Posted by: Dr Churchill | September 18, 2017

What would Winston Churchill Do? (Chapter 49)

Winston Churchill thought that the General Election of 1950 was “positively demure” yet he had no such criticism of the contest that followed twenty-one months later…

The General Election of that chilly all too English October of the year 1951 was fought by the Conservatives on the high cost of living at home, and the deterioration of British prestige abroad. The Persians had announced their intention of nationalizing the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, and trouble was brewing in Egypt.

According to the Tories: “This was the fault of weakness, and indecision, on the part of the ruling Socialists of the Labour government, who managed the country terribly and who had reduced her standing across the world, to that of a third rate power.”

 

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The Labour Party retaliated by reminding the public of Winston Churchill’s impulsiveness, and warning voters that precipitous acts were capable of landing Britain in another war.

Winston Churchill quite righteously and fairly angrily immediately denounced these attacks, and on the day of the poll itself issued a writ against the Daily Mirror which printed a front page picture of a revolver with the headline: “Whose Finger on the Trigger?” and ran a story that Winston intended to deliver an ultimatum to the Russians, if he were returned to power. Nevertheless, his resentment subsided that night when the final results were nearly complete and he learned that once again he was Prime Minister, this time by a small majority of twenty two MPs.

Winston Churchill’s action against the Daily Mirror was settled out of court. He accepted a profuse apology from the Daily Mirror which was published in all newspapers on May 24, 1952. The Daily Mirror agreed to pay Mr Winston Churchill’s costs, and to make a contribution to a charity named by him.

A month later he attended the Lord Mayor’s banquet at the Guildhall and told his audience: “Though I have very often in the last forty years or so, been present at your famous Guildhall banquets to salute the new Lord Mayor, this is the first occasion when I have addressed this assembly here as a Prime Minister. The explanation is convincing.” He then smiled and said: “When I should have come as Prime Minister, Guildhall was blown up, and before it was repaired I was blown out. I thought at the time they were both disasters.”

At last the “affront” as he termed it, that he had received from the British people in 1945 had lost its sting. At last he was Prime Minister not through extraordinary circumstances but by an elected majority in the House of Commons. And this represented the final ambition of fifty two years of political life.

 

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At seventy-seven he seemed strong and vigorous, still towering over all of his parliamentary colleagues, like a Colossus. The country held its breath waiting to see how and where the master of the sensational, and unexpected, would direct the Ship of State.

But once again W. Churchill surprised his audience: “There was to be nothing dramatic in his approach to the serious problems facing the British economy, or for that matter in his handling of world affairs. His policy was one of amelioration. Ruffled tempers were to be smoothed down, angry hands joined in friendship.”

However, since this Policy was unexpected enough, coming as it did from the most pugnacious statesman the century had produced, he was determined to put an end to the class war which had been mounting during the Socialists’ tenure of office at home, and to also lower the tension between the two parties of the British Parliament, which he believed had become unnecessarily divisive, bitterly confrontational, and downright inimical. As for the world abroad, he was keen on building the Peace in Europe and across the World, through the United Nations, and through other institutions to be built, in order to counter the enemies of Peace, peacefully and through the extraordinary powers of NATO, and those of the Transatlantic Alliance.

To that end, he spoke magnanimously in his first House of Commons speech, as a returning Prime Minister in 1951 by saying: “We are met together here with an apparent gulf between us, as great as any, I have known in fifty years of House of Commons life. What the nation needs is a period of tolerant and constructive debating on the merits of the questions before us, without every speech on either side being distorted by the passions of one election or the preparations for another.”

Now Winston Churchill appointed Mr R. A. Butler, one of his more “left wing” conservatives to take over the chancellorship of the Treasury, and the British economy moved forward with surprisingly few changes. For example, the surtax, which many businessmen claimed was destroying incentive, remained as high as before, because war debts had to be repaid and the costs of the nation were also high. But he enthusiastically buoyed the economy through his efforts and through his optimism that was contagious and rousing…

Nevertheless the emphasis on the economy was different too. Winston Churchill had wanted to “set the people free” and although his officials convinced him this was impossible on the grandiose scale he had envisaged, many restrictions and regulations gradually were loosened. The Conservative Government privatized war time industries, denationalized steel production, and separated road haulage from the control of the nationalized railways. The terms of British trade with the outside world improved, industry was given tax relief for capitalization, the stock market soared, and businesses all over the country expanded in a new burst of confidence. The prosperity of the country could be gauged by the increase in ownership of television sets alone, when in 1951, there were just over 1,181,126 licenses that were issued by the Post Office — in 1955, the ownership numbers of television sets had risen fivefold to 5,400,083. Winston loved to create prosperity for his people and truly believed that internal consumption was the giant lever for economic growth and development.

Winston Churchill’s real interest, however, lay in maintaining and enlarging the Gettysburg ideal for both domestic and international affairs. That is of building and maintaining “Government by the people, for the people, and from the people.” And internationally this was a sticking point as Democracy was a vast minority across the world. Yet here his mood was also one of conciliation. Friendship with America, of course, was the cornerstone of his policy. He also believed that Germany must be allowed to reenter the European family on equal terms. But most important, and most startling, was his belief in the possibility of harmonious co-existence with Soviet Russia.

When asked, he replied: “I am an optimist – It does not seem to be of much use being anything else.” He felt that if the great powers would consent to talk with the Russians informally, they might gradually work out a harmonious “modus vivendi” which would lay true foundations of peace.

The idea of these informal talks, with no fixed agenda, took root in his mind shortly after Stalin’s death. As rumors spread of a Russian “new look” as Churchill put it, he became increasingly convinced that the talks should not be delayed. The United States, however, was heavily embroiled in the Korean war; feeling against Russia ran high; and the American government flatly rejected the idea of a friendly, tripartite meeting. Churchill refused to take “No” for an answer, and in the spring of 1953 he arranged a trip to Washington to try and
persuade the newly elected President, Mr Eisenhower, of the urgency and importance of his proposal. However, a few weeks before the journey was to take place, the Prime Minister was taken seriously ill, and the project abandoned.

Nevertheless, Churchill continued to hammer his theme. In 1954, he made an important speech at the Guildhall in which he said: “I am one of those who believe that West and East ought to try and live in a peaceful and friendly way with each other. It certainly would not be to anyone’s disadvantage if they tried.” By the end of the year he had decided that, if the United States would not play, at least Britain should meet the Russian leaders. There were indications that Malenkov was more liberal than his predecessor, Joseph Stalin; that all sorts of profound changes were taking place within the Soviet Union; and that if the Western powers did not move they might lose a heaven sent opportunity to influence the Russian leaders and create a new atmosphere between East and West. But W. Churchill was doomed to disappointment. Just as it looked possible to arrange a meeting, the Soviet Government began to make difficulties about the European Defense Community, and Churchill was forced to admit that the time was not propitious.

In March 1955 he told the House of Commons: “It is quite true that I would have liked to have seen a top-level conference of the three Powers. I would have liked to have seen it shortly after Mr Malenkov took power, to see, as I said: “Is there a new look?” I wanted to do that and my colleagues agreed. I prepared to go over to see the President and hoped to arrange with him to invite a three-Power conference. However, I was struck down by a very sudden illness which paralysed me completely physically. I had to put
it all off, and it was not found possible to persuade President Eisenhower to join in that process.”

“I have also considered the possibility of a dual meeting at some neutral place like Stockholm. I had hoped that after my last visit to America something like a dual meeting might take place at Stockholm, or somewhere, and that it might be a sort of go-between prelude to a meeting of the three, because we cannot settle anything alone that would be decisive. But then the Soviet Government began
a very elaborate process of trying to stop the ratification of E.D.C., which I thought had been more or less accepted. Therefore, all this other matter has come up and stood in the way of further talks.”

Winston Churchill’s colleagues were beginning to grow uneasy. The Prime Minister was now in his eighty-first year. There was talk in the House of Commons that he was finding it increasingly difficult to concentrate his mind on the day-by-day business of government, and that important decisions frequently were being delayed. In April 1955 several members of his Cabinet, led by Mr Anthony Eden and including Mr R. A. Butler, Mr Harold Macmillan, and Lord Salisbury, called
upon the Prime Minister and begged him, for the good of the country, to offer his resignation. Churchill replied that his heart was set on talks with the Russians, thus if he could work out a peaceful pattern for Europe, he would feel his life’s work was done, and would willingly lay down his mantle. However, his ministers told him bluntly that they did not feel he was able to lead them through another General Election, and that it might be advantageous to the Conservative Party to appeal to the electorate before the summer. So in the end Churchill agreed to go. There were no national newspapers due to a widespread
strike, and his resignation was reported to the country by the British
Broadcasting Corporation, in a moving address…

Winston Churchill left Britain prosperous and happy.

Never in the history of the nation had the people enjoyed so many of the luxuries of life.

During the past five years London had thrown off much of its drabness; houses were newly painted, shop windows sparkled; even the Brigade of Guards was back in its prewar finery. As new life and spirit flowed into the country, Winston Churchill had been the object of many stirring occasions, and in 1953 the new Queen, young Elizabeth II, had bestowed the honor of the “Order of the Garter” upon her First Minister, and from then on, he became known to the world as “Sir Winston Churchill.”

Later, that same year the Royal Swedish Academy announced that the British Premier Sir Winston Churchill, had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. In his speech of acceptance Sir Winston said: “I am very proud indeed to receive an honor which is international. I have received several which are national, but this is the first that is international in its character. I notice that the first Englishman to receive the Nobel Prize was Rudyard Kipling, and that another equally rewarded was Bernard Shaw. I cannot attempt to compete with either of them. But I knew them both quite well, and my thought was much more in accord with Mr Kipling than with Mr Shaw. On the other hand Rudyard Kipling never thought much of me, whereas Bernard Shaw often expressed himself in most flattering terms. I should like the opportunity of expressing my thanks to the Academy in person, and also the warmth of my sympathy and feeling for Sweden, for her wonderful record and famous warriors, and my regard for her King and people.”

But perhaps the most stirring scene took place when the Houses of Parliament paid their tributes to the Prime Minister in 1954, on the occasion of his eightieth birthday. Winston Churchill described it as the greatest honor that had ever been accorded him. The members of both Houses, and all parties, gathered in Westminster Hall on the morning of November 30th to do him homage. He was presented with a Birthday Book in green leather, inlaid with a pattern of his racing colors, chocolate and pink. Inside were almost all the signatures of the members of Parliament, with a dedication which said: “We, the elected Members of the House of Commons, representing all political parties and all the people within Her Gracious Majesty’s realm of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, do hereby join in one accord to show our deep affection to your person and our abiding gratitude for your incomparable service to the Parliament and the peoples of this realm, and to the causes of justice, freedom and peace during more than fifty years.”
There were over two thousand people present at the ceremony, and as Winston Churchill entered the Hall the famous wartime V sign was beaten in Morse on a drum. He took his seat amid a tremendous burst of applause, while the band played Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance. Winston Churchill did not try to hide his emotions. Tears came to his eyes when Mr Attlee, the Leader of the Opposition, praised his greatness in a deeply moving speech.

There was only one cloud which threatened to darken the sky of this memorable day. The Houses of Parliament had commissioned Graham Sutherland to paint a portrait of Sir Winston in oils, which they presented to him during the ceremony. He was shown a photograph of the painting a short while before the Birthday gathering took place, and he was so horrified and indignant that he told Lady Churchill impulsively that he would refuse to attend. The picture showed him as an old man, straining forward as though he were anxiously and perplexedly trying to see his way ahead. Sir Winston felt it was a deliberate insult, almost a jeer at his years, and perhaps at his failing perceptibility. He was assured that the artist had not intended it so; nevertheless, his anger rankled.

Word of Winston Churchill’s reaction began to get around, and people waited nervously for the presentation to take place. By this time, however, the Prime Minister had mastered his feelings. He thanked Parliament for its gift and remarked with a twinkle in his eye: “The painting is a remarkable example of modern art.” There was a burst of relieved laughter and the ceremony proceeded with harmony undisturbed. That afternoon the painting was sent to Winston Churchill’s house in Kensington, where he personally saw to it that it was placed in a cupboard, and locked up. There it remains to this day.

When he rose to reply, Sir Winston’s voice shook as he said: “This is to me the most memorable public occasion of my life. No one has ever received a similar mark of honor before. There has not been anything like it in British history, and indeed, I doubt whether any of the modern democracies abroad have shown such a degree of kindness and generosity to a party politician who has not yet retired and may at any time be involved in controversy. It is, indeed, the most striking example I have known of that characteristic British parliamentary principle cherished in both Lords and Commons “Don’t bring politics into private life.” It is certainly a mark of the underlying unity of our national life which survives and even grows in spite of vehement party warfare and many grave differences of conviction and sentiment. This unity is, I believe, the child of freedom and fair play, fostered in the cradle of our ancient island institutions and nursed by tradition and custom.”

Then he referred to the generous words of the Leader of the Opposition: “I am most grateful to Mr Attlee for the agreeable words he has used about me, and the magnanimous appraisal he has given my variegated career. I must confess, however, that this ceremony with all its charm and splendor, may well be found to have seriously affected my controversial value as a party politician. However, perhaps with suitable assistance I shall get over this reaction and come round a bit.”

There were people who said that Sir Winston Churchill would not survive separated from the power and the stream of political events which for so long had dominated his life and thought. However, once again, Winston Churchill surprised them. After a few restless weeks he set to work to revise the manuscript of The History of the English-Speaking Peoples, which had lain on his desk for sixteen years. He went to the South of France and lived for some months in Lord Beaverbrook’s spacious villa. He was accompanied by a devoted entourage, almost royal in the profuseness of its numbers. Nearly a dozen secretaries,
research workers and servants travelled ahead of him to look after his interests. He worked methodically every morning; he painted; he enjoyed good food; and for the first time in his life he discovered music. He became particularly fond of Tchaikovsky, and night after night sat listening to the dramatic, majestic sounds from the phonograph. “If I had another life to live” he remarked to a friend, “I would like to conduct a great orchestra” and with that, he gave an impressive demonstration of this latent talent…

In April 1956, when Bulganin and Khrushchev visited Britain to take part in the informal talks, for which he had strived so long, he made the following statement: “They have a right to be treated with courtesy and goodwill. I hope they will enjoy their time in this country, and that easier and more fruitful relations will emerge as a result of their visit. Peaceful co-existence is, after all, the first thing we are seeking, and to this easier personal relations
between their national leaders and ours, and a dearer comprehension of the way we live, can make a valuable contribution.”

A few weeks later, on May 10th of 1956, when he went to Germany to receive the Charlemagne Prize, he sowed an idea which inspired worldwide headlines; if the Russian “new look was real” he said, “the Western Powers ought to consider the possibility, in the not far future, of urging her to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.”

On December 20th, of 1951, a London Sunday newspaper, the Observer, printed a profile of the Prime Minister which said: “Any consideration of Winston Churchill’s career as a whole brings one up against the extraordinary fact that, for all its majestic scope, it remains to this day tragically unfulfilled and fragmentary. His political role certainly has not been meteoric and disastrous, like Napoleon’s or Hitler’s. But neither has it been linked to a definite achievement, like Richelieu’s or Chatham’s, Washington’s or Lincoln’s, Bismarck’s or Lenin’s. So far, he leaves no completed work, for even the war he won has not been ended. He leaves glory, tragedy and unfinished business.”

This is a superficial and unjust judgment, because after leaving aside the fact that the writer has compared Winston Churchill to statesmen who, with the exception of Chatham, created unity out of civil war and disorder, within their own countries — the suggestion that Winston Churchill’s life presents no theme or no definite achievement is absurd. Now that when his political work is measured, one will find that this pattern stands out boldly: A fierce belief that the freedom of man, Western Civilization, Democracy, and even Christendom itself, must be guarded, and can only be preserved, by the combined efforts of the English-speaking people.”

It was the vision of this alliance that prompted Winston Churchill in the early thirties to begin writing an Anglo-American history; it was faith in this alliance that gave him heart for his prodigious task in 1940. Throughout the war he hammered his conviction to Roosevelt, and although the American leaders were not ready to accept his premises in 1944, the events of the last eight years have drawn the two countries together in an association which almost marks the
fulfillment of Winston Churchill’s heart’s desire. Never before in peacetime have the affairs of two free nations been so tightly interwoven.

Although some people regret the fact that he has not used his influence to draw the countries of Europe close to the British orbit so that the Anglo-American partnership could develop on terms of equal power, it was Winston Churchill’s inspiration that gave birth to the Council of Europe, and the Council may yet illuminate the minds of the statesmen who follow him. But if the English-speaking alliance continues to be a foundation stone for both NATO and for the United Nations, and the United Nations continue to stand up against aggression and to insist upon negotiations, as the only civilized method of settling difficulties and disputes, between nations, Winston Churchill’s immortality is assured. He led the free world in its darkest hour, and when the battle was won he used his counsel and influence to bring millions of people together on a
path of common endeavor.

Yet it is not only as a statesman that he must be judged. No one can meet this extraordinary man without a feeling of awe. He not only stands head and shoulders above a century of powerful statesmen, but his vitality, his mastery of the English language, his contribution to literature, his scientific inventiveness, his painting, his far-flung interests from housebuilding to race horses, and even his astonishing constitution, place him in a category far removed from mere mortals. The range of his talents forces one to compare him with an imaginary Leonardo da Vinci if he were coupled with Charles the Great, or Michelangelo if coupled with Luigi De Medici, in one body, and the veritable “Master of All” Aristotle, the teacher of Alexander the Great, coupled in one existence with Philip the King.

Yet even then, Winston Churchill was so much more, than all these great men in their own rights, individually or collectively. And indeed he had mastered everything and every art and science and innovation that he card for or that he happened to touch. And he touched so many fields, and so many people, and influenced so many subjects of Art & Science and Executive Power, through his Leadership and the Power of his Oratory, and most importantly through his unabashed Leadership, and his unapologetic Exercise of Power.

And we can learn from that here, and in every memory of his Life, but today I must say that I sincerely have no doubt whatsoever, that the world will have to wait a very long time before we get to see someone with his talents and his courage ever coming around again…

Yet although his accomplishments place him apart as a giant, students of the future may find his character the most unusual subject of all. For well over hundred years Winston Churchill has attracted world-wide interest. At various times he has provoked his countrymen to anger, admiration, indignation, laughter, gratitude, fury and veneration. But whatever the feeling, he has never failed to fascinate, for the swift, changing facets of his personality and leadership; because with Winston Churchill it is possible to see the changeable weather in full riot act. One can witness human selfishness turn into generosity; mischievousness retreat before a strict code of Ethics and Morality; impulsiveness melt into wisdom; dejection surge into wit; flouts and jeers dissolve into a warm and loyal friendship, and above all else in himself and always in his presence abject fear would turn into COURAGE and strength.

As he always said: “Attitude is Everything.”

And so shining through all the contradictions of his Life, his Love of exercising the Art of Power and Leadership, through his mercurial temperament; there is always this burning courage, and his deep faith in the power for good within the human race.

This concludes your tour of Churchill’s Life and his Art of Power and Leadership, but should you feel that you need to take a tour of England, whereupon you will be tempted to take a little tour of Churchill’s world in London and environs — You just might be able to do this, following these important toponyms, and addresses below:

Do this, because while being in London — invariably, you will happen upon, even if you do not intentionally want to visit, many of the places associated with Winston Churchill’s life and heroic times. But if you are a true student of Power and Leadership, you will surely find the time to go and see some of the places, in which he spent his youth, his career, and even his later life…
Of course the people who live in these houses today, are proud and honored to be there as living guardians of the toponyms, and of the physical ‘snapshots’ of Winston’s brilliant history as defined in mortar, brick, and stone, because Winston Churchill lived such a long life, that he had far too many London residences. Residences, like the one in the street where he spent several years as a child, near the house that Chopin lived in, and from which he went on to give his last concert… Next you can visit 105 Mount Street, his first bachelor pad, in which he lived from 1900 to 1905, and from which, incidentally, he went to the House of Commons to make his maiden speech; and in which he was still living when he crossed the floor of the House from the Conservative, to the Liberal benches.
Then one can see his first house, which is located on 48 Charles Street. This is telling because he lived here as a Conservative – while the second one is where he lived as a Liberal Member of Parliament, at 29 St. James’s Place. Next you go along Bolton Street, past his charming bachelor house at No. 12, to the first house ever of his own property.

Now let’s, pay homage, to the strange drama that this house led to, because when Churchill purchased the modest dwelling of Bolton street; Randolph Churchill, his family father, had already been dead for more than a decade, and he had no one to look after him. Instead he had to look after his Mother and younger brother Jack. Winston by that time had already become the breadwinner for his family. It was then that Sir Ernest Cassel arrived, in the scene, as a guardian angel, and offered to furnish the salon in this house for him. Maybe because his Mother Jennie had asked him, or maybe because he admired the young Parliamentarian — still Sir Cassel did this.

Of course Sir Ernest Cassel already managed the savings accruing from prudent Winston Churchill’s speeches in America, and from the small financial earnings coming from the publication of his books and magazine articles. This financial management work, Sir Ernest did so well, that in due course, Winston’s meagre earnings and savings were turned into quite substantial stock holdings, and equity investments. So it was quite a small thing for Sir Ernest Cassel, a wealthy financier to be able to afford the small gift of furnishing the living room of young Winston Churchill’s first homehouse in London. This is the first House Winston Churchill ever owned and he lived there himself for more than fifteen years, as it had become the City home he loved beyond compare. That is until he found, and founded, the Chartwell House, where his family life blossomed and where he lived till the end.

Twelve years later Churchill found himself being denounced all over England by a brilliant lecturer, Lord Alfred Douglas, the poet friend of Oscar Wilde. Douglas claimed that Churchill had been in the pay and pocket of Sir Ernest Cassel, a Jew, to such an extent that after the Battle of Jutland in 1916, Churchill had concocted an incredible plot: the Government would announce a naval defeat (which indeed it did), British stocks would collapse on the New York stock market (which indeed they did), and Winston Churchill, centrepiece of this swindle, would then issue a statement (as indeed he did) saying, in effect, “Well, you know, it wasn’t such a defeat; our fleet is still on the seas and has a good chance of beating the German navy next time.” His statement was issued at request of the Government for the sake of public morale.

One result of Churchill’s reassuring statement was that the stocks went up in New York and several hundreds of millions were made by speculators. Lord Alfred Douglas claimed it was Churchill who had mastered this whole financial episode, which he portrayed as a deliberate swindle. He pointed to Bolton Street and the fact that Sir Ernest Cassel had provided the furniture. So there, it was surely clear for all to see, these two were obviously fellow-conspirators.

In 1924 the newly elected Conservative Government decided to bring a criminal libel action against Lord Alfred Douglas: the Prime Minister of the day, Stanley Baldwin, had just appointed Churchill Chancellor of the Exchequer, and did not like him being denounced all over the country for a major financial swindler. A case was brought, and Churchill told the court: “. . . ten years before the Battle of Jutland — not after it — Sir Ernest Cassel furnished for me a room in my house at 12 Bolton Street. Sir Ernest Cassel was a great friend of mine, and a great friend of my father’s before me. I first got to know him well about the year 1897. At the end of the year 1905, when for the first time I took a small house of my own in Bolton Street, he asked my mother whether he might furnish my sitting room for me. I accepted this gift from him as an act of spontaneous friendship. That is the sole foundation of truth which exists for these libels; and, as I have stated, it occurred ten years before the Battle of Jutland, and not after it.”

Churchill added, in connection with another of Lord Alfred Douglas’s accusations: “I did not spend the weekend with Sir Ernest Cassel before the Battle of Jutland occurred. It is only a detail, but is as untrue as the rest. I never at any time discussed any matter connected with the Battle of Jutland with him until after these libels had appeared, when I naturally drew his attention to them. He then in the last year of his life, although very ill, immediately offered to come forward and join in any prosecution which it might be thought right or necessary to institute.” Lord Alfred Douglas was found guilty, and sentenced to six months in prison. Perhaps 12 Bolton Street does deserve a plaque after all.
In 1940 Alfred Douglas was to send Churchill a poem of praise and of hope for his war leadership. Churchill accepted this tribute with magnanimity. As he had written to a former constituency opponent in 1940: “As for me, the past is dead.”

As to Sir Ernest Cassel the “co-conspirator,” on Cassel’s death in 1921 Churchill wrote to his granddaughter, Lord Mountbatten’s wife:
“Your grandfather was a great man & he made a mark on his generation & on the world that will last long. He was also a good & just man who was trusted respected honoured by all who knew him. He was a valued friend of my father & I have taken up that friendship & have held it all my grown up life. I had the knowledge that he was very fond of me & believed in me at all times — especially in bad times. I had a real & deep affection for him. I saw with sadness that he was approaching the end of his mortal span. The last talk we had — about six weeks ago — he told me that he hoped he wd live to see me at the head of affairs. I could see how great his interest was in my doings and fortunes. I did hope he would live to see a few more years of sunshine. The horrible period of the war had passed away. The two griefs which dominated his life — your grandmother’s death & your dear mother’s were being softened by the new light with your coming into blossom & brilliancy cast upon his footsteps. He would have had happier days than he had known for many a long year. It is very sad & hard that this prospect should be closed. I know how you will cherish his memory, & I hope you will find in yourself his strength & virtue.
“I have lost a good friend who’s like I shall never see again.”

In memory of these days, one should take also a journey through Hyde Park, and walk through the paths, with Kensington Palace and Gardens on the left and Hyde Park on your right. Where the road crosses the Serpentine lake, you will see facing you a rather beautiful low building with columns and portico, standing empty and unguarded. It is a rather innocuous building today. Yet this used to be the London naval munitions depot — the ‘magazine’ in which explosives and ammunition for the defence of London were stored. This was one of the very much undefended spots that Winston Churchill was so concerned about, at the height of the international crisis in 1911, when it suddenly appeared that Germany and Britain might fall at war, over Agadir, a small and hitherto insignificant port on the Atlantic coast of Morocco.

Churchill was at a garden party at 10 Downing Street when he happened to meet Sir Edward Henry, the Chief Commissioner of Police. To Churchill’s surprise, he learned from Henry that as Home Secretary he, Winston Churchill, was technically responsible for the safety of all the reserves of naval cordite, explosives, and munitions — some of which were stored in magazines throughout London, including this magazine ‘hard by’ the Serpentine of Hyde park. Churchill at once returned to the Home Office and telephoned the Admiralty. The Admiral in charge refused, however, to accept any responsibility, and declined to send a detachment of marines to guard these hitherto neglected but vital magazines. Accordingly, Churchill telephoned Lord Haldane at the War Office and persuaded him to send a company of infantry to each magazine. This was “the first of many actions,” Randolph Churchill has commented, “which in a long life was to gain for Churchill the reputation in pussyfoot circles of being an alarmist. He always maintained that it was better to be alarmed before a catastrophe rather than after.”

In his mind’s eye — and this was one of his great attributes — Churchill had immediately conjured up during that garden party at No. 10, the possibility of a small group of Germans, possibly German agents in London, seizing this magazine, and destroying it. Churchill was now deeply absorbed in the Agadir crisis, and perturbed by it. On the one hand Britain was threatening war with Germany — enormous headlines, excitement all over the world. On the other hand, there was no guard to protect the vital munitions needed for the navy’s Fleet, and there didn’t seem to be any sense of urgency among those responsible to guard such stores of munitions…

Thereafter, one result of this garden party conversation was that Churchill emerged as a leading advocate of a strong and adequate defence. Two months later he was given the job of being in charge of the naval forces of Britain. This was the beginning of his career as First Lord of the Admiralty. So, when one goes past this building in Hyde Park, it is worth looking at, and thinking what a change in Churchill’s fortunes, perhaps in Britain’s fortunes, arose from that place’s utter vulnerability and defenseless position during his time.
One ought to recall that in those days, Churchill was not only a liberal, but a pillar of the Liberal Party. He was of course a member of the National Liberal Club, which one can also go past, between Whitehall and the River Thames. One day before the First World War, Winston Churchill’s friend Lord Birkenhead, who, as you know, co-founded the celebrated Other Club in the Pinafore Room at the Savoy, was walking from the Temple, where he had his legal chambers, to the House of Commons. Suddenly he found that he had to do what I had to do just before I got up to speak here tonight. So he went into the National Liberal Club, which he was passing at that moment. Birkenhead being a prominent figure in the Tory Party, the club porter said, “Excuse me, Sir, but are you a member of this Club? Surely not!” To which Lord Birkenhead replied, “Club? I thought it was a public convenience.”

Now inside this Club, for it was indeed a Club, hung a superb portrait of the great Liberal Winston Churchill, painted by the established painter Ernest Townsend in 1915, as it was paid for, by an anonymous donor. It was ready for presentation on 20 December 1915, when Churchill was already serving in the trenches of the Western Front. It was therefore hung temporarily in a Club Committee Room, until such time as Churchill could unveil it. No opportunity was found for the ceremony. In 1921, when Churchill was no longer ‘persona grata’ within the National Liberal Club, the Club decided that his portrait should be “packed and stored in some dry place.” During the Second World War it was taken out of storage and re-hung; almost immediately it was damaged by bomb blast. After being restored, it was finally unveiled by Churchill himself in 1941. You will be pleased to know that it is still there. So please look in at the National Liberal Club, at the portrait, even if you do not use the other facilities.

Clubs, and dining, and private moments, in Churchill’s life are, of course, always fascinating. But oddly enough, they have never been described, nor recounted, because the colours of Winston Churchill’s ‘siren suits’ were discreet, and his symposia, seldom if ever reported. That is excepting his taking out the whole Cabinet to the Savoy for lunch, or dinner, as the occasion demanded, based upon their successes; and of always having his stenographer, his Pol Rogers champagne, his single malt Scotches, and his fat cigars — always at the ready nearby.

It is a rather intriguing and informing exercise to walkabout in London and thus cover the years of Churchill’s life, career, and history, by seeing the very places where Winston Churchill had lived, slept, wined, and dined.
One of the most interesting things to find is where Winston was, on the night that war was declared against Germany in August 1914…
He was of course in the Cabinet meeting, on this overlong and difficult day, where evening found him. The Cabinet had broken up at about 9:15 pm, when Winston Churchill and Lloyd George walked to their favourite restaurant within walking distance of number 10 Downing Street; at the Carlton Hotel, at the bottom of the Haymarket. Some years later it was destroyed by Hitler’s bombs, and it’s replacement is ‘New Zealand House’ a rather modern and austere building. Yet at the time it was inside the Carlton Hotel the two leaders had supper together.

And in the personal ‘Churchill papers’ there still is the Carlton Hotel bill, of what they ate and drank, in their pleasant repast. But what is bizarre, is that within the register of the working staff at the Hotel, is listed among the vegetable cooks at the bottom, and well under the chefs, and anybody of culinary significance, the name of what must have been a recent recruit to the kitchen’s staff — a person freshly arrived from French Indochina: A certain individual from IndoChina named Ho Chi Minh.

Yes, the Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh had been in London as a vegetable cook on the outbreak of war, when he had gone to the French Embassy in London in order to volunteer his services wanting to fight, as a patriotic Indo-Chinaman (as they were then called). Sadly he was turned down, and then he crossed the Channel to Paris, and began his career of disgruntlement, militancy, and revolution.

When in London, of course, one will walk and wander many times, around the Horse Guards Parade, because it is indeed the nexus of all Churchill activities, memories, and events. And if one looks particularly hard at the Admiralty; the great building in which he worked and thrived, and then at the Admiralty House, in which he lived, you cannot fail to look up at the main windows of Admiralty House and of the one that is lit differently because that was his window to the world..

Not only did Churchill wrote his great speeches of the early months of the First World War there, but he also wrote the first great speeches of the Second. “Fight on the beaches” was written in Admiralty House because, being a kind-hearted man underneath the gruff exterior, Churchill did not want to dislodge the sick and dying Neville Chamberlain precipitately from No 10 Downing Street. Winston allowed Neville Chamberlain to remain in 10 Downing Street, while he, as Prime Minister, and also Minister of Defence, remained at Admiralty House, crossing the Horse Guards Parade grounds far too many times each day; in order to go to the Cabinet Room at No 10 Downing Street for his meetings and for his work with Cabinet and Visiting Heads of State and distinguished leaders.

Yet it is curious how history suspends itself sometimes; and treats us to surprises that never fail to impress it’s urgency to live through it doing great things. Because in one of Churchill’s many innovations in the Admiralty House offices, within this vast building — it was to arrange in his office’s library, so that some of the oak panelling would open on a swivel lever and reveal behind it his plans. This is where he put up maps of strategic positions of Britain’s ships at sea, and their intended movements to targets of his choosing and to engagements with the enemy’s fleets. Winston’s idea on this innovation; was that if someone were to come through the room — such as a well-meaning young naval officer, or, dare one imagine it, a politician, or a spy or an unaccompanied cleaner — he could shut the paneling; and the naval dispositions would be hidden from view. This innovative system, he set up in August 1914.

But in May 1915 he was thrown out of the Admiralty after the Dardanelles and Chanak disasters. However, in September of 1939, when he returned to the Admiralty, as the First Lord again, with his secretary Kathleen Hill, he strode into the room, and to her utter amazement — because hitherto she had only been on his staff at Chartwell — he went up to the panelling and pulled it open. And there exposed to view after 24 years, was the last of his naval engagements and disposition maps; still bearing the fleet dispositions in May 1915.

Thus, if you have been in the Cabinet War Rooms, you may recall in his bedroom another of the main war maps, hidden behind a long curtain which can be pulled across to obscure it. This huge curtain was always drawn when people came in to see him, because in it were marked all the ‘hot spots’ and the “vulnerable points” on the British coast, where, if the Germans did attempt to land, there were no defenders, and not fixed positions, and therefore precious little that could be thrown against them.

Another huge opportunity for retelling History’s power plays can be found when one goes down walking the Strand, toward Trafalgar Square, and stops at the lovely station hotel on the left, which is the Charing Cross Hotel. It has recently been refurbished and is a rather attractive building with great amenities inside, and a beautiful exterior that belies the crisis of May 1915 which took place because Lord Fisher, Churchill’s chief executive officer of the Admiralty, and Winston when Fisher got up and walked out. Lord Fisher, simply left the Admiralty building and announced, “I’m going — I’m not serving under Churchill, and let there be a political crisis.”

Of course, Fisher had informed the Conservative opposition of exactly what he was doing. But no one knew where he was going. The Prime Minister searched London for him: sent a messenger round London carrying a letter ordering Fisher to return to his post. That letter typewritten on the Prime Minister’s 10 Downing Street letterhead, read curtly: “Lord Fisher. In the King’s name I order you at once to return to your post. H.H.Asquith. 15 May 1915.”
Unknown to Winston Churchill, or Prime Minister Asquith — Lord Fisher was, in fact, at the Charing Cross Hotel resting and entertaining himself. But Winston did not send anyone there.

Sadly the messengers went instead to the hotels near Euston Station, St. Pancras, and KingsCross station, because they thought the old Admiral was going north to Scotland, or to Norfolk. But actually what they didn’t know was that, Lord Fishers’ lady friend, the Duchess of Hamilton, lived in the south of England, on one of the train lines leading out of Charing Cross. And Winston Churchill, who was a shrewd person, many years later met the Duchess and told her: “If only I had known about your friendship with Lord Fisher then, I would have gone to see you. You were the only one who could have persuaded him to go back to the Admiralty.”

The Charing Cross hotel, was indeed disastrous to Churchill’s fortunes… because In May 1915, the Dardanelles crisis saw Winston Churchill completely removed from his central position of authority.

In 1915 Churchill left the centre of war direction, even though he remained in the Cabinet. It was then that he discovered ‘Hoe Farm’ which one might still visit today. No doubt, the good folks who live there now, will tell you all about how Churchill did his very first paintings there, how Lady Lavery arrived in her Rolls-Royce and persuaded Churchill to “assault the canvas,” that marvellous moment recalled so vividly by Winston Churchill himself in his book ‘Painting as a Pastime.’ All that major fun, took place at Hoe Farm and it did not involve any ‘hoes’ no matter the politically incorrect name or today’s meaning of it. Indeed, Churchill’s first two surviving paintings were of the pond and the little field there, which the visitor, will no doubt see reproduced in faximile inside the farmhouse, should you visit the beautiful setting yourself and ingratiate your person with the owners…

In London, too, is the house at 41 Cromwell Road from which Winston Churchill emerged when he thought that ‘gave up’ politics for good, in November of 1915, and left for the bloody trenches of the Western Front in Western France and in the Alsace Lorraine region, during the height of the millions of ‘killings’ of the First World War.

At the time, this London house belonged to Winston’s brother Jack, and today one can do down Cromwell Road, just opposite the Natural History Museum, in order to see it. It is a fine corner house in which at one stage Lady Randolph Churchill, Jack Churchill, and Lady Gwendeline Churchill, their three children, Winston Churchill himself, his wife, and their three children, all lived. Fortunately it is quite a large house. Now it is a Catholic education centre. Still, I believe that you might just knock on the door and ask if you can have a look in there. The people are quite polite and accommodating with visitors. They are in God’s business after all and they remember how Winston Churchill saved the Christian World from the National Socialist and Atheist menace of one artless colonel Adolf Hitler… by defeating him boldly. They will surely invite you inside and also offer you a cup of tea, while you look around to see ‘visions’ of Winston Churchill as he was preparing to go fight in the killing trenches himself in order to support the war effort and also redeem himself for the Dardanelles fiasco… and his forced retirement from the Admiralty.

Back when he was at the Admiralty, Churchill had a young shorthand writer, Harry Beckenham, who travelled everywhere with him — one of the first of what were to become his staff of ever-ready, ever-patient, ever-devoted secretaries. Beckenham was there to take dictation, day and night. He has also to be left behind, when Churchill went to the trenches, at which point Churchill wrote in exasperation in a private letter, “I pray to God for a month of power, and a good shorthand writer.”

I must say that I know exactly how Grandpa Winston felt, after writing this book without help of a private shorthand secretary… or a ghost writer — and yet we all know that the best things are written when one is alone with their thoughts and with their memories; as this following letter of Winston Churchill will attest…

Because this is one of the most extraordinary and moving letters which Winston wrote to his wife, from the muddy trenches of the Western Front. It is one of those long letters which he wrote every day in his own hand, as he openly expressed himself in these personal, tender, loving, sad, and determined letters, about what was happening. These are all very private and personal letters, which were never intended for publication of any kind, but more than fifty years have passed since his death and at long last we can share these memories because all the people involved are long dead and even the official Secrecy Act has expired about these privacies.
Still amongst all of these I want to share this one which, ought to be a central yet private part of Winston Churchill’s understanding of the private man. THe man who loved a woman and wanted her to know of his gratefulness of being alive for her…

And to juxtapose this personal letter with his other famous remarks — we should recall another of his emotional outbursts during his Finest Hour speech, where he ‘poured-out’ his souls in a similar manner, connecting with that Divine Spirit that emanates from deep within and that connects us all to the place i the sky where God might be…
So here is Winston Churchill’s finest and most intimate personal letter to the Love of his Life.

It was written on 28th of March 1916, a wintry day in the trenches of the Western Front. The Germans were sending yet another methodical artillery barrage along the British front line. Churchill calculated that the fifth or sixth shell would hit the ground quite near to where he was standing. Indeed it did. And it was thus he wrote his wife describing the day’s events:
“Twenty more yards to the left and no more tangles to unravel, no more anxieties to face, no more hatreds and injustices to encounter. A good ending to a chequered life. A final gift, unvalued, to an ungrateful country, an impoverishment of the war-making power of Britain which no one would ever know, or measure, or mourn.”

Winston Churchill served with distinction, and survived unharmed his time in the trenches of the Western Front, unlike most of his colleagues — and was thus left with an enormous understanding of what soldiers went through in the defense of a little bit of earth. Winston carried within him, this understanding which was to substantially affect his future conduct in the First World War, and his Exercise of Power and leadership during his Premiership of the Second World War. And that might explain his deep reluctance to throw men ashore, in hopeless enterprises. His time in the trenches attending to his fellows and seeing the casualties mount day in and day out — caused him to become a fierce critic of the policy of attrition, which was to culminate in the Battle of Passchendaele, in 1917. His very public criticism of the government, is what led Lloyd George, the wily, and remarkable Prime Minister, to bring Churchill back into the Government, in order to use his energies to fight the Germans, rather than to fight the Government; and also in order to benefit from his caution, and his mature view of events, and of the war knowledge that he had accumulated since he was then 43 years old. Lloyd George liked to rub shoulders with Winston Churchill because he benefited as much from Winston’s serious Strategic and tactical planning and Organizational efficiencies and his cautious optimism, as from his more publicly seen pugnacity and pugilistic warlike famous personality showcasing the Spirit of English Defiance. That of the English Bulldog. John Bull incarnate.

Churchill became Minister of Munitions, and worked in a requisitioned London hotel, the Metropole. Today it is the Metropole Building, part of the Ministry of Defence. You can see what a lovely structure it really is right on Northumberland Avenue. You can even look inside straight from the street and you will see the Minister’s room, through the rather attractive window.

That is where Churchill was situated when the First World War ended on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month, of 1918, sitting in front of that window. And if one reads from Winston’s description of looking out of that window; you can hear these words; or better still read them out aloud on the pavement, when you look up at his window from Northumberland Avenue:
“Suddenly the first stroke of the chime. I looked at the broad street beneath me. It was deserted. From the portals of one of the large hotels absorbed by Government Departments darted the slight figure of a girl clerk, distractedly gesticulating while another stroke of Big Ben resounded. Then from all sides men and women came scurrying into the street. Streams of people poured out of all the buildings. Northumberland Avenue was now crowded with people in hundreds, nay thousands, rushing hither and thither in a frantic manner, shouting and screaming with joy. I could see that Trafalgar Square was already swarming. Around me in our very headquarters, in the Hotel Metropole, disorder had broken, out. Doors banged. Feet clattered down corridors. Everyone rose from the desk and cast aside pen and paper. All bounds were broken. The tumult grew. It grew like a gale, but from all sides simultaneously. The street was now a seething mass of humanity. Flags appeared as if by magic. Streams of men and women flowed from the Embankment. They mingled with torrents pouring down the Strand on their way to acclaim the King. Almost before the last stroke of the clock had died away, the strict, war-straitened, regulated streets of London had become a triumphant pandemonium.”

I often think that one should, when looking at Churchill’s London, try and look at the places where he was at these most important moments in World history. Let’s look not only at the famous houses, and important locations, but at the actual physical places where he lived, and the simple rooms where he slept, and the spots where he found himself, on those particularly important moments, such as that lovely window in the Metropole building.

The fact that when the war ended — is when Winston Churchill was made Minister of War, did not escape his well attuned radar for irony and humour, especially when it was aimed squarely against him. Indeed it was a usual thing coming as this type of jibes and jokes came quite often from his political and from his parliamentary frenemies that he most often called ‘misguided friends.’ Clearly this was not the only ironic moment of mirth and laughter in his career. Far from it. But this particular joke foisted upon him was the apotheosis of pantomime: “When the war was over — the Ministry of War was given to Winston.”

So immediately after the war, Winston found himself responsible, not for fighting the Bolsheviks in Russia — which he was quite keen to do — but, by order of Lloyd George and the Cabinet, he was responsible for pulling all expeditionary armies of British troops, out of Russia, and out of her territories, and dominions.

Indeed only another chapter of Winston Churchill’s life could stand out as more cynically ironic than this. Because this is when this Courageous Military Man, who was so furious against the Bolsheviks and rearing to fight the ‘Good Battle’ — was appointed ‘Minister of War’ and instead was given the responsibility of withdrawing all British forces from every corner of the almost disintegrated Bolshevik empire under the express orders and direction from the Prime Minister, of avoiding any conflict at any cost and just withdrawing.
Just imagine what the Duke of Marlborough — John Churchill — would have thought of this…

Yes, this is a historical anomaly because it truly represents a vast and somewhat humorous, if not slightly insulting curiosity of Churchill’s beliefs and principles — but such is the complexity of history, because this incident hides behind it quite a riddle. An unknown riddle because within this ‘strange’ story and it’s unfolding and expansive scenery — there is another and even greater political peculiarity hidden in plain view. A peculiarity worthy of Sir Conan Doyle and his character’s Sherlock Holmes powers of inquisitive intellect to discern the potential crime motives that brought us to this moment of history.

Back in March of 1918, Lenin and Trotsky were about to achieve their bittersweet triumph they had worked hard to bring about. Namely they strived to achieve this: ‘Peace with Germany’ in their own time and terms. This was the rationale behind the famous ‘Treaty of Brest-Litovsk’ under which the Bolsheviks gave up to Germany, in return for peace, vast areas of western Russia, including virtually the whole of Ukraine. Ukraine, that was literally Russia’s breadbasket, because of her vast wheat fields and her capable and hard working fieldhands, was now becoming part of Germany’s foodstuff magazine. What Russia lost — Germany gained without much fighting.
Indeed, everyone around the British government’s Cabinet table in London was alarmed about this.

First, it meant that Germany would acquire enormously wealthy areas of Russia and her breadbasket. Second, that with no fighting left to be done against the Russians, the Kaiser could turn millions of battle hardened and well armed military men against Britain in the Western European fields of War — in the horrible trenches of the torrid ‘Western Front’ spread out for hundreds of miles stretching throughout the Alsace Lorraine region of Eastern France, Belgium, and the Low Lands.

As a counterbalance Britain counted on her American cousins. And of course America had belatedly entered the war by then, and its troops were streaming on the front lines and the trenches — or almost coming in the line of fire, but Winston Churchill knew that the Allies could not withstand this mass of new German troops.

And in light of these changed circumstances, it was right then that Winston Churchill proposed to Lloyd George: ‘Why doesn’t somebody like Theodore Roosevelt (who was then in Europe) go at once to Russia, and join the Bolshevik government as one of its Commissars, as Commissar for the Allies in fact. Then, in return for Lenin’s Russia rejoining the war with Germany, Britain and the United States would guarantee the permanence of the Bolshevik Revolution.’ The postscript to this is that Winston Churchill of course was too modest, to propose himself, and in fact proposed FDR to get the chestnuts out of the fire — something that as we all know; he really craved for himself.
Well, this was not the only thing in Churchill’s life that did not turn out as he proposed, or as he planned and executed. And indeed this episode although unheard of in the UK, it was somehow picked up by spies and back in Moscow, it created a certain tremor of excitement and expectation…

Looking back over Churchill’s career, I have often thought that one of the most neglected periods is the two years which he spent as Colonial Secretary. It is neglected, perhaps, because we think now, in the post-Colonial world, and especially in America which is vehemently anti-colonial — that the colonies were somehow Victorian, old fashioned, slightly disreputable, out-of-the-way places, ill-governed, weak, corrupt, and perhaps we rightly got rid of them. But this is just an illusion when you see today India due to its civil service and her English democratic traditions that were built-in during the days of the British Raj — is the biggest Democracy in the world.

And this was one of the main issues with which Churchill had to deal as Secretary of State for the Colonies, along with the thorny problems of managing Ireland. It is my view that Winston Churchill’s attempt to resolve the Irish question in 1920-21, his negotiation of the Irish Treaty, and his unabashed bringing of the Irish terrorists into negotiations with the British Government — were one of the greatest achievements of his life. And his influence is writ large today because his handling of this colonial crisis led to the creation of today’s Nation of Eire, and what today is the Unionist Northern Ireland, still part of the United Kingdom.

Of course if you read the correspondence of Winston at the time, and the Treaty papers, and if you look at the minute record of the negotiations — one can easily see that this was intended as a temporary ‘expedient’ until the passions could subside. Well, it still may prove to be a temporary ‘expedient’ but we should all remember that the whole of History is temporary and as the Buddhists and the Physicists keep on reminding us — everything is transient. Therefore as politicians we simply have to define “temporary” in a somewhat elastic way.
Indeed Winston Churchill worked exceptionally hard on the Irish settlement, and his super strong effort shows because Peace has been maintained to this day after a few periods of flare ups. And with the Good Friday accords power sharing in the North Irish part of the United Kingdom retains the peace — albeit at times an uneasy one.

But for today’s difficult times when we are dealing with the threats of Militant Islam and Islamic Terrorism — Winston Churchill’s advice to the terrorists themselves surely remains relevant and rather useful today, maybe more than ever: “Quit killing, and start talking.”
Hard though he worked, and late into the night he agonized — so late into so many nights, that people thought he was going sleepless for ages meditating upon the Irish settlement. And although that was true, Winston Churchill understood best amongst all of his contemporaries that Ireland needed a measure of Independence and to be released from the patronage of England — because it could not be wholly governed by treaties and negotiations, and it needed a postcolonial future, in the catholic part and a firm hand as well for the Ulster Protestant North.

He had a clear view of the Irish passions and the divisions because when he was a child growing up in Ireland — he remembered being awfully scared by the Irish Fenian, and the Irish Republican Brotherhood terrorists, who had even burned down the children’s theatre, where he was going to see a play, as a little boy with his beloved ‘Woom” Mrs Everest.

And perhaps remembering this, and that, and the other, from his very early life’s Irish experience, and from his first formative years spent growing up at the ViceRoy House in Dublin — is why he introduced the ‘Irish Treaty’ in the House of Commons by making a marvellously long speech in order to win both political spectrum sides, that occupied the English Parliament and the House of Commons at that time. Indeed this was the first of the four major speeches, each lasting more than two hours, that he made on the issues of Ireland during that period of historically charged times.

 

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Winston’s conciliatory speeches not only had to soothe the irate Tories who did not like the idea of an independent Catholic Southern Ireland — but he had to quiet down the passions of the even more irate Liberals, for whom breaking up Ireland by creating a separate Protestant enclave in the North of the island, was the thing they had nearly gone to war over, just before the “real” First World War got started, back in 1914.

But Winston was set to liberate Ireland from the Colonial past and to set her on her way to Independence and nationhood. One should this fine passage, spoken when Churchill was confronted, as so often in his Ministerial as well as his Opposition days, by a hostile House. As so often in his life, he could look farther back than many of his listeners, to a period in which he had been even then at the centre of dramatic events.

This is what Winston said: “I remember, on the eve of the Great War, we were gathered together at Cabinet in Downing Street, and for a long time, an hour or an hour and a half, after the latest Irish conflict, we discussed the boundaries of Fermanagh and Tyrone counties. Both of the great traditional parties were at each other’s throats. The air was full of talk of civil war. Every effort was made by us to settle the matter and to bring them together.”
“The differences had been narrowed down, not merely to the counties of Fermanagh and Tyrone but to parishes and groups of parishes inside the area of Fermanagh and Tyrone. And yet, even when the differences had been so narrowed down, the problem appeared to be insuperable as ever.”

 

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“Then came the Great War. Every institution, almost, in the world was strained. Great empires were overturned. The whole map of Europe had been changed. The position of every country had been violently altered. The modes of thought of men, the whole outlook of affairs, the grouping of political parties, all had encountered violent and tremendous changes in the deluge of the world. But as the deluge subsides and the waters fall short, we see the dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone emerging once again. The integrity of their quarrel is one of the few institutions that has been unaltered in the cataclysm which has swept the world.”

And that was that. The modern nation of Ireland was born. And in large measure it was born because of Winston Churchill’s visionary politics and his principled stand on fighting for what is RIGHT and PROPER and in the interest of the PEOPLE. His principled stand on the Irish Question as well as on everything else — he proved time and again. But he was never recognized by peers, enemies and friends alike. Because human nature being what it is — they always assigned to him some dark and intriguing imperial motives every time that he was proven to be a Republican and in favor of liberating people and always fighting alongside them with personal danger and personal courage and cost — whether in the trenches, or in the high seas, or in the air, or in the ramparts along with the defenders as in Antwerp and so many other places — and perhaps most visibly when he fought inside the Houses of Parliament inside the Westminster Hall of the government and the opposition in the Commons and the Lords of the British Empire.

These two most Irish counties of Fermanagh and Tyrone, are still today framed in their original borders, that constitute the central part of the original six counties, that comprised the Northern Ireland in it’s entirety. Yet the year 1922 saw the fall of Lloyd George, and Winston Churchill fell alongside him, and thus went into his first of several political ‘wilderness’ years. Those were years of solitude and years of focusing on family and reflection through writing, advocating, and ‘venting’ only through his article writing, and through his oppositional speeches — while he was writing and publishing his XL historical books for his own edification if not for a living… As indeed for the first time since 1900, he was without a seat in Parliament.
Yet unbeknown to Winston and to his surprise, after having fought a Conservative Government in two by-elections and after having done very well against them, and finally having been re-elected — Winston was summoned as he thought; by the new Conservative Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, in order to be offered a minor post in the Government. Perhaps he would be offered a Ministry of Local Government, or he will be asked to become the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, or he might be given some other purely decorative role. This is what he fully expected from the type of funny people that in jest had given him the Ministry of War when Peace was declared.

Yet this ignominy — Winston was firmly resolved not to accept…
But as chance would have it — the question was not just to get Winston back in the government in a minor role to just keep him quiet. Churchill misread the mood, and erringly thought that the question in the minds of Prime Minister Baldwin and his Cabinet, of people jealous of Winston, and even some haters of his ideas — was instead this: “How small, how pitiful, and how derisory this offer should be, in order to be rejected by Churchill outright?”
And therefore somewhat to Winston’s disappointment, Prime Minister Baldwin said to him: “I’d like you to be Chancellor.” Churchill assumed that he was to be Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the sinecure he had held briefly in 1915…
He said that: “I am willing to do it, if we could have some influence on social policy.”
Yet the offer was in fact more. Indeed, it was much more, because what PM Baldwin was offering to Winston who was negatively predisposed at that meeting — was the position of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the number one post in the Cabinet, after the position of the Prime Minister.
Churchill, never at a loss for words, had the wit and temerity to ask in reply: “Will the bloody duck swim?”

It was a brilliant and fateful choice for Winston to hold the British government’s Ministerial spot that his family father Sir Randolph Churchill had held during his days of glory in the Cabinet many years earlier. And Winston liked the challenge and thrived in this place of Economic power, because it was a place where he could see all the innovation and Financial Technology of his age unfolding while also being applied to Public Policy and the Economy. As a matter of fact, one young man, whom Churchill spotted in the early days of the year 1925, was Harold Macmillan, a recently elected Conservative whom Neville Chamberlain had somehow failed to encourage onwards. Winston Churchill gave young Harold Macmillan a room in the Treasury, and encouraged him to set down his ideas on how the economy should develop: the human face of Tory economic policies. It was the basis of a long and eventually very friendly political and personal relationship of Winston acting as a Mentor to the young man and his aspirations.

Winston Churchill, I’ll have you know; began writing his own biographic works even before his return to Conservatism. That is when he started to write his war memoirs, titled: ‘The World Crisis.’ He was long overdue, because he had already completed 30 years in politics. Indeed those were 30 years at the epicentre of decisions reflecting events of world shattering proportions. By this time Winston had a lot to say about the exercise of power and the principled yet shrewd, and sometimes even monstrous decision making process, of effective leadership. Because his style of leadership was always judged by its short term, as well as the long term, and also the utterly distant long term effectiveness — he always required to be examined. Perhaps he was the only man of his age that thought in 1,000 year terms, but that he did. He did and decided about them, yet also manifested actions that brought about the desired results and repercussions, we are faced with today. And he also somehow despite all odds — managed to live and write about all of it. We all know now that very few people have the luxury of time in an overlong life, an extraordinarily lengthy political career in the centre of power, and the great fortune to be able to redeem all of his mistakes. The learnings he received during his Life and the Import he placed at correcting what is wrong — will make this exercise in teaching you how to be an awesome leader, abundantly clear. And that is why his exercise of the Art of Power and his example in the Art of Leadership are such important lessons for those seeking Mastery of the simple skill of being the Best Leader there is; for self and country.

And yet while Winston embarked on reflecting and writing about his long career while contemplating permanent retirement — he had to abandon hope for ever returning back to Power. Winston Churchill trusted that the future, the fates, and the fortunes, are all unknown to us. Yet they are especially opaque, to anyone who does not consult ‘the inner Oracle’ residing deep within each man and woman of self understanding. Those who live an ‘examined’ life by practicing the art of ‘Knowing Thyself” are keen to serve, and also share of themselves for the benefit of others. It was here that Winston felt he was going to have more time in Politics and he needed to take a break and reflect. Maybe he didn’t know that he had a couple more decades worth of Leadership time — but he had surely sensed that a long life awaited him. By his own estimate, he strongly felt that it would be another 20 additional years in Political Leadership within the British Parliament, and in helming the coming War — before he would decide to call it ‘Quits’ but for obvious reasons he couldn’t share that feeling and not be found boastful and cocksure. This was surely outside even his interior Oracle’s purview, or of any hope of convincing anybody about it and that even goes for his all understanding, ever forgiving, and always loving Clementine.
Winston Churchill had become by then quite a wise Oracle, so that by 1930, and he had set his mind to sharing his wisdom with his beloved nation. At the same time he was reading so many false accounts because it was always that other people would send him their own books for his review and for his commentary or asking him for a simple quote for the publishers and the public about the ‘historical value’ of their book to the conversation going on at the time. One of these new writers, was his own good friend Lord Beaverbrook, who sent him his own published account of what he thought had happened in 1914 and 1915, in the relationship of British Politicians’ decisions and the First World War.
Winston Churchill read this book carefully and enjoyed it, but was immensely saddened by it. He made copious notes on the margins, and furious corrections, as he no doubt was preparing his ‘rebuttals.’ Indeed, Winston saw Beaverbrook’s hard hitting style of journalistic writing as revisionist and revanchist. Immediately by return post, he send a thank-you letter, where Winston Churchill wrote: “What a tale. Think of all these people, decent, educated. The story of the past laid out before them: what to avoid, what to do, etc. Patriotic, loyal, clean, decent, trying their utmost: what a ghastly muddle they made of it. Unteachable from infancy to tomb, that is the first and last characteristic of mankind.”

What a torrid lesson for all of us. Beaverbrooks book is essential reading for anyone who considers themselves a serious student of History and leadership and it’s magnificent, and manifest failures. It is interesting, too, that on the bottom of his letter to Beaverbrook — Winston Churchill added: “No more war.”

Sadly, that is the exact point in time, when Churchill’s ten-year ‘Wilderness’ in exile from Political involvement and from the good Society of London started…

Indeed one may have seen the film which was made on the basis of that section of his Biography, “The Wilderness Years” where we see Winston being totally absorbed in offering his warnings to the Nation about the looming threat of Germany; his isolation from all Society; his intentional loneliness; his walks in the valleys beyond; the devotion of the very small circle of people around him; his bricklaying; his building an annex wall; his painting; his wild intelligence gathering of Germany’s rearmament; his foreign trips for fact finding purposes; and above all else — the love of his wife Clementine, that kept him in good spirits, and always helped him remain even keeled, by driving the ‘black dogs’ of depression and dysthymia away. And that is something one should never forget: The value of the devotion of this small band of high standing people who brought him information, of people who believed in him, and of people who encouraged him to go on against a totally hostile Parliament; a small number of devoted friends and quiet allies who together with his small Secretariat and his stenographers — were absolutely loyal to him.

Still at all these pivotal moments, Winston Churchill gave his warnings at every opportunity afforded to him, and he wrote many articles where he warned the Head of Government, and the Sovereign, about all the areas that Germany was surpassing Great Britain in those prewar days. He stressed that significant weakness in the air, and on fast moving mobile tanks, would give the Germans the ability to dominate Europe; and that if we neglected our air power, they would simply gobble up country, after country, and the whole of Europe would be theirs in months, if not weeks. He was so vocal about it that he was called a ‘Kassandra’ and worse…

Still Britain and its leadership class, did neglect its air power development completely, and thus when Hitler invaded Poland, her allies the Brits were totally powerless to do anything; but simply watch helplessly allied Poland whose integrity they had guaranteed — being violated, mauled, destroyed, and fully partitioned between Adfolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany and Josip Stalin’s Soviet Russia.

Great Britain was indeed powerless. She was found to be even more feeble, when Hitler invaded Denmark, and then Norway — even though Winston Churchill, who had by then returned to Government, tried to anticipate and deflect the German invasion of Norway; albeit unsuccessfully. Even France capitulated quickly because she could not be effectively helped or saved either. The fact that our own most valuable Expeditionary force of 320.000 battle hardened troops, was delivered by an act of ‘divine will’ and a ten thousand vessel flotilla, from the enemys’ encircling clutches in Dunkirk — was the only bright spot in an otherwise darkest hour.

 

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Even the great armies of France with her vast defenses that were built at great cost to protect her from exactly that eventuality — capitulated quickly. France which had so often fought against Germany valiantly, and had never been conquered by the Huns; this time ‘fell’ completely, and surrendered. France waved the white cloth to the German conquerors, despite Churchill’s incredible exertions, his hundreds of telegrams, his offers of assistance and even his three personal visits, always courting danger and certain death, by flying low across the Channel, and landing in various frontal points of the conflict. With his daredevil pilots, Winston was always landing in many out of the way airstrips, grassfields, and even roads, in order to meet with, cajole, and ‘rally’ the French Generals, and the French Political Leaders, to fight on. He later said that he wanted to give the ‘Frenchies’ some backbone, and a good dose of Courage from his personal stock that he happened to have in immense supplies — even as the German armies were thrusting forward to Paris, and beyond. He fully knew that France couldn’t hold, yet he wanted her to stem the invaders and the tide of German armies pouring in — at least a little longer; in order to ‘buy’ some more time for Britain to prepare… Yet at this late hour Winston hoped against hope to have the same effect as he had on the Belgians in the previous war, and as he always had on people. He had hoped to help them rise-up to their full measure of Humanity’s Greatness and fight on.

But with the French, this time around — this was not to pass…

Yet it was right then, that Britain began in her small ways to try to fight back against the locust of millions of heavily armed jackbooted thugs streaming out of Germany and visiting violence, death, and terror, across the whole of Europe. But Winston Churchill was defiant and even at the height of the massive German air bombardment against the whole of England, Winston directed the diminished British Air Force and they manned-up, and thus were able to mount several small bombing raids on Germany. Yet back home the intensity of the German Bombing Blitz was of such ferocity, and effectiveness; that on one occasion — Churchill personally sent to Roosevelt an account of it, which was ‘suppressed’ by the British Embassy in Washington, and was never delivered to FDR, because the British seasoned Diplomats felt that if Roosevelt would read it; he would conclude that there was no way in which Britain could survive such an onslaught, and he would give up completely on any plans that Winston cultivated for his TransAtlantic Alliance. This mental construct of Winston that was clothed as an Alliance of the English speaking Peoples in order to fight the Germanic Hun menace; and in some equal measure to also bring the United States into his sphere of influence. He joked about bringing Lady Liberty and America ‘into his harem’ meaning to get the Yanks into the Alliance, and together fight the Second World War against Germany and against her Axis powers of evil..
This was not to pass either…

At least not at this early point in time.

This time of war, awful death, and bloody destruction — he had to be all alone.
Britain had to fight alone for the first two long years of the Second World War…
Hard years to live through, let alone to lead through.
But the man at the helm had already been shot at in five continents, attacked with sword and bayonet, hunted down as a fugitive, bombed, shelled, almost killed by assassination, or accidents — many times; and yet he always survived.
So he was not overly afraid of anything that might take his life away.
He fought on…

And Great Britain — not so great by now — she fought on too.
Gradually Britain was able, with great difficulty; and against the loss of more than 55,000 pilots, and aircrew flight members of the British Royal Air Force over that time; to regroup. She was still able to fight on, and through bulldog tenacity — she eventually managed to reverse the balance of terror in this pitiless conflict of the forces of Light versus the soldiers of darkness, death and destruction. Things started to look up…

Of course at that rather pivotal moment — the ‘peaceniks’ and their protests began at the home-counties, led by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the German sympathizers in London, who were illogically opposed to any type of bombing of Germany. One wonders, what it was that they were hoping for? What conceivable outcome? Maybe the archbishop was dreaming of a painless entente? Or of a mutual surrender? Or like Mosley of a joining of the hands?
Winston also reflected upon these things often. And as he wondered often, about what else there was to be done, to force Hitler to surrender… he carried on dispatching a measure of retribution from the sky. So for now the bombing continued unabated.

It is here that I would like to quote you Winston Churchill’s reply to the critics of the tit-for-tat British air bombardment of Germany, after the German Bombing Blitz had reduced much of London and many other British cities and industrial centers to rumble…

 

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That is what Winston Churchill pointed out: “This air power, was the weapon which Germany selected as its main tool of conquest. This was the sphere in which they were to triumph. This was the method by which all the nations of Europe were to be subjected to their rule. I shall not moralise further than to say there is a strange, stern justice, in the long swing of events.”
After this solemn speech, of the Prime Minister — Great Britain went on, flew onward, bombed extensively, and generally exacted her toll upon Germany from up high in the ‘Air’ as promised by Winston and delivered by the wheels of that divine justice St George always delivered on behalf of the English people towards their evil enemies… It was then that the German High Command became completely powerless to repel the bombing campaigns coming from Britain, and instead had to watch helplessly the bombings and the burnings, same as her soldiers also had to watch, repeal, and hoping to defend in retreat…

 

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At this moment the Germans generally bore the burden of the advancing Russian Red Army quite well. Yet this was not to last because the Red Army, after years of defeats and retreats; through the plentiful aid of General ‘Winter’ by now had gained enormous military and political advantage, as it advanced from the steppes of the East, towards Berlin aiming at the belly of the ‘Beast’ the Reichstag.

The Russians by now had truly become the largest and the fiercest single military factor in Hitler’s defeat. Now, by and large, the Russians had twenty men engaged against Hitler at any single time; for every one of ours…
But even here, Winston Churchill’s magnanimity in the throes of bloody conflict and terrible war — never wavered. One evening, a year after Churchill’s defence of the Government’s air policy, the policy of the Labour Ministers, as well as his own, Churchill was at Chequers, where “Bomber Harris” head of Bomber Command, had come, as he often did, with his charts. They showed the destruction of German cities, something of which Harris was rather proud.

Instead of Churchill being excited and impressed by the charts, as he often was, he looked sombre. Then addressing Harris in the third person, something quite unusual, he said: “What I want to know is this: when Air Marshal Harris has finished the destruction of every German city, what will then lie between the white snows of Russia, and the white cliffs of Dover?”

 

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On another occasion, watching a film of the fierce bombardment of a German city by the Royal Air Force, Winston Churchill turned to the person next to him and asked:

“Are we beasts?”

 

To be continued: 


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