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Winston Churchill, the son of Randolph Churchill, a Conservative politician, was born in Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, on 30th November, 1874. His mother, Jennie Jerome, was the daughter of Leonard Jerome, a New York businessman.
After being educated at Harrow he went to the Royal Military College at Sandhurst. Churchill joined the Fourth Hussars in 1895 and saw action on the Indian north-west frontier and in the Sudan where he took part in the Battle of Omdurman (1898).
After leaving the British Army in 1899, Churchill worked as a war correspondent for the Morning Post. While reporting the Boer War in South Africa he was taken prisoner by the Boers but made headline news when he escaped. On returning to England he wrote about his experiences in the book, London to Ladysmith (1900).
In the 1900 General Election Churchill was elected as the Conservative MP for Oldham. As a result of reading, Poverty, A Study of Town Life by Seebohm Rowntree he became a supporter of social reform. In 1904, unconvinced by his party leaders desire for change, Churchill decided to join the Liberal Party.
In the 1906 General Election Churchill won North West Manchester and immediately became a member of the new Liberal government as Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies. When Herbert Asquith replaced Henry Campbell-Bannerman as Prime Minister in 1908 he promoted Churchill to his cabinet as President of the Board of Trade. While in this post he carried through important social legislation including the establishment of employment exchanges.
On 12th September 1908 Churchill married Clementine Ogilvy Spencer and the following year published a book on his political philosophy, Liberalism and the Social Problem (1909).
Following the 1910 General Election Churchill became Home Secretary. Churchill introduced several reforms to the prison system, including the provision of lecturers and concerts for prisoners and the setting up of special after-care associations to help convicts after they had served their sentence. However, Churchill was severely criticized for using troops to maintain order during a Welsh miners's strike.
Churchill became First Lord of the Admiralty in October 1911 where he helped modernize the navy. Churchill was one of the first people to grasp the military potential of aircraft and in 1912 he set up the Royal Naval Air Service. He also established an Air Department at the Admiralty so as to make full use of this new technology. Churchill was so enthusiastic about these new developments that he took flying lessons.
On the outbreak of war in 1914, Churchill joined the War Council. However, he was blamed for the failure at the Dardanelles Campaign in 1915 and was moved to the post of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Unhappy about not having any power to influence the Government's war policy, he rejoined the British Army and commanded a battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers on the Western Front.
When David Lloyd George replaced Herbert Asquith as Prime Minister, he brought Churchill back into the government as Minister of Munitions and for the final year of the war, Churchill was in charge of the production of tanks, aeroplanes, guns and shells.
Churchill also served under David Lloyd George as Minister of War and Air (1919-20) and Colonial Secretary (1921-22). Churchill created great controversy over his policies in Iraq. It was estimated that around 25,000 British and 80,000 Indian troops would be needed to control the country. However, he argued that if Britain relied on air power, you could cut these numbers to 4,000 (British) and 10,000 (Indian). The government was convinced by this argument and it was decided to send the recently formed Royal Air Force to Iraq.
An uprising of more than 100,000 armed tribesmen took place in 1920. Over the next few months the RAF dropped 97 tons of bombs killing 9,000 Iraqis. This failed to end the resistance and Arab and Kurdish uprisings continued to pose a threat to British rule. Churchill suggested that chemical weapons should be used "against recalcitrant Arabs as an experiment." He added "I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes to spread a lively terror" in Iraq.
The divisions in the Liberal Party led to Churchill being defeated by E. D. Morel at Dundee in the 1922 General Election. Churchill now rejoined the Conservative Party and was successfully elected to represent Epping in the 1924 General Election.
Stanley Baldwin, the leader of the new Conservative administration, appointed Churchill as Chancellor of the Exchequer. In 1925 Churchill controversially returned Britain the the Gold Standard and the following year took a strong line against the General Strike. Churchill edited the Government's newspaper, the British Gazette, during the dispute where he argued that "either the country will break the General Strike, or the General Strike will break the country."
With the defeat of the Conservative government in 1929, Churchill lost office. When Ramsay MacDonald formed the National Government in 1931 Churchill, who was now seen as a right-wing extremist, was not invited to join the Cabinet. He spent the next few years concentrating on his writing, including the publication of the History of the English Speaking Peoples.
After Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party gained power in Germany in 1933, Churchill became a leading advocate of rearmament. He was also a staunch critic of Neville Chamberlain and the Conservative government's appeasement policy. In 1939 Churchill controversially argued that Britain and France should form of a military alliance with the Soviet Union.
On the outbreak of the Second World War Churchill was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty and on 4th April 1940 became chairman of the Military Coordinating Committee. Later that month the German Army invaded and occupied Norway. The loss of Norway was a considerable setback for Neville Chamberlain and his policies for dealing with Nazi Germany.
On 8th May the Labour Party demanded a debate on the Norwegian campaign and this turned into a vote of censure. At the end of the debate 30 Conservatives voted against Chamberlain and a further 60 abstained. Chamberlain now decided to resign and on 10th May, 1940, George VI appointed Churchill as prime minister. Later that day the German Army began its Western Offensive and invaded the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. Two days later German forces entered France.
Churchill formed a coalition government and placed leaders of the Labour Party such as Clement Attlee, Ernest Bevin, Herbert Morrison, Stafford Cripps and Hugh Dalton in key positions. He also brought in another long-time opponent of Chamberlain, Anthony Eden, as his secretary of state for war. Later that year Eden replaced Lord Halifax as foreign secretary.
Churchill also developed a strong personal relationship with Franklin D. Roosevelt and this led to the sharing and trading of war supplies. The Lend Lease agreement of March 1941 allowed Britain to order war goods from the United States on credit.
Although he provided strong leadership the war continued to go badly for Britain and after a series of military defeats Churchill had to face a motion of no confidence in Parliament. However, he maintained the support of most members of the House of Commons and won by 475 votes to 25.
Churchill continued to be criticized for meddling in military matters and tended to take too much notice of the views of his friends such as Frederick Lindemann rather than his military commanders. In April 1941 he made the serious mistake of trying to save Greece by weakening his forces fighting the Desert War.
One of the major contributions made by Churchill to eventual victory was his ability to inspire the British people to greater effort by making public broadcasts on significant occasions. A brilliant orator he was a tireless source of strength to people experiencing the sufferings of the Blitz.
After Pearl Harbor Churchill worked closely with Franklin D. Roosevelt to ensure victory over Germany and Japan. He was also a loyal ally of the Soviet Union after Adolf Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa in June, 1941.
Churchill held important meetings with Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin at Teheran (November, 1943) and Yalta (February, 1945). Although Churchill's relationship with Stalin was always difficult he managed to successfully develop a united strategy against the Axis powers.
Despite intense pressure from Stalin to open a second-front by landing Allied troops in France in 1943, Churchill continued to argue that this should not happen until the defeat of Nazi Germany was guaranteed. The D-Day landings did not take place until June, 1944 and this delay enabled the Red Army to capture territory from Germany in Eastern Europe.
In public Churchill accepted plans for social reform drawn up by William Beveridge in 1944. However, he was unable to convince the electorate that he was as committed to these measures as much as Clement Attlee and the Labour Party. In the 1945 General Election Churchill's attempts to compare a future Labour government with Nazi Germany backfired and Attlee won a landslide victory.
Churchill became leader of the opposition and when visiting the United States in March 1946, he made his famous Iron Curtain speech at Fulton, Missouri. He suffered the first of several strokes in August 1946 but this information was kept from the general public and he continued to lead the Conservative Party.
Churchill returned to power after the 1951 General Election. After the publication of his six volume, The Second World War, Churchill was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Churchill's health continued to deteriorate and in 1955 he reluctantly retired from politics.
Winston Churchill died on 24th January, 1965.
(1) David Low first met Winston Churchill in 1922.
As might be expected from his origins and temperament, Churchill was inwardly contemptuous of the 'common man' when the 'common man' sought to interfere in his (the 'common man's) own government; but bearing with the need to appear sympathetic and compliant to the popular will. In those days, whenever I heard Churchill's dramatic periods about democracy, I felt inclined to say: "Please define." His definition, I felt, would be something like "government of the people, for the people, by benevolent and paternal ruling-class chaps like me."
Churchill was witty and easy to talk to until I said that the Australians were an independent people who could not be expected to follow Britain without question. They were, in the case of new wars, for instance, not to be taken for granted, but would follow their own judgment.
Churchill was one of the few men I have met who even in the flesh give me the impression of genius. George Bernard Shaw is another. It is amusing to know that each thinks the other is overrated.
(2) Winston Churchill, Illustrated Sunday Herald (8th February, 1920)
The part played in the creation of Bolshevism and in the actual bringing about of the Russian Revolution by these international and for the most part atheistic Jews... is certainly a very great one; it probably outweighs all others. With the notable exception of Lenin, the majority of the leading figures are Jews. Moreover, the principal inspiration and driving power comes from Jewish leaders... The same evil prominence was obtained by Jews in (Hungary and Germany, especially Bavaria).
Although in all these countries there are many non-Jews every whit as bad as the worst of the Jewish revolutionaries, the part played by the latter in proportion to their numbers in the population is astonishing. The fact that in many cases Jewish interests and Jewish places of worship are excepted by the Bolsheviks from their universal hostility has tended more and more to associate the Jewish race in Russia with the villainies which are now being perpetrated.
(3) Philip Snowden, An Autobiography (1934)
The most surprising of the Ministerial appointments made by Mr. Baldwin was the constituted his government in November 1924 was the selection of Mr. Winston Churchill as Chancellor of the Exchequer. What induced Mr. Baldwin to offer Mr. Churchill this important post still remains an inscrutable mystery.
As an ex-Chancellor it fell to me to lead the Opposition in the Budget debates, and I found Mr. Churchill a foe worthy of my steel. Mr. Churchill, during these years, gradually developed as a Parliamentary debater. He learnt to rely less on careful preparation of his speeches and more upon spontaneous effort. However much one may differ from Mr. Churchill, one is compelled to like him for his finer qualities. There is an attractiveness in everything he does. His high spirits are irrepressible. Mr. Churchill was as happy facing a Budget deficit as in distributing a surplus. He is an adventurer, a soldier of fortune.
(4) Jennie Lee made her first speech in the House of Commons soon after she was elected in a by-election in 1929.
Winston Churchill was at that time Chancellor of the Exchequer and I directed my attack mainly against his budget proposals. Later in the day, in the Smoking Room, he came over to me and congratulated me on my speech. He assured me that we both wanted the same thing, only we had different notions of how to get it. The richer the rich became, the more able they would be to help the poor. That was his theme and he said he would send me a book that would explain everything to me. The book duly arrived. It was The American Omen by Garet Garrett, a right-wing economist who was despised by most of us for his extreme views.
(5) J. R. Clynes, Memoirs (1937)
I met Churchill in 1901 during his Election campaign in Oldham, having been chosen to lead a group of local Labour supporters to interview him, and obtain from him an exposition of his views on certain Labour topics. I found him a man of extraordinarily independent mind, and great courage. He absolutely refused to yield to our persuasions, and said bluntly that he would rather lose votes than abandon his convictions.
Churchill was, and has always remained, a soldier in mufti. He possesses inborn militaristic qualities, and is intensely proud of his descent from Marlborough. He cannot visualize Britain without an Empire, or the Empire without wars of acquisition and defence. A hundred years ago he might profoundly have affected the shaping of our country's history. Now, the impulses of peace and internationalism, and the education and equality of the working classes, leave him unmoved.
(6) Kingsley Martin first met Winston Churchill while teaching at the London School of Economics. Martin wrote about Churchill and the General Strike in his book, Father Figures (1966)
The General Strike of 1926 was an unmitigated disaster. Not merely for Labour but for England. Churchill and other militants in the cabinet were eager for a strike, knowing that they had built a national organization in the six months' grace won by the subsidy to the mining industry. Churchill himself told me this on the first occasion I met him in person. I asked Winston what he thought of the Samuel Coal Commission. When Winston said that the subsidy had been granted to enable the Government to smash the unions, unless the miners had given way in the meantime, my picture of Winston was confirmed.
He was a delicious and witty guest, quite willing to talk freely to young academics. I then regarded him as the most dangerous of all politicians. He combined brilliance with the most foolish and antiquated views, which would have condemned us without hope of reprieve to war between classes and nations; he had tried to make war with Russia in 1919, and he waged successful war against the workers in 1926. The economic disasters of the thirties were inaugurated by his return to the Gold Standard in 1925; he was to be a supporter of Mussolini and Franco, and would have carried out a disgracing war in India. All the more remarkable that I was to become his admirer in the later thirties and to write a eulogy of him as our indispensable leader in 1940.
(7) Winston Churchill, speech in the House of Commons on the resignation of Anthony Eden as Foreign Secretary (22nd February, 1938)
The resignation of the late Foreign Secretary may well be a milestone in history. Great quarrels, it has been well said, arise from small occasions but seldom from small causes. The late Foreign Secretary adhered to the old policy which we have all forgotten for so long. The Prime Minister and his colleagues have entered upon another and a new policy. The old policy was an effort to establish the rule of law in Europe, and build up through the League of Nations effective deterrents against the aggressor. Is it the new policy to come to terms with the totalitarian Powers in the hope that by great and far-reaching acts of submission, not merely in sentiment and pride, but in material factors, peace may be preserved.
A firm stand by France and Britain, under the authority of the League of Nations, would have been followed by the immediate evacuation of the Rhineland without the shedding of a drop of blood; and the effects of that might have enabled the more prudent elements of the German Army to gain their proper position, and would not have given to the political head of Germany the enormous ascendancy which has enabled him to move forward. Austria has now been laid in thrall, and we do not know whether Czechoslovakia will not suffer a similar attack.
(8) On 16th April, 1939, the Soviet Union suggested a three-power military alliance with Great Britain and France. In a speech on 4th May, Winston Churchill urged the government to accept the offer.
Ten or twelve days have already passed since the Russian offer was made. The British people, who have now, at the sacrifice of honoured, ingrained custom, accepted the principle of compulsory military service, have a right, in conjunction with the French Republic, to call upon Poland not to place obstacles in the way of a common cause. Not only must the full co-operation of Russia be accepted, but the three Baltic States, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, must also be brought into association. To these three countries of warlike peoples, possessing together armies totalling perhaps twenty divisions of virile troops, a friendly Russia supplying munitions and other aid is essential.
There is no means of maintaining an eastern front against Nazi aggression without the active aid of Russia. Russian interests are deeply concerned in preventing Herr Hitler's designs on eastern Europe. It should still be possible to range all the States and peoples from the Baltic to the Black sea in one solid front against a new outrage of invasion. Such a front, if established in good heart, and with resolute and efficient military arrangements, combined with the strength of the Western Powers, may yet confront Hitler, Goering, Himmler, Ribbentrop, Goebbels and co. with forces the German people would be reluctant to challenge.
(9) Winston Churchill wrote about Operation Dynamo in his book The Second World War(1949)
Ever since May 20, the gathering of shipping and small craft had been proceeding under the control of Admiral Ramsay, who commanded at Dover. After the loss of Boulogne and Calais only the remains of the port of Dunkirk and the open beaches next to the Belgian Frontier were in our hands. On the evening of the 26th an Admiralty signal put Operation Dynamo into play, and the first troops were brought home that night.
Early the next morning, May 27, emergency measures were taken to find additional small craft. The various boatyards, from Teddington to Brightlingsea, were searched by Admiralty officers, and yielded upwards of forty serviceable motor-boats or launches, which were assembled at Sheerness on the following day. At the same time lifeboats from liners in the London docks, tugs from the Thames, yachts, fishing-craft, lighters, barges and pleasure-boats - anything that could be the use along the beaches - were called into service.
(10) Winston Churchill, speech in the House of Commons (4th June, 1940)
Our losses in men (at Dunkirk) have been 30,000 killed, wounded and missing. Against this we might set the far heavier loss certainly inflicted upon the enemy. We have lost nearly 1,000 guns and all our transport and all the armed vehicles that were with the army in the north.
The best of all we had to give, has gone with the B.E.F. and although they had not the number of tanks they were a very well and finely equipped army. They had all the first fruits of all our industry had to give, and that is gone.
An effort the like of which has never been seen in our records is now being made. Work is proceeding everywhere night and day, Sundays and weekdays. Capital and labour have cast aside their interests, rights and customs, and put them into the common stock.
Already the flow of munitions has leapt forward. There is no reason why we should not, in a few months overtake the sudden and serious loss that has come upon us without retarding development of our general programme.
(11) William Joyce, Germany Calling (21st August, 1940)
Winston Churchill was one of those who did most to procure England's declaration of war last September. And we now have his admission that nearly a year later his country is neither properly equipped nor has it properly started. Surely the time to think of proper equipment was before the war was launched! One day the British people will have cause to remember this confession of the chief warmonger - that he drove them into this disastrous conflict well knowing, as he did, that they were not prepared to wage it. Out of his mouth, Churchill stands convicted as a traitor to England. But this much the people of England have failed to realise. It was, until very recently, that their war was fought by proxy. They had not heard the roar of those engines of destruction, which, thanks to Churchill, descended on their cities, towns, factories, docks and railways.
It will not be long before Britain has to yield to the invincible might of German arms, for Germany started when the war began, and was equipped before that. But this also I feel, that short as the time may be, every day will have the length of a year for the people whom Churchill has condemned to ruin in his crazy and fantastic plan to blockade Europe, the dictator of this little island showed the depths of his immoral malice.
(12) As commander of the 9th Armed Division Brian Horrocks had responsibility for protecting the Brighton coastal area.
It wasin Brighton that I first met the Prime Minister, Mr. Winston Churchill. He came down to have a look at our defences and watch the Royal Ulster Rifles carry out a small exercise. Though no one knew of his visit, he was quickly spotted and a large and enthusiastic crowd soon gathered. The complete confidence shown in him was most touching, and rather frightening to us who knew that, to all intents and purposes, the military cupboard was bare. During one of these spontaneous demonstrations of affection I found myself standing at the back beside Mrs. Churchill. There were tears in her eyes, and I heard her murmur, " Pray God we don't let them down."
(13) The Manchester Guardian (10th April, 1941)
It was a solemn House of Commons that heard Mr. Churchill today, which was natural. Mr. Churchill's was a solemn speech. It said in effect that the Allies are facing another crisis. Though it is not comparable with the gravity of the crisis that followed the collapse of France, no reader of Mr. Churchill's speech will doubt that it is grave enough. The House had sensed the occasion. It was full in all its parts.
He was as masterful as ever. Indeed, he was masterful enough at times as to be quite casual. Think of Hitler addressing his Reichstag with both hands thrust deep in his trouser pockets! Yet that was Mr. Churchill. It was in this way that he announced that the Germans had entered Salonika at four o'clock this morning. He almost did it in an aside. Intended or not, the manner took a lot of the force out of the blow.
But what was the tale as a whole? We had lost Benghazi, and the Germans and Italians were pressing us so hard that we must expect severe fighting not only to defend the rest of Cyrenaica but Egypt. Against that had to be set the victories in Eritrea, Italian Somaliland, and Abyssinia and the freeing of the Red Sea. Then there was the shattering naval victory of Matapan. Nothing, Mr. Churchill said amid cheers could detract from these brilliant achievements or diminish our gratitude to our forces.
Mr. Churchill is clearly not comfortable about France, in spite of his welcome of Marshall Petain's declaration that she will never fight her old ally. He sees how dependent Vichy is on Hitler. But his warning that we shall maintain our blockade aroused the greatest cheer of the speech. The next biggest cheer greeted his declaration that we should not tolerate any movements of French warships from African ports to the ports of Metropolitan France, for that would alter the balance of naval power in the Atlantic affecting the United states as much as ourselves.
(14) Winston Churchill, letter to Charles Portal in a reply to a report on the need to use more terror bombing attacks on Nazi Germany (27th September, 1941)
It is very disputable whether bombing by itself will be a decisive factor in the present war. On the contrary, all that we have learnt since the war began shows that its effects, both physical and moral, are greatly exaggerated. There is no doubt that British people have been stimulated and strengthened by the attack made upon them so far. Secondly, it seems very likely that the ground defences and night-fighters will overtake the air attack. Thirdly, in calculating the number of bombers necessary to achieve hypothetical and indefinite tasks, it should be noted that only a quarter of our bombs hit the targets. Consequently an increase of bombing to 100 per cent would in fact raise our bombing force to four times its strength. The most we can say is that it will be a heavy and I trust a seriously increasing annoyance.
(15) While he was at a Mansion House luncheon Winston Churchill heard a rumour that Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor. He immediately telephoned President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
In two or three minutes Mr. Roosevelt came through. "Mr. President, what's this about Japan? "It's quite true," he replied. "They have attacked us at Pearl Harbor. We are all in the same boat now."
No American will think it wrong of me if I proclaim that no have the United States at our side was to me the greatest joy. I could not foretell the course of events. I do not pretend to have measured accurately the martial might of Japan, but now at this very moment I knew the United States was in the war, up to the neck and in to the death. So we had won after all!
Yes, after Dunkirk; after the fall of France; after the horrible episode of Oran; after the threat of invasion, when, apart from the Air and the Navy, we were an almost unarmed people; after the deadly struggle of the U-boat war - the first Battle of the Atlantic, gained by a hand's-breath; after seventeen months of lonely fighting and nineteen months of my responsibility in dire stress. We had won the war. England would live; Britain would live; the Commonwealth of Nations and the Empire would live.
How long the war would last or in what fashion it would end no man could tell, nor did I at this moment care. Once again in our long Island history we should emerge, however mauled or mutilated, safe and victorious. We should not be wiped out. We should not be wiped out. Our history would not come to an end. We might not even have to die as individuals. Hitler's fate was sealed. Mussolini's fate was sealed. As for the Japanese, they would be ground to powder.
(16) Henry Wallace had lunch with Winston Churchill at the White House on 22nd May, 1943. That night he wrote about the meeting in his diary.
He made it more clear than he had at the luncheon on Saturday that he expected England and the United States to run the world and he expected the staff organizations which had been set up for winning the war to continue when the peace came, that these staff organizations would by mutual understanding really run the world even though there was a supreme council and three regional councils.
I said bluntly that I thought the notion of Anglo-Saxon superiority, inherent in Churchill's approach, would be offensive to many of the nations of the world as well as to a number of people in the United States. Churchill had had quite a bit of whiskey, which, however, did not affect the clarity of his thinking process but did perhaps increase his frankness. He said why be apologetic about Anglo-Saxon superiority, that we were superior, that we had the common heritage which had been worked out over the centuries in England and had been perfected by our constitution. He himself was half American, he felt that he was called on as a result to serve the function of uniting the two great Anglo-Saxon civilizations in order to confer the benefit of freedom on the rest of the world.
(17) General Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote about Winston Churchill in his book Crusade in Europe (1948)
An inspirational leader, he seemed to typify Britain's courage and perseverance in adversity and its conservatism in success. He was a man of extraordinarily strong convictions and a master in argument and debate. Completely devoted to winning the war and discharging his responsibility as Prime Minister of Great Britain, he was difficult indeed to combat when conviction compelled disagreement with his views. In most cases problems were solved on a basis of almost instant agreement, but intermittently important issues arose where this was far from true. He could become intensely oratorical, even in discussion with a single person, but at the same time his intensity of purpose, made his delivery seem natural and appropriate. He used humor and pathos with equal facility, and drew on everything from the Greek classics to Donald Duck for quotation, cliché, and forceful slang to support his position.
I admired and liked him. He knew this perfectly well and never hesitated to use that knowledge in his effort to swing me to his own line of thought in any argument. Yet in spite of his strength of purpose, in those instances where we found our convictions in direct opposition, he never once lost his friendly attitude toward me when I persisted in my own course, nor did he fail to respect with meticulous care the position I occupied as the senior American officer and, later, the Allied commander in Europe. He was a keen student of the war's developments and of military history, and discussion with him, even on purely professional grounds, was never profitless. If he accepted a decision unwillingly he would return again and again to the attack in an effort to have his own way, up to the very moment of execution. But once action was started he had a faculty for forgetting everything in his desire to get ahead, and invariably tried to provide British support in a greater degree than promised. Some of the questions in which I found myself, at various periods of the war, opposed to the Prime Minister were among the most critical I faced, but so long as I was acting within the limits of my combined directive he had no authority to intervene except by persuasion or by complete destruction of the Allied concept. Nevertheless, in countless ways he could have made my task a harder one had he been anything less than big, and I shall always owe him an immeasurable debt of gratitude for his unfailing courtesy and zealous support, regardless of his dislike of some important decisions. He was a great war leader and he is a great man.
(18) General Alan Brooke, Chief of Imperial General Staff (diary entry, 12th April 1945)
We had to consider this morning one of Winston's worst minutes I have ever seen. I can only believe that he must have been quite tight when he dictated it. My God! How little the world at large knows what his failings and defects are!
(19) Tom Hopkinson, Of This Our Time (1982)
A consequence of this seemingly unending series of disasters was that now for the first time there began to be criticism of Churchill as Prime Minister. This took two different slants. Popular criticism, such as was to be heard in pubs, air-raid shelters and in general talk, took the line that the 'old man' himself was still the only possible war leader, but that he was failing to share the burden sufficiently with others, and also being 'let down' by commanders in the field. Simultaneously a body of 'insider' criticism began to be heard which followed an opposite line, that it was Churchill who was the cause of our continuing setbacks through his taking far too much upon himself. Confidential meetings took place, at one or two of which I was asked to be present, attended by MPs of all parties, two or three editors and influential journalists, and some renowned admirals and generals no longer in active posts but carefully briefed, it seemed to me, by top brass who were unable - or thought it unwise - to attend in person.
(20) Arthur Harris, Bomber Command (1947)
I was frequently bidden to Chequers, especially during the weekends when Winston was normally there. I never failed to return from these visits invigorated and full of renewed hope and enthusiasm, in spite of the appalling hours that Winston habitually kept. If it was a mixed party - which was not very often - and I could take my wife, I knew that we might get home somewhere between midnight and one in the morning, but when I was asked alone, it would be anywhere between three and four before I got back. Not that I minded.
After dinner Winston would talk; he was really thinking aloud about how things were going. He would get repeated reminders that a film show was waiting for him, and eventually we would all go up to the gallery - the household staff, and the rest of the family, and even the military guard from outside - to see the picture. There the Prime Minister would sit, occasionally making amusing comments about the drama. One realised, of course, that he was really resting himself in this atmosphere and that his thoughts were often far away. Sometimes one could hear him rehearse a phrase for a telegram he would send later. Well after midnight we would go back down to the hall and he would get down to another batch of work, sending signals, dictating to his secretaries, and so on, while at intervals one of his family, and sometimes his naval A.D.C. would attempt to steer him off to bed, as his doctors had advised, but invariably without the least success. He went to bed when he wanted to.
I think the first thing that impresses one about Winston is the extraordinary mixture in him of real human kindness and of sometimes impish mischief, all overlaid with an immense, thrusting, purposeful determination to reach the goal which he so clearly sees. The affection which the whole Churchill family feel for one another is very obvious and most refreshing.
Th'e worse the state of the war was, the greater was the support, enthusiasm, encouragement and constructive criticism that one got from this extraordinary man; it was all done with the utmost kindness, though not without a mischievous dig now and again just for the fun of it. He did not mind your expressing views contrary to his own, but he was difficult to argue with for the simple reason that he seldom seemed to listen long to sides of a question other than his own. He has, in fact, developed to a perhaps extreme degree this rather unfortunate trait of the man who has almost absolute power, knows his own mind, and really does not want to be bothered with everybody else's ideas. He is a bad listener, and frequently interrupts anyone who is expressing views, whether they are opposed to his own or not, halfway through a sentence; then he is off at a tangent, holding forth, always with interest and generally on sound lines, on some other aspect of the subject under discussion, or even on some entirely different subject.
The last occasion when I went to Chequers to see Winston was on the day after it had been decided to break up the National Government; I remember feeling horrified by the certainty with which Winston asserted that the coming election would go in his favour. I was equally certain that this showed a complete blindness to political realities, and when I left that night, or rather in the small hours of the next morning, I knew that I should never again go to Chequers as the guest of Winston Churchill.
(21) Joseph Goebbels, diary (27th March, 1945)
The Führer is right when he says that Stalin is in the best position to do an about-turn in war policy, since he need take no account of his public opinion. It is rather different with England. It is quite immaterial whether Churchill wants to pursue a different war policy; even if he did, he couldn't; he is too dependent on internal political forces which are already semi-bolshevistic in character, to say nothing of Roosevelt, who shows not the smallest sign of any intention to change course.
The objective which the Führer has in mind is to discover some possibility of an accommodation with the Soviet Union and then to pursue the struggle against England with brutal violence. England has always been the mischief-maker in Europe; if she was finally swept out of Europe, then we should have peace and quiet, at least for a time.
(22) Winston Churchill, election broadcast (May, 1945)
I must tell you that a socialist policy is abhorrent to British ideas on freedom. There is to be one State, to which all are to be obedient in every act of their lives. This State, once in power, will prescribe for everyone: where they are to work, what they are to work at, where they may go and what they may say, what views they are to hold, where their wives are to queue up for the State ration, and what education their children are to receive. A socialist state could not afford to suffer opposition - no socialist system can be established without a political police. They (the Labour government) would have to fall back on some form of Gestapo.
(23) Clement Attlee, election broadcast (May, 1945)
The Prime Minister made much play last night with the rights of the individual and the dangers of people being ordered about by officials. I entirely agree that people should have the greatest freedom compatible with the freedom of others. There was a time when employers were free to work little children for sixteen hours a day. I remember when employers were free to employ sweated women workers on finishing trousers at a penny halfpenny a pair. There was a time when people were free to neglect sanitation so that thousands died of preventable diseases. For years every attempt to remedy these crying evils was blocked by the same plea of freedom for the individual. It was in fact freedom for the rich and slavery for the poor. Make no mistake, it has only been through the power of the State, given to it by Parliament, that the general public has been protected against the greed of ruthless profit-makers and property owners.
The Conservative Party remains as always a class Party. In twenty-three years in the House of Commons, I cannot recall more than half a dozen from the ranks of the wage earners. It represents today, as in the past, the forces of property and privilege. The Labour Party is, in fact, the one Party which most nearly reflects in its representation and composition all the main streams which flow into the great river of our national life.
(24) Winston Churchill, speech in Fulton, Missouri (5th March, 1946)
A shadow has fallen upon the scenes so lately lighted by the Allied victory. Nobody knows what Soviet Russia and its Communist international organization intends to do in the immediate future, or what are the limits, if any, to their expansive and proselytizing tendencies. I have a strong admiration and regard for the valiant Russian people and for my wartime comrade Marshal Stalin. There is sympathy and goodwill in Britain - and I doubt not here also - toward the peoples of all the Russias and a resolve to persevere through many differences and rebuffs in establishing lasting friendships.
We understand the Russians need to be secure on her western frontiers from all renewal of German aggression. We welcome her to her rightful place among the leading nations of the world. Above all we welcome constant, frequent, and growing contacts between the Russian people and our own people on both sides of the Atlantic. It is my duty, however, to place before you certain facts about the present position in Europe - I am sure I do not wish to, but it is my duty, I feel, to present them to you.
From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of central and eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest, and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in the Soviet sphere and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and increasing measure of control from Moscow. Athens alone, with its immortal glories, is free to decide its future at an election under British, American, and French observation. The Russian-dominated Polish government has been encouraged to make enormous and wrongful in-roads upon Germany, and mass expulsions of millions of Germans on a scale grievous and undreamed of are now taking place.
The Communist parties, which were very small in all these Eastern states of Europe, have been raised to preeminence and power far beyond their numbers and are seeking everywhere to obtain totalitarian control. Police governments are prevailing in nearly every case, and so far, except in Czechoslovakia, there is no true democracy. Turkey and Persia are both profoundly alarmed and disturbed at the claims which are made upon them and at the pressure being exerted by the Moscow government. An attempt is being made by the Russians in Berlin to build up a quasi-Communist Party in their zone of occupied Germany by showing special favors to groups of left-wing German leaders.
(25) Milovan Djilas, Rise and Fall (1985)
Filled with curiosity and joyous anticipation, we went to see Churchill at his London house, an establishment' no larger or more luxurious than the average middle-class villa at Dedinje - the type that our top Yugoslav officials acquired after the war. We found him in his bedroom, in bed. He begged our pardon for receiving us thus and at once invited us to dinner. We had a prior engagement for dinner with the British government, and so had to decline, with genuine regret. Churchill then said, "I have a feeling that you and we are on the same side of the barricade." We confirmed his feeling, whereupon he inquired with delight, "And how is my old friend Tito?"
On the way to his house I had entertained the thought of reproaching him for having once offended Tito, so when Brilej or Dedijer replied that Tito felt fine, I added, "But you said he had deceived you." "When? Where?" Churchill asked in surprise. "In-your speech at Fulton, Missouri, in 1946." With an expression of discomfort Churchill replied, "Oh, I've said a lot of silly things in my life." I then added, with a smile, "But we took no offense at your words. We understood them as a sort of acknowledgment." He gave a sardonic laugh.
Churchill then said to me: "You're a member of the Politburo, you've got a feeling for the Soviet mentality. If you belonged to the Soviet Politburo, would you invade Europe?" I replied that I would not. "But I would, you see!" he said. "What's Europe - disarmed, disunited? In two weeks the Russians would push right through to the English Channel. This island would defend itself one way or another, but Europe? If it weren't for atomic weapons, the Russians might have made their move already." One of us pointed out that the Russians were exhausted and had not yet recovered from the war. "The fact the Russians haven't invaded by now shows they don't intend to invade Europe," I observed. "Yes," said Churchill, "they're held in check because Stalin is smart enough to shun adventures. And old - he's got no stomach for running around Siberia dodging atom bombs!"
At one point Churchill became quite carried away by strategic considerations. "Yes, the Russians are held back by their fear of atom bombs. They're a centralized empire. If atom bombs were dropped on their communications centers - which wouldn't cause heavy civilian casualties - the periphery would loosen up and start to fall away. Stalin knows that well." Here Churchill reared up in bed, toothless, in his nightcap, and with fingers spread and pointed down, began to imitate the falling of bombs - a specter in whom the spirit of battle blazed on undiminished.
(26) Henry (Chips) Channon, diary entry (15th January, 1944)
I went early to the House hearing that the PM was due back. The secret had been well kept, but I soon twigged that they wanted to stage a demonstration of enthusiasm and the surprise would add to it. It did. He came in just before 11.30 and smiled. The House cheered and rose, a courteous, spontaneous welcome which under the dramatic circumstances was legitimate, but curiously cold. Churchill is not loved in the House. He has never had any ovation to equal several of Mr Chamberlain's, and this morning's performance proved it. I thought he looked disappointed, but his health and colour have returned.
(27) Herbert Morrison, An Autobiography (1960)
His sense of humour was uncertain. He excelled at making pithy comments about events and about Hitler and Mussolini - and about some of his colleagues, whether they were present or not. There was rarely anything vicious about these jokes: they were leg pulling jokes which only the sensitive and pompous found annoying.
But he had to be the joker, and not the victim. Once or twice I essayed a joke at his expense. Immediately his smile vanished. He gave a perfect masculine version of Queen Victoria's "We are not amused". The aristocratic Churchill came to the fore; there was a frown on his face, and then he would move to the business of the meeting.
The few who tried this sort of thing, even Bevin who could get away with very earthy comments in basic Anglo-Saxon terms to describe anyone else, received similar black looks if the Prime Minister was the butt. None of us minded, for we all had a real affection for the man, and liked him the more for a foible or two.
Churchill's dissertations about military strategy rankled and irritated the service chiefs more than anything, so far as I could see. They did not hide their view that if his ideas were adopted it might have been unfortunate for the outcome of the war. They may have been right. I think that Churchill often put forward his views on strategy just to stimulate their brains and his own. He did not necessarily believe what he was advocating.
These were three very unhappy years, the worst I have ever had to live through in nearly four decades in the House of Commons. Our own dissensions soured the atmosphere and, for those of us who knew and held him in high regard, there was the sad spectacle of the decline of Winston Churchill. His lapses were becoming more frequent.
The world itself was changing. The nuclear developments which had ended the Japanese war did not stop there. The atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima were dwarfed by the thermo-nuclear weapon the United States had created. This had been detonated over Bikini in the Pacific. There were reports of clouds of noxious fumes capable of being blown 5,000 miles and threatening life over all that area. The House of Commons debated the issue. An ageing Churchill replied in terms uncharacteristic of a lifetime in the House of Commons, no doubt reflecting an unimaginative Foreign Office brief, but taken by the House as showing insensitivity. The reception to which he was then subjected totally unnerved him, and those of us sitting on the Opposition side close to the Speaker's chair saw him go out deeply upset on the arm of the Chief Government Whip.
(29) Matt Zalen, Jerusalem Post (11th March, 2007)
Weeks before he became British prime minister in 1940, Winston Churchill may have stopped the publication of an article he had written in which he suggested that the Jews were partially responsible for "the antagonism from which they suffer," according to a paper published by a Cambridge University researcher.
The Churchill article, titled "How The Jews Can Combat Persecution," was written in 1937, and argued that "the wickedness of the persecutors" was not the sole reason for the ill-treatment of Jews throughout the ages. While Churchill described Jews as "sober, industrious and law-abiding" and praised their willingness to fight and, if necessary, die for the country they lived in, he added: "Yet there are times when one feels instinctively that all this is only another manifestation of the difference, the separateness of the Jew."
Further, Churchill criticized the Jewish refugees' willingness to work for low wages as "bad citizenship," and he suggested that it fostered anti-Semitism because it forced English workers out of jobs.
"While most people would accept that Churchill was no anti-Semite, this sheds fascinating new light on his views about Jews, which were very inconsistent," said Dr. Richard Toye, the historian who discovered the document.
The article was originally intended for publication in 1937, but was only accepted by the Sunday Dispatch three years later. However, by 1940 Churchill had backtracked on his desire to publish the piece and refused to allow the article to go to print.
"At the time publication was attempted he was trying to keep his head down in political terms and avoid controversy. It is quite possible that he had second thoughts about what he had written three years earlier."
"It was perverse to argue that low-paid Jewish workers were the victims of their Jewish bosses and, at the same time, that they were acting unfairly by taking employment from 'English people'."
Debate over Toye's findings have been quick to follow the publication of his paper, with at least one expert questioning the authenticity of the Churchill article.
According to a report by The Observer, Sir Martin Gilbert, an eminent historian and Churchill biographer, said that the article was not written by Churchill at all, but rather his ghost writer, Adam Marshall Diston. He added that Churchill's instructions for the article were different in both tone and content from what Diston eventually wrote, and pointed out that Diston was a supporter of Oswald Mosley, the notorious fascist and anti-Semite.
(30) Clive Ponting, 1940: Myth and Reality (1990)
I can still remember the impact that reading Churchill's history of the Second World War had on me many years ago; its wonderful language redolent of Macaulay and Gibbon, its dramatic story so clearly told, its moral message so apparent. Some years later, when I was reading the government papers of the time in the Public Record Office, I began to realize that the story was far more complex and that there was much that had been oversimplified or even left out altogether in Churchill's account. Despite all its virtues, his six-volume history is a politician's memoir designed to relate his version of events and to present the story as he wanted. On returning to the archives recently I was even more struck by how much the accepted story of 1940 differed from the picture that emerges from the government papers.
The current widely accepted view of what happened in 1940 could be summarized as follows. In the 1930s the British Empire was one of the strongest powers in the world, but through a misguided and craven policy of appeasement and failure to rearm it allowed the aggressor states (Germany, Italy and Japan) to expand until war became inevitable. Britain and France missed a golden opportunity to defeat Germany in the autumn of 1939 and then in April 1940 Chamberlain's incompetent direction of the war let Hitler conquer Denmark and Norway. Popular discontent with the government swept Churchill into the premiership as the war leader acclaimed by all. The old policy of appeasement and British weakness disappeared under Churchill's inspiring leadership. Immediately on taking office he had to face the collapse of France caused by the numerically superior and highly mechanized German army using waves of modern tanks in a new style of blitzkrieg warfare. The British army, let down by the French and betrayed by the Belgians, fought its way back to the coast, where it was evacuated by a fleet of small boats from the beaches of Dunkirk. Left alone, the British government, refusing even to entertain the possibility of peace with Germany, decided to fight on to final victory. Facing a determined threat to invade Britain, brilliant direction of the RAF defeated a German air force that held all the advantages in the Battle of Britain. Morale in Britain remained high, as the country, united as never before and inspired by Churchill's regular radio broadcasts, was guided by a benevolent government which had great faith in the strength and steadfastness of the British people. The Blitz, one of the heaviest bombing campaigns ever mounted, began when Hitler started the policy of bombing major cities. Well-prepared and efficiently organized emergency services ensured that there were few problems in dealing with the results of the Blitz. Churchill, working closely with his friend President Roosevelt and taking advantage of the strong identity of interest between Britain and the United States, brought the Americans to the brink of entering the war. By the end of 1940, Britain was still a great power and firmly established on the road to victory.
When we examine the historical record, however, not one of these statements turns out to be true.
(31) Clive Ponting, 1940: Myth and Reality (1990)
It was in this fervid atmosphere that the war cabinet formally considered whether Britain should seek a compromise peace. None of this was made public, although the American government was aware very quickly of what was happening inside the war cabinet. In public Churchill had declared, in his first speech as Prime Minister, that the government's policy was "victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival". After the war Churchill was determined to maintain the heroic myths that by then already surrounded the dramatic days of the early summer of 1940. He wrote in his war memoirs: `Future generations may deem it noteworthy that the supreme question of whether we should fight on alone never found a place upon the War Cabinet agenda... we were much too busy to waste time upon such unreal, academic issues." The first part of that statement is just about technically correct in that most of the discussions in the war cabinet about whether to sue for peace were under the heading of "Italy: Suggested Direct Approach to Signor Mussolini", but it is an example of Churchill being extremely economical with the truth. The second part of the statement is untrue and designed to conceal the five meetings held by senior ministers during the three days 26-28 May at which the questions of peace and whether Britain should fight on alone were debated at length.