This Day in Churchill History

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On the evening of June 2, 1938, Winston Churchill declared that “volcanic forces were moving in Europe” in a speech on the European situation at a meeting of the League of Nations Union in Birmingham. He said that “the idea that dictators could be appeased by kind words and minor concessions was doomed to disappointment.” The “dictator countries” were preparing night and day to advance their ambitions and that Britain and other countries were in great danger. Churchill observed that at the moment Britain was sheltered by the strength of the French army and the supremacy of the Royal Navy. In the air Britain was, however, falling farther and farther behind. Speaking on the Spanish Civil War, he said that the German and Italian interference in the conflict was shameful and in that light he found it “very difficult” to remain neutral.

This Day in Churchill History

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On the morning of May 29, 1914, the First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill made a flight from the Central Flying School, Upavon to Portsmouth. He had been at the flying school for a couple of days undertaking practice flights as part of his flying lessons. Flying aboard a military biplane piloted by Major E.L. Gerrard, the flight covered the 60 miles to Portsmouth in about 40 minutes. While he had been expected in Portsmouth it was not generally known that he would arrive by air. The biplane flew into Portsmouth over Portsdown Hill and made one wide circle before landing on the drill field attached to the Royal Field Artillery barracks at Hilsea shortly after 11 o’clock. After alighting from the biplane Churchill went to the officers’ mess and afterwards went by motor car to the dockyard where the Admiralty yacht Enchantress was docked. That afternoon Churchill made a tour of the dockyard before returning to the yacht where he was joined by his brother Jack, his sister-in-law Goonie, and Archie Sinclair.

This Day in Churchill History

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On May 26, 1922 Winston Churchill, then Colonial Secretary in David Lloyd-George’s government, conferred with Irish leaders and his own cabinet colleagues in an attempt to resolve the latest crisis in the implementation of the Anglo-Irish treaty. At 11 o’clock that morning Arthur Griffith, President of Dail Eireann, arrived at the Colonial Office where he was met by Churchill. A little later Eamonn Duggan accompanied by Hugh Kennedy, KC and Kervin Higgins arrived to join the meeting that lasted until 2 o’clock. The Collins-De Valera electoral agreement signed days earlier was discussed with Churchill closely questioning the Irish leaders about the precise meaning of the bargain with the anti-treaty forces. Later that afternoon Churchill attended a meeting of the British signatories of the Irish Treaty, that included Lloyd George, Hamar Greenwood, Austen Chamberlain, and Laming Worthington-Evans, at 10 Downing Street. The meeting lasted an hour and a half. Thereafter Churchill and others present at the meeting adjourned to the Colonial Office for further discussion.

Churchill Bulletin

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The May issue of the Churchill Bulletin: The Newsletter of Winston Churchill has been released. It includes articles on Lady Williams of Elvel (one of Churchill’s last-surviving secretaries) speaking at the 2017 Churchill conference, the awarding of the Winston Churchill Leadership Medal to John C. Danforth, and Churchilliana: the Roosevelt and Churchill Royal Winton teapot. Also included are reviews of the new book Churchill & Orwell: The Fight for Freedom and the movie Churchill. The newsletter is available here.

 

Book Review

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As Richard Toye (University of Exeter), the editor of Winston Churchill: Politics, Strategy, and Statecraft, notes in the book’s introduction the “sheer length and variety of Churchill’s career make it hard to get to grips with its full complexity.” To contribute to a fuller understanding of Churchill the volume provides a collection of 14 brief essays on the important issues of his life and career written by many of the leading Churchill scholars.

After the introductory essay by Toye that provides a biographical overview of Churchill, the thematic chapters in the book are “Churchill: The Young Statesman, 1901-1914” by David Thackeray (University of Exeter), “Winston Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty, 23 October 1911 – 24 May 1915” by Martin Thornton (University of Leeds), “Churchill as Chancellor of the Exchequer (1924–9) and the Return to the Gold Standard” by Peter Catterall (University of Westminster), “Churchill and Labour” by Chris Wrigley (University of Nottingham), “Churchill and the General Strike, 1926” by Peter Catterall (University of Westminster), “Churchill and the Conservative Party” by Stuart Ball (University of Leicester), “Churchill and Women” by Paul Addison (University of Edinburgh), “Churchill and Empire” by the editor, “Churchill and the Islamic World” by Warren Dockter (University of Cambridge), “Churchill and Airpower” by Richard Overy (University of Exeter), “Churchill as Strategist in World War Two” by Jeremy Black (University of Exeter), and “The Birth of the Anglo-American Special Relationship” by David Woolner (Roosevelt Institute). The volume concludes with “Churchill and Nuclear Weapons” and “Winston Churchill and the Cold War,” both by Kevin Ruane (Canterbury Christ Church University).

Several interesting points are made in the essays including Stuart Ball’s observation in his contribution that Churchill’s relationship with the Conservative party went through many phases from critic within the party to party leader and that “it is easy to focus too much on his periods of conflict with the established leadership and therefore get this out of proportion.” As Ball notes “during his forty-three-and-a-half years as a Conservative Member of Parliament, he was a rebel for a total of only eleven-and-a half years.” Likewise in his essay on the general strike, Peter Catterall writes that Churchill’s actual role in the strike itself has been exaggerated as opposed to his part in attempting to resolve the coal dispute that had led to the strike. Paul Addison drew the difficult assignment of writing on Churchill and women. Lady Soames at an event several years ago remarked that she did not believe her father was particularly good on women, while Addison in his essay observes that Churchill was neither a misogynist nor a feminist. After his retirement, however, Churchill had reached the point that he did support the admission of women to Churchill College, Cambridge on an equal basis as men.

With 14 essays Winston Churchill: Politics, Strategy, and Statecraft, of course, cannot be comprehensive, but the volume would have benefited by having separate chapters on Churchill and the Dardanelles, Churchill and appeasement, Churchill and his second premiership, and, perhaps, Churchill and Europe.

Winston Churchill: Politics, Strategy, and Statecraft nonetheless succeeds admirably in its stated goal of providing “a short, accessible and analytical introduction to the key themes in Churchill’s life.”

Churchill in the News

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A new permanent exhibition at the Churchill War Rooms will study Winston Churchill’s involvement in the Middle East. In the Guardian article on the exhibit Warren Dockter comments that Churchill’s involvement in the Middle East, starting when he became secretary of state for the colonies in 1921, has been “wildly misunderstood” compared with his time as prime minister but is now more important than ever. Opening this year the exhibit will include artifacts such as maps, photos, souvenirs, and letters as well as employ digital technology. The Guardian’s report on the exhibition is here.

Churchill in the News

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A charcoal drawing by Gerald Scarfe of Winston Churchill’s final appearance at the age of 89 in the House of Commons on July 28, 1964 is up for auction at Sotheby’s with an estimated price of £100,000 – £150,000. Having commissioned the artist to make the drawing, The Times declined to print the rendering. An image of the drawing and further information on the sale is available at the Sotheby’s website.

Churchill Bulletin

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The April 2017 (#106) issue of the Churchill Bulletin: The monthly newsletter of The International Churchill Society has been released. It includes articles on 2017 International Churchill Conference, Jon Meacham’s delivery of the National Churchill Museum’s annual Enid and R. Crosby Kemper Lecture, Churchill Collectables: 1940 Lawton Figurals, and a review of Secrets of Churchill’s War Rooms. The newsletter is available here.

Churchill in the News

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An article from ABC News describes the search for a “lost letter” that may prove that a Queensland soldier saved Winston Churchill’s life during the Boer War. Private Fergus McFadzen was serving in the 4th South Africa ‘Queensland Imperial Bushmen Contingent’ and was out foraging for hay when he spotted Churchill alone on the veld. McFadzen recalled that “we were a long way from the British lines, and from the direction Churchill was heading he would have missed the lot of us by miles, and either been shot by a Boer sniper or again taken prisoner.” The Australian private pulled Churchill onto his horse and “landed him back safely in the British camp.” The article is available here and a 1944 article on the story is here.

Churchill Research

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The article “It’s a Case of All or None: ‘Jacky’ Fisher’s Advice to Winston Churchill, 1911” by Simon Harley and published in The Mariner’s Mirror (102:2, May 2016) considers the relationship between Churchill as newly appointed First Lord of the Admiralty and Admiral Jacky Fisher, First Sea Lord from 1904 to 1910. Harley challenges the commonly held view that Churchill “adopted wholesale” Fisher’s advice about senior naval appointments by examining the surviving correspondence between the two for a two month period in late 1911. While conceding Churchill was in Fisher’s “thrall,” Harley finds that the new First Lord of the Admiralty did not “slavishly” follow the often erratic advice that was being offered. The journal’s website is here.