April 2015 marks the one hundredth anniversary of the First World War’s failed Gallipoli Campaign which was initiated by Winston Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty in the Asquith cabinet. The anniversary has been marked by commemorations in Turkey as well as commentary about the campaign including the role played by Churchill. News reports about the centenary ceremony are available from the BBC and Sydney Morning Herald, while the Daily Telegraph and Council of Foreign Relations have articles on the campaign.
At 9:30 on the night of April 24, 1908 the results of the by-election in the constituency of Manchester North-west were announced with Winston Churchill going down to defeat. Despite winning the constituency by more than 1,000 votes in the 1906 general election, he lost this by-election that was held after the seat became vacant upon his appointment to the cabinet as President of the Board of Trade. It was common practice for cabinet ministers to run unopposed in these by-elections, but Churchill’s opponent in the 1906 election, William Joynson-Hicks, returned to face him in the poll. The campaign was, in the words of Ronald Blythe in his book The Age of Illusion, “the most brilliant, entertaining and hilarious electoral fight of the century” with Manchester in “a state of near-hysteria” on polling day. The voting results were Joynson-Hicks (Unionist) 5,417, Churchill (Liberal) 4,988, and Dan Irving (Socialist) 276. Churchill’s opponents were thrilled with the result with the Daily Telegraph writing the next day that “Winston Churchill is out-out-OUT. We have all been yearning for this to happen with a yearning beyond utterance.”
After the announcement of the result Churchill drove through large crowds from the Town-Hall to the Manchester Reform Club where he received an enthusiastic welcome. In addressing the capacity crowd, he said that the result was “a heavy blow,” but remarked on the “recuperative force in Liberal principles” and encouraged his supporters to be spurred on in their efforts. Although Churchill said in his speech that the result was “bitter” and “crushing,” it was only a minor setback. Late that night the Liberals of Dundee sent him a telegram inviting him to contest the safe Liberal constituency in the upcoming by-election caused by the elevation of their sitting member of parliament to a peerage. Just two weeks later, on May 9, 1908, Churchill was easily elected at Dundee and returned to the House of Commons.
The practice of requiring members of parliament to seek reelection in their constituency upon their appointment to the cabinet was abolished in 1926.
On the afternoon of April 17, 1901, Winston Churchill delivered a lecture on “Some Impressions of the War in South Africa” before a large audience at the Royal United Service Institute in Whitehall. Unlike his previous lectures on the war, in this speech he covered a series of “technical subjects.” With his experience as a journalist and soldier in the then ongoing conflict in South Africa, Churchill, in the lecture, commented on the position and duties of the war correspondent, made recommendations regarding more effective cooperation between the artillery and infantry, and discussed the performance of the cavalry in the war. He concluded by saying that rather than create “a miniature German army in England we should build up in accordance with the natural genius of the British people a British army for the British Empire.” In attendance for the lecture were General Sir Redvers Buller, V.C., General Lord Chelmsford, the Duke of Bedford, Sir John Colomb, and Admiral Sir E.R. Fremantle.
An article on the Travel Pulse website by Doug Cogswell recounts the travels undertaken by Celia Sandys with her grandfather Winston Churchill. Sandys’ first trip as Churchill’s traveling companion was a Mediterranean cruise aboard Aristotle Onassis’ yacht in 1959 when she was 16 years old. She also accompanied her grandfather on several of his trips to the south of France, including the 1962 visit during which Churchill fell and broke his hip.
A recent Daily Mail article includes several photographs taken during a reunion dinner hosted by President Dwight Eisenhower at the home of the American ambassador during his 1959 trip to London. Churchill was the guest of honour at the event with Field Marshals Alanbrooke, Alexander, and Montgomery also in attendance.
The complete eight volumes of the official biography of Winston Churchill are being made available by RosettaBooks and Hillsdale College for free download at the Amazon Kindle store for the next three days, April 9-11th. Meticulously researched and encyclopedic in scope, the biography was written by Randolph S. Churchill and Martin Gilbert over a more than two decade period from 1966 to 1988. More information on the official biography and the free downloads can be found at the RosettaBooks website.
Winston Churchill has been studied in three recent articles published in academic journals. In the April 2015 issue of Naval History noted military historian Williamson Murray (professor emeritus at Ohio State University) reviews the Gallipoli campaign and makes a comparison to Waterloo in that both were “a terribly close run thing.” At Gallipoli, however, the result was a British defeat. In the article, entitled “The Gallipoli Gamble,” Murray comments that Churchill with his “febrile imagination” saw the results that could be achieved by launching a campaign to open up the Dardanelles and notes that the initiative, however, “rested on an underestimation of Turkish capabilities.” Murray writes further that the sacking of Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty had the result of “robbing the government of the one civilian who grasped the strategic dimensions of the great conflict.”
Chris Wrigley, author of Winston Churchill: A Biographical Companion and Emeritus Professor at the University of Nottingham, published a review of the Churchill literature in the January 2015 issue of History Today. In the article he highlights the most useful titles for the varied aspects of Churchill’s life and career.
The third article is “Caught in the Crossfire: Sir Gerald Campbell, Lord Beaverbrook and the Near Demise of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, May-October 1940” by Kent Fedorowich and published in the January 2015 issue of The Journal of Military History. The article recounts the squabbling between the Air Ministry and the Ministry of Aircraft Production as well as the saga surrounding the “corrosive remarks” uttered by Beaverbrook and reported to Canadian prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King which threatened to damage Anglo-Canadian relations. Churchill’s role in the affair is described with Fedorowich noting both that the prime minister’s loyalties in the matter lay with Beaverbrook and that the affair “demonstrated that Churchill needed to get a firmer grip on his eccentric minister.”
On April 4, 1955, on the eve of his retirement as prime minister, Winston Churchill entertained Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh at a farewell dinner held at 10 Downing Street, an event that was seen to represent his “sense of history and drama.” As the 80-year old Churchill spent his last full day as prime minister, there was a great bustle of activity at Downing Street in preparation for the dinner, including the arrival of a “great profusion” of flowers from Chartwell. That evening Churchill, dressed in black breeches and the regalia of a Knight of the Garter, waved to the large crowd that had gathered in Downing Street and its approaches as he awaited the arrival of the royal car. The prime minister and his wife Clementine greeted the Queen on her arrival and then they moved to the state dining room. Among the other attendees were Anthony Eden and his wife Clarissa (who was also Churchill’s niece), Clement Attlee, Herbert Morrison, Field Marshal Alexander, Field Marshal Montgomery, the Duke of Norfolk, Harold Macmillan, Viscount Bracken, Lord Cherwell, Viscount Thurso, and three of the Churchill children: Randolph, Diana, and Mary. Served at the dinner was turtle soup, fresh salmon, saddle of lamb, fresh peaches and cream, coffee and liqueurs. Churchill was “visibly moved” as he made a brief toast to the health of Queen Elizabeth and praised the British monarchy. In reply the Queen made a toast to her prime minister’s health. The Queen remained 45 minutes longer than expected and departed at 12:15 with Churchill opening the door of the red Rolls Royce for her. The next day Churchill would go to Buckingham Palace to resign as prime minister.
On the evening of April 1, 1949, Winston Churchill received the appointment as an honorary lecturer of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the institute’s convocation ceremony held at the Boston Garden. The previous day he had arrived in Boston as part of his 11-day visit to the United States and delivered a major foreign policy speech to an audience of 14,000 people at the Garden. (The speech is available here.) Along with his party he spent the night at a suite on the 16th floor of the city’s Ritz-Carlton hotel. Most of the world’s newspapers on April 1, 1949, except for the Soviet ones which were silent on the topic, commented on Churchill’s speech. In that evening’s convocation ceremony Harold E. Stassen, the president of the University of Pennsylvania and already a perennial candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, made the keynote address. He used the speech to call for a “McArthur Plan in Asia” to replicate the Marshall Plan in Europe. In his remarks Stassen lauded Churchill, who was seated on the platform, as “that contemporary Shakespeare, Burke, and Nelson cast in one dramatic mold.” Following Stassen’s address Churchill received a gold key from Otto E. Kirchner on behalf of the MIT student body and then the honorary lectureship from MIT’s new president Dr. James R. Killian Jr. Declaring himself “off duty tonight,” Churchill made a short address in thanks for the two gifts. After the ceremony, Churchill and his party took the midnight train for New York where they were to board the Queen Mary bound for England the next day.