Posted by: Dr Churchill | September 16, 2017

What would Winston Churchill Do? (Chapter 41)

Winston Churchill, ever since he was a little child, had always believed in his own special Destiny to achieve great things. And he was indeed grateful for that chance to participate in Life’s great sacred rights.

In his faith it was said that he was living faithfully, always seeking to be in a state of Grace, and it was his bible reading each and every night, that helped him do that easily. Jesus the Jewish revolutionary Rabbi, was his savior, but also the bedrock of his courage, and the secret inspiration for his life’s exploits…

Because he somehow felt certain, that he had been placed upon God’s green Earth, in order to carry out some serious and critical purpose for the maintenance of humanity and for Western Christian Civilization. That is the extraordinary part of his belief that sprang from his Christian faith, and also from the special awareness of the Kingly blood that flowed in his veins, and the Marlborough lineage, but also his own throbbing ambition coupled with the famed Churchill energy, and the supreme confidence in his innate leadership skills, and executive abilities.

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And for all that, is why people saw him as fearless, courageous, and righteous. Because all three things were second nature for him, he didn’t give it a second thought as the regular Winston was acting out and living truly the way that felt natural to him. And today, we are all recipients of this extraordinary nature, that brought him forward to fight and win the battle for the Christian Western Civilization, and that is why this American Churchill writes this book. Not as a memory, but as a “Memento Mori” from someone who lived life as a guided mission for an understanding heart, and nothing more.

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Winston’s belief in his infallibility, also stemmed from his Invictus nature, amply justified because, as a young soldier, he had narrowly escaped death multiple times as all those around him were felled. Indeed, he never dwelt on these experiences, except when he recalled them for friends speaking of these exploits with fascination and awe, and always explaining them this way: “These hazards swoop on me out of a cloudless sky, and that I have hitherto come unscathed through them, while it fills my heart with thankfulness to God for His mercies, it also makes me wonder, why I must be so often thrust to the brink and then withdrawn.”

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Long after he had written these lines, he had many other close escapes from destruction, from intentional assassination attempts from the enemies of his country and cause, or from plain acts of war when he served in the battle field — something that he dod all his Life in one form or another, for Winston was a fighter above all else. As an example we might recall that as a child he fell in a comma after a serious fall over a bridge, and he was not expected to survive, and yet he came out of it alive and well, after three days. And also when he was a tiny tot, he fell in deep icy water in the Blenheim’s frozen pond, during a sustained Oxfordshire snowstorm. He fell, while he was playing at ice-skating, and the thin ice broke, and little Winston fell through. He was somehow saved from drowning in the frozen pond, but the details are murky. He was saved in the Afghanistan campaign of Malakand by grace, when he was surrounded by the famously blood thirsty murderous Pashtuns, who had just slain his commanding officer and he had taken control. Yet without any bullets left in his pistol — he somehow survived, escaped, and also saved his fellow soldiers from that ambush. Another time, he was clearly saved by divine will, during the Cavalry charge at Odurman in Sudan, when his brother soldiers on both right and left of him were cut down. And he was also rather providentially saved, in the nick of time, when during the first World War inside the Somme trench warfare at ‘Plugstreet’ his ‘dugout’ was blown up by a German shell, scoring a direct hit on Winston’s clothes and kit — barely a minute after he had left it. Or as he was saved, due to providence again, when his aeroplane crashed, and he managed to crawl out from the ruin, and walked away with minor scratches. Or when he had a collision with a New York taxi that run him over, while he was looking the wrong way as he was trying to cross the 5th Avenue to find his friend Baruch’s building, and he survived after the requisite hospital stay and the convalescence period, that did him a world of good.

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Later he survived a dozen assassination attempts by the Nazis to dispatch him and another dozen by the Communists. And famously enough, he also survived a joint assassination attempt that was carried against him by a joint effort between the retreating German Nazis and the advancing Soviet Communists that tried to blow up the Hotel “Grand Bretagne” he was staying in newly liberated Athens Greece, where he was negotiating a Peace Accord for this small country’s return to democracy after the Nazi occupation, famine, and privations by both Nazis and Communists splitting the country in a vicious Un-Civil War. He survived that too… after the tons of German dynamite were discovered minutes before their detonation was effected.

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Apparently, all of these near misses, the rewarding risks, his recurrent escapes, and the life saving mishaps, simply confirmed his faith, and further fostered his courage, now that he knew his life was being guarded from above. Surely the reason was that some great labor was expected of him. He assumed that was something that he needed to perform in his public role.

Yet in 1931 that specific role was hard to see.

As it turns out, at this time most pundits, politicians, and journalistic observers, regarded his career as totally finished. They all pointed to his independent and reckless nature that had led him into fierce disagreements with his last remaining colleagues, from both major parties. As a matter of fact, he had quarrelled with all three parties and their leaders so vehemently that he was now, the most hated man in the English parliament.

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The Conservatives had reluctantly forgiven him once, and now that their misgivings had been realized anew, they were not likely to forgive him again. The liberal Party was dead. And the Labour Party was beyond the pale, and still smarting after going for Winston’s hide in earnest.

So what was a man to do? Where was the famous Winston resilience? Where is the next lily pad for this little frog to jump to? Where is the future for this glow-worm?

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These questions must have bedeviled Churchill as he prayed at night for guidance, when he consulted his Bible and pondered the special passages that he marked with scraps of colored paper. Yet it is curious that in 1931, at the very moment when his path was blocked, and his political career had apparently ended in a quagmire, from which there seemed to be no rescue — his fortunes were, in fact at least moving on the upward swing, which was to carry him to world fame. Except himself, didn’t know that, nor did anyone else could have foreseen. The change was not discernible to the public eye, or even to that of the trained observers, because the initial turn of events did not stem from his efforts as a statesman, but from his other activities as a painter, a writer, and an overall creative yet scientifically accurate and imaginative author.

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Because aside form painting his large canvases, back in 1931, he had began writing the life of the first Duke of Marlborough, General John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, 1st Prince of Mindelheim, 1st Count of the English Realm, John Churchill, the son of Sir Winston Churchill (1620–1688) member of the English Parliament House of Commons, a gentleman from Glanvilles Wootton in Dorset, and his wife Elizabeth Drake. For Winston this work was save for the Soul, because the carefully focused and sustained mental effort, and the thoughtful inspiration which he poured into this literary masterpiece, with its stories of tyranny’s domination and the honorable battle that brought about the ultimate salvation — was so strangely and strikingly intertwined and parallel to the unknown story that lay ahead and that was soon to unfold in all it’s majestic glory. In mu mind, it was indeed, this magnificent work of understanding the pure battle between Good and Evil, that informed and prepared Winston for the leadership of Britain in the second World War, and for the eventual liberation of Humanity for the forces of darkness and malice.

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Indeed he drew great stores of divine inspiration, and mental comfort from this monumental and heroic work of historical significance, but most importantly he learned lessons in strategy and diplomacy form his long dead yet brilliant ancestor. Lessons that he put to use immediately in the fight to save his people when all other leaders had given up the battle as lost and wanted to sue for terms under Hitler. Yet Winston would choose to stand up like another John Churchill, and ride “buck naked” all alone, towards salvation, knowing fully well, that in the end, he will be rewarded through Grace’s steady hand…

Talking about divine interference, and intervention, is easy when you see that ever since Winston was a child he had read and devoured everything he could lay his hands on about his great ancestor, John Churchill. Here was a tale that contained every element of drama; the story of the unknown youth who rose from obscurity to become one of the greatest generals of all time and who saved his country and half Europe from the tyranny of Louis XIV; the handsome youth who fascinated the King’s mistress; the penniless youth who became the richest man in Europe; the sought-after youth who loved his wife passionately for fifty years; the ambitious youth who not only won every battle he ever fought but by his brilliant diplomacy virtually became the political master of England. There was nothing missing.

Love, danger, intrigue, bloody battles & all out war, revolution, and counterrevolution — all threaded their way through this astonishing life.

It is small wonder that Winston was tempted to write the thrilling record. There were masses of papers at Blenheim Palace filed away in cardboard cabinets and carefully docketed, containing valuable information that had never been published. Yet there was something that had always stopped him from writing the story. Marlborough’s name had come down through history not only as a hero but also as a terrific villain. He obviously had rendered great services to England but his deeds were darkened by accusations of corruption, and unforgivable treachery.

Marlborough had risen to power through the favour of James the Second. But when he saw that James was determined to turn England into a Catholic country and make himself an absolute monarch, Churchill deserted him, and was instrumental in placing William of Orange on the throne. James fled to France. Six years later, when William organized an attack against the French Fleet at Brest, Marlborough, it is alleged, wrote a letter to James, known as the Cabaret Bay Letter, in order that the French might be informed of the impending operation. Some historians attributed this act to Marlborough’s desire to re-establish himself with the Jacobites in case James one day was restored to the English throne. Others claim that Marlborough’s wish was to see the English commander fail so that he himself might receive promotion. Whatever the motive an act of this nature was vile and unforgivable. Winston till that time had refused to write about John Churchill’s life.

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However, one day he visited his father’s old friend, Lord Rosebery, who urged him to take up the task, and here is the account he gives of the conversation. “Surely,” said Rosebery: “you must write Duke John, because he was a tremendous fellow.” I said that I had from my childhood read everything I came across about him, but that Macaulay’s story of the betrayal of the expedition against Brest was an obstacle I could not face. The aged and crippled statesman arose from the luncheon table, and, with great difficulty but sure knowledge, made his way along the passage of the Durdans to the exact nook in his capacious working library where “Pagefs Examen” reposed. “There,” he said, taking down this unknown, out-of-print masterpiece, “is the answer to Macaulay.”

“Pagefs Examen” proved conclusively that Marlborough’s letter betraying the Brest Expedition was written only after he knew that it had been betrayed already, and could do no harm. Winston’s strict code of military honor was still not appeased; nevertheless, it gave him the heart to start the book. But as his research proceeded he discovered that the letter Marlborough was accused of having written did not, in fact, exist. Only an alleged copy of the letter had been preserved. Winston was able to prove to the satisfaction of most historians that this copy was a forgery.

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Soon Winston was more engrossed in his book “Life of Marlborough” than in anything he had ever written before. He had always had strong sentimental attachments to Blenheim, the massive Palace that had been built for John Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough, in recognition of his services, for not only had Winston been born there, but he had also proposed to his wife there. Once he remarked to a friend: “At Blenheim I took two very important decisions. To be born and to marry. I am happily content with the decisions I took on both occasions.”

Now he flung himself into the task of clearing his ancestor’s name with passionate concern. He singled out Lord Macaulay, the great historian, as the villain of the piece. Macaulay was only one of many historians who had painted John Winston Churchill’s character in black lines, but whereas the others were no longer widely read, Macaulay’s wonderful sense of drama and lucid, flowing prose still commanded a large segment of the public’s perception and belief.

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Besides, Winston felt a sense of personal grievance against Macaulay. As a
boy he had been under the spell of the master; he had read and re-read his
History of England, his essays, and had even learned by heart a great portion of The Lays of Ancient Rome. Macaulay had taught him more about style and construction than anyone else and now to come to the conclusion that the historian had deliberately sacrificed the truth, at the expense of a Churchill, to make his story more dramatic, roused Winston to real anger.

Throughout the first two volumes of ‘Marlborough’ Winston conducts a duel with Macaulay in the wings. He flings up the historian’s remarks and attempts to show that his interpretation was wholly false. “Unhappily, Macaulay had written, ‘the splendid qualities of John Churchill were mingled with alloy of the most sordid kind. Some propensities which in youth are singularly ungraceful, began very early to show themselves in him. He was thrifty in his very vices, and levied ample contributions on ladies enriched by the spoils of more liberal lovers. He was, during a short time, the object of the violent but fickle fondness of the Duchess of Cleveland. Barbara Palmer, 1st Duchess of Cleveland lived from the 27th of November 1640 – to the 9th of October 1709, and she was also known by her marital title as Countess of Castlemaine. She was the quintessential English Royal Mistress, Barbara was the most notorious of the many mistresses of King Charles II of England, with whom she had five children, all of whom were eventually acknowledged and subsequently ennobled. Her influence was so great that she has been referred to as “The Uncrowned Queen” by her contemporaries.
Barbara was the subject of many portraits, in particular by court painter Sir Peter Lely. Her extravagance, foul temper and promiscuity provoked diarist John Evelyn into describing her as the “curse of the nation” whereas Samuel Pepys often noted seeing her, admiringly.

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But with this lovely lady, our Hero’s hero, John Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough, was almost caught “in flagrante delicto” because on one occasion he was in ‘ardour amour’ entwined with the Royal Concubine in her great bedchamber, and was startled by the sudden arrival of the King.
It was then that John Churchill showed his instinctive Gallantry to protect a “Damsel in distress” as he forced himself to leap out of the window of her second story bedroom, buck naked, as King Charles walked through her boudoir to her bedroom. John Churchill managed to survive the naked high jump, with his manhood untrampled, and still nude got on a horse and rode off, and thus made good his escape. This appears to be a daring escape in a similar way that his great great grandson many years later, made his own escape from the Boers by jumping down from the roof of his internment camp toilets — albeit with his clothes still on.

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This was to be a source of merriment for the drinks session because many times over the years Winston used to recount this story as he joked privately in a rather coarse tone, amongst male friends in the club or at the tea room, when full of guffaws, would start by saying: “That this story he was going to share was politically incorrect for his age and time, let alone for his gentlemanly sensibilities, and yet there’s got to be something with the Churchills jumping the ladies, and jumping from the ladies.”

Often times, he intimated that it was his special trait to be able to survive both feats: “Jumping into the fire and jumping out of the fire.”

“Still the story ended well for our gallant Lover, John Churchill, who was destined to become the Duke of Marlborough, because the grateful Royal Concubine rewarded his hazardous feat of gallantry, his secrecy, and without a doubt his “stud” services, with a present of 5,000 Sterlings. Rewarded with this vast sum, the prudent young hero instantly went and bought himself an annuity of 500 a year, that was secured well on landed property.
And John Churchill invested wisely and thus was rich before long. Already his private drawers contained heaps of broad gold and silver pieces, which, fifty years later, when he was a Duke, a Prince of the Empire, and the richest subject in Europe — remained untouched.” This is how Winston presented his predecessor, in his book ‘The History of Marlborough’ by Winston S. Churchill…

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But history was not so kind to him as his lovers were, and it was here that the historian Macaulay returned to attack John Churchill harping on this theme again and again by writing that: “He subsisted upon the infamous wages bestowed upon him by the Duchess of Cleveland. He was insatiable of riches. He was one of the few who have in the bloom of youth loved lucre, more than wine, or women, and who have, at the height of greatness, loved lucre, more than power, or fame. All the precious gifts which nature had lavished upon him he valued chiefly for what they would fetch. At twenty he made money of his beauty and his vigour; at sixty he made money of his genius and his glory.”

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So many years later, when Winston tackled these imputations against John Winston Churchill’s character — he held a strong card in his hand: “The fact that Churchill had married a penniless girl.” “He was handsome and sought after. He could have won a great heiress; indeed, his family had their eye on one and urged him to consider improving his fortunes by doing so. Instead he married the hot-tempered, fascinating Sarah Jennings who had neither money nor property; and their marriage became one of the great love stories of the age.”

Winston did not only tilt his lance at the historical Macaulay, but he delivered a formidable frontal attack against Macaulay’s literary descendant, Professor Trevelyan, whose faithful, fair, and deeply informed writings are establishing a new view of these times and the men who made them, has offered the best defence in his power for the historical malversations of his great great uncle.
Winston Churchill says in effect that Macaulay, with his sense of the dramatic, vilified Marlborough’s early life in order by contrast to make the glories of his great period stand out more vividly. He had completed the black background, but died before he could paint upon it “the scarlet coat and flashing eye of the victor of Blenheim.”

“We need not reject this apologia nor the confession which it implies. But what a way to write history. On this showing the best that can be provided Lord Macaulay stands convicted of deliberately falsifying facts and making the most revolting accusations upon evidence which he knew, and in other connections even admitted, was worthless, for the purpose of bringing more startling contrasts and colour into his imaginative picture and of making the crowds gape at it.”

“Macaulay’s life-work lay in the region of words, and few have been finer word spinners. Marlborough’s life is only known by his deeds. The comparison is unequal, because words are easy and many, while great deeds are difficult and rare. But there is no treachery or misconduct of which Macaulay’s malice has accused Marlborough in the field of action which is not equalled, were it true, by his own behaviour in this domain of history and letters over which he has sought to reign. It is beyond our hopes to overtake Lord Macaulay. The grandeur and sweep of his storytelling style carries him swiftly along, and with every generation he enters new fields. We can only hope that Truth will follow swiftly enough to fasten the label “liar” to his genteel coat-tails as seen in the History of England, written by noted historian Lord Macaulay.”

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The attack on Macaulay drew a letter of protest from Professor Trevelyan which was published in The Times Literary Supplement on 19th of October, 1933. An extract reads as follows: “I have stated elsewhere that I think Macaulay was wrong in his reading of Marlborough. Indeed, I think it is the worst thing in his History, and I have no wonder that Winston Churchill’s family piety has aroused him to take revenge. All the same, he has no right to call Macaulay a “liar.” A “liar” is not a man who misreads another man’s character, however badly, or who sometimes accepts inadequate evidence; if that were so, almost all historians would be “liars”. A “liar” is a man who makes a statement that he knows to be false. Now, the facts that Macaulay states, barring the Cabaret letter, are not very different from Winston Churchill’s facts.

“Winston Churchill admits that he took for patron the man who kept his sister; that he himself took money from his own mistress, and invested it well; that he deserted James while high in his military service; that he afterwards corresponded with the Jacobites. I agree with Winston Churchill that his desertion of James was in the circumstances commendable, and the other three actions by the standards of the times not unpardonable. But there is a surface case against Marlborough, and many people in his own day thought ill of him. A historian who, before the days of our modern research, was deceived by these phenomena into thinking Marlborough a bad man was not necessarily dishonest.”

Winston’s attack on Macaulay was only one small aspect of his biography. It constituted the stepping stones by which he led Marlborough to the summit from which, he believed, posterity should view him. But the importance of the work lies not only in his central figure but in the skill with which he brings alive all the leading characters of the time. Sarah Jennings, Godolphin, Prince Eugene, Queen Anne, Bolingbroke, and many others walk confidently through his pages and their complicated relations with one another, developed with a true touch of genius, reveal a century of tumultuous history which slowly unrolls before the reader’s fascinated gaze. As a history it is as dramatic as Lord Macaulay’s own, written in the same grandly flowing prose.

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As a literary work it is on the same colossal scale as Tolstoy’s War and Peace and handled with such technical brilliance that one can admire it as an artistic achievement even though the characters are limited to a framework of fact.

Yet what makes the Life of Marlborough truly distinctive is the feeling that no professional historian could have written it. The story of Marlborough is the story of a struggle for power. Sometimes the struggle was in ruling circles in England, sometimes on the battlefields, sometimes at a foreign court, but throughout the book it is a strong and constant clash.

This subject, the essence of history, had always interested Winston more than any other. He had spent many months of his life studying its causes and effects and he had witnessed it at first-hand in the years preceding the Great War and in the war itself. Besides, his long experience in Parliament had given him special knowledge of the rivalries and emotions, of the jostling for position behind the scenes, and he drew upon his rich knowledge in interpreting the characters and the actions of a bygone day. His chapter on the Camaret Bay Letter is a masterpiece of evidence and argument that could only have been written by a man who understood every current of political life.

Altogether, the biography was deeply satisfying. It gave Winston the opportunity to vindicate his ancestor and also the opportunity to study the art of war, an art which had always thrilled and fascinated him. He could write proudly of Marlborough that “he never fought a battle that he did not win, nor besieged a fortress that he did not take.” But even more important than the battles was the glorious cause for which they were fought: the freedom of England and the independence of Europe. Here was a theme to which he responded with all the fire of his innermost being, when writing that: “Europe drew swords in a quarrel which, with one uneasy interlude, was to last for a quarter of a century. Since the duel between Rome and Carthage, there had been no such world war. It involved all the civilized peoples; it extended to every part of the accessible globe; it settled for some time or permanently the real relative wealth and power, and the frontiers of every important European state.”

It is significant to note that Winston Churchill wrote these words in the preface to his first volume, which was published in 1933, the year that Hitler came to power in Germany, and after Winston’s private fact finding tour across Germany, where he discovered the perils of National Socialism, and Hitlerism, in situ.

During the early thirties Marlborough became Winston’s chief preoccupation. Although a National Government which was overwhelmingly Conservative in composition had replaced the Labour Government, in 1931, he was not disappointed in being excluded from its counsels. He had not expected office. Indeed, he had announced publicly that he would not accept a position in a government that pursued a policy over India of which he disapproved, when the controversy was at its height. He took a lively interest in the parliamentary debates, but free of the responsibility of a Ministry he spent long weekends and most of his parliamentary recesses at Chartwell, where he did his work.

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Writing was not the painstaking labour to Winston that it is to most people. When he was a young man of thirty he once addressed the Authors’ Club in London and told his audience that: “No one could set himself to the writing of a page of English composition without feeling a real pleasure in the medium in which he worked, the flexibility and the profoundness of his noble mother tongue. The man who could not say what he had to say in good English, could not have very much to say that was worth listening to at all.”

Winston had the ability to marshal his thoughts rapidly and words came easily. He liked being involved in a major work. He explained further by saying: “Writing a long and substantial book, is like having a friend and companion at your side, to whom you can always turn for comfort and amusement, and whose society becomes more attractive as a new and widening field of interest is lighted in the mind.”

He set about the task of collecting material with characteristic precision.
He employed several scholars to comb the archives and sort through documents at Blenheim, in London and Paris. He also engaged the services of naval and military experts to help him reconstruct the famous campaigns. In the meantime he did an enormous amount of research himself, for he was never prepared to accept the findings of any of his assistants without subjecting them to a searching examination which often developed into a heated, if somewhat one-sided, argument. Besides that, he visited every battlefield on which Marlborough fought, and spent hours studying the composition of the armies until he knew the strategy and tactics as well as Marlborough himself.

He also made one of these expeditions abroad in the summer of 1932, accompanied by his family and Professor Lindemann. They travelled slowly along the line of Marlborough’s celebrated march in 1705 from the Netherlands to the Danube. They spent a day on the battlefield of Blenheim, then drove to Munich where they stayed a week. All these recollections and the linkages from the battle of Blenheim to the losing battles of the Second World War, are detailed in his book, The Gathering Storm.

Winston soon discovered that the Germans were concerned with only one topic and that was the Hitler Movement which was gaining thousands of new recruits every day. He asked many questions about it, and was interested when a lively, talkative young man, who spoke perfect English, came up to him at the Regina Hotel and introduced himself as Herr Hanfstaengl, and talked enthusiastically about the Fuhrer. Winston invited him to dinner, and the young man amused the company quite a lot, during that evening, by playing the piano and urging everyone to sing the old familiar songs. In the course of the dinner celebrations in Munich, Winston learned that Herr Hanfstaengl, was on intimate terms with Herr Hitler, the Fuhrer, and often entertained him in a similar manner.

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Astonishingly, during the course of the evening, Herr Hanfstaengl, also suggested that Winston Churchill should meet the Fuhrer who, he said, came to this very hotel every day at five. In order to mask his intelligence gathering intention of this journey, Churchill masked his true purpose by writing that: “I had no national prejudices against Hitler at this time. I knew little of his doctrine or record and nothing of his character. I admire men who stand up for their country in defeat, even though I am on the other side. He had a perfect right to be a patriotic German. I had always wanted England, Germany and France to be friends. However, in the course of conversation with Herr Hanfstaengl, I happened to say: “Why is your chief so violent about the Jews? I can quite understand being angry with Jews who have done wrong, or are against the country, and I understand resisting them if they try to monopolize power in any walk of life; but what is the sense of being against a man simply because of his birth origin?”

“How can any man help how he is born?”

“He must have repeated this to Hitler, because about noon the next day he came round with a rather serious air, and said that the appointment he had made for me to meet Hitler could not take place, as the Fuhrer would not be coming to the hotel that afternoon. This was the last I saw of “Putzi” for such was his pet name although we stayed several more days at the hotel.”

“And thus Hitler lost his only chance of meeting me. Later on, when he was all-powerful, I was to receive several invitations from him. But by that time a lot had happened, and I excused myself.”

It was at this point that the struggle for Europe in Marlborough’s time began to identify itself in Winston’s mind with the new struggle that seemed to be emerging in his own day. He returned to Britain with deep apprehensions. The resurgence of a martial spirit which Winston Churchill had witnessed in Germany, offered a sharp and disturbing contrast to the pacifist mood that gripped England. This is what Winston described brilliantly in his book about that period, the Gathering Storm…

Factually in 1932 Britain was still in the throes of an economic depression largely caused by the American crash of 1929. The unemployment figures touched
the three million mark and were the worst in the nation’s history. This, people said, was the price of the war. First came the slaughter and the suffering, then came the dislocation, the strikes, the poverty and the hardship. Whatever happened, there must never be another war. And since the pacifists seemed to have the only solution for making war impossible, the English public became overwhelmingly in favour of disarmament. This fitted in nicely with the Government’s financial predicament; the Exchequer was strained to its utmost limits, and Baldwin was only too glad to back a policy which had almost become a necessity.

Disarmament as a deterrent to war was a sound proposition if all nations agreed to play the same game, but disarmament by some and rearmament by others was bound to fail. Winston’s intensive study of the struggle for power had not convinced him that human nature had altered much. He could understand the feeling of revulsion of the victors against war that had caused so much dislocation to their agreeable way of life. He could also understand the feelings of the vanquished, smarting under the humiliation of defeat, and determined to redress their grievances.

Churchill believed that Germany’s grievances should be removed, but he did not think it wise to make concessions through weakness. In Germany he had heard whispers of “British decadence” and had not failed to notice how much bolder the German demands were becoming as German strength increased. Shortly after Winston returned from Munich in the summer of 1932, Germany flatly demanded the right to rearm. The Times of London, regarded the proposition favourably and spoke of “the timely redress of inequality” but Winston warned members of the House of Commons not to delude themselves, by alerting them to the facts saying:
“Do not let His Majesty’s Government believe, that all that Germany is asking for is equal status. That is not what Germany is seeking. All these bands of sturdy Teutonic youths, through the streets and roads of Germany, with the light of desire in their eyes to suffer for the Fatherland, are not looking for status. They are looking for weapons, and, when they have the weapons, believe me they will then ask for the return of their lost territories and lost colonies, and when the demand is made, it cannot fail to shake and possibly shatter to their foundations every one of the countries I have mentioned. The removal of the just grievances of the vanquished ought to precede the disarmament of the victors. To bring about anything like equality of armaments between the vanquished and the victor nations, if it were in our power to do so, which it happily is not, while those grievances remain un-redressed, would be almost to appoint the day for another European war to fix it as though it were a prize fight. It would be far safer to re-open questions like those of the Danzig Corridor and Transylvania, with all their delicacy and difficulty, in cold blood and in a calm atmosphere and while the victor nations still have ample superiority, than to wait and drift on, inch by inch and stage by stage, until once again vast combinations, equally matched, confront each other face to face.”

Two months after Winston’s speech, in January 1933, Hitler came to power. But the British Government took notice neither of Churchill nor Hitler. In March “The MacDonald Plan” was put forward urging further disarmament upon the French. Winston attacked it with all his force: “Thank God for the French Army” he declared to the disgust of a large section of the House. “When we read about Germany, when we watch with surprise and distress the tumultuous insurgence of ferocity and war spirit, the pitiless ill-treatment of minorities, the denial of the normal protections of a civilized society to large numbers of individuals solely on the ground of race when we see that occurring in one of the most gifted, learned, scientific and formidable nations in the world, one cannot help
feeling glad that the fierce passions that are raging in Germany have not found, as yet, any other oudet but upon Germans. At a moment like this, to ask France to halve her army while Germany doubles hers, to ask France to halve her air force while the German air force remains whatever it is, is a proposal likely to be considered by the French Government, at present, as unseasonable.”

The French Government agreed with Winston Churchill, and refused to reduce the size of their army. Instead they offered to destroy a large part of their heavy artillery. Hitler’s answer to this concession, which he regarded as purely insufficient, was not only to quit the Disarmament Conference, but to leave the League of Nations as well. This, said the pacifists, was the logical consequence of France’s refusal to co-operate. The strength of this view was revealed a fortnight later when a by-election was fought at East Fulham. A safe Conservative seat was lost to a pacifist by a ten thousand majority.

Winston watched these manifestations uneasily. He had no faith in disarmament. He believed that the only way to prevent war was through strength. He recognized the new Germany of Hitler as a potential aggressor and he knew that Britain’s duty must be to oppose the unlawful expansion of her power. He had a firm belief in the simple, old-fashioned formula which Britain had always followed, based on the maintenance of the Balance of Power. In writing his life of Marlborough he had reflected deeply on this principle, and reaffirmed his faith in it. In a speech to the Conservative Members Committee on Foreign Affairs in March 1936 he
outlined his conception clearly and simply; and since this conception has
always determined his attitude, and still determines it Today, it is perhaps
worthwhile to print in part what he said:

“For four hundred years the foreign policy of England has been to oppose the strongest, most aggressive, most dominating Power on the Continent, and particularly to prevent the Low Countries falling into the hands of such a Power. Viewed in the light of history, these four centuries of consistent purpose amid so many changes of names and facts, of circumstances and conditions, must rank as one of the most remarkable episodes which the records of any race, nation, state, or people can show. Moreover, on all occasions England took the more difficult course. Faced by Philip II of Spain, against Louis XIV under William in and Marlborough, against Napoleon, against William of Germany, it would have been easy and must have been very tempting to join with the stronger and share the fruits of his conquest. However, we always took the harder course, joined with the less strong Powers, made a combination among them, and thus defeated and frustrated the Continental military tyrant whoever he was, whatever nation he led. Thus we preserved the liberties of Europe, protected the growth of its vivacious and varied society, and emerged after
four terrible centuries with an ever-growing fame and widening Empire, and with the Low Countries safely protected in their independence. Here is the wonderful unconscious tradition of British foreign policy. All our thoughts rest in that tradition Today. I know of nothing which has occurred to alter or weaken the justice, wisdom, valour, and prudence upon which our ancestors acted.”

Winston was convinced that the next war would be largely decided in the air, and uppermost in his mind was the thought of the swiftly growing German air force that could cause the utmost destruction — as he prophetically stated. Indeed at this time, the chief disadvantage of being out of office, and far out of the cabinet, was the fact that Winston had no official information to support his contentions.

However, he was determined not to allow this difficulty to dip his wings, and at once set about creating an intelligence service of his own. He began to build up contacts both abroad and at home. He had close friends and colleagues, at all the Intelligence services, and also at naval Intelligence, and also at Whitehall, and the War Office, and also inside the Foreign Office who now all became frequent visitors to the Chartwell house, for working lunches, or for dinner conversation followed by late night study, or for walks & talks in the Kent valley. He also renewed acquaintanceships in Ministerial circles in France, and cultivated the German exiles, and thus began to establish new lines of communication with dissidents and with the friends of Bonhoffer and the von der Schulenburg family, in Berlin and throughout Germany. He gladly received any newspaper correspondent who he thought could tell him anything, and opened the doors of his house to all the Germans who disliked the Hitler socialist totalitarian regime, as much as he did.

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In those days, Chartwell House, became a smaller version of the Foreign Office of its own, with its constant stream of visitors supplying information, working out statistics, doing research, and analyzing current events, through searching arguments and careful discussions. On an average day, you could see Churchill conversing with simple Jewish or political refugees from Nazi Germany, ex-Parliamentarians, and as time went on, escapees, and ex-political leaders from Austria and Czechoslovakia — all made their way to Winston’s Kentish home. But probably the most important member of this “inner circle” of Winston’s information and intelligence networks, was Frederick Lindemann, the Professor of Experimental Philosophy at Oxford, who had accompanied him abroad on his summer trip to Munich and Germany to observe and study the German Socialist movement and it’s leader Hitler and his cohorts. Indeed Lindemann spent countless weekends at Chartwell House, in compiling statistics and advising Churchill on the latest technical and scientific developments which covered many fields, including radar, military airplanes, and self powered projected missiles. The two men often sat up discussing these subjects until two or three o’clock in the morning wee hours.

Winston’s intelligence service was so thorough and well informed, that soon they were supplying him with very valuable information, which made his speeches to the House of Commons, singular and rather important events. He stressed the point that although Germany had been forbidden a military air force under the Versailles Treaty he learned that her large civil aviation force and her national glider dubs had been organized and designed so that they could be expanded instantaneously for war. He warned the House that Britain was only the fifth air power in Europe while the Germans, “those very gifted people, with their science and with their factories, with what they call their “Air Sport”, are capable of developing with great rapidity a most powerful air force for all purposes, offensive and defensive, within a very short period of time.”

Eight months later Winston had precise information on which to base his arguments. He immediately told the House of Commons this: “First, I assert that Germany already, at this moment, has a MILITARY AIR FORCE, that is to say, military airplane squadrons, with the necessary ground services, and the necessary reserves of trained personnel and material, which only awaits an order to assemble in full open combination; and that this illegal air force is rapidly approaching equality with our own.”
“Second, by this time next year, if Germany executes her existing programme without acceleration, and if we execute our existing programme on the basis which now lies before us without slowing down, and carry out the increases announced to Parliament in July last, the German military air force will this time next year be in fact at least as strong as our own, and it may be even stronger.”
“Third, on the same basis that is to say, both sides continuing with their
existing programmes as at present arranged by the end of 1936, that is, one year farther on, and two years from now the German military air force will be nearly fifty per cent stronger, and in 1937 nearly double. All this is on the assumption, as I say, that there is no acceleration on the part of Germany, and no slowing-down on our part.”

The House was startled by this information, but Mr Baldwin allayed its fears by categorically denying Winston’s figures saying: “It is not the case that Germany is rapidly approaching equality with us. Germany’s real strength is not fifty per cent of our strength in Europe. As for the position this time next year, we estimate that we shall have a margin in Europe alone, of nearly fifty per cent.”

However, it soon became apparent that Winston Churchill’s private intelligence was far better than the official channels, on which the Government relied. In March 1935 the German Chancellor stated openly that the German Air Force had achieved parity with the British. And in May of the same year Stanley Baldwin was forced to make an astonishing retraction to the House: “Where I was wrong was in my estimate of the future. There I was completely wrong. We were completely misled on that subject.”

“I will repeat here that there is no occasion, in my view, in what we are
doing, for panic.’ ‘But I will say this deliberately, with all the knowledge I
have of the situation, that I would not remain for one moment in any
Government which took less determined steps than we are taking today.
I think it is only due to say that there has been a great deal of criticism,
both in the press and verbally, about the Air Ministry as though they were
responsible for possibly an inadequate programme, for not having gone
ahead faster, and for many other things. I only want to repeat that what-
ever responsibility there may be and we are perfectly ready to meet
criticisms that responsibility is not that of any single Minister; it is the
responsibility of the Government as a whole, and we are all responsible,
and we are all to blame.”

Strangely enough, “Mr Baldwin’s Confession” as Winston soon dubbed it, did not have an adverse effect on his popularity. If anything, his popularity slightly increased, for the British public was deeply impressed by his honesty.

They liked a man who could admit he was wrong.

Winston had the dazzle and the eloquence, but Stanley Baldwin was the man you could rely upon.

At the General Election a few months later they showed their confidence by returning him with a handsome majority.


To be continued:

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