indian version. Finally, the book included a Longmans Green catalogue dated 12/97, rather than the later (expected) 3/98 catalogue.

What, he asked, were we facing?
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Curiosities – Churchill and the Barbary Macaques – A Visit to Gibraltar’s Fabled Rock

Finest Hour 161, Winter 2013-14

Page 53

By Fred Glueckstein

“THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE APES ON GIBRALTAR SHOULD BE  TWENTY-FOUR,  AND EVERY EFFORT SHOULD BE MADE TO REACH THIS NUMBER AS SOON AS POSSIBLE AND MAINTAIN IT THEREAFTER.” —WSC,


In October 2012, my wife and I visited Gibraltar, the famous rock at the entrance to the Mediterranean, British since 1713. We looked forward to seeing the legendary Gibraltar apes, about which I had read so much. Seeing the monkeys up close on a sunny autumn day was a magnificent experience. The handsome macaques were on the rocks overlooking the strait that separates Gibraltar from Morocco in Africa. We were impressed that they were friendly and cute. The macaques were inquisitive and liked food, as witnessed by one jumping and grabbing a bag of popcorn from a tourist. Another one had no reservations about climbing inside a tour bus, presumably also foraging. Most impressive was their large, prospering population, which would have been a relief to Winston Churchill.
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Books, Arts & Curiosities – Churchill and Empire: Portrait of an Imperialist

Finest Hour 161, Winter 2013-14

Page 51

Churchill and Empire: Portrait of an Imperialist, by Lawrence James. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 464 pp., £25, available from Amazon UK.


The British people, generally speaking, were fighting in defence of their own country. Their aim was to beat the Nazis and return to a quiet life. For Churchill himself the aim was larger and more elevated: the preservation of Britain’s empire and the Great Power status it conferred. He was, and always had been, a passionate imperialist, a rich biographical theme explored by Lawrence James.

So much has been written about every phase and episode of Churchill’s life that James has to travel many a well-trodden path. Fortunately he writes extremely well and refreshes a multitude of familiar topics with narrative skill. The clarity, pace and punch of his prose carry the reader along. On the debit side it has to be said that, although he has done plenty of homework, he could have done more. It is puzzling that he seems to have made no use of the Churchill Papers. Nor is he always accurate on matters of detail. Churchill, he claims, denounced the Hoare–Laval Pact of December 1935. Up to a point, Lord Copper!* When the crisis arose he was on holiday in Majorca, and there he stayed, absenting himself from the parliamentary debate and issuing no statement for or against the Pact.
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Books, Arts & Curiosities – Roars and Bleats, Imperialists and Europeans

Finest Hour 161, Winter 2013-14

Page 50

By Paul Addison

The Roar of the Lion: The Untold Story of Churchill’s World War II Speeches, by Richard Toye. Oxford University Press, 296 pp., £34.95. Member price $27.96.


When Roosevelt asked one of his advisers who Churchill’s speechwriter was, he was told, “Mr President, he rolls his own.” After the revelation that parts of his war memoirs and much of his History of the English-Speaking Peoples was ghosted, I half expected Richard Toye to bring us the news that many of Churchill’s speeches were too, with Churchill adding the rhetorical flourishes. Not so: he really did write them himself. He was briefed, of course, by relevant government departments. If he spoke on foreign affairs, the Foreign Office would usually be asked to comment, though not if he was in the mood to slip some controversial statement past them. When he spoke on military matters, he did so as Minister of Defence, an office he combined with Prime Minister, in collaboration with the chiefs of staff. As a policymaker Churchill was never a one-man band, but the structure, style and rhetoric of his speeches were all his own.

Churchill had always depended on the force of his oratory to compensate for the mistrust he often inspired. Whenever his fortunes were at a low ebb, he could hope to restore them with a formidable display of debating power in the House of Commons. It did not always work. On several occasions during the 1930s the verbal artillery misfired and he was written off as a failure. Then came the war and the surprising discovery that his oratory was once again in demand. By the autumn of 1940 his mastery of the Commons was complete and his popularity soaring.
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Books, Arts & Curiosities – From the Badlands of the Internet?

Finest Hour 161, Winter 2013-14

Page 49

By Robert Courts

The Essential Churchill: Collected Words, Speeches and Sayings of Sir Winston Churchill, edited by J.A. Sutcliffe, with an introduction by Robert Blake. Duckworth Overlook Press, 112 pp., $12.95. A Little Bit of Churchill Wit , edited by Edward Green. Summersdale Publishers, 160 pp., $5.95.


Can any new Churchill quotation book justify shelf space? After over half a century of the genre, from the large (Czarnomski) to the tiny (Jarrold’s), from the reliable to the myth-perpetuators, the market is full.

The elegant Sutcliffe volume is not a new book, last seen in Duckworth’s “Sayings” series in 1992. A step up from that rather workaday booklet, this is an attractive hardback with dustcover and clean design, but retains the original’s topical chapter headings.

It offers the familiar selection of quotes about people from speeches and published works, largely well-sourced and accurate. There is the odd mistake in attribution: “Young men have often been ruined through owning horses.” is from My Early Life not Great Contemporaries, whilst the archetypal red herring, “jaw-jaw is better than to war-war,”—Macmillan’s line on a similar theme from Churchill, makes its unabashed appearance. To the book’s credit, some of these dubious entries are marked “Attrib.”—such as, “a sheep in sheep’s clothing” which Churchill denied saying about Attlee.
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Books, Arts & Curiosities – Letters for the Envious young

Finest Hour 161, Winter 2013-14

Page 48

By Richard M. Langworth

Darling Monster: The Letters of Lady Diana Cooper to her Son John Julius Norwich 1939-1952, Chatto & Windus, 520pp., £12.99, available from Amazon UK.


Lady Diana Duff Cooper, “the most beautiful woman in England,” had a penetrating mind and brilliant pen, capable as few others of capturing a time, early last century, when women considered the world laden with opportunity for fulfillment. This she proved with her famous seven-year performance in Max Reinhardt’s The Miracle, her able collaboration with Duff Cooper’s ambassadorship to France, her notable trilogy of memoirs. Sir Alfred Duff Cooper was one of Churchill’s most stalwart friends and allies, serving loyally as his first wartime Minister of Information and then as his liaison to de Gaulle. The end of the war found him as Britain’s ambassador in Paris.

Now their son John Julius (Lord Norwich) has published Darling Monster, the letters to him from his mother. Many of Lady Diana’s letters offer wonderful and droll views of Churchill as she was so able to write them:
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Books, Arts & Curiosities – Churchill’s Speeches: the Dutch Experience

Finest Hour 161, Winter 2013-14

Page 47

By Jack Mens

‘Blood, Sweat and Tears’: Churchills onwrikbare geloof in de overwinning [Churchill’s Unshakable Faith in Victory], by Harry van Wijnen. Text in Dutch. Balans, Amsterdam, 350 pp., €29.95. For available copies see bookfinder.com.


May 10th, 1940 is of dual importance: this was the day Hitler launched his assault on France and the Low Countries, and the day Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of Great Britain. Hitler expected the Dutch, a Germanic race, to believe in and accept his New Order, and welcome them into their country. But only 1 1/2% of the population were members of the Dutch NSB Party (equivalent to the National Socialists). The rest hated the Nazis and all they stood for.

Harry van Wijnen (born 1937) served as parliamentary editor for the Amsterdam daily Het Parool, and editor of the prestigious NRC Handelsblad. He was also Professor of Media at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam. His previous works include books on the Dutch press and monarchy and a biography of the Rotterdam tycoon D.G. van Beuringen.
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Books, Arts & Curiosities – One of His Greatest achievements

Finest Hour 161, Winter 2013-14

Page 46

By David Freeman

Destiny in the Desert: The Road to El Alamein—The Battle That Turned the Tide of World War II, by Jonathan Dimbleby. Pegasus, 384 pp., $35, member price $28. Also available in a superb video.


On 13 September 1940, Mussolini ordered the Italian army across the border from the Italian colony of Libya into Egypt. The dictator’s son-in-law dryly noted, “Never has a military operation been undertaken so much against the will of the commanders.” Thus began the war in the Western Desert.

The BBC assigned correspondent Richard Dimbleby to cover the campaign. Over seventy years later his son Jonathan, also a well-known broadcaster, has set down an engrossing account of the long, hard slog that unfolded in the brutal sands of North Africa. Churchill is its main character.

Inspired by his father’s experiences, Dimbleby set out to make sense for himself of the campaign that culminated with the Battle of El Alamein. So much has been written, by professionals and amateurs alike, that confusion and controversy cloud the story. What was it really all about? Was it necessary? Was anything meaningful accomplished? Was it of significance to the outcome? Dimbleby provides reasoned answers to these questions based on a thorough examination of many sources.
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Books, Arts & Curiosities – Afghan Imbroglios, Then and Now

Finest Hour 161, Winter 2013-14

Page 45

By Paul H. Courtenay

Churchill’s First War: Young Winston and the Fight Against the Taliban, by Con Coughlin. Macmillan, 456 pp., £25, Kindle £9.59. Thomas Dunne U.S. edition subtitled At War with the Afghans, 320 pp., $26.99, Kindle $12.99, member price $21.59.


Con Coughlin is the Daily Telegraph’s Defence editor, who well understands the current conflict in Afghanistan. His book is a well-informed study of the turbulent North West Frontier of the former Indian empire, now part of Muslim Pakistan, and how Churchill came to become involved there in 1897.

The first chapter has Churchill commissioned in 4th Queen’s Own Hussars (valuable for those new to his youth); four more chapters marry his early years as a cavalry officer with the background of the Frontier’s instability and turmoil. We then reach the nub of the story and learn in detail about his first direct experience of active military operations (not counting two weeks in Cuba in 1895—more like an occasionally dangerous holiday).
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Books, Arts & Curiosities – Franklin’s Five Enablers

Finest Hour 161, Winter 2013-14

Page 44

By June Hopkins

Rendezvous with Destiny: How Franklin Roosevelt and Five Extraordinary Men Took America into the War and into the World, by Michael Fullilove. Penguin, 466 pp., $29.95. Member price $23.96.


Australian Michael Fullilove offers an extremely readable and illuminating history of the crucial months leading up to America’s entry in World War II. From September 1939 when Hitler invaded Poland, to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, America remained staunchly isolationist. The Neutrality Acts largely prevented President Roosevelt from aiding Great Britain and France, despite his sympathy for those besieged nations. Nevertheless, he did engage the U.S. in actions “short of war” to contribute to the British war effort.

With meticulous research and graceful prose, Fullilove explains how Roosevelt bypassed Congress and the State Department and directed foreign policy through five personal envoys: Undersecretary of State Sumner Wells; Colonel William J. Donovan; Republican presidential candidate Wendell Wilkie; businessman Averell Harriman; and presidential aide and confidante Harry Hopkins. Their role was to gather information and open lines of communication with Prime Minister Churchill and, after June of 1941, Marshal Stalin. Thus the President furthered his foreign policy agenda while avoiding official channels. To Fullilove this was FDR’s style of governance: aversion to bureaucracy, and political practicality.
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Books, Arts & Curiosities – Film: telling Off the President

Finest Hour 161, Winter 2013-14

Page 44

By Michael Richards

Love Actually, starring Hugh Grant, written and directed by Richard Curtis, music by Craig Armstrong. Working Title Films, Universal Pictures, 2003, 135 minutes.


Many American friends of Britain (and, we trust, vice versa) think the “Special Relationship” invented by Churchill tends nowadays to work in only one direction. I was reminded of this by an unlikely source, Hugh Grant, playing the British Prime Minister, in a syrupy, sentimental but amusing ten-year-old comedy. Variety described it as “doggedly cheery,” with “cheeky wit, impossibly attractive cast, and sure-handed professionalism.”

Love Actually is a multiple romance about ten different love affairs going on simultaneously around Christmastime in London, with an accomplished cast: Colin Firth (The King’s Speech), Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean, the mute comic), Emma Thompson (Shakespeare to Harry Potter). There’s also Liam Neeson, who for once isn’t killing the Ungodly but trying to be a good step-dad to his ten-year-old son, who is in love with an American 10-year-old. Quite a cast—not the least Martin Freeman and Joanna Page, who meet as body doubles for movie sex scenes. One says (while naked and simulating sex): “it is nice to have someone I can just chat to.” They fall for each other and she takes him home and invites him in. He says, “Are you sure this is all right? I’ve never done this before.”
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Action This Day – Winter 1888-89, 1913-14, 1938-39, 1963-64

Finest Hour 161, Winter 2013-14

Page 42

By Michael McMenamin


125 YEARS AGO

Winter 1888-89 • Age 14

“My holidays are utterly spoilt”

Winston spent Christmas at home with his brother Jack and their parents. Lord Randolph wrote to his mother, the Duchess of Marlborough, on 30 December that  “Of course the boys have made themselves ill with their Christmassing, & yesterday both were in bed…Jack is better this morning but Winston has a sore throat & some fever.” WSC’s son writes in the Official Biography that “this did not seem to have prevented Lord and Lady Randolph from going away.”

Winston kept his mother advised, writing on January 2nd:  “My throat is still painful & swelled – I get very hot in the night – & have very little appetite to speak of…How slow the time goes – I am horribly bored – & slightly irritable – no wonder my liver is still bad – Medicine 6 times a day is a horrible nuisance. I am looking forward to your return with ‘feelings, better imagined than described.’”
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