of European Unity

Biographies  |  Webquests   |  Quiz on EU history


Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill, the son of Randolph Churchill, a Conservative politician, was born in Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, on 30th November, 1874. His mother, Jennie Jerome, was the daughter of Leonard Jerome, a New York businessman.

After being educated at Harrow he went to the Royal Military College at Sandhurst. Churchill joined the Fourth Hussars in 1895 and saw action on the Indian north-west frontier and in the Sudan where he took part in the Battle of Omdurman (1898).

While in the army Churchill supplied military reports for the Daily Telegraph and wrote books such as The Story of the Malakand Field Force (1898) and The River War (1899).

After leaving the British Army in 1899, Churchill worked as a war correspondent for the Morning Post. While reporting the Boer War in South Africa he was taken prisoner by the Boers but made headline news when he escaped. On returning to England he wrote about his experiences in the book, London to Ladysmith (1900).

In the 1900 General Election Churchill was elected as the Conservative MP for Oldham. As a result of reading, Poverty, A Study of Town Life by Seebohm Rowntree he became a supporter of social reform. In 1904, unconvinced by his party leaders desire for change, Churchill decided to join the Liberal Party.

In the 1906 General Election Churchill won North West Manchester and immediately became a member of the new Liberal government as Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies. When Herbert Asquith replaced Henry Campbell-Bannerman as Prime Minister in 1908 he promoted Churchill to his cabinet as President of the Board of Trade. While in this post he carried through important social legislation including the establishment of employment exchanges.

On 12th September 1908 Churchill married Clementine Ogilvy Spencer and the following year published a book on his political philosophy, Liberalism and the Social Problem (1909).

Following the 1910 General Election Churchill became Home Secretary. Churchill introduced several reforms to the prison system, including the provision of lecturers and concerts for prisoners and the setting up of special after-care associations to help convicts after they had served their sentence. However, Churchill was severely criticized for using troops to maintain order during a Welsh miners's strike.

Churchill became First Lord of the Admiralty in October 1911 where he helped modernize the navy. Churchill was one of the first people to grasp the military potential of aircraft and in 1912 he set up the Royal Naval Air Service. He also established an Air Department at the Admiralty so as to make full use of this new technology. Churchill was so enthusiastic about these new developments that he took flying lessons.

On the outbreak of war in 1914, Churchill joined the War Council. However, he was blamed for the failure at the Dardanelles Campaign in 1915 and was moved to the post of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Unhappy about not having any power to influence the Government's war policy, he rejoined the British Army and commanded a battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers on the Western Front.

When David Lloyd George replaced Herbert Asquith as Prime Minister, he brought Churchill back into the government as Minister of Munitions and for the final year of the war, Churchill was in charge of the production of tanks, aeroplanes, guns and shells.

Churchill also served under David Lloyd George as Minister of War and Air (1919-20) and Colonial Secretary (1921-22). The divisions in the Liberal Party led to Churchill being defeated by E. D. Morel in the 1922 General Election. Churchill now rejoined the Conservative Party and was elected to represent Epping in the 1924 General Election.

Stanley Baldwin, the leader of the new Conservative administration, appointed Churchill as Chancellor of the Exchequer. In 1925 Churchill controversially returned Britain the the Gold Standard and the following year took a strong line against the General Strike. Churchill edited the Government's newspaper, the British Gazette, during the dispute where he argued that "either the country will break the General Strike, or the General Strike will break the country."

With the defeat of the Conservative government in 1929, Churchill lost office. When Ramsay MacDonald formed the National Government in 1931 Churchill, who was now seen as a right-wing extremist, was not invited to join the Cabinet. He spent the next few years concentrating on his writing, including the publication of the History of the English Speaking Peoples.

After Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party gained power in Germany in 1933, Churchill became a leading advocate of rearmament. He was also a staunch critic of Neville Chamberlain and the Conservative government's appeasement policy. In 1939 Churchill controversially argued that Britain and France should form of a military alliance with the Soviet Union.

On the outbreak of the Second World War Churchill was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty and on 4th April 1940 became chairman of the Military Coordinating Committee. Later that month the German Army invaded and occupied Norway. The loss of Norway was a considerable setback for Neville Chamberlain and his policies for dealing with Nazi Germany.

On 8th May the Labour Party demanded a debate on the Norwegian campaign and this turned into a vote of censure. At the end of the debate 30 Conservatives voted against Chamberlain and a further 60 abstained. Chamberlain now decided to resign and on 10th May, 1940, George VI appointed Churchill as prime minister. Later that day the German Army began its Western Offensive and invaded the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. Two days later German forces entered France.

Churchill formed a coalition government and placed leaders of the Labour Party such as Clement Attlee, Ernest Bevin, Herbert Morrison, Stafford Cripps and Hugh Dalton in key positions. He also brought in another long-time opponent of Chamberlain, Anthony Eden, as his secretary of state for war. Later that year Eden replaced Lord Halifax as foreign secretary.

Churchill also developed a strong personal relationship with Franklin D. Roosevelt and this led to the sharing and trading of war supplies. The Lend Lease agreement of March 1941 allowed Britain to order war goods from the United States on credit.

Although he provided strong leadership the war continued to go badly for Britain and after a series of military defeats Churchill had to face a motion of no confidence in Parliament. However, he maintained the support of most members of the House of Commons and won by 475 votes to 25.

Churchill continued to be criticized for meddling in military matters and tended to take too much notice of the views of his friends such as Frederick Lindemann rather than his military commanders. In April 1941 he made the serious mistake of trying to save Greece by weakening his forces fighting the Desert War.

One of the major contributions made by Churchill to eventual victory was his ability to inspire the British people to greater effort by making public broadcasts on significant occasions. A brilliant orator he was a tireless source of strength to people experiencing the sufferings of the Blitz.

After Pearl Harbor Churchill worked closely with Franklin D. Roosevelt to ensure victory over Germany and Japan. He was also a loyal ally of the Soviet Union after Adolf Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa in June, 1941.

Churchill held important meetings with Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin at Teheran (November, 1943) and Yalta (February, 1945). Although Churchill's relationship with Stalin was always difficult he managed to successfully develop a united strategy against the Axis powers.

Despite intense pressure from Stalin to open a second-front by landing Allied troops in France in 1943, Churchill continued to argue that this should not happen until the defeat of Nazi Germany was guaranteed. The D-Day landings did not take place until June, 1944 and this delay enabled the Red Army to capture territory from Germany in Eastern Europe.

In public Churchill accepted plans for social reform drawn up by William Beveridge in 1944. However, he was unable to convince the electorate that he was as committed to these measures as much as Clement Attlee and the Labour Party. In the 1945 General Election Churchill's attempts to compare a future Labour government with Nazi Germany backfired and Attlee won a landslide victory.

Churchill became leader of the opposition and when visiting the United States in March 1946, he made his famous Iron Curtain speech at Fulton, Missouri. He suffered the first of several strokes in August 1946 but this information was kept from the general public and he continued to lead the Conservative Party.

Churchill returned to power after the 1951 General Election. After the publication of his six volume, The Second World War, Churchill was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Churchill's health continued to deteriorate and in 1955 he reluctantly retired from politics. Winston Churchill died on 24th January, 1965.

(1) David Low first met Winston Churchill in 1922.

As might be expected from his origins and temperament, Churchill was inwardly contemptuous of the 'common man' when the 'common man' sought to interfere in his (the 'common man's) own government; but bearing with the need to appear sympathetic and compliant to the popular will. In those days, whenever I heard Churchill's dramatic periods about democracy, I felt inclined to say: "Please define." His definition, I felt, would be something like "government of the people, for the people, by benevolent and paternal ruling-class chaps like me."

Churchill was witty and easy to talk to until I said that the Australians were an independent people who could not be expected to follow Britain without question. They were, in the case of new wars, for instance, not to be taken for granted, but would follow their own judgment.

Churchill was one of the few men I have met who even in the flesh give me the impression of genius. George Bernard Shaw is another. It is amusing to know that each thinks the other is overrated.

(2) Winston Churchill, Illustrated Sunday Herald (8th February, 1920)

The part played in the creation of Bolshevism and in the actual
bringing about of the Russian Revolution by these international and for the most part atheistic Jews ... is certainly a very great one; it probably outweighs all others. With the notable exception of Lenin, the majority of the leading figures are Jews. Moreover, the principal inspiration and driving power comes from Jewish leaders ... The same evil prominence was obtained by Jews in (Hungary and Germany, especially Bavaria).

Although in all these countries there are many non-Jews every whit as bad as the worst of the Jewish revolutionaries, the part played by the latter in proportion to their numbers in the population is astonishing. The fact that in many cases Jewish interests and Jewish places of worship are excepted by the Bolsheviks from their universal hostility has tended more and more to associate the Jewish race in Russia with the villainies which are now being perpetrated.

(3) Philip Snowden, An Autobiography (1934)

The most surprising of the Ministerial appointments made by Mr. Baldwin was the constituted his government in November 1924 was the selection of Mr. Winston Churchill as Chancellor of the Exchequer. What induced Mr. Baldwin to offer Mr. Churchill this important post still remains an inscrutable mystery.

As an ex-Chancellor it fell to me to lead the Opposition in the Budget debates, and I found Mr. Churchill a foe worthy of my steel. Mr. Churchill, during these years, gradually developed as a Parliamentary debater. He learnt to rely less on careful preparation of his speeches and more upon spontaneous effort. However much one may differ from Mr. Churchill, one is compelled to like him for his finer qualities. There is an attractiveness in everything he does. His high spirits are irrepressible. Mr. Churchill was as happy facing a Budget deficit as in distributing a surplus. He is an adventurer, a soldier of fortune.

(4) Jennie Lee made her first speech in the House of Commons soon after she was elected in a by-election in 1929.

Winston Churchill was at that time Chancellor of the Exchequer and I directed my attack mainly against his budget proposals. Later in the day, in the Smoking Room, he came over to me and congratulated me on my speech. He assured me that we both wanted the same thing, only we had different notions of how to get it. The richer the rich became, the more able they would be to help the poor. That was his theme and he said he would send me a book that would explain everything to me. The book duly arrived. It was The American Omen by Garet Garrett, a right-wing economist who was despised by most of us for his extreme views.

(5) J. R. Clynes, Memoirs (1937)

I met Churchill in 1901 during his Election campaign in Oldham, having been chosen to lead a group of local Labour supporters to interview him, and obtain from him an exposition of his views on certain Labour topics. I found him a man of extraordinarily independent mind, and great courage. He absolutely refused to yield to our persuasions, and said bluntly that he would rather lose votes than abandon his convictions.

Churchill was, and has always remained, a soldier in mufti. He possesses inborn militaristic qualities, and is intensely proud of his descent from Marlborough. He cannot visualize Britain without an Empire, or the Empire without wars of acquisition and defence. A hundred years ago he might profoundly have affected the shaping of our country's history. Now, the impulses of peace and internationalism, and the education and equality of the working classes, leave him unmoved.

(6) Kingsley Martin first met Winston Churchill while teaching at the London School of Economics. Martin wrote about Churchill and the General Strike in his book, Father Figures (1966)

The General Strike of 1926 was an unmitigated disaster. Not merely for Labour but for England. Churchill and other militants in the cabinet were eager for a strike, knowing that they had built a national organization in the six months' grace won by the subsidy to the mining industry. Churchill himself told me this on the first occasion I met him in person. I asked Winston what he thought of the Samuel Coal Commission. When Winston said that the subsidy had been granted to enable the Government to smash the unions, unless the miners had given way in the meantime, my picture of Winston was confirmed.

He was a delicious and witty guest, quite willing to talk freely to young academics. I then regarded him as the most dangerous of all politicians. He combined brilliance with the most foolish and antiquated views, which would have condemned us without hope of reprieve to war between classes and nations; he had tried to make war with Russia in 1919, and he waged successful war against the workers in 1926. The economic disasters of the thirties were inaugurated by his return to the Gold Standard in 1925; he was to be a supporter of Mussolini and Franco, and would have carried out a disgracing war in India. All the more remarkable that I was to become his admirer in the later thirties and to write a eulogy of him as our indispensable leader in 1940.

(7) Winston Churchill, speech in the House of Commons on the resignation of Anthony Eden as Foreign Secretary (22nd February, 1938)

The resignation of the late Foreign Secretary may well be a milestone in history. Great quarrels, it has been well said, arise from small occasions but seldom from small causes. The late Foreign Secretary adhered to the old policy which we have all forgotten for so long. The Prime Minister and his colleagues have entered upon another and a new policy. The old policy was an effort to establish the rule of law in Europe, and build up through the League of Nations effective deterrents against the aggressor. Is it the new policy to come to terms with the totalitarian Powers in the hope that by great and far-reaching acts of submission, not merely in sentiment and pride, but in material factors, peace may be preserved.

A firm stand by France and Britain, under the authority of the League of Nations, would have been followed by the immediate evacuation of the Rhineland without the shedding of a drop of blood; and the effects of that might have enabled the more prudent elements of the German Army to gain their proper position, and would not have given to the political head of Germany the enormous ascendancy which has enabled him to move forward. Austria has now been laid in thrall, and we do not know whether Czechoslovakia will not suffer a similar attack.

(8) On 16th April, 1939, the Soviet Union suggested a three-power military alliance with Great Britain and France. In a speech on 4th May, Winston Churchill urged the government to accept the offer.

Ten or twelve days have already passed since the Russian offer was made. The British people, who have now, at the sacrifice of honoured, ingrained custom, accepted the principle of compulsory military service, have a right, in conjunction with the French Republic, to call upon Poland not to place obstacles in the way of a common cause. Not only must the full co-operation of Russia be accepted, but the three Baltic States, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, must also be brought into association. To these three countries of warlike peoples, possessing together armies totalling perhaps twenty divisions of virile troops, a friendly Russia supplying munitions and other aid is essential.

There is no means of maintaining an eastern front against Nazi aggression without the active aid of Russia. Russian interests are deeply concerned in preventing Herr Hitler's designs on eastern Europe. It should still be possible to range all the States and peoples from the Baltic to the Black sea in one solid front against a new outrage of invasion. Such a front, if established in good heart, and with resolute and efficient military arrangements, combined with the strength of the Western Powers, may yet confront Hitler, Goering, Himmler, Ribbentrop, Goebbels and co. with forces the German people would be reluctant to challenge.

(9) Winston Churchill wrote about Operation Dynamo in his book The Second World War (1949)

Ever since May 20, the gathering of shipping and small craft had been proceeding under the control of Admiral Ramsay, who commanded at Dover. After the loss of Boulogne and Calais only the remains of the port of Dunkirk and the open beaches next to the Belgian Frontier were in our hands. On the evening of the 26th an Admiralty signal put Operation Dynamo into play, and the first troops were brought home that night.

Early the next morning, May 27, emergency measures were taken to find additional small craft. The various boatyards, from Teddington to Brightlingsea, were searched by Admiralty officers, and yielded upwards of forty serviceable motor-boats or launches, which were assembled at Sheerness on the following day. At the same time lifeboats from liners in the London docks, tugs from the Thames, yachts, fishing-craft, lighters, barges and pleasure-boats - anything that could be the use along the beaches - were called into service.

(10) Winston Churchill, speech in the House of Commons (4th June, 1940)

Our losses in men (at Dunkirk) have been 30,000 killed, wounded and missing. Against this we might set the far heavier loss certainly inflicted upon the enemy. We have lost nearly 1,000 guns and all our transport and all the armed vehicles that were with the army in the north.

The best of all we had to give, has gone with the B.E.F. and although they had not the number of tanks they were a very well and finely equipped army. They had all the first fruits of all our industry had to give, and that is gone.

An effort the like of which has never been seen in our records is now being made. Work is proceeding everywhere night and day, Sundays and weekdays. Capital and labour have cast aside their interests, rights and customs, and put them into the common stock.

Already the flow of munitions has leapt forward. There is no reason why we should not, in a few months overtake the sudden and serious loss that has come upon us without retarding development of our general programme.

(11) As commander of the 9th Armed Division Brian Horrocks had responsibility for protecting the Brighton coastal area.

It wasin Brighton that I first met the Prime Minister, Mr. Winston Churchill. He came down to have a look at our defences and watch the Royal Ulster Rifles carry out a small exercise. Though no one knew of his visit, he was quickly spotted and a large and enthusiastic crowd soon gathered. The complete confidence shown in him was most touching, and rather frightening to us who knew that, to all intents and purposes, the military cupboard was bare. During one of these spontaneous demonstrations of affection I found myself standing at the back beside Mrs. Churchill. There were tears in her eyes, and I heard her murmur, " Pray God we don't let them down."

(12) The Manchester Guardian (10th April, 1941)

It was a solemn House of Commons that heard Mr. Churchill today, which was natural. Mr. Churchill's was a solemn speech. It said in effect that the Allies are facing another crisis. Though it is not comparable with the gravity of the crisis that followed the collapse of France, no reader of Mr. Churchill's speech will doubt that it is grave enough. The House had sensed the occasion. It was full in all its parts.

He was as masterful as ever. Indeed, he was masterful enough at times as to be quite casual. Think of Hitler addressing his Reichstag with both hands thrust deep in his trouser pockets! Yet that was Mr. Churchill. It was in this way that he announced that the Germans had entered Salonika at four o'clock this morning. He almost did it in an aside. Intended or not, the manner took a lot of the force out of the blow.

But what was the tale as a whole? We had lost Benghazi, and the Germans and Italians were pressing us so hard that we must expect severe fighting not only to defend the rest of Cyrenaica but Egypt. Against that had to be set the victories in Eritrea, Italian Somaliland, and Abyssinia and the freeing of the Red Sea. Then there was the shattering naval victory of Matapan. Nothing, Mr. Churchill said amid cheers could detract from these brilliant achievements or diminish our gratitude to our forces.

Mr. Churchill is clearly not comfortable about France, in spite of his welcome of Marshall Petain's declaration that she will never fight her old ally. He sees how dependent Vichy is on Hitler. But his warning that we shall maintain our blockade aroused the greatest cheer of the speech. The next biggest cheer greeted his declaration that we should not tolerate any movements of French warships from African ports to the ports of Metropolitan France, for that would alter the balance of naval power in the Atlantic affecting the United states as much as ourselves.

(13) Winston Churchill, letter to Charles Portal in a reply to a report on the need to use more terror bombing attacks on Nazi Germany (27th September, 1941)

It is very disputable whether bombing by itself will be a decisive factor in the present war. On the contrary, all that we have learnt since the war began shows that its effects, both physical and moral, are greatly exaggerated. There is no doubt that British people have been stimulated and strengthened by the attack made upon them so far. Secondly, it seems very likely that the ground defences and night-fighters will overtake the air attack. Thirdly, in calculating the number of bombers necessary to achieve hypothetical and indefinite tasks, it should be noted that only a quarter of our bombs hit the targets. Consequently an increase of bombing to 100 per cent would in fact raise our bombing force to four times its strength. The most we can say is that it will be a heavy and I trust a seriously increasing annoyance.

(14) While he was at a Mansion House luncheon Winston Churchill heard a rumour that Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor. He immediately telephoned President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

In two or three minutes Mr. Roosevelt came through. "Mr. President, what's this about Japan? "It's quite true," he replied. "They have attacked us at Pearl Harbor. We are all in the same boat now."

No American will think it wrong of me if I proclaim that no have the United States at our side was to me the greatest joy. I could not foretell the course of events. I do not pretend to have measured accurately the martial might of Japan, but now at this very moment I knew the United States was in the war, up to the neck and in to the death. So we had won after all!

Yes, after Dunkirk; after the fall of France; after the horrible episode of Oran; after the threat of invasion, when, apart from the Air and the Navy, we were an almost unarmed people; after the deadly struggle of the U-boat war - the first Battle of the Atlantic, gained by a hand's-breath; after seventeen months of lonely fighting and nineteen months of my responsibility in dire stress. We had won the war. England would live; Britain would live; the Commonwealth of Nations and the Empire would live.

How long the war would last or in what fashion it would end no man could tell, nor did I at this moment care. Once again in our long Island history we should emerge, however mauled or mutilated, safe and victorious. We should not be wiped out. We should not be wiped out. Our history would not come to an end. We might not even have to die as individuals. Hitler's fate was sealed. Mussolini's fate was sealed. As for the Japanese, they would be ground to powder.

(15) Henry Wallace had lunch with Winston Churchill at the White House on 22nd May, 1943. That night he wrote about the meeting in his diary.

He made it more clear than he had at the luncheon on Saturday that he expected England and the United States to run
the world and he expected the staff organizations which had been set up for winning the war to continue when the peace came, that these staff organizations would by mutual understanding really run the world even though there was a supreme council and three regional councils.

I said bluntly that I thought the notion of Anglo-Saxon superiority, inherent in Churchill's approach, would be offensive to many of the nations of the world as well as to a number of people in the United States. Churchill had had quite a bit of whiskey, which, however, did not affect the clarity of his thinking process but did perhaps increase his frankness. He said why be apologetic about Anglo-Saxon superiority, that we were superior, that we had the common heritage which had been worked out over the centuries in England and had been perfected by our constitution. He himself was half American, he felt that he was called on as a result to serve the function of uniting the two great Anglo-Saxon civilizations in order to confer the benefit of freedom on the rest of the world.

(16) General Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote about Winston Churchill in his book Crusade in Europe (1948)

An inspirational leader, he seemed to typify Britain's courage and perseverance in adversity and its conservatism in success. He was a man of extraordinarily strong convictions and a master in argument and debate. Completely devoted to winning the war and discharging his responsibility as Prime Minister of Great Britain, he was difficult indeed to combat when conviction compelled disagreement with his views. In most cases problems were solved on a basis of almost instant agreement, but intermittently important issues arose where this was far from true. He could become intensely oratorical, even in discussion with a single person, but at the same time his intensity of purpose, made his delivery seem natural and appropriate. He used humor and pathos with equal facility, and drew on everything from the Greek classics to Donald Duck for quotation, cliché, and forceful slang to support his position.

I admired and liked him. He knew this perfectly well and never hesitated to use that knowledge in his effort to swing me to his own line of thought in any argument. Yet in spite of his strength of purpose, in those instances where we found our convictions in direct opposition, he never once lost his friendly attitude toward me when I persisted in my own course, nor did he fail to respect with meticulous care the position I occupied as the senior American officer and, later, the Allied
commander in Europe. He was a keen student of the war's developments and of military history, and discussion with him, even on purely professional grounds, was never profitless. If he accepted a decision unwillingly he would return again and again to the attack in an effort to have his own way, up to the very moment of execution. But once action was started he had a faculty for forgetting everything in his desire to get ahead, and invariably tried to provide British support in a greater degree than promised. Some of the questions in which I found myself, at various periods of the war, opposed to the Prime Minister were among the most critical I faced, but so long as I was acting within the limits of my combined directive he had no authority to intervene except by persuasion or by complete destruction of the Allied concept. Nevertheless, in countless ways he could have made my task a harder one had he been anything less than big, and I shall always owe him an immeasurable debt of gratitude for his unfailing courtesy and zealous support, regardless of his dislike of some important decisions. He was a great war leader and he is a great man.

(17) General Alan Brooke, Chief of Imperial General Staff (diary entry, 12th April 1945)

We had to consider this morning one of Winston's worst minutes I have ever seen. I can only believe that he must have been quite tight when he dictated it. My God! How little the world at large knows what his failings and defects are!

(18) Tom Hopkinson, Of This Our Time (1982)

A consequence of this seemingly unending series of disasters was that now for the first time there began to be criticism of Churchill as Prime Minister. This took two different slants. Popular criticism, such as was to be heard in pubs, air-raid
shelters and in general talk, took the line that the 'old man' himself was still the only possible war leader, but that he was
failing to share the burden sufficiently with others, and also being 'let down' by commanders in the field. Simultaneously a
body of 'insider' criticism began to be heard which followed an opposite line, that it was Churchill who was the cause of our continuing setbacks through his taking far too much upon himself. Confidential meetings took place, at one or two of which I was asked to be present, attended by MPs of all parties, two or three editors and influential journalists, and some renowned admirals and generals no longer in active posts but carefully briefed, it seemed to me, by top brass who were
unable - or thought it unwise - to attend in person.

(19) Arthur Harris, Bomber Command (1947)

I was frequently bidden to Chequers, especially during the weekends when Winston was normally there. I never failed to return from these visits invigorated and full of renewed hope and enthusiasm, in spite of the appalling hours that Winston habitually kept. If it was a mixed party - which was not very often - and I could take my wife, I knew that we might get home somewhere between midnight and one in the morning, but when I was asked alone, it would be anywhere between three and four before I got back. Not that I minded.

After dinner Winston would talk; he was really thinking aloud about how things were going. He would get repeated reminders that a film show was waiting for him, and eventually we would all go up to the gallery - the household staff, and the rest of the family, and even the military guard from outside - to see the picture. There the Prime Minister would sit, occasionally making amusing comments about the drama. One realised, of course, that he was really resting himself in this atmosphere and that his thoughts were often far away. Sometimes one could hear him rehearse a phrase for a telegram he would send later. Well
after midnight we would go back down to the hall and he would get down to another batch of work, sending signals, dictating to his secretaries, and so on, while at intervals one of his family, and sometimes his naval A.D.C. would attempt to steer him off to bed, as his doctors had advised, but invariably without the least success. He went to bed when he wanted to.

I think the first thing that impresses one about Winston is the extraordinary mixture in him of real human kindness and of sometimes impish mischief, all overlaid with an immense, thrusting, purposeful determination to reach the goal which he so clearly sees. The affection which the whole Churchill family
feel for one another is very obvious and most refreshing.

Th'e worse the state of the war was, the greater was the support, enthusiasm, encouragement and constructive criticism that one got from this extraordinary man; it was all done with the utmost kindness, though not without a mischievous dig now and again just for the fun of it. He did not mind your expressing views contrary to his own, but he was difficult to argue with for the simple reason that he seldom seemed to listen long to sides of a question other than his own. He has, in fact, developed to a perhaps extreme degree this rather unfortunate trait of the man who has almost absolute power, knows his own mind, and really does not want to be bothered with everybody else's ideas. He is a bad listener, and frequently interrupts anyone who is expressing views, whether they are opposed to his own or not, halfway through a sentence; then he is off at a tangent, holding forth, always with interest and generally on sound lines, on some other aspect of the subject under discussion, or even on some entirely different subject.

The last occasion when I went to Chequers to see Winston was on the day after it had been decided to break up the National Government; I remember feeling horrified by the certainty with which Winston asserted that the coming election would go in his favour. I was equally certain that this showed a complete blindness to political realities, and when I left that night, or rather in the small hours of the next morning, I knew that I should never again go to Chequers as the guest of Winston Churchill.

(20) Joseph Goebbels, diary (27th March, 1945)

The Führer is right when he says that Stalin is in the best position to do an about-turn in war policy, since he need take no account of his public opinion. It is rather different with England. It is quite immaterial whether Churchill wants to pursue a different war policy; even if he did, he couldn't; he is too dependent on internal political forces which are already semi-bolshevistic in character, to say nothing of Roosevelt, who shows not the smallest sign of any intention to change course.

The objective which the Führer has in mind is to discover some possibility of an accommodation with the Soviet Union and then to pursue the struggle against England with brutal violence. England has always been the mischief-maker in Europe; if she was finally swept out of Europe, then we should have peace and quiet, at least for a time.

(21) Winston Churchill, election broadcast (May, 1945)

I must tell you that a socialist policy is abhorrent to British ideas on freedom. There is to be one State, to which all are to be obedient in every act of their lives. This State, once in power, will prescribe for everyone: where they are to work, what they are to work at, where they may go and what they may say, what views they are to hold, where their wives are to queue up for the State ration, and what education their children are to receive. A socialist state could not afford to suffer opposition - no socialist system can be established without a political police. They (the Labour government) would have to fall back on some form of Gestapo.

(22) Clement Attlee, election broadcast (May, 1945)

The Prime Minister made much play last night with the rights of the individual and the dangers of people being ordered about by officials. I entirely agree that people should have the greatest freedom compatible with the freedom of others. There was a time when employers were free to work little children for sixteen hours a day. I remember when employers were free to employ sweated women workers on finishing trousers at a penny halfpenny a pair. There was a time when people were free to neglect sanitation so that thousands died of preventable diseases. For years every attempt to remedy these crying evils was blocked by the same plea of freedom for the individual. It was in fact freedom for the rich and slavery for the poor. Make no mistake, it has only been through the power of the State, given to it by Parliament, that the general public has been protected against the greed of ruthless profit-makers and property owners.

The Conservative Party remains as always a class Party. In twenty-three years in the House of Commons, I cannot recall more than half a dozen from the ranks of the wage earners. It represents today, as in the past, the forces of property and privilege. The Labour Party is, in fact, the one Party which most nearly reflects in its representation and composition all the main streams which flow into the great river of our national life.

(23) Winston Churchill, speech in Fulton, Missouri (5th March, 1946)

A shadow has fallen upon the scenes so lately lighted by the Allied victory. Nobody knows what Soviet Russia and its Communist international organization intends to do in the immediate future, or what are the limits, if any, to their expansive and proselytizing tendencies. I have a strong admiration and regard for the valiant Russian people and for my wartime comrade Marshal Stalin. There is sympathy and goodwill in Britain - and I doubt not here also - toward the peoples of all the Russias and a resolve to persevere through many differences and rebuffs in establishing lasting friendships.

We understand the Russians need to be secure on her western frontiers from all renewal of German aggression. We welcome her to her rightful place among the leading nations of the world. Above all we welcome constant, frequent, and growing contacts between the Russian people and our own people on both sides of the Atlantic. It is my duty, however, to place before you certain facts about the present position in Europe - I am sure I do not wish to, but it is my duty, I feel, to present them to you.

From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of central and eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest, and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in the Soviet sphere and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and increasing measure of control from Moscow. Athens alone, with its immortal glories, is free to decide its future at an election under British, American, and French observation. The Russian-dominated Polish government has been encouraged to make enormous and wrongful in-roads upon Germany, and mass expulsions of millions of Germans on a scale grievous and undreamed of are now taking place.

The Communist parties, which were very small in all these Eastern states of Europe, have been raised to preeminence and power far beyond their numbers and are seeking everywhere to obtain totalitarian control. Police governments are prevailing in nearly every case, and so far, except in Czechoslovakia, there is no true democracy. Turkey and Persia are both profoundly alarmed and disturbed at the claims which are made upon them and at the pressure being exerted by the Moscow government. An attempt is being made by the Russians in Berlin to build up a quasi-Communist Party in their zone of occupied Germany by showing special favors to groups of left-wing German leaders.

John Simkin

European Union The European Union: integration
process and European citizenship
European Unity
Spartacus Educational

2003 © Juan Carlos Ocaña