An article entitled “Churchill Rejoins the Ranks” by the author of this blog was published in the most recent issue of Military History (November 2015). The article describes Winston Churchill’s service as an officer with the British army in France during the First World War, including four months as the commander of the 6th battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers. The magazine web site is here.
Christopher M. Bell, author of Churchill and Seapower, has published “Air Power and the Battle of the Atlantic: Very Long Range Aircraft and the Delay in Closing the Atlantic ‘Air Gap” in the latest issue of the Journal of Military History (July 2015). The article considers the failure of the Royal Air Force’s Coastal Command to acquire the Very Long Range aircraft needed to close the mid-Atlantic Air Gap until May 1943. Previously Winston Churchill has been identified as one of the “usual villains in the story” who was thought to deny aircraft to Coastal Command in favor of providing them to Bomber Command. Bell examines the issue and Churchill’s role in the affair. He finds that Churchill, while “strongly predisposed to support the claims of Bomber Command,” did not delay the provision of the necessary aircraft to Coastal Command. When presented with the aircraft request in November 1942 Churchill gave it his full support. Bell finds that Churchill’s intervention “accelerated” rather than delayed the provision of the aircraft to Coastal Command and the closing of the Air Gap. The web site for the Journal of Military History is here.
The latest issue of the Finest Hour: The Journal of Winston Churchill was recently published and is devoted to the 100th anniversary of the Dardanelles campaign. As First Lord of the Admiralty in the Asquith cabinet, Winston Churchill instigated the campaign that eventually ended in failure and tarnished his career. Articles are included on the role of the French at the Dardanelles, an Australian perspective on the campaign, and an analysis of Churchill’s strategy in the Mediterranean during the two world wars. Other articles included in the issue are on the naval base at Scapa Flow, Singapore, and Churchill and T.E. Lawrence. The Finest Hour web site is here.
On August 19, 1893 the 18-year old Winston Churchill was at the Hotel de Zermatt in Zermatt, Switzerland on a walking tour of the country. The tour was made in the company of his brother Jack as well as J.D.G. Little, an Eton tutor.
During the tour the group climbed in the mountains and went to Lausanne. In his memoirs of his youth, My Early Life, Churchill tells the story of how he and his brother went for a row in a small boat on the beautiful lake at Lausanne. When they were over a mile from shore Winston and Jack decided to pull off their clothes and jump into the water for a swim. They had great fun. Their boat was about 100 yards away with a breeze picking up when they decided they had had enough swimming. As the pair swam towards the boat it drifted farther along with the vessel’s awning acting as a sail in the breeze. After hard swimming they only halved the distance to the boat while the breeze was strengthening and both of them were tiring. Churchill later wrote that “up to this point no idea of danger had crossed my mind.” The boat was, however, moving away from them at about the same speed as they could swim.
With no help nearby and the shore too far away, the desperate situation they faced became apparent. It was in the water at Lausanne that day that Churchill “now saw Death as near as I believe I have ever seen Him.” Death was “swimming in the water at our side, whispering from time to time in the rising wind.” Winston desperately swam ahead of Jack. Twice he came within a yard of the boat only to see it carried off by another gust of wind. At last with a “supreme effort” he caught a hold of its side and held on just as another breeze caught the awning. Churchill managed to scramble aboard the boat and quickly rowed back for Jack who was tired but unaware of the “dull yellow glare of mortal peril that had so suddenly played around us.”
On August 14, 1923, Winston Churchill was temporarily out of the House of Commons after his defeat in the 1922 election. Earlier that month he had accepted an offer from Royal Dutch Shell and the Burmah Oil Company to lobby the government to support their merger with the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. That day he went to 10 Downing Street, entering by the Treasury entrance in order to avoid notice, for an interview with Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin. This was their first meeting since Baldwin had become prime minister in May of the year. They discussed the merger, which Baldwin was found to favor, as well as other issues including the Ruhr occupation, the American debt and reparations, the Admiralty and the air, and more generally politics. That night Churchill met with his friend Admiral Roger Keyes and had a long talk about the World War.
In the August 2015 issue of History Today, Roland Quinault has published an interesting article entitled “Churchill and the Cunarders” in which he describes Winston Churchill’s relationship with the Cunard shipping line. The article describes Churchill’s many trips aboard the company’s liners (on his first crossing of the Atlantic in 1895 he travelled aboard the Cunard liner Etruria), the 1935 article he wrote about the Cunard’s then new liner the Queen Mary, and his employment of Cunard’s ships as troop carriers in both world wars. The History Today website is available here.
Churchill’s return crossing of the Atlantic aboard the Cunard liner Berengaria (pictured above) after his three month tour of Canada and the United States is described in my own book Churchill in North America, 1929.
On August 7, 1941 Prime Minister Churchill was aboard the HMS Prince of Wales bound for the coast of Newfoundland to meet President Franklin Roosevelt. During the day German radio reported that the British and American leaders were soon to have a meeting in the Western Hemisphere. Ian Jacobs, a Churchill military advisor, thought the prime minister was not the least concerned about the German report and was “secretly hoping the Tirpitz will come out and have a dart at him.” Churchill met with his advisors aboard the ship and sent cables to Clement Attlee, acting Prime Minister in London, and to Lord Beaverbook inviting him to attend the conference. He also wrote to his wife Clementine. That night at the prime minister’s dinner table, United States presidential envoy Harry Hopkins, who had just returned from Russia, brought out a jar of caviar. Later in the evening Churchill and his advisors watched the Humphrey Bogart film High Sierra in the wardroom. After the film, which ended with the death of Bogart’s character, Churchill remarked, “And a good time was had by all.” Towards midnight he played backgammon with Hopkins as some of his entourage slipped off for the night.
Three recent newspaper articles discussed different aspects of Winston Churchill’s long and varied life. An article in the Daily Express recounted the story of Winston Churchill’s adventure in Cuba as a young army officer in 1895, while the Mirror had an article on the Second World War tunnels beneath the White Cliffs of Dover that Churchill personally inspected as prime minister in 1941. A third piece, this one in the Detroit News, considered Churchill’s electoral defeat in 1945.