Book Review

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The title of Peter Clarke’s latest book, The Locomotive of War: Money, Empire, Power, and Guilt, is taken from the famous quote attributed to Leon Trotsky, “War is the locomotive of history.” Throughout this enjoyable and interesting book, the author considers the ramifications of the First World War as well as the role of Gladstonian Liberalism in Anglo-American decision-making as related to the conflict. Clarke (Cambridge and author of Mr. Churchill’s Profession) surveys the origins of the war, the financing of the war, and the Treaty of Versailles (including War Guilt, Reparations, and the Hang the Kaiser). He contends that the “moralization” of the origins of the war led to the “moralization” of the peace terms. The leading figures considered in the book are David Lloyd-George, Woodrow Wilson, and John Maynard Keynes, while Winston Churchill plays a more limited role in the study.

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Private Secretaries to the Prime Minister: Foreign Affairs from Churchill to Thatcher edited by Andrew Holt and Warren Dockter is a volume in the Routledge Studies in Modern British History series. In eight chapters the book considers the private secretaries who served the prime ministers from Winston Churchill (1951-55) to Margaret Thatcher’s first years (1979-83). Each chapter provides biographical information on the private secretary under consideration and describes their relationship with the prime minister that they served. The conclusion of the volume is by Anthony Seldon and studies the role of the Principal Private Secretary.

Warren Dockter (author of Winston Churchill and the Islamic World: Orientalism, Empire, and Diplomacy in the Middle East) writes the first chapter in the volume which is entitled, “Managing a Giant: Jack Colville and Winston Churchill.” Colville served the prime minister as Assistant Private Secretary (1940-41, 1943-45) and Joint Principal Private Secretary (1951-55). He later published his diaries as Fringes of Power along with other books and articles.

On returning to 10 Downing Street in 1951 Churchill insisted that Colville rejoin his staff and that the role of Principal Private Secretary be split between him and David Pitblado. Dockter writes that Colville’s role was “unique and remarkable” with Churchill giving him assignments “rarely given to members of the private office.” Colville was a member of Churchill’s inner circle and gave his loyalty to the prime minister rather than the government or the civil service. He was thus “overly identified with the Prime Minister personally” and considered “spoiled as a civil servant.” Colville resigned from the civil service in 1955 upon Churchill’s stepping down from office. After their respective resignations Colville remained Churchill’s friend but also “became something of a guardian for Churchill’s legacy.”

Churchill Research

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Robin Prior studies the chapter on the Battle of the Somme in Winston Churchill’s World Crisis in his article “Churchill & the Battle of the Somme” published in Wartime: The Official Magazine of the Australian War Memorial. In writing about the 1916 British offensive, Churchill received the assistance of Sir James Edmonds, the British official historian. The chapter was, according to Prior, “a savage indictment of Haig and the High Command” and is “still well worth reading.” The article is available here.

Book Review

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More myths, legends, and scandals surround the life, character, and career of Winston Churchill than most other important historical figures. These range from major controversies to minor oddities. Many of the myths are remarkably persistent and repeated as commonly accepted facts in new books on Churchill or appear in the media and newspapers as shocking new revelations, such as the relatively recent stories that Churchill supposedly considered converting to Islam as a young man. Richard Langworth in his new book Winston Churchill, Myth and Reality: What He Actually Did and Said considers 37 such Churchill myths. Langworth, who edited the Finest Hour for 35 years and is currently a Senior Fellow at Hillsdale College, is the author of Churchill by Himself : The Definitive Collection of Quotations.

The myths Langworth surveys range from the parentage of Churchill’s brother Jack and the cause of Lord Randolph Churchill’s death to Churchill’s opposition to the Second Front and the bombing of Coventry. Each myth is covered in a separate chapter in which the author describes the charge made against Churchill, provides the background and context, and either refutes the charge or seeks to explain Churchill’s actions. In the case of the myth about Churchill’s poor performance as a schoolboy, Langworth correctly points out the myth originated with Churchill himself, while the author astutely calls the Sidney Street siege as “a typical piece of Churchillian chutzpah.” An appendix considers some of the “minor myths” associated with the British statesman.

With so many myths and controversies surrounding Churchill there are ones which are not covered in the volume, including the accusations that Churchill acted dishonourably in his escape from the Boer prisoner of war camp or that he manipulated the press communiques after the Battle of Jutland. Likewise there is the more obscure myth put forward by United States Senator William Langton in 1949 that Churchill fought with Spain against the United States during the Spanish-American War of 1898.

In Winston Churchill, Myth and Reality: What He Actually Did and Said Langworth provides a staunch defense of Churchill as he dismisses or puts into perspective the various myths. The book is an interesting, entertaining, and enjoyable effort that will be of interest to all Churchill readers.

Book Review

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Churchill and the Anglo-American Special Relationship edited by Alan P. Dobson and Steve Marsh consists of nine essays on the British prime minister’s building and shaping of the relationship with the United States. The nine chapters in the volume, which is part of Routledge’s Cold War History series, are “Strategic Culture’ on the Road to (and from) Fulton: Institutionalism, Emotionalism, and the Anglo-American Special Relationship,” by David G. Haglund (Queen’s University); “Churchill’s Fulton Speech and the Context of Shared Values in a World of Dangers,” by Alan P. Dobson (Swansea University); “Manipulating the Anglo-American Civilizational Identity in the Era of Churchill,” by Robert M. Hendershot (Grand Rapids Community College); “The Fulton Address as Racial Discourse,” by Srjdan Vucetic (University of Ottawa); “Personal Diplomacy at the Summit,” by Steve Marsh (Cardiff University); “Churchill’s Ambassadors – from Fulton to Suez,” by Tony McCulloch (UCL Institute of the Americas); “Churchill’s inter-subjective special relationship: a corpus-assisted discourse approach,” by Anna Marchi (Bologna University), Nuria Lorenzo-Dus (Swansea University) and Steve Marsh; “The Architecture of a Myth: Constructing and Commemorating Churchill’s Special Relationship, c. 1919-69,” by Sam Edwards (Manchester Metropolitan University); and “Curtains, Culture and ‘Collective’ Memory,” by David Ryan (University College Cork).

The scholarly essays provide interesting and detailed observations into the post-war special relationship from various viewpoints. Marsh in his essay on personal diplomacy writes that Churchill “set the mould whereby British officials would seek to guide ‘the unwieldy barge’ that was America” and the “pinnacle” of this “ambition” was “for the prime minister to establish and manipulate a close relationship with his American counterpart.” In his survey of the British ambassadors in Washington from 1939 to 1957, McCulloch concludes that the “Potomac Charter of June 1954 was in many ways the fulfilment of Churchill’s mission to revive the Anglo-American ‘special relationship,” and also includes the observation that Lord Halifax in his farewell speech as ambassador in 1946 “rivalled Churchill in his devotion to the Anglo-American ideal.”

As the editors acknowledge that “it was in the war that the Anglo-American relationship became truly special” and Warren Kimball writes in the prologue that the special relationship “cannot be understood without a firm grounding in the alliance politics of the Second World War,” the volume would have benefited from the inclusion of an essay addressing aspects of the special relationship during the war.

Churchill and the Anglo-American Special Relationship provides an insightful and original addition to the study of Winston Churchill.

Churchill Seminar

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A one-day seminar “Winston Churchill: Aspects in Focus” will be held on September 13, 2017 at the Polish Hearth Club in South Kensington, London. The morning sessions include “Churchill and the First World War” by John Lee, “Churchills and the Isle of Wight” by Anthony Churchill, “Winston Churchill and his Doctor, Lord Moran” by Tania Crasnianski, “Churchill’s Pneumonias 1943-1944” by Allister Vale, and “Broken Hip Treatment 1962: The Middlesex Hospital” by John Mather. In the afternoon the scheduled presentations are Anthony Mather and Barry De Morgan speaking on Churchill’s funeral, Elisa Segrave and John Warburton on “Bletchley Park & the National Museum of Computing,” and Celia and John Lee on “Winston and Jack Churchill.” The website for the seminar is here.

Book Review

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Churchill, Roosevelt, & Company: Studies in Character and Statecraft by Lewis E. Lehrman (Lincoln at Peoria: The Turning Point) studies the course of the Anglo-American relationship during the Second World War by focusing on the personalities of the American president, British prime minister, and other senior figures in the UK and American governments. The author recounts the successes and warmth in the relationship as well as the “rumors, jealousies, misunderstandings, and bureaucratic rigidity [that] affected relations between the United States and Britain during World War II.” Among the cast of senior figures covered in the book are Joseph Kennedy, Harry Hopkins, John Gilbert Winant, Lord Beaverbrook, Lord Lothian, Lord Halifax, George Marshall, Dwight Eisenhower, Anthony Eden, Averell Harriman, Edward Stettinius, and other lesser known individuals. While generally favorable about the character and personal habits of Winston Churchill, Lehrman is critical of Franklin Roosevelt for his disorganized administration, duplicitousness, need to be liked, and “breezy charm and superficiality.” While not breaking new ground on the subject of the Anglo-American war-time relationship, Churchill, Roosevelt, & Company is a well-written, detailed, and interesting study.

Churchill’s Last Nurse: Roy Howells

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Roy Howells was Winston Churchill’s nurse during the last years of his life. Originally from Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, Howells completed two years of national service and in 1953 began a three-year nursing course at Dulwich hospital. After he had qualified, Howells left the hospital to become a personal nurse and in April 1958 he took the position of nurse to Churchill in succession to Ivan Shepherd. Howells was first introduced to Churchill at Chartwell as the 83-year old former prime minister was “wearing glasses and drinking brandy and soda.” Howells remained with Churchill for nearly seven years, attending to him in England and accompanying him on the holidays to the south of France and cruises on Onassis’s yacht. During that time Churchill never managed to get his nurse’s name right, calling him “Howes.” In addition to his nursing duties Howell took on many other tasks including helping Churchill dress and feeding the pets. He was the first to attend to Churchill on his two falls: on November 15, 1960 when Churchill tripped at his London home and broke a small bone in his back and on June 28, 1962 when Churchill fell at the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo and broke a bone in his left thigh. Howells was present when Churchill died at home at 28 Hyde Park Gate, London on 24 January 1965. The nurse later received 250 pounds in Churchill’s will. Howells later wrote a memoir of his service with WSC titled Simply Churchill in Britain and Churchill’s Last Years in the United States.

Finest Hour

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The theme of the Summer 2017 issue of the Finest Hour: The Journal of Winston Churchill and His Times is “Churchill and the Royal Navy.” Articles include “Winston Churchill and the New Navalism,” “Churchill and Social Reform in the Royal Navy: Punishment, Pat, and Promotion,” “Winston’s Dunkirk Circus,” “Churchill’s Grand Strategy,” “Did Churchill Overrule His Naval Advisers? The Admirals Have Their Say,” “Winston is Back! Churchill’s Second Stint as First Lord of the Admiralty Reconsidered,” “Churchill, the Royal Navy, and the Bismarck.” The website of the Finest Hour is here.