Churchill Research

Orde Wingate led the famous Chindits in two expeditions against the Japanese in Burma during the Second World War. Eccentric, dynamic, and zealous, he was one of Winston Churchill’s most favored British generals. An article on Wingate by the author of this blog has been published on the Churchill Project. The article is available here.

Book review

Winston Churchill: A Reference Guide to His Life and Works by Christopher Catherwood provides a good brief introduction to its subject with 115 entries that range in length from one to four pages. The entries include prime ministers and British politicians (Lloyd-George, Chamberlain, Asquith), foreign leaders (Eisenhower, Roosevelt, Stalin), general and admirals (Brooke, Montgomery, Pound), friends and family, conferences (Tehran, Yalta), Churchill’s books (Marlborough: His Life and Times, My Early Life, Painting as a Pastime), ministerial offices held (Chancellor of the Exchequer, Minister of Defence), issues and controversies, and speeches. The entries are supported by a chronology, select bibliography, a short index, and photographs.

The usefulness of the volume is limited, however, by its including of some topics and events over others. As it has limited space and is intended as an introductory guide – rather than a comprehensive encyclopedia – it is easy to quibble about the selection of the entries, but the guide most certainly should have had an entry for Churchill’s mother, Jennie Jerome. Likewise, there are no entries for the Iron Curtain speech, Potsdam conference, nuclear weapons, or Harry Truman.

Published by Rowan & Littlefield, the guide is part of the Significant Figures in World History series. Dr. Catherwood is the author of Churchill’s Folly, Churchill and Tito, and Churchill: The Greatest Briton.

This day in Churchill history

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On September 18, 1932 Winston Churchill remained at the Dr. Hromada sanatorium on Josefstrasse in Salzburg, Austria recovering from an illness. He had left England for the continent, accompanied by his wife Clementine and one of his daughters, on August 27 for a holiday that would include visits to the battlefields of the Duke of Marlborough’s campaign. Churchill was then planning to write a biography of his ancestor. He arrived in Salzburg from Munich on September 6, already suffering from a persistent fever. Churchill stayed at the Oesterreichischer Hof in the city until his condition worsened and he was admitted to the sanatorium where he was treated by Professor Ludwig Petschacher, head of the St. Johann Hospital in Salzburg. The illness was diagnosed at paratyphoid and attributed by his doctor to drinking impure water, probably while in Bavaria. On September 18 Churchill was reported to be “quite free of fever” and ready to make a complete recovery. Churchill, indeed, left Salzburg for London on September 22, but suffered a relapse soon after arriving back in England and was admitted to a London nursing home. He remained at the London nursing home until October 10 and took several more weeks to recover after being released to his London residence.

Finest Hour

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The theme of the latest issue (No. 189) of Finest Hour: The Journal of Winston Churchill and His Times is “Churchill and Scotland.” The issue’s articles include “He is a Great Man,” by Piers Brendon; “Churchill, the Admiralty, and Scotland” by Robin Broadhurst; “Churchill in Dundee, 1921” by David Stafford; and “A Scottish Honorary Degree” by Ronald Cohen. The website of Finest Hour is here.

This Day in Churchill History

At 11:30 on the night of July 30, 1940, Winston Churchill left London by train for the north of England for an inspection tour. The next day the prime minister inspected Home Guard units as well as coastal and other defenses, including those near Hartlepool. Accompanied by Lieutenant-General Hastings Ismay and Commander Thompson, he motored along the coastal front and occasionally left the car to make a closer inspection of the defenses. After watching one exercise, the prime minister famously posed with a Tommy gun. Churchill also inspected a shipyard where he spoke with a group outside the front gates, calling out “Are we downhearted” to which they roared, “No.” Churchill returned to London that evening by train. In London he met with Secretary of War Anthony Eden and Chief of the Imperial General Staff John Dill. During the day, Churchill cabled President Franklin Roosevelt about the war situation and requested American aid, including destroyers, motor boats, and flying boats.

 

Churchill Research

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Andrew Roberts, author of Churchill: Walking with Destiny, has published the essay “Brendan Bracken – ‘more Churchillian than Churchill” on the Engelsberg Ideas website. Bracken was a Conservative politician, publisher, and Churchill’s great friend and supporter from their initial meeting in 1923 till his early death in 1958 at the age of fifty-seven. Bracken, as Roberts notes, cultivated an aura of mystery about himself, including even hinting that he was Churchill’s illegitimate son. A rumor on which Churchill commented, “I looked it up, but the dates don’t coincide.” Although Bracken was a member of parliament and held senior cabinet posts during the war as Roberts astutely writes his “real importance” was “as Churchill’s confidant, spin-doctor, and intimate advisor.” The essay is available here.

Churchill Research

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Field Marshal Harold R.L.G. Alexander was one of the most prominent British generals of the Second World War, serving in campaigns in France, Burma, North Africa, and Italy. Alexander’s relationship with Winston Churchill is considered in the article, “Great Contemporaries: Sir Harold Alexander, Churchill’s Favorite General,” by the writer of this blog and published on the Churchill Project. The article is available here.

Churchill Bulletin

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The June 2020 issue (#144) of the Churchill Bulletin: The Newsletter of Winston Churchill has been released. It includes details on the 37th International Churchill Conference titled “Churchill in Adversity: A Virtual Conference,” book reviews of Churchill’s Shadow Raiders: The Race to Develop Radar, WWII’s Invisible Secret Weapon and Grand Improvisation: America Confronts the British Superpower, 1945–1957. The “Churchill Style” column discusses fountain pens and the Churchilliana column has a piece on a wartime bust of Churchill that was made in the United States. The June bulletin is available here.

This Day in Churchill History

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Travelling overnight by special train from Washington, DC, Winston Churchill arrived at Fort Jackson, South Carolina on the morning of June 24, 1942. The prime minister was in the American capital for the Second Washington Conference with President Franklin Roosevelt and had been invited by General George Marshall, US Army Chief of Staff, to make an inspection of an army camp. Marshall intended to impress upon the prime minister the scale and intensity of the training being conducted by the American army. On the visit Churchill was accompanied by Marshall, Secretary of War Henry Stimson, and several American and British generals. The visit to South Carolina went ahead despite the news received days earlier that Tobruk had fallen, a disaster that Churchill called “one of the heaviest blows I can recall during the war.”

The train stopped on an open plain in the camp and at 11 am Churchill’s party disembarked straight onto the parade ground. For the next five and half hours he was “on the go” despite the heat as he inspected the largest United States army infantry training post. He reviewed a march past of soldiers from three US Army infantry divisions, viewed various infantry training activities, and observed a parachute demonstration, which he thought “impressive and convincing.” After a brief lunch, Churchill watched a tactical training exercise conducted by 2,000 soldiers using live ammunition, including heavy artillery.

The New York Times reported that with his ever present cigar, Churchill “inspected Fort Jackson’s activities minutely, even prying into soldiers’ packs, working the breech block of a 75-millimeter gun, and getting covered with choking, yellow dust kicked up by thousands of feet and hundreds of armed vehicles. He saw some of the plain, essential drudgery of life in an army camp. And, complimenting a company of sweating, serious-faced infantrymen on a mass calisthenics exercise, he said: ‘I know you are all waiting and longing for the day, which is coming, when all this work and preparation will be turned into a mighty effort of war to make sure that right and justice will prevail in the world.” A clip of the speech is available here.

Churchill commented to the newspaper reporters that he was “enormously impressed” with what he had seen. An opinion he confirmed in private when he told General Hastings Ismay, who doubted the abilities of the inexperienced troops, that “they are wonderful material and will learn very quickly.”

Late in the afternoon, Churchill flew back to Washington.

Finest Hour

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The theme of the latest issue (No. 188) of Finest Hour: The Journal of Winston Churchill and His Times is “Churchill’s Prime Ministers.” The issue includes articles on Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, H.H. Asquith, David Lloyd George, Stanley Baldwin, and Neville Chamberlain. A further article covers future prime ministers (Clement Attlee, Antony Eden, Harold Macmillan, Alec Douglas-Home, and Edward Heath) who worked with Churchill. The website of Finest Hour is here.