Churchill and Cincinnati

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Winston Churchill’s two visits to Cincinnati are recounted in the article “Winston Churchill was paid $250 for a lecture in Cincinnati on this date in 1901.” Written by the author of this blog, it is published in today‘s Cincinnati Enquirer. Churchill visited the city on January 15, 1901 (118 years ago) and again in February 1932, both times on lecture tours. The article is here.

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Churchill Research

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The three articles by Scadding and Vale studying Winston Churchill’s strokes and cerebrovascular disease recently published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine are reviewed in “Winston Churchill’s cerebrovascular disease: small vessels with big implications” by David J. Werring (UCL Institute of Neurology and the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery). The editorial review is published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (111:9, 2018). The review finds that Scadding and Vale provide “clear and detailed accounts” and “vividly show how occlusion of even tiny arteries can have profound personal and, in Winston Churchill’s case, political implications.” The Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine can be found here.

Churchill in the News

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Winston Churchill’s visit to Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire in late 1941 to watch a test trial of the Naval Land Equipment tractor, nicknamed the ‘Nellie’ is recounted in an article in the Nottingham Post. The test of the trench-digging tank was successful, but it soon proved outdated for the Second World War battlefield and was dropped in 1943. The article is here.

Rupert Soames, grandson of Winston Churchill, selects the painting of his grandmother Clementine Churchill as his nomination for the “My Favourite Painting” column of Country Life. The article is here.

Yousuf Karsh was a 33-year old Ottawa portrait photographer when he took his famous portrait of Winston Churchill, who was visiting the Canadian capital for talks with William Lyon Mackenzie King at the end of December 1941. The portrait became the iconic image of the prime minister, while Karsh went to photograph anyone who was anyone from Albert Einstein to Muhammad Ali. An article in the New York Times describes Karsh’s career and discusses an exhibit of Karsh’s work consisting of 48 of his portraits of American personalities now on display at the Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami in Coral Gables. The article is here.

Churchill in the News

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A new 8-part BBC series, Icons, will present the achievements of 28 individuals from the fields of politics, exploration, science, entertainment, activism, sports, and arts and literature. Winston Churchill will be included in the leaders program presented by Sir Trevor McDonald along with Nelson Mandela, Margaret Thatcher, and Franklin Roosevelt. The series will be broadcast in January-February 2019. Viewers will vote on who they believe was the greatest figure of the 20th Century. A Daily Telegraph article on the series is here and the BBC series website is here.

In her column reviewing Churchill: Walking with Destiny by Andrew Roberts, Peggy Noonan, writing in the Wall Street Journal, finds it a “warm and splendid book” and draws examples from Churchill’s life that she finds apt lessons for current politics. These include Churchill’s relationship with political parties (his leaving the Conservatives for the Liberals and then re-ratting 20 years later) and his being “candid” and “frank” about his political opponents’ methods. Noonan concludes that “something especially pertinent to this moment” is that while Churchill threw insults and “fought hard for his side,” he “separated politics from personal friendship” and had friends from the left, right, and center. The article, “Churchill’s Adversaries Weren’t His Enemies,” is here.

Churchill in the News

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A 1926 article from the Guardian archives tells the story of the visit by Winston Churchill, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, to a cave in the Ceannacroc Forest in the Highlands as recounted by the Reverend A.E. Robertson of the Scottish Mountaineering Club to the annual meeting of the Cairngorm Club at Aberdeen. The article is here.

A new exhibition, “A History of Winston Churchill in 50 Objects,” will open at Chartwell in January 2019. The exhibit will include many of Churchill’s cherished possessions, such as a Churchill painting and part of Pluto Cable, which went under the English Channel to provide fuel for the D-Day landings. An article on the exhibit from the Bromley Borough News is here.

Bret Stephens, a columnist with the New York Times, despairs in his piece “An Antidote to Idiocy in ‘Churchill’,” that “we live in a time in which decent and otherwise sensible people are surrendering too easily to the hectoring of morons or extremists.” He recommends Winston Churchill as an example to be emulated in cases of such hectoring. Stephens comments that reading about the British prime minister in Andrew Roberts’s Churchill: Walking with Destiny is “an antidote to the reigning conceits, self-deceptions, half-truths and clichés of our day.” The article is here.

Churchill Bulletin

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The December issue (#126) of the Churchill Bulletin: The Newsletter of Winston Churchill has been released. It includes articles linking to conference presentations by Sir David Cannadine speaking on Churchill as a painter and Giles Milton speaking on the Special Operations Executive, as well as a C-SPAN interview with Andrew Roberts on his new biography Churchill: Walking with Destiny. The Churchilliana column discusses a figurine of the Prime Minister which was produced in 1940 by Clarice Cliff. The bulletin is available here.

Book Review

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Andrew Roberts’ Churchill: Walking with Destiny entirely deserves the acclaim it has received since its recent publication. It has been rightly judged the best one-volume comprehensive biography of Winston Churchill. To this reviewer’s mind it supplants Roy Jenkins’ Churchill as the definitive biography of its subject. The recurring theme of the book, as Roberts writes in the introduction, is “the extraordinary degree to which in 1940 Churchill’s past life had indeed been but a preparation for his leadership in the Second World War.” He assumed the premiership having, among other experiences, fought in five wars, spent four decades in parliament, held every senior cabinet post save the Foreign Office, developed a historical perspective from his writings of biography and history, and been hardened by political and personal defeats and setbacks. Most importantly, Churchill learned from both his own mistakes and those of others. During the Second World War he ensured the haphazard amateurishness of the British decision-making in 1914-15 was not repeated, nor were the army generals again allowed to dominate the politicians as they had in the First World War (to which end Churchill appointed himself Minister of Defence).

In studying a long career filled with controversy, Roberts generally offers a robust defense of his subject against the many charges usually leveled at Churchill, in several cases easily refuting the accusations by providing the fuller quote about what was actually said or written (p.272-73 on the British use of gas in Iraq). Roberts faults Churchill in the instances where he thinks he had it wrong, including the Abdication Crisis, appeasement of the unions in the second premiership, and remaining on as prime minister after his stroke in 1953.

In researching this volume, Roberts, the author of several previous books including Napoleon: A Life, has used many newly available batches of documents, including the papers of Mary Soames, the diaries of wartime Soviet ambassador to London Ivan Maisky, and, most importantly, the diaries of King George VI. At 982-pages of text Churchill: Walking with Destiny is not a short book and might intimidate some readers, but it flows easily and brilliantly describes Churchill’s life and situates him in his time. It is an engrossing and magisterial biography of its subject.

Note: The author of this blog provided Mr. Roberts with modest assistance on a few specific points during the researching of the biography under review.

Documentary Review

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They Shall Not Grow Old is an astonishing documentary. The familiar herky-jerky and often grainy scratched silent footage of the Western Front during the First World War has been entirely transformed by Peter Jackson in his film that was screened nationwide on December 17th and will be screened again on December 27th. The one-hundred year old original stilted footage that has always seemed to belong to a different and lost era has been restored with the application of technological processes to feel very lifelike and modern. The soldiers in They Shall Not Grow Old are once again made real.

The footage, drawn from the hundreds of hours of film that was shot on hand cranked cameras and is held at the Imperial War Museum, has been cleaned, sped up, and colorized with sounds of war and some music added in. The film narration is excerpted from oral history interviews with veterans conducted by the BBC in the 1960s and 1970s. Further, Jackson recruited forensic lip readers to determine what was actually being said by the soldiers on the original film in order for actors to then add the dialogue to the documentary.

Readers of this blog will find They Shall Not Grow Old of especial interest as it will provide much insight into what Winston Churchill experienced in the trenches during World War One. He served on the Western Front for six months over 1915-16, first with the Grenadier Guards and then as a battalion commander with the Royal Scots Fusiliers. The documentary informs viewers about the conditions in the trenches with the water, mud, and rats; trench raids and no-man’s land (into which Churchill ventured many times); the ever-present lice (on which as battalion commander he declared a war); the cratered landscape with the broken bodies of the wounded and dead; the artillery and sniper fire that was ever ongoing even in a “quiet sector” of the front such as Plug Street; and the sport days and training when rotated out of the line (both of which Churchill devoted himself to with the Fusiliers).

A 30-minute documentary on the making of the film is shown after the screening of They Shall Not Grow Old. It is informative about the technology employed in the meticulous restoration of the footage as well as about Peter Jackson’s own personal connections with the war.

Book Review

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Winston Churchill was famously ignored by his mother and father during his childhood, although perhaps no more so than any other aristocratic parents ignored their children in the Victorian age. They would diligently rush to his side on the occasions when he fell terribly ill, but neither parent spent nearly any time with their son and they seemed particularly disinterested in him. Lord Randolph rarely saw Winston and, perhaps attributed to the effects of his fatal illness, subjected him by letter to cruel rebukes and smashing broadsides. Lady Randolph was bored by both by Winston and his brother Jack and did not bother much to see them, as Andrew Roberts notes she saw her sons a mere 13 times in the first seven months of 1882 (for comparison, she had tea with her friend Lady Blanche Hozier 26 times in that span). Parental affection and attention was delegated to the boys’ nanny, Mrs. Everest, and somewhat to their grandmother, the Duchess of Marlborough. Despite their lack of attention, Churchill always idolized his father and worshipped his mother, writing that she “shone for me like the Evening Star. I loved her dearly – but at a distance.” Only when her sons became young men did Lady Randolph finally find them interesting and worthy of attention.

My Darling Winston: The Letters between Winston Churchill and his Mother edited by David Lough provides about 500 letters exchanged between mother and son over a 40 year period. Lough, the author of No More Champagne, estimates Winston and Lady Randolph’s correspondence numbered around 1,000 letters, of which three quarters have survived. The volume of their correspondence was, of course, impacted by the frequency of which they saw each other in person while in London, with Churchill regularly writing to his mother as a young man while abroad. Churchill’s long letters from India being a treasure trove for his future biographers and historians. Although some of the letters have been previously published, Lough’s volume is the first to provide the running exchange of letters from 1881 to Lady Randolph’s passing in 1921, leaving out only incidental letters from Churchill’s childhood. Reading the letters alongside Lough’s commentary provides insights into the relationship between mother and son, with the most ironic being Lady Randolph writing in 1914 that both her sons “lead busy lives” and she is “only an old 5th wheel.”

Book Review

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Biographic Churchill by Richard Wiles is a short introductory guide that seeks to tell the story of the statesman’s life through colorful graphics and “vivid snapshots” of information. The book is part of the “Biographic: Great Lives in Graphic Form” series from Ammonite Press, which 21 volumes have covered Jane Austen, Sherlock Holmes, Charles Dickens, and Albert Einstein. The volume includes sketches, maps, and charts. The “Trouble with Winston” section provides a timeline of Churchill’s ailments and illnesses using a graphic of a skeleton complete with top hat and cigar, while the “Clothes Maketh the Man” section includes details on his slippers, hats, and overcoats. Biographic Churchill is a fun read, which would also be of value to juvenile readers.