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Winston Churchill 



The Universal Library 


WINSTON CHURCHILL: The Era and the NIan 
Copyright, 1953, by Virginia. Cowles 

<g) by Virginia Cowles, 1956 
Printed, in the United States of America 

All rights in this book are reserved. 
Mo part of the book may be used or reproduced 
in any manner -whatsoever without written per- 
mission except in the case of brief quotations 
embodied in critical articles and reviews. For 

information address Harper "&. Brothers 
49 Bast 33rd Street, New York 16, N. Y. 

liy arrangement with Harper & Brothers 





IN THIS book I have attempted to tell of Mr. Churchill's early days, the 
influences brought to bear upon him as a young man, and to present, as 
objectively as possible, an account of his prodigious career. I have not 
tried to draw a veil over the less successful periods nor, I hope, have I 
withheld praise and admiration for his great contributions. 

Mr. Churchill stands out as a titan among his fellow men. Consequently 
his mistakes and triumphs are often intermingled on a grandiose scale, and 
his personality seldom fails to draw a challenge. As a statesman he moved 
through four decades of tumultuous events before he reached the grand 
climax of his life. But in retrospect his political misfortunes seem provi- 
dential, for without them he might not have been set apart, or 'spared', as 
Mr. Attlee once put it, to lead his country in the stirring days of 1940. 

When I saw Mr. Churchill at the French Embassy in 1950 and told 
him I was planning to write his biography he growled good-naturedly: 
'There's nothing much in that field left unploughed.' However, he did 
not tal into consideration the unusual fertility of the ground and I hope 
the reader will not be disappointed in the harvest I have been helped by 
the innumerable biographies and memoirs to which I have given acknow- 
ledgment, by the newspapers and magazines of the last fifty years, and 
by information gathered from people whose paths at one time or another 
have crossed those of Mr. Churchill. 

A number of friends were kind enough to offer comment and criticism 
on the finished work. Although I do not pretend to reflect their views 
in the interpretation I have given, I would like to thank Mr. Leo Amery, 
Mr. Robert Boothby and Mr. William Deakin for reading the book in 
manuscript form. 

Steeple Ckydon, 


GRATEFUL acknowledgment is made to the following publishers for some 

of the selections reprinted in this volume: 
Christophers Ltd. (London): Incidents and Reflections by J. B. Atkins 
J. ML Dent & Sons, Ltd. (London): Certain People of Importance } Pillars of 

Society and Prophets, Priests and Kings by A. C. Gardiner 
Doubleday & Company, Inc.: Life of Lord Fisher by R. H. Bacon and 

Politicians and the War by Lord Beaverbrook 
Harcourt, Brace & Company, Inc.: The Economic Consequences of Mr. 

Churchill by J. M. Keynes and Intimate Diary of the Peace Conference and 

Afterwards by Lord Riddell 

Henry Holt & Conpany, Inc.: A Shropshire Lad by A. E. Houseman 
Houghton Mifflin Company: The Second World War by Winston S. 

Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.: My Diaries by Wilfrid Scawen Blunt 
Little, Brown & Company and Lord Beaverbrook: War Memoirs of 
David Lloyd George by David Lloyd George 

Little, Brown & Company: Memories and Reflections by the Earl of Ox- 
ford and Asquith 

Longmans, Green & Company, Inc.: Our Partnership by Beatrice Webb 
William Morrow & Company: Life's Ebb and Flow by Frances, Countess 
of Warwick 

Nicholson & Watson, Ltd. (London): C. F. G. Masterman by Luch 
Masterman and War Diary by Lord Riddell 

Odhams Press, Ltd. (London): Lord Randolph Churchill by Winston S. 

3. P. Putnam's Sons: Great Contemporaries by Winston S. Churchill and 
Anglo-American Memories by George Smalley 

Charles Scribner's Sons: The Aftermath by Winston S. Churchill; Amid 
These Storms by Winston S. Churchill, in footnotes referring to the 
British tide: Thoughts and Adventures; Marlborough by Winston S. 
Churchill; A Roving Commission by Winston S. Churchill, in footnotes 
referring to the British tide: My Early Life; The World Crisis by Winston 
S. Churchill; Fighting in Flanders by E. Alexander Powell 



Foreword vii 

Acknowledgments ix 

List of Illustrations xiii 










5 FAME 57 









11 ANTWERP 173 



xii CONTENTS continued 






17 INDIA 276 

PART six 









INDEX 377 



DURING THE Festival of Britain in the summer of 1951 Winston 
Churchill visited the Dome of Discovery and was taken up in a lift to 
a telescope where, he was told, he could view the outer spaces. He 
viewed them, and said: Take me down. I am more interested in what 
is happening on the earth.' 

The earth has had the benefit of Mr. Churchill's attention for over 
half a century; and the fact that as a boy he heard Mr. Gladstone 
speak might be said to join his hand with another half a century. 
To-day past eighty with the authority of fifty years of Parliamentary 
experience behind him, with the mantle of Fame wrapped securely 
around his shoulders,' and with an ardour for life as fierce and fresh 
as ever, he continues to serve Britain in the role of elder statesman. 

His career was not only spectacular for its triumphs but also for the 
long, intense struggle before he achieved his ambition as His 
Majesty's First Minister. Now that the colours of the canvas are nearly 
complete they offer a sharp and surprising contrast. His dazzling gifts 
were acknowledged from the very first, yet it took him forty years to 
reach his goal. He is one of the great orators of the day, yet while in 
politics he lost more elections than any other politician. His career 
culminated as leader of the Conservative Party, yet he spent three- 
quarters of his life fighting Conservative Party leaders. He has been 
deeply distrusted by each political party in turn, yet he was unani- 
mously entrusted in 1940 with the life of the nation. 

Winston Churchill has had to fight for everything he has got. No 
man has aroused more heated opposition, or been more bitterly hated 
in his time. Recently Mrs. Churchill reminded a friend that in the 
days of the Lloyd George Budget and the House of Lords Reform, 
'Winston was as ostracized as Oswald Mosley is now/ Three times his 


political career has ; lain in ruins and three times he has made an apparently 

His stormy passage has been the natural result of his own fierce partisan- 
ship. To Mr. Churchill the excitement of life has always lain in the clash 
of wills and the dangerous struggles which have fashioned the outline of 
history. Hejgs never played for safety. Endowed with a highly emotional 
nature, he usually acts on impulse and intuition rather than on calculation 
or even logic. He is incapable of assessing a situation dispassionately, but 
once he has taken a stand he has never been at a loss to find closely reasoned 
arguments to support it. Thus on paper he appears to be a cool and highly 
rational being, while on the political stage he often seems rash and 
impetuous. This apparent contradiction has always perplexed his con- 
temporaries, who regard him as the most incalculable figure in public 

Yet there is one constant note in his character which is the very 
essence of his nature and of his genius as well. That is his Romanticism. 
It may well be that in the years to come historians will describe him as the 
last great Romantic that England produced. Mr. Churchill is incapable of 
seeing life in terms of monotones. Whatever subject his mind touches is at 
once transformed into shimmering lights and colours. 
. Just as when he paints he has little use for the dull browns and greys, 
as a politician and a writer he feds compelled to reach out for the vivid 
hues. He does not see life in any other way, for every subject his mind 
touches is at once transformed into a brilliant drama. His world is a world 
of good and bad, of righteous causes and shining swords, and of dark and 
evil foes. There is always a hero and a villain, and the fact that Mr. Chur- 
chill never fails to cast himself in the leading role not only annoys his 
opponents but often irritates his colleagues as well. 

Although Churchill's Romanticism undoubtedly is the natural conse- 
quence of a brilliant fancy and a highly emotional nature, it was bred in 
him as well Blenheim Palace, where he was born, kindled in his mind the 
splendour of military exploits, and his father's sensational career opened 
his eyes to the fame that awaits the orator. Of the two careers, soldiering 
attracted Hm the more. Surprisingly enough, until he was nearly forty he 
dreamed of glory on die battlefield. That is why in the 1914 war he 
begged to resign his office as First Lord of the Admiralty to take charge of 
Antwerp; that is also why, when he joined a regiment in France a year 
later, he was bitterly disappointed not to be allowed an important field 
command. Throughout his long Parliamentary career he has never lost his 
interest in the science of battle. Of over thirty published volumes to his 
credit, twenty-five deal with some aspect of war. And the two books he 


would like to have written, had rime allowed, are the life of Napoleon 
and the life of Julius Caesar. 

Although Mr. Churchill left the army at the age of twenty-four, first 
to earn a living, and second, because in those peaceful days it seemed un- 
likely that Britain would ever again become embroiled in a world-wide 
conflict, he brought the smoke of the battlefield with him to Parliament. 
From the very first he was a natural storm centre. He never failed to take 
a stand and he usually took it in the most provocative way possible. 
Consequently the House of Commons always crowded to hear what he 
had to say. This was a triumph, for as a young man he was not an accom- 
plished orator. Although he could write a compelling speech, his delivery 
was poor and the cut and thrust of debate did not come easily to him. 
Indeed, Arthur Balfour once taunted him with the remark that 'the Right 
Honourable Gentleman's artillery is very powerful but not very mobile*. 

Churchill was determined to master the art of debate and spent long 
hours practising his speeches out loud, pausing for interruptions, and think- 
ing up appropriate and acrimonious retorts. Gradually, by sheer effort, he 
developed a facility for impromptu intervention, and to-day he has few 
equals, ffis^opgonents are forced to recognize him as one of the greatest 
Parliamentarians England has ever produced. 

When he comes into the Chamber you fed a stir in the galleries as the 
whole atmosphere electrifies. He sits on the front Government bench with 
his shoulders hunched, his bulldog head thrust forward, straining to catch 
every word. There is not a trick of the trade which he does not know. 
Quick to strike and quick to defend, few opponents score off him. Often, 
when he rises to speak, he begins in a deliberately low voice to command 
attention. Once when he was Leader of the Opposition there were cries 
from the Labour benches: 'Speak up! Don't be afraid.' He paused and 
surveyed them critically. The House grew still in anticipation. Then in a 
whisper which could be heard from one end of the Chamber to the other, 
he said: 'I find I speak quite loud enough to silence any of you when I 

No one has a deeper respect for die power of the House of Commons 
than Churchill. He observes parliamentary procedure with care, but this 
does not prevent him from employing his talent for abuse and ridicule to 
the fullest and he often whips the Chamber into such an uproar with 
insults and accusations hurled back and forth that the Speaker rises to 
maintain order. Following one of these hubbubs in 1947, several letters 
appeared in the Daily Telegraph deploring the fact that Churchill was not 
accorded the deference of the Elder Statesman. Little did the writers under- 
stand the man's temperament for if the day ever comes when he fails to 


draw the fire of the other side, he will consider his usefulness in Parlia- 
ment at an end. In fact, his provocations are often such carefully planned 
traps that Labour M.P.S are sometimes instructed by the Whips not to 
interrupt him during a debate so that he will not have the opportunity of 
getting the better of them. 

..The.secret of Mr. Churchill's parliamentary mastery lies in his ability 
to change the mood of the House. Although he can provoke an angry 
storm he can also turn the storm into roars of kughter by a sudden shaft of 
wit. His humour is not the cold, polished variety; it smacks much more 
of the Music Hall with comic, impish, even schoolboy jokes which few 
people can resist. In 1939 when he was serving as First Lord of the Admir- 
alty he told me with relish how a destroyer had dropped a depth charge, 
but instead of finding a submarine, bits of an old wreckage had come to 
the surface. 'And would you believe it,' he added with a grin, 'there was a 
door bobbing around with my initials on it! I wanted to recount this im- 
portant occurrence in a speech, but Mr. Chamberlain cut it out.' He added 
with a twinkle, 'He thinks my taste is questionable.' On another occasion, 
near the end of the war, when he was reminiscing about his career and the 
fact that he had changed his Party twice, I remember him startling his 
luncheon guests by proclaiming solemnly: 'Any one can rat but it takes a 
certain amount of ingenuity to re-rat.* 

In the House of Commons his humour often lies in the emphasis and 
hesitation of his voice. Sometimes he treats the assembly to an act which 
borders on pant^gpime. A few years ago when a Labour Minister rose to 
speak Mr. ChurdM suddenly began feeling in his pockets with an air of 
consternation, then looking down towards his feet. The eyes of the mem- 
bers left tfie speaker and began to follow his puzzling movements, and 
soon even the people in the Galleries were craning in his direction. 
Suddenly with an elaborate start he apologized to the Minister: 'I was just 
looking for my jujube/ he explained innocently. 

An example of his ability to turn an awkward situation into a humor- 
ous one was illustrated recently over the controversy about American and 
British naval commands. When Churchill was Leader of the Opposition 
he had attacked the Labour Government hody for having consented to an 
American Admiral as Commander of the Atlantic, insisting that the 
British should have the Atlantic and the Americans the Mediterranean. 
When, however, he lost the arguments about the Atlantic he dismissed 
the reasons he had advanced about the advantages of an American in the 
Mediterranean and insisted that the Mediterranean must remain under 
British control. The Socialists could not resist baiting him about his change 
of mind. In order to force him into a corner, one of them asked him to 


state categorically whether or not his views were the same now as they 
had been twelve months previously. 'My views,' he began . . . 'Change,' 
interjected a Socialist. 'My views/ he continued placidly, 'are subject to a 
harmonious process which keeps them in relation to the current move- 
ments of events.' 1 Even the Labour benches could not refrain from 

Time has mellowed Mr. Churchill and greatness has softened the antag- 
onism of his opponents. As a young man he was far from popular. It was 
part of his Romanticism that from his earliest days he believed he had been 
put upon earth to fulfil some great purpose. This presentiment led him 
into many disastrous blunders, for he was not merely ambitious as other 
men are, but openly and impatiently in search of Fame. As a result he 
gave the impression of seizing issues indiscriminately in order to project 
himsdf into the limelight. Noman in public life seemed .to- have a 
greater facility for veering fr omT the roleof statesman to that of politician. 
Indeed, as recently as 1945 Churchill gave a striking example of this dual 
capacity, by opening the election campaign with the sensational warning 
that Socialism would mean 'a Nazi state' and 'a Gestapo*. People were 
shocked because they remembered the many tributes he had paid to 
Atdee, Morrison, Bevin and other Socialist leaders when they were serv- 
ing in his wartime coalition Government only a few weeks before; to 
turn on them so wildly to cadge votes was considerecL'uh-English'. One 
could not help recalling the lines H. G. Wells once wrote: 'There are times 
when the evil spirit comes upon him and I think of him as a very intrac- 
table, a very .mischievous, dangerous little boy, a knee-worthy litde boy. 
Only thinking of him in that way can I go on liking him.' 

Churchill's egoism and impetuosity filled the public with a deep, dis- 
trust which proved a fatal stumbling block to him for nearly four decades. 
.People became ^cojivinccd that he was less interested in a cause for its 
merits, than as a vehicle for his own ambitions; and the fact that he changed 
his party twice did not- help to dispel the impression. His opponents 
branded Ibim as a cynic and an opportunist, while his colleagues, discon- 
certed by the fact that he found it difficult to serve as a member of a team 
baHnstinic^d^feacEed out for the reins, openly referred to him as 
'a trouble-maker*. 

Mr. ChurdhiH never got accustomed to his unpopularity. He was 
genuinely hurt and astonished by the animosity he aroused, for he was so 
absorbed by his projects and plans that he gave very little thought to the 

1 Hansard: 5 May, 1952. 


complexities of human nature. Ideas, not people, interested him, and as a 
result tETreactions of his fello ^"beings-mvariabl^r bunt upon him as a 
complete -surprise: Sometimes moody and preoccupied, at other times 
tactless and aggressive, he frequently wounded sensibilities without even 
knowing that he had done so. Once he cried out mournfully: 'I have never 
joined an intrigue. Everything that I have got I have fought for. And yet 
I have been more hated than anybody!' 1 

These protests came from the heart, for Churchill himself is remarkably 
free from malice. His kck of interest in the human element eliminates all 
pettiness from his nature, and his Sudden, unexpected, emotional surges of 
generosity have disarmed more than one opponent. Once when Ernest 
Bevin was Foreign Minister he paid Churchill a heart-felt tribute in the 
House, and the latter was so moved he could not keep back the tears. On 
more than one occasion during the 1945-51 Parliament, when Mr. Atdee 
was Prime Minister, Churchill entered the smoking-room, sometimes 
after a particularly acrimonious debate, saw 'Clem* sitting at a table, 
promptly joined him and congratulated him on his speech. Members also 
remember how in 1951, when his most formidable critic, Mr. Aneurin 
Bevan, opened the Defence Debate, he sat attentively in his place admir- 
ing the brilliance of the speech. Then Mr. Bevan began to liken some of 
his methods to those of die Nazis. Churchill put up his hand in protest 
'I had nothing to do with the Nazis/ he beamed. 'Do not spoil a good 
speech now.' 2 Recently when Churchill visited his old school, Harrow, 
the boys asked him who he thought was the greatest man who had ever 
lived. "Julius Caesar, 9 he replied, 'because he was the most magnanimous 
of all the conquerors/ 

I first met Mr. Churchill in the beginning of 1938, when his political career 
was at one of its lowest ebbs. He was not a member of the Government 
for although his colleagues recognized his ability they were deeply suspi- 
cious of his 'unreliability' and his 'exhibitionism'. 'The trouble with 
Winston,' people said, 'is that you never know what he will do next.' But 
despite his exclusion from power, he was still the most colourful and con- 
troversial figure in English political life. I had sat in the gallery of the 
House of Commons and watched the Chamber crowd to hear him speak. 
In the distance he looked extraordinarily old-fashioned in his black coat, 
his winged collar and bow-tic, and even his rolling prose suggested a more 
leisurely and cultivated century. But what he had to say was not of the 

1 My Diaries: Wilfrid Scawen Blunt. 
1 Hansard: 15 February, 1951. 


past; when he leaned forward to warn his colleagues of the dangers of 
Nazi Germany he became the incarnation of a pugnacious and perennial 
John Bull. You felt the imagination of the House stir with the brilliance of 
his words, but unfortunately the magic ended with his eloquence. When 
you went into the tea-room half an hour later you heard people chattering 
about what he had said with an alarming light-heartedness. 

Churchill spent most of his time at his country house, Chartwell in 
Kent, and one Sunday his son took me there for lunch. I remember being 
surprised by his round pink face. I had not expected such a formidable 
man to have such a cherubic appearance. Later I heard that a woman had 
once told him that her baby looked like him, to which he replied firmly: 
'All babies look like me.' I was also surprised by the fact that even in 
private conversation his phrases were as rounded and polished as when he 
is speaking in the House. He delighted in the use of such Victorian expres- 
sions as 'I rejoice', 'I am greatly distressed' and 'I venture to say', which 
were emphasized by the impediment in his speech that prevented him 
from pronouncing distinctly the letter V. 

During lunch the conversation centred on world affairs and Mr. 
Churchill talked with the brilliance I had expected but I later learned that 
I was lucky, for often he is absorbed with his own thoughts and makes no 
attempt at conversation. Small talk does not interest him; it is a question 
of silence or a monologue, and nothing in between. On this day, however, 
he expressed his fear that England would not only refuse to show her hand 
until it was too late to avoid war, but too late to win. 'Mr. Chamberlain 
can't seem to understand that we live in a very wicked world,' he said. 
'English people want to be left alone, and I daresay a great many other 
people want to be left alone too. But the world is like a tired old horse 
plodding down a long road. Every time it strays off and tries to graze 
peacefully in some nice green pasture, along comes a new master to flog 
it a bit further along.' 

After lunch I was taken upstairs to see his large, high-ceilinged, oak- 
beamed study. He showed me several stacks of manuscript of the history 
of the English-speaking people which he was then writing. *I doubt if I 
shall finish it before the war comes,' he said morosely, 'and if I do, the 
part the English-speaking people will play will be so decisive I will have 
to add several more volumes.' He paused. 'And if it is not decisive no 
more histories will be written for many years.' 

One had an impression of resdess, pounding energy, and a prodigious 
capacity for work. In the course of the afternoon I was shown the goldfish 
pond (fish are one of Churchill's hobbies), the swimming pool and the 
cottages, all of which he had built with his own hands. I was also shown 


another cottage that he had turned into a studio and which was filled with 
pictures he had painted. In 1951 Sir John Rothenstein, the Director of the 
Tate Gallery, and one of the foremost art critics in England, paid him the 
compliment of saying: 'Had the fairies stuck a paint brush into his hands, 
instead of a pen into one and a sword into the other, had he learnt while 
still a boy to draw and to paint, and had he dedicated an entire laborious 
lifetime to art, Mr. Churchill would have been able to express himself, 
instead of one small facet He would have painted big pictures.' Churchill, 
however, regarded painting as a recreation, not as hard work. In 1949 he 
commented to Rothenstein, 'If it weren't for painting I couldn't live; 
I couldn't bear the strain of things.' 1 

Although Mr. Churchill has a reputation for enjoying luxury, few men 
have devoted their lives more completely to intellectual pursuits. He has 
never moved in social circles; idle conversation or aristocratic companion- 
ship has never had an appeal for him. Throughout his life his closest 
friends have all been men from humble backgrounds who have made 
their own way to the top; Lloyd George, 'F. E.' Smith, 'Prof Lindemann 
and Brendan Bracken. It was Churchill who recommended the last two, 
now Lord Cherwell and Lord Bracken, for peerages. 

Churchill often attends official functions, but he rarely can be per- 
suaded to spend a week-end away from home. He is devoted to his wife, 
and idolized by his children, and is very much the master of the house- 
hold. The one thing he insists upon is comfort, and his ideas on this subject 
are based, rigidly, on Victorian standards. Delicious food and well-trained 
servants are regarded as absolutely essential. And if he can help it, he never 
travels without a valet Before the war, he once arrived at Maxine Elliott's 
villa in the South of France by himself, and Vincent Sheean heard tell him 
his hostess with a broad grin, 'My dear Maxine, you have no idea how 
easy it is to travel without a servant. I came here all the way from London 
alone and it was quite simple.' 'Winston, how brave of you,' replied Miss 
Elliott. 2 

Any deviation from comfort, arranged in the name of pleasure, fills 
Churchill with gloom. For example, Lady Megan Lloyd George tells the 
story of a time many years ago when her father and he went on a trip to 
North Africa. A prominent prince of the desert gave a large dinner in their 
honour. The feast was served in the open and the guests sat in a circle on 
the ground around a huge cauldron of steaming food. There were no 

1 Mr. Churchill: The Artist: Sir John Rothenstein (Sunday Times, 7 January, 1951). 
* Bettveen the Thunder and the Sun: Vincent Sheean. 


forks or knives and everybody was expected to help, himself from the 
common bowl and to cat with his fingers. Lloyd George enjoyed anything 
out of the ordinary and at once flung himself into the spirit of the occasion. 
But Churchill sat silent and glowering, refusing to make a move of any 
kind. Some of the guests eyed him nervously for fear their host would 
take offence at his sullen mood. Suddenly he rolled up his sleeves and with 
a fierce defiance plunged his arm into the bowl growling: 'Come on, 
Megan, to hell with civilization!' 

Mr. Churchill occasionally plays a game of Canasta, and has a weakness 
for romantic or humorous films. During the war he saw Lady Hamilton 
eight times and rewarded the producer, Alexander Korda, with a knight- 
hood. The news of Rudolph Hcss's arrival in Britain is said to have been 
delivered to him while he was watching the Marx Brothers. Another one 
of his amusements is singing old and familiar songs. During the last twelve 
years he has never missed an annual evening visit to Harrow during which 
all the old school songs are sung. However, he is like a child about music, 
and a change of tune can turn him instantly from one mood to another. 
In the war his son-in-law Vic Oliver was playing 'The Blue Danube' on 
the piano at Chequers, when Churchill came through the door and slowly 
began to waltz. Suddenly Oliver jokingly struck the sombre chords of 
Chopin's Funeral March. The Prime Minister broke off angrily, and left 
the room. 

Churchill's recreations are simple enough, for the answer is that he has 
derived his real pleasures in life from a great creative output, whether it is 
building houses, writing books, painting pictures, or making speeches. 
Once he remarked to me with a twinkle: 'With all the fascinating things 
there are to do in the world, some people actually while away their rime 
playing Patience. Just fancy!' Few people will accuse him of such a 

It is a great tribute to Democracy that when war came Mr. Churchill was 
unanimously accepted as leader of the nation. The antagonisms and the 
quarrels that he had had with all three political parties, some of them 
stretching over nearly four decades, were put aside at once. Politicians and 
public alike recognized that by temperament, application and genius he 
was the one man superbly fitted to command the battle. Never in history 
have the people of Britain been so solidly behind a Prime Minister. 

Mr. Churchill did not fail them. At last the canvas was high and broad 
enough to work on; at last his brilliant colours were needed to depict the 
terrible and majestic glow on the horizon. He thrilled the western world 


to its mission as no other man could have done. The very fact that he saw 
life in terms of broad events rather t-han through the individual, which 
hitherto had been his greatest weakness, now became his greatest strength. 
When he spoke of Man, he was thinking of Mankind; and the future of 
Mankind hung in the balance. 




BLENHEIM PALACE is one of the great houses of England. It was built 
nearly two hundred and fifty years ago with money voted by Parlia- 
ment as a princely home for John Churchill, the first Duke of Marl- 
borough, whose military genius saved Europe from the domination of 
Louis XIV. 

From that time to this the palace has been occupied by the dukes of 
Marlborough and in 1950 its present owner announced that on certain 
days of the week the Great Hall and the West Wing would be open to the 
public. Since then thousands of sightseers have strolled across tie rolling 
green parklands and wandered through the house inspecting the priceless 
tapestries and murals, the wonderful carved ceilings, the gold and silver 
work, the china and furniture wrought in the days of Queen Anne. 
Many of these tourists write their impressions in a 'Suggestions Book* in 
the chapel, and it is amusing to notice that whereas the English visitors 
usually comment on the beauty of the treasures, many of the Americans 
remark on what a privilege it has been to see 'the home of Mr. Winston 

Blenheim, of course, has never been Mr. Churchill's 'home*. His 
father, Lord Randolph Churchill, was the third son of the seventh Duke 
of Marlborough, and lived in the palace from the age of eight until he 
married. The estate eventually passed to his eldest brother, and then in 
turn to his nephew, and is now in the possession of Winston Churchill's 
second cousin, the tenth Duke. Strictly speaking Winston arrived in the 
world as the poor relation of a great ducal family. Nevertheless from the 
very first he asserted himself and with a fine disregard for propriety 
managed to be born at Blenheim. 

The circumstances of his birth were unusual. His mother, a beautiful, 
vivacious young bride, was seven months with child. She loved gaiety and 
against the advice of her doctors insisted on attending the Sk^lGic&ew's 
Ball, held at Blenheim on the night of 30 November. In the middle of 
the evening she was rushed from the ballroom to the cloakroom where, 
amid a setting of silk hats, velvet capes and feather boas, she gave birth to 
Winston. 1 

1 This story was told to me by Sir Shane Leslie, who heard it from his mother, 
Lady Leslie, Lady Randolph Churchill's sister. 



This fact has caused the owner of Blenheim a certain amount of 
embarrassment. For although Winston's birthplace was once the bedroom 
of the first Duke's chaplain, Dean Jones, it is more suitable as a cloakroom 
than a boudoir. It is on the ground floor, small and plain, overlooking a 
sunless well. It has been fitted with a modest bed and a few pieces of 
furniture, and when the tourists file through one always sees looks of 
surprise, and hears whispered comments on the disappointing lack of 
regality. The present Duke has criticized Winston's lack of showmanship 
in failing to arrive in the Yellow Room or some other suite which could 
be shown off to advantage. 

Winston's birth was announced by The Times in a single line: 'On the 
30th November at Blenheim Palace, the Lady Randolph Churchill, 
prematurely, of a son.' Nevertheless the event caused excitement among 
members of the Churchill family who interpreted the circumstances as an 
omen that one day he would succeed to the Marlborough title. Although 
this prediction did not come true, the accident of his birth had a pro- 
found effect on his character and outlook. It aroused in him a passionate 
interest in Blenheim and its history, and a veneration for tradition and 
continuity which developed into a fierce family pride. The two heroes of 
his youth, about whom he later wrote biographies, were men whose blood 
flowed in his own veins; the first Duke of Marlborough, and that brilliant, 
erratic Victorian statesman, his own father. The fact that both these men 
had lived at Blenheim where he had so unexpectedly intruded did not 
make him dream of inheriting the Marlborough riches, but of being the 
true heir to the genius in the Churchill line. As a Churchill he felt he had a 
special obligation and a special mission. 

The first Churchill about whom anything much is known was the son of a 
lawyer and the grandson of a blacksmith. He was born in 1620 and grew 
up in the county of Dorset; like his descendant of to-day he was a soldier, 
a writer, and a member of Parliament, and his name was Winston. He 
was a passionate supporter of Charles the First and in the Civil War took 
part in the fighting at Lansdowne House and Roundway Down, where 
he was wounded. When the Parliamentarians triumphed he was a ruined 
man and spent thirteen years bringing up a large family under the poverty- 
stricken roof of his mother-in-law, Lady Drake, a sister of the Duke of 
Buckingham. Nevertheless he occupied himself in doggedly writing a 
long and laborious book entitled Divi Britannia in which he traced from 
'the year of the world 2855* downward the Divine Right of Kings, insist- 
ing that the monarch should have the power to levy taxes without con- 


suiting Parliament, an idea which, even in those days, caused some aston- 
ishment. When the Restoration came and Charles II ascended the 
throne Winston's fortunes took a turn for the better. He was awarded a 
knighthood and allowed to place one of his daughters at Court. Whether 
he considered this due recompense is not known, for he had despairingly 
emblazoned on his coat-of-arms the motto, 'Faithful but Unfortunate'. 

Lord Macaulay refers to Sir Winston in his History of England as *a poor 
Cavalier Baronet who haunted Whitehall and made himself ridiculous by 
publishing a dull and affected folio, long forgotten, in praise of monarchy 
and monarchs*. Nevertheless, Sir Winston produced three remarkable 
children. One was Arabella, who became the mistress of James the Second 
and bore him a son, the Duke of Berwick, who was one of the great 
generals of Louis XIV; 1 another was a George Churchill who rose to be 
an admiral in the British Navy; the third was John Churchill, the first 
Duke of Marlborough, who proved himself one of the greatest soldiers of 
all time. 

It is not surprising that the Winston of to-day should have been 
thrilled by the story of the Duke, for there is no more fabulous character 
in English history. In 1688 England embarked on a war which soon in- 
volved all the civilized countries of the world and lasted, with one brief 
period of peace, for a quarter of a century. This war was not only fought 
to defend the Protestant faith but to prevent Louis XIV from bringing all 
Europe under his control, thus destroying the independence of England. 
It was as perilous a struggle as the war against Hitler, and for ten cam- 
paigns stretching over the years John Churchill led the armies of Europe. 
'He never fought a battle which he did not win nor besieged a fortress 
which he did not take. . . . Nothing like this can be seen in military 
annals/ writes the present Winston Churchill. 'Until the advent of 
Napoleon no commander wielded such widespread power in Europe. 
Upon his person centred the union of nearly twenty confederate states. 
He held the Grand Alliance together no less by his diplomacy than by his 
victories. He rode into action with the combinations of three-quarters of 
Europe in his hand. His comprehension of the war extended to all theatres, 
and his authority alone secured design and concerted action. . . . He was 
for six years not only the Commander-in-Chief of the Allies, but, though 
a subject, virtually Master of England.' 2 
Marlborough has been described by his contemporaries as 'cold and 

1 In 1939 the present Duke of Berwick and Alba, a lineal descendant of the 
victor of Almanza, was appointed Spanish Ambassador to Britain. He held the 
post throughout Mr. Churchill's premiership until 1945. 

* Marlborough: his Life and Times: Winston S. Churchill. 


proud* and 'the handsomest man in Europe*. His powerful position invited 
bitter attack, and for years the Tories blackened his name while the Whigs 
only defended him with indifference. He was accused of avarice, im- 
morality, corruption and even treachery; and long after he died scurrilous 
stories were repeated by famous writers which for many years prevented 
his countrymen from according him his just due. Twice he was dismissed 
from his offices, once by King William who believed that he was intrigu- 
ing against him, and once by Queen Anne who listened to tales of corrup- 
tion, but both times he was later reinstated. Through all his vicissitudes 
he had the support of his beautiful, dynamic wife, Sarah. The passionate 
feelings of these two through nearly fifty years of married life constitute 
one of the great love stories of history. When Sarah was widowed at 
the age of sixty-two, the wealthy Duke of Somerset proposed to her, 
and she made her famous reply: 'If I were young and handsome as I was, 
instead of old and faded as I am, and you could lay the empire at my feet, 
you should never share the heatf and hand that once belonged to John, 
Duke of Marlborough.' 

After Marlborough's victory at Blenheim in 1704 Queen Anne made 
him a gift of fifteen hundred acres at Woodstock, a few miles from the 
city of Oxford, and Parliament approved the sum of 24,000 for the 
building of a house. It was arranged that the quit-rent of the palace would 
be 'one standard, or colours, with flower-de-luces painted thereupon', 
presented at Windsor Castle every August on the anniversary of the 
Battle of Blenheim. This custom is still observed to-day, and when the 
present Winston Churchill wrote his brilliant life of Marlborough he 
paid his forbear an added tribute by carefully dating the foreword of 
each volume August the 1 3th. 

When Marlborough died he left no son and the tide passed through his 
daughter to his grandson whose family name was Spencer. In 1817 the 
Marlboroughs received permission to add Churchill to their name, and 
since that time members of the family have styled themselves Spencer- 

For a century and a half the dukes of Marlborough and their Churchill 
kin led surprisingly uneventful lives. They passed their days as undis- 
tinguished members of the landed gentry occupying themselves with die 
traditional duties of the aristocracy. Not until 1874 did the pulse of 
Blenheim quicken with excitement, as once more it felt adventure in the 
air. That was the year that Lord Randolph Churchill, a younger son of 
the seventh Duke of Marlborough, stood as a candidate for Woodstock 
and was elected to Parliament; that was also the year that he brought his 
American bride to Blenheim. 'As we passed through the entrance arch- 


way and the lovely scenery burst upon me,' she wrote, 'Randolph said 
with pardonable pride, "This is the finest view in England". Looking at 
the lake, the bridge, the miles of magnificent park studded with old 
oaks . . . and the huge stately palace, I confess I felt awed. But my Ameri- 
can pride forbade the admission.' 1 

And 1874 was also the year that the Randolph Churchills' son and heir, 
Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, was born. 

Winston grew up in the bright glow of his father's fame. If the Duke of 
Marlborough was his idol, Lord Randolph was his inspiration. Lord 
Randolph was one of the most spectacular men of the day, and it is small 
wonder that he excited his son's imagination for he astonished many other 
people as well. His career flashed across the late Victorian sky like a 
meteor while he advanced, by means of a brilliant and savage tongue, 
from the political back benches of the Commons to Leader of the House 
and Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was the outrageous idol of the 
hustings, the enfant terrible of British politics. He revitalized a defeated and 
dispirited Tory Party and led it to victory. He reached the pinnacle of 
success when he was only thirty-six; then in a moment of arrogance and 
folly flung away his position never to retrieve it again. 

Lord Randolph entered politics and his son entered the world as the 
curtain was rising on the last twenty-five years of Queen Victoria's reign. 
During the first sixty years of that century Britain turned from her victory 
over Napoleon to develop the talents which soon transformed her from a 
landed society into the greatest manufacturing country in the world. She 
had no rivals, and as well as supplying the needs of Europe, extended her 
commerce to her great growing Empire across the seas. In 1868 she was 
proud and prosperous. The aristocracy and the newly rich manufacturers 
lived in affluence and style; and although they were divided by birth and 
breeding the public schools provided die necessary link by educating the 
children of both to be gentlemen of a single, approved pattern. These 
children were brought up to take their places in the powerful and ex- 
clusive oligarchy by which Britain was governed. 

This oligarchy was based on wealth and position. Only men of pro- 
perty had the right to vote and only men of property were chosen as 
Parliamentary candidates. As a class they considered it their natural 
prerogative to rule, and proudly displayed to the world the strong, rich 
nation that had emerged under their guidance. But beneath this impres- 
sive show of prosperity there was also poverty, bitterness and unemploy- 

1 Reminiscences of Lady Randolph Churchill. 


ment. The lot of the working man was hard. He lived in crowded slums, 
labouring long hours for low wages, with the fear of the workhouse 
always in his mind. Without the right to vote his struggle for improve- 
ment was limited, but the fact that the Trade Unions were slowly gather- 
ing strength revealed his sombre determination. 

The restlessness of the masses did not escape the notice of William 
Ewart Gladstone, who was Prime Minister from 1868 to 1874. He devoted 
his first administration almost entirely to attacking the privileges of the 
riding class. He ended the patronage system by which the Civil Service 
was run and opened it to competitive examination; he stopped the buy- 
ing and selling of commissions in the Army and opened it to talent; he 
extended primary school education throughout the country; and he 
extended further the vote to the middle classes. 

Although he did not destroy the oligarchy but merely broadened its 
basis, such people as the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough considered 
Mr. Gladstone a dangerous Radical. When young Lord Randolph left 
Oxford they begged him to hold himself in readiness for the next election 
when he could stand for the family seat of Woodstock and prevent it from 
falling into the hands of the hated enemy. 

As a boy Lord Randolph had none of the harsh insolence which 
characterized his career in the House of Commons. He grew up at 
Blenheim with his elder brother, Blandford, under the care of a doting 
father and mother. His parents followed the normal practice of die aris- 
tocracy in sending him to Eton and Oxford where he appears to have 
been an able though not a brilliant pupil. At Eton one of his masters, 
Mr. Brinsley Richards, described him as 'a rough and tumble urchin*. 
'Churchill/ he wrote, 'was an easy lower boy to catch whenever anything 
had to be done, for his whereabouts could be ascertained by his incessant 
peals of laughter.' 1 

**- After jraduatingjroni Oxford Lord Randolph obediently idled away 
the next three years waitinglbr a General Election. He was not at all 
politically incline^but Woodstock had been represented by a member of 
the family for 'years and years' and he felt it his duty to maintain tradition. 
He travelled abroad for a year then returned to enjoy himself as a gay 
spark in the fashionable and exclusive circles of London society. At this 
period he is described by his biographers as 'cheerful and impulsive', which 
seems to be borne out by the feet that he went to Cowes in August 1873, 
met a beautiful, dark-haired, nineteen-year-old American girl, Jeanette 
Jerome, and forty-eight hours kter proposed and was accepted. He sent 
her picture to his father with a long letter of explanation, in which he said: 

1 Seven Years at Eton: Brinsley Richards. 


'I do not think that if I were to write pages I could give you any idea of the 
strength of my feelings and affection and love for her; all I can say is that 
I love her better than life itself, and that my one hope and dream is that 
matters may be so arranged that soon I may be united to her by ties that 
nothing but death itself could have the power to sever/ 

He then went on to say: 'Mr. Jerome is a gentleman who is obliged to 
live in New York to look after his business. I do not know what it is.' 1 

Mr. Jerome was a New York business man who had made and lost 
several fortunes. During the Civil War he owned and edited the New 
York Times. He was a passionate supporter of the Northern cause, to 
which he subscribed large sums. When the New York war party became 
discredited in 1862, furious mobs attacked the Times office. But Mr. 
Jerome had fortified his position with rifles and cannon and beat off the 
raid after some bloodshed. In his calmer moments he managed to found 
the first two great American race-courses, Jerome Park and Coney Island 
Jockey Club. He had two daughters besides Jeanette, both of whom 
married British subjects. One became the mother of Shane Leslie, the 
distinguished Irish writer, and the other of Clare Sheridan, the equally 
distinguished sculptress. 

The Duke of Marlborough was alarmed by his son's precipitous action 
and although Lord Randolph assured him that Jeanette was beautiful, 
accomplished and rich, and that she moved with the most exclusive society 
in France, where she lived with her mother, the Duke was not enthusiastic 
about his son marrying an American. He insisted that the young couple 
must wait until time proved the worth of their affection. At the first sign of 
reluctance on the Duke's part Mrs. Jerome indignantly took her daughter 
to Paris and refused to let her see Lord Randolph except at infrequent in- 
tervals. A period of frantic letter writing followed, then suddenly Parlia- 
ment was dissolved and Lord Randolph was faced with an election. 

In those days only 1071 people in the Churchill family borough were 
eligible to vote. Disraeli's Act of 1867 had extended the franchise to the 
lower middle class but the agricultural labourers who made up the bulk 
of the population of Woodstock were not included. To-day, when the 
constituency of a Member averages fifty thousand voters, Victorian 
elections seem leisurely affairs. But evidently Lord Randolph did not think 
so, for he wrote to Jeanette: 'My head is in a whirl of voters, committee 
meetings and goodness knows what. I am gkd it is drawing to an end, 
as I could not stand it very long; I cannot eat or sleep.' 2 

The suspense soon ended with victory for Lord Randolph, and victory 

1 Lord Randolph Churchill: Winston S. ChurchiD. 
* Ibid. 


for the whole Tory Party. Disraeli displaced Mr. Gladstone as Prime 
Minister. But Lord Randolph was more concerned with his personal 
triumph. He wrote Jeanette elatedly: 'There was such a burst of cheers 

they must have made the old dukes in the vault jump There is nothing 

more to do but pay the bill which I have left to my father/ 1 

Shortly after this the Duke of Marlborough and Mr. Jerome amicably 
agreed to let the young couple marry. Lord Randolph brought his bride 
to England where she soon established herself as one of the most fascinat- 
ing and popular figures in Society. 

Lord and Lady Randolph lived in London for two years where they 
entertained Mr. Disraeli, the Prince of Wales, and many other illustrious 
figures of the day. Lord Randolph dutifully made his maiden speech but 
he was more interested in the pleasures of life than in Parliament. He 
attended the House only spasmodically, spending his time at balls, dinners 
and week-end parties. Then suddenly an event took place which altered 
the whole course of his life. In his biography of his father Winston 
Churchill states: 'Engaging in his brother's quarrels with fierce and reck- 
less partisanship, Lord Randolph incurred the deep displeasure of a great 
personage. The fashionable world no longer smiled. Powerful enemies 
were anxious to humiliate him. His own sensitiveness and pride magnified 
every coolness into an affront. London became odious. The breach was not 
repaired for more than eight years and in the interval a nature originally 
genial and gay contracted a stern and bitter quality, a harsh contempt for 
what is called "Society", and an abiding antagonism to rank and authority. ' 2 

This discreet statement by Mr. Winston Churchill was amplified some 
years later by Lord Randolph's nephew, Shane Leslie, who explained that 
the 'great personage' with whom Lord Randolph's brother, Lord Bland- 
ford, quarrelled was the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII. The quarrel 
was over a woman. Lord Blandford had succeeded the Prince in a certain 
lady's affections, whereupon the Prince, through pique, encouraged the 
lady's husband to sue for divorce and name Lord Blandford. Lord 
Randolph was outraged by this behaviour and audaciously intimated that 
'any divorce case would bring to light some friendly letters which had 
escaped the Prince's pen and memory'. 8 

But how did Lord Randolph come into possession of the lady's letters? 
To threaten the Prince was bad enough; to brandish a lady's love letters 

1 Lord Randolph Churchill: Winston S. Churchill. 

1 Ibid. 

These Men are Different: Shane Leslie. 


was quite unthinkable. These were the points around which the scandal 
raged. The Prince declared that he would not enter any house which 
received Lord Randolph, and as a result all the doors of Society were 
firmly shut. The ban was severe and complete; and feeling ran so high 
that the Duke of Marlborough consented to accept the position of 
Viceroy in Ireland so that he could take his son with him as secretary. 

The Randolph Churchills did not return to England for nearly three years. 
Soon afterwards Disraeli's Government came to an end and Gladstone was 
again in power. The Grand Old Man's second administration lasted from 
1880 to 1885. Its most important legislation was the Third Reform Bill 
giving the vote to the agricultural labourer and the miner. Otherwise it 
was concerned mainly with serious problems in Ireland, Egypt and Africa. 

The Tory members took their places on the Opposition benches in a 
discouraged and uncertain frame of mind. They had been out of power 
for twenty-two years except for one short interval until Disraeli brought 
them back in 1874; was this the beginning of another long period in the 
wilderness? It seemed as though Mr. Gladstone exercised a magic spell 
which no one could break. 

This was the stage on which Lord Randolph made his entrance. The 
five years he had spent in Ireland had whetted his appetite for politics and 
he was ready for a fight. 'The duty of an Opposition -is to oppose/ he 
announced, and lost no time in doing it. He was no longer the amiable 
young man of London society. Many people still refused to receive him 
in their houses, but now he did not seem to mind. He had developed a 
hard, cold armour and his tongue had become a formidable weapon. 

He at once plunged into the attack. Yet he did not only cross swords 
with the great Gladstone but turned on his own leaders as well, ridiculing 
them for their vacillation and defeatism. With three followers he sat below 
the gangway in the House of Commons, and carried on his own blister- 
ing opposition to the powerful Liberals, regardless of what his party 
leaders had to say. This small group became known as 'The Fourth Party'. 

Lord Randolph's house gradually became a meeting place for all shades 
of politicians. 'Many were the plots and plans,' Lady Randolph wrote, 
'which were hatched in my presence by the Fourth Party, who, notwith- 
standing the seriousness of their own endeavours, found time to laugh 
heartily and often at their own frustrated efforts.' She went on to add: 
'Sometimes to hear . . . Randolph discussing the situation the uninitiated 
might have thought the subject was a game of chess.' 1 There is no doubt 

1 Reminiscences of Lady Randolph Churchill. 


that Lord Randolph and his followers enjoyed themselves. They referred 
to their respectable, die-hard leaders as the 'Old Gang', and derisively 
nicknamed the weaker members 'The Goats*. 

Under these circumstances it is small wonder that Lord Randolph was 
not popular. While he made his strenuous and unorthodox efforts to 
infuse a new spirit into the Tory Party and bring it back to power, the 
Tories stood by ready to benefit by his success, yet smarting with resent- 
ment. 'To them/ Winston Churchill wrote, 'he seemed an intruder, an 
upstart, a mutineer who flouted venerable leaders and mocked at con- 
stituted authority with a mixture of aristocratic insolence and dramatic 
brutality.' 1 

Not only this but he seemed a cad. His tactics were not the tactics of an 
English 'gentleman'. On one occasion he wrote a scorching letter to The 
Times criticizing Sir Stafford Northcote's 'pusillanimous' leadership in 
the House of Commons. His friends begged him not to send the letter, 
warning him against public disloyalty to his own leader, and reminding 
him that Sir Stafford had just recovered from an illness and enjoyed the 
sympathy and affection of many people. Lord Randolph persisted and 
when he entered the House the next day scarcely a soul would speak to 
him; and when Sir Stafford rose to ask a question he was greeted by a 
tremendous ovation. On another occasion Lord Granville, the Foreign 
Secretary, criticized Lord Randolph in the House of Lords, and the latter 
again wrote The Times; he accused Granville of 'the petty malice of a 
Whig'; 'of his usual shamdessness'; 'of sneaking down to the House of 
Lords to make without notice a variety of deliberate misrepresentations, 
deliberate misquotations and false assertions which were quite in accord- 
ance with the little that was known about the public career of Earl Gran- 
ville, Knight of the Garter, and, to the misfortune of his country, Her 
Majesty's principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs'. The Times 
printed the letter but devoted a column and a half to dissociating itself 
from the insults and bad taste of the author. 

Lord Randolph, however, continued along his sensational path with 
cold indifference. It must be borne in mind that a majority of the Mem- 
bers of Parliament were the same men who ruled the fashionable world 
which had turned its back on him. He was paying them back, and show- 
ing that he scorned their good will. Gradually he developed a creed for 
his small party, borrowed from Disraeli's political philosophy, which 
became known as 'Tory Democracy'. Upon examination there was 
nothing particularly new in this faith. 'Tory Democracy,' Lord Randolph 
once explained blandly, 'is a Democracy that votes for the Tory Party.' 

1 Lord Randolph Churchill: Winston S. Churchill. 


His tactics were to appeal to the patriotic sentiments of the English 
working man and to convince him that no one could defend Queen and 
Country better than the Tories. This was accompanied by a slashing 
indictment of Mr. Gladstone's handling of Foreign Affairs. But when it 
came to the acid test, Tory Democracy faltered. Mr. Gladstone presented 
his Bill to extend the vote to the agricultural labourer and Lord Randolph 
opposed it. 'As the representative of a small agricultural borough he could 
not, as he himself said afterwards, be expected to look on a measure for 
the extinction of Woodstock "with a very longing eye",' his son explains 
somewhat naively. 1 As things turned out the extension of the vote did not 
mean 'the extinction of Woodstock' for Lord Randolph won his next 
election; and it remains a curious blot on the career of the Tory Democrat 
who toured the country crying: 'Trust the People'. 

Nevertheless it did not seem to affect Lord Randolph's popularity with 
the masses. His meetings were packed and he went from strength to 
strength. He was greeted by cries of 'Yahoo Randy!' and 'Give it to 'em 
hot!' He complied with relish. During this period his range of invective 
was inexhaustible. He called Chamberlain a 'pinchbeck Robespierre' and 
Gladstone a 'purblind and sanctimonious Pharisee' and 'an evil and 
moonstruck monster'. He accused the Government of 'treachery and 
incapacity*, of 'imbecility', of 'sinking below the level of slaves'; and he 
declared that 'general destruction and all around plunder are alike their 
pleasure, their duty and their pride.' 

By 1884 Lord Randolph was a national figure. A slim man with bulg- 
ing eyes and a huge moustache, he became the delight of the cartoonists. 
Although he was of medium height it pleased the artists to picture Him as 
a diminutive figure; sometimes as Jack the Giant Killer; sometimes as a 
wasp, a pug dog, a monkey or a down. This publicity served him well 
and helped to swell the already large, excited crowds. His wife flung 
herself into the political fray, and even fought an election for him. 
On this occasion Lady Randolph and her sister-in-law toured Woodstock 
in a smart tandem with the horses wearing brown and pink ribbons, Lord 
Randolph's racing colours. Soon the music halls were singing: 

Bless my soul! that Yankee lady 
Whether day was bright or shady 
Dashed about the district like an oriflamme of war; 
When the voters saw her bonnet 
With the bright pink roses on it, 

They followed her as the soldiers did the Helmet of Navarre. 
1 Lord Randolph Churchill: Winston S. Churchill 


As Lord Randolph's popularity in the country grew, the Liberals 
attacked him with increasing vehemence. A pamphlet entitled The 
Woodstock Bantam was published by a Mr. Foote, who wrote angrily: 
'Incessant abuse of Mr. Gladstone has been the principal means of Lord 
Randolph Churchill's advancement. The Tories hate the great Liberal 
chief who is at once its Nestor and its Agamemnon; and they are ready to 
applaud any young jackanapes who will pull him by the beard. Finding 
how cheap and easy it was to bait Mr. Gladstone and what golden honours 
the performance won among the Conservatives, his lordship flew at the 
Premier night after night like an impudent bantam. Out of doors he was 
still more insolent. There is scarcely an epithet in the vocabulary of 
vituperation which he has not flung at Mr. Gladstone from Tory plat- 
forms At a recent Woodstock election his lordship circulated a printed 

certificate of his good manners from no less a person than Mr. Gladstone 
himself. It was a sign of that great man's magnanimity but it was also a 
sign of Lord Randolph Churchill's consummate meanness. After black- 
guarding the Liberal chief for years no one but a miserable sneak would 
have condescended to have availed himself of an exculpation from the 
object of his malicious insults.' 

In 1885 Mr. Gladstone resigned and the Tories formed a Government. 
Lord Randolph was made Secretary of State for India. A few months 
later Mr. Gladstone again formed a Government; then in the summer of 
1886 a General Election took place. 

This election was fought on the stormy issue of Home Rule for Ireland 
and was one of the most bitter contests that have ever taken place in 
English parliamentary life. Home Rule was the great dream of Mr. Glad- 
stone's old age; but it split the Liberal Party in two. The dissentients lined 
up with the Tories and together the 'Unionists', as they were called, 
scored a sweeping victory. 

Historians do not go so far as to declare that without Lord Randolph 
the Tory battle would have been lost, yet no one denies that by his force 
and personality he pkyed a major part. Lord Salisbury, the Tory Prime 
Minister, rewarded him by appointing him Leader of the House of 
Commons and Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was at the top. 

He did not hold his position long. In December 1886, less than six 
months later, he suddenly resigned. He informed the Prime Minister that 
unless the Army and Navy cut the amount of money they were spending 
he would not be able to construct the Budget as he wished. The Navy 
acquiesced but the War Minister stood firm. Lord Randolph had forced 


his colleague to do as he wished twice before by threatening resignation; 
why not a third time, particularly when, as Leader of the House of 
Commons and the greatest platform orator of the day, his influence was 
at its zenith? 

But this time the move failed. Lord Salisbury accepted his resignation. 
The news caused a sensation not only in England but throughout Europe. 
The public were astonished and all sorts of rumours began to spread as 
people insisted there must be a more important reason than the one given 
in the press. The Tory Party was openly alarmed. Could Lord Salisbury's 
administration continue, deprived of the support of its most glittering 

As it became known that Lord Randolph's resignation was not based 
on a great principle, but on a minor disagreement, opinion quickly 
hardened. The Times rebuked him indignantly, declaring that Conser- 
vative circles regarded him as highly 'unpatriotic'; and the following day 
printed an excerpt from the Vienna Tageblatt which almost equalled Lord 
Randolph's own invective: 'He is one of those men who will always pky 
second fiddle and pky out of tune. The Continental Cabinets which were 
astonished and perplexed by his sudden rise, must rejoice that Lord 
Salisbury has not allowed himself to be dictated to by a mere jackanapes. 
Lord Salisbury's resignation would have been a very serious thing for 
Europe; Lord Randolph's resignation means simply this that a noisy 
personage, who was never fitted to be a Cabinet Minister, has reassumed 
his proper part as a political brawler.' 1 

Lord Salisbury's Government staggered, then quickly righted itself. 
Practically no voices were lifted in Lord Randolph's defence and no one 
mourned his going. Punch printed a cartoon of a down walking out of the 
circus ring, saying: *I shan't pky any more.' Underneath was the caption: 
'The Great Little Random', and the following verse: 

Pet of the Public and pride of the Ring 
Master of excellent fooling 
Beating in patter and tumble and fling 
Fellows with ten times his schooling 
Great Little Random the company led 
Was it a wonder he went off his head? 

Lord Randolph remained in Parliament but returned to the backbenches 
where, only six years before, he had begun his career. In January 1895, at 
the age of forty-five, after a protracted and lingering illness which resulted 
in paralysis of the brain, he died. His son, Winston, was just twenty. 

1 The Times: 25 December, 1886. 



WINSTON'S EARLIEST memories are of Dublin. He was not quite two 
years old when his father quarrelled with the Prince of Wales and his 
grandfather accepted the position of Viceroy of Ireland in order to remove 
die impulsive Randolph from the wrath of London Society. The latter 
received an official appointment as the Duke's Private Secretary and in- 
stalled himself and his family in the Little Lodge, a house in the park of the 
Viceregal Mansion. One of Winston's first recollections is the forbidding 
figure of his grandfather unveiling a statue to Lord Gough with the thrill- 
ing words 'and with a withering volley he shattered the enemy lines'. 

Although Winston left Ireland before he was five, Dublin made a vivid 
impression on his mind. He remembers the red-coated soldiers, the emer- 
ald grass, the mist and the rain, and the excited and sometimes whispered 
talk about 'the wicked Fenians' who were trying to terrorize the British 
administration. Once when he was riding a donkey led by his nurse, Mrs. 
Everest, a group of soldiers appeared in the distance. There was a moment 
of panic as the nurse mistook them for Fenians; the donkey kicked 
and threw Winston to the ground, which resulted in a slight concussion 
of the brain. On another occasion arrangements were made to take 
a group of children to the pantomime. When Winston and Mrs. Everest 
reached the Castle where they were to meet the others, people with 
long faces came out and said that the theatre had been burned down. 
All that was left of the manager, they added lugubriously, were the keys 
that were in his pocket. Winston asked eagerly to see the keys, but this 
request, he wrote years later, 'does not seem to have been well received.' 

The early pictures of Winston show a pug-nosed, determined little boy 
with a mass of untidy curls framed by the round sailor hat so dear to the 
hearts of the Victorians. He was red-headed, freckle-faced and obstre- 
perous and from the moment he learned to talk, he talked incessantly. The 
recipient of his confidences was Mrs. Everest, a large, fat, homely woman 
who loved her small charge and who was rewarded by an unswerving 
devotion which lasted until her death; 

He did not see much of his parents. His father was engrossed in Irish 
politics and his mother caught up in a busy social life. Neither considered 
children a vocation, and, in the way of most aristocratic families at that 

time, regarded the nursery, like the kitchen, as necessary adjuncts to the 



well-run household, but ones which should be hidden. Winston admired 
his mother from a distance like a beautiful, far-away evening star. She 
obviously had dazzling qualities for Viscount D'Abernon wrote of her at 
this time: 'I have the clearest recollection of seeing her for the first time. 
It was at the Viceregal Lodge at Dublin. She stood at one side to the left 
of the entrance. The Viceroy was on a dais at the farther end of the room 
surrounded by a brilliant staff, but eyes were not turned on him or his con- 
sort, but on a dark, lithe figure, standing somewhat apart and appearing 
to be of another texture to those around her, radiant, translucent, intense. 
A diamond star in her hair, her favourite ornament its lustre dimmed by 
the flashing glory of her eyes. More of the panther than of the woman in 
her look, but with a cultivated intelligence unknown to the jungle. Her 
courage not less great than that of her husband fit mother for descendants 
of the great Duke. With all these attributes of brilliancy such kindliness 
and high spirits that she was universally popular. Her desire to please, her 
delight in life, and the genuine wish that all should share her joyous faith 
in it, made her the centre of a devoted circle.' 1 

Winston was supremely happy until he was seven years old. His parents 
moved back to London after their three years in Ireland and he was 
given a large nursery equipped with all the things that a small boy likes 
best. He had a thousand tin soldiers, a magic lantern, and a real steam 
engine. Furthermore, when he was six his mother presented him with a 
brother, John, whom he regarded as a curious and amusing newpossession. 

The following year adversity set in. His mother announced that the time 
had come for him to go to boarding school. She had selected an expensive, 
modern school near Ascot which specialized in preparing boys for Eton. 
Winston dreaded the idea of leaving his untrammelled existence with Mrs. 
Everest and, as things turned out, his worst forebodings were fulfilled; he 
spent two years at St. James's School and hated every minute of it. 

His departure had an almost Dickensian flavour. He was only seven 
and until then had led a happy and sheltered life. He remembers the ride 
in the hansom cab with his mother, his growing apprehension, and finally 
the awful moment when good-byes had been said and he was left alone 
with a stern, unbending master. The latter led him to an empty classroom 
nnd told him to sit down and learn the First Declension of the Latin word 
for table, mensa. One can imagine the child's sinking heart as he looked at 
the strange, incomprehensible words. He did as he was bid and memor- 
ized them, but when the master returned, inquired boldly: 

'And what does O table mean?' 

'Mensa, O table, is the vocative case You use it in speaking to a table.' 

1 An Ambassador of Peace: Viscount D'Aberaon. 


'But I never do,' insisted young Winston. 

'If you are impertinent, you will be punished, and punished, let me tell 
you, very severely/ said the master angrily. 1 

This was the beginning of a bad two years. Discipline at St. James's was 
rigidly strict and, according to Winston, the headmaster was cruel and 
perverted. He delighted in assembling the little boys in the library, singling 
out the culprits one by one and taking them into the next room where he 
beat them until they bled. The other boys were forced to sit silent and 
listen to the screams of their schoolmates. Winston rebelled. He was beaten 
often and freely and with a violence which, he declares, not even a re- 
formatory would tolerate to-day. Nevertheless he refused to surrender; he 
refused to write the Latin verses which he declared he could not understand, 
he refused to curry favour, he refused to repent. Once he even kicked the 
headmaster's straw hat to pieces which made him the hero of the school. 
Winston nursed such a grievance against this man that for years after- 
wards he brooded on revenge. He planned to return one day, denounce the 
master before all his pupils, then subject him to the same punishment he 
had inflicted on his helpless charges. At the age of nineteen he actually drove 
to Ascot, but when he reached his destination he found that the school had 
been abandoned long before and the hated headmaster had disappeared. 

Although Winston's lion-hearted resistance soon became a legend at 
St. James's his health suffered badly and after two years his family doctor 
advised Lady Randolph to remove him to Brighton where he would gain 
the benefit of sea air and more freedom. Here his fortunes improved. He 
was put under the care of two kind and elderly ladies who encouraged 
him to study the things he liked such as English, history, French and 
poetry. He was also allowed to ride and swim and to read Rider Hag- 
gard's thrilling books King Solomon's Mines and Attan^Quatermain. Other 
activities included a school paper called The Critic in which he lost interest 
after the first number, and a production of Aladdin which was so ambitious 
it never saw the light. He was happy once again, but in all fairness to the 
masters of St. James's it must be said that his new freedom did not bring 
about any magic change in him so far as obedience was concerned. He had 
such bounding vitality he could not, it seemed, keep out of mischief. His 
dancing mistress, Miss Vera Moore, described him as 'a small, red-headed 
pupil, the naughtiest boy in the class; I used to think he was the naughtiest 
small boy in tie world'. There seemed to be no field in which Winston's 
peculiar brand of cheekiness did not flourish. Once one of the teachers 
asked the children to call out the number of good conduct marks they had 
lost 'Nine,' cried Winston. 'But you couldn't have lost nine,' the teacher 
1 My Early Life: Winston S. Churchill. 


protested. 'Nein,' repeated Churchill triumphantly. 'I am talking German.' 

Even Winston's relatives found him a handful. He usually spent his 
holidays visiting one of his many aunts and uncles, and the occasions 
rarely passed without some dramatic incident taking place. Sometimes he 
went to Bournemouth to stay with his father's sister, Lady Wimborne, 
and sometimes to Blenheim to stay with his father's brother, now the 
eighth Duke of Marlborough. Winston loved Blenheim, for every corner 
of the resounding halls and majestic rooms breathed the splendour of the 
great defender who had saved England from the rule of a tyrant. The little 
boy was dazzled by the uniforms and armour, by the wonderful trophies, 
and by the battle scenes that decorated the walls; but best of all he loved the 
toy soldiers that brought to life the armies which his famous ancestor had 
commanded. He modelled his own collection on this impressive array and 
often refought the Battle of Blenheim with himself as the heroic leader. 
He resolved that his life too would be filled with excitement and glory. 

When Lady Randolph was abroad, as she frequently was, her elder 
sister, Lady Leslie, took Winston under her wing as part of her own 
family. When he was twelve years old she wrote the following letter to 
the celebrated author, Mr. Rider Haggard: 'The little boy Winston came 
here yesterday morning, beseeching me to take him to see you before he 
returns to school at the end of the month. I don't wish to bore so busy a 
man as yourself, but will you, when you have time, please tell me, shall 
I bring him on Wednesday next, when Mrs. Haggard said she would be 
at home? Or do you prefer settling to come here some afternoon when I 
could have the boy to meet you? He really is a very interesting being, 
though temporarily uppish from the restraining parental hand being in 
Russia.' Shortly after the meeting Winston wrote to Mr. Haggard: 'Thank 
you so much for sending me Allan Quatermain; it was so good of you. 
I like A.Q. better than King Solomon's Mines; it is more amusing. I hope 
you will write a good many more books.' 

When Winston was not at Bournemouth or Blenheim or with Lady 
Leslie, in her house near Dublin, he sometimes stayed with his mother's 
younger sister, Mrs. Frewen, in London. And other times the Leslie and 
Frewen children came to visit him at various houses which the Randolph 
Churchills rented for the summer. The three Jerome sisters had produced be- 
tween them six boys and one girl, so there was no shortage of playmates. 
A picture taken in 1 889 shows Lady Randolph with her two sons, Winston 
age fourteen and Jack age eight; Mrs. Frewen with Oswald, one, Hugh, 
six, and Clare, four; and Lady Leslie with Shane, four, and Norman, three. 

Winston was the undisputed leader of the group, being six years older 
than any of the other children, and his leadership was of a stirring and 


wilful character. His cousin, Shane Leslie, remembers the agitated con- 
sultations between nannies and nursery maids as to how to handle the 
headstrong boy. He was the true enfant terrible. Once when he was defying 
his nurse he searched his brain for something 'wicked' with which he 
could threaten her; finally remembering her low church principles he 
declared boldly that if she would not let him have his way he would 
'go and worship idols'. 

The cousins regarded Winston with fascination and awe. 'We thought 
he was wonderful,' Shane Leslie explains, 'because he was always leading 
us to danger.' Sometimes the danger rested in hazardous bird's-nesting ex- 
peditions, sometimes in fights with the village children, sometimes in full- 
scale battles over carefully built fortresses. Once he persuaded Mrs. Everest 
to organize an expedition to the Tower of London so that he could give 
the younger children a detailed lecture on the tortures. 

His cousin, Clare Frewen, who later as Clare Sheridan became widely 
known as a sculptress and a writer, describes in her memoirs the impression 
he made on her: 

'Winston was a large school boy when I was still in the nursery. He 
had a disconcerting way of looking at me critically and saying nothing. 
He filled me with awe. His playroom contained from one end to the other 
a plank table on trestles, upon wliich were thousands of lead soldiers 
arranged for battle. He organized wars. The lead battalions were man- 
oeuvred into action, peas and pebbles committed great casualties, forts 
were stormed, cavalry charged, bridges were destroyed real water tanks 
engulfed the advancing foe. Altogether it was a most impressive show, 
and played with an interest that was no ordinary child game. 

'One summer the Churchills rented a small house in the country for the 
holidays. It was called Banstead. Winston and Jack, his brother, built a log 
house with the help of the gardener's children and dug a ditch around it 
which they contrived to fill with water, and made a drawbridge that 
really could pull up and down. Here again war proceeded. The fort was 
stormed. I was hurriedly removed from the scene of action as mud and 
stones began to fly with effect. But the incident impressed me and Winston 
became a very important person in my estimation.' 1 

During the first three years that Winston was at school in Brighton, 
Lord Randolph was moving rapidly towards the glittering height of his 
career. Even though Winston was only nine he realized with immense 
pride that his father was a great national figure. The newspapers were full 
of his utterances, and the magazines ran dozens of cartoons. He noticed 
proudly that strangers even took off their hats when Lord Randolph 

1 Nuda Veritas: Clare Sheridan. 


passed and he heard grown-ups speaking of him as 'Gladstone's great 
adversary*. He pored over the daily papers and read every word of his 
father's speeches. He bought a scrap-book and pasted in the cartoons. He 
listened to whatever snatches of political talk he could hear, and acquainted 
himself with knowledge of all die great personalities of the day. And, of 
course, he lined up firmly on his father's side. 

Anyone who was not interested in politics, he decided, must be very 
stupid indeed. Once when he visited the Marylebone swimming baths in 
London he .asked the attendant if he were a Liberal or a Conservative. 
'Oh, I don't bother myself about politics,' replied the man. 'What,' gasped 
Churchill in indignation, 'you pay rates and taxes and you don't bother 
yourself about politics? You ought to want to stand on a box in Hyde 
Park and tell people things.' On another occasion Winston refused to play 
with a certain friend any more, and when the friend's father inquired why, 
the boy answered: 'Winston says you're one of those damned Radicals and 
he's not coming over here again.' 

Lord Randolph was apparently unaware that he had such a staunch 
supporter in his elder son. He was completely centred in his own affairs 
and spared little time for his children. They were almost like strangers to 
him and yet when Winston was thirteen his father introduced him to Bram 
Stoker, the author ofDracula, saying: 'He's not much yet, but he's a good 
'un.' Winston was enormously pleased by this tribute but during the next 
few years was doomed to fall considerably in his father's estimation. 

The trouble, once again, was school; and this time it was Harrow. From 
the very first he was a failure. Most members of the Churchill family went 
to Eton, but since Winston had suffered from pneumonia twice his mother 
decided to send him to Harrow which, since it stands on a hill, was 
supposed to be healthier for a boy with a weak chest. The Latin entrance 
examination paper which Winston handed in, however, contained nothing 
more than a figure one in brackets, two smudges and a blot. However, 
Dr. Welldon, the Headmaster, took the unusual step of examining his 
other papers himself, and being convinced that it was impossible for Lord 
Randolph's son to be totally devoid of intelligence, persuaded himself that 
they showed traces of originality. On the strength of his intervention 
Winston was admitted. 

Things went from bad to worse. Winston passed into Harrow the 
lowest boy in the lowest form, and he never moved out of the Lower 
School the whole five years he was there. Roll call was taken on the steps 
outside the Old School and the boys used to file past according to their 
scholastic record. Although in 1888 Lord Randolph was out of office he 
was still a world figure and sometimes visitors gathered to catch a glimpse 


of the brilliant man's son. Winston often heard them exclaim in amaze- 
ment: 'Why, he's the last of all!' Many years kter he proclaimed firmly: 
Tm all for the Public Schools but I do not want to go there again.* 

The masters struggled with Churchill in bewilderment and indignation. 
He was self-confident and assertive; he could talk the hind leg off a donkey; 
why could he not learn the rudiments of Latin and Mathematics? Churchill 
insists that where 'my reason, imagination or interest was not engaged I 
could not or would not learn'. 1 There is no doubt that stubbornness 
pkyed a considerable part for when his twelve years of school came to 
an end he declared with some pride that no one had ever succeeded in 
making him write a Latin verse or learn any Greek except the alphabet. 

As a result he remained perpetually at the bottom of the class; and as a 
further result he was thoroughly grounded in English. If he was too stupid 
to learn Latin he could at least learn English. He was drilled over and over 
again in parsing and syntax. 'Thus,' he writes, 'I got into my bones the 
essential structure of the ordinary British sentence which is a noble 
thing. And when in after years my schoolfellows who had won prizes and 
distinction for writing such beautiful Latin poetry and pithy Greek epi- 
grams had to come down again to common English, to earn their living 
or make their way, I did not feel myself at any disadvantage.' 2 

Churchill loved to experiment with the use of words and was passion- 
ately fond of declaiming. He astonished the Headmaster, Dr. Welldon, by 
reciting twelve hundred lines of Macaulay's Lays of Ancient Rome without 
making a single mistake, for which he won a school prize. 'I do not believe 
I have ever seen in a boy of fourteen such a veneration of the English 
language,' Welldon once declared. Other testimony comes from Mr. 
Moore, who ran the Harrow Bookshop. 'Mr. Churchill ... in his school- 
days already showed evidences of his unusual command of words. He 
would argue in the shop on any subject, and, as a result of this, he was, I am 
afraid, often left in sole possession of the floor.' 3 

Churchill was no better at sport than he was at Latin or Greek. He hated 
cricket and football and the only distinction he won was the Public Schools 
Fencing Competition. He was not a popular boy. Instead of being sub- 
dued by his failures he grew more self-assertive than ever. Once he crept 
up behind a small boy standing on the edge of the swimming pool and 
pushed him in. As the dripping and indignant figure climbed out, some 
of the boys who had watched die incident chanted with delight, 'You're 
in for it,' for the victim was none other than Leo Amery, a Sixth Form 

1 My Early Life: Winston S. ChurchilL 


9 Winston Churchill and Harrow: Ed. by E..D. W. Chaplin.' 


boy, who was not only Head of his House but a champion at gym. When 
Winston realized the full implications of his act he went up and apologized. 
'I mistook you for a Fourth Form boy,' he explained, 'you are so small.' 
Then, sensing that this had not improved matters, added quickly: 'My 
father too is small and he also is a great man.' Leo Amery, who in later 
years sat in many of the same Cabinets with Churchill, burst into laughter 
and warned the miscreant to be more careful in the future. 

Amery got his own back on Winston a short time later when the latter 
wrote several letters to the school magazine criticizing the gym. Amery 
was one of the schoolboy editors, and when Churchill's second contribu- 
tion was sent in, containing an even more spirited attack than the first, he 
wielded the blue pencil firmly. With tears in his eyes Winston remon- 
strated that Amery was deleting his best paragraphs, but the latter was 
adamant and the letter was published with the following footnote: *We 
have omitted a portion of our correspondent's letter, which seemed to us 
to exceed the limits of fair criticism. Eds. Harrovian. 9 

Churchill's letters were published under the pen-name, Junius Junior, 
and even with the excisions Welldon felt that he was going too far. He 
summoned him and said that he had noticed certain articles of a subversive 
character critical of the constituted authorities of the school; that as the 
articles were anonymous he would not dream of asking who wrote them, 
but that if any more of the same sort appeared it might be his painful duty 
to swish Winston. 

Churchill, however, was not intimidated by a dressing-down. Mr. 
Tomlin, who was the Head of School in Winston's second year, wrote 
that when Welldon once had Winston 'on the carpet' and said, 'Churchill, 
I have very grave reason to be displeased with you,' the boy retorted 
brightly, 'And I, sir, have very grave reason to be displeased with you.' 1 
Despite Winston's sauce, Welldon confided to a friend that he was one 
of his favourite pupils. 

Churchill's literary efforts did not extend much further than his attacks 
on the gym, save for a long poem on an epidemic of influenza. One of the 
verses went: 

And now Europe groans aloud 

And 'neath the heavy thunder-cloud 

Hushed is both song and dance; 

The germs of illness wend their way 

To westward each succeeding day 

And enter merry France. 2 

1 Winston Churchill and Harrow: Ed. by E. D. W. Chaplin. 


Churchill did not worry about his unpopularity with his schoolmates, 
for he was not a boy who feared to be alone; he could always find some- 
thing amusing to do with his leisure. When he was fifteen he made an 
experiment which fortunately escaped the notice of the masters. In the 
town of Harrow there stood an old deserted house with a large garden. 
As the building fell into decay it became known as 'The Haunted House*. 
There was an old well in the garden and people claimed that a passage at 
the bottom led to the Parish Church. Winston thought it would be fun 
to find out whether this was true and hit upon the happy idea of blowing 
it up. With some gunpowder, a stone ginger-beer bottle and a home- 
made fuse he assembled an elementary but effective bomb, and placed it 
at the bottom of the well. Nothing happened and he leaned over the wall. 
At that moment the bomb exploded. Winston was not hurt but his face 
was blackened and his hair and eyebrows singed. The neighbours hurried 
to their windows and Mr. Harry Woodbridge, who still lives in Harrow, 
declares that his aunt ran out to help the boy. She brought him into the 
kitchen and bathed his face. When he left he thanked her and said: 'I ex- 
pect this will get me the bag.' But the masters did not hear of the incident 
and his fears were not realized. 

Winston's indifference to his schoolmates probably revealed itself most 
nobly in his attitude to the devoted Mrs. Everest. English Public Schools 
are cruelly critical of the outward display of affection, and for this reason 
boys have even been known to beg their parents to keep away. Winston 
not only invited Mrs. Everest to visit him but when she arrived, enor- 
mously fat and smiling, kissed her in front of all the boys and walked down 
the street with her arm in arm. Jack Seely, an old Harrovian who after- 
wards became one of Churchill's Cabinet colleagues, and won the D.S.O. 
in the First War, witnessed the incident and described it as one of the 
'bravest acts' he had ever seen. 

Lord Randolph was startled and worried by his son's scholastic failures. 
He felt that die boy must be backward and for the first time began to 
concern himself about his future. Occasionally he visited him at Harrow 
and followed the approved pattern of parental behaviour by taking him 
and his school friend, Jack Milbanke, to luncheon at the King's Head 
Hotel. Winston sat awkward and silent, listening to Milbanke conversing 
so easily with his brilliant father and wishing with all his heart that he 
could do the same. But Lord Randolph intimidated his son. He was 
remote and impersonal and even then made no effort to gain his con- 


fidence. The son was filled with admiration for his father, yet in his 
presence was gauche and self-conscious. 

One day when Winston was fourteen and home on holiday Lord 
Randolph went up to the nursery. He found the boy playing with his 
soldiers which were then over fifteen hundred strong. He studied them as 
they stood arrayed in line of battle and asked him if he would like to be a 
soldier. Winston was delighted to think that his father had discovered in 
him the seeds of military genius and did not realize for many years that 
Lord Randolph had decided that soldiering was the only career for a boy 
of limited intelligence. 

Winston was immensely pleased at the prospect of a military life. He 
took a special course at Harrow to prepare him for his Sandhurst examina- 
tion, but even here he did not succeed. Twice he took the examination 
and twice he failed. In exasperation his father removed him from Harrow 
and sent him to a crammer. He took the examination for the third time 
and passed, but so low that he was not qualified to enter any regiment 
but the cavalry. The cavalry accepted a lower standard since its primary 
requisite was for young men of independent means who could and would 
pay for their own horses. 

When Lord Randolph heard of his son's latest failure he was very angry 
and wrote him a terse letter warning him that if he did not pull himself 
together he would be a 'social wastrel'. Lord Randolph had set his heart 
on Winston's joining the 6oth Rifles, and now he had the humiliating 
duty of writing to the Colonel of the Regiment and explaining that his 
son was too stupid to qualify. 

Despite his father's indignation Winston was thrilled at the thought of 
becoming a cavalry officer. Fading was more fun than walking. He 
entered Sandhurst with a light heart. 

Just before Winston passed his final examination for Sandhurst he had 
a serious accident. He went to visit his aunt, Lady Wimborne, at Bourne- 
mouth. He was being chased by his cousin and his brother and suddenly 
found himself cornered on a bridge, under which lay a ravine covered 
with pine trees. He rashly decided to avoid capture by jumping into the 
ravine, hoping that the trees would break his fall and deposit him on the 
earth unhurt. His plan misfired and he fell twenty-nine feet on to hard 
ground. The two boys ran into the house and fetched Lady Randolph, 
saying: 'Winston jumped over the bridge and he won't speak to us.' 

For three days he was unconscious. His father hurried from Ireland 
and all the most eminent specialists of the day were summoned. He had a 


ruptured kidney which called for an immediate operation. The news went 
round the Carlton Club that Lord Randolph's son had met with a serious 
accident playing 'Follow my Leader', to which the wits replied: 'Lord 
Randolph will never come to grief that way.' 

Winston was laid up for nearly the whole of the year 1893. But his 
convalescence, far from proving dull, opened up for him the exciting 
world of politics that he had hitherto only read about. His parents took 
him to London where they were living with his grandmother, the dowager 
Duchess of Marlborough, at 50 Grosvenor Square. Lord Randolph was 
a sick man; he was shrunken and pale and had grown an enormous, 
shaggy beard that seemed to accentuate his illness. Yet he still dreamed of 
retrieving his position. He felt he had been badly used and Winston had 
heard him refer bitterly to the Tories as 'a Government and a party which 
for five years have boycotted and slandered me.' 1 He had therefore gained 
a certain amount of satisfaction when, a few months previously, Gladstone 
had beaten the Tories at the polls and ascended the throne once again. 

Lord Randolph's sister was married to Lord Tweedmouth, Gladstone's 
chief whip, so the Churchills found themselves in the Liberals' inner 
circle. Every day there were people for lunch and dinner and here the 
eighteen-year-old Winston met for the first time many of the great figures 
whom he was destined to know as colleagues in the days to come. He met 
Mr. Chamberlain, Mr. Balfour, Mr. Edward Carson, Mr. Asquith, Mr. 
John Morley, Lord Rosebery and many others. He often attended the 
House of Commons, and heard Gladstone wind up the Third Reading of 
the Home Rule Bill. One evening when Edward Carson came to dinner 
and discovered that Winston had spent the afternoon in the gallery, he 
said: 'What did you think of my speech?' Winston replied solemnly: 'I 
concluded from it, sir, that the ship of State is struggling in heavy seas.' 

What fascinated Winston most about the House of Commons was that 
although the battle across the floor was sharp and fierce, when opponents 
met outside the Chamber they were friendly and courteous. On one 
occasion he heard his father and Sir William Harcourt exchanging very 
acrimonious charges. Sir William seemed to him unnecessarily angry and 
extremely unfair. He was therefore astonished when the latter came up 
to him in the gallery, shook his hand and smiled and asked him what he 
thought of the speech. The lack of rancour impressed Winston. It was the 
truly sporting way to fight, he decided, as chivalrous as the knights of old; 
and it is worth noticing that he has always modelled his own conduct on 
these Victorian examples. 

As the days passed he tried eagerly to draw closer to his strange father. 

1 Lord Randolph Clwrchill: Winston S. Churchill. 


A short time before his accident he had caught one fleeting glimpse of the 
inner man, which encouraged him and filled him with hope. He had let 
off a gun at a rabbit which happened to appear on die lawn just below 
Lord Randolph's window. The latter spoke to his son angrily, then sud- 
denly melted. He talked gently about school and the Army, and the 
difficulties and rewards of life in general. At the end he said: 'Remember 
things do not always go right wi th me. My every action is misjudged and 
every word distorted. ... So make some allowances.' 1 

The fact that Lord Randolph had unbent for these few minutes filled 
Winston with hope. Perhaps one day, when he had made his name and 
fortune, he would enter the House at his father's side and they would 
fight their way together. But this talk was the only intimate conversation 
he was ever to have with Lord Randolph. 

Winston loved Sandhurst. For the first time he enjoyed studying for 
now the lessons consisted of Tactics, Fortification, Topography and 
Military Law. He learned how to blow up masonry bridges, constructed 
breastworks, made road reconnaissances, and contoured maps. The wars 
he particularly studied as 'the latest and best specimens' were the American 
Civil War, the Russo-Turkish War, and the Franco-German War. 

Horses were his greatest pleasure. Besides the instruction he received at 
Sandhurst his father arranged for him to take an additional course in the 
vacations with the Royal Horse Guards. He spent all his money on hiring 
horses and muchof histimeinorganizingpoint-to-pointsandsteeplechases. 

But he still retained a lively interest in politics, and during his last term 
made his first public speech. The circumstances were unusual and comic. 
In the summer of 1894 a certain Mrs. Ormiston Chant launched a Purity 
Campaign which received much publicity. The chief object of her atten- 
tion was the promenade of the Empire Theatre, a large space behind the 
dress circle whi ch was alounge containing several bars and usuallyfilledwith 
men and professional ladies. Since it was a favourite place of many of the 
Sandhurst cadets many of them were naturally indignant at Mrs. Chant's 
allegations of insobriety and immorality. The Daily Telegraph ran an article 
against the kdy entitled: 'Prudes on the Prowl', and the batde was on. 

Winston followed the controversy with immense interest, and one day 
read in the paper that a certain gentleman was proposing to form a League 
of Citizens under the name 'The Entertainments Protection League* and 
was calling on all interested people to come forward and help form com- 

1 Lord Randolph Churchill: Winston S. Churchill. 


He responded at once, and wrote to the founder saying that he would 
travel to London for the first meeting. He then sat down and composed a 
speech, dealing with the rights of the individual, which he learned by 
heart. On the appointed day he travelled to London with the good wishes 
of his colleagues. He was surprised to find the hotel small and dingy. But 
he was even more surprised to find only one person there, the founder. 
The latter admitted sadly that save for Cadet Churchill there had been no 
response. Winston swallowed his disappointment and returned to Sand- 
hurst, pawning his gold watch on the way to pay for his dinner. 

This was not the end of the story. Winston and his friends attended the 
promenade and were disturbed to see that screens had been put around the 
bars to divide them from the public. A young man tapped one of the 
screens with his cane; another pushed it, a third kicked. Suddenly two 
hundred people were rushing at the screens, Winston conspicuous among 
them. At the height of the excitement Churchill leapt on to a chair and 
delivered his speech, but it was no longer the cold, reasoned, constitu- 
tional effort. It was a heated, rousing speech shouted above the tumult. 
Although this maiden oration fortunately escaped the notice of the press, 
Richard Harding Davis, an American author who met Churchill in 
London, was given a version of the speech by Winston's fellow officers, 
and preserved a portion of it for posterity. 'Where does the Englishman 
in London always find a welcome?' cried Churchill. 'Where does he first 
go when, battle-scarred and travel-worn, he reaches home? Who is always 
there to greet him with a smile and join him with a drink? Who is ever 
faithful, ever true? The ladies of the Empire promenade!' 1 

Luckily, this incident was not brought to the attention of Winston's 
commanding officer. 

In January 1895, two months before Winston received the Queen's 
Commission, Lord Randolph Churchill died. It was a severe blow to his 
son, for although the disappointed statesman had been increasingly ill in 
the past few years the family dung doggedly to the hope that he would 
recover both his health and his political position. Winston was eagerly 
awaiting the day when his father would accept him as an equal. During 
the boy's two years at Sandhurst Lord Randolph had occasionally taken 
him to dinners and week-end parties and he was confident that they were 
moving toward a closer understanding. But Lord Randolph never really 
dropped his mask. 'If ever I began to show the slightest idea of comrade- 
ship, he was immediately offended;' Winston wrote many years later, 
1 Real Soldiers of Fortune: Richard Harding Davis. 


*and when once I suggested that I might help his private secretary to write 
some letters, he froze me into stone.' 1 

Lord Randolph knew his son so litde that it never crossed his mind 
that Winston even toyed with the idea of entering politics. Certainly it 
never entered his head as a feasible proposition. Politics were expensive 
in those days and Members of Parliament were unpaid. Besides, he could 
not pretend his boy was clever. Some months previously he had even 
written a friend in South Africa asking if there were any prospects in the 
Colonies for he did not feel his son was likely to make his way in England. 

Winston was just twenty when Lord Randolph died and he at once 
assumed his role as head of the family. Relatives remember him at the 
funeral, self-possessed and capable. They remember the hundreds of tele- 
grams that poured in and the picture of Winston reading each one and 
impaling it dramatically on a spike. The young man's future was now a 
large question mark, for Lord Randolph had left his two sons no money. 
His estate just settled his debts, and there was nothing over. In Victorian 
days this was a severe handicap for a member of the ruling class, for with- 
out money the road to politics was completely barred. It was even neces- 
sary, of course, to have money as a cavalry officer. Lady Randolph gave 
Winston an allowance of ^ 5 oo a year. He accepted it gratefully with a deter- 
mination to make himself financially independent as quickly as possible. 

Six months after his father's death Winston received another blow, 
which was an even greater emotional loss. Mrs. Everest died. Throughout 
the years the deep bond between her and Winston had remained as strong 
as ever. 'She was,' he wrote, 'my dearest and most intimate friend during 
the whole twenty years I had lived.' 2 When she had retired from the 
Churchills' service some years before, Lord Randolph had paid tribute to 
her devoted care by making a special trip in a hansom cab to lunch with 
Lord Rothschild in order to invest her savings. 

Mrs. Everest lived in North London, and when Winston heard she was 
ill he hastened to her bedside. He had to return to Aldershot for an early 
morning parade, then hurried back to her again. He sat with her for many 
hours, and was with her when she died. He attended her funeral and when 
she was lowered into her grave he wept as he had never wept for his own 
father. Several years later, in India, he came across the passage Gibbon had 
written about his nurse: 'If there be any, as I trust there are some, who 
rejoice that I live, to that dear and excellent woman their gratitude is due/ 
This, he declared, would be Mrs. Everest's epitaph: and to-day her picture 
still hangs in his study at Chartwell. 

1 My Early Life: Winston S. ChurchilL 
8 Ibid. 



Two MONTHS after Lord Randolph's death, Winston was gazetted to 
the 4th Queen's Own Hussars. Although he was not a handsome boy, his 
appearance was striking. He was of medium height, strong and wiry, with 
a head that seemed too large for his body. He had a pug nose, large 
protruding blue eyes, a pink and white skin a girl might have envied, 
and a shock of red-gold hair that matched the braid on his uniform. An 
impediment in his speech prevented him from pronouncing the letter V 
clearly and gave him a slight lisp. Yet he was anything but effeminate. 
His blue eyes were impudent and challenging and his round face had the 
pugnacious look of the street urchin. 

His birth and breeding automatically opened the doors to the powerful 
oligarchic society which ruled Britain. This society consisted of a few 
hundred great families who throughout the years had become widely 
interrelated by marriage. 'Everywhere one met friends and kinsfolk,' 
wrote Winston. 'The leading figures of Society were in many cases the 
leading statesmen in Parliament, and also the leading sportsmen on the 
Turf. Lord Salisbury was accustomed scrupulously to avoid calling a 
Cabinet when there was racing at Newmarket, and the House of Com- 
mons made a practice of adjourning for the Derby. In those days the glit- 
tering parties at Lansdowne House, Devonshire House and Stafford House 
comprised all the elements which made a gay and splendid social circle in 
close relation to the business of Parliament, the hierarchies of the Army 
and Navy, and the policy of the State.' 1 

Winston found this new world greatly to his liking. Not only was he 
free from the constraining atmosphere of the classroom but he was 
delighted to findhimself moving on terms of social equality with the most 
distinguished men of the day. Furthermore, he had discovered in his 
mother a new and kindred spirit. Up till then Lady Randolph had paid 
little attention to her son, but now that Winston had readied an age 
where he could fit into her life she began to take an amused and genuine 
interest in him. She introduced him to whoever he wished to meet and 
made every effort to smooth his path. She did not attempt to exert a 
maternal influence, and gradually a deep and affectionate brother-sister 
relationship developed which lasted until her death. 

1 My Early Life: Winston S. Churchill 



Winston, however, was not a universal favourite. He moved bombasti- 
cally and assertively through the sedate circles of Victorian society. He 
was blunt and opinionated and indifferent to the social graces. His pro- 
longed failure at school had increased, not diminished his aggressiveness, 
for he was so eager to impress people with his unrecognized ability that he 
seized every opportunity to force his ideas upon them. Small talk bored 
him and he made no attempt to conceal his impatience with stupidity. He 
did not hesitate to engulf his elders in a tide of rhetoric against which 
they often struggled helplessly; and as a result he soon won the reputation 
of being egotistical, rude and bumptious. 

The young men of the 4th Hussars regarded him with good-natured 
amusement. The majority were rich, charming and intellectually lazy. 
Most of them had chosen a military career because it interfered less than 
anything else with hunting and shooting and the pleasures of the London 
season. In those days cavalry officers were paid only fourteen shillings a 
day, and were obliged to dig into their own pockets to support themselves 
and a string of horses as well. But their meagre salaries were balanced by 
certain advantages. They had five months' leave a year, and even when 
they were on duty their hours were neither arduous nor long. Although 
Winston's mother made him an allowance of ^500 a year which in those 
days had considerable purchasing power, his brother officers lived at such 
a high standard he regarded himself as 'a poor man'. 

However, Lieut. Churchill had not joined the army in order to embark 
on a social career. It was not for nothing that the Duke of Marlborough 
was his hero, or that he had arrayed his tin soldiers in line of battle and 
dreamt of heroic deeds suitably rewarded by Fame. He was determined to 
make a name for himself, but it was a depressing truth that there could be 
no sensational military exploits if there were no wars. He looked at the 
world of 1895 with dismay. If only he had been born at the end of the last 
century with twenty years of Napoleonic battles stretching out before 
him. The last war Britain had fought was in the Crimea in 1854, and still 
there was scarcely a cloud on the horizon. 

The only place any fighting was going on was in Cuba and one could 
scarcely call a minor rebellion a war. However, he was soon to have a few 
months' leave and a rebellion was better than nothing. He persuaded 
Reginald Barnes, a fellow subaltern, to undertake the journey with him 
and secured a few letters of introduction to the Spanish authorities in 
Havana by writing to his father's old friend, Sir Henry Drummond- 
Wolff who was at that time British Ambassador in Madrid, Then he 
remembered that his father had once written several articles for the Daily 
Graphic. In those days there were no regulations which forbade Army 


officers to write for the press, and many newspapers commissioned serving 
officers to act as correspondents. Winston saw the editor of the Graphic and 
succeeded in securing a commission for a series of dispatches at ^5 apiece. 
The two young Hussars set out for Cuba early in November. Their 
adventures proved to be more comical than dangerous and more jovial 
than instructive; nevertheless the trip was an important turning point in 
Winston's life for it launched him on the career of a war correspondent 
which was to make him a national figure before five years had passed.)x 

The Spanish authorities welcomed the two subalterns with surjmsing 
cordiality. They were attempting to suppress a Cuban thrust for independ- 
ence, and they insisted on interpreting the visit of the Englishmen as an 
official gesture of friendship from a great and interested power. Every 
courtesy was shown them and every facility placed at their disposal. 
Arrangements were soon made to send them to join a Spanish column 
of four thousand men that was marching through a jungle in which many 
enemy patrols were operating. 

It took the two Hussars several days to reach General Valdez's column. 
They travelled first by train, then by boat and finally caught up with him 
in the town of Sancti Spiritus. The General greeted them warmly, pro- 
vided them with horses and explained to them that he was making a fort- 
night's march through the insurgent districts. The long column set off in 
the morning first moving through tangled jungles, then open spaces, then 
more jungles. The enemy was well hidden, but on the morning of 30 
November, Winston's twenty-first birthday, a few bullets whistled over 
his head while he was camped near the roadside eating a chicken for his 
breakfast. This was his baptism of fire. The next evening another volley 
rang out while he and a group of officers were dressing after a swim, 
causing them a certain amount of inconvenience and a good many jokes. 
And later that night several more bullets lodged themselves in the thatch 
of the hut in which he was sleeping. 

On the third day the Spanish column attacked. Churchill and Barnes 
were mounted and advanced with the General and his staff about fifty 
yards behind the Spanish infantry. They watched the puffs of enemy 
smoke in the distance and sat with dignity while bullets whistled around 
them. Soon the rebel fire died away and the Spanish soldiers occupied the 
insurgent positions. It was impossible to pursue the enemy because of the 
density of the jungle, and the battle was over. The next day the English- 
men left for England. 

Winston sent several dispatches home. One opened with the jovial 
declaration that first sentences, whether of a proposal of marriage or a 
newspaper article, were always difficult. The other explained the handi- 


caps under which journalists operated. 'While the Spanish authorities are 
masters of the art of suppressing the truth,' he wrote, 'the Cubans are 
adepts at inventing falsehoods/ 

Churchill and Barnes felt that they had had their money's worth. 
Besides all the fun, they had learned to appreciate Havana cigars, rum 
cocktails, and the merits of the Spanish siesta. When the first World War 
came, Winston adopted the habit of the afternoon siesta and has con- 
tinued it ever since. But more important still, the young men now con- 
sidered themselves authorities on war. None of their fellow subalterns 
had been to a war and although their own experience was limited to three 
days they could boast triumphantly of 'having seen fighting in Cuba'. 

They reached England to learn that the 4th Hussars were soon to sail 
for India. 

The necessary regimental preparations took nearly nine months and it 
was not until the autumn of 1896, a year and a half after Winston had first 
received his commission, that die Hussars finally set forth. When the ship 
anchored in Bombay Harbour he was so anxious to get ashore that he 
embarked in a small boat. Upon reaching the quay he grabbed at an iron 
ring to pull himself up and dislocated his shoulder, which was to prove a 
handicap in later life. 

The regiment was stationed at Bangalore. Winston moved into a pink 
and white bungalow covered with roses which he shared with three other 
officers. The young men pooled their money, organized their servants and 
settled down happily to enjoy themselves. They ipent the mornings drill- 
ing, parading and attending to their regimental duties, and the afternoons 
in sleeping. But at five o'clock the real business of the day began. In the 
cool of the evening they had strenuous and thrilling polo matches, for polo 
was the pivot around which the life of all cavalry officers in India centred. 
Although Winston had to ride with his shoulder strapped he often played 
ten or twelve chukkas. His life was entirely carefree except for occasional 
money worries. Polo ponies were expensive, and the mess operated on a 
lordly scale. Every now and then he was forced to visit the native money- 
lenders where he borrowed money at the rate of twenty-four per cent in- 
terestayear.Butin the endall these matters seem to haveadjusted themselves. 

Winston enjoyed his new existence to the full Nevertheless he found 
Hmself beginning, tatJiink of more serious things, and for the first time he 
became painfully aware of the fact that^ he wa^bacUyjeducaj^d. Years 
later he likened his education to a Swiss cheese 'smooth on the surface 
but too many holes in it/ He wrote to his mother and asked her to send 


him some books. Gradually he developed the habit of reading for three or 
four hours each day. He read Plato's Republic, Aristotle on Politics, 
Schopenhauer on Pessimism, Malthus on Population, Darwin's Origin 
of Species. But the books that interested him most, first for their worfder- 
ful English and second for their thrilling subject matter, were Gibbon's 
Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and Macaulay's History of England. 
He read and re-read these two authors, revelling in their wonderful, 
rolling phrases and memorizing long passages by heart. He tried to pat- 
tern his own writing on their style and subconsciously even began to 
phrase his thoughts in their polished language. 

Although Winston admitted the deficiencies of his education he was 
careful not to allow anyone else to draw attention to them. He was as 
cheeky as ever. He could not refrain from criticism and advice, and was 
seldom able to flavour either with tact. An old Field-Marshal, who was 
serving as a captain in India at the time, told me of an occasion when 
Winston and several of his fellow officers were invited to dinner at the 
Viceroy's Palace. Pomp and ceremony blazed at such functions, and rules 
of procedure were observed with meticulous care. The young Army 
officers were kept at one end of the reception room, while the great ones 
of India, the governors and princes, or 'heaven-boms', as they were called, 
talked politics at the other end. Winston listened impatiently to the banal 
conversation of his contemporaries, then strode down the length of the 
room, pushed his way into the celebrated circle and began to give them 
advice on how to run the country. 'That sort of thing,' said the Field- 
Marshal, 'did not contribute to his popularity/ 

And yet if Winston could be annoying he could also be disarming. He 
was aware of the unfavourable impression he created and was usually 
indifferent to it, but his indifference was never cold for he was incapable 
of holding any malice. He had the rare quality of never resenting the 
resentment of those to whom he had been rude, and often took his enemies 
unawares by offering a sudden warm apology. Once sufficient time had 
elapsed to give him perspective, he had die gift of surveying himself with 
humour and detachment In My Early Life he produces a literary bonne 
bouche in describing an occasion, shortly after his arrival in India, when 
he was in one of his most aggressive moods. The Governor of Bombay, 
Lord Sandhurst, entertained Winston and a brother officer at dinner. 
'We . . . enjoyed a banquet of glitter, pomp, and iced champagne,' he 
wrote. 'His Excellency, after the health of the Queen-Empress had been 
drunk and dinner was over, was good enough to ask my opinion on 
several matters, and considering the magnificent character of his hos- 
pitality I thought it would be unbecoming in me not to reply fully. I have 


forgotten the particular points of British and Indian affairs upon which he 
sought my counsel; all I can remember is that I responded generously. 
There were indeed moments when he seemed willing to impart his own 
views; but I thought it would be ungracious to put him to so much 
trouble; and he very readily subsided/ 

Although Winston enjoyed the Army life in Bangalore, and particularly 
the thrilling polo matches, he began to grow restless. The more he read 
and the more he talked, the more certain he became that he was intended 
for great things. A sharp driving ambition was growing within him that 
seemed to be increasing each day; and at the age of twenty-two he felt 
there was no time to lose. He must establish a name for himself as quickly 
as possible. But how could he show the world the stuff he was made of if 
his regiment remained in idleness? What chance was there for him to 
win his spurs in peaceful Bangalore? 

He was in this impatient mood in the summer of 1897 when he was in 
England on leave. One morning he picked up a newspaper and read that 
fighting had broken out on the Northwest Frontier and General Sir 
Bindon Blood was in charge^ Sir Bindon was a descendant of a notorious 
character named Colonel Blood who had tried to steal the Crown Jewels 
from the Tower of London in the reign of Charles ILlWinston had made 
friends with the General at a social function in England the year before, 
and the latter agreed that if any trouble broke out on the frontier he would 
let the young subaltern join him. Churchill promptly sent him a telegram 
reminding him of his promise, and the reply came back that although 
there were no vacancies on liis staff if Winston could get a job as a war 
correspondent he would be pleased to have him with him. 

Winston left for India in a high state of excitement He persuaded the 
editor of an Indian paper, the Allahabad Pioneer, to employ him, and even 
more important, persuaded the Colonel of the Queen's Hussars to grant 
him leave from his regiment. He then travelled two thousand miles across 
India to the frontier. 

The command Winston joined was known as the Malakand Field 
Force. Its task was to suppress an uprising among the fierce Pathan tribes- 
men on the frontier, against a grandiose background of high rugged moun- 
tains, small mud villages and broad arid plains. Winston was allowed to 
attach himself to a brigade of cavalry and infaptry which had been given 
orders to march- through the Mamund Valley ^he column started forth in 
war-like formation preceded by a squadron of Bengal Lancers, then broke 
up into small sections. Before the day was out Winston's group came into 
contact with a band of fierce Pathan savages. The Adjutant of his regiment 
was wounded a few yards from Winston, who saw a tribesman rush at the 


stricken officer and kill him with a slash of his sword. Then the savage 
picked up a stone, hurled it at Winston and waited for him, brandishing 
his sword. Churchill pulled out his revolver and fired several shots, then 
realizing he was alone and surrounded by the enemy he ran as fast as he 
could and took cover behind a knoll where he found a handful of his own 
soldiers. The fighting lasted several hours. Winston and his men carried 
two wounded officers and six wounded Sikhs back to safety. 

For the next fortnight part of the Field Force carried out a punitive 
expedition through the valley which provided Winston with more 
fighting and more copy. When the operation finally came to an end Sir 
Bindon Blood stated in dispatches that the officer commanding the forces 
had 'praised the courage and resolution of Lieut. W. L S. Churchill, 4th 
Hussars, the correspondent of the Pioneer newspaper, who had made him- 
self useful at a critical moment.' 

After this thrilling adventure Winston had no wish to return to the 
routine life of Bangalore. His mother had been busy on his behalf in 
London and had landed him a job as correspondent to the Daily Telegraph. 
He tried energetically to secure a permanent appointment to the Malakand 
Field Force, but suddenly operations came to an end and the command 
was disbanded. This was disappointing but at the same time news came 
that another force was being organized to carry out a punitive expedition 
in Tirah, another trouble spot on the Northwest Frontier. Winston 
began to pull strings, but by this time influential generals and colonels had 
formed a strong prejudice against the bumptious young officer. He could 
not resist offering them advice and lecturing them on strategy and he even 
had the effrontery to criticize them in his articles. Who did the young 
whippersnapper think he was, anyway? They would show him, and as a 
result Winston found his path firmly blocked. Sorrowfully he was forced 
to return to the uneventful life of Bangalore where his brother officers made 
it plain that they thought it high time he attended to his regimental duties. 
But Winston did not abandon his efforts. He still cast wistful eyes to- 
wards Tirah, and with his mother's help in London he exerted all the 
pressure he could to advance his aims. He wrote letters, sent telegrams, 
inveigled and implored. Finally a letter arrived from an old friend, 
Colonel Ian Hamilton, informing him that a certain Captain Haldane 
was A.D.C. to Sir William Lockhart, the Commander-in-Chief of the 
expedition, and advising him that if he could impress himself sufficiently 
on Haldane the latter had sufficient influence to get him an appointment 
on the General's staff. Once again Winston obtained leave from his 
Colonel and once again he travelled across India. He was received by 
Captain Haldane who listened to his story and said he would have to 


discuss the matter with his chief. Ten minutes later he reappeared and to 
Winston's great joy announced that he could give him an appointment 
as an extra orderly officer on the Commander's staff. 

This was such a stroke of good fortune that Winston strained every 
nerve to continue his good behaviour. For once he was neither bumptious 
nor cheeky. 'I behaved and was treated,' he wrote, 'as befitted my youth- 
ful station. I sat silent at meals or only rarely asked a tactful question.' 

Captain Haldane obviously had no idea what an effort this cost Lieut. 
Churchill, for years later when he was an old, distinguished and retired 
general he wrote in his memoirs that although Churchill 'was widely 
regarded in the Army as super-precocious, indeed by some as insufferably 
bumptious' that 'neither of these epithets was applicable.' 'On the con- 
trary,' he continued, 'my distinct recollection of him at this time was that 
he was modest and paid attention to what was said, not attempting to 
monopolize the conversation or thrust his opinions and clear-cut 
opinions they were on many subjects on his listeners. He enjoyed giving 
vent to his views on matters military and otherwise, but there was nothing 
that could be called aggressive or self-assertive which could have aroused 
antagonism among die most sensitive of those with whom he was 
talking.' 1 

It all went to prove that Lieut. Churchill knew how to conduct himself 
when his interests were at stake. However, his well-laid plans and his 
justifiable hopes were to come to nothing. Peace suddenly broke out and 
the expedition was abandoned. Once more Churchill returned forlornly 
to Bangalore. 

While Winston was in Bangalore trying to attach himself to the Tirah 
expedition he was not idle. His dispatches on the fighting at the frontier 
had been colourful and amusing and he suddenly decided to write a book 
entitled TheMalakand Field Force. He worked furiously and at the end of 
two months had produced a lively and detailed account of the campaign. 
The book soon found a publisher and when it came out a few months 
later the critics were friendly and the public enthusiastic. The Prime 
Minister, Lord Salisbury, read it, and the Prince of Wales wrote the author 
a letter of congratulation. Everyone was delighted except the Army. The 
generals noticed with annoyance and anger that 2nd Lieut. Churchill had 
been very free with his censure. He criticized the 'short service' system of 
recruitment; the fact that soldiers were not equipped with chocolate or 
sausages on their marches; that retiring companies were not covered by 
1 A Soldier's Saga: General Sir Aylmer Haldane. 


continuous fire; that civil officers were encouraged to collect military 
information from the enemy. And then ended undaunted: 'There will not 
be wanting those who will remind me that in this matter my opinion 
finds no support in age or experience. To such I shall reply that if what is 
written is false or foolish, neither age nor experience should fortify it; 
and if it is true, it needs no such support.' 

Winston was so encouraged by the success of his book, that he promptly 
sat down to write another. This time he decided to try his hand at a novel. 
While his brother officers were taking siestas on the hot Indian afternoons, 
he worked. His theme was a revolt in Ruritania with a hero who over- 
threw the Government and was then threatened with a socialist revolu- 
tion. The climax centred in an iron-dad fleet firing on the capital to quell 
die murderous radicals. The story was called Savrola aud although it was 
not hailed as a masterpiece it was serialized in Macmillans Magazine and 
earned the author 700. Winston was quick to see its literary defects and 
decided never again to attempt fiction. 'I have consistently urged my 
friends to abstain from reading it/ he wrote in kter years. 

Winston felt in his bones that he was meant for the battlefield. But he was 
not content to lead a minor campaign. He wanted a career along the lines 
of Marlborough or Napoleon, but in 1898 people were saying emphati- 
cally that major wars were a thing of the past. 

Reluctantly he came to the conclusion that if Fame was to be his quarry 
he must change his course. The more he studied his father's life the more it 
stirred him. The House of Commons offered excitement, and the prizes 
were great. Besides, there was no bar to youth and he was in a hurry. Lord 
Randolph had reached the Cabinet at the age of thirty-six, and perhaps he 
would do the same. He made up his mind to enter Parliament as soon as 
possible. He knew that he would be unable to secure a Conservative seat 
without money and a reputation, but he was confident that he could win 
both by his pen, if only Britain's 'little wars' would provide him with 
sufficiently exciting material to catch the public eye. 

He was delighted to learn therefore, in the spring of 1898, that Sir 
Herbert Kitchener, the Commander-in-Chief of the Anglo-Egyptian 
Army, was planning a large-scale offensive to liberate the Sudan from the 
tyrannical rule of the Dervishes. This would be a thrilling campaign and 
he was determined to be in it. Once again he started pulling strings, but 
the hostility towards him in military circles had been growing and now 
extended to the powerful Kitchener himself. Although Winston obtained 
permission from the War Office to join the Egyptian forces, and leave 


from his regiment, and even wangled a commission with the 2ist Lancers, 
Kitchener flatly refused to have him. Lady Randolph, who knew the 
General personally, wrote him a letter but die 'no* still remained firm. 

Then one day Lord Salisbury, the Prime Minister, wrote Winston tell- 
ing him how much he had enjoyed his book The Malakand Field Force and 
invited him to come and see him. The latter accepted with alacrity, and 
spent half an hour with the Prime Minister discussing military operations 
in India. When he left the aged statesman told him to let him know if 
he could ever be of any help to him. Winston took him at his word 
and asked him to intervene with Kitchener. But even Salisbury failed. 
Kitchener still said no. 

Winston, however, never abandoned hope, and finally got his way 
through the rivalry which existed between Kitchener and the War Office. 
Sir Evelyn Wood, the Adjutant-General, felt that Kitchener was being too 
autocratic in picking and choosing officers despite the recommendations 
of the War Office. The case of young Churchill gave him an opportunity 
to assert himself. He declared that Kitchener was Commander of the 
Egyptian Army but not of the British Army; that the 2ist Lancers were 
part of the Expeditionary Force and not under his control until they 
arrived in Egypt; and sent Winston a note informing him that he was 
attached to die Lancers, and ordering him to report at once to Regi- 
mental Headquarters in Cairo. 'It is understood/ said the communica- 
tiotff'that you will proceed at your own expense and that in the event of 
your being killed or wounded in the impending operations or for any 
other reason, no charge of any kind will fall on British Army Funds/ 
With this our hero set off for die wars. Before leaving he signed up with 
the Morning Post to write articles at 15 each. 

He arrived in Cairo on I August. He learned that two squadrons of 
the 2ist Lancers had already started up the Nile and the other two were 
scheduled to leave in the morning. A troop in one of the leading squadrons 
had been reserved for him but because of the uncertainty of his arrival it 
had been given to Lieut GrenfdL This was part ofWinston's luck for Gren- 
fell and his troop were destined to be cut to pieces in the batde to come. 

The regiment travelled fourteen hundred miles into the heart of 
Africa. It took them nearly three weeks to reach the front, an outpost 
about twenty miles from the great city of Omdurman. They journeyed 
by train and steamer, then marched two hundred miles through blistering 
heat in full batde array. The tension and excitement mounted as they 
drew nearer their destination and heard the first reports of horsemen in 
white with Dining, curved swords. 

A few hours after the Lancers had reached their final camp Winston 


had his first sight of the enemy. He rode up to an advance outpost where, 
with several other officers, he looked through field glasses and saw a long 
dark smudge on the horizon which was the massed Dervish Army sixty 
thousand strong. The shadow was beginning to move and Winston was 
ordered to ride post haste to Kitchener and give him the latest report. He 
was exhilarated at the thought of the coming action but filled with 
apprehension at having to face the Commander who had flatly refused to 
have him in Egypt. He cantered back seven miles, paused on a hill to 
watch the British Army advancing in splendid formation with their 
standards flying, and Kitchener himself leading the procession, then rode 
forward and delivered his message. Kitchener asked a few questions, and 
then dismissed his^informant; he did not know who he was. 

That night all was quiet. The Dervish Army had not attacked after all. 
Several British gun-boats were anchored on the Nile not far from 
Winston's camp, and some of the naval officers chaffed with the soldiers 
about the coming battle. A young man named Beatty flung a bottle of 
champagne ashore which Winston picked up. 

At dawn the great battle began. Kitchener's Army consisted of only 
twenty thousand men, but it was an uneven struggle. Some of the 
Dervishes had antiquated guns but most of them attacked with lances and 
swords and were mown down by the artillery and rifle fire of the British. 
At the end of an hour the ground was strewn with over twenty thousand 
Dervishes, dead and wounded. Winston watched the great dash from an 
observation post only four hundred yards away. The enemy swept across 
the sands like a great incoming tide cheering fanatically for God, his 
prophet, and the Khalifa. c We were so dose, as we sat spellbound on our 
horses,' he wrote, 'that we almost shared their perils. I saw the full blast 
of Death strike this human wall. Down went their standards by dozens and 
their men by hundreds. Wide gaps and shapeless heaps appeared in their 
array. One saw them jumping and tumbling under the shrapnd bursts; 
but none turned back.' 1 

The Lancers played no part in the initial assault but as soon as the main 
body of the Dervish Army was broken and retreating they had orders to 
reconnoitre and find out what enemy forces stood between Kitchener and 
Omdurman. The three hundred men of the 2ist Lancers had little idea 
when they mounted their horses that they were going to provide the 
most dramatic chapter of the day's fighting. 

They were riding forward when suddenly two thousand Dervishes 
who had been concealed in a water course rode up from the ground like 
magic. The Colond intended to wheel around to their flank but the 
1 My Early Life: Winston S. Churchill. 


Dervishes opened fire and he had no choice but to charge them. "The 
trumpet sounded "Right wheel into line", and all the sixteen troops 
swung around towards the blue-black riflemen/ wrote Winston. 'Al- 
most immediately the regiment broke into a gallop, and the 2ist 
Lancers were committed to the charge. ... In one respect a cavalry charge 
is very like ordinary life. So long as you are all right, firmly in your saddle, 
your horse in hand, and well armed, lots of enemies will give you a wide 
berth. But as soon as you have lost a stirrup, have a rein cut, have dropped 
your weapon, are wounded, or your horse is wounded, then is the 
moment when" from all quarters enemies rush upon you. Such was the 
fate of not a few of my comrades in the troop immediately on my left/ 1 
The charge took only two minutes. The Lancers lost twenty dead and 
fifty wounded, but the enemy was in full flight. 

The story caused widespread interest in England, for even in 1898 the 
cavalry charge was almost a thing of the past. Revolvers, rifles and 
artillery were giving war a new technique, and the action in which 
Winston took part was almost the last of its kind in British history. But 
the newspapers of the nineteenth century were so staid and dull the 
Morning Post did not think to exploit its good fortune in having a well- 
known journalist as an eye-witness. It ran Winston's account without 
even bothering to sign his name, and however much their 'special corres- 
pondent* wrote, printed only one short paragraph on the day's fighting in 
the middle of a column of closely printed type. Very few people would 
guess that this is what came from Mr. Churchill's pen at the end of one 
of the most exciting days of his life: 

Camp at Omdurman. 
2 Sept 


The Dervishes attacked our Zareba at Kerreri shortly before seven in 
the morning. 

The battle lasted five hours, the enemy charging repeatedly. 

The gunboats, artillery and Maxims did deadly execution at long range. 

The enemy eventually wavered and fell back. Whereupon British 
Brigades, with the cavalry, advanced towards Omdurman. 

A great mass of the enemy, accompanied by horsemen, suddenly 
charged the First and Second Brigades from the right flank. 

Both sides showed great gallantry. 

The Dervishes were completely destroyed, though our losses were not 

1 My Early Life: Winston S. Churchill. ' 


The Lancers suffered the greatest proportion of casualties. 
Omdurman was taken at sundown. 

The Khalifa has not yet been captured but troops are pursuing him. 
Charles Neufeld, a European who has been a prisoner with the Der- 
vishes for many years, has been released/ 

Besides Winston, only three survivors of the cavalry charge are alive 
to-day. One of them, Mr. Morris, a private soldier who now lives m 
retirement in Dublin, wrote me a letter about the part Churchill played, 
In contrast to the antagonism Winston aroused among his senior officers 
this touching tribute is interesting for the warm regard which the ordinary 
man felt for him. 'Mr. Churchill/ he says, 'was in command of my troop 
and I must say that he was a daring and a resourceful soldier. I was only 
nineteen years of age then and Mr. Churchill must have been about 
twenty-four years of age. The morning of the battle my regiment was 
told to scout out and turn their flank and during this manoeuvre I saw 
him dismount and firing his revolver at the Dervishes. When he was 
spotted by my colonel whose name was Martin he was told to mount his 
horse and join his troop, and no sooner had he joined when the regiment 
wheeled into line for tie charge. We had a drop of six feet or more and 
the ditch was about twenty feet wide. They were lying in wait for us. I 
saw Mr. Churchill firing away for all he was worth. The troop went into 
the charge twenty-five strong but only twelve of us were left, some were 
killed and others wounded. 

'After the batde that night when I was picketing my hone, down my 
foot came in contact with a bundle of rags and on picking it up I found 
it was a Dervish baby. Just then Mr. Churchill came down the line 
asking if anybody knew of any man who had done a great deed. When 
he came to me I handed the baby to him and like a gentleman he took it to 
the Sudanese lines as they had their wives with them and that was the last 
time I saw him. I would like to see him again before I leave this world. 
I am going on for seventy-three years of age/ 

Three weeks after the charge Winston was on his way back to London 
and he now took a momentous step. He decided the time had come to 
leave the Army and strike out on his own. The Morning Post was impressed 
by his enterprise and he was certain they would give him a permanent job. 
But first he decided to write a book on the Egyptian campaign. With 
characteristic zeal he proceeded at once, working half the night on the 
ship that was taking him home* On the voyage he struck up a friendship 


with a newspaper correspondent, G. W. Steevens of the Daily Mail. The 
latter was immensely struck by the young man's energy and brilliance 
and wrote an article about him describing him as 'the youngest man in 
Europe*. He went on to predict: 'There will hardly be room for him in 
Parliament at thirty or in England at forty*. 

Other people were not so complimentary, particularly the military 
hierarchy. They called him a 'young whippersnapper', a 'medal snatcher* 
and a 'self-advertiser 9 . Although he had held a commission in the 4th 
Hussars for four years they pointed out that he had spent less than six 
months on routine duty. This was true but what they failed to appreciate 
was his extraordinary capacity for hard work both physical and mental. 
While his brother officers spent their evenings talking and drinking in the 
mess, he was working. Although he was not yet twenty-five he had pro- 
duced three books. Winston's outlook on these matters was distinctly 
Victorian. His philosophy was expressed by the hero of his novel Savrola. 
* "Would you rise in the world?" said Savrola. "You must work while 
others amuse themselves. Are you desirous of a reputation for courage? 
You must risk your life. Would you be strong morally or physically? You 
must resist temptation. All this is paying in advance." ' 

Although Winston was unpopular with generals another proof of the 
loyalty of his subordinates comes from an old man of eighty-two who 
served in Mr. Churchill's regiment in India as a sergeant-major. His 
name is Mr. Halkway and he now lives on splendid memories in a little 
house in Wimbledon. I called on Him there and found a charming person 
with bright blue eyes and a handsome snow-white moustache. He seemed 
pleased to talk of the old days and showed me pictures of the young 
gentlemen of the 4th Hussars in their wonderful uniforms with astrakhan 
collars and cuffs. ('They cost 150 apiece, madam.') 'Mr. Churchill was 
a real live one/ he beamed. 'Not at all stuffy like some of the other 
officers, if you know what I mean. Easy going, and always ready for a 
joke. He hated to see chaps punished. The officers used to inspect the 
stables every day and we never knew when they were coming. But Mr. 
Churchill would whisper to me "Eleven-thirty, sergeant-major". But 
perhaps you had better not mention that,' he broke off anxiously, *he 
ought not to have done it. But the great thing about him was the way he 
worked. He was busier than half the others put together. I never saw him 
without pencils sticking out all over him. And once when I went to his 
bungalow I could scarcely get in what with books and papers and fool- 
scap all over the place. Oh, he was a live one. He told me he was leaving 
the Army to earn some money. We always had one thing m common. 
Both of us was always broke. . . .' 


Winston returned to India, said good-bye to his regiment, and took 
part in a polo tournament which he won. Then he went to Egypt and dis- 
cussed and checked his manuscript. The book was called The River War and 
was published in two volumes. It aroused a good deal of interest but did 
litde to appease military circles for the author did not hesitate to criticize 
Kitchener. He condemned him hody for ordering the desecration of the 
Mahdi's Tomb. He told how the Mahdi's corpse was dug up and cut to 
pieces and commented acidly: 'Such was the chivalry of the conquerors!' 

In June 1899, three months after he had resigned from the Army, he was 
invited to fight a by-election as Conservative candidate for Oldham, a 
great Lancashire working-class constituency. Purely political issues were 
far less absorbing in those days and Winston's opening speech was on the 
issue of high church versus low. He began with a diatribe on the 'lawless- 
ness and disorder in the Church of England' caused by the introduction 
of 'ritualistic practice'. This was an opinion he had acquired from both 
his nurse and his masterful aunt, Lady Wimborne, and he fought their 
cause with fervour. He was sure, he told his audience, that this subject was 
uppermost in its mind. 

He also fought on the well known Tory platform of 'unity of the 
Empire', the 'benefits of the existing system of society* and the 'virtues 
of Conservative rule'. However, as die election progressed it became 
apparent that the opposition was gaining ground by the unpopularity of a 
Tithes Bill which at that moment was being passed through the House of 
Commons. The Bill had been introduced to help the Church of England's 
poor clergy, but it was arousing widespread antagonism among Non- 
conformists, a large number of whom lived in Lancashire. Winston's 
Conservative supporters did not like the Bill, and in the middle of the 
campaign he suddenly threw it overboard, promising not to vote for it 
if he were returned to Parliament. 

This spectacular move caused an uproar. In the House of Commons 
Liberals were able to jeer at the Government with the taunt that even their 
Conservative candidate did not dare face the electors on the issue; and 
Mr. Balfour, the Leader of the House, remarked acidly: 'I thought he was 
a young man of promise, but it appears he is a young man of promises/ 

Winston was beaten at the poU. He returned to London to find himself 
the subject of general abuse, for even the newspapers were running 
leaders saying that in the future the Conservatives must not send raw 
young candidates to fight working-class areas. 

Sadder, wiser, but still undaunted he turned his attention back to his book. 


THE WHEEL of Fortune holds many surprises. Six months after his defeat 
at Oldham, Churchill's name was ringing throughout England. He was a 
national hero. 

The scene of his triumph was the South African War, a war which was 
denounced by many Radicals as 'shameful* and became the subject of 
bitter debates in Parliament. The war was brought about by the demands 
of the Tory Imperialists of the day led by Joseph Chamberlain. Gold and 
diamond mines had been discovered near Johannesburg which, in the past 
ten years, had attracted a rush of British pioneers and business men. These 
newcomers were bitterly resented by the Dutch or 'Boer* farmers who 
had settled in South Africa a century and a half before, and who had 
established two independent republics, the Orange Free State and the 
Transvaal. The Dutch were determined not to allow the British settlers 
to gain political control of their affairs, while the British Government, 
toying with the idea of building a railway from Cairo to the Cape, 
became increasingly attracted by die possibility of 'uniting* the length of 
South Africa under British rule. This was the fundamental issue under- 
lying the events of 1899. Chamberlain demanded that British subjects 
residing in the Transvaal should be granted full rights of citizenship after 
five years of residence. As the crisis developed, the Boer President, Mr. 
Kruger, finally agreed to the proposals, but his concession only drew 
further demands from the British, and he finally dug in his toes. He sent 
an ultimatum to London and a few days later war had begun. 

In those days Winston was not so much concerned with the rights and 
wrongs of an issue as with getting himself to the front This time he had 
no difficulty, for his book The River War had been hailed by the critics as 
a brilliant military history. Shortly after the Boer ultimatum was pub- 
lished the Morning Post asked him to travel to South Africa as their special 
correspondent. They would pay all his expenses, and a salary of 250 per 
month which, at that time, was an unheard-of figure. 

Delighted by his stroke of good fortune he sailed in the Dunottar Castle 
on ii October. The ship contained many distinguished passengers includ- 
ing General Sir Redvers Buller, the Commander-in-Chief of the British 
Army, and his entire Headquarters Staff. Winston would have liked to 
have made the acquaintance of the General, but the latter had no time for 



journalists', so Churchill was forced to content himself with lesser fry. 
His great fear, as the ship moved slowly through the waters, was that 
the show would be over before he arrived. The Army believed that a war 
against untrained Boer fanners could not possibly last more than three 
months, but in fact it dragged on nearly three years, and cost the Treasury 

On the voyage Winston made friends with a young man, Mr. J. B. 
Atkins, who was correspondent of the Manchester Guardian. Atkins is now 
an old man of over eighty, a charming and soft-spoken person whose eyes 
gleam with humour and pride when he talks of his trip with Churchill. 
He was immensely struck by the latter's dynamic personality, and it is 
obvious that Winston found Atkins a sympathetic character, for he at 
once poured out his heart to him. Many years later Atkins recorded some 
of their conversation in his memoirs, 1 producing the most sensitive and 
amusing pen portrait of Winston at this period that has ever been pub- 
lished. *I had not been many hours on board before I became aware of a 
most unusual young man/ he wrote. 'He was slim, slightly reddish- 
haired, pale, lively, frequently plunging along the deck with neck out- 
thrust, as Browning fancied Napoleon; sometimes sitting in meditation 
folding and unfolding his hands, not nervously but as though he were 
helping himself to untie mental knots. Soon we conversed. He told me 
that he was Winston Churchill, that he was correspondent for the Morning 
Post, that he had already seen fighting in Cuba in 1895, with the Malakand 
Field Force, with Lockhart's Tirah Force, and in Egypt where he had been 
in the charge at Omdurman. He coveted a political career above all. 

'It was obvious that he was in love with words. He would hesitate 
sometimes before he chose one or would change one for a better. He 
might, so far, have been just a young writer or speaker very conscious of 
himself and his art. But when the prospects of a career like that of his 
father, Lord Randolph, excited him, then such a gleam shot from him 
that he was almost transfigured. I had not before encountered this sort of 
ambition, unabashed, frankly egotistical, communicating its excitement, 

and extorting sympathy He stood alone and confident, and his natural 

power to be himself had yielded to no man. It was not that he was without 
the faculty of self-criticism. He could laugh at his dreams of glory, and 
he had an impish fun: that was what it was in those days rather than an 
impish wit It was as though a light was switched on inside him which 
suddenly shone out through his eyes; he compressed his lips; he contracted 
himself slightly as though gathering himself together to spring; the whole 
illuminated face grinned. I never heard him bring out a jocular or mis- 
1 Incidents and Reflections: J. B. Atkins. 

FAME 59 

chievous remark without these symptoms of his own preliminary relish/ 
Atkins and Churchill agreed to knit their fortunes together. They 
decided to travel to Durban, a four-day journey by rail and steamer, then 
to try and get through to Ladysmith where they believed the heaviest 
fighting would take place, and where Winston's friend General Ian 
Hamilton had promised to give him 'a good show*. However, when they 
reached the town of Estcourt they found that Ladysmith had been cut off, 
and that troops were being hurriedly concentrated to protect the southern 
part of Natal from an impending attack. 

Churchill and Atkins pitched their tent in the railway yard at Estcourt 
and talked far into the night. Winston showed his friend articles which 
had been published in the Morning Post, and two still in manuscript, and 
invited his criticism. 'He was gratified,' wrote Atkins, 'by the wide 
interest which his work had already aroused. When I read his articles, he 
said, "Now what do you think of them? Is the interest due to any merit 
in me, or is it because I am Randolph's son?" "Do you want a candid 
answer?" "Naturally. Any other would be useless." "Well," said 
Atkins, "I notice in your articles a sweep and a range of thought, par- 
ticularly in your philosophical vision of a true Imperialism, which I should 
not find in articles of other correspondents. But, then, would your articles 
have excited so much interest if I had written them? I think not" 
' "A fair verdict. But how long will my father's memory help me?" 
' "Curiosity is very keen for a time, but only a short time. I should think it 
will help you for two or three years, but after that everything will depend 
on you. But I honesdy don't think you will have to rely on your father." 
'Winston told me,' continued Atkins, 'that the Morning Post had been 
very kind to him in his political campaigning so far. It had given a good 
deal of praise to his speeches, and had even allowed him to visit the office 
to revise proofs. On one occasion die Editor was surprised at the modesty 
of youth when Winston struck out "Cheers" at the end of a speech, but 
was still more surprised when he substituted "Loud and prolonged 
applause". "The worst of it is," went on Winston, "that I am not a good 
life. My father died too young. I must try to accomplish whatever I can 
by the time I am forty." 

'He often turned our conversation to style, grammar and construction. 
He admired the rhythm and resonance of Gibbon. It had been said that 
he had taken Gibbon for his master. Did I find anything Gibbonian in 
him? But, after all, style was a matter of taste; what was more important 
to him immediately was correctness in construction and grammar. What, 
for instance, was a split infinitive and why was it wrong? And what was 
an unrelated, or misrelated, participle, which was said to be a frequent 


source of ambiguity and which I had happened to mention? He considered 
my explanations, such as they were, and sternly rejected my caveat that as 
great writers often carry a load of mistakes it is pedantic and priggish to 
let such things count for too much in a reckoning of genius. "It is better," 
he pronounced, "to be correct." I agreed to his maxim so far as it affected 
us. Ruskin could afford to invent his own grammar, but we could not. 
"Very well," he concluded. "I am never going to write, 'the plan is to 
frontally attack the position'." J1 

Winston had not been in Estcourt more than a few hours before he 
found old friends. First he ran into Leo Amery, the Harrow schoolboy 
whom he had pushed into the bathing pool, and who was now a war 
correspondent for The Times. That same evening as he was walking down 
the street he met Captain Haldane, the young officer who had been in 
India and helped him to secure an appointment on Sir William Lockhart's 
staff for the Tirah expedition. Haldane had been wounded and had been 
given the temporary command of a company of the Dublin Fusiliers. 

The position of the small force in Estcourt was precarious. No one 
knew from day to day whether a few thousand Boers might not sweep 
into the town. Each morning cavalry reconnaissances were sent out to 
find out if any sudden attack was likely. Then the General in command 
of the town decided to aid the cavalry by sending an armoured train along 
the sixteen miles of railway which was still intact The armoured train 
was regarded by ordinary soldiers as a huge joke. It rumbled along at a 
slow pace and was nothing more than an engine with a few ordinary iron 
railway trucks covered with steel plates through which rifle slits had been 
cut. Everyone except the General seemed to know that if the Boers 
wanted to capture the train all they had to do was to blow up a bridge or 
culvert, and it ky at their mercy. 

Captain Haldane was put in charge of the operation, and asked Winston 
if he would like to accompany him. The latter enthusiastically said yes, 
and hurried off to extend the invitation to Atkins. But Atkins declined. 
He thought it was a crazy idea, explaining that his instructions were to 
follow the war on the British side, not to rush off and let himself get taken 
prisoner, and miss the rest of the war. 'That is perfectly true,' said Winston, 
'I can see no fault in your reasoning. But I have a feeling, a sort of intuition, 
that if I go something will come of it. It's illogical, I know/ 

Winston's instincts were right, for the journey on the armoured train 

was the beginning of a journey to fame. The train travelled along the line 

fourteen miles to Chievdey. Then two Boer guns opened fire. A few 

minutes later there was a crash and an explosion as the driver ran into a 

1 Incidents and Refections: J. B. Atkins. 

FAME 6l 

shell that had been placed on the track. Several trucks were derailed, and 
the engine trapped. Captain Haldane asked Winston to see what damage 
had been done to the line while he and his Dublin Fusiliers fired the small 
naval gun they had in the rear truck. Winston quickly surveyed the situa- 
tion and decided that it might be possible to free the engine. With bullets 
rattling against the steel plates and shrapnel bursting overhead he called for 
volunteers, and was heard to say: 'Keep cool, men/ 

The engine driver was grazed on the head, and he reassured him by 
announcing confidently: 'No man is hit twice in the same day/ 

At last die engine was free. Since it was impossible to re-attach the 
trucks Captain Haldane decided that the engine should carry all the 
wounded, who were now numerous, and that the rest of the men should 
march home on foot, sheltering behind the vehicle which would travel 
very slowly. Winston climbed into the engine cab. Shells were still burst- 
ing overhead, and the driver could not seem to keep the pace slow enough. 
Gradually the infantry were being left behind. Winston forced the engine 
driver to stop, but by this time there was a gap of three hundred yards. 
He jumped out and ran back to find Captain Haldane. Suddenly he saw 
two figures in plain clothes on the line and realized they were Boers. He 
ran back towardsthe engine, with the men firing after him. He scrambled 
up the bank trying to make a dash for the river, but now he was con- 
fronted by a horseman galloping furiously towards him with a rifle in his 
hand. The rider pulled up and took aim. Winston reached for his pistol 
but it was not there. He had taken it off when he was trying to free the 
engine. The Boer looked along the sights of his gun. There was nothing 
for Winston to do but surrender. His captor led him back to the other 
British soldiers where he found Captain Haldane. Together they were 
taken to Colenso Station, and then on a three-day journey to Pretoria 
where they were imprisoned in the State Model Schools. Captain Haldane 
describes in his memoirs their feelings as they trudged across the veldt 
together and relates how Winston thanked him for allotting him the 'star 
turn* of freeing the engine. He told Haldane he was certain it would be 
given much prominence in the English papers; and although he would 
lose his job as a war correspondent the incident undoubtedly would help 
him to reach the House of Commons. This strange conversation in such 
depressing circumstances gives the reader an indication of Winston's 
determination to succeed in life; it also shows how accurately he gauged 
the situation, for his fellow journalists received glowing accounts of his 
action which they sent home and which made front page news the Daily 
Telegraph printed Renter's dispatch which said: 'Mr. Winston Churchill's 
bravery and coolness is described as magnificent, and encouraged by him, 


all worked like heroes to clear the line and enable the engine and tender 
to get away.' 1 

Winston was a prisoner but he was also well on the way to being a 
national figure. 

Sixty British officers were imprisoned in the State Model Schools which 
stood in the middle of a quadrangle bounded on two sides by a corrugated 
iron fence about ten feet high, and on the other two by an iron grille. 
Winston had no intention of remaining a captive for long. First he argued 
with the Boer authorities that he should be released because he was a 
civilian press correspondent. But the Boers had no intention of letting him 
go, for by this time they knew who he was. 'It's not every day,' one of 
them said, 'that we catch the son of a lord/ Besides, they had the law on 
their side. He had forfeited his non-combatant status by the part he had 
taken in the train fight. 

The moment Winston realized that their decision was final his thoughts 
turned to escape. He hated the feeling of being confined, and found it 
impossible to pky cards with his fellow prisoners or enjoy any lighter 
moments. Meanwhile Captain Haldane was working out a plan of escape 
with a sergeant named Brockie who spoke Tad 2 fluently. Winston asked 
Haldane if he could join them but the latter was apprehensive at increasing 
their numbers. Besides, he felt that Churchill was already attracting too 
much attention to himself by engaging in animated discussions as to who 
was to blame for the war. Added to this, he was temperamental and un- 
accountable. For example, if any of the younger men indulged in whistling 
Winston made no effort to conceal his extreme exasperation. 

In his memoirs, A Soldiers Saga, Haldane relates how Churchill con- 
tinued to urge him to include him in his plan of escape. As bait, Winston 
emphasized that if they were successful, he would see that Haldane's name 
was emblazoned triumphantly across the press. The Captain declared that 
this did not interest him, for he felt it was his duty to escape. What wor- 
ried him was the fear that the talkative soldier-journalist might compro- 
mise their chances of success. He discussed the matter with Brockie, who 
shared his apprehension and was strongly opposed to Churchill's inclusion. 

Nevertheless Haldane felt responsible for having invited Winston to 
join the armoured train, and in the end gave in. He made no secret of 
Brockie's views and said that under the circumstances he could not extend 
a cordial invitation, but that if Winston, knowing of their mixed feelings, 

1 17 November, 1899. 

* Debased Dutch which was the local idiom. 

FAME 63 

still wanted to join them, he could do so. Churchill at once replied that he 
would come, but said he did not think it would be fair to blame him if 
they were recaptured due to his presence. Haldane agreed, but made it 
dear that he expected Winston to 'conform to orders'. 

The plan, as outlined by Haldane, was as follows. Since it would be 
difficult for all three men to climb out of the latrine at the same time, 
Brockie was to follow as soon as it was known that Haldane and Churchill 
had succeeded. Haldane had noticed that Churchill did not take much 
exercise and stood aloof while the other prisoners played fives and 
rounders and tried to keep themselves fit by skipping. Besides this, he had 
a weak shoulder. Haldane therefore was worried for fear he might not be 
agile enough to reach the roof of the latrine, which was about seven feet 
high, without a 'leg up*. In his effort to mount the top he might kick the 
metal side of the structure and attract the attention of the sentry. Haldane 
states bluntly in his book that his major anxiety about the success of the 
operation arose from Winston's 'accession to the party'. With only 
Brockie, he continues, there was nothing to fear; but with the impulsive 
and loquacious Churchill, he was gravely doubtful. Nevertheless the die 
was cast and he had to go on with it. 

The three men decided to leave on n December. About ten minutes 
before the dinner hour, at six-fifty, Churchill and Haldane strolled over to 
the latrine in the company of several officers. These prisoners would 
return one by one in the hope that the sentry might think that all had left. 
If the guard behaved as he usually did he might move along a line of trees 
to talk to another sentry, which would give the three trie" their chance to 
scale the walL On this night, however, the sentry did not budge and after 
waiting fifteen or twenty minutes Churchill and Haldane whispered to 
each other that they must abandon their efforts and try another time. 

The next day continued to be one of anxiety. Haldane was alarmed by 
Winston's excited condition and the fact that he was striding up and down 
the yard with his head lowered and his hands clasped behind his back. He 
feared that the other prisoners would realize that something was up. 
Churchill said to Haldane, 'We must go to-night/ The Captain replied 
that if the chances were favourable they would certainly undertake it 
again that evening, but he must remember that there were three of them. 

Winston relates the story of his escape in My Early Life. The next even- 
ing, shortly after Haldane and Brockie had made another unsuccessful 
attempt, he strolled out and secreted himself in the lavatory. He had not 
been there long before the sentry turned his back and the great moment 
had arrived. He drew himself up, and jumped over the wall. He was in a 
garden and people were moving about. He hid himself in the shrubs and 


waited there for over half an hour, then he heard a British voice from 
within the camp say: 'All up.* Winston coughed and the voice continued 
in a low tone! 'The sentry suspects. It's all up. Can you get back?' 

No sensible person could really have expected Winston meekly to 
climb back into captivity. He had .75 in his pocket, four skbs of choco- 
late and a few biscuits, and although he was without a compass he decided 
to have a run for his money. Haldane declares in his Saga that he was 
'bitterly disappointed to find that Winston had gone', and adds, 'I resist 
the temptation of stating what Brockie said on the subject/ 

Friends who heard the story from both men saw that a genuine mis- 
understanding had arisen. Winston believed he was acting within his rights 
and Haldane felt he should have waited. Neither one has dealt with the dis- 
agreement in his memoirs. Churchill ignores it and Haldane alludes enig- 
matically to the proverb 'There is many a slip', and declares that things did 
not go 'according to plan'. He then goes on to say that at this point it is best 
'to draw a veil over subsequent events', although by doing so he does not 
want his readers to suppose that he supports many of the versions of the 
story which appearedin print, often under the name of distinguished writers. 

Those dose to Haldane assert that he never forgave Winston. And as a 
result of his resentment Churchill was often accused on public platforms 
of having left his comrades in the lurch, which he always hody denied. 
George Smalley, an American journalist who knew Churchill personally, 
and heard statements on both sides, including a full account from Winston, 
wrote: 'I think his conduct open to no reproach or even criticism.' 1 

Nevertheless aspersions continued to be made, and out of this story 
sprang another, that Churchill had broken his parole. No parole system 
existed and all prisoners were under armed guard. Many years later he 
sued Blackwood's Magazine for libel, and on other occasions issued writs 
which drew forth apologies. 

Winston's lucky escapes in India and Egypt had made him super- 
stitious. He was increasingly certain that he was destined for great events. 
Certainly there was an astonishing element of luck in his flight from the 
Boers. After waiting in the garden for nearly an hour he began to walk. 
He found the railway line, headed along it for some time, then managed 
to climb on a goods train. Before dawn he jumped oflfand making for the 
hills hid in a grove of trees near a ravine. That night he walked back to 
the tracks wilt the idea of taking another train. But he saw lights in the 
far distance, which he thought were Kaffir fires, and some strange instinct 
1 Anglo-American Memories: George Smalky. 

FAME 65 

bade him approach them. He walked for many hours and as he drew 
nearer he suddenly realized that he was nearing a coal mine. 

He had heard that there were a number of English residents in the 
mining district of Witbank and Midddburg and with trepidation decided 
to chance his luck. He knocked on a door and a tall man with a pale face 
and a moustache let him in. Winston said he was a burgher but the man 
eyed him with suspicion. Then he decided to make a clean breast of it. 
When he gave his name his host's face relaxed. 'Thank God you have 
come here,' the man said. 'It is the only house for twenty miles where you 
would not have been handed over.' The man was Mr. John Howard, the 
British mine manager, and living in the house with him was a plump man 
named Mr. Dewsnap, of Oldham of all places. Howard decided that 
Winston must hide in the coal pit and Dewsnap led him there, shook his 
hand and whispered, 'They'll all vote for you next time.' 

He remained under Howard's wing for three days. By then arrange- 
ments had been made for him to board a goods train heading for Por- 
tuguese East Africa. The plan worked easily, and Winston ky in one of 
the wagons covered by bales of wool. Three days later the train reached 
Louren?o Marques, and he jumped off a free man. He made his w^y to 
the British Consulate where he was givenahotbath, new clothes andasquare 
meal. He learned that newspapers all over Europe had been speculating on 
his fortunes and that the Boers had advertised his escape widely, offering 
^25 for his capture dead or alive. The English press took a pessimistic view 
of his chances. One of them remarked laconically: 'With reference to the 
escape from Pretoria of Mr. Winston Churchill, fears are expressed that 
he may be captured again before long and if so will probably be shot.' 

The war in South Africa had been going badly. Britain was smarting 
under a series of military rebuffs, and die news that Winston had reached 
safety was just the tonic that was needed. The public went wild with joy: 
overnight he became a symbol of British invincibility. The same day that 
he had arrived in Lourengo Marques he caught a steamer back to Durban. 
He arrived to find the town decorated with flags, bands playing, and 
cheering crowds in a state of excitement 

An interesting footnote to the whole episode is the fact that Captain 
Haldane and Sergeant Brockie also succeeded in escaping. After Winston's 
absence had been discovered they were unable to pursue the original plan 
of scaling the wall, but worked out another scheme; they had learned 
that all prisoners were to be transferred from Pretoria to another camp. 
A week before the change took place they hid under the floor of the 


barracks. While the Boers were searching for them they sat tight; but 
when the pursuit was finally abandoned and the move took pkce and the 
camp was deserted, they struck out for safety. However, by die time they 
reached the freedom of Portuguese territory, the gilt was off the ginger- 
bread and compared with Winston's reception they were hardly noticed. 

Sir Redvers Buller sent for Churchill and asked was there anything he 
could do for him. The young man replied that he would like a com- 
mission in the Army. This was difficult to arrange since a new regulation 
had been introduced, largely because of Winston's activities, forbidding 
serving officers to work for the press. Buller got round this order by grant- 
ing him a commission unpaid. 

Winston at once sent a dispatch to the Morning Post giving the War 
Office and the generals some dear, practical advice. 'We must face the 
facts,' he wrote. 'The individual Boer, mounted in suitable country, is 
worth from three to five regular soldiers. The power of modern rifles is 
so tremendous that frontal attacks must often be repulsed. The extraord- 
inary mobility of the enemy protects his flanks. The only way of treating 
the problem is either to get men equal in character and intelligence as 
riflemen, or failing the individual, huge masses of troops. ... It would be 
much cheaper in the end to send more than necessary. There is plenty of 
work here for a quarter of a million men, and South Africa is well worth 
the cost in blood and money. More irregular corps are wanted. Are the 
gentlemen of England all fox-hunting? . . .' 

The gentlemen of England did not take too kindly to this sarcasm. 
A group of colonels and generals in one of the London clubs sent a 
telegram: 'Best friends here hope you will not continue making further 
ass of yourself.' And the Morning Leader wrote acidly: 'We have received 
no confirmation of the statement that Lord Lansdowne has, pending the 
arrival of Lord Roberts, appointed Mr. Winston Churchill to command 
the troops in South Africa, with General Sir Redvers Buller, V.C., as his 
Chief of Staff.' 

For the next few months Winston served in the South African Light 
Horse which he nicknamed the Cockyollybirds because of the plumes 
which they wore in their slouch hats. It was a thrilling life, riding half the 
day and talking over a camp fire at night. He took part in the fighting 
at Spion Kop and in the relief of Ladysmith. His brother Jack, now a 
lieutenant, joined him in this adventure but was wounded on the first day 
and put out of action. Lady Randolph Churchill arrived in Durban on a 
hospital ship which had been equipped with funds raised by a committee 
of American ladies married to Englishmen, and the three members of the 
family celebrated a reunion. 

FAME 67 

By the summer the British had captured Johannesburg and Pretoria. 
It looked as though the war would soon come to a dose. The Con- 
servative Government decided to take advantage of the public exuberance. 
In September the 'khaki election* was held and Winston hurried back to 
Oldham to try his luck. 

Oldham gave Winston a spectacular welcome. The town was decorated, 
crowds lined the streets and the band struck up: 'See the Conquering Hero 
Comes/ That night he addressed a large meeting in the assembly hall, and 
told them for the first time the full details of his escape. When he men- 
tioned the name of Mr. Dewsnap, the Oldham man who had hidden him 
in the coal mine, the audience shouted: 'His wife's in the gallery,' and 
there were tremendous cheers. A girl in the front row expressed the Senti- 
ments of his supporters by wearing a sash with the words embroidered on 
it: 'God Bless Churchill, England's Noblest Hero/ 

He fought his election campaign in a blaze of national publicity. Many 
London papers sent reporters to give it full coverage. Dozens of descrip- 
tive articles appeared about him. Julian Ralph of the Daily Mail wrote* 
'Young Churchill is a genius. The species is not so broad or so over familiar 
that one can carelessly classify a man as such. In this case there is no doubt/ 
He then went on to describe his personality. 'He finds it easier to vault out 
of a landau than to open the door when he is getting out to address his 
electors and win their unqualified admiration if he can. He will take a bath 
thirteen minutes before dinner-time, will not hesitate to advise or admon- 
ish the Government in a newspaper letter, and will calmly differ from a 
bishop on a point of ecclesiastical law. But, mark you, he is usually dip- 
lomatic and considerate in speech and tone; he is boyishly handsome, has a 
winning smile, and is electric in brilliance and dash. That is why people 
rushed after him in crowds in Oldham, to see and hear igm and to wring 
his hand. They called him "Young Randy" and shouted God's blessing 
after him/ 1 

The election was fought largely on the issue of the Boer War. The 
radical Liberals were bitterly opposed to the conflict; they thought it was 
wicked and unnecessary, and bid been deliberately engineered by Joseph 
Chamberlain as a commercial venture. Winston was bound to defend the 
Government and as a result the Radicals made him the target for a malicious 
and outrageous whispering campaign. They suggested that he had left the 
Army in disgrace; that he had gone to South Africa as a correspondent 
rather than a soldier because he was a coward; that he would have been 

1 2 October, 1900. 


cashiered from the Army had he not resigned; and many other cruel 
slanders. On 27 September the Daily Mail reporter wrote: 'In nothing 
does Winston Churchill show his youth more than in the way he allows 
slanders to affect him . . . They deeply wound him and he allows men to 
see it. When some indiscreet supporter brings these stories to him, his eyes 
flash fire, he clutches his hands angrily, and he hurries out to find oppor- 
tunity of somewhere and somehow bringing his traducers to book/ 

The campaign grew in violence as the climax neared. Chamberlain had 
uttered the slogan: 'Every seat lost to the Government is as a seat gained 
to the Boers', which had increased the temperature still further. He came 
to Oldham to speak for Winston and the two men drove together to the 
meeting in an open landau. The hall was jammed with supporters and the 
entrance and streets were crowded with booing opponents. Both men 
loved the 'roar of the multitude* and Chamberlain's speech was an out- 
standing success. Polling day came and when the count was finally 
announced Winston had won by two hundred and thirty votes. 

In those days constituencies polled over the space of six weeks. Chur- 
chill's result was one of the first. He walked to the Conservative Club to 
find a telegram of congratulation from the Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, 
and a few hours later invitations were pouring in from all over the country 
asking him to address meetings. He spoke in Manchester for Arthur Bal- 
four, the Leader of the House, and when he walked on to the platform 
the whole Hall rose and cheered him. After this he seldom addressed 
audiences of less than five or six thousand. 'Was it wonderful that I should 
have thought I had arrived?* he wrote in My Early Life. 'But luckily life is 
not so easy as all that: otherwise we should get to the end too quickly.' 

Winston was now a Member of Parliament, which in those days was a 
thrilling but expensive occupation. He took stock of his financial position. 
His book The River War had sold well; besides he had written two small 
books on his South African experiences which, together with his salary 
from the Morning Post, gave him a net sum of ^4,000. He felt that he must 
increase his capital by a lecture tour before taking his seat. First, he toured 
England speaking every night for five weeks at a fee of ^100 to 300 a 
lecture. He banked ^4,500. Then he travelled to the United States and for 
two months carried out a similar programme in America and Canada. 
In New York his meeting opened under the auspices of Mark Twain. His 
manager advertised him enthusiastically as 'the hero of five wars, the 
author of six books, and the future Prime Minister of Great Britain*. 
Altogether the New World provided another ^10,000. 

Just twenty-six years old he returned to London eagerly and joyously 
to take his seat in the House of Commons. 



THE YEAR 1901 opened with the death of Queen Victoria after a reign 
of nearly sixty-four years. Five kings and forty members of the royal 
families of Europe followed her funeral cortege on its long and solemn 
procession through the streets of London. A month later King Edward VII 
opened his first session of his first Parliament: and in this Parliament 
Winston Churchill made his dbut. 

Churchill sat in the House of Commons as a 'back-bencher* for five 
years. Those five years now appear in history as a bridge between the 
peace and power of the Victorian age and the violence of the new century, 
trailing in its wake global wars, turbulent reforms, and the steady decline 
of British world supremacy. 

However, few Members of the Parliament of 1901 were aware that an 
era had ended. During Queen Victoria's lifetime Britain had risen from a 
largely agricultural country to the greatest industrial nation and the 
greatest empke in the world. At home she trod the path of slow, steady 
reform with the comfortable knowledge of a wdl-ordercd and secure 
existence. A strong, unrivalled Navy not only protected her home shores 
but her far-flung trade routes, enabling her to remain aloof from all con- 
tinental quarrels and to use her wealth for the benefit of mankind. She had 
not taken part in a conflict in western Europe since the defeat of Napoleon 
eighty-six years before. Her policy was Splendid Isolation. 

Many of the Parliamentarians of 1901 saw no reason to doubt the 
Victorian creed. At home this faith was based on the firm conviction that 
Britain's astonishing success was due to the rule of an educated and 
enlightened oligarchy. At the same time Britain was a democracy; indeed, 
the harnessing together of these two political conceptions might be 
described as the most ingenious achievement of the Victorian age. 
Foreigners were openly puzzled by the strange paradox of a democracy 
governed by an oligarchy, and it is only fair to add that even the English 
were surprised that it worked. When it became apparent in the last forty 
years of Victoria's reign that the democratic idea was gathering strength, 
and that pressure was increasing for an extension of the franchise, the 
English upper classes became alarmed. The great constitutional writer, 
Walter Bagehot, stated firmly: 'Sensible men of substantial means are 
what we wish to be ruled by . . / He went on to warn 'that a political 



combination of the lower classes ... is an evil of the first magnitude; that 
their supremacy in the state they now are, means the supremacy of ignor- 
ance over instruction and of numbers over knowledge. So long as they 
are not taught to act together there is a chance of this being averted, and it 
can only beavertedbythegreaterwisdomandforesightin the higher classes.' 1 
Under Disraeli and Gladstone the vote was widely extended. Those 
who voiced apprehension forgot that the British public had been taught 
to respect its betters; and when the newly-enfranchised, class-conscious 
mass went to the polls in 1885, and again in 1886, it elected a Conservative 
Government known to regard innovations of almost every kind with an 
unfriendly eye. The 'higher classes' drew a breath of relief and settled 
down to a long period of quiet consolidation. In 1901 a Conservative 
Government led by the same Conservative Prime Minister, Lord Salis- 
bury, was still in power. 

The House of Commons that Winston Churchill entered was an exclu- 
sive and wealthy body. Members of Parliament received no payment for 
their services and were expected to contribute substantial sums of money 
to their constituencies as welL Thus only men of means, or men with 
outside backing, could hope to be adopted as candidates. 

Liberals and Conservatives were cut from the same expensive cloth. 
Conservatives could claim more supporters among the landowning 
gentry, whose younger sons found occupations c fit for gentlemen* in the 
Army, Navy and diplomatic services, and who were now stretching a 
point by infiltrating into the financial precincts of the City. The Liberals 
could cfoir" more supporters among the enterprising, self-made indus- 
trialists upon whom Britain's prosperity depended. Nevertheless, each 
party had a smattering of both. 

Temperamentally, however, there was a dear division between the two 
fictions. The Conservatives believed themselves to be the rightful guar- 
dians of Church and State, of continuity and tradition. They disliked 
change and usually made concessions only when it was impossible to 
withhold them. The Liberals, on the other hand, regarded themselves as 
the champions of individual liberty. They welcomed change so long as it 
promised to enlarge the opportunities for personal freedom. And because 
they were open to new ideas, they attracted a wing of Radicals who were 
determined to break down the privileged oligarchic rule at Westminster, 
to reform the House of Lords, and establish the principle of la can&re 
ouverte aux talents. 

1 The English Constitution: Walter Bagehot 


However, these Radicals were not Leftists in the sense conveyed by that 
word to-day. All Liberal supporters were passionate believers in a laissez- 
faire economic system, and went even further than the Conservatives in 
their opposition to State interference. Both parties agreed that the 
Government's operational sphere should be extremely limited. The 
Government was expected to produce law and order at home, to protect 
British nationals abroad, and to conduct the country's foreign affairs to 
skilful advantage. It was also expected to leave the country's industrial life 
severely alone. Business matters were for business men and not for 

In 1902 Charles Booth, a wealthy ship-owner, published a laborious 
statistical work entitled The Life and Labour of London which had taken 
him sixteen years to complete. Although London was regarded as 'the 
richest city in the world' he revealed that thirty per cent of die population 
were suffering from under-nourishment, But despite this astonishing 
revelation, poverty and unemployment continued to be regarded as sub- 
jects for private charity, and not for Government action. The Victorians 
accepted Malthus' theory that the population would always outstrip the 
means of sustenance, and therefore looked upon the poor as a permanent 
and unavoidable fixture brought about by God's Will rather than man's 
ineptitude. On Sundays church congregations solemnly sang: 

The rich mqn in his castle 
The poor man at his gate 
God rn^rfc them high and lowly 
And order'd their estate. 

And yet beneath the c^lp^ Victorian surface the tWrflJs of the pattern 
for the new century, which Elie Halvy, the eminent French historian, 
describes as 'hastening towards social democracy and towards war', were 
already visible. In 1892 Keir Hardie, a Scottish coalminer, entered the 
House of Commons as an Independent backed by Trade Union funds. He 
was the first working man to sit as a Member. In 1900 he formed a new 
party, the Labour Representative Committee, which was soon destined 
to grow into the Labour Party; and in the election of the same year Hardie 
and another working man were returned as Members. Their voices were 
small but the fact that they were raised at all was an indication of what the 
future held. Besides this, Trade Unionism was growing; and the Fabian 
Society dominated by Beatrice and Sidney Webb, Graham Wallas and 
George Bernard Shaw, supported spasmodically by H. G. Wells, was not 
only educating the public to the meaning of democratic socialism but 


infixing the Radical politicians of the day with ideas which were to lead 
Britain forward for die next half century. 

Abroad it was not without significance that the friendship between 
Britain and France kindled by Edward VH's visit to Paris in 1903 was 
slowly ripening and would soon result in the entente of 1904; and it was 
also significant that the German Kaiser, with a fierce eagle on his shining, 
spiked helmet, was growing increasingly proud of his efficient, goose- 
stepping army, and that he was toying with the idea of producing a strong 
navy as well. These were the threads; but in 1901 only a few Members of 
Parliament attached much importance to them. 

One might have expected Winston Churchill to be among the few. 
During the years he spent as a back-bencher he provided the House of 
Commons with incident, drama and excitement. He sparkled and shone 
in his new surroundings. His language was colourful, his personality com- 
pelling, and his polished, memorized orations seldom failed to hold the 
attention of the House. He was master of the unexpected phrase and the 
unexpected action. 

Yet what was surprising about this high-spirited, independent young 
man, who revelled in unusual tactics, was the fact that his ideas were of a 
most orthodox and conventional kind. Far from anticipating the new 
forces of die new century his energies were bent on turning the dock back 
to the generation before, when Victorian conceptions were in the full 
bloom of maturity. He preached all the fading doctrines of a fading age: 
he stood for Isolationism from Europe and for a small Army; for Im- 
perialism; strict economy; Free Trade; no further increases in die income 
tax. These were die ideas of die past, and as the new century progressed 
every one of them was to perish. 

What curious and paradoxical qualities prompted Churchill to proffer 
unoriginal ideas with striking originality? Someone once remarked that 
die politician brings to politics what he is. At twenty-six Churchill was a 
master of English prose and a trained observer of military events. He knew 
nothing of finance or economics and possessed only a superficial grasp of 
history and philosophy which he had acquired by a smattering of reading 
on die hot Indian afternoofionsben his fellow subalterns were sleeping. 
He had not had the benefit of a university education where ideas are con- 
standy explored and challenged; and although his five years in the Army 
had brought him into contact with many men of outstanding character he 

j mixed widi few men of outstanding intellect. 

Churchill's mind was neidier philosophic nor profound. He was a man 


of action rather than thought. He did not feel compelled to examine 
accepted principles and value them for himself. By nature he was romantic 
and sentimental. He liked to picture events in simple, bold and vivid 
colours; and he preferred to follow his emotions rather than his logic. 
Indeed when he found the path of logic leading him away from the 
course to which his instincts inclined he often abandoned the logic. For 
instance, when he was in India he grappled with the subject of religion. 
He found that although he wished to believe in a Higher Being his mind 
refused to accept much of the dogma. This might have worried some men 
but Churchill found an easy, almost feminine solution. 'I adopted quite 
early in life,'" he wrote, 'a system of believing what I wanted to believe, 
while at the same time leaving reason to pursue unfettered whatever paths 
she was capable of treading.' 1 

Churchill entered the House of Commons because he believed it would 
provide HTT* with an exciting occupation. At twenty-six he was less con- 
cerned with the political contribution he had to offer than with the 
political prizes that might await him. He was bursting with energy and 
ambition. The only thing he lacked was a political theme, but this was 
easily remedied. He turned to his father's writings for guidance. 'The 
greatest and most powerful influence in my early life,' he explained many 
years later, 'was, of course, my father. Although I talked to him so seldom 
and never for a moment on equal terms I conceived an intense admiration 
and affection for him; and after his early death, for his memory. I read 
industriously almost every word he had ever spoken and learnt by heart 
large portions of his speeches. I took my politics unquestioningly from 
him. He seemed to me to have possessed the key alike to popular oratory 
and political action.' 2 

The reader may find it strange that a father who had concerned himself 
so little with his son should have exercised such a hold over the latter's 
imagination long after his death. Here the conservatism bred into Winston, 
with its emphasis on continuity and tradition, asserted itself. Just as he 
drew strength from the fact that the great Duke of Marlborough's blood 
ran in his veins, he likewise enjoyed picturing himself as a projection of his 
father whose exciting career appealed to his adventurous instincts. He 
remembered as a child seeing people take off their hats in the street as 
Lord Randolph passed; he remembered the buzz of excitement and the 
talk of great orations; the endless columns in the newspapers, the photo- 
graphs, the cartoons, tibe thrill of importance his father's presence cast over 
die household. It is only natural he should have turned to his father's 

1 My Early Life: Winston S. Churchill 

1 Thoughts ana Adventures: Winston S. Churchill 


speeches for inspiration. And when he read them he was fascinated by their 
vivid imagery, their sarcasm and rich irony. 

He resolved to write his father's biography. It was possible to combine 
the task with his political duties, for in 1901 Parliamentary business was 
so regulated that the House only sat six months of the year. His literary 
labours were not only an act of filial devotion but a means of earning his 
living and they occupied him the whole five years he spent as a back- 
bencher. They had a profound effect upon his political career. As he 
became immersed in his writing he fell more and more deeply under the 
spell of Lord Randolph's example. This influence was further strengthened 
by research which threw him into contact with many of his father's old 
colleagues; and one of these, Sir Francis Mowatt, the head of the Civil 
Service, exerted a decisive influence upon him. 

- Sir Francis had served in the Treasury during Lord Randolph's brief 
tenure as Chancellor of the Exchequer. He held Winston enthralled by 
stories of his father and won the young man's confidence by his genuine 
and wholehearted admiration. 'He was one of the friends I inherited from 
my father," wrote Churchill. 'Tall, spare with a noble brow, bright eyes 
and strong jaws, this faithful servant of the Crown, self-effacing but self- 
respecting, resolute, convinced, sure of himself, sure of his theme, dwelt 
modestly and frugally for nearly fifty years at or near the centre of the 
British governing machine. ... He represented the complete triumphant 
Victorian view of economics and finance; strict parsimony; exact account- 
ing; free imports whatever the rest of the world might do; suave steady 
government; no wars; no flag-waving; just paying of debts and reducing 
taxation and keeping out of scrapes; and for the rest ... for trade, industry, 
agriculture, social life ... laissez-faire and laissez-aller. Let the Government 
reduce itself and its demands upon the public to a minimum; let the nation 
live of its own; let social and industrial organization take whatever course 
it pleased, subject to the law of the land and the Ten Commandments. 
Let the money fructify in the pockets of the people.' 1 

Winston was looking for a political theme. Mowatt's views on finance 
seemed to be a faithful reflection of Lord Randolph's views on finance. 
For the next five years Winston adopted them as his own. 

Winston Churchill entered Parliament as a celebrity. Although many of 
the politicians did not know him by sight they all knew him by name. 
His escape from the Boers, only the year before, was still fresh in the 
public mind. Members had followed his adventures in the newspapers, 
1 Thoughts and Adventures: Winston S. Churchill. 


read his books, and heard of the huge sum he had been paid for his 
American tour. But what whetted their curiosity most of all was the fact 
that he was Lord Randolph's son. 

In the six years since Lord Randolph's death the setting and the actors 
on the Parliamentary stage had changed surprisingly little. Many of the 
present Members had served as Lord Randolph's colleagues and some of 
them had heard him at the summit of his powers. The drama was further 
heightened by the fact that the Conservative Party was more tightly than 
ever in the grip of the Cecil family. Lord Salisbury, who had broken Lord 
Randolph's career, was still Prime Minister. His nephew, Arthur Balfour, 
was Leader of the House of Commons. Another nephew, Lord Balfour of 
Burleigh, and a cousin, Mr. Gerald Balfour, were in the Cabinet. His son, 
Lord Cranborne, was Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Two 
more sons, Lord Hugh Cecil and Lord Robert Cecil, were back benchers, 
and a relative, Lord Selborne, was a member of the Government. It was 
not surprising that wits often referred to the House as 'The Hotel Cecil'. 

It is perhaps opportune to say something about Arthur Balfour here. 
Before the year had ended he succeeded his_unde as Prime Minister and 
before three years were out Churchill had crossed swords with him as 
decisively as his father had with Salisbury. But in 1901, Balfour welcomed 
Winston into the House with almost paternal warmth. He had once been 
a member of Lord Randolph's 'Fourth Party' and had met his son when 
he was a boy of eighteen. Balfour was an enigmatic character. He was a 
country gentleman and an intellectual, charming, courteous, unemotional 
and unhurried. He gave the impression, so attractive to English people, of 
having no political ambitions but of merely seeking to do his duty. He 
presided over the House with almost astonishing detachment. The news- 
paper columnists dubbed him 'Prince Arthur' and the cartoonists depicted 
him with an air of elegant indolence. And yet Balfour was a master of 
debate and often shrewd and witty. Once, when Churchill told him that 
he kept a book of press cuttings because every now and then he came 
across something of special interest, Balfour replied disdainfully that he 
did not see the point of rummaging through a rubbish heap on the prob- 
lematical chance of finding a cigar butt. 

While the Cecils, fortified by that formidable character, the ex-Radical, 
ex-mayor of Birmingham, Joseph Chamberlain, dominated the Con- 
servative scene, the Liberal benches sparkled with names that were to go 
into the history books. There was Asquith, stiff, brilliant and self-confident; 
there was the erudite pacifist, John Morley, who had written a scholarly 
life of Gladstone; Haldane who was to lay the foundations for the modern 
British Army; Sir Edward Grey who was to declare in 1914 'The lights 


arc going out all over Europe'; and Lloyd George, the brilliant-, silver- 
tongued Welsh Radical who was to revolutionize British social thought 
and lead the country through a war as well. 

These were some of the men who awaited Winston Churchill's d6but 
with interest and expectancy. He made his maiden speech on 18 February, 
three days after the opening of the Parliamentary session. The stage was 
well set. The great issue was the Boer War, and passions ran high. In the 
King's Speech His Majesty said: 'The war in South Africa has not yet 
entirely terminated; but the capitals of the enemy and his principal lines 
of communication are in my possession, and measures have been taken 
which will, I trust, enable my troops to deal effectually with the forces by 
which they are still opposed. I greatly regret the loss of life and the ex- 
penditure of treasure due to the fruitless guerilla warfare maintained by 
the Boer partisans . . / 1 

This was stating the case both mildly and optimistically. The Boer 
War was proving a bugbear. When it began the Government thought it 
would last only a few weeks. Yet it had dragged on for a year and was 
destined to continue for still another. Worse than that, it was making 
Britain a laughing stock to the rest of the world. The Boers only had fifty 
thousand fighting men, many of whom were untrained farmers armed 
with shot guns. Yet the British Army now almost two hundred and fifty 
thousand men strong still failed to subdue them. The reason was that the 
Boers, familiar with every inch of the terrain, had turned themselves into 
guerilla bands and spread out across the country. The British soldiers were 
not experienced in this kind of warfare. In desperate attempts to rout out 
the hidden enemy, orders were given that whenever treachery was sus- 
pected Boer farms should be burnt to the ground. 

This action aroused a storm of protest from the radical element in the 
House of Commons. To begin with, the Liberal Party was split in half 
over the dubious justness of the war itself. The Conservatives, supported 
by the Liberal Imperialists, believed in its righteousness, but the radical 
and pacifist Liberals bitterly denounced it. John Morlcy described it as 
'a hateful war, and a war innate and infatuated, a war of uncompensated 
mischief and irreparable wrong'. The Conservatives dubbed members of 
the anti-war party 'Little Englanders* and decried them as 'traitors to their 
country 9 . The latter struck back hotly accusing the Government not only 
of evil motives but of shocking misrnanagpTrienk In this atmosphere of 
passion and recrimination, Winston Churchill made his maiden speech. 

1 Hansard: 14 February, 1901. 


He spoke after dinner to a crowded House. One can picture the scene of 
1901 ; the hansom cabs and carriages clattering across the pavement of New 
Palace Yard and pulling up in front of the entrance to Westminster Hall; 
the lobbies lit by flickering gas jets; the Strangers' Dining Room filled 
with men and women in evening dress; the Chamber itself with Members 
elegantly attired in striped trousers and frock coats, some of them half 
reclining on the benches with their silk hats tipped over their foreheads; 
the wives and daughters, in voluminous, rustling skirts, taking their seats 
in the gallery and gazing earnestly at the crowded Soor. 

Lloyd George preceded Winston. He was one of the young Radicals 
who opposed die war hody. 'One satisfactory feature in connection with 
the debate on South Africa, 9 he began sarcastically, 'is that no one seems 
to have a good word to say for the Government. "Whether they approve 
of or condemn the war they are all agreed on that point; that the Govern- 
ment have made every possible blunder they could make from any and 

every point of view Though they have the resources of the wealthiest 

Empire which the world has ever seen to draw upon they have so directed 
their operations that their own soldiers have been half-starved, stricken 
by disease and have died by the thousands from sheer lack of the simplest 
appliances. Who could say a good word for a Government responsible for 
such a terrible state of affairs?' 

Lloyd George then went on to a blistering attack on the Conservatives 
for not stating specific terms of peace. 'Does anyone think the Boers will 
lay down their arms merely to be governed from Downing Street?' Then 
on to farm burning. 'It is not a war against men but against women and 
children ... I appeal to honourable Members opposite.' Then on to the 
military situation. 'Not a diird of the men we sent to Soudi Africa are now 
in the line of batde. There have been fifty-five thousand casualties; thirty 
thousand men are in hospital/ 1 

When Lloyd George sat down, dozens of Members rose to their feet in 
the hope of being called, including the honourable and gallant Member 
for Oldham. 'Mr. Churchill/ said the Speaker; and thus began the most 
remarkable parliamentary career of tie century. According to the 
columnist in Punch Winston was 'fortunate in the circumstances attending 
his dbut/ for Lloyd George's denunciations had aroused the 'frantic 
cheers of Irish sympathizers' and had drawn in 'loungers from the lobby, 
students from the library, philosophers from the smoking-room. A con- 
stant stream of diners-out flowed in. When young Winston rose from 
the corner seat of the bench behind Ministers ... he faced, and was sur- 
rounded by an audience that filled the Chamber. No friendly cheer 
1 Hansard: 18 February, 1901. 


greeted his rising. To three-quarters of the audience he was personally 
unknown. Before he concluded his third sentence he fixed attention, 
growing keener and kinder when, in reply to a whispered question, 
answer went around that this was Randolph Churchill's son.' 1 

Winston was nervous. He stammered over his opening remark but he 
had learned his speech by heart and soon regained his composure. He 
referred to Lloyd George's oration. 'I do not believe that Boers will 
attach much importance to the utterances of the honourable Member. 
No people in the world receive so much verbal sympathy and so little 
political support as the Boers. If I were a Boer fighting in the field . . . and 
if I were a Boer I hope I should be fighting in the field . . / Here there was 
a stir on the Conservative front bench as Joseph Chamberlain, the leading 
Imperialist and Secretary of State for the Colonies, whispered to a col- 
league, 'That's the way to lose seats f ' But Churchill continued unruffled: 
'If I were a Boer fighting in the field I should not allow myself to be taken 
in by any message of sympathy not even if it were signed by a hundred 
honourable Members. The honourable Member dwelt at great length 
upon the question of farm burning. I do not propose to discuss the ethics 
of farm burning now; but honourable Members should, I think, cast their 
eyes back to the fact that no considerations of humanity prevented the 
German Army from throwing its shells into the dwelling houses of Paris 
and starving the inhabitants of that great city to the extent that they had 
to live upon rats and like atrocious foods in order to compel the garrison 
to surrender. I venture to think His Majesty's Government would not 
have been justified in restricting their commanders in the field from any 
methods of warfare which are justified by precedent set by European or 
American generals during the last fifty or sixty years. I do not agree very 
fully with the charges of treachery on the one side and barbarity on the 
other. From what I saw of the war . . . and I sometimes saw sbmething of 
it ... I believe that as compared with other wars, especially those in which 
a civilian population took part, this war in South Africa has been on the 
whole carried on with unusual humanity and generosity.' 

Churchill then went on to make the point that it was impossible to 
give the Boers self-government as soon as the war ended as a large number 
of the population had fled. 'What could be more dangerous, ridiculous 
or futile than to throw the responsible government of a ruined country on 
that . . . particular section of the population which is actively hostile to 
the fundamental institutions of the State?' 

The question, he continued, was what sort of interim Government 
should be set up: military or civil? 

1 Punch: 27 February, 1901. 


*A military government is irksome. I have often myself been very much 
ashamed to see respectable old Boer farmers ... the Boer is a curious 
combination of the squire and the peasant, and under the rough coat of 
the peasant there are very often to be found the instincts of the squire . . . 
I have been ashamed to see such men ordered about peremptorily by 
young subaltern officers as though they were private soldiers.' 

Churchill suggested that some wise administrator such as Sir Alfred 
Milner should be set at the head of a civil administration, and ended his 
speech by stating that the Government should make 'it easy for the Boers 
to surrender and painful and perilous for them to continue/ Many more 
troops should be sent to South Africa and the military effort should be 
redoubled. 'At the same time I earnestly hope that the right honourable 
Gentleman, the Colonial Secretary, will leave nothing undone to bring 
home to these brave and unhappy men who are fighting in the field that 
whenever they are prepared to recognize that their small independence 
must be merged in the larger liberties of the British Empire there will be a 
full guarantee for the security of their property and religion, an assurance 
of equal right, a promise of all representative institutions, and last of all, 
but not least of all, what the British Army would most readily accord to 
a brave and enduring foe ... all the honours of war. 9 

Before Churchill sat down he thanked the House for the kindness and 
patience with which it had heard him. 'It has been extended to me, I 
know, not on my own account, but because of a splendid memory which 
many honourable Members still preserve/ 1 

Churchill's speech was a triumph. He had steered a delicate course 
between the two extreme factions in the House. He had supported the 
Government in its prosecution of the war which pleased the Conservatives; 
and he had extolled the virtue of the enemy which pleased the pro-Boers. 
As a result he was praised by both sides of the House. Punch commented 
that the 'high expectations' of his d&ut were fully justified and that he 
had his father's 'command of pointed phrase'. 'Instantly commanding 
attention of the House, he maintained it to end of discourse wisely brief.' 2 
Other observers were particularly impressed by the 'parliamentary man- 
ner' he had acquired in the brief three days since he had taken his seat. 
'Ten minutes after "Winston had been sworn,' wrote the Daily Mail, 'he was 
leaning back comfortably on the bench, his silk hat well down over his 
forehead, his figure crouched up in the doubled-up attitude assumed by 

1 Hansard: 18 February, 1901. 
1 27 February, 1901. 


Mr. Balfour and other Ministers, both hands deep in his pockets, eyein 
the place and its inmates critically as if they were all parliamentar 
novices/ 1 

When Churchill had finished his speech he went into the smoking-roorr 
where he was introduced to Lloyd George. 'Judging from your senti- 
ments/ said the Welsh Radical, *y u ^ standing against the Light/ 
which Winston retorted: 'You take a singularly detached view of 
British Empire/ Thus began a friendship which was to dominate 
political life of the next two decades. 

Although Winston's maiden speech had made a lively impression, 
Members awaited the development of his career with curiosity and even 
reservation. Would arrogance and ambition lead him to repeat his father's 
mistakes? Or was his temperament calmer and his judgment surer? By 
what means would he attempt to advance his career? 

The path of the ambitious young back-bencher, particularly if his own 
Government is in power, is fraught with peril. He is expected to obey the 
Party Whips and loyally advance the cause of his own leaders; but if he is 
young, eager and critical his patience may not be equal to the restraint 
demanded of him. He is perpetually in a dilemma. If he is silent or merely 
acquiescent he probably will not be noticed, but, equally, if he is aggres- 
sive and rebellious he probably will not be promoted. Back-benchers who 
flaunt the authority of their leaders unwisely are not easily forgiven. 

This is understandable considering that a Prime /Minister and his 
Cabinet only retain their positions so long as they command a majority 
in the House itself. Party loyalty is the very linch-pin of the British 
parliamentary system. And as a result it is regarded as a cardinal virtue. 
This of course adds to the problems of the back-bencher who soon finds 
himself trying to strike as delicate a balance as a tight-rope walker between 
loyalty to his Party and loyalty to his own opinions. If he disagrees with 
his leaders he can use all his influence behind the scenes to make them 
change their course; but if he fails he must search his conscience and 
decide whether the issue is important enough to endanger the life of his 
Government or whether he can honourably compromise in view of the 
larger principles at stake. If he clashes violently with his own side he can 
cross the floor of the House and join the Opposition, or he can continue 
within the ranks of his own Party (unless he is expelled) as a 'rebel'. 

There are always rebels in Parliament and they add to the liveliness of 
the debates. But the rebels are rarely serious politicians. They are regarded 

1 7 June, 1901. 


as unreliable eccentrics and soon resign themselves to the back-benches. 
Therefore when a determined, ambitious young politician becomes an 
acknowledged rebel he faces an anxious future. He can only force his way 
to the top by gathering such a powerful following in Parliament and the 
country that the Government dares not ignore him and offers him a 
Ministerial appointment to enlist his support rather than face his opposi- 
tion. To achieve success by this method the back-bencher must possess 
dazzling gifts. He must be a man of outstanding personality, a brilliant 
debater who can command and hold the attention of the House whenever 
he chooses. Very few back-benchers have the qualities to enable them to 
reach the heights by this path. Lord Randolph Churchill was one of the 
few but even he failed to hold his power for long; one false step and the 
Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, seized the initiative and smashed his 

It was only natural that Members watched Lord Randolph's son with 
curiosity and speculated about his future. Some believed that he possessed 
his father's temperament and would be incapable of remaining in the 
Party harness; others insisted that he had profited by his father's mistakes 
and would move with caution. In support of this assertion they pointed 
out that only fourteen months previously Winston had dedicated his 
book, The River War, to Lord Salisbury 'under whose wise direction the 
Conservative Party has long enjoyed power and the nation prosperity'. 
They also noticed that when Winston took his place in the House he did 
not sit, as his father had, on the bench below the gangway, the traditional 
pkce for those with independent views, but squarely behind the Ministerial 
front bench. 

Winston did not keep the honourable Members in suspense for long. 
Only four months after he made his maiden speech he delivered a slashing 
attack on the Government for the size of its peace-time military expendi- 
ture. This was the virgin step along a path which was to lead him through 
angry, stormy scenes with his Conservative colleagues and finally across 
the floor to the Liberal Opposition. 

It is interesting to reflect that Winston Churchill, destined to become one 
of Britain's greatest war leaders, took the first decisive political stand of 
his career as an Isolationist. His attack on the Government was unexpected, 
emotional and histrionic. It was an astonishing effort to vindicate his 
father's political failure. Lord Randolph had resigned as Chancellor of the 
Exchequer because the War Office refused to cut its expenditure. Lord 
Randolph was an Isolationist in a peaceful age, believing that Britain's 


security depended less on her fighting services than on a wise foreign 
policy designed to keep her aloof from continental wars. 

Now the son had come down to the House to preach the same doctrine. 
But the setting was different. Members of the Government of 1901 were 
aware that a young, powerful and aggressive Germany was watching the 
British setback in South Africa with marked interest. They stirred un- 
easily and decided that something must be done, and the result was a new 
and higher military budget. They listened to Winston's attack on their 
efforts with surprise and irritation. What was the fellow up to anyway? 

His ideas on Isolation and 'strict economy* were inherited, of course, 
from his father. Lord Randolph had resigned from the Government when 
his son was twelve. On innumerable occasions the boy must have heard his 
mother and his aunts going over the ground and threshing out the subject 
in an effort to justify Lord Randolph's resignation. In The Malakand Field 
Force, published in 1897, Winston had begun his argument that the British 
Army must not be constructed with the idea of fighting on the continent. 
His speech in Parliament was a continuation of the same theme. 'I was so 
untutored as to suppose that all I had to do was to think out what was 
right and express it fearlessly,' he explained many years later. 'I thought 
that loyalty in this outweighed all other loyalties. I did not understand the 
importance of party discipline and unity, and the sacrifices of opinion 
which may lawfully be made in their cause/ 1 

Churchill's political naivete was undoubtedly genuine, but in view of 
the fact that he continued to pursue an independent course many years 
after his innocence had been shed, it is fair to assume that other elements 
entered into the picture as well. He was impatient for success and eager to 
create a stir. His father's struggles loomed large in his thoughts and the 
resignation issue appealed to his pugnacious instincts. Besides, the same 
Mr. Brodrick who had been Under-Secretary at the War Office at the 
time of his father's quarrel was now the Minister for War. It was too good 
an opportunity to miss. And last, but not least, Sir Francis Mowatt was 
standing by with help and encouragement 'Presently I began to criticize 
Mr. Brodrick's Army expansion and to plead the cause of economy in 
Parliament,' wrote Winston. 'Old Mowatt . . . said a word to me now and 
then and put me in touch with some younger officials, afterwards them- 
selves eminent, with whom it was very helpful to talk . . . not secrets, for 
those were never divulged, but published facts set in their true proportion 
and with their proper emphasis.' 2 

Winston delivered his speech on 13 May. Once again the House was 

* My Early Life: Winston S. Churchill 

1 Thoughts and Adventures: Winston S. ChurchilL 


crowded to hear him. The cartoonists of the day evidently saw in his 
appearance no sign of the John Bull he was to become for they depict 
him as a small, slim, rather elegant figure with a puckish smile. Some saw 
a likeness to his father, others not. Punch declared that 'nothing either in 
voice or manner' recalled Lord Randolph, while the Daily Mail asserted: 
'There is a startling resemblance between the son of the late Lord Randolph 
Churchill and that brilliant statesman. He has the square forehead and the 
full bold eye of his father; his hurried stride through the lobby is another 
point of resemblance; and when something amuses him in the course of a 
debate he has his parent's trick of throwing his head well back and laugh- 
ing loudly and heartily.' 

What most observers agreed upon was the extreme boyishness of his 
appearance, which seemed to be exaggerated by the red hair and pink and 
white complexion, and accentuated by the dignified frock coat and wing 
collar. 'Sitting in the corner seat from which his father delivered his last 
speech in the House of Commons, he follows every important speech 
delivered from, the Opposition with an alertness, a mental agility, which 
develops itself in various ways,' the Daily Mail correspondent went on to 
add. 'Occasionally a sort of mischievous, schoolboy grin settles over his 
chubby face as he listens to some ridiculous argument; now and then he 
becomes thoughtful and scribbles down a rebutting fact or a fresh argu- 
ment and passes the note to a Minister below who is going to speak next; 
at other rimes Mr. Gibson Bowles, sitting by his side, whispers some caustic 
and amusing comment into his ear, and the long strong fingers, which 
clutch each other so frequently in nervous excitement, are held over the 
lower part of his face so as to conceal the smile or laugh/ 1 

When Churchill began to speak, however, youth vanished, for his 
words and manner were those of the elder statesman. He used the polished, 
rolling language of the Victorians. Only two years before, G.W. Steevens 
had commented: 'At dinner he talks and talks, and you can hardly tell 
when he leaves off quoting his one idol Macaulay, and begins his other, 
Winston Churchill.' 

The speech of 13 May is not only historic because it marked a decisive 
step in his career but is a remarkable example of his early mastery of a style 
he was soon to make his own. 'If I might be allowed to revive a half- 
forgotten episode,' he began quietly, '. . . it is half forgotten because it 
has passed into that period of twilight which intervenes between the bright 
glare of newspaper controversy and the calm rays of the lamp of history 
... I would recall that once upon a time a Conservative and Unionist 
Administration came into power supported by a large majority, nearly as 

1 7 June, 1901. 


powerful and much more cohesive, than that which now supports His 
Majesty's Government. And when the time came around to consider the 
Estimates the usual struggle took place between the great spending depart- 
ments and the Treasury. I say "usual"; at least it used to be so, I do not 
know whether it is now. The Government of the day threw their weight 
on the side of the great spending departments and the Chancellor of the 
Exchequer resigned. The controversy was bitter, the struggle uncertain, 
but in the end the Government triumphed, and the Chancellor of the 
Exchequer went down forever, and with him, as it now seems, there fell 
also the cause of retrenchment and economy, so that the very memory 
thereof seems to have perished, and the words themselves have a curiously 
old-fashioned ring about them. I suppose that was a lesson which Chan- 
cellors of the Exchequer were not likely to forget in a hurry/ 

Winston then picked up a slip of paper and read a few lines from Lord 
Randolph's letter of resignation to Lord Salisbury. Lord Randolph pointed 
out that a very sharp sword often offered an irresistible temptation to 
demonstrate its efficiency in a practical manner. Winston put the slip of 
paper down and continued to quote the rest of the letter from memory. 
'Wise words,* he cried, 'stand die test of time. And I am very glad that 
the House has allowed me, after an interval of fifteen years, to lift the 
tattered flag of retrenchment and economy. But what was the amount of 
the annual Estimates on which the desperate battle was fought? It may be 
difficult for the House to realize it, though it is within the memory of so 
many honourable members. "The estimates for the year," said the Chan- 
cellor of the Exchequer in resigning, "for the two services amount to no 
less than 31,000,000 and I cannot consent to that." What are the 
estimates we are asked to vote now? We are asked to vote, quite irrespec- 
tive of the drainage of a costly war still in progress, something more than 
59,000,000 for the ordinary service of the year. . . . 

'What has happened in die meantime to explain this astonishing in- 
crease? Has the wealth of the country doubled? Has the population of the 
Empire doubled? Have the armies of Europe doubled? Is die commercial 
competition of foreign nations so much reduced? Are we become the un- 
disputed masters in die markets of die world? Is there no poverty at home? 
Has die English Channel dried up and are we no longer an island? Is the 
revenue so easily raised that we do not know how to spend it? Are the 
Treasury buildings pulled down, and all our financiers fled? During the 
few weeks I have been a member of this House I have heard honourable 
Members opposite advocate many causes but no voice is raised in the 
cause of economy. ... I think it is about time a voice was heard from 
this side of the House pleading that unpopular cause; that someone not on 


the bench opposite, but a Conservative by tradition, whose fortunes are 
linked indissolubly to the Tory Party, who knows something of the 
majesty and power of Britain beyond the seas, upon whom rests no taint 
of cosmopolitanism, should stand forward and say what he can to protest 
against the policy of daily increasing the public burden. If such a one is to 
stand forward in such a cause, then, I say humbly, but I hope with be- 
coming pride, no one has a better right than I have, for this is a cause for 
which the late Lord Randolph Churchill made the greatest sacrifice of 
any Minister in modern times/ 

Churchill wound up his speech with an appeal to the House to place 
their trust in a strong Navy, adequate for defensive purposes, and to keep 
clear of continental wars. 'Now, when mighty populations are impelled 
against each other, each individual severely embittered and inflamed, 
when the resources of science and civilization sweep away everything that 
might mitigate their fury, a European war can only end in the ruin of the 
vanquished and the scarcely less fatal commercial dislocation and ex- 
haustion of the conquerors The Secretary of War knows . . . that if we 

went to war with any great Power his three Army corps would scarcely 
serve as a vanguard. If we are hated they will not make us loved, if we 
are in danger they will not make us safe. They are enough to irritate; 
they are not enough to overawe. Yet while they cannot make us invulner- 
able, they may very likely make us venturesome. . . . We shall make a 
fatal bargain if we allow the moral force which this country has so long 
exerted to become diminished, or perhaps even destroyed for the sake of 
this costly, trumpery, dangerous military plaything on which the Secre- 
tary of State has set his heart.' 

Mr. Churchill's friend and fellow war correspondent, J. B. Atkins, sat 
in the Press Gallery and listened to him make this speech. 'He was a lonely 
but self-possessed figure as he stood there reproducing the sentiments 
which caused the dramatic resignation of his father/ he wrote in the 
Manchester Guardian. 'His metaphors were bold and a trifle too ornate here 
and there, but they were always original and striking. His voice is not 
really a defect, for it is a distinguishing possession that makes Inm unlike 
anyone else to listen to/ Punch also commented joyfully on the occasion. 
'With the modesty of youth he undertook to challenge the scheme of 
Army reorganization put forward from the War Office . . . speech 
evidently carefully prepared, but wasn't embarrassed by his notes; turned 
aside from them now and then to make capital debating point out of 
speeches delivered earlier in evening . . . Sark 1 complains that his utterance 

1 The Member for Sark was an imaginary character created by the writer of 
the political column to give voice to his own obiter dicta. 


is too rapid, and hopes he won't make fatal mistake of speaking too often. 
But he'll learn and he'll do. . . .' * 

Once again, Churchill's speech was a minor sensation. The Liberal 
pacifists were delighted with his sentiments and the Liberal Imperialists 
were delighted with his attack on his Tory leaders. H. W. Massingham, 
a well-known Liberal journalist, wrote ecstatically that Churchill's speech 
'should long ago have been delivered from our own benches', and pro- 
phesied that its author would be 'Prime Minister ... I hope Liberal Prime 
Minister of England.' 

The Conservatives were divided in their reactions. Some of them 
admired the young man for his family loyalty while others regarded his 
performance merely as a stunt to attract publicity. When the debate was 
resumed the following day Mr. Arthur Lee, later Lord Lee of Fareham, 
said acidly: It is not well to confuse filial piety with public duty. This is 
not the time to parade or pursue family traditions. . . .' And Mr. Brodrick, 
Winston's main target, hit back scornfully. 'I confidently expect,' he said, 
'that Parliament, which was not afraid to part company with a brilliant 
statesman in 1886, will not sleep the less soundly because of the financial 
heroics of my hon. friend the Member for Oldham. Those of us who 
disagree with him can only hope that the time will come when his judg- 
ment will grow up to his ability, when he will look back with regret to 
the day when he came down to the House to preach Imperialism without 
being able to bear the burden of Imperialism, and when the hereditary 
qualities he possesses of eloquence and courage may be tempered also by 
discarding the hereditary desire to run Imperialism on the cheap/ 

Thus began the breach between Winston and his leaders which two 
years later was to widen into an irreparable gap. And thus the ghost of 
Lord Randolph asserted itself with a vengeance. It is arguable that if 
Winston had not revived the issue of his father's resignation he would have 
remained in the Tory fold and become Prime Minister instead of Baldwin 
after World War I. In that case World War n might not have taken pkce. 
However, if all this had happened, it is also possible that Winston would 
not have emerged as a great man. Great men are judged for the wars they 
win, not the wars they prevent. 

1 22 May. 1901. 



THE DOMINATION that Lord Randolph Churchill exerted from the 
grave over a son in whom he had never confided stands out as the most 
fascinating and remarkable aspect of Winston's career as a back-bencher. As 
the months passed this strange spell increased rather than diminished. It is 
not unusual for a son to revere his father's memory, but Winston carried 
his devotion to such exaggerated lengths that his early Parliamentary life 
was based on an almost slavish imitation. He not only borrowed his 
father's views and clung to them no matter what spent forces they had 
become, but he copied his manner and gestures, sought out his friends 
and marked down his opponents, memorized his speeches in an effort to 
catch their flavour, adopted his tactics and finally followed his strategy. 

In view of Winston's originality and audaciousness this seems astonish- 
ing, but the explanation partly lies in his work on his father's biography. 
His romantic and forceful mind dramatized whatever subject it centred 
upon, a quality which had already made him a highly successful journalist 
And the fact that his emotions were now keenly involved only served to 
heighten his powerful sense of theatre. He became increasingly enthralled 
by the scene he was reconstructing and began to live in it with himself as 
the chief actor. He identified himself so completely with his father that he 
told all his friends he was certain he would die at the same early age as 
Lord Randolph. He was determined to repeat his father's triumphs and 
since time was short he must repeat them in the same meteoric fashion. 

From the very first day Winston entered the House he was openly and 
unashamedly ambitious, and he made it plain to all who would listen that 
he regarded the rapid fulfilment of his aims as a matter of the gravest 
urgency. He decided that only one of two courses was open to him: 
either to win the leadership of the Tory Party, or to abandon the Tories 
and make his way with the Liberals. He toyed with the second idea as early 
as 1901, when he had been in Parliament less than a year. Lady Warwick 
tells of a conversation she had with him at this time at Cecil Rhodes' 
house in Scotland. 'On the visit to Loch Rannoch of which I write, 
Winston Churchill discussed quite openly his political position. He had 
just been on a visit to Lord Rosebery, and he said he was inclined to leave 
the leadership to Mr. Balfour and proclaim himself a Liberal. He wanted 
power and the Tory road to power was blocked by the Cecils and other 


brilliant young Conservatives, whereas the Liberal path was open. Cecil 
Rhodes was all in favour of his turning Liberal.' 1 

Winston evidently decided against this course and began to plan the 
day when he would head the Conservatives. According to Mr. J. L. 
Wanklyn, a Tory M.P., Mr. Churchill played with the notion of wresting 
the leadership from Arthur Balfour in 1902, when he had been a back- 
bencher fo*r only eighteen months. Winston denied this charge, and the 
controversy which took place in the columns of The Times makes highly 
amusing reading: 

The Times. 6 March, 1905. 'On Saturday night Mr. J. L. Wanklyn, 
M.P. for Central Bradford, addressed a meeting in that city. Mr. Wanklyn 
said that ... at an interview with Mr. Churchill sought with him in that 
month (November 1902) he was invited to assist Mr. Churchill and others 
in overthrowing the Conservative Unionist Ministry in order to let in a 
weak Radical Ministry, which in its turn was to be overthrown, and then 
Mr. Churchill and others were to lead back to place and power a rejuven- 
ated Conservative Unionist Party. The main argument was that the Duke 
of Devonshire, Lord George Hamilton, Mr. Ritchie and Mr. Chamber- 
lain were all too old at sixty, while Mr. Balfour and Mr. Brodrick could 
easily be overthrown upon the public inquiry after the war. Lord Hugh 
Cecil and Mr. Ernest Beckett were mentioned as prospective Ministers 
in the Cabinet to be formed by Mr. Churchill. . . / 

The Times. 7 March. *Mr. Churchill last night issued the following dis- 
claimer. "Mr. Wanklyn's statement is devoid of the slightest foundation. 
I have never sought an interview with him on any subject. I have never 
had any conversation with him, on such a subject. The whole story from 
beginning to end is a pure invention of his own, and, if not a hallucination, 
can only be described as a wilful and malicious falsehood." * 

The Times. 8 March. 'The editor of a Bradford evening paper yesterday 
telegraphed to Lord Hugh Cecil, M.P., asking whether he had seen the 
charges made by Mr. Wanklyn, M.P. and whether they were true. The 
reply received was: "Statement untrue. Hugh Cecil". After Lord Hugh 
Cecil's disclaimer was received a telegram was sent to Mr. Wanklyn, M.P., 
who replied as follows: "I did not say that Hugh Cecil knew of con- 
spiracy, but Winston Churchill used his name to me as probable Education 
Minister with or without his approval and also Lord Kitchener and Ernest 
Beckett for War Office. Wanklyn"/ 

The Times, n March* 'Mr. J. L. Wanklyn, M.P., attended last night the 
annual general meeting of the Leeds Licensed Victuallers. Referring to his 
controversy with Mr. Churchill he said the latter had been driven into a 

1 Life's Ebt and Flow: Frances, Countess of Warwick, 


corner. He denied point blank his (Mr. Wanklyn's) statements but let him 
refresh his memory for he kept a diary and a day book. ... He had tried 
vague and curt denial but let him come out into the open. Let him issue a 
writ and let him know that his (Mr. Wanklyn's) solicitor was Mr. 
Soames. He (Mr. Wanklyn) should like to be at die elbow of the counsel 
who cross-examined him. Let him refer the matter to the arbitration of 
Mr. Balfour, or Sir Henry CampbeU-Bannerman, or three members of 
the House of Commons. He made the offer and if Mr. Churchill refused 
it they could draw their own conclusions/ 

Here the correspondence ended; and what probably was a drama in 
1905 seems a comic episode in 1953. 

As a back-bencher Winston was one of the most hard-working young 
men in England. He had an astonishing capacity for sustained concentra- 
tion. Although he shared a flat in Mayfair with his brother Jack, he had 
no time for frivolity and rarely made a social engagement. Sometimes 
friends persuaded him to visit them for a week-end, but even on these 
occasions they seldom derived companionship from his presence. He 
merely brought his work with him and organized his time as he would 
at home. The American writer, George Smalley, was once a co-visitor 
with Winston at Dunrobin, the vast mansion of die Duke and Duchess of 
Sudierland. Winston invited the journalist into his room and the latter 
was astonished at the sight that greeted him. 'His bedroom had been 
turned into a literary workshop, strewn with books and papers and all the 
apparatus of the writer. He had brought with him a tin box, some three 
feet square, divided into closed compartments. This was his travelling 
companion on journeys of pleasure. Like his father he wanted ample room 
for his materials, and his hostess had provided him with a large writing- 
table. This was covered with papers, loose and in docketed bundles, but all 
in exact order for ready reference . When we left Dunrobin we found 
that Winston had reserved a compartment in the railway train for himself 
and for his big tin case of papers. He shut himself up there, and during 
that long long journey read and wrote and worked as if a Highland rail- 
way train were the natural and convenient laboratory in which literature 
of a high order was to be distilled.' 1 

Despite Winston's flexibility he preferred to work at home. His study 
contained his father's huge writing-desk, his large brass inkwell and his 
carved oak chair. He hung the walls with pictures of Lord Randolph and 
even a picture of Lord Randolph's prize-winning horse Abbesse dejouarre, 

1 Anglo-American Memories: George Smalley. 


which the jockeys used to call ' Abscess of the Jaw', and he decorated the 
entrance hall with cartoons of Lord Randolph from Punch and Vanity 

He spoke in the House of Commons at least once and frequently twice 
a month. He took infinite pains with his speeches, sometimes working on 
them for as long as six weeks. He always wrote them out and learnt them 
by heart. 'In those days, and indeed for many years,' he wrote, 'I was 
unable to say anything (except a sentence in rejoinder) that I had not 
written out and committed to memory beforehand/ Besides this, he often 
practised his speeches by reciting them aloud, a habit which he evidently 
followed for many years, for in 1908 a well-known newspaper editor wrote: 
'I have been told by one who was in Scotland with him when he was 
campaigning that he never appears at his hostess's table until tea-time. 
All day he might be heard booming away in his bedroom, rehearsing 
his facts and his flourishes to the accompaniment of resounding knocks 
on the furniture.' 1 Once a speech was ready to be delivered he took care 
that the newspapers received a copy in advance, and editors often were 
surprised to see that the author had confidently punctuated his script with 

During the first three years of his Parliamentary life he spoke almost 
exclusively on two themes: military matters, of which he had a wide 
knowledge, and financial affairs, in which he was guided by his father's 
ideas, interpreted by Sir Francis Mo watt. It was in the military field that 
he made his most constructive contribution. Mr. Brodrick's scheme for the 
reorganization of the Army was technically unsound and unworkable. 
Winston seized every opportunity and attacked him, with tireless repeti- 
tion, branding the scheme as the months passed with increasing vehemence 
as "The Great English Fraud', a 'total, costly, ghastly failure', as a 'humbug 
and a sham'. Finally the plan was abandoned, Mr. Brodrick was moved to 
the India Office, and a new Minister was appointed to produce a more 
sensible proposal. This was a great triumph for the young back-bencher. 

His crusade for 'economy', however, was not so successful. The British 
Army slowly expanded and the Army Estimates slowly rose. On 18 
March, 1903, a Conservative M.P., Mr. Elliot, said in the House: 'Does 
anyone really suppose that the circumstances of the old days are abso- 
lutely past, and that in future all that would happen in the case of war 
with a Continental Power would be our magnificent fleet pursuing an 
inferior fleet? Such a state of things is unthinkable and I cannot imagine a 
war between Britain and a Continental Power in which the British Army 
would not be required.' 'Not in Europe,' interrupted Churchill. 

1 Prophets* Priests and Kings: A. G. Gardiner. 


Needless to say Churchill's isolationism was not so much intellectual 
conviction as an inevitable outcome of championing his father's unborn 
budget. No matter into what strange waters his cause led him he clung 
to it stubbornly, and as a result one finds him attacking the Admiralty's 
proposals to lay down eight new dreadnoughts, ships which proved 
indispensable to Britain right up until 1912. 

During his first four years as a back-bencher Winston took almost no 
interest in purely domestic matters. He spoke once in favour of the Con- 
servative Education Bill and once in opposition to a Bill to allow a man 
to marry his dead wife's sister. He was led into this last, he declares, against 
his better judgment, by the persuasion of his friend, Lord Hugh Cecil, 
who felt strongly that the sanctity of the home was somehow involved. 
Although Churchill often raised his father's old cry of 'Tory Democracy* 
on the public platforms, the words had an empty ring. He offered no 
proposals with which to bring them to life and once defined the slogan 
vaguely as 'the association of us all through the leadership of the past*. 

It is not surprising that Winston at the age of twenty-six lacked his 
father's insight and interest in the social problems of the day. But it is an 
interesting comparison that whereas Lord Randolph predicted the rise of 
the Labour Party eight years before the Labour Party was even formed, 
Winston appears to have been completely unaware of the social changes 
towards which Britain was rapidly moving. 'I like the British working 
man,' he declared to an interviewer in 1900, 'and so did my father before 
me.' He had a deep faith in the sterling qualities of the working class, 
unaccompanied by any knowledge of the conditions in which they lived. 

The truth was that he was absorbed by ideas, and knew very little about 
people; and his ideas as a back-bencher, mainly financial, were simple and 
old-fashioned. All the great reforms that were to engulf the nation dur- 
ing the next fifty years meant an entirely new approach to the nation's 
fiscal policy; even if Winston had wished to introduce new reforms it 
would have been impossible for him to do so without completely altering 
his Victorian approach to Government expenditure. As it was he believed 
that an income tax of is. sd. in the pound 1 was the limit which could be 
imposed. He put his faith in a laissez-faire economy which produced the 
rich at one end who, as good Christians, were expected to help the poor 
at the other. In 1902 the question of a subsidy for the West Indian sugar 
trade was discussed in the House of Commons. It was argued that when 
the world price fell too low thousands of native workers found themselves 

1 In 1901 and 1902 income tax was raised from one shilling to one shilling and 
twopence and one shilling and threepence to pay the debts of the Boer War. In 
1903 it dropped to elevenpence. 


in desperate conditions. Churchill opposed the subsidy: 'I object on prin- 
ciple,' he said, 'to doing by legislation what properly belongs to charity'/ 


As the months passed Winston became increasingly rebellious. Early in 
1903 he organized a group of back-benchers known as 'The Hughlighans', 
in imitation of Lord Randolph's famous Fourth Party. Among the mem- 
bers were Lord Hugh Cecil, Major Jack Seely, Mr. Gibson Bowles, and 
Winston's cousins, Ivor and Freddy Guest. All were high-spirited young 
politicians who agreed with Winston that good food and good brandy 
were essential to good talk. They discussed their burning questions over 
the best dinner that could be procured. Winston laid down the policy: 
'We shall dine first and consider our position afterwards. It shall be High 
Imperialism nourished by a devilled sardine. 5 

Winston led His small group into spirited attacks against the Govern- 
ment's Army scheme. Sir James Fergusson, a loyal Tory, wrote indig- 
nantly to the Daily Telegraph that he had never known 'an attack upon 
a Government so organized, and pressed with so much bitterness and 
apparent determination by members elected to support it.' 

The Government, however, apparently remained unruffled. Arthur 
Balfour continued to smile upon Winston in a paternal fashion, and Cham- 
berlain evidently took the line that 'boys will be boys'. The reason the 
breach did not become serious was dear. Whereas Lord Randolph's 
leadership of the Fourth Party had made him such a power in the land that 
the Prime Minister had been forced to give him office, Winston's leadership 
of the Hughlighans merely made him a diversion. The difference was that 
Lord Randolph's attack on the Opposition aroused popular interest and 
finally led his party to victory, while Winston's criticisms almost passed 
unnoticed with the general public. 

Suddenly Joseph Chamberlain raised a matter which started a national 
controversy. This was the chance for which Churchill was waiting. He 
plunged into the fray and overnight became the storm centre of the House 
of Commons. The twelve months from May 1903 to May 1904 stand out 
even to-day as the most turbulent and tempestuous year of his political 
career; at the end of it he crossed the floor and joined the Liberal Opposi- 

The issue that generated all the heat was Protection versus Free Trade. 
It arose because Joseph Chamberlain, the Conservative Colonial Secre- 
1 Hansard: 31 July. 


tary, wished to establish a system of Imperial Preferences which would 
allow imports from the Colonies and Dominions to receive special financial 
concessions. In order to do this, however, it was necessary first to establish 
tariffs on goods from foreign countries. To-day when the policy of 
Imperial Preference has been in operation for twenty years it is difficult to 
recapture the feeling it aroused at the beginning of the century; a large 
section of the public regarded it as straight heresy. 

Free Trade had been the corner-stone of British policy for fifty pros- 
perous trading years. To the majority of British people it was not only 
sound economics but almost a religion. Free Trade, they said, meant free- 
dom and peaceful relations with the rest of the world while tarifis led 
to wars. The Liberal Party was astonished that anyone should dare to 
challenge a faith so well established and entered into the fight with pas- 
sionate conviction. Even the Conservative Party was split in half. Three 
members of Balfour's Cabinet resigned and Sir Henry Campbell- 
Bannerman, the Opposition Leader, wrote to a friend: 'This reckless 
criminal escapade of Joe's is the great event of our time. It is playing Old 
Harry with all Party relations.' 

Gradually Balfour pulled the Conservative Parliamentary Party to- 
gether again until ninety-five per cent were once more following their 
leaders through the lobby. But Winston was not among them. This was 
an issue after his own heart. First of all he was sure that his father would 
have been with him in fighting Protection. 'Everything I know suggests 
to me that he would . . . have been one of its chief opponents.' 1 Secondly, 
Sir Francis Mo watt was standing by with his customary advice. 'Mo watt, 
going far beyond the ordinary limits of a Civil Servant, making no secret 
of his views, courting dismissal, challenging the administration in admir- 
able State papers, carried on the struggle himself He armed me with 
facts and arguments of a general character and equipped me with a know- 
ledge of economics, very necessary to a young man who, at twenty-eight, 
is called upon to take a prominent part in the controversy/ 2 

A few days after Chamberlain outlined his tariff policy to his Birming- 
ham constituents Churchill made a fighting speech in the House of 
Commons. 'The new fiscal policy,' he declared, 'means a change, not only 
in the historic English Parties but in the conditions of -our public life. The 
old Conservative Party with its religious convictions and constitutional 
principles will disappear and a new party will arise . . . like perhaps the 
Republican Party in the United States of America . . . rigid, materialist 
and secular, whose opinions will turn on tariffs and who will cause the 

1 My Early Life: Winston S. Churchill 

1 Thoughts and Adventures: Winston S. Churchill 


lobbies to be crowded with the touts of protected industries Not for 

the last hundred years has a more surprising departure been suggested.' 1 

It was obvious that Churchill was prepared to be a formidable ad- 
versary. This was the psychological moment for Arthur Balfour, in the 
traditional manner of Prime Ministers with powerful rebels, to silence 
him by inviting him to join the Government. Winston had carefully 
smoothed the way by announcing that although he was an opponent of 
TariffReform he was not an opponent of his Party. But Balfour remained 
adamant. He reshuffled his Cabinet, he invited new Ministers to take the 
place of old Ministers, but Churchill was not one of them. Arthur Balfour 
had strict ideas on Parliamentary behaviour. He refused to promote rebels 
over the heads of loyal party supporters. And perhaps, too, he remem- 
bered what his uncle, Lord Salisbury, had replied when someone asked 
him if he would not like to have Lord Randolph Churchill in his Govern- 
ment again. 'When you have got rid of a boil on your neck, you don't 
want it back.' Many years later Lord Birkenhead, one of Winston's 
closest friends, wrote: ' "He can wait" has always been the Tory formula 
which has chilled the hopes of young and able men. . . . And so chance 
after chance of modest promotion went by ... Winston characteristically 
jumped the whole fence.' 2 

There is no doubt that although Churchill was genuinely opposed to 
Protection, he was not slow to see the political possibilities that the issue 
raised. He had sat on the back benches for two years now, and he felt 
it was far too long. After all, the Boer War had lifted htm to prominence 
and in the election of 1900 both Balfour and Chamberlain had asked him 
to address audiences of five thousand people. They knew he had the 
ability. Why were they holding him back? Because of his youth? He 
would show them that he was not prepared to spend the best, and perhaps 
the only, years of his life in parliamentary obscurity. If he could rally 
enough public and parliamentary support against Chamberlain's Protec- 
tion scheme he might be able to force the Prime Minister to dissociate 
himself from it, in which case Winston almost certainly would be invited 
to step into the Cabinet. This was the way his father had attained office 
and he would pky the same game for the same stakes. 'Politics are every- 
thing to you?' a journalist asked him as his new and dangerous course 
became dear. 'Politics,' he answered, 'are almost as exciting as war and 
quite as dangerous/ 'Even with the new rifle?' his questioner continued. 

1 Hansard: 28 May, 1903. 

1 Sunday Times: 27 May, 1924. 


'Well, in war,' he replied, 'you can only be killed once, but in politics 
many times.' 

So Churchill buoyantly travelled further along the path of opposition. 
Joseph Chamberlain spent the summer campaigning throughout the 
country for his plan, and Winston spent the summer campaigning against 
it. The battle lifted him to the forefront of political life and he was now 
regarded as one of the most controversial figures in the House of Com- 
mons. And like all controversial figures he aroused intense emotion. 

The personal impression he made on those who met him varies so 
greatly that the only common denominator appears to be the fact that no 
one could overlook him. Some idea of the range of opinions may be seen 
from the following extracts from contemporary diaries. Mrs. Beatrice 
Webb, the straitlaced, serious-minded Socialist, wrote on 8 July, 1903: 

'Went into dinner with Winston Churchill. First impressions: restless 

almost intolerably so, without capacity for sustained and unexciting 
labour . . . egotistical, bumptious, shallow-minded and reactionary, but 
with a certain personal magnetism, great pluck and some originality . . . 
not of intellect but of character. More of the American speculator than 
the English aristocrat. Talked exclusively about himself and his elec- 
tioneering plans . . . wanted me to tell him of someone who would get up 
statistics for him. "I never do any brain work that anyone else can do for 
me" ... an axiom which shows organizing but not thinking capacity. 
Replete with dodges for winning Oldham against the Labour and Liberal 
candidates. But I daresay he has a better side . . . which the ordinary cheap 
cynicism of his position and career covers up to a casual dinner acquain- 
tance 1 

Three months later, on 31 October, Wilfrid Blunt, poet, traveller and 
humanitarian, wrote in his diary: 'I stopped to luncheon with Victor and 
Pamela and met theVe for the first time young Winston Churchill. He is a 
little square-headed fellow of no very striking appearance, but of wit, 
intelligence and originality. In mind and manner he is a strange replica of 
his fatter, with all his father's suddenness and assurance, and I should say 
more than his father's ability. There is just the same gaminerie and con- 
tempt of the conventional and the same engaging plainspokcnness and 
readiness to understand. ... He has a power of writing Randolph never 
had, who was a schoolboy with his pen, and he has education and a 
political tradition. He interested me immensely/ 2 

1 Our Partntrsbip: Beatrice Webb. 
* My Dwwj.-W.S. Blunt, 


In the autumn Churchill recklessly began to burn his boats. In Decem- 
ber he wrote the Liberal candidate at the Ludlow by-election and wished 
Mm success against his Conservative opponent, declaring that 'the time has 
now come when Free Traders of all parties should form one line of battle 
against acommon foe' : and at a Free Trade Meeting at Halifax two days later 
he ended his speech with the cry: 'Thank God we have a Liberal Party/ 

His local constituency party called him to account, informing him 
coldly that he could no longer depend on. their support. Churchill 
defended himself by saying that it was the Government, not he, who was 
betraying the people who voted for him. 'When Mr. Balfour succeeded 
Lord Salisbury,' he stated, 'he solemnly pledged himself at the Carlton 
Club that the policy of the Party should be unchanged. And yet at Shef- 
field, 1 only a year afterwards, he declared for a "fundamental reversal of 
the policy of the last fifty years". Therefore it is not against me that any 
charge of breaking pledges can be preferred!' 

In the House of Commons Churchill moved to an independent seat 
below the gangway. He continued to call himself a supporter of.the Con- 
servative Party but redoubled his attacks on Chamberlain's tariff policy. 
There was no doubt that the idea of tariffs was unpopular in the country, 
and Churchill still felt he might be able to force Balfour to reject it. How- 
ever, he was aware that anger and dislike were mounting against him in his 
own Party, and he accepted the fact that if things were pushed too far 
he must be prepared to cross the floor of the House. There already 
were persistent rumours that this was what he intended to do, but he 
remained silent on the subject. The Pall Mall Gazette came out with an 
article emphatically denying that any such idea had crossed his mind. 
'Few people we thfnlc realize the intensity of his devotion to Toryism . . . 
and yet this is one of the most striking characteristics of the member for 
Oldham. He is a Tory by birth and inheritance. Toryism possesses him. 
. . . It is with him something of a religion. He once talked to me con- 
cerning Toryism of "our spiritual ideals" . . . "Some of us," he once said, 
"were born in the Tory Party and we are not going to let any aliens turn 
us out." I referred to the Radical journalist and the gorgeous future he 
had mapped out for "Winston Churchill. "Oh, absurd. I am a Tory and 
must always remain a Tory".' 2 

Meanwhile the lobby correspondents watched Winston's tactics with 
amused interest They could not help referring repeatedly to the resemb- 

1 At the Sheffield Party Conference to which Churchill referred, it became plain 
that a large majority favoured Protection with an almost idealistic fervour as a 
means of binding the Empire closer together. 

Pall Mall Gazette: September 1903. 


lance between father and son. 'Less in face than in figure, in gesture and 
manner of speech. When the young Member for Oldham addresses the 
House, with hands on hips, head bent forward, right foot stretched forth, 
memories of days that are no more flood the brain. Like father is son in 
his habit of independent view of current topics, the unexpectedness of his 
conclusions, his disregard for authority, his contempt of the conventions, 
his perfect phrasing of disagreeable remarks. 

'His special enmity to Chamberlain and all his works is hereditary. He 
does not forget and can never forgive the rebuff that seared his father's 
proud heart when Birmingham clamoured for him to represent them in 
the House of Commons and Chamberlain peremptorily said "no" . . . 
Winston is a convinced Free Trader. But he enters with lighter, more 
fully gladdened heart into the conflict, since Protection is championed by 
his father's ancient adversary.' 1 

It was becoming apparent that the Conservative Party was steadily 
losing its popularity in the country. The Opposition was able to whip up 
criticism of die Government on several grounds; first its inept handling of 
the Boer War; second its employment of indentured Chinese labour in the 
African gold mines which the Liberals branded as 'slave labour' and were 
turning into an important moral issue; third its interest in Protective 
Tariffs which the public suspected would mean 'dearer food'. It was 
obvious that Conservative election prospects were declining. 'From 1903 
onwards,' writes D. C. Somervell, the historian, 'it seemed certain, and 
not only to those who wished it, that Balfour's Government would be 
defeated at the next election.' 2 

Winston's repeated attacks in the face of this decline infuriated his col- 
leagues. Instead of trying to retrieve the position he was contributing to 
the rot, and, incidentally, dashing the political hopes of his associates as 
well. Although many of them had reservations about the tariff policy 
they were willing to bury their differences at critical moments and were 
incensed that Churchill refused to pky the game in what they called a 
'gentlemanly' fashion. They might have forgiven him had they believed 
in bis sincerity but they thought he was influenced mainly by ambition, 
and began to denounce him as 'wickedly hypocritical'. One of his con- 
temporaries, Mr. MacCallum Scott, wrote that 'the followers of Mr. 
Chamberlain repaid his hostility with a passionate personal hatred over 
which they vainly endeavoured to throw a mask of contempt There was 
no better hated man in the House of Commons.' 3 

1 Punch: 8 June, 1904. 

1 British Politics Since 1900: D. C. Somervell. 

3 Winston Spencer Churchill: A. MacCallum Scott 


Some idea of the fury he aroused was demonstrated in March 1904 
when an unprecedented scene took place in the House. A week before the 
incident, Major Jack Seely, a close friend of Churchill, announced his 
resignation from the Conservative Party on the question of 'Chinese 
slavery* in South Africa. Emotions ran so high and there was such an 
uproar in the House Major Seely scarcely could make himself heard. 
Churchill shouted above die din: 'Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. 
I am quite unable to hear what my honourable Friend is saying owing to 
the vulgar clamour maintained by the Conservative Party/ With this a 
Conservative M.P. jumped up pointing to Winston and screaming 
angrily that 'the vulgarest expression came from this honourable Gentle- 
man'. Amid the hubbub the Speaker tried to explain that he was not so 
much concerned with the vulgarity of the expressions as the loudness with 
which they were delivered. 

This was the prelude. A week later the English public picked up the 
morning edition of the Daily Mail to read the following headlines: 



The reporter then gave the following account: 'The rank and file of 
the Unionist Party who are still loyal to their leaders took a singular and 
striking step in the House of Commons yesterday to mark their disap- 
proval of Mr. Winston Churchill's attitude. 

'For a considerable time his speeches have been almost without excep- 
tion directed against the policy of the Government. They have been 
clever, severe, biting in their sarcasm, full of sneers and scorn for Mr. 
Balfour and his Ministers. Last week in the incident over Major Seely 's 
resignation Mr. Churchill came into sharp collision with his former party 
friends, when he characterized their interjections as "vulgar clamour". 

The insult was resented at the moment and it rankled. The Unionists 
apparently resolved that he would not have cause to complain again of 
"vulgar damour". Yesterday when he rose to follow Mr. Lloyd George 
in the debate on the adjournment at five o'clock, there was a general 
movement to the tea rooms. 

'Mr. Balfour at this juncture had risen and met Mr. Austen Chamber- 
lain beyond the glass door behind the Speaker's chair. Mr. Churchill 
objected to the departure of the Prime Minister when he was about to 
speak. He was astonished at such a lack of deference and respect. The 
Unionists who remained then got up and also left the House. Some turned 


back at the doors and looked in to see how many were left. Less than a 
dozen members, mostly Free Traders, sat on the Government side. 

'The merry jest, the sparkling epigram and the ironical sally departed 
likewise from Mr. Churchill's oration. He never speaks unless there is a 
full House. The full House had melted away under his spell. It was a chill- 
ing rebuke, crushing, unanswerable. He complained bitterly at the slight, 
and murmured some phrases about a shifty policy of shifty evasion. There 
were only the crowded benches of the Liberals to cheer. Behind him was 
silence and desolation.' 1 

This episode was the breaking point. Churchill at once began making 
arrangements to stand as a Liberal candidate at the next election. Until his 
plans were completed he continued to sit, belligerently, on the Con- 
servative benches; but three weeks later, on 22 April, he delivered a speech 
on the Trade Disputes Bill which left the action he was contemplating in 
no further doubt. It was the first left-wing speech of his career and was 
described by the Daily Mail as 'Radicalism of the reddest type'. But the 
speech was not only sensational for its content; it was sensational because 
its author lost the thread of his argument three-quarters of the way through 
and was unable to finish it. 'MR. CHURCHILL BREAKS DOWN/ cried the 
headlines of the Daily Mail, 'DRAMATIC SCENE IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS'. 

Churchill began his oration by calling the Conservative Party a 'sham' 
and accusing it of being afraid to deal with the problems of the working 
classes. 1 do not think it can be said,' he continued, 'that Labour bulks too 
largely in English politics at the present time. When one considers the 
gigantic powers which by the consent of both Parties have been given to 
the working classes; when on the other hand, one considers the influence 
in this House of company directors, the learned professions, the service 
members, the railway, the landed and liquor interests; it will surely be 
admitted that the influence of Labour on the course of legislation is even 
ludicrously small/ 2 

'It lies with the Government,* he cried, 'to satisfy the working classes 
that there is no justification . . / He paused, hesitated, then began the 
sentence again. But the words would not come. According to the Daily 
Mail reporter: 'A few Members murmured a cheer. Mr. Churchill looked 
confused in his boyish way, and smiled at the awkwardness, the absurdity 
of the position . . . "It lies with them . . . What?" he ejaculated, as someone 
suggested a word which was not the right word. He lifted a slip of paper 
from the bench but the cue was not there. He searched the deep pockets 
of his frock-coat but found no help. Major Sedy picked torn scraps from 

1 Daily Mail: 30 March, 1904. 
* Hansard: 22 April, 1904. 


the floor, and the words were not there ... It was all over. He sat down 
murmuring thanks to the House for its kindness. The Conservative Party 
looked silently on wondering what had overtaken him so. suddenly, so 
dramatically.' 1 

These Members remembered how Lord Randolph had broken down 
in the House a few months before his death. Was Winston ill? Would he, 
too, go the way of his father? Rumours swept the lobbies and gossip 
reached a crescendo of excitement. But Winston was far from a physical 
collapse. He had merely begun trying to change his methods of speaking. 
Instead of learning his orations by heart he was attempting to deliver them 
from paragraph headings. This was an effort to limber up so that Arthur 
Balfour could not jeer at him for having powerful artillery that was 'not 
very mobile*. He never broke down again, and continued to arrange his 
speeches in headings; but he also reverted to memorizing them. 

Controversy continued to rage about Churchill and it seems to have 
extended to conflicting views even about his appearance. This was due to 
his quick, changing moods which sometimes turned from loquaciousness 
to a silence that was almost sulky. When he was animated he reminded his 
audience of a young fighting cock, but when his face was in repose he 
struck them as old and tired. For this reason one finds completely con- 
tradictory descriptions of him in the contemporary journals. While the 
Daily Mail correspondent describes the 'unmistakably schoolboy grin 9 
that suddenly lights up Mr. Churchill's face in the middle of a stormy 
scene, 'not the assumed smile so often seen in Parliament, but the real grin 
of one who is alive to all the fun of things ... I saw it in Mr. Churchill's 
face when Sir Trout Bardey was rebuking him for vulgarity* the Pall 
Mall Gazette is assuring its readers 'that 'in appearance there is nothing of 
"the Boy*' left in the white, nervous, washed-out face of the Member for 
Oldham. He walks with a stoop, his head thrust forward. His mouth 
expresses bitterness, the light eyes strained watchfulness. It is a tired face, 
white, worn, harassed . . . There is, indeed, little of youth left to the 
Member for Oldham.* 

However, despite these claims there was plenty of energy left. At Easter 
time Churchill was adopted as liberal candidate for Northeast Man- 
chester. On 16 May he made what proved to be his farewell speech from 
the Conservative benches, declaring that extravagant finance would drag 
the Government to the ground and 'be written on the head of its tomb- 

1 Daily Mail: 23 April, 1904. 


On 31 May, he crossed the floor and took his seat on the Liberal 
benches. 'House resumed to-day after Whitsun holidays,' commented 
Punch. 'Attendance small; benches mostly empty. Winston, entering with 
all the world before him where to choose, strides down to his father's old 
quarters on the front bench below the gangway to the left of the 
Speaker, and sits among the ghosts of the old Fourth Party. "He's gone 
over at last, and good riddance," say honest hacks munching their corn 
in well-padded stalls of the Government stables. They don't like young 
horses that kick out afore and ahint, and cannot safely be counted upon to 
run in double harness. "Winston's gone over at last," they repeat whinny- 
ing with decorous delight/ 1 

Some years later Joseph Chamberlain confided to Margot Asquith: 
'He was die cleverest of all the young men. The mistake Arthur [Balfour] 
made was letting htm go.' 2 

Winston found himself in strange company on the Liberal benches. 
There were, of course, the Liberal Imperialists, known as the 'respectable 
Liberals', made up of well-to-do sober, conservative aristocrats such as 
Lord Rosebery and Sir Edward Grey. Then there was the radical group 
led by Lloyd George which was composed of radicals, pacifists, teetotallers 
and nonconformists, offering a marked contrast to the robust young 
soldier-politician who had joined their ranks. These were the people that 
Winston had once jeered at as 'prigs, prudes and faddists', and they still 
treated him with a certain amount of suspicion. They remembered that 
only a few years before, at Oxford in 1901, he had declaimed: 'The 
Radical Party is not dead ... it is hiding from the public view like a toad 
in a hole; but when it stands forth in all its hideousness the Tories will have 
to hew tie filthy object limb from limb.' Indeed, shortly after Winston 
joined the Liberals an anonymous pamphlet was printed quoting many of 
his anti-Radical sayings, with the heading: 

Mr. Winston Churchill on the Radical Party 

Before he donned their livery and 

Accepted their Pay. 

Churchill paid little attention to these rearguard attacks and flung him- 
self into the battle. He was welcomed warmly by Lloyd George, John 
Morley and Herbert Asquith, all of whom were shrewd enough to know 

1 Punch: 8 June, 1904. 

1 The Autobiography of Margot Asquith. 


the value of their new recruit. He did not make any more radical speeches 
in Parliament but continued along his well-worn path of Army reform 
and financial expenditure. But he added one new target for his guns, and 
that was the Prime Minister, Arthur Balfour. 

Balfour was having a difficult rime in holding his Party together over 
tariffs and the method he chose was to sit firmly on the fence. He skilfully 
evaded all attempts to raise the matter in Parliament and was often absent 
from the Chamber during fiscal debates when awkward questions might 
have been asked him. 

This gave Churchill the opportunity for one of the most spirited and 
hard-hitting attacks the House has ever known. He jibed and jeered at 
Balfour for his 'miserable and disreputable shifts', for 'his gross and 
flagrant ignorance'. 'Queens never abdicate,' he announced sarcastically, 
and he told the House that 'to keep in office for a few more weeks and 
months there is no principle which the Government is not prepared to 
abandon, no friend or colleague they are not prepared to betray, and no 
quantity of dust and filth they are not prepared to eat.* 1 

Once again Punch called attention to the similarity between father and 
son, recalling Lord Randolph's onslaught against Sir Stafford Northcote 
in 1880. 'The same direct hitting out from the shoulder; the same lack of 
deference to age and authority; the same pained silence on the side where 
the assailed Ministers sit; the same cheers and laughter in enemy's camp as 
cleverly-planned, skilfully-directed blow follows blow . . . Prince Arthur 
[Balfour] lolls on the Treasury Bench looking straight before him, with 
studious air of indifference betrayed by countenance clouded by rare 
anger/ 2 

Mr. Balfour seldom deigned to answer Winston's attacks, but some- 
times he was provoked too far. On 24 July Winston said in an insolent 
voice: 'We have been told ad nauseam of die sacrifices which the Prime 
Minister makes. I do not deny that there have been sacrifices. The House 
ought not to underrate or deny those sacrifices. Some of them must be 
very galling to a proud man. There were first sacrifices of leisure and then 
sacrifices of dignity . . . Then there was the sacrifice of reputation ... For 
some years the right hon. Gentleman has led the House by the respect and 
affection with which he was regarded in all quarters. In future he will not 
lead the House by the respect and affection of the Opposition at least . . . 
It has been written that tie right honourable Gentleman stands between 
pride and duty. Pride says "go" but duty says "stay". The right honour- 
able Gentleman always observes the maxim of a certain writer that when- 

1 Hansard: 28 March, 1905. 
* Puttfh: 22, March, 


ever an Englishman takes or keeps anything he wants, it is always from a 
high sense of duty.' 1 

This was too much for Balfour and he replied to Winston in icy tones: 
'As for the junior Member for Oldham his speech was certainly not 
remarkable for good taste, and as I have always taken an interest in that 
honourable Gentleman's career, I should certainly, if I thought it in the 
least good, offer him some advice on that particular subject. But I take it 
that good taste is not a thing that can be acquired by industry, and that even 
advice of a most heartfelt and genuine description would entirely fail in 
its effect were I to offer it to him. But on another point I think I may give 
him some advice which may be useful to him in the course of what I hope 
will be a long and distinguished career. It is not, on the whole, desirable to 
come down to this House with invective which is both prepared and 
violent. The House will tolerate, and very rightly tolerate, almost any- 
thing within the rule of order which evidently springs from genuine 
indignation aroused by the collision of debate; but to come down with 
these prepared phrases is not usually successful, and at all events, I do not 
think it was very successful on the present occasion. If there is preparation 
there should be more finish, and if there is so much violence there should 
certainly be more veracity of feeling/ 2 

It is perhaps only in England that friendship could survive these heated 
duels. Although the relationship of Balfour and Churchill went through 
its chilly periods, each time it moved again into the sunshine. And when 
Balfour died many years later, Winston wrote a warm and generous 
estimate of his work and character. In this essay he remarked: 'He was 
never excited and in the House of Commons very hard to provoke. I tried 
often and often, and only on a very few occasions, which I prefer to 
forget, succeeded in seriously annoying him in public.' * 

The General Election took pkce in January 1906. Everyone expected the 
Liberals to win, but no one imagined such a sweeping victory. It was the 
greatest electoral landslide since 1833. The Liberals won 401 seats and the 
Conservatives were reduced to 157. The new era of social democracy had 

1 Hansard: 24 July, 1905. 

* Hansard: 27 July, 1905. 

* Great Contemporaries: Winston S. ChurchilL 



IT is an odd twist of Fate that Winston Churchill's Victorian views on 
finance should have led him into a Party which, under the leadership of 
Lloyd George as Chancellor of the Exchequer, was destined to revolu- 
tionize British financial thought. 

The years from 1906 to 1914 are a milestone in English history. They 
were the stormy, bitter, spectacular years which swept Britain along the 
path of social democracy, a course which she once again began to pursue 
in 1945. A flood of legislation was added to the statute books: old age 
pensions, national health insurance, workmen's compensation, minimum 
wages, trade boards, labour exchanges, and many other social measures. 
But it was not only a period of reform, it was a period of fundamental 
change. For the first time in history the Budget was used as a political 
instrument to redress the vastly uneven balance of wealth. For the last 
time in history the landed aristocracy exerted its rule; the Parliament Bill 
stripped the House of Lords of the power to block the legislation of the 
Commons, and transformed it at a stroke of the pen into a useful but 
innocuous revising Chamber. 

Needless to say, the rich and powerful fought for their money and their 
privileges with all their might. 'Party animosity,' wrote Lord Campion 
in 1952, 'reached a degree of virulence which is hardly conceivable in the 
present generation.' 1 And the animosity was concentrated on the two 
brilliant, glittering platform speakers who emerged as the Radical leaders 
of the day: Lloyd George and Winston ChurcMl. 

They were an oddly contrasting pair. One was the grandson of a Duke, 
a Tory aristocrat, who had made the most of the advantages that position 
and privilege could offer. The other was a poor Welsh boy, brought up 
by a widowed mother and a shoe-maker uncle, articled to a solicitor at 
the age of sixteen, who began his career by defending poachers in the 
County Courts. 

And yet these two had much in common. In their natures ran an 
unusual mixture of emotionalism, impulsiveness and hard-headed am- 
bition. Each possessed the spark of genius that lifted him above his more 
erudite contemporaries. Each was an adventurer who loved the thrill and 

1 Parliament: A Survey: Lord Campion (formerly Sir Gilbert Campion, Clerk 
of the House of Commons). 


uncertainty of the political battle. And each had enough generosity to 
fight his way through the years as friends first and rivals second. 

By 1908 they shared a common platform which stood apart from the 
rostrum of the more conservative Liberals in the Cabinet. 'Both were 
opposed,' wrote Halevy, 'to a policy of heavy expenditure on the Army 
and the Navy, both advocates of a policy of social reform which, they 
maintained, the Liberal Party must pursue with an unprecedented daring, 
if the Labour Party were not to grow strong on its lefr. They came for- 
ward as the two leaders of the radical group of pacifists and advanced social 
reformers as opposed to the three Imperialists Asquith, Grey and Haldane.' l 

It is easy enough to understand the rise of Lloyd George as a great 
Radical and pacifist leader. Lloyd George entered Parliament as a Welsh 
nationalist. He was not interested in foreign affairs and regarded the army 
and navy almost as the stage props of Tory Imperialism to which he was 
bitterly opposed. At the root of his thinking was strong nonconformism 
mixed with a deep hatred of the land-owning class which had been bred 
in his bones by a hard childhood where he saw many examples of the 
victimization of the poor by the squirearchy. 

It is not so easy to picture Winston Churchill, the aristocrat and the 
soldier, fitting himself to the Radical-pacifist mould. If Winston seemed a 
slightly incongruous figure on the Liberal benches in 1904 sitting among 
the 'prigs, prudes and faddists', he seemed even more out of place after 
the election of 1906. Of the 401 Liberal candidates who were returned, 
over 200 belonged to the League of Liberals Against Aggression and 
Militarism, who were commonly known as the LLAMS. Nearly all of these 
'lambs' were nonconformists. The aristocratic, landowning Liberal was 
almost a thing of the past The new blood was drawn largely from the 
professional classes; lawyers, journalists, university professors, and 'cham- 
pions of all those eccentric causes which arouse the enthusiasm of British 
philanthropy.* 2 

Winston was not born with the nature of a reformer. His sense of 
justice was not outraged by the great inequality of wealth, nor by the 
hangover of feudal privileges. He did not bum with that indignation at 
the lot of one section of the community which must always be the main 
spring of the true Radical. His interest was far less concerned with the 
individuals who made up the nation than with the nation itself. From the 
earliest his outlook was die oudook of the historian. He saw Britain in her 
most attractive perspective, as a strong, rich, law-abiding power spreading 
her enlightened ideas across the world as she moved steadily forward by a 

1 A History of the English People in 1905-1915: EHe HalSvy. 
2 Ibid. 


wonderful chain of continuous and progressive action. A feeling of con- 
tinuity was bred in his bones, a feeling as strong as Lloyd George's dislike 
of the squirearchy. It satisfied his romantic nature. Just as he liked to think 
of himself as the product of great men he liked to think of the nation as 
the product of great episodes. 

This strong and conservative traditionalism was recognized by most of 
Winston's closest friends as a fundamental part of his make-up. 'Whereas 
I am a Conservative by conviction/ a Tory colleague once remarked, 
'Winston is one by prejudice/ Sir Ian Hamilton who saw much of 
Winston during his soldiering days remarked along the same line: 'I have 
always felt that Winston's coat of many colours was originally dipped in 
a vat of blue; a good fast natural Tory background, none of your syn- 
thetic dyes/ And Lord Birkenhead, who was Churchill's closest friend for 
twenty years, testified in 1924: 'Fundamentally he has always been of our 
generation the most sincere and fervid believer in the stately continuity of 
English life.' 1 

How, then, did Winston become a Radical? He certainly was not one 
when he joined the Liberal Party in 1904. It is worth noting that he did 
not deliver a single Radical speech until his relations with his own Party 
were at breaking point. And in the last speech he made from the Con- 
servative benches he pointed out, almost sadly: 'Since my quarrel with 
the Government has become serious, I would like to say that it has been 
solely and entirely on the question of finance. It was on finance that I was 
drawn to attack the Army scheme of 1900; it has been mainly on finance 
that I have been drawn to oppose the fiscal proposals of the right honour- 
able Gentleman . . / a 

Winston's Radicalism was fashioned by Conservative animosity. He 
was not only provoked by Tory wrath but, unexpectedly, surprised and 
wounded by it as well. He suddenly came to the conclusion that he had 
been badly treated. First of all, the Tory leaders had refused to give him 
office although they admitted his ability and did not hesitate to make use 
of it at election time; secondly, although ultimately fifty Conservatives 
withdrew their support from the Government over Protection, he was 
the only one singled out for attack; thirdly, it was not he, but they, who 
had changed their views on Free Trade. 'Change with a Party, however 
consistent, is at least defended by the power of numbers,' he wrote many 
years later. 'To remain constant when a Party changes is to excite invidi- 
ous comparison.' 8 


However, Winston's picture of himself as an outspoken young man 
martyred for the consistency of his political opinions was not shared by 
the Conservatives. First and foremost, they did not helieve in his sincerity. 
To them he was ambitious and unscrupulous, making wildly disloyal 
speeches in a bold bid for power. And of course the fact that he was 
brilliant and effective as well did nothing to soften their anger. These 
were the two sides of the story and the truth probably lay somewhere in 
the middle. 

Once Winston became a Liberal, his powerful and imaginative mind 
explored the possibilities of the Party creed. He grasped the strongest 
threads of Liberalism and at once wove them into an exciting theme. He 
made the Liberal idea sparkle and shine as he linked with it, exclusively, 
the future glory of Britain. 

However, the most interesting aspect of his change of Party ky in the 
effect it had on the biography of his father. He did not finish it for a year 
after he joined the Liberals. Lord Randolph was still his great inspiration 
and Lord Randolph had said: 'No power on earth would make me join 
the other side.' It was then obviously essential to Winston's peace of mind 
that he should feel that his father would have approved of his action. First 
he convinced himself that his father had been treated very badly by the 
Conservatives. When people heckled him at the General Election of 1906 
and called him a turn-coat he replied solemnly and almost embarrassingly: 
1 admit that I have changed my Party. I don't deny it. I am proud of it. 
When I think of all the labours which Lord Randolph Churchill gave to 
the fortunes of the Conservative Party and the ungrateful way in which 
he was treated by them when they obtained the power they would never 
have had but for fam I am delighted that circumstances have enabled me 
to break with them while I am still young and still have the first energies 
of my life to give to the popular cause.' 1 

Thus Winston built up the figure of Lord Randolph as the hero of the 
piece and the Tory Party as the villain. If it had not been for Lord Ran- 
dolph the Tory Party might have disappeared for ever. 'But for a narrow 
chance they might have slipped down the gulf of departed systems. The 
forces of wealth and rank, of land and Church, must always have exerted 
vast influence in whatever confederacy they had been locked. Alliances or 
fusions with Whigs and moderate Liberals must from time to time have 
secured them spells of office. But the Tory Party might easily have failed 
to gain any support among the masses. They might have lost their hold 
upon the new foundations of power; and the cleavage in British politics 

1 Extract from speech delivered at Manchester quoted in World, 16 January, 


must have become a social, not a political division upon a line hori- 
zontal, not oblique/ 1 

Lord Randolph had saved the Tory Party which had repaid him by 
casting him aside. Would he have become a 'Tory-Socialist' in the new 
century? his son asked. Or, 'would he, under the many riddles the future 
had reserved for such as he, have snapped the tie of sentiment that bound 
him to his party, resolved at last to "shake the yoke of inauspicious 
stars" . , ,?* 2 Winston decided that his father would have done what he 
himself had done: become a Progressive. 

The fact that Winston painted the picture high-lighting the differences 
between Lord Randolph and the Conservative Party, which he could 
scarcely have done so vividly had he remained a Tory, made the book a 
fascinating drama. It was beautifully written and carefully assembled. The 
issues of the day became alive and the House of Commons stands forth as 
'the best club in the world*. 

The reviewers praised the book as a 'literary masterpiece', but politically 
maintained their reservations. The Review of Reviews, one of the leading 
periodicals of the day, devoted thirteen pages to its analysis, under the 
heading Book of the Month. It called the biography 'shrewd*, 'acute' and 
'brilliant' but when it dealt with the author's interpretation of Lord 
Randolph's character and contribution the tone grew ironical. 'Mr. 
Winston's Lord Randolph dawns upon us as a kind of demi-god tran- 
scending all his contemporaries by his piercing insight and demonic 
energy. In the midst of the dash of parties, and even while he was appar- 
ently engaged in the fiercest strife, he stands aloof, alone and apart. More 
Liberal than the Liberals, he was nevertheless the idolized gladiator of the 
militant Tories; but for him the Tory Party, that great instrument which 
had governed Britain for the last twenty years, would have perished 
miserably. To his genius, to his prescience, to his statesmanlike grasp of the 
great verities of the situation, is due the realization of the great ideal of a 
Tory democracy, Primrose-leagued around an Imperial crown. Such a 
concept of Lord Randolph Churchill may be true: it is certainly new, but 
it is put forward with such sincerity of conviction, and such plausible and 
persistent arguments, that it is certain to win much more acceptance than 
anyone could have believed to be possible before Mr. Winston Churchill 
took in hand the apotheosis of his father ... I will only say that it is 
difficult to account for Lord Randolph's resignation on any other theory 
than that of a swelled head, manifesting itself in an impatient determina- 
tion to force the hand of Lord Salisbury and constitute himself master of 

1 Lord Randolph Clturchitt: Winston S. Churchill 


the Cabinet. Mr. Winston disguises, excuses and extenuates die supreme 
miscalculation of his father's lifetime. But bcneadi all the excuses due to 
filial respect the fact stands out clearly that Lord Randolph believed the 
time had come when he could dictate to Lord Salisbury. It was a fatal 
miscalculation.' 1 

The political battle did not reach its full force for over two years. When 
the Liberals formed their new Government in 1906, Campbell-Banner- 
man, a good-natured Scot of upright character but no startling ability, 
became Prime Minister for the simple reason that he had fewer enemies 
than other likely contenders. Mr. Asquith became Chancellor of die 
Exchequer, Sir Edward Grey went to the Foreign Office, and Winston 
Churchill, aged thirty-one, became Under-Secretary of State for the 

Churchill was first offered the job of Financial Secretary to the Treasury 
but he preferred the Colonies, first because the Colonial Office would 
handle die settlement with die South African Republics, and second, and 
probably more important, because his chief, Lord Elgin, sat in the Lords, 
which gave his Under-Secretary more scope in the Commons. 

Winston found plenty of opportunity for his talents. The Liberal 
Government soon made the daring and enlightened decision to give im- 
mediate and complete self-government to the Transvaal and the Orange 
Free State, and die Conservatives opposed it. Although the Treaty of 
Peace had stated that 'as soon as circumstances permit, representative 
institutions leading up to self-government will be introduced', the Tories 
insisted that the right conditions did not yet prevail. Mr. Balfour viewed 
with 'alarm and distrust* what he referred to as 'this most reckless develop- 
ment of a great colonial policy'; and in the Upper House Lord Milner and 
Lord Lansdowne, the Tory leaders, painted dark forecasts of the poor 
harvest such precipitous action would reap. 

Winston was wholeheartedly in favour of the Bill which became his 
responsibility to pilot through the Commons. In his maiden speech five 
years before, he had pleaded for a vigorous finish to the war with a 
humane and just setdement to follow. Now his emotions were involved 
as well. The reader will remember that Winston was taken prisoner after 
the armoured train was wrecked, by a Boer horseman who came gallop- 
ing up and covered him with his rifle. In 1902, shortly after the war had 
drawn to a dose, several Boer generals visited London to ask for assistance 
for their devastated country, and Winston was introduced at a luncheon 

1 Review of Reviews: January 1906. 


to their leader, General Botha. They talked about the war and Churchill 
told him the story of his capture. 'Botha listened in silence; then he said, 
"Don't you recognize me? I was that man. It was I who took you prisoner. 
I, myself/' and his bright eyes twinkled with pleasure.' 1 In 1906, shortly 
after Winston was appointed Under-Secretary, Louis Botha became the 
first Prime Minister of the Transvaal. He came to London to attend 
the Imperial Conference and was present at a great banquet given to the 
Dominion Prime Ministers in Westminster Hall. As Botha strode through 
the hall to his place at the banquet table he passed Churchill who was 
accompanied by his mother. He paused and said to Lady Randolph with 
a twinkle: 'He and I have been out in all weathers/ 

Churchill's friendship with Louis Botha, whom he later described as 
'one of the most interesting men I have ever met', strengthened his 
already firm faith in the Boers. He answered the Conservatives in uncom- 
promising language. 'We do not ask honourable Gentlemen opposite to 
share our responsibility/ he said in his closing speech. 'If by chance our 
counsels of conciliation should come to nothing, if our policy should end 
in mocking disaster, then the resulting evil would not be confined to 
South Africa. Our unfortunate experience would be trumpeted forth all 
over the world wherever despotism wanted a good argument for bayonets, 
wherever an arbitrary government wished to deny or curtail the liberties 
of imprisoned nationalities. 

'But if, on the other hand, as we hope and profoundly believe, better 
days are in store for South Africa, if the long lane it has been travelling has 
reached its turning at last, if the near future should unfold to our eyes a 
tranquil, prosperous, consolidated Afrikander nation under the protecting 
aegis of the British Crown, then I say, the cause of the poor and the weak 
all over the world will have been sustained, and everywhere small peoples 
will get more room to breathe, and everywhere great empires will be 
encouraged by our example to step forward it only means a step into 
the sunshine of a more gentle and a more generous age/ 2 

The result of this bold experiment was entirely successful. Louis Botha 
remained Prime Minister of the Transvaal until 1910. During that year the 
four colonies were federated and Botha became the first Prime Minister 
of the Union of South Africa. When he died in 1918 his second-in- 
command, Jan Smuts, succeeded him. Both men were life-long friends 
of Churchill; and it is perhaps worth reminding the reader that when 
Britain went to war in 1914 Louis Botha and Smuts also declared war 
on Germany and attacked German Southwest Africa. It is also worth 

1 My Early Life: Winston S. ChurcML 
1 Hansard: 17 December, 1906. 


recording that at home, as soon as the Conservatives saw that the Con- 
stitution Bill transformed the Boer Republics into staunch supporters of 
the British Commonwealth, they changed their tune. Three years later 
Mr. Balfour swallowed his words of criticism and described it in the 
House of Commons as 'one of the most important events in the history of 
the Empire, one of the great landmarks of Imperial policy ... the most 
wonderful issue out of all those divisions, controversies, battles and out- 
breaks, the devastations and horrors of war, the difficulties of peace. I do 
not believe the world shows anything like it in its whole history!' 1 

South Africa was not the only subject that occupied Mr. Churchill during 
the first two years of the Liberal Government. Although he was serving 
in the comparatively humble capacity of an Under-Secretary, he was 
regarded as one of the leading figures in the Government In 1907 he was 
made a Privy Councillor, an honour rarely accorded to a politician below 
the rank of a full Minister, a certain indication that as soon as he had served 
his apprenticeship he would step into the Cabinet He already had the 
approach of a Cabinet Minister. His ideas were not confined to his depart- 
mental duties but were on a national, policy-making scale. Although 1906 
and 1907 are regarded by present-day historians as 'the lull before the 
storm', Mr. Churchill made several strong Radical speeches during this 
period which fanned Conservative emotions into bright, angry flames. 

One of these speeches, given at Glasgow in October 1906, might have 
been delivered by Clement Attlee in 1951. It attacked Marxist Socialism 
but praised the solid ranks of Labour. It defended private enterprise but 
spoke in favour of further collectivization. It was in fact the doctrine of 
the middle course; of a mixture of competition and co-operation, of 
public ownership and private initiative, which has been accepted as the 
Labour Party's 'democratic Socialism* of to-day. 

'No view of society can possibly be complete,' he declared, 'which does 
not comprise within its scope both collective organization and individual 
incentive. The whole tendency of civilization is, however, toward the 
multiplication of the collective functions of society. The evergrowing 
complications of civilization create for us new services which have to be 
undertaken by the State, and create for us an expansion of the existing 
services. There is a growing feeling, which I entirely share, against allow- 
ing those services which are in the nature of monopolies to pass into 
private hands. The .e is a pretty steady determination, which I am con- 
vinced will become effective in the present Parliament, to intercept all 

1 Hansard: 16 August, 1909. 


future unearned increment which may arise from the increase in the 
speculative value of the land. There will be an ever-widening area of 
municipal enterprise. I go farther: I should like to see the State embark 
on various novel and adventuresome experiments. I am delighted to see 
that Mr. Bums is now interesting himself in afforestation. I am of the 
opinion that the State should increasingly assume the position of the 
reserve employer of labour. I am very sorry we have not got the railways 
of this country in our hands. We may do something better with the canals, 
and we are all agreed, everyone in this hall who belongs to the Progressive 
Party, that the State must increasingly and earnestly concern itself with 
the care of the sick and the aged and, above all, of the children. 

'I look forward to the universal establishment of minimum standards of 
life and labour, and their progressive elevation as the increasing energies of 
production may permit I do not think that Liberalism in any circum- 
stances can cut itself off from this fertile field of social effort, and I would 
recommend you not to be scared in discussing any of these proposals, just 
because some old woman comes along and tells you they are Socialistic. 
If you take my advice, you will judge each case on its merits. Where you 
find that State enterprise is likely to be ineffective, then utilize private 
enterprise, and do not grudge them their profits/ 1 

Despite the Government's huge Liberal majority in the Commons, it soon 
became dear that trouble was brewing. The House of Lords, which was 
overwhelmingly Conservative, coolly began to reject the Government's 
legislation. First they butchered the Education Bill by amending so many 
clauses that it was almost unrecognizable and finally had to be dropped. 
When Augustine Birrell, the Minister, received it back in its massacred 
condition he told the Commons that he felt like Macduff after the 
slaughter of his children: 'All gone? All my pretty ones?* 

Liberal anger began to rise. No one had forgotten Arthur Balfour's 
arrogant declaration after the Election that 'whether in power or opposi- 
tion the Unionist [Conservative] Party will continue to control the 
destinies of the Empire.' Sir Henry CampbeU-Bannerman, the Prime 
Minister, put down a motion 2 in the House 'that in order to give effect to 
the will of the people as expressed by their elected representatives' it was 
necessary that the power of the Lords to alter or reject Bills passed by the 
Commons 'should be so restricted by law as to secure that within the 
limits of a single Parliament the final decision of the Commons shall pre- 

1 Liberalism and the Social Problem: Winston S. Churchill 
* In the session of 1907. 


vail*. And Winston at once plunged into the attack: 'Has the House of 
Lords ever been right?' he asked die Commons. 'Has it ever been right in 
any of the great settled controversies which are now beyond the reach of 
Party argument? Was it right in delaying Catholic emancipation and the 
removal of Jewish disabilities? Was it right in driving this country to the 
verge of revolution in its effort to defeat the passage of reform? Was it 
right in passing the Ballot Bill? Was it right in the almost innumerable 
efforts it made to prevent this House dealing with the purity of its own 
electoral machinery? Was it right in endeavouring to prevent the abolition 
of purchase in the Army? Was it right in 1880 when it rejected the Com- 
pensation for Disturbance Bill? I defy the Party opposite to produce a 
single instance of a settled controversy in which the House of Lords was 
right/ 1 

However, the Liberal Government decided that the time was not ripe 
to 'fight it out' with the Lords, and Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman's 
motion died a quiet little death. Winston Churchill seized the opportunity 
to tour East Africa in his official capacity, and came back full of praise for 
the beauties of Uganda butterflies. He published a book about his trip 
entitled My East African Journey. Shortly after his return to London, 
Sir Henry Campbcll-Banncrman died. The year was 1908. Mr Asquith 
succeeded him as Prime Minister; Lloyd George succeeded Asquith as 
Chancellor of the Exchequer; and Churchill succeeded^ Lloyd George 
as President of die Board of Trade. At the age of diirty-four Winston 
had reached die Cabinet. 

In those days entry into the Cabinet necessitated fighting a by-election. 
This gave the Conservatives a chance to demonstrate that they still con- 
sidered Winston Churchill as Enemy No. I. They talked of him not only 
as an 'opportunist' and a 'bounder', but what was even worse in their eyes, 
as 'a traitor to his class*. The very fact that these unpraiseworthy qualities 
had led him to the dizzy heights of the Cabinet was more than they could 
bear. They flung themselves into the campaign against him with eager 
hostility, enlisting the support of every formidable Conservative speaker 
they could find. From the beginning it was obvious it was going to be a 
stiff fight. Northwest Manchester was traditionally a Tory seat which 
had been won by the Liberals for the first time two years before. However, 
Winston was now a national figure and a brilliant platform speaker and 
many people believed he would hold his own. 

If he had his detractors, he also had his admirers. Henry Massingham, 

1 Hansard: 29 June, 1907. 


the Liberal journalist who had predicted in 1901 that Winston would one 
day be Prime Minister, wrote an article for the Daily Mail which appeared 
under the heading: A Character Sketch of the Man of the Hour. 'He is without 
the baser faults of politicians. There is not an atom of malice in his com- 
position. Mature as is his intellect in many of its aspects he is still a boy, 
high spirited, friendly, delighting to get his blow in, but abstaining from 
poisoned weapons, from speech barbed with the cruelty that the hard, 
fierce warfare of politics so often engenders. Depth he still wants; only 
experience brings that. And in taste he sometimes fails, as do most young 
men who are not prigs/ 1 

Winston flung himself into the campaign with characteristic zeal. He 
worked nearly eighteen hours a day organizing canvassers, receiving depu- 
tations, mustering speakers, and writing letters. The motor car in which 
he toured his constituency was fitted with a small ladder by which he 
climbed to the roof and addressed open-air meetings. His opponent, Mr. 
Joynson-Hidb, was a man of personality and ability and Churchill did not 
make the mistake of underrating him. Besides, a new element soon 
entered the contest which added to Winston's difficulties. 

The Suflfragettes' Campaign was entering a violent phase and Churchill 
was singled out as a target: the reason being that Manchester happened to 
be the home of the celebrated feminist leader, Mrs. Pankhurst, and her two 
daughters Chrijtabd and Sylvia. Winston's assurances that he, personally, 
was converted to the Suffragette Cause were not sufficient; they demanded 
the official support of the Prime Minister which, of course, he was unable 
to give. As a result they tried to break up his meetings. 'Painful scenes were 
witnessed in the Free Trade Hall,' wrote Mr. Churchill, 'when Miss 
Christabel Pankhurst, tragical and dishevelled, was finally ejected after 
having thrown the meeting into pandemonium. This was the beginning 
of a systematic interruption of public speeches and the breaking up and 
throwing into confusion of all Liberal meetings. Indeed, it was most pro- 
voking to anyone who cared about the style and form of his speech to be 
assailed by the continued, calculated, shrill interruptions. Just as you were 
reaching the most moving part of your peroration or the most intricate 
point in your, argument, when things were going well and the audience 
was gripped, a high-pitched voice would ring out, "What about the 
women?" "When are you going to give women the vote?" and so on. 
No sooner was one interrupter removed than another in a different part 
of the hall took up the task. It became extremely difficult to pursue con- 
nected arguments.' 2 

1 21 April, 1908. 

^Thoughts and Adventures: Winston S. ChurcML 


The result was that Churchill was beaten by his Conservative opponent. 
Mr. Joynson-Hicks polled 5,517 votes and Winston 4,988. As he left the 
Town Hall after a count a Suffragette seized his arm and cried: It's the 
women who have done this, Mr. Churchill. Now you will understand 
that we must have our vote/ 

The joy of the Conservatives at Winston's defeat was reflected by the 
Morning Post which almost became abandoned in tone. 'At this moment 
Mr. Joynson-Hicks is the member for Northwest Manchester, and Mr. 
Winston Churchill, though a Cabinet Minister, is a political Ishmaelite 
wandering around as an object of compassion and commiseration. Man- 
chester has washed its hands of him. The juveniles have for days past been 
singing to a popular air "Good-bye, Winnie, you must leave us", and 
"Winnie" has gone. On the whole Manchester appears to be taking the 
sorrowful parting with composure.' 1 

Winston did not escape criticism from his own leaders. Some believed 
that the odds had been stacked against him too heavily for he not only had 
the Suffragettes to contend with but a strong anti-Liberal tide due to bad 
trade. Others were inclined to think that if he had conducted his campaign 
differently he might have won. They felt that the boyish enthusiasm which 
Massingham praised gave the electorate the impression of a young man 
willing to employ any stunt and make any promise in order to win his 
seat. Mr. John Morley, Winston's colleague and dose friend, wrote in 
his diary: 'The belief among competent observers in the place is that the 
resounding defeat of Winston at Manchester was due to wrath at rather 
too naked tactics of making deals with this, that, and the other group 
without too severe a scrutiny in his own political conscience of the 
terms that they were exacting from him. It is believed that he lost three 
hundred to four hundred of these honourably fastidious electors.' 2 

However, the joy of the Conservatives was short-lived. Exactly seven 
minutes after Churchill's defeat he received a telegram asking him to 
contest Dundee, one of the great Liberal strongholds in the country. This 
time victory was certain. 

At the Kinnaird Hall in Dundee Mr. Churchill delivered a speech which 
many years later he described as the most successful election speech of his 
career. First he attacked Marxist Socialists and appealed to the sound, 
sober-minded Radicals; second, he attacked the reactionary Conservatives 
and appealed to the tolerant, sensible Progressives. 'An inconclusive verdict 
from Dundee, the home of Scottish Radicalism an inconclusive, or still 
more, a disastrous verdict would carry a message of despair to everyone 

1 Morning Post: 25 April, 1908. 
* Recollections: Viscount Morley. 


in all parts of our island and in our sister island who is working for the 
essential influences and truths of Liberalism and progress. Down, down, 
down would fall the high hopes of the social reformer. The constructive 
plans now forming in so many brains would melt into air. The old regime 
would be reinstated, reinstalled. Like the Bourbons, they have learned 
nothing and will have forgotten nothing. We shall step out of the period 
of adventurous hope in which we have lived for a brief spell; we shall 
step back to the period of obstinate and prejudiced negotiations. For Ire- 
land ten years of resolute government; for England dear food and 
cheaper gin; and for Scotland the superior wisdom of the House of 
Lords! Is that the work you want to do, men of Dundee?' 

Then he moved to the other flank. 'I turn to the rich and the powerful, 
the Unionist and Conservative elements, who, nevertheless, upon Free 
Trade, upon Temperance, and upon other questions of moral enlighten- 
ment, feel a considerable sympathy with the Liberal Party ... I turn to 
those among them who complain that we are too Radical in this and that, 
and that we are moving too quickly, and I say to them: Look at this 
political situation, not as Party men, but as Britons; look at it in the light 
of history; look at it in the light of philosophy; and look at it in the light 
of broad-minded, Christian charity. 

'Why is it that life and property are more secure in Britain than in any 
other country in the world? . . . The security arises from the continuation 
of that very class struggle which they lament and of which they complain, 
which goes on ceaselessly in our country, which goes on tirelessly, with 
perpetual friction, a struggle between class and dass which never sinks 
into lethargy, and never breaks into violence, but which from year to year 
makes possible a steady and constant advance. It is on the nature of that 
dass struggle in Britain that the security of life and property is funda- 
mentally reposed. We are always changing; like nature, we change a great 
deal, although we change very slowly. We are always reaching a higher 
level after each change, but yet with" the harmony of our life unbroken 
and unimpaired. And I say also to those persons here, to whom I now 
make my appeal: Wealthy men, men of light and leading, have never been 
all on one side in our country. There have always been men of power and 
position who have sacrificed and exerted themselves in the popular cause; 
and that is why there is so little dass hatred here, in spite of all the squalor 
and misery which we sec around us. There, gendemfcn, lies the true 
evolution of democracy. That is how we have preserved the golden 
thread of historical continuity, when so many other nations have lost it 
forever. * 
* Liberalism end the Social Problem: Winston S. ChnrdulL 


The Dundee campaign did not escape the attention of the Suf&agettes. 
They followed him from Manchester and one of them, a Miss Malony, 
assiduously attended Churchill's meetings and tried to drown his words 
with a huge dinner bell. Once he gave up the struggle, sat down, lit a cigar 
and announced: 'I won't attempt to compete with a young and pretty 
lady in a high state of excitement.' However, this time the feminists were 
unable to score a triumph. Churchill was elected by a margin of three 
thousand votes which, in those days, was considered a huge majority. 
The Times described him as 'the greatest platform asset possessed by the 
Liberal Party'. 

Despite Winston's oratorical successes the political battle was never 
easy for a man constantly attacked as a 'political renegade'. The Con- 
servatives continued to hate him and Liberals continued to regard him 
with reservation. Was he really a Radical or, as the Tories insisted, merely 
an adventurer ready to use any means to take him to the top? They were 
not certain. A. G. Gardiner, the Editor of the Liberal Daily News, expressed 
this wondering attitude in a character sketch published in his paper in 1908. 

'What of his future? At thirty-four he stands before the country as the 
most interesting figure in politics, his life a crowded drama of action, his 
courage high, his vision unclouded, his boats burned. "I love Churchill, 
and trust him," said one of his colleagues to me. "He has the passion of 
democracy more than any man I know. But don't forget that the aristocrat 
is still there latent and submerged, but there nevertheless. The occasion 
may come when the two Churchills will come into sharp conflict, and I 
should not like to prophesy the result." 

'Has he staying power? Can one who has devoured life with such 
feverish haste retain his zest to the end of the feast? How will forty find 
him? that fatal forty when the youth of roselight and romance has faded 
into the light of common day and the horizon of life has shrunk incalcul- 
ably, and when the flagging spirit no longer answers to the spur of external 
things, but must find its motive and energy from within, or find them not 
at all. 

'That is the question that gives us pause. For with all his rare qualities, 
Mr. Churchill is the type of "the gentlemen of fortune". He is out for 
adventure. He follows politics as he would follow the hounds. He has no 
animus against the fox but he wants to be in "at the kill". It is recorded 
that, when a fiery headed boy at Harrow, he was asked what profession he 
thought of taking up, he replied, "The Army, of course, so long as there's 
fighting to be had. When that's over I shall have a 'shot at polities' "not 
so much concerned about who the enemy may be or about the merits of 
the quarrel as about being in the thick of the fight and having a good time. 


With the facility of the Churchill mind he feels the pulse of Liberalism 
with astonishing sureness and interprets it with extraordinary ability. But 
the sense of high purpose is notyetapparent through the fierce joy of battle 
that possesses him. The passion for humanity, the resolve to see justice 
done though the heavens fall and he be buried in the ruins, the surrender 
of himself to the cause these things have yet to come. His eye is less on 
the fixed stars than on the wayward meteors of the night. And when the 
exhilaration of youth is gone, and the gallop of high spirits has run its 
course, it may be that this deficiency of abiding and high-compelling pur- 
pose will be a heavy handicap. Then it will be seen how far courage and 
intellectual address, a mind acutely responsive to noble impulses, and a 
quick and apprehensive political instinct will carry him in the leadership 
of men.' 1 

One can only smile at this writer asking so earnestly in 1908 whether 
Winston had 'staying power*. How surprised he would have been to 
know that forty-five years later Churchill would still be in the race, and 
what is more, leading the field. 

1 Prophets, Priests and Kings: A. G. Gardiner. 



THE THREE years from 1908 to 1911 mark the phase in Mr. Churchill's 
life when he reached his zenith as a Radical, a reformer, and an Isolationist. 
During this period Lloyd George and Winston were the two most con- 
troversial and publicized figures on the political stage. Both were loyal 
friends, both were men of genius, both were possible and probable Prime 
Ministers. Which of these two colleagues and rivals would reach die 
highest office first? Max Beerbohm drew a cartoon showing the pair 
standing on the terrace of the House of Commons fingering a coin. 

Mr. Churchill: 'Come, suppose we toss for it, Davey.' 
Mr. Uoyd George: *Ah, but, Winsie, would either of us as loser 
abide by the result?' 

Although the public saw the two friends as men of almost equal stature, 
behind the scenes the relationship was that of the master and the pupil. 
Lloyd George was the dominating force and wielded an unquestioned 
authority. First of all he was eleven years older which gave him a natural 
advantage. Secondly, he knew how to enthral the younger man with his 
humour and sparkling personality. Winston not only admired the Welsh- 
man's spell-binding, facile oratory but he was fascinated by the provoca- 
tive, radical ideas which had not been assimilated from books but were 
part of Lloyd George's very being. Now that Winston had convinced 
himself that Lord Randolph Churchill's liberal mind had saved the hope- 
lessly reactionary Tories from political extinction, and that if Lord Ran- 
dolph had lived he would undoubtedly have been a Radical like Winston 
himself, he was willing to turn from the guidance of his father's memory 
and accept a new leader. And Lloyd George was the man he chose to 

This exciting friendship aroused all his competitive instincts. The idea of 
social reform caught his imagination and dominated his thoughts. 
Characteristically, once his enthusiasm had been aroused, he could talk of 
nothing else. Charles Masterman, a dose friend and a Liberal colleague, 
wrote to his wife on 12 February, 1908: 'Winston swept me off to his 
cousin's house and I lay on the bed while he dressed and marched about 
the room gesticulating and impetuous, pouring out all his hopes and plans 
and ambitions. He is full of die poor whom he has just discovered. He 



thinks he is called by providenceto do something for them. "Why have 
I always been kept safe within a hair's breadth of death," he asked, "ex- 
cept to do something like this? I'm not going to live long," was also his 
refrain. He is getting impatient; although he says he can wait. I challenged 
him once on his exposition of his desire to do something for the people. 
"You can't deny that you enjoy it all immensely the speeches the 
crowds, the sense of increasing power." "Of course I do," he said. "Thou 
shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn. That shall be my 
plea at the day of judgment." He is just an extraordinarily gifted boy, with 
genius and astonishing energy. I always feel of immense age when I am 
with him though he's only a year younger than I am. "Sometimes I feel 
as though I could lift the whole world on my shoulders," he said last 
night.' 1 

Lloyd George was Winston's inspiration, but at the same time the 
young man was eager to impress the Welshman with his own originality 
and ability and show him in friendly rivalry that he could outdo him at bis 
own game. When he took over the Board of Trade from Lloyd George in 
1908 he is said to have remarked: 1 have got this pie too late. L.G. has 
pulled out all the plums/ It was true that Lloyd George had made a great 
reputation for himself during the preceding two years. He had put the 
Patents Act on the statute books; he had pushed through the Merchant 
Shipping Bill which raised standards of food and accommodation for the 
seamen; he had nationalized London's chaotic private dock companies and 
welded them together into the Port of London Authority; and he had 
successfully intervened in a railway dispute and averted a national strike. 
His actions had won appkuse from both sides of the House. 

Winston was not the sort of man to sit back and sigh for triumphs that 
had been won by someone else. He set about looking for his own plums, 
even if they happened to be in other people's pies. He fastened on two 
important reforms. One was in the 'sweated industries'. There had been 
much talk about these industries in which slum dwellers, mostly women, 
worked fantastically long hours for little pay, unprotected by Trade 
Unions or Factory Acts. Charles Booth had printed unpleasant statistics on 
the subject in his Life and Labour in London, and Sir Charles Dilke, a 
Radical M.P., had suggested the establishment of 'trade boards' composed 
of an impartial committee to determine minimum wages and hours in each 
industry. But the Home Office, to whom the subject belonged, refused to 
do anything about it. Winston saw his chance, grabbed the idea and drove 
a Trade Boards Act through Parliament. The system proved a great 
success and was- steadily expanded. 

1 C. F. G. Masterman: Lucy Masterman. 


His second reform was in the field of unemployment. Beatrice and 
Sidney Webb, the Fabian leaders, had suggested some time before that a 
system of Labour Exchanges should be Established so that people out of 
work could find new jobs. The Local Government Board to whom they 
appealed was not interested and once again Churchill saw his chance. He 
borrowed the idea and established Labour Exchanges. 

It seems strange to-day to think of Winston working in close co-opera- 
tion with Beatrice and Sidney Webb, those astonishing, statistically- 
minded, super-intellectuals who converted the Trade Unions to their own 
particular brand of Fabian Socialism and thus fashioned the soul of the 
present Labour Party. Beatrice was a tall, handsome blue-stocking and 
Sidney was a little man with a huge head and small, tapering body which 
his wife said was the 'delight of caricaturists*. The letters they exchanged 
during their courtship are famous for their solemn comments on social 
investigation; and they appropriately spent their honeymoon in Glasgow 
looking up Trade Union records. 

The Webbs were the great experts on social reform. They wrote the 
standard works on Trade Unionism, Industrial Democracy and the Co- 
operative Movement. They scintillated with ideas for new reforms which 
they gladly proffered to progressive politicians and which progressive 
politicians gladly accepted. They were not the sort of people, however, 
whom one would single out for a jolly evening. When Asquith suggested 
that Winston should take charge of the Local Government Board he is 
said to have declined, announcing that he did not wish 'to be shut up in a 
soup kitchen with Mrs. Sidney Webb*. Nevertheless he recognized the 
Webbs as experts; and for experts he had a high regard. Evidence of his 
respect for Mrs. Webb may be gleaned from the latter's diary. On 3 Octo- 
ber, 1908, she wrote: "Winston and his wife dined here the other night 
to meet a party of young Fabians. He is taking on the look of the mature 
statesman bon vivant and orator, somewhat in love with his own phrases. 
... In the course of the evening he took a fancy to my organizing secretary, 
Colegate, and told him to apply to the Board of Trade. . . . Winston 
Churchill said that anyone, if really recommended "on my honour", he 
would take on.* 1 

Thus with Lloyd George supplying the inspiration and the Webbs &e 
guidance Winston threw all his energies into the field of social reform. 
Mrs. Webb's opinion of this energetic and overpowering young man had 
changed greatly since she first met him in 1903. No doubt she was in- 
fluenced by the fact that now he was a Radical 'He is brilliantly able not 
a phrase-monger, I think . . .' she wrote. And although she conceded that 

1 Our Partiursttp: Beatrice Webb. 


Lloyd George was a 'clever fellow' she thought that he liad 'less intellect 
than Winston, and not such an attractive personality more of the 
preacher, less of the statesman.' 1 

Winston's activities did not stop with the Board of Trade. In 1910 he 
was transferred to the Home Office where he at once interested himself in 
prison reform. He believed that prisoners should have libraries, lectures 
and entertainments. He succeeded in establishing his ideas and thus started 
a ball rolling which has continued to roll far. His humane attitude towards 
prisoners sprang from first-hand knowledge of what confinement was 
like. 'I certainly hated every minute of my captivity more than I have 
ever hated any other period in my whole life,' he wrote in My Early Life. 
'Looking back on those days I have always felt the keenest pity for 
prisoners and captives. What it must mean for any man, especially an 
educated man, to be confined for years in a modern convict prison strains 
my imagination. Each day exactly like the one before, with the barren 
ashes of wasted life behind, and aU the long years of bondage stretching 
out ahead. Therefore in after years, when I was Home Secretary and had 
all the prisons of England in my charge, I did my utmost, consistent with 
public policy, to introduce some sort of variety and indulgence into the 
life of their inmates, to give to educated minds books to feed on, to give 
to all periodical entertainments of some sort to look forward to and to 
look back upon, and to mitigate as far as is reasonable the hard lot which, 
if they have deserved, they must none the less endure.' 

Winston's magnanimous and warm-hearted nature was often deeply 
stirred by the prisoners under his control. The fact that the Home Secre- 
tary had the authority to quash or confirm a death sentence was a tor- 
ment to him. He was always torn with pity. He told Wilfrid Blunt how 
*it had become a nightmare to him the having to exercise his power of life 
and death in the case of condemned criminals, on an average of one case a 
fortnight. . . . The Home Secretary can go into a prison and on his sole 
authority can order a release, which if once notified to a prisoner cannot 
be changed afterwards by any power in England. He had several times 
done this, and just before leaving the office he had ordered a number of 
remissions of sentences, notwithstanding the protests of the judges in the 
case. He spoke of these cases with emotion, and giving us all particulars.' 2 

The vibration of Winston's energy shook the Home Office as it had the 
Board of Trade before, and was so far reaching that it penetrated to the 
most obscure civil servants of the Department. Everyone was aware that a 
new master had arrived. Some of Winston's ideas were good and some 

1 OUT Partnership: Beatrice Webb. 
1 My Diaries: W. S. Blunt. 


were bad, but there was never a shortage of them. Sir E. Troup, the 
Permanent Secretary of the Home Office, wrote: 'There is no period of 
my time at the Home Office of which I have pleasanter recollections than 
when Mr. Churchill was my chief and Mr. (Charles) Masterman his par- 
liamentary lieutenant. Once a week, or oftener, Mr. Churchill came down 
to the office bringing with him some adventurous and impossible projects: 
but after half an hour's discussion something was evolved which was still 
adventurous, but no longer impossible.' 1 

However, some of Winston's colleagues found his constant flood of 
opinions, and his obsession with whatever he himself was doing, annoy- 
ingly egotistical. Mrs. Lucy Masterman recorded in her diary as early as 
March 1908 a conversation which she had with Sir Edward Grey, the 
Foreign Secretary, and Augustine Birrell, the Minister of Education, 'I 
forget whose the phrase was, but they agreed that the tendency in him to 
see first the rhetorical potentialities of any policy was growing and becom- 
ing a real intellectual and moral danger. "I think we are a very forbearing 
Cabinet to his chatter," Birrell said. . . . "First time I met him we didn't 
know each other. We were early for a dinner party, he picked up a book 
and said "Matthew Arnold's poems who's Matthew Arnold do you 
know anything about Matthew Arnold?" I said yes, he wrote poetry, etc., 
etc. "Oh," said Winston (shaking his fist), "this public school education. 
If I ever get my chance at it!" Contrast a remark he made the other even- 
ing after he had been lecturing Sir Edward on foreign politics: "The 
longer I live, the more certain I am I know all there is to be known." Sir 
Edward said: "Winston, very soon, will become incapable, from sheer 
activity of mind, of being anything in a Cabinet but Prime Minister." ' 2 

While Churchill was pushing through his departmental reforms, he was 
also playing an even more important role on the great, national, centre- 
stage where the real drama of the years 1908 to 1911 was taking place. 
The scenery was floodlit, the play well-advertised and public attention 
was soon captured. Lloyd George was not only author of the play but the 
star as well, and Winston took the part of the bright young support who 
occasionally stole the show. 

The drama began when Lloyd George succeeded Asquith as Chancellor 
of the Exchequer in 1908. Asquith had instituted Old Age Pensions, but 
Lloyd George was left to find the money for them. Besides this, more 
money was needed for building new dreadnoughts in the armaments race 

1 Evening Standard, 22 April, 1925. 

1 C. F. G. Masterman: Lucy Masterman. 


against Germany. Lloyd George's pacifism and Churchill's faithful adher- 
ence to his father's views led them both to resist the proposed increase. 
While the Welshman ridiculed the idea of building ships 'against night- 
mares', Winston assured a gathering that Germany had 'nothing to fight 
about, no prize to fight for, and no place to fight in'. 1 However, it was 
plain that Conservative alarm, expressed by the cry: 'We want eight, and 
we won't wait', was arousing widespread public support. Mr. McKenna, 
the First Lord of the Admiralty, fought Lloyd (Jeorge and Churchill in 
the Cabinet and told them if he could not have his ships he was prepared 
to resign. He won the battle and the building of the dreadnoughts began. 

Since Lloyd George regarded the Navy as a Tory stage prop, and 
believed that it was mainly 'the rich' who were agitating for more ships, he 
decided that they would have to pay for them; and pay for the Old Age 
Pensions as well. The conception of the Budget not only as a means of re- 
dressing the balance of wealth at the expense of the ruling class was a 
brilliant new idea which fully appealed to his Radical instincts. And there is 
no doubt that the scales needed tipping. 'The inequalities in those days 
were glaring enough and attention was being focused on them,' writes one 
historian. 'A popular writer on economic subjects had recently published 
a widely read little book comparing the distribution of wealth in the 
United Kingdom and France, from which it appeared, according to official 
statistics in both countries, that in France there were twice as many small 
estates ranging from 500 to 10,000 as in the United Kingdom, but in 
the United Kingdom three times as many estates over 50,000 and four 
times as many over 250,000, the population of the two countries being 
approximately the same. The redressing of such inequalities was, from 
Lloyd George's point of view, the most obvious method of securing 
popular support* 2 

This was not the only reason that prompted Lloyd George to produce a 
budget aimed at the upper classes. Looming large on the horizon was the 
increasing hostility between the Liberals and the Lords. Lord Lansdowne, 
the Conservative Leader in the Lords, was working in dose concert with 
Arthur Balfour, the Conservative Leader in the Commons. Since the 
Upper House was overwhelmingly Tory, and all legislation had to win 
the approval of both Houses before becoming law, the Lords were able to 
block whatever Liberal Bills they wished, despite a huge Liberal majority. 
In two and a half years they had wrecked three Education Bills; a Licens- 
ing Bill; and a Scottish Land Valuation Bill Churchill had burst out 
vehemently against them and Lloyd George had declared that the House 

x Lloyd George: E. T. Raymond. 

Brtosli Politics Since 1900: D. C. SomervdL 


of Lords had 'ceased to be the watch-dog of the Constitution, and had 
become "Mr. Balfour's poodle"; it barks for him; it fetches and carries for 
him; it bites anybody that he sets it on to/ 

Lloyd George convinced Churchill that the time had come to have a 
show-down with the Upper House. But they must be careful of their 
issue for it was apparent from the by-elections that Liberal popularity was 
slumping badly because of the war scare. Churchill paid a long visit to 
Lloyd George at his home in Criccieth in September 1908, and most his- 
torians assume that they planned their strategy at this time. If they could 
publicize the Budget and make it appear really ferocious, they might 
succeed in provoking the Lords to fall into the trap of rejecting it 

Although Lloyd George and Winston both denied that they had ever 
devised any such ingenious plan, contemporary diaries reveal that at least 
the possibilities occurred to them. Mrs. Lucy Masterman describes Lloyd 
George discussing the prospects of the Budget in the Lords and quotes 
him as saying: Tm not sure we ought to pray for it to go through. I'm not 
sure we ought not to hope for its rejection. It would give us such a 
chance as we will never have again/ 1 Another prominent figure of the 
day, Wilfrid Blunt, quotes Churchill talking along the same lines. 
4 Winston gave us a very full account of what his policy in the Budget 
dispute with the Lords would be. He began by saying that his hope and 
prayer was that they would throw out the Bill, as it would save the 
Government from a certain defeat if the elections were put off. . . /* 

The thoughts of the two men were not only revealed in private conver- 
sations but were hinted at in public speeches. In December 1908 Lloyd 
George declared: 'We cannot consent to accept the present humiliating 
conditions of legislating by the sufferance of Lord Lansdowne. This noble- 
man has arrogated to himself a position he has usurped a sovereignty no 
King has claimed since the ominous days of Charles I. Decrees are issued 
from Lansdowne House that Buckingham Palace would not dream of 
sending forth. We are not going to stand any longer the usurpation of 
King Lansdowne and his Royal consort in the Commons/ 3 Winston 
Churchill spoke even more plainly: 'For my part, I should be quite con- 
tent to see the battle joined as speedily as possible upon the plain issue of 
aristocratic rule against representative government, between the reversion 
to Protection and the maintenance of Free Trade, between a tax on bread 
and a tax on well, never mind.' 4 

1 C. F. G. Masterman: Lucy Masterman. 
1 My Diaries: W, S. Blunt. 
8 Liverpool, 21 December. 
* Birmingham, 13 January. 


At last the great day came. Lloyd George took four hours to deliver his 
Budget speech to the House of Commons. Churchill watched him like 
an anxious nannie; there was a short break half-way through and he took 
him out for refreshments. Judged by to-day's standards the Budget was a 
small affair. It showed an increase of only eleven per cent on the revenue 
of the previous year. The fact that it had to be approved by a Cabinet 
which did not have a Radical majority must be some indication that even 
at the time it was not regarded by law makers as revolutionary. Income- 
tax was steepened on incomes over ^3,000 a year from is. to is. 2d. in 
the pound; whisky was raised from ss. 6d. to 45. a bottle; a tax was im- 
posed for tie first time on petrol and motor cars; and there was a tax on 
licensed premises. The particular tax designed to hit the rich was the 
introduction of super-tax which amounted to 6d, in the pound on incomes 
over ^5,000 a year. This measure affected only 11,500 people. But it 
meant that the highest incomes in the country were now subject to a full 
tax of is. 8d. in the pound. To-day this seems a modest demand, yet it 
amounted to an increase of 66% over the rate of the previous year. 
Besides this, death duties were raised, there was a tax on undeveloped 
land, and another tax on 'the unearned increment of land 9 or, in other 
words, on the increase in the value of land. 

At first the Budget did not provoke any great remonstrance. But since 
Lloyd George wished to provoke the House of Lords he soon began mak- 
ing violent public speeches in which he drew a sharp distinction between 
the wealthy business men and the wealthy landowners. The wealthy 
business men were all right. They worked for their money, while the 
wealthy landowners merely sat back and demanded it. The landowners, 
he declared, squeezed everyone, whether for coal royalties, building de- 
velopments, or household rents. They were the enemies of the entire 
nation; of artisans and manufacturers, of engineers and merchants 

The reason why Lloyd George concentrated on the landowners was 
obvious; first, he had learned to hate them from childhood, and second, 
they composed the largest dement in the House of Lords. He singled out 
peers for special attack on every possible occasion. Lord Rothschild made 
a speech protesting against the Budget at a meeting in the City of London. 
'We are having too much of Lord Rothschild,* retorted Lloyd George 
the following day. 'We are not to have temperance reform in this 
country. Why? Because Lord Rothschild has sent a circular to the Peers to 
say so. We must have more dreadnoughts. Why? Because Lord Roths- 


child has told us so at a meeting in the City. We must not pay for them 
when we have got them. Why? Because Lord Rothschild says no. You 
must not have an estate duty and a super-tax. Why? Because Lord Roths- 
child has sent a protest on behalf of die bankers to say he won't stand it. 
You must not have a tax on reversions. Why? Because Lord Rothschild 
as chairman of an insurance company said he wouldn't stand it. You must 
not have a tax on undeveloped land. Why? Because Lord Rothschild is 
chairman of an industrial housing company. You must not have Old Age 
Pensions. Why? Because Lord Rothschild was a member of a Com- 
mittee that said it couldn't be done. Arc we really to have all the ways of 
reform, financial and social, blocked by a notice board: "No thorough- 
fare: By order of Nathaniel Rothschild"?' 

However, it was on the dukes that Lloyd George concentrated the full 
fury of his attack. The dukes were not merely the heads of the peerage; 
they were the largest landowners in Britain. To critics who accused him of 
driving capital out of the country, he answered that it was a lie and pointed 
to figures which proved that imports and exports were steadily increasing. 
'Only one stock has gone down badly; there has been a great slump in 
dukes.' 'A fully-equipped duke,' he declared, 'costs as much to keep up as 
two dreadnoughts; and dukes are just as great a terror and the) last 
longer.' Lloyd George delighted his audience by describing a nobleman's 
son as 'the first of the litter' and by attacking the nobleman because 'he has 
one man to fix his collar and adjust his tie in the morning, a couple of men 
to carry a boiled egg to him at breakfast, a fourth man to open the door for 
him, a fifth man to show him in and out of his carriage, and a sixth and 
seventh to drive him.* 

Meantime Winston Churchill was not idle. He too was touring the 
country making speeches and arousing as much feeling as possible. It is 
interesting to compare his technique with that of Lloyd George. Lloyd 
George's shafts were bubbling with humour; comic, vulgar, with the 
sure mass appeal of the variety turn. Winston's were more solemn, more 
reasoned, more dignified. Lloyd George was the demagogue and Winston 
was the statesman. Here are some excerpts from Churchill's speeches dur- 
ing the year 1909. 

House of Commons, 4 May. *The chief burden of taxation is placed upon 
the main body of the wealthy classes of this country, a class which in 
number and in wealth is much greater than in any other community, if 
not, indeed, in any other modem State in the world; and that is a class 
which, in opportunities of pleasure, in all the amenities of life, and in free- 
dom from penalties, obligations and dangers, is more fortunate than any 
other equally numerous class of citizens in any age or in any country. 


That class has more to gain than any other class of His Majesty's subjects 
from dwelling amid a healthy and contented people, and in a safely 
guarded land.' 

Edinburgh, 17 July. 'We say that the State and the municipality should 
jointly levy a toll upon the future unearned increment of the land. A toll of 
what? Of the whole? No. Of a half? No. Of a quarter? No. Of a fifth 
that is the proposal of the Budget. And that is robbery, that is plunder, that 
is communism and spoliation, that is the social revolution at last, that is the 
overturn of civilized society, that is the end of the world foretold in the 
Apocalypse. Such is the increment tax about which so much chatter and 
outcry are raised at the present rime, and upon which I will say that no 
more fair, considerate, or salutary proposal for taxation has ever been 
made in the House of Commons.' 

Norwich, 26 July. 'Is it not an extraordinary thing that upon the Budget 
we should even be discussing at all the action of the House of Lords? The 
House of Lords is an institution absolutely foreign to the spirit of the age 
and to the whole movement of society. It is not perhaps surprising in a 
country so fond of tradition, so proud of continuity as ourselves, that a 
feudal assembly of tided persons, with so long a history and so many 
famous names, should have survived to exert an influence upon public 
affairs at the present time. We see how often in England the old forms are 
reverently preserved after the forces by which they are sustained and the 
uses to which they are put and the dangers against which they were de- 
signed have passed away. A state of gradual decline was what die average 
Englishman had come to associate with the House of Lords. Litde by litde, 
we might have expected, it would have ceased to take a controversial 
part in practical politics. Year by year it would have faded more completely 
into the past to which it belongs, until, like Jack-in-the-Grcen or Punch 
and Judy, only a picturesque and fitfully lingering memory would have 

* And during the last tn years of Conservative government this was 
actually the case. But now we see the House of Lords flushed with the 
wealdi of the modern age, armed with a party caucus, fortified, revived, 
resuscitated, asserting its claims in the harshest and in the crudest manner, 
claiming to veto or destroy even without discussion any legislation, how- 
ever important, sent to them by any majority, however large, from any 
House of Commons, however newly elected. We see these unconscion- 
able claims exercised with a frank and undisguised regard to party interest, 
to class interest, and to personal interest. We see the House of Lords using 
the power which they should not hold at all, which if they hold at all, they 
should hold in trust for all, to play a shrewd, fierce, aggressive Party game 


of electioneering and casting their votes according to the interest of the 
particular political Party to which, body and soul, they belong/ 

Leicester, 5 September. 'Formerly the only question asked of the tax- 
gatherer was "How much have you got?" We ask that question still, and 
there is a general feeling, recognized as just by all parties, that the rate of 
taxation should be greater for large incomes than for small. As to how 
much greater, parties are no doubt in dispute. But now a new question has 
arisen. We do not only ask to-day, "How much have you got?" we also 
ask, "How did you get it? Did you earn it by yourself, or has it just been 
left you by others? Was it gained by processes which are in themselves 
beneficial to the community in general or was it gained by processes which 
have done no good to anyone, but only harm? Was it gained by the enter- 
prise and capacity necessary to found a business, or merely by squeezing 
and bleeding the owner and founder of the business? Was it gained by sup- 
plying the capital which industry needs, or by denying, except at an extor- 
tionate price, the land which industry requires? Was it derived from active 
reproductive processes, or merely by squatting on some piece of necessary 
land till enterprise and labour, and national interests and municipal in- 
terests, had to buy you out at fifty times the agricultural value? Was it 
gained from opening new minerals to the services of man, or by drawing a 
mining royalty from the toil and adventure of others? Was it gained by the 
curious process of using political influence to convert an annual licence 
into a practical freehold and thereby pocketing a monopoly value which 
properly belongs to the State how did you get it?" That is the new ques- 
tion which has been postulated and which is vibrating in penetrating 
repetition through the land.' 

In this last speech, Churchill made some opening remarks which roused 
die Tory press to a storm of anger. The Daily Express printed a few of 
them under a heading 'HIS OWN RECORD FOR ABUSE OUTDONE*. Churchill 
had begun by complaining that the Tories had no effective speakers to 
answer the Liberal charges. He referred to 'the small fry of the Tory 
party splashing actively about in their proper puddles', then to Mr. 
Balfour 'who aims to lead who has been meaning to lead for six years 
if he only could find out where on earth to lead to. . . .' then finally 
to the fact that in lieu of anything else the Tory Party was forced 'to 
fall back on their dukes. These unfortunate individuals,' he continued, 
'who ought to lead quiet, delicate, sheltered lives, far from the madding 
crowd's ignoble strife, have been dragged into the football scrimmage, 
and they have got rather roughly mauled in the process. ... Do not let 
us be too hard on them. It is poor sport almost like teasing goldfish. 
These ornamental creatures blunder on every hook they see, and there 


is no sport whatever in trying to catch them (Laughter). It would be 
barbarous to leave them gasping upon the bank of public ridicule upon 
which they have landed themselves. Let us put them back gently, tenderly 
in their fountains; and if a few bright gold scales have been rubbed off in 
what the Prime Minister calls the variegated handling they have received 
they will soon get over it. They have got plenty more/ 1 

Although this was very mild comment in comparison with Lloyd 
George's attacks, the very fact that Churchill, member of a ducal family 
himself, had dared to cast aspersions caused widespread indignation. 
Councillor Howell, Tory candidate for one of the Manchester seats, de- 
clared with great pomposity that what was 'neither excusable nor per- 
missible was the lack of common decency shown by vulgar abuse of the 
dukes on the part of a man who was the grandson of one duke, the nephew 
of another, and the cousin of a third; who belonged to a family which had 
produced nine dukes; who figured in Debrett as boasting a dozen titled 
relatives; and who owed every advantage he possessed over those whom 
he contemptuously called "the small fry of public life" to his ducal and 
aristocratic connections.' 2 

Councillor Howell was not the only opponent who hit back. During the 
years 1908 to 1911 Winston was subjected to a steady stream of personal 
abuse. Tories described him as 'utterly contemptible'. Here he was, they 
said, betraying his class and belittling the institutions that had made his 
country great, merely to gain a sordid political advantage. Of course, they 
went on, it was not really surprising, for the Churchills were noted for their 
bad blood; indeed they were one of the few powerful families in England 
who had never produced 'a gentleman'. Everyone knew that the first 
Duke was a blackguard, and that Lord Randolph was a cad and a bounder. 
Winston had inherited the worst qualities of both. 

It is difficult for the present generation to understand the furious resent- 
ment Mr. Churchill aroused. But many English people in their late fifties 
remember hearing their Conservative mothers and fathers refer to him as 
an 'evil* man. One by one the doors of Society closed against him, for in 
those days the fashionable world was controlled by the Tory aristocracyl 
He was not invited anywhere, and when he attended public functions 
many people, some of diem old family friends, were careful to look the 
other way. One duke publidy announced that he would like to put Lloyd 
George and Winston Churchill 'in the middle of twenty couple of fox 
hounds*. But although Lloyd George was cordially disliked he did not 
arouse nearly so much animosity as his colleague. George Smalley, the 

1 The Times: 6 September, 1909. 
* Daily Express: 6 September, 1909. 


American journalist who moved in London Society, explained this in a 
quaintly Conservative way. 'Mr. Lloyd George/ he says, 'was from the 
beginning an unregenerate Radical in whom all the natural and acquired 
vices of Radicalism were fully developed at an early age. Nothing, there- 
fore, but Radicalism in its most extreme, socialistic form, was ever 
expected of him. But Mr. Churchill was born into the world a Conser- 
vative, and a Conservative he remained till Mr. Balfour, then Prime 
Minister, rejected his application for Cabinet office. Then he crossed the 
floor of the House and has ever since acted with the Liberals, who knew 
the value of their recruit and gave him what Mr. Balfour had denied. That 
is what the Conservatives tell you, and that is why their dislike of Mr. 
Churchill is so extreme. It does not stop short of something like social 

So Winston became the chief target of the Opposition, and in the House 
of Commons was attacked tirelessly as a cynical careerist. Here are a few 
samples of the repetitious phrases used by Members of Parliament to 
describe him during the year 1909. 

16 January: Austen Chamberlain declared that 'his conversion to Radi- 
calism coincided with his personal interests/ 

13 February: Alfred Lyttelton said: 'One might as well try to rebuke a 
brass band. He trims his sails to every passing air/ 

14 September: Evelyn Cecil said: 'He has an entire lack of principle', and 
'He is ready to follow any short cut to the Prime Ministership'. 

10 December: Keir Hardie declared he 'well knew how to trim his sails to 
catch votes/ 

14 June, 1910: A. B. Markham said: 'Whenever the Churchills "ratted" 
they thought it was going to be of benefit to themselves 9 . 

The House of Commons was not the only place in which he was abused. 
Their lordships went for him as well. The following item, rather comic in 
its seriousness, printed in The Times on 4. November, 1909, is the sort of 
report which frequently appeared. 'Lord St. Oswald, in opening a Con- 
servative Bazaar yesterday afternoon at Golcar, in the Colne Valley, said 
he belonged to a House which had got into very bad repute lately in some 
quarters. "We may be blackguards," continued Lord St. Oswald, "but I 
don't think we are. . . . We have got men just as good as Mr. Lloyd 
George, Mr. Winston Churchill and a lot more Ministers like them 
(Cheers). I have known Mr. Winston Churchill since he was so high, and I 
don't think he has improved since then, and I think many people think the 
samq as I do. The longer he lives the more he will go back, in my opinion. In 
a few years the people of this country will realize what an "outsider" he is/ 

1 Anglo-American Memories: George Smalley. 


* * * * 

The outcome of the quarrel with the Lords long ago became part of his- 
tory. They fell into Lloyd George's trap and rejected the Budget. To-day, 
historians are almost unanimous in declaring it one of the most stupid and 
inept political acts of the century. Ever since 1860 when all the taxes of the 
year, for the first rime, were centred in a single Finance Bill, it had been an 
understood practice that the Lords did not amend or reject it. King 
Edward VII foresaw the crisis such an action would provoke and strongly 
urged Lord Lansdowne to secure the passage of the Budget, but the latter 
was too weak to stand up against the hot-headed reactionaries in the Party. 
Peers from all over Britain, known as 'the backwoods men' because they 
lived on their country estates and rarely attended the House of Lords, 
arrived on the great day to register their votes. The story soon circulated 
that most of them had to ask their way to Parliament. 

The Liberals promptly went to the country on the slogan of 'the People 
versus the Peers'. Without this cry there is no doubt that the Liberals 
would have been soundly beaten. The middle classes were worried by 
'socialist' talk. Perhaps Lloyd George was trying to establish a one- 
Chamber Government, perhaps even a dictatorship. The Budget was not 
too severe but maybe it was only a beginning; first taxes on the land and 
then, who knows, maybe gradual confiscation of the land. Besides this, 
there was still a German menace. Could this party of Radicals and pacifists 
be trusted to make Britain safe? These were some of the doubts and fears. 
'The People versus the Peers' was strong enough to return the Liberals to 
power, but with a majority reduced by a hundred seats and a majority that 
was now dependent on the Irish nationalists. 

The new Liberal Government set about drafting a Bill for the reform of 
the Upper House. Then King Edward died. Since the issue was a constitu- 
tional one, and the new King was bound to be involved, a moratorium 
was declared and both parties agreed to sit on a committee in an attempt 
to work out a compromise. The months dragged on, however, and the 
committee could not agree; finally the Liberals came out with their own 
solution. First, the Lords' veto was to be abolished on bills certified by the 
Speaker as money bills; second, any Bill passed by the House of Commons 
in three successive sessions was to become law despite the Lords' veto. 
The Liberals went to the country again to ask for a mandate for this re- 
form. It was the second election in the same year and the result was almost 
the same as the first. 

There was no doubt now that the Parliament Bill asking for a reform of 
the Upper House was 'the will of the people*. However, the Lords were 
still obstinate and resentful. The term 'die-hard*, a regimental nickname, 


came into currency for the first time to describe their attitude. They dras- 
tically amended the House of Commons Parliament Bill and returned it 
triumphantly in its emasculated form. But the Prime Minister, Mr. 
Asquith, had a trump card up his sleeve. He wrote a letter to Mr. Balfour 
making it known that the King had agreed, if the Lords refused to pass the 
Bill, to swamp the Upper House by creating two hundred and fifty new 
Peers who would out-vote the present Conservative majority. This know- 
ledge finally forced the Lords to capitulate, but even so it was a close call. 
The Bill was passed by only 131 against 114. 

During these tempestuous years two important events took place in 
Winston's personal life. The first was the beginning of his friendship with 
F. E. Smith, later Lord Birkenhead, Lord Chancellor of England. 

Mr. F. E. Smith was a Tory who began his political career as a dark 
horse. He had neither connections nor wealth to help him. His grandfather 
was a miner and his grandmother was a gypsy. The miner would not 
allow his son to go into the pits and consequently F. E's father became a 
barrister. He died when F. E. was only sixteen, leaving the boy to make 
his own way in life. The latter won a scholarship to Oxford, took his bar 
examinations, and five years later was earning six thousand pounds a year. 

He entered Parliament in 1906 and decided to stake everything on his 
opening speech. Most maiden speeches are modest and uncontroversial, 
but F.E.'s was a fierce attack on the Government, full of lightning shafts 
and humorous but stinging invective. When he rose to speak Members 
looked at the tall, languid figure with the black patent-leather hair and the 
sallow unsmiling face, and asked who he was. An hour later the lobbies 
were ringing with his name. Never before had a newcomer scored such a 
triumph with a single speech. He was acknowledged at once as one of the 
new forces within the Tory Party. His merits continued to be recognized 
and soon he was famous throughout the country for his brilliant repartee 
and merciless wit. 

At first F.E. refused to meet Winston. He did not like what he had heard 
of him and disapproved strongly of his desertion from the Tory Party. 
But one night, in 1906, the two men were introduced in the smoking-room 
of the House of Commons. 'From that hour our friendship was perfect,' 
wrote Winston. 'It was one of my most precious possessions. It was never 
disturbed by the fiercest Party fighting. It was never marred by the 
slightest personal difference or misunderstanding. It grew stronger as 
nearly a quarter of a century slipped by, and it lasted until his untimely 
death.' 1 

1 Great Contemporaries: Winston S. Churchill 


This friendship was perhaps even more remarkable than Churchill's 
relationship with Lloyd George, for it had to stand the stress and strain of 
bitter Party strife, with the two men facing each other from opposite 
camps and doing battle on almost every important issue of the time. Both 
men, however, possessed the rare capacity to divorce politics from per- 
sonal feelings. They argued hody, but they never allowed their differ- 
ences to hinder the mutual enjoyment derived from each other's company. 
Often they treated the House of Commons to a fierce verbal dual which 
their enemies liked to suggest had been carefully rehearsed beforehand. 
Once FJs. remarked that Winston 'had devoted the best years of his life to 
his impromptu speeches.* 

On another occasion Churchill showed F.E. a cartoon in which both of 
them appeared. The artist had drawn his characters comically, but so 
cleverly that there was no mistaking them. F.E. was dressed in a bearskin 
hat widi a slighdy sardonic expression on his face; Winston was short and 
round like a happy bulldog. 'What a wonderful caricaturist!' said Winston 
cheerfully. 'He gets you to a nicety. It's astonishing how like you are to 
your cartoons.' F.E. gazed at the picture a moment then handed it back, 
saying solemnly: 'You seem to be the only one who's flattered.' 1 

The Conservatives disapproved of FJB.'s friendship with Winston and 
warned him that it would do his career no good. But F.E. paid no atten- 
tion. The two men met regularly; they spent week-ends together; they 
went on summer cruises; they served together in die Oxfordshire Hussars; 
they even founded a dining dub, known as 'The Other Club', to enable 
politicians of opposite Parties to meet and exchange views. 'Never did I 
separate from him without having learnt something, and enjoyed myself 
besides,' 2 wrote Winston. 

Many years later these two men sat in the same Cabinet together. 

The second personal event of diese memorable years was die greatest hap- 
pening of Winston's life. In 1908 he was married. He met his bride, appro- 
priately enough, in die smoke of an election batde. When he went to 
Scotland in 1908 to contest Dundee he was introduced to a beautiful 
young lady, Miss Clementine Hozier. She was die daughter of the late 
Colonel EL M. Hozier and Lady Blanche Hozier, and a granddaughter of 
die Countess of Airlie, a staunch and powerful Liberal supporter. 

Miss Hozier was just twenty-three. The pictures of her published at this 
time show a charming oval face, hair parted in die middle, finely cut 
classic features and large wide-set eyes. As far as Winston was concerned 

1 Great Contemporaries: Winston S. Churchill 


it was love at first sight. Miss Hosier was not only beautiful but she was 
high spirited, intelligent, liberal minded, and passionately interested and 
amused by politics herself. Up to this time Winston had taken little 
interest in the female sex. Once or twice he had fancied himself enamoured 
but the spell had been of short duration; politics were so much more excit- 
ing than women. Besides, Winston was hard to please. Mr. George 
Smalley described the visit he made to New York when he was twenty-six 
years old and when the matchmakers had their eyes on him. 'He met 
everybody, but would sit in the midst of the most delightful people, ab- 
sorbed in his own thoughts. He would not admire the women he was 
expected to admire. They must have not only beauty and intelligence, but 
the particular kind of beauty and intelligence which appealed to him; if 
otherwise, he knew how to be silent without meaning to be rude. ... It 
was useless to remonstrate with him. He answered: "She is beautiful to 
you, but not to me".' 1 

Miss Hozier's mother approved of Winston as a future son-in-law. 'He 
is gentle and tender, and affectionate to those he loves, much hated by 
those who have not come under his personal charm,' she wrote to Wilfrid 
Blunt. 2 The wedding took pkce at St. Margaret's, Westminster; Lord 
Hugh Cecil, the ardent Tory, was best man; wedding presents were 
received from Winston's three most formidable opponents, Balfour and 
the two Chamberlains; the church was packed; the newspapers interested; 
and Wilfrid Blunt wrote in his diary: 'The bride was pale, as was the 
bridegroom. He has gained in appearance since I saw him last, and has a 
powerful if ugly face. Winston's responses were dearly made in a pleasant 
voice, Clementine's inaudible.' 8 

The marriage, as everyone knows, proved to be one of the great mar- 
riages of the century. The bride was not a partie. Indeed, Mrs. Sidney 
Webb wrote approvingly in her diary: 'On Sunday we lunched with 
Winston Churchill and his bride a charming lady, well-bred and pretty, 
and earnest withal but not rich, by no means a good match, which is to 
Winston's credit/ It was also to Winston's enduring advantage for 
Clementine Churchill will go down in history as a wife who loyally shared 
her husband's political vicissitudes and enjoyed his complete devotion for 
over forty years. She is a woman of courage, character and shrewd 
political judgment. Winston always carefully considers her opinions, and 
if he does not always follow her advice he is at least very much aware of 
what the advice was. Although Mrs. Churchill would never allow any 

1 Anglo-American Memories: George Smalley. 

1 My Diaries: W. S. Blunt. 



disagreement to arise between herself and her husband in public, she does 
not hesitate to argue with him at home. Often her attitude towards him is 
protective, like a mother with a precocious, unruly child; his towards her 
is attentive and devoted. 

The first years of their marriage were not easy for a young, gay and 
beautiful bride. Mrs. Churchill was not only taking on a husband, but the 
wrath of Society as well. Docility, however, was not part of her character 
and far from regretting the circumstances she welcomed them as a chal- 
lenge. By instinct she was more of a Liberal than Winston. She had been 
brought up to distrust Tory politics, and she had a natural interest in re- 
form. She regarded Conservative ostracism as something of a compliment 
and soon had created an agreeable existence for herself and her husband 
among a small circle of intimate friends. Blenheim was the only Tory 
house open to them, and in order to please Winston who was deeply 
sentimental about his family ties, she occasionally accompanied him on a 
visit. Although Churchill was censored by the Tories for being disrespect- 
ful to the dukes, his cousin, the Duke of Marlborough, managed to over- 
look his jibes. Consequently Churchill was criticized by his own side for 
seeing too much of his relative. 'The fact that Mr. Churchill thoughtlessly 
went to Blenheim for Christmas [1910],' writes E. T. Raymond, one of 
Lloyd George's biographers, 'somewhat diminished the effects of his com- 
rade's oratory.' However, on one occasion, when the Duke of Marl- 
borough made disobliging remarks about Mr. Asquith, Mrs. Churchill 
packed her bags and left; and she could not be induced to go there for 
many months. 

The fact that the Churchills began their life together cut off from 
Society and dependent on their own resources, gave their marriage a sure 

Although Winston was hated more than Lloyd George, the Welshman 
was the undisputed master. As Chancellor of the Exchequer he held the 
Radical leadership firmly in his hands; he made the decisions; he conceived 
the strategy; he played the trump cards. While Winston was almost as 
great a figure in die public eye, behind the scenes he acknowledged Lloyd 
George as his leader. People who remember them together say that Lloyd 
George was the only man to whom Churchill ever deferred. The quick- 
witted Welshman knew how to charm and control his high-spirited 
subordinate as nobody else had ever succeeded in doing. Indeed the 
relationship of the master and the pupil continued throughout the years, 
long after Churchill ceased to be under Lloyd George's political influence 


in any way. Robert Boothby, a Tory M.P., who was Winston's Parlia- 
mentary Private Secretary when the latter became Chancellor of the 
Exchequer in the Conservative Government of 1924, says that for a time 
Churchill and Lloyd George drifted apart. Then one day Winston asked 
Boothby to make an appointment for him to see L.G. 'Lloyd George,' 
writes Mr. Boothby, 'came to his room in the evening, and remained there 
for about half an hour. When he had gone, I waited for the summons. 
None came, so I went in and found the Chancellor sitting in his armchair 
before the fire, in a brown study. "It is a remarkable thing," he observed, 
"but L.G. hadn't been in this room for three minutes before the old 
relationship was completely re-established." I was delighted. He then 
looked up with a twinkle in his eye, and added: "The relationship of 
master and servant".' 1 

What was unusual about the association of these two titans was an 
almost total lack of jealousy. Once Lloyd George remarked: 'Sometimes 
when I see Winston making these speeches I get a flash of jealousy and I 
have to say to myself, "Don't be a fool. What's the use of getting jealous 
of Winston?" ' And occasionally Winston felt a twinge of envy over the 
limelight Lloyd George won with the Budget. When he was not asked to 
speak in the Commons on the third reading of the Bill he was annoyed 
but made up for it by airing his views on the public platform. 'You see,' he 
said to Lloyd George, 'in spite of your trying to keep me out of the 
Budget, I made a show after all.' 'I like that,' said Lloyd George. 'I offered 
to hand you over the whole of Part II, the income tax.' 'Oh, that's detail,' 
said Winston scornfully, Tin not going to do detail.' 2 

Mrs. Masterman goes on to tell how amusing they were together 'with 
their different weaknesses and their different childishnesses'. She describes 
them one night at dinner. 'At one point Winston said "I am all for the 
social order." George, who had had a glass of champagne, which excites 
him without in the least confusing him, sat up in his chair and said: "No! 
I'm against it. Listen. There were six hundred men turned off by the G.W. 
works last week. Those men had to go out into the streets to starve. There 
is not a man in that works who docs not live in terror of the day when his 
turn will come to go. Well, I'm against a social order that admits that 
kind of thing." And he made a beckoning gesture I have seen him use 
once or twice. "Yeth, yeth," said Winston, hurriedly, subdued for a 
moment, and then rather mournfully: "I suppose that was what lost us 
Criddade." "Yes, and Swindon," said George. Winston cocked his nose 
in a way he does when he knows he's going to be impertinent. "That's 

1 1 Fight to Live: Robert Boothby. 

1 C. JF. G. Masterman: Lucy Masterman. 


just what I say," he answered, "y u are not against the social order, but 
against those parts of it that get in your way," and George crumpled up 
with amusement/ 1 

Although Churchill was constantly attacked, in conjunction with Lloyd 
George, as the wicked inspiration of the 'class war' and nobody would 
deny that his speeches were formidable assaults against the fortress of 
privilege behind the scenes he was a moderating influence. Indeed, it is 
obvious from reading the memoirs and diaries of the time that from the 
middle of 1910 onwards, Churchill's Radicalism began to diminish. Mrs. 
Masterman quotes Lloyd George as declaring that Winston was not in 
favour of the heatedly controversial Land Tax which probably encouraged 
the Lords to reject the Budget more than any other item. Winston was 
eager for reform but did not want to impose any unnecessary penalties on 
the ruling class. What he called 'revolutionary talk' upset him, and Mrs. 
Masterman describes an evening she spent with Winston, Lloyd George 
and her husband. When the last two began talking in fun 'of die revolu- 
tionary measures they were proposing next: the guillotine in Trafalgar 
Square; the nominating for the first tumbril,' Winston became more and 
more indignant and alarmed, 'until they suggested that this would give 
him a splendid opportunity of figuring as the second Napoleon of the 
revolutionary forces, when, still perfectly serious, Winston, as George 
put it, seemed to think there was something in it. "It is extraordinary," 
said George, "I had no idea anyone could have so little humour." ' 2 That 
night Winston walked home with Masterman. He was still very much 
perturbed by the conversation. 'If this is what it leads to/ he said 
solemnly, 'you must be prepared for me to leave you!" f 

Winston, it appears from this diary, was not in favour of abolishing the 
Lords' Veto. He was willing to reform the Upper House but he did not 
wish to lessen their powers, and on more than one occasion he had heated 
arguments with Lloyd George on the subject. Mrs. Masterman describes a 
dinner which she and her husband had with Lloyd George, in the course 
of which the latter said: 'Winston was up here last night and he got just as 
he did that time in the spring. You remember, Masterman, he began to 
fume and kick up the hearth rug, and became very offensive, saying: "You 
can go to Hell your own way, I won t interfere. I'll have nothing to do 

with your policy," and was almost threatening until I reminded Kim 

that no man can rat twice.* Mrs. Masterman commented on this by writ- 

1 C. F. G. Masterman: Lucy Masterman. 


ing: 'Winston, of course, is not a democrat, or at least, he is a Tory 
democrat. He cursed Charlie one night when they dined together a deiix, 
swearing he would resign sooner than accept a Veto policy again and 
spend four years with Sir Ernest Cassel, getting rich: then again and again 
repeating: "No, no, no; I won't follow George if he goes back to that 
d d Veto." Three weeks afterwards he was making passionate speeches 
in favour of the Veto policy. He became cantankerous and very difficult, 
and, said George, "for three weeks while he is at a thing, he is very per- 
sistent, but he always comes to heel in the end," which is a very true 

'Once in the spring he made a quite excellent speech on the Veto in the 
House of Commons, although that very morning he had been abusing the 
Government policy up hill and down dale to Charlie. "If we," said George, 
"put a special clause in the Budget exempting 'Sonny* (the Duke of 
Marlborough) from taxation, Winston would let us do what we liked." ' 

Although Winston argued and fought with Lloyd George behind the 
scenes, in public he presented an absolutely united front. He never 
stooped to intrigue, or allowed himself to belittle his leader in any way. 
He was completely loyal; and the reward of this loyalty was a friendship 
unique among politicians. 

Winston's deflection from the Radical and Isolationist line he had 
adopted for four years began with his appointment as Home Secretary in 
1910, and was completed by the time he was appointed First Lord of the 
Admiralty in 191 1 . During the year he spent as Home Secretary he accom- 
plished important prison reforms. But he also took actions which were 
most bitterly resented by the Leftist and Labour circles and are held against 
him to this day. 

As Home Secretary Winston was responsible for the maintenance of 
kw and order. The years 1910 to 1911 heralded an epidemic of serious 
strikes, and his task was neither easy nor enviable. First came a bitter coal 
strike in South Wales in which his actions were misunderstood and deeply 
resented by the miners. As recently as the 1950 General Election Welsh 
Socialists revived the events of that time, now generally grouped together 
and referred to as 'Tonypandy', declaring that he had sent soldiers to 
attack the miners. Churchill hody denied the charge, and informed a 
Cardiffaudience that the allegation was a 'cruel lie'. 1 

Here are the facts. The coal strike broke out during the first week in 
November. There were riots and a number of mines were partially 

1 Daily Mail: 9 February, 1950. 


flooded. On the morning of 8 November Churchill received a telegram 
from the Chief Constable of Glamorgan declaring that the local police 
were incapable of maintaining order and that he had applied for troops 
from Southern Command. The Liberal Party was facing a General Elec- 
tion and Winston at once realized the undesirability of using the military 
against miners. He prevented the War Office from sending troops on a 
large scale, and quickly made plans to reinforce the Welsh police with 
850 Metropolitan police. At the same time, however, after a consultation 
with Mr. Haldane, the Secretary of State for War, Churchill agreed to 
send a limited number of troops as a safeguard. 1 Churchill asked that both 
soldiers and police be placed under the command of a high Army officer, 
General Macready, and made it clear that the latter must be responsible, 
not to the War Office, but to himself as Home Secretary. 2 

On that same morning, 8 November, he sent a telegram to the Chief 
Constable of Glamorgan, informing him that 250 constables of the 
London Metropolitan Police would arrive at Pontypridd that evening. 
'Expect these forces will be sufficient/ his telegram read, 'but as further 
precautionary measure, 200 cavalry will be moved into district to-night 
and remain there pending the cessation of trouble. General Macready will 
command the military, and will act in conjunction with civil authorities as 
circumstances may require. Military will not, however, be available, un- 
less it is clear that police reinforcements are unable to cope with the 
situation.' 3 

In relating the events to the House of Commons on n February, 1911, 
Churchill said that shortly after this message was sent he was able to get 
into telephonic communication with the Chief Constable who told him 
that he believed the Metropolitan Police would be sufficient, and that 
there was very little accommodation for soldiers as well as police at Ponty- 
pridd. Churchill then sent a message, through the War Office, for the 
cavalry to detrain at Cardiff. 'But orders were also sent to General 
Macready/ he continued in his speech to the House of Commons, 'who 
was also travelling to Cardiff, that if any further request of special emer- 
gency reached him from the Chief Constable on the spot he could use his 
own discretion about going forward with the cavalry that night. . . . 
About eight o'clock telephonic communication was received that there 

1 When Keir Hardie asked in the House of Commons on 15 November, 1910, 
'at whose instance* the troops had been sent to Wales, Haldane replied: 'they 
were sent at my instance after careful consultation with my rt. hon. Friend, the 
Home Secretary.' 

1 Annals of an Active Life: General Sir Nevil Macready. 
9 Hansard: n February, 1911. 


was rioting in progress, and we immediately telegraphed to General 
Macready to move into die district with his squadrons, only one of which 
had up to that time arrived at Cardiff. He had already received authority 
to do so, and had, in fact, acted in anticipation of that message half an hour 

Macready had strict instructions that the soldiers were to be kept apart 
from the strikers, and used only to guard mine premises in conjunction 
with the poKce, unless the latter found themselves unable to deal with the 
situation. He meticulously observed his orders, and in most cases police 
proved equal to the task, and troops were not brought into direct contact 
with the miners. 

On two or three occasions, however, he found it necessary to call out 
the military to prevent the police from being heavily stoned. 'In order to 
counter these tactics on the part of the strikers on the next occasion when 
trbuble was afoot,' wrote General Macready, 'small bodies of infantry on 
the higher ground, keeping level with the police on the main road, moved 
slowly down the side tracks, and by a little gentle persuasion with the 
bayonet drove the stone-throwers into the arms of the police on the lower 
road. The effect was excellent; no casualties were reported, though it was 
rumoured that many young men of the valley found that sitting down was 
accompanied by a certain amount of discomfort for many days. As a 
general instruction the soldiers had been warned that if obliged to use their 
bayonets they should only be applied to that portion of the body tradi- 
tionally held by trainers of youth to be reserved for punishment/ 2 

No matter how 'gentle' the 'persuasion' of the bayonet the very fact that 
this weapon was used, and men were hurt by it, aroused the miners 
to fury. Wild and exaggerated stories spread throughout South Wales. 
And thus Mr. Churchill fell between two stools. His desire to avoid the 
use of the military, successful in 99% of the instances, was not appreciated. 
As a result for nearly forty years he has been accused of sending troops 'to 
attack the miners'. Keir Hardie, one of the founders of the Labour Party 
and a Member of Parliament, contributed to this interpretation by publish- 
ing a powerful little booklet entitled Killing No Murder in which he wrote: 

1 One of the riots that took place on the evening of 8 November was in Tony- 
pandy Square. The strikers attempted to attack the colliery in protest against the 
owners' lock-out notices, and were driven away by the local police. On their way 
back they smashed and looted the shops in Tonypandy Square in what The Times 
described as 'an orgy of naked anarchy'. In view of the many erroneous accounts 
given of this well-known incident it is necessary to emphasize that neither London 
police nor troops arrived in die district in. time to take any part in the scene. Order 
was restored by the local police. (See Hansard, 7 February, 1911, p. 231.) 

* Annals of an 'Active Life: General Sir Nevil Macready. 


'Once more the Liberals are in office and Asquith is Prime Minister, and 
troops are let loose upon the people to shoot down if need be whilst thev 
are fighting for their legitimate rights. They will give you Insurance Bills, 
they will give you all kinds of soothing syrups to keep you quiet, but in 
the end your Liberal Party, just like your Tory Party, is the Party of the 
rich and exists to protect the rich when Labour and Capital come into 

In the House of Commons Winston took full responsibility for the 
presence of troopsin the Welsh valleys, declaring that they would be with- 
drawn when he decided they were 'no longer necessary'. 1 In the light of 
after events it seems dear that it would have been wiser if Churchill had 
not stationed them in South Wales at all, but had held them in reserve in 
a neighbouring county. However, the ironical part of the story is the fact 
that Churchill was strongly criticized in the House of Commons for exactly 
the opposite reason by the powerful Conservative Opposition, which was 
eager to prove Liberal inefficiency at the imminent General Election. The 
Tories argued that he should have sent troops a week earlier to take charge 
of the situation, and if this had been done all damage to property would 
have been prevented. But General Macreadyinafair and unbiased account 
praises Churchill for having sent the London police. 'It was entirely due to 
Mr. Churchill's foresight in sending a strong force of Metropolitan Police 
directly he was aware of the state of affairs in the valleys that bloodshed 
was avoided, for had the police not Been in strength sufficient to cope with 
the rioters there would have been no alternative but to bring the military 
into action/ 2 

Next came the dock strikes and railway strikes of August 1911. The 
anger 'Tonypandy* had aroused among the working people had not fully 
impressed itself on Churchill, for this time he did not hesitate to call upon 
die military in force. He declared that the nation was on the brink of a 
national railway strike and dispatched troops in all directions without even 
waiting for the local authorities to ask for them. 

Once again he was furiously attacked by Labour Members in the House, 
and defended himself by saying: 'The task which was entrusted to the 
military forces was to keep the railways running, to safeguard the railways, 
to protect the railwaymen who were at work, to keep the railways run- 
ning for the transportation of food supplies and raw materials. And it 
was necessary, if they were to discharge that task, that the General com- 
manding each area into which the country is divided, the General respon- 
sible for each of the different strike areas, should have full liberty to send 
1 Hansard: 24 November, 1910, p. 426. 
Annals of an Active Life: General Sir Nevil Macready . 


troops to any point on the line so that communications should not be 
interrupted. That is how it arose, of course, that on Saturday the soldiers 
arrived at places to protect railway stations and signal boxes, goods yards, 
and other points on the line without their having been requisitioned by 
the local authorities/ 1 

There was a feeling in Parliament, however, that Churchill revelled in 
strong measures; that in this case instead of using troops as a last resort his 
first instinct has been to turn to the military. Ramsay MacDonald re- 
minded him in biting tones that these were not the sort of methods that 
the average Englishman liked, whether his party was Liberal, Tory or 

'This is not a mediaeval State, and it is not Russia. It is not even Ger- 
many. We have discovered a secret which very few countries have 
hitherto discovered. The secret this nation has discovered is that the way 
to maintain law and order is to trust the ordinary operations of a law- 
abiding and orderly-inclined people If the Home Secretary had just a 

little more knowledge of how to handle masses of men in these critical 
times, if he had a somewhat better instinct of what civil liberty does mean, 
and if he had a somewhat better capacity to use the powers which he has 
got as Home Secretary, we should have had much less difficulty in the last 
four or five days in facing and finally settling the very difficult problem 
we have had before us.' 2 

Indeed, the sending of troops was so deeply resented by the labour 
ranks it nearly resulted in a General Strike. 'This military intervention/ 
wrote Elie Halevy, 'was not always successful. If in London the dispute 
was peaceably settled by an agreement concluded on August n, it was not 
so at Liverpool where die presence of the Irish element no doubt gave the 
strike a peculiarly violent character. One day the offices of the Shipping 
Federation were burnt down. Another day the soldiers used their rifles and 
there were casualties. They were, to be sure, local disturbances. But by the 
indignation they aroused throughout the working class they provoked, or 
came within an ace of provoking, another social crisis of a more formid- 
able character/ 3 

At this point Lloyd George stepped in with permission from the 
Cabinet to act as a negotiator. He was completely successful. He not only 
brought the railway strike to an end, but left the impression that if his tact 
and persuasiveness had been employed sooner labour relations would 
never have reached such a pitch. Winston on the other hand had merely 

1 Hansard: 22 August, 1911. 


* A History of the English People: Elie Halevy. 


widened the deep antagonism which was now firmly established between 
himself and the working class. 

In January, before the railway strike and after the Welsh coal stoppage, 
an incident took place which provided the country with a certain amount 
of comic relief, but at the same time gave further ammunition to 
Churchill's enemies. It was known as 'The Siege of Sidney Street'. In 
January 1911 the police telephoned the Home Secretary and informed him 
that they had cornered a gang of desperadoes, among whom was 'Peter 
the Painter', an anarchist responsible for recent murders of the police in 
Houndsditch. The men were entrenched in a house in Sidney Street in 
Stepney. No one knew how many there were but they appeared to have 
plenty of ammunition and probably some home-made bombs. Churchill 
could not resist the excitement. Dressed in a top-hat and a fur-lined over- 
coat with an astrakhan collar, and accompanied by the Chief of the C.I.D., 
the Commissioner of the City Police and the head of the political section 
of Scotland Yard, he hurried to the scene. The house was surrounded by 
several hundred armed police reinforced by a small file of Scots Guards, 
equipped with a Maxim gun, who had been summoned from the Tower. 
The Guards were firing on the house and occasionally from the broken 
windows a bullet answered back. One policeman had been wounded. 

Hugh Martin, a journalist who was present at the scene, described Mr. 
Churchill as 'altogether an imposing figure'. 'Peeping round corners he 
exposed himself with the Scots Guards to the random fire of the besieged 

burglars, or consulted with his "staff" in tones of utmost gravity He 

agreed that it might be an excellent thing to have in reserve a couple of 
field guns from the Royal Horse Artillery depot at St. John's Wood, and 
that a party of Royal Engineers from Chatham might be useful if mining 
o'perations had to be undertaken against the citadel. He even suggested 
that casualties might be avoided if steel plates were brought from Wool- 
wich to form a portable cover for the military sharpshooters an early 
version of one of his ideas in the Great War.' 1 

Soon wisps of smoke began to rise from the windows, and half an hour 
later the house was burning fiercely. Fire engines arrived and quickly got 
to work. When the police finally entered the ruins, instead of a formidable 
gang, they found only two charred bodies; and neither belonged to Peter 
the Painter. 

The Conservatives made as much of the story as they could. They 
ridiculed Churchill for the troops and the field gun, for the false excite- 
1 Battle: The Life Story of Winston Churchill: Hugh Martin. 


ment and self-advertisement. Arthur Balfour commented sarcastically in 
the House: 'We are concerned to observe photographs in the Illustrated 
Papers of the Home Secretary in the danger zone. I can understand what 
the photographer was doing but not the Home Secretary.' 

Winston's Liberal colleagues were also sarcastic. The soldier seemed to 
be much more prominent these days than the Radical. Were the Tories 
right? Was he purely an adventurer at heart? In 1912 A. G. Gardiner 
published a character sketch in the Daily News which showed how far 
Liberal feeling had changed towards him: 

'He is always unconsciously playing a part an heroic part. And he is 
himself his most astonished spectator. He sees himself moving through the 
smoke of battle triumphant, terrible, his brow clothed with thunder, 
his legions looking to him for victory, and not looking in vain. He thinks 
of Napoleon; he thinks of his great ancestor. Thus did they bear them- 
selves; thus in this rugged and awful crisis, will he bear himself. It is not 
make-believe, it is not insincerity; it is that in this fervid and picturesque 
imagination there are always great deeds afoot, with himself cast by 
destiny in the Agamemnon role. Hence that portentous gravity that sits on 
his youthful shoulders so oddly, those impressive postures and tremendous 
silences, the body flung wearily in the chair, the head resting gloomily in 
the hand, the abstracted look, the knitted brow. Hence that tendency to 
exaggerate a situation which is so characteristic of him the tendency that 
sent artillery down to Sidney Street and during the railway strike dis- 
patched the military hither and thither as though Armageddon was upon 
us. "You've mistaken a coffee-stall row for the social revolution," said 
one of his colleagues to him as he pored with knitted and portentous 
brows over a huge map of the country on which he was making his 
military dispositions.' 1 

This paragraph was often gleefully quoted by Winston's Tory oppo- 
nents during the next few years. But once World War I had begun, they 
found it convenient to omit the three sentences that followed. Gardiner 
had gone on to say: 'Hence his horrific picture of the German menace. 
He believes it all because his mind once seized with an idea works with 
enormous velocity round it, intensifies it, makes it shadow the whole 
sky. In the theatre of his mind it is always the hour of fate and the crack 
of doom.' 

Alas,' that fete was not only in Winston's imagination. 

1 Reprinted in Pillars of Society: A. G. Gardiner. 




THE YEAR 1911 marked a turning point in Winston Churchill's life. On 
i July, a German gunboat, the Panther, suddenly stationed itself off the 
obscure Atlantic port of Agadir on the North African coast. This was a 
direct threat to French expansion in the Mediterranean. The Chancelleries 
of Europe were electrified and for three months the western world hovered 
on the brink of war. Churchill's eyes opened with a start as he at last 
became conscious of the peril that threatened England. For eleven years 
he had followed first in his father's footsteps, and then in Lloyd George's, 
as an apostle of 'Peace, Retrenchment and Reform'. The championing of 
these ideas had cast him in the strangely incongruous role of 'The Little 
Englander'; the opponent of a strong Army and Navy; the darling of the 
pacifists; the provincial reformer so engrossed in tidying up his house that 
he could not see the approaching tornado. 

Overnight he abandoned retrenchment. His ardour for prison reform 
died as his powerful mind swung on to world affairs. For the first time 
since he had become a Member of Parliament he began to think inde- 
pendently. And although neither he nor anyone else realized it at the time, 
he had finally veered on to his true course, 'as a champion of the might 
and right of Britain. 

The Agadir incident, as it became known, was a highlight in a series of 
events which began at the beginning of the century when Germany 
decided to build a large Navy. Germany was young and virile. She was 
already the strongest military power on the Continent. This fact had 
worried the French for some time, but it had not aroused much concern 
among the English who believed they could remain safely aloof in their 
island fortress with their Navy the undisputed ruler of the sea lanes of the 
world. But when Germany published a new Fleet Law in 1900 revealing 
that the Emperor not only wished to control the greatest army in Europe 
but to rival English sea power as well, the British Foreign Office became 
alarmed. The preamble of the Fleet Law stated: 'In order to protect 
German trade and commerce -under existing conditions, only one thing 
will suffice, namely, Germany must possess a battle fleet of such strength 
that, even for the most powerful naval adversary, a war would involve 
such risks as to make that Power's own supremacy doubtful' 

Why did Germany want this vast Navy? Against whom was it in- 


tended? The British could find only one answer: and that was the begin- 
ning of the fear that led to protective alliances; and the alliances that 
involved them in war. Throughout her history Britain had always allied 
herself with the second strongest power on the Continent, gathering to her 
banner small states eager to maintain their independence. It therefore 
seemed natural to the English that in 1904, when the Kaiser in a flam- 
boyant speech was proclaiming himself 'The Admiral of the Atlantic', 
that Britain should be making an entente with France. 

The entente proved of mutual advantage to both countries. The French 
agreed to give the British a free hand in Egypt and the British agreed to 
help France round off her North African Empire by the acquisition of 
Morocco. In the minds of both nations was the belief that it would be a 
good thing to keep Germany out of the Mediterranean. The Kaiser was 
indignant. In 1905 he paid a visit to Tangier, in Morocco, and made a 
speech declaring that his friend, the Sultan, must remain absolutely 
independent. The result was a twelve months' 'cold war', but Britain 
stood steadfastly by France and in the end the Germans sulkily backed 

It is well to remind the reader that in those days diplomacy was for the 
few and the very few. The British public had little say in Foreign Affairs. 
And when one speaks of 'the Government* deciding this or that, one means 
the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, and perhaps one or two other 
leading Ministers, but by no means the whole of the Cabinet. With this 
in mind it does not seem so strange that while 'the Government' was 
strengthening its relations with France and keeping an anxious eye on 
Germany, the Cabinet also decided, in 1906, to cut down Britain's ship- 
building programme. Winston Churchill and Lloyd George led the attack 
on naval armaments, while Sir Edward Grey, the Foreign Secretary, 
quietly went on his way building up a diplomatic bulwark against Ger- 

In 1907 Sir Edward made an alliance with France's ally, Russia, which 
led to another 'cold war' scare in 1908. Germany's ally, Austria, stole a 
march on Russia by proclaiming the annexation of Bosnia, a Turkish pro- 
vince which Russia regarded as within her 'sphere of influence'. Russia 
was compelled to forgo her authority, but British public opinion was 
stirred; and that was the year that the clamour for eight new warships 
reached its height. 

Meantime France went ahead with her conquest of Morocco, offering 
Germany as compensation a part of French Equatorial Africa. When the 
German gunboat was sent to Agadir in 1911 to enforce French generosity 
the situation reached its third climax. Once again the Anglo-French 


entente held firm and once again Germany retreated from her stand. Lloyd 
George played a sudden and surprising part in the crisis, making it dear 
that Britain was in no mood to be bullied. 

Up to this time there had been a cleavage between Sir Edward Grey as 
leader of the Liberal Imperialists and Lloyd George as leader of the Liberal 
pacifists. Churchill relates in The World Crisis how he met Lloyd George 
several weeks after Germany had shown her mailed fist. Lloyd George was 
due to make a speech to the City bankers that evening, at an annual dinner 
at the Mansion House. 'He saw quite clearly the course to take ... He 
pointed out that Germany was acting as if England did not count in the 
matter in any way; that she had completely ignored our strong repre- 
sentation; that she was proceeding to put the most severe pressure on 
France; that a catastrophe might ensue; and that if if was to be averted we 
must speak with great decision and act at once.' 

Consequently Lloyd George's speech contained a passage that fell on 
German ears like a thunderbolt. If a situation were forced upon us/ he 
said, 'in which peace could only be preserved by the surrender of the great 
and beneficent position Britain has won by centuries of heroism and 
achievement, by allowing Britain to be treated where her interests were 
vitally affected as if she were of no account in the Cabinet of nations, then 
I say emphatically that peace at that price would be a humiliation intoler- 
able for a great country like ours to endure/ 

The Germans were not only astonished but furious. The German 
Ambassador was recalled in disgrace for portraying Lloyd George as a 
'pacifist'; and once again after three agitated months, the crisis passed. 
'People think/ complained Lloyd George, 'that because I was a pro-Boer 
I am anti-war in general, and that I should faint at the mention of 
a cannon/ 

The Agadir episode was a turning point in Churchill's life. Some men are 
so exhilarated by a sense of danger that a sudden surge of new power 
seems to rise within them. Winston was one of these. The prospect of 
a great conflict obsessed him and he could think of little else. How could 
he keep his mind on Home Office matters when life and death were 
in the balance? How could he interest himself in strikes and Suffragettes 
when at any moment Germany might strike at Britain? He had always 
believed himself to be a Man of Destiny. His colossal self-confidence, 
which some people unkindly referred to as egotism, and his almost super- 
stitious attitude towards life had led him to analyse his position a hundred 
times. He often dwelt on the chance encounters, the narrow escapes, the 


impulsive decisions that had carried him so far along the road to power. It 
must all be for some definite purpose. First he had thought his destiny lay 
in avenging his father; then in helping the poor; now he was certain his 
mission was to save England. In the middle of August, a few weeks after 
the Agadir incident, he went to the country and sat on a hilltop looking 
over the beautiful green fields and meditating about the perils of war. 
The words of Housman's A Shropshire Lad kept running through his head: 

On the idle hill of summer, 
Sleepy with the sound of streams, 
Far I hear the distant drummer 
Drumming like a noise in dreams. 
Far and near and low and louder, 
On the roads of earth go by, 
Dear to friends and food for powder, 
Soldiers marching, all to die. 

With the gathering storm ''fiercely illuminated* in his mind, he set out 
to learn all he could of military and foreign affairs. Parliament was not 
sitting, but he remained in London throughout the hot weeks of August 
devouring documents and picking the brains of General Wilson, the 
Director of Military Operations, and Sir Edward Grey, the Foreign 
Secretary. Grey and Churchill often met in the late afternoon, and strolled 
across the park together to the Royal Automobile Club for a swim. 

Churchill did not suffer from timidity and before a fortnight had passed 
he was offering advice to both Wilson and Grey. He began to bombard 
the Cabinet with suggestions and directives signed 'W.S.C.' The first of 
these was entitled Military Aspects of the Continental Problem Memoran- 
dum by Mr. Churchill. This outline suggested that the War Office took 
too sanguine a view of the potential resistance of the French Army. 
Winston prophesied that by the twentieth day the French would be 
'driven from the line of the Meuse and will be falling back on Paris and 
the South'. He then went on to say that he believed by the fortieth day 
the Germans would be extended at full strength both internally and on 
their war fronts, and that if the French Army lad not been squandered the 
Allies should be able to execute their main counterstroke. General Wilson 
referred to the document as 'ridiculous and fantastic a silly memoran- 
dum*, but events proved Churchill right; the Battle of the Marne was lost 
by Germany on the forty-second day, 

Winston's passionate concern with the German menace induced the 
Prime Minister to invite him to join the Committee of Imperial Defence. 
This was virtually an Inner Cabinet. Its members consisted of the Prime 


Minister, the Foreign Secretary, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the 
War Minister, Lord Haldane. The Committee met on 23 August to 
consider what action Britain would take if France were attacked. And at 
this particular meeting it was disclosed that a vital and astonishing differ- 
ence of opinion existed between the War Office and the Admiralty. Lord 
Haldane, as War Minister, had built up an Expeditionary Force to go 
abroad as soon as war started. Plans had been drawn up in conjunction 
with French staff officers for British troops to strengthen the French left 
wing as rapidly as possible. 

Incredible as it may seem, there had been no joint consultation with the 
Navy, and the Admiralty had made no plans for conveying the Force 
across the Channel. In fact, the Admiralty did not want an army sent 
across the Channel. The sailors were certain that the Navy could handle 
the situation alone. They would sink the German Fleet, and blockade the 
German ports, and soon the whole conflict would be over. This was the 
gist of the remarks made at the meeting by the Admiralty spokesman who 
urged that Lord Haldane's Expeditionary Force be abandoned and that the 
Army concentrate its attention on small raids on the German coast in con- 
junction with the Navy. 

Needless to say Lord Haldane left the meeting greatly perturbed. He 
could expect no help from his colleague, Reginald McKenna, the First 
Lord of die Admiralty, for although McKenna had courageously pressed 
for a full-blooded naval programme, he supported the Admiralty view as 
far as strategy was concerned. It was clear to Haldane that McKenna must 
be removed to another office and a new First Lord appointed. He wrote 
the Prime Minister a strong letter: 1 have after mature consideration come 
to the conclusion that this, in the existing state of Europe, is the gravest 
problem which confronts the Government to-day; and that, unless it is 
tackled resolutely, I cannot remain in office. Five years' experience of the 
War Office has taught me how to handle the Generals and how to get the 
best out of them; and I believe that the experience makes me the best 
person to go to the Admiralty and carry through as thorough a reorganiza- 
tion there as I have carried out at the War Office. In any event, I am 
determined that things at the Admiralty shall not remain any longer as 
they are/ 1 

Haldane was a man of intellect and broad vision. He had done a brilliant 
job in reorganizing the Army along modern lines. He was admired by his 
colleagues and respected by his opponents. He was a lifelong Liberal and 
a dose friend of Asquitk He was eager to take on the Admiralty job. 
What made Asquith choose Churchill instead? 
1 Haldane: Sir Frederick Maurice. 


There is no doubt that Asquith was deeply impressed by Winston's 
dynamic ability. He always read his memoranda carefully; they were 
unfailingly concise and well-written, which appealed to his legal mind. 
1 believe I owed the repeated advancements to great offices which he 
accorded me/ wrote Winston, 'more to my secret writing on Government 
business than to any impressions produced by conversations or speeches on 
the platform or in Parliament/ 1 Besides, Asquith was amused by Winston 
whom he often referred to as 'my right honourable and picturesque col- 
league*. There were several strong arguments in Churchill's favour; firstly, 
the Admiralty might be induced to accept the policy of the War Office if 
someone other than the War Minister took on the job; secondly, it would 
be an advantage to keep the First Lord in the Commons; thirdly, Asquith 
undoubtedly felt that it was wise to keep the rebellious Churchill fully 
occupied and using his energies constructively. Lloyd George urged 
Asquith strongly to appoint Churchill. 

The Prime Minister invited the two Ministers to join him on a holiday 
in Scotland. Winston arrived two days before Haldane and on the second 
afternoon, as they were leaving the golf course, Asquith suddenly asked 
him if he would like to go to the Admiralty. 'Indeed I would/ replied 
Winston. The Prime Minister then said they must discuss the matter with 
Haldane when he arrived the following day. It must have been an ex- 
traordinary meeting, with Asquith sitting as the imperturbable judge, and 
Haldane and Churchill advancing with all their skill and forensic ability 
the reasons why each considered himself the right man for the job. Haldane 
gave an account of it in a letter to Sir Edward Grey: 'Asquith asked me to 
see him first alone and then with Winston. I did so without mincing 
matters. Winston was very good, reasoned that if he went there [the 
Admiralty] he would work closely with me at the War Office, in the 
spirit of his father, who had always said that there ought to be a common 
administration. I felt, however, that, full of energy as he is, he does not 
know his problem or the vast field of thought that has to be covered. 
Moreover, though I did not say this to him, I feel that it was only a year 
since he had been doing his best to cut down mechanized armies, and that 
the Admiralty would receive the news of his advent with dismay; for they 
would thinly wrongly or rightly, that as soon as the financial pinch begins 
to come eighteen months from now, he would want to cut down. He is 
too apt to act first and think afterwards, though of his energy and courage 
one cannot speak too highly/ 2 

Several days later the Prime Minister wrote to Haldane that he had 

1 Great Contemporaries: Winston S. Churchill 
* Haldane: Sir Frederick Maurice. 


decided in favour of Churchill. 'The main and, in the longer run, the 
deciding factor with me in a different sense, has been the absolute necessity 
for keeping the First Lord in the Commons.' 1 

Churchill was overjoyed with the appointment. Now he was sure of his 
mission. When he was undressing for bed, on the night Asquith had first 
suggested the Admiralty to him, he picked up the Bible from his table 
and opened it at random. His eyes fell on the following passage: 'Hear, 
O Israel, Thou art to pass over Jordan this day, to go in to possess 
nations greater and mightier than thyself, cities great and fenced up to 

'A people great and tall, and children of the Anakims, whom thou 
knowest, and of whom thou hast heard say, Who can stand before the 
children of Anak! 

'Understand therefore this day, that the Lord thy God is he which goeth 
over before thee; as a consuming fire he shall destroy them, and he shall 
bring them down before thy face; so shalt thou drive them out, and 
destroy them quickly, as the Lord has said unto thee/ 

To Churchill's strangely superstitious mind it seemed 'a message full of 
reassurance'. 2 

Churchill threw himself into his new job heart and soul. Like the other 
Government departments which he had controlled, the Admiralty at once 
felt the impact of his powerful personality. He began by heightening the 
drama of an already dramatic situation. First of all he ordered that Naval 
Officers, as well as resident clerks, must remain on duty all night at the 
Admiralty so that if a surprise attack came not a moment would be lost in 
giving the alarm. Secondly, he gave instructions for a huge chart of the 
North Sea to be hung on the wall of his room. Every day a staff officer 
marked the positions of the German Fleet with flags. *I made a rule to look 
at this chart once every day when I first entered my room. I did this less 
to keep myself informed, for there were many other channels of informa- 
tion, than in order to inculcate in myself and those working with me a 
sense of ever present danger. In this spirit we all worked.' 8 

Churchill's overall commission was to put the Fleet into 'a state of 
instant and constant readiness for war in case we are attacked by Germany/ 
Behind these broad instructions two immediate tasks confronted him: 
first, to set up a Naval War Staff, such as the Army possessed, which 

1 Hattane: Sir Frederick Maurice. 

* The World Crisis: Winston S. Churchill 



would give all its rime to the study of strategy and tactics; second, to main- 
tain close co-operation with the War Office and concert the fighting plans 
of the two services. 

Churchill at once put himself in touch with Lord Fisher, that brilliant, 
explosive, astonishing old man of seventy-one, who had recently retired 
as First Sea Lord and was regarded by many as 'the greatest sailor since 
Nelson'. Fisher was living in retirement in Italy. He had burning black 
eyes, a rugged face and a fiery temperament. The passion of his life was 
the Navy, and in .this field he was a genius. When he first joined the 
service in 1854 the Navy's ships still carried sails, many had no auxiliary- 
steam and none had armour. He grew up in a period of change and was 
fascinated by the amazing new developments. When he became First Sea 
Lord himself the changes came fast and furiously and soon the British 
Fleet was" far ahead of all others in modern and efficient design. Fisher 
scrapped dozens of ships which he declared could 'neither fight nor run 
away'. He reorganized the Navy's educational system, introduced the 
submarine, and replaced the Battle Fleet's twelve-inch guns with thirteen 
point fives, the biggest ever tried. 

In carrying out these changes 'Jackie' Fisher made many enemies. 
'Ruthless, relentless and remorseless' were words that he often repeated 
proudly to describe himself. With his terrific drive and his pig-headedness 
he struck at his opponents savagely. He branded as traitors those who 
opposed him either secretly or openly, and boasted childishly that 'their 
wives should be widows, their children fatherless, and their homes a dung- 
hill*. This threat was not altogether meaningless for he ruined the pro- 
fessional career of more than one officer who opposed his policies. Those 
in Fisher's favour were described as being 'in the Fish-pond', and woe 
betide those who were not. Needless to say, Fisher's enemies grew in 
number. His chief adversary was Lord Charles Beresford, the Commander- 
in-Chief of the Channel, or principal, Fleet Soon the Navy was divided 
into two camps Fisher's men and Beresford's men and every sort of 
intrigue and warfare was carried on between the two rival sections. The 
final result was Fisher's resignation. Nevertheless when 1914 came it was 
the ships that Fisher and the First Lord, McKenna, had built between the 
years 1906 and 1911, in the face of Winston Churchill's powerful oppo- 
sition, that were ready to face the enemy. 

Winston had first met Sir John Fisher, as he was then, in Biarritz in 
1907. They had talked far into the night and although the young man did 
not agree with the old man's belief in the necessity for a large Navy, they 
recognized each other as kindred spirits; they were unconventional, force* 
ful and daring. They both liked a storm. Churchill now sent for Fisher 


who came home from Italy and the two men spent three days discussing 
naval problems. Fisher's ideas were as vehement, as brilliant and stimu- 
lating as ever. He impressed Churchill so deeply that the latter toyed with 
the idea of reappointing him First Sea Lord then and there. If Fisher had 
dropped the slightest hint, Churchill would have spoken, but for the 
moment the thought passed.- 

Nevertheless, Lord Fisher became Churchill's inspiration and ally. 
From then on the old man bombarded the young First Lord with dozens 
of forceful, amusing and valuable letters which arrived at the Admiralty 
fastened together, sometimes with a ribbon, sometimes with a pearl pin. 
The letters began breezily: 'My beloved Winston' and ended 'Yours to a 
cinder', 'Yours till hell freezes', or 'Till charcoal sprouts'. 'Alas,' wrote 
Winston in The World Crisis, 'there was a day when hell froze and char- 
coal sprouted and friendship was reduced to cinders; when "My beloved 
Winston" had given place to "First Lord: I can no longer be your col- 
league".' But that belongs to another chapter. 

Meanwhile, with Lord Fisher's unofficial aid and backing, Winston set 
about to learn his business and do his job. Out of two years and nine 
months that remained before war was to begin, he spent" nearly eight 
months afloat in the Admiralty yacht Enchantress. He visited every im- 
portant ship. At the end he knew 'what everything looked like and where 
everything was, and how one thing fitted into another. I could put my 
hand on anything that was wanted and knew the current state of our naval 
affairs.' He not only worked for the Navy, he lived for it. His sense of 
drama was deeply stirred, for he saw beyond the ships themselves to the 
broad horizon. The following extract from The World Crisis reveals how 
romantically he visualized the charge that had been entrusted to him. 
'Consider these ships, so vast in themselves, yet so small, so easily lost to 
sight on the surface of the waters. Sufficient at the moment, we trusted, 
for their task, but yet only a score or so. They were all we had. On them, 
as we conceived, floated the might, majesty, dominion and power of the 
British Empire. All our long history built up century after century, all our 
great affairs in every part of the globe, all the means of livelihood and 
safety for our faithful, industrious, active population depended upon them. 
Open the sea-cocks and let them sink beneath the surface as another Fleet 
was one day to do in another British harbour far to the North, and in a 
few minutes half an hour at the most the whole outlook of the world 
would be changed. The British Empire would dissolve like a dream; each 
isolated community struggling forward by itself; the central power of 
union broken; mighty provinces, whole Empires in themselves, drifting 
hopelessly out of control, and falling a prey to strangers; and Europe after 


one sudden convulsion passing into the iron grip of the Teuton and of all 
that the Teutonic system meant/ 

With this conception of the Navy's great role it is not surprising that 
Churchill was thrilled by his task. He kept his promise to Haldane and 
worked in the closest co-operation with die military experts. The War 
Minister quickly overcame his disappointment at not being appointed to 
the Admiralty himself, and soon wrote to his mother: 'Winston and L.G. 
dined with me last night, and we had a very useful talk. This is now a very 
harmonious Cabinet. It is odd to think that three years ago I had to fight 
these two for every penny for my Army Reform. Winston is full of 
enthusiasm about the Admiralty, and just as keen as I am on the war staff. 
It is delightful to work with him. L.G. has too quite changed his attitude 
and now is very friendly to your bear, whom he used to call the Minister 
of Civil Slaughter.' 1 

Lloyd George, however, did not share Winston's emotional excitement 
over the danger of Germany. Winston thrived on the drama. He flung 
himself into the preparations with grim determination but at the same 
time with a certain exhilaration. Lloyd George, on the other hand, was 
not convinced that war was inevitable. He insisted that every effort should 
be made to placate Germany; to remove her grievances, and to try to 
arrive at a sensible understanding about armaments. He impressed Sir 
Edward Grey with his arguments and an unofficial emissary was sent to 
Berlin to contact the Kaiser and pave the way for serious conversations. 
The basis of the British point of view was quite simple: Britain had no 
objection to German military strength or German colonial expansion; but 
if Germany insisted on rivalling British sea-power, on which the whole 
security of the British Island depended, a dash would indeed come. The 
Kaiser sent word that he would be glad to discuss the problem with the 
British Government, and consequently Lord Haldane was sent to Berlin.- 

While Haldane was on his mission Churchill went to Glasgow to 
inspect some shipbuilding works on the Clyde. He picked up an evening 
newspaper and read a speech by the Kaiser to the Reichstag announcing 
large increases both in die Army and the Navy. Once again Churchill felt 
a sensation of approaching danger. A sentence which particularly struck 
him was this: 'It is ifiy constant duty and care to maintain and to strengthen 
on land and water, tie power of defence of German people, which has no 
tack of young men Jit to bear arms. 9 

Churchill's ire was roused. He decided that someone should speak pub- 
licly, speak plainly and speak now. Consequently he spoke himself in 

1 Hal Jane: Sir Frederick Maurice. 


Glasgow the following day. 'This island/ he declared, 'has never been, 
and never will be, lacking in trained and hardy marines bred from their 
boyhood up to the service of the sea.' The Germans did not object to this 
warning; after all it was tit for tat. But what enraged them was the open- 
ing paragraph of Winston's address: 'The purposes of British naval power 
are essentially defensive. We have no thoughts, and we have never had 
any thoughts of aggression, and we attribute no such thoughts to other 
great Powers. There is, however, this difference between the British naval 
power and the naval power of the great and friendly Empire of Ger- 
many. The British Navy is to us a necessity and, from some points of view, 
the German Navy is to them more in the nature of a luxury. Our naval 
power involves British existence. It is existence to us; it is expansion to 
them. . . .'* 

The word 'luxury', it appeared, had an unfortunate significance when 
translated into German. 'The luxus Flotte, 9 wrote Churchill, 'became an 
expression passed angrily from lip to Up.' But the Germans were not only 
angry; they were shocked. The Kaiser regarded young Churchill as a per- 
sonal friend. After all, the latter had twice been the monarch's guest at 
manoeuvres in 1906 and 1909; besides, the Crown Prince had been a fellow 
visitor with Winston at a week-end house party and they had even had a 
pillow fight together. Winston had been one of the leaders of the pacifist 
wing in England, and had always spoken kindly of Germany. The Kaiser 
had been delighted when he read of the appointment and had interpreted 
it as a triumph for the pro-German element in England. It was as rude an 
awakening as Lloyd George's Mansion House speech. The English were 
unpredictable indeed. 

Churchill's speech was not only criticized in Germany but at home. 
The Government considered it precipitous and rash, and the Tories went 
around saying, 'What can you expect from a fellow like that?* Haldane, 
however, returned from Germany and declared that it had helped rather 
than hindered. It had emphasized the very points he had been making. 
However, as far as the Germans were concerned, it failed to produce the 
desired result. Germany continued her naval programme and in March 
Churchill declared that Britain would build two more ships than she had 
the previous year. He made one more conciliatory gesture. 'Suppose we 
were both to take a naval holiday in 1913 and introduce a blank page 
into the book of misunderstanding.' This proposal was received by 
Germany in icy silence. Churchill returned his attention to preparations 

for war. 

* * * * 

1 The Times: 10 February, 1912. 


One of Winston's first tasks at the Admiralty was to create a Naval War 
Staff in the face of stiff naval opposition. The professional sailors declared 
that a War Staff would undermine and divide the all-powerful authority 
of the First Sea Lord, diminishing rather than increasing efficiency. Fisher 
wrote to a friend on 7 November, 1911: 'The argument for a War Staff 
is that you may have a d d fool as First Sea Lord, and so you put him 
in commission, as it were.' Churchill, however, had agreed to set up the 
new Staff and he pushed ahead with his task despite the fact that the First 
Sea Lord resigned, and the Second and Third Sea Lords had to be re- 

Haldane helped him to work out the plans for the organization but 
when Winston announced his startling intention of bringing the Naval 
War Staff directly under himself, a politician, rather than under the First 
Sea Lord, a sailor, Haldane objected stoutly and won his point. 

Despite this concession, many admirals were still far from satisfied. 
Even though the new body was under the direction of the First Sea Lord 
they felt that the Chief of die Naval Staff was bound to clash in authority 
with his superior. Lotd Fisher advised Winston to overcome the difficulty 
by declaring that the First Sea Lord would automatically become Chief 
of the Naval Staff, but Churchill did not accept his suggestion. Time 
proved Fisher right but it was not until Winston had left the Admiralty 
and Jellicoe had become First Sea Lord that the two offices were combined. 
Since Lord Fisher's position was completely unofficial he had no power 
to alter decisions of high policy. He therefore concerned himself with 
influencing appointments. Who, for instance, was to command the prin- 
cipal Fleet when war broke out? Fisher was an ardent supporter of Jellicoe 
and argued his case strongly with Winston. The latter acted on his recom- 
mendation and some idea of Fisher's triumphant satisfaction may be 
gleaned from a letter he wrote to a friend: 'My two private visits to 
Winston were fruitful. I'll tell you the whole secret of the changes to get 
Jellicoe Commander-in-Chief of the Home Fleet prior to October 1914, 
which is the date of the battle of Armageddon. He will succeed Callaghan 
automatically in two years from December 1911, so will have all well in 
hand by the before-mentioned date. Nunc Dimittis. Everything revolved 
around Jellicoe!' 1 Fisher's forecast of the beginning of die war, correct 
within two months, gives some idea of die shrewd judgment of the old 

About the same time that Churchill appointed Jdlicoe he picked the 
youngest Flag Officer in the Fleet for his private secretary. This was the 
same young man who had moved his gunboat up the Nile in support of 
1 The Life of Lord Fisher: Admiral Sir R. H. Bacon. 


the Lancers in their charge against the Dervishes at Omdurman, and the 
same young man who had thrown the soldiers a botde of champagne. His 
name was David Beatty and before World War I had ended he succeeded 
to Jellicoe's command. 

Fisher approved of Beatty, but he did not approve of several other 
important appointments that Churchill made on his own initiative. In 
fact, he was furious. He wrote to Winston in heated indignation and 
announced that their relations were at an end. 'I consider,' he said, 'you 
have betrayed the Navy by these three appointments, and what the 
pressure could have been to induce you to betray your trust is beyond my 
comprehension.' 1 With that he packed his bags and left for Naples. 

Winston behaved almost like a love-lorn suitor, sending a stream of 
letters begging Fisher to return. Then he badgered him with requests for 
his advice on this matter and that, and got other people to do the same. 
Fisher remained obdurate. Finally Churchill went after him. It so hap- 
pened that the Prime Minister had agreed to accompany Winston through 
the Mediterranean in the Admiralty yacht with the object of visiting 
Kitchener in Egypt, where the latter was serving as British Agent and 
Consul-General, and talking over problems of strategy. When the con- 
versations finished Churchill headed for Naples, and Asquith reinforced 
Churchill's pleas for the old man to return. Still Lord Fisher remained 
adamant. Then Churchill employed feminine subtlety. On Sunday morn- 
ing they all went to the English service. In the middle of the sermon the 
chaplain looked at Fisher and said solemnly: 'No man possessing all his 
powers and full of vitality has any right to say: "I am now going to rest, 
as I have had a hard life/' for he owes a duty to his country and fellow 
men!' Fisher relented and returned to England; and the powerful, un- 
official combination once more went into action. Considering the fact 
that both men were pugnacious, opinionated and autocratic, quarrels 
were to be expected; what is surprising is the feet that the alliance worked 
as well as it did. 

The two most formidable decisions taken by the Churchill-Fisher com- 
bination were first, to advance from the thirteen-point-five-inch gun to 
the fifteen-inch, and second, to change the entire Navy over from coal to 
oil. These innovations took place during 1912-13. At this time a fifteen- 
inch gun had not even been designed. Yet there was no time to test it A 
valuable year would be lost On the other hand if the ships would not stand 
the stress the Navy might become a ghastly fiasco. However, the experts 
all assured Churchill that the gun would work and declared that they were 
ready to stake their professional careers upon it; and Lord Fisher urged 


Churchill forward with passionate insistence. 'What was it that enabled 
Jack Johnson to knock out his opponents?' he argued. 'It was the Big 
Punch.* Winston went ahead; and as the Germans were soon to learn, the 
result was more than satisfactory. 

The new guns led to the change-over from coal to oil. Striking power, 
Fisher declared, was not enough. Speed was absolutely essential, and ships 
run by oil gave a large excess of speed over coal. Furthermore they had 
another advantage; they could be refuelled, if necessary, at sea. The 
obvious drawback to the whole idea was the fact that Britain produced 
coal and not oil. Churchill pondered over the difficulties, while once again 
Lord Fisher pressed him furiously on. Winston set up a Royal Commission 
on Oil Supply and appointed the old man as chairman. The final outcome 
was a long term contract with the Anglo-Persian Oil Company which, 
for an initial investment of ^2,000,000, kter increased to 5,000,000, 
secured the necessary oil and gave the Government a controlling share in 
oil properties which increased their value many hundred per cent. In 1951 
this same British interest became the subject of dangerous controversy. 

The new guns and the change-over to oil involved enormous expense. 
Churchill's Naval Estimates presented to the Cabinet at the end of 1913 
were the highest in British history, and thehighest in the world. The figure 
was over 50,000,000. The Cabinet gasped; and for the first time since 
Lloyd George and Churchill had been colleagues in the same Govern- 
ment they found themselves desperately opposed to one another. Each 
threatened to resign unless the other gave way. 

The relationship between Lloyd George and Churchill altered during the 
years 1911 and 1912. The two men remained staunch friends but the 
political affinity ended. No longer did they fasten on their armour and 
walk out to do battle on the same ground. They stood firmly together 
over the Agadir incident but when the crisis faded Churchill was a differ- 
ent man. He could not turnback to domestic affairs. His interest in reform 
had evaporated and he no longer found it amusing to bait rich landlords. 

Lloyd George had the opposite reaction. As soon as the scare had passed 
he returned eagerly to the battle on the home front. How could the 
destruction of war compare for excitement with the construction of peace? 
As Chancellor of the Exchequer he had a finger in every pie, and 1911-12 
were foil yean. They were the years of the stormy Parliament Bill; of the 
railway strike, the dock strike and the coal strike; of growing violence in 
die suffrage movement; of a new Home Rule Bill and a Welsh Disestab- 
lishment Bill; and most important of all, the years of Lloyd George's 


greatest triumph the National Health Insurance Act. This was the first 
step towards the Health Service that exists in Britain to-day and its 
initiation aroused as much furious opposition among the doctors and the 
Tories as its successor did in 1946. The Insurance Act operated by both 
employers and employees contributing to weekly 'stamps. Punch ran a 
cartoon with an angry Duchess exclaiming: 'What! Me lick stamps!* and 
a correspondent, in a letter to the Daily Mail, declared: 'If the Insurance 
Bill becomes law it will be advisable for us to leave England/ 

Lloyd George was puzzled and a little irritated that Winston was unable 
to arouse any enthusiasm over these exciting measures. He told Mrs. 
Masterman that Churchill was taking 'less and less part in home politics, 
and getting more and more absorbed in boilers'. It was true that Winston 
could never take up a subject without overflowing, a fact to which some 
of his colleagues objected strongly. Lloyd George complained that he 
would bear down on him saying: 'Look here, David, I want to talk to 
you/ and then he would 'declaim for the rest of the morning about his 
blasted ships!' l 'You have become a water creature,* Lloyd George once 
told him in a reproving voice. 'You think we all live in the sea, and all 
your thoughts are devoted to sea life, fishes and other aquatic creatures. 
You forget that most of us live on land.' 2 

Thus the friendship survived while each man marched along his own 
particular path. Lloyd George still regarded the landed proprietors as 
enemies of society. 'The land,' he declared, 'is still shackled with the chains 
of feudalism;' and he began to formulate a Land Act that would revive 
agriculture; fix rents and tenures; tackle housing and slum clearance. 
'The squire is God/ he announced, 'the parson, the agent, the gamekeeper 
these are his priests; the pheasants, the hares these are the sacred birds 
and beasts of the tabernacle/ Lloyd George was just getting under way 
when the 'Marconi scandal' broke, which, as it turned out, proved no 
scandal at all. The Tories claimed that Lloyd George and two other 
Liberal Ministers had used inside knowledge to gamble in Marconi shares. 
The House of Commons set up an inquiry which found that (a) the 
Ministers held very few shares, (b) they had made a loss and not a profit. 
They had done nothing dishonourable; the worst they could be accused of 
was indiscretion. During the ordeal Winston stood by Lloyd George 
firmly. When it was over the National Liberal Club gave a dinner in 
honour of the three pilloried Ministers. Winston arrived at the dub late, 
found the door locked, and climbed through the pantry window. He 
made a rousing speech declaring that these men 'had been vilely and 

1 C F. G. Mastennan: Lucy Masterman. 
1 More Pages from My Diary: Lord Ridddl. 


damnably ill-treated in our cause for our sakes'. The agitation, he con- 
tinued, had been concocted 'by the pole-cats of polities'. 

Thus the friendship between these two rivals continued steadfastly in 
spite of vicissitudes and differing opinions. Then came Winston's huge 
Naval Estimates, and for the first time loyalty underwent a severe strain. 
Lloyd George needed all the revenue he could raise for his social reforms. 
Besides, he did not believe in big ships. He took the view, which had some 
important naval support, that destroyers and light cruisers were just as 
effective as dreadnoughts and far less costly. Also, Winston had made a 
bargain with him over expenditure and had not kept it. Winston, on the 
other hand, refused to budge. *L.G. is accustomed to deal with people who 
can be bluffed and frightened, but I am not to be bluffed and fright- 
ened!' he told a friend. 'He says that some of the Cabinet will resign. Let 
them resign!' 1 

As the weeks passed the situation became more and more critical for 
neither man would give way. Each said he would rather resign. Early in 
January Lloyd George gave an astonishing interview to the Daily Chronicle 
calling for a reduction in armaments on the grounds that the international 
sky had never been 'more perfectly blue'. Lord Riddell, a newspaper 
proprietor who was a dose friend of both, recorded the following excerpts 
in his Diary: 

17 January, 1913: Lloyd George said: 'The P.M. must choose between 
Winston and me ... We now ascertain for the first time that Winston 
has exceeded the estimates by no less than .5,000,000. That is gross 
extravagance ... I am not a "little Navy" man. I don't want to reduce the 
Navy. I only want reasonable economy. I am not fighting about that. 
Winston says he can make no more reductions. The truth is he is not a 
Liberal. He does not understand Liberal sentiment.' 

1 8 January: Churchill said: 'I don't know how long I shall be here 
[at the Admiralty]. The position is acute. I cannot make further economies. 
I cannot go back on my public declarations. L.G. will find the Cabinet 
with me. The P.M. is committed to the expenditure up to the hilt. I can 
make no further concessions. I cannot agree to the concealment of the 
actual figures. I think I know the English people. The old Cromwellian 
spirit still survives. I believe I am watched over. Think of the perils I have 
escaped.' Lord Riddell then inserted in the diary: '(L.G., as I have already 
recorded, believes the same about himself. If there is a row it will be 
interesting to see which guardian angel is stronger.)' 2 

Churchill played every card he possessed. He let it be known that his 

1 More Pages from My Diary: Lord RiddelL 


resignation 'would be accompanied by that of all four Sea Lords; he 
allowed a rumour to spread that he was considering rejoining the Con- 
servative Party; he hinted at a compromise with the Tories over Home 
Rule. The Liberals took fright and a few weeks later Winston and Lloyd 
George reached a compromise which, although it saved L.G/S face, was, 
in fact, a triumph for Winston. The latter agreed to knock 1,000,000 
off his 52,000,000 Bill; and Lloyd George agreed to remain in the 

A politician can afford to be hated by the Opposition; but he cannot 
run die risk of alienating too many members of his own side. Churchill 
was still vehemently distrusted by the Tories. Although they approved of 
his naval programme they continued to regard him as unscrupulous and 
dangerous. Until the moment he had become First Lord of the Admiralty 
he had opposed the Naval Estimates; now, they said, when he thought 
he could reap personal glory he was in favour of them. The World called 
him a 'boneless wonder* for his change of policy, an epithet which 
Winston was to employ effectively against Ramsay MacDonald some 
years later. 

Churchill ignored the Tory attack but he regarded the rising feeling 
against him among the Radical section of his own party with concern. The 
Radicals objected strongly to his increased naval expenditure. More and 
more it was being said that he was 'not a Liberal*. Largely to appease 
Radical sentiment Winston decided to fling himself into the Irish con- 
troversy. The Asquith Government was dependent on the votes of the 
eighty-four Irish Nationalist Members of Parliament for its majority; 
consequently it had pledged itself to introduce a Home Rule Bill This 
Bill was popular with the Radicals, so Churchill took up the cause. 

For over thirty years the passionate affairs of Ireland, with their almost 
insuperable difficulties, had occupied the attention of successive British 
Governments. The Catholic South did not wish to be ruled from West- 
minster despite the fact that they were represented in the Westminster 
Parliament by their eighty-four Members; they insisted that Dublin should 
have its own Parliament, and furthermore, and here the insoluble element 
came in, that Dublin should rule a united Ireland including the Pro- 
testants of the North. Ulster rebelled furiously. 'Home Rule,' they 
declared, was 'Rome rule/ They loudly emphasized their 'loyalty' to 
British authority. 

In the latter years of his life Gladstone twice attempted to bring in a 
Home Rule BiU, but on both occasions it was defeated. Lord Randolph 
Churchill played a leading part in the opposition, declaring that 'Ulster 


will fight; and Ulster will be right/ For some years the sleeping dog slept 
fitfully; then came the elections of 1910 which gave Asquith's Liberals a 
majority only with the votes of the eighty-four Irish Nationalists. The 
price demanded of him was a third attempt at a Home Rule Bill. At once 
the Irish question was brought into the arena of Party politics. The 
Liberals drew up the Bill: the Conservatives opposed it to a man. 

Churchill played a leading part in the controversy and in one of the 
most brilliant performances of his career, piloted the second reading of the 
Bill through the House of Commons. When Lord Randolph's dictum 
was flung at him he denounced it as one from which 'every street bully 
with a brickbat and every crazy fanatic fumbling with a pistol may draw 

In February 1912 he plunged into the hornets' nest itself by making a 
daring speech in Belfast, the capital of Ulster. The Irishmen refused to let 
him speak in the Ulster Hall, saying they would smash up the meeting, 
so he hired a marquee and addressed a huge open air meeting. Ten 
thousand troops were sent out to keep order, and the story was circulated 
that if Mrs. Churchill had not accompanied her husband the Orangemen 
would have thrown Churchill into the river. 

The House of Commons was also the scene of wild confusion. Once a 
debate grew so stormy that an Ulsterman picked up the Speaker's manual 
on parliamentary procedure and flung it at Winston's head. It reached its 
target and Churchill had to be restrained by force from returning the 
blow. The next day the offender apologized handsomely and Winston 
assured him that 'I have not, nor have I at any time, any personal feelings in 
the matter, and if I had any personal feelings the observations he has thought 
proper to address to the House would have effectually removed them.' 

The strife of party politics in Westminster was steadily fanning the 
flames of Irish discord. In the middle of 1912 Bonar Law, the Conservative 
leader, made an astonishing declaration which amounted to an incitement 
to civil war. 'Ireland is two nations,' he said. 'The Ulster people will 
submit to no ascendancy, and I can imagine no lengths of resistance to 
which they might go in which they would not be supported by the over- 
whelming majority of the British people.' Meanwhile, Sir Edward Carson, 
a former Conservative Minister and now the accepted leader of the 
Northern Irish, was making fiery speeches in Belfast. In the summer of 
1913, Carson held a monster rally and opened enlistments for the 'Ulster 
volunteers'; by the end of the year the volunteers had grown to one 
hundred thousand men. Gun running, in defiance of the law, began to 
take place. Before the winter was over rifles and ammunition were being 
" only too willingly by Germany. 


One of the most extraordinary aspects of this turmoil was that while 
Churchill was playing a leading role on the Home Rule side, his most 
intimate friend, F. E. Smith, was a prominent figure on the Ulster front. 
F.E. was Sir Edward Carson's right hand man and he was making 
vehement speeches to the Northerners to hold their ground whatever the 
price. How the friendship of the two men survived such a crisis is perplex- 
ing; one is driven to the conclusion that neither was emotionally involved 
in the affair but both were playing politics. However, Winston secured 
his main objective. In the heat of the controversy his Naval Estimates 
were passed by the House with surprisingly little opposition. 

In March 1914 Irish events began to move towards a climax. Asquith 
forced the Irish Nationalists in the House of Commons to agree to a plan 
which would enable the Northern Counties to vote themselves out of the 
Home Rule Bill until two British General Elections had taken place. If the 
Conservatives won either of these they could amend the Bill to their 
liking. The Tories, however, turned down the idea flatly, and a few days 
later Churchill, who had worked hard for the Clause excluding Ulster, 
made a speech at Bradford in which he said: 'There are worse things than 
bloodshed . . . We are not going to have the realm of Britain sunk to the 
condition of the Republic of Mexico/ 1 

Then he made a move which nearly had fatal and terrible conse- 
quences. In collaboration with his friend and colleague, Colonel Seely, 
who had succeeded Haldane as Secretary of State for War, he worked out 
a plan by which the British Army would occupy all munition dumps and 
arsenals, and all strategic positions in Ulster. A flotilla was ordered to Lam- 
lash where it ky ready to transport troops to Belfast if the railways 
refused to carry them. 

Churchill declares in The World Crisis that this scheme was evolved to 
protect the Army stores in Northern Ireland in case civil war %roke out at 
the same time that war with Germany was declared. However, the most 
eminent historians do not accept this version any more than the Tories 
did at the time. Halev^ describes the move as 'nothing less than a plan of 
campaign against Northern Ireland*. Needless to say, the action aroused a 
storm of fury. The British Army contained many officers and men of 
Ulster origin. General Gough, in command of a cavalry brigade at the 
Curragh in Ireland, resigned rather than carry out the order, and was 
immediately replaced. The following day Lloyd George spoke warn- 
ingly: *We are confronted with the gravest issue raised in this country 
since the days of the Stuarts. Representative government in this land is 
at stake ... I am here this afternoon on behalf of the British Government 

1 14 March, 1914. 


to say this to you that they mean to confront this defiance of popular 
liberties with a most resolute, unwavering determination whatever the 
hazard may be.' 

But during the twenty-four hours following Cough's resignation nearly 
all the British officers of the two cavalry brigades at the Curragh had 
resigned in sympathy with the General. Asquith saw that the Government 
was facing a large-scale mutiny unless an immediate retraction was made. 
He announced in Parliament that a military campaign against Ulster had 
never been intended. General Gough was hurriedly reinstated and given a 
written assurance by War Minister Seely that Ulster would not be 
coerced by force. 

These actions were described in the Unionist Press as a 'complete sur- 
render' and, although they pacified the Conservatives, they threw the 
Liberal Party into a storm of anger. Northern Ireland, declared the 
Liberals furiously, must be made to comply. The Prime Minister had now 
jumped from the frying pan into the fire. In a prevaricating speech he told 
the House of Commons that the pledge given to Gough had not received 
the assent of the Cabinet. Then, in order to produce a scapegoat, he 
accepted Colonel Seely's resignation and took over the War Office him- 

Asquith's parliamentary statement about Gough was, in effect, a repu- 
diation of the promise that Seely had given to the General, but the latter 
was not 'officially' informed of what had happened and calmly remained 
at his post Thus the almost unbelievably muddled events of March 1914 
dragged on. A month later forty thousand rifles and a million cartridges 
were distributed throughout Northern Ireland. They had come from 
Hamburg and the rifles were Mausers. 'Was it astonishing,' wrote Chur- 
chill, c that German agents reported, and German statesmen believed, that 
England was paralysed by faction and drifting into civil war, and need not 
be taken into account as a factor in thfc European situation?' 1 

The King summoned a conference of the leaders of the two factions at 
Buckingham Palace but after three days an impasst was reached. Rioting 
broke out in Dublin where thousands of men were flocking to join the 
Irish Nationalist Volunteers. Then suddenly an event occurred which 
swung British attention from the anxieties of Ireland and riveted it 
permanently on the European scene. Four weeks previously a Serbian 
peasant had assassinated the heir to the Austrian throne. Now on 24 July 
the Austrians had sent Serbia an ultimatum which amounted to annexa- 
tion. The curtain was rising on World War I. 

1 The'World Crisis: Winston S. Churchill 


The pistol shot at Sarajevo gave the Germans their pretext for war. Serbia 
refused to accept the harsh ultimatum flung at her and the next day 
Austria declared war. The day after, the Russians began to mobilize on 
the Austrian frontier; three clays later Germany sent an ultimatum to 
Russia to disperse her troops, then declared war. On 3 August, this time 
without any declaration, Germany invaded Belgium and France. 

Ten tense and fearful days had passed between the Austrian ultimatum 
and the German invasion. During this time the British Cabinet was 
overwhelmingly pacifist. Every attempt was made to stop the conflagra- 
tion from spreading, every hope was sustained, and every argument 
advanced, why Britain could remain aloof. However, England had guar- 
anteed Belgian neutrality; and when the news was received that German 
troops were pouring through Flanders all thought of peace vanished. An 
ultimatum was sent to Germany demanding her withdrawal from Belgium 
within twenty-four hours. When the chimes of Big Ben struck eleven on 
the warm summer evening of 4 August, Britain was at war. 

"Winston had played his part well. Lord Fisher had prophesied repeatedly 
that 1914 was the crucial year. As a result the Fleet was not sent on its 
usual manoeuvres to the North Sea. Instead, Churchill ordered a mobiliza- 
tion exercise, which meant putting not only the main Fleet but the ships 
and men of the Second and Third Reserve Fleets, on active service footing. 
This exercise took place in the middle of July. It ended on 17 and 18 July 
in a grand review of the Fleet by the King at Spithead. 

After this the normal course would have been dispersal. Instead, on 
20 July, the newspapers carried an Admiralty notice: 'Orders have been 
given to the First Fleet, which is concentrated at Portland, not to disperse 
for naval leave for the present. All vessels of the Second fleet arc remain- 
ing at their home ports in proximity to their balance crews/ 

The following week when Austria attacked 'Serbia, Winston acted 
quickly. With the assent of Sir Edward Grey he gave instructions for the 
Fleet to take up its station in Scottish waters, at Scapa Flow, opposite the 
German Fleet, in order to prevent it being bottled up in the face of a 
surprise attack. The operation was carried out in the greatest secrecy; the 
ships moved through the Straits of Dover at night with their fires banked. 

During the ten days that the Government debated the terrible issue of 
war and peace, Churchill was the strongest force for intervention in the 
Cabinet. While his colleagues hesitated, worried and uncertain, Churchill 
was longing to act. Asquith describes him in his memoirs as Very bellicose, 
demanding instant mobilization 9 . On Friday, 3 1 July, Churchill asked his 
friend, F. E. Smith, to sound his Conservative leaders on the question of 
coalition in case the Liberal Government remained hopelessly divided. 


Bonar Law refused to consider coalition unless he was approached by the 
Prime Minister himself, but made it clear that the Administration could 
count on loyal Conservative support. 

On Saturday, i August, Germany declared war on Russia. Churchill, 
on his own authority and without the sanction of the Cabinet (which he 
received the following morning), ordered the full mobilization of the 
Fleet. Lord Beaverbrook describes Churchill's reactions when he heard 
the news of the fateful act. Beaverbrook had been invited with Mr. F. E. 
Smith to Admiralty House for dinner and bridge. 'Suddenly an immense 
dispatch box was brought into the room. Churchill produced his skeleton 
key from his pocket, opened the box and took out of it a single sheet of 
paper . . . On that sheet was written the words "Germany has declared 
war against Russia". 

'He rang for a servant and asking for a lounge coat, stripped his dress 
coat from his back, saying no further word. ... He left the room quickly 
... He was not depressed; he was not elated; he was not surprised . . . 
Certainly he exhibited no fear or uneasiness. Neither did he show any 
signs of joy. He went straight out like a man going to a well-accustomed 
job. In fact, he had foreseen everything that was going to happen so far 
that his temperament was in no way upset by the realization of his fore- 
cast. We have suffered at times from Mr. Churchill's bellicosity. But what 
profit the nation derived at that crucial moment from the capacity of the 
First Lord of the Admiralty for grasping and dealing with the war situa- 
tion/ 1 

Not many months later, in one of the bleakest periods of his career, 
Lord Kitchener was to say to him: 'There is one thing they cannot take 
from you: the Fleet was ready/ 

1 Politicians and the War: Lord Beaverbrook. 



WINSTON CHURCHILL'S star had been rising steadily for eight years, 
and when war broke out he stood as one of the three most powerful men 
in Britain. He was only thirty-nine years old, yet he was head of the 
greatest fighting service of the greatest Empire in the world. Fortune was 
smiling as far as his own opportunities were concerned and the path ahead 
seemed straight and sure. He was a forceful orator, an accomplished writer 
and an able administrator. He was blessed with boundless energy. He 
enjoyed the dose friendship of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the 
admiration of the Prime Minister. With his dazzling gifts and his pug- 
nacious spirit it seemed certain that he would play a leading role in the 
great struggle against Germany, and even his enemies began to reckon on 
him as a probable successor to Asquith. 

But Fortune is a fickle mistress. Only ten months later he was dismissed 
from the Admiralty and five months after that he was excluded from the 
War Cabinet. His power was broken; he had no further voice in the con- 
duct of the war. Even though Lloyd George brought him back into the 
Government in 1917 he never regained die great position he held at the 
outset. He was given a purely administrative job, while questions of high 
policy were carefully shielded from his influence. His contribution to 
World War I, therefore, was sensational but brief. What brought about 
his downfall? 

The answer undoubtedly lay in Churchill's personality. The Tories still 
hated and mistrusted him and lost no opportunity to discredit him; but 
leaving politics aside, Churchill was not popular as a man. His parliamen- 
tary colleagues recognized his genius but they did not warm to him for the 
simple reason that he offended their amour propre. Ideas, not people, in- 
terested him, and his absorption with his own affairs and his own opinions 
at times could be almost childlike in its vanity and intensity. He treated 
his colleagues to brilliant monologues but the fact that he seldom wanted 
to hear their views in exchange often left them ruffled and offended while 
he, in turn, was completely oblivious to their reactions. His was the insen- 
sibility of the headstrong child, warm-hearted, and generous when taken 
to task, but too utterly engrossed in his own pursuits to have much heed 
for others. This insensibility was a serious defect in a democratic statesman 
whose task it was not only to expand ideas but to persuade others to follow 



them. As a result Churchill was unable to command the personal sym- 
pathy and loyalty necessary to sustain him through precarious times. 

But let the events of the day unfold the story. At the outbreak of hosti- 
lities Churchill's Navy was more than ready. Its main task was to ensure 
the safe transport of the British Expeditionary Force to France, which it did 
without the loss of a single life. Winston was eager and bellicose. He was 
brimming over with ideas and longed for a show-down. The Grand Fleet 
patrolled the North Sea majestically, challenging the German Navy to 
come out and fight. But why wait for them, asked Churchill? What about 
a raid on the German ships in the Heligoland Bight? As a result a plan was 
drawn up and put into operation with brilliant success. Two flotillas of 
British destroyers and cruisers made a sudden drive near the island of Sylt, 
sank one cruiser, smashed two others and crippled three more. They also 
sank a destroyer. Churchill declared triumphantly that c the nose of the 
bulldog has been slanted backwards so that he can breathe without letting 


The Army was not having such a successful time. The Germans had 
thrown their whole strength into the attack against France, and were 
staking everything on one conclusive gamble: the complete destruction of 
French military power. At the end of three weeks a million men of the 
French Army were falling back on Paris, leaving the Channel ports dan- 
gerously exposed. Surprise and alarm swept through England, but 
Churchill was not dismayed. In order to reassure his colleagues he re- 
printed the memorandum he had written in 1911 which predicted these 
very happenings, but went on to declare confidently that by the fortieth 
day the Germans would be fully extended, which would allow the Allies 
to stage a counterstroke. He sent a copy of the memorandum to Sir John 
French, the Commander of the British Expeditionary Force, who replied 
in a letter on i o September: 'What a wonderful forecast you made in 191 1 . 
I don't remember the paper, but it has turned out almost as you said. I 
have shown it to a few of my staff/ 

Lord Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War, was worried. As the 
Allied line fell back in France he began to fear that the Germans might 
strike at London by zeppelin raid. Three-quarters of the planes the English 
possessed were under the control of the War Office and were being used 
in support of the retreating armies. The other quarter, planes that 
Churchill himself had scraped together in 1912 and 1913 to form a 'Naval 
Air Service', were under the jurisdiction of the Navy and lying idle. 
Consequently Lord Kitchener asked Winston if he would undertake the 
aerial defence of Great Britain, and the latter eagerly assented. This led to a 
series of unusual events, some comic, some tragic, which contributed to 


Churchill's final downfall. It also led to an invention destined to revolu- 
tionize modern warfare the birth of the Tank. 

This is how the tank idea came into being. Churchill knew that if the 
German zeppelins were to be destroyed they must be attacked in their 
hangars. In those days aeroplane engines were not strong enough to reach 
the height at which zeppelins flew in the necessary time. Aviation was 
in its infancy, night flying was only beginning, and location of aircraft by 
sound was not then known. Churchill, therefore, set up air bases at Dun- 
kirk and Calais, as near to the enemy lines as possible. From then on 
intrepid pilots in uncertain machines conducted innumerable sweeps over 
Cologne, Dusseldorf, Friedrichshaven and Cuxhaven; and before twelve 
months had passed the Royal Naval Air Service could claim to have 
destroyed no less than six of the great gas-filled monsters. 

However, it soon became apparent that Churchill's new air bases were 
in danger of direct attack from German patrols. Winston immediately 
ordered a hastily improvised armoured car equipped with a machine gun; 
next he ordered the formation of armoured car squadrons under the 
Admiralty. But once again difficulties arose. German cavalry units suc- 
ceeded in warding off these mobile attacks by digging themselves in 
behind trenches. And as the days passed the trenches stretched out further 
and further until they finally reached the sea. There was no way for the 
cars to get round them. 

Winston refused to bow to such an obstacle. Something must be done 
at once to 'beat the trench'. On 23 September, he wrote a letter to Admiral 
Bacon, the General Manager of a large ordnance works, asking for a 
design of an armoured car that could cross trenches by means of a folding, 
portable bridge. 'The air was the first cause that took us to Dunkirk, 9 he 
explains in The World Crisis. 'The armoured car was the child of the air: 
and the tanlc jt$ grandchild.' 

Admiral Bacon produced the design, but the armoured car with the 
portable bridge was never manufactured; for, a month later, the Admiral 
showed Churchill a caterpillar tractor which he decided was more suitable. 
This, too, had a folding bridge. He ordered several of these machines to be 
made but when the first one was tested in May 1915 the Admiralty per- 
versely rejected it because it could not descend a four-foot bank or go 
through three feet of water. 

However, Winston had other irons in the fire. Some idea of his per- 
sistence may be gathered from a letter which he wrote in January 1915 to 
the Director of the Air Division: 'I wish the following experiment made 
at once: Two ordinary steam-rollers are to be fastened together side by 
side by very strong steel connections, so that they are to all intents and 


purposes one roller covering a breadth of at least twelve to fourteen feet. 
If convenient, one of the back inside wheels might be removed and the 
other axle joined up to it. Some trenches are to be dug on the latest prin- 
ciples somewhere near London in lengths of at least 100 yards, the earth 
taken out of the trenches being thrown on each side, as is done in France. 
The roller is to be driven along these trenches one outer rolling wheel on 
each side, and the inner rolling wheel just clear of the trench itself. The 
object is to ascertain what amount of weight is necessary in the roller to 
smash the trench in. For this purpose as much weight as they can possibly 
draw should be piled on to the steam-rollers and on the framework buck- 
ling them together. The ultimate object is to run along a line of trenches, 
crushing them all flat and burying the people in them.' 1 

This experiment also failed. The steam-rollers merely bogged down in 
the centre and refused to budge. 

But Winston persevered. The following month he talked to an Army 
major who suggested the creation of huge 'land battleships'. This idea led 
to the formation of the Landships Committee of the Admiralty under 
whose auspices two designs were finally produced, one on large wheels, 
the other on a caterpillar tractor. He ordered eighteen of these machines 
to be built at a cost of 70,000. The money was not authorized by the 
Treasury but he assumed the responsibility himself. When he was dis- 
missed from the Admiralty a few months later his successor cut down the 
order jo one. This one was the exact prototype of the tank used for the 
first time in the Battle of the Somme in 1916. 

Churchill began the war as Asquith's, blue-eyed boy, but his triumphs 
were short-lived. Before eight weeks had passed his position with the 
Prime Minister had begun to deteriorate. According to Lord Beaver- 
brook, who was a dose friend of the most powerful political figures of the 
day, the thing which first attracted Asquith's attention and made Him 
doubt in the long run whether Churchill was a 'wise war counsellor* was 
the Dunkirk Circus. This project was born from the fear, which persisted 
for many months, that the Germans might capture the Channel ports. On 
16 September, Marshal Joffre asked Lord Kitchener if a brigade of 
Marines could be sent to Dunkirk to reinforce the garrison and give the 
enemy the idea that British, as well as French troops, were operating in the 
area. Once again Kitchener turned to Churchill, and once again Churchill 

The Marines were sent across die Channel and Winston requisitioned 

1 The World Crisis: Winston S. Churchill 


fifty motor omnibuses from the streets of London to give them the neces- 
sary mobility. Soon British detachments were showing themselves in 
Ypres, Lille, Tournai and Douai. The Marines suffered no casualties and 
had a good deal of fun; so did the First Lord of the Admiralty. Winston 
began to spend a good deal of time in France inspecting his air bases and 
thinking up new escapades for his Circus. 

It is not difficult to understand the criticism that began to arise. Why 
wasn't the fellow at his desk in the Admiralty where he belonged, the 
Tories began to growl, instead of racing off to France poking his nose into 
other people's business, and making himself ridiculous? Armoured cars 
and London buses; what on earth did they have to do with the Navy? 
Even his colleagues in the Government began to be annoyed. 'There were, 
on more than one occasion,' wrote Lord Beaverbrook, 'unexplained 
absences on the part of the First Lord of the Admiralty, which were often 
inconvenient and caused a growing sense of annoyance among other 
members of the Government. The Prime Minister, who at the outset had 
approved of the "Circus", found himself tolerating these absences and 
trying to conceal the whereabouts of his colleague from other Ministers. 
Subsequently he discovered that he must take charge at the Admiralty 
during an absence of Churchill. On a later occasion still he could not find 
the First Lord when the date of the sailing of a New Zealand contingent 
was at stake so that, Asquith complained, a very serious delay in dispatch- 
ing this force occurred.' 1 Asquith soon saw that the Dunkirk Circus was 
wound up. 

Then an unfortunate incident occurred. On 21 September Churchill 
delivered a flamboyant speech in which he made a boastful and unwise 
observation that was destined to be flung back at him for years to come. 
'So far as the Navy is concerned we cannot fight while the enemy remains 
in port. ... If they do not come out and fight they will be dug out like 
rats from a hole,' he cried. The English public did not like this sort of talk. 
They recognized the Germans as a formidable foe and had an uneasy feel- 
ing that Winston was tempting fate. Their reaction was swiftly justified, 
for the very next day three British ships, the Aboukir, the Hogue and the 
Cressy, which were steaming along on patrol duty off the Dutch coast, 
were torpedoed and sunk. Churchill had ordered the withdrawal of this 
'live-bait' squadron three days before and if his order had been carried out 
promptly the loss would have been avoided; but this could not be known. 
His speech had been a political gaffe and disaster following it so promptly 
placed fy'm in a ridiculous light His opponents had every right to seize 
on the incident and discredit him, but one Tory M.P., Captain Bowles, 

1 Politicians and the War: Lord Beaverbrook. 


circulated an outrageous pamphlet which contained the preposterous 
statement: 'The loss on 22 September of the Aboukir, the Cressy, and the 
Hogue, with 1,459 officers and men killed, occurred because, despite the 
warnings of the admirals, commodores and captains, Mr. Churchill 
refused, until it was too late, to recall them from a patrol so carried on as 
to make them certain to fall victims to the torpedoes of an active enemy/ 
Shortly after this sensation, the Antwerp episode damaged Churchill 
still further. Once again he undertook a mission at Lord Kitchener's 
request. 1 seem to have been too ready to undertake tasks which were 
hazardous or even forlorn,' he wrote many years later in The World Crisis. 
'I believed, however, that the special knowledge which I possessed and the 
great authority which I wielded at this time of improvisation, would 
enable me to offer less unsatisfactory solutions of these problems than 
could be furnished in the emergency by others in less commanding 
positions/ Thus Churchill was driven on by his supreme self-assurance, 
into positions which wiser statesmen might have avoided. The circum- 
stances were these; the Batde of the Marne, fought between 6 and 16 
September over a i8o-mile front, had flung the Germans back from the 
Marne to the Aisne and severely damaged their hope of a speedy victory. 
There was one more chance: the immediate capture of Antwerp. This 
would enable them to sweep to the Channel ports and perhaps roll up the 
Allied line in total defeat. Consequently the Kaiser gave an imperative 
order for the capture of Antwerp, regardless of cost, and on 28 September 
the German ly-inch howitzers began their bombardment. The heavy 
fortifications were destroyed with astonishing ease and four days later the 
King of the Belgians sent out an urgent call for aid; if reinforcements did 
not arrive at once the Belgian Army might be captured intact. Plans to 
evacuate the city were already in hand. 

Churchill was on his way to Dunkirk when this desperate news was 
received. He raced back to London and attended a conference at Lord 
Kitchener's house. Kitchener explained that reinforcements would not be 
ready for three or four days; could Churchill hurry to Antwerp, explain 
the position to the King and Prime Minister, and urge them to hold on 
with the help of a brigade of Marines until further aid arrived? Once again 
Churchill said yes, and departed. 

Asquith was not in London when this decision was taken but made the 
following entry in his diary. 'I was away but Grey, Kitchener and Winston 
held a late meeting and, I fancy, with Grey's rather reluctant consent, the 
intrepid Winston set off at midnight and ought to have reached Antwerp 
about nine o'clock. He will straight away see the Belgian Ministers. Sir J. 
French is making preparations to send assistance by way of Lille. I had a 


talk with K. this morning and we are both anxiously awaiting Winston's 
report. I do not know how fluent his French is, but if he is able to do 
justice to himself in a foreign tongue the Beiges will have to listen to a dis- 
course the like of which they have never heard before. I cannot but think 
that he will stiffen them up.' 1 

The Prime Minister was correct in his opinion. Winston's arrival at 
Belgian Headquarters in the uniform of an Elder Brother of Trinity House 
had a slightly comic flavour about it, but his force and his eloquence put 
new heart into the Belgians. 'At one o'clock in the afternoon,' wrote an 
American correspondent, 'a big drab-coloured touring-car filled with 
British Naval officers drove down the Place de Mer, its horn sounding a 
hoarse warning, took the turn into the March-aux-Souliers on two wheels, 
and drew up in front of the hotel. Before the car had fairly come to a stop 
the door of the tonneau was thrown violently open and out jumped a 
smooth-faced, sandy-haired, stoop-shouldered, youthful-looking man in 
undress Trinity House uniform. 

'As he darted into the crowded lobby which, as usual in the luncheon 
hour, was filled with Belgian, French and British staff officers, diplomatists, 
Cabinet Ministers, and correspondents, he flung his arms out in a nervous 
characteristic gesture, as though pushing his way through a crowd. It 
was a most spectacular entrance, and reminded me for all the world of a 
scene in a melodrama where the hero dashes up bare-headed on a foam- 
flecked horse, and saves the heroine, or the old homestead, or the family 
fortune as the case may be 

'The Burgomaster stopped him, introduced himself, and expressed his 
anxiety regarding the fate of the city. Before he had finished Churchill 
was part way up the stairs. "I think everything will be all right now, Mr. 
Burgomaster," he called in a voice which could be distinctly heard 
throughout the lobby. "You needn't worry. We're going to save the 
city." '* 

Although the outer defences of Antwerp had been smashed, the water 
supply cut, and guns, ammunition and entrenching materials were run- 
ning low, Winston succeeded in convincing the Belgian staff that with the 
help that was arriving it was possible to hang on for some time yet. 
When Jack Seely, the ex-Secretary of State for War, arrived from Sir 
John French's Headquarters to report on the situation, he wrote: 'From 
the moment I arrived it was apparent that the whole business was in 
Winston's hands. He dominated the whole place the King, Ministers, 
soldiers, sailors. So great was his influence that I am convinced that with 

1 Memories and Reflections: The Earl of Oxford and Asquith. 

2 Fighting in Flanders: E. Alexander Powell 


twenty thousand British troops he could have held Antwerp against almost 
any onslaught/ 1 

Winston had the same belief himself. If only he were in command he 
was certain the city could be saved. He was thrilled by the situation and, as 
with all things that captured his imagination, absorbed in it to the exclusion 
of all else. Consequently he sent a message to the Prime Minister which 
seemed sensible to him but struck his colleagues as extraordinary. He 
asked Asquith to relieve him of his post at the Admiralty and give him the 
proper rank so that he could take over the military command himself. 
1 am sure this arrangement will afford the best prospects of a victorious 
result to an enterprise in which I am deeply involved,' he added con- 

Asquith gasped at the impertinence of an ex-subaltern of cavalry asking 
to command major-generals, and so did most of the Cabinet. However, 
it is interesting to note that Kitchener had a more open mind on the 
subject. 'I will make him a major-general if you will give him the com- 
mand,' he told Asquith. 

The Prime Minister remained obdurate. That night he wrote in his 
diary: C I at once telegraphed to him warm appreciation of his mission 
and his offer, with a most decided negative saying that we could not spare 
him at the Admiralty. I had not meant to read it at the Cabinet but, as 
everybody, including K., began to ask how soon he was going to return, I 
was at last obliged to do so. Winston is an ex-Lieutenant of Hussars and 
would, if his proposal had been accepted, have been in command of two 
distinguished major-generals not to mention brigadiers, colonels, etc., 
while the Navy are only contributing their light brigade.' 2 

In the meantime Winston had wired Kitchener to send two Naval 
brigades, which he knew could be dispatched at once. This detachment 
amounted to about six thousand men, inexperienced, ill-equipped and 
only partially trained. They fought stubbornly and well and played a vital 
part in prolonging the resistance, but before the battle ended nine hundred 
were taken prisoner, and another two and a half battalions crossed into 
Holland by mistake and were interned. 

Antwerp fell only five days after Winston's arrival. But according to 
the British official history of the war these five days were of incalculable 
value. 'Until Antwerp had fallen, the troops of the investing force were 
not available to move forwaEioa Ypres and the coast; and though, when 
they 313, they secured Zeebragge and Ostend without struggle, they were 
too late to secure Nieuport and Dunkirk and turn the Northern fla^y of 

1 Adventure: Major-General the Rt. Hon. J. E. B. Sedy. 
8 Memories and Reflections: The Earl of Oxford and Asquith. 


the Allies, as was intended/ What seems incredible is that Kitchener failed 
to grasp the strategic significance of Antwerp. Military historians declare 
that it could have been held if he had sent even one division of Territorials 
which were available, but, apart from his lack of understanding, like many 
other professional soldiers of his day he had a disdain for the Territorials; 
so, incongruously enough, he allowed Winston to try his luck with his 
half-trained Naval brigades. 

At the time it was impossible for the public to gauge the full significance 
of the five days of added resistance. People only saw the obvious facts. 
Churchill had dashed over to Belgium in an effort to save a city and a few 
days later the city had capitulated. Furthermore, to the layman it seemed 
an act of incredible folly to fling raw and badly equipped recruits into 
the battle. Even the Prime Minister's son, Brigadier-General Asquith, who 
took part in the Antwerp fighting, condemned Winston on this account. 
'I had a long talk with him (my son) after midnight,' wrote the Prime 
Minister in his diary, 'in the course of which he gave a full and vivid 
account of the expedition to Antwerp and the retirement. Marines, of 
course, are splendid troops and can go anywhere and do anything, but 
Winston ought never to have sent the two Naval brigades. I was assured 
that all the recruits were being left behind and that the main body at any 
rate consisted of seasoned Naval Reserve men. As a matter of fact, only 
about a quarter were Reservists and the rest were a callow crowd of the 
most raw recruits most of whom had never fired off a rifle while none of 
them had ever even handled an entrenching tool.' 1 

The Antwerp expedition damaged Winston's reputation badly. The 
Conservative Press was beginning to attack him savagely: 'Mr. Churchill's 
characteristics make him in his present position a danger and an anxiety 
to the nation,* stated the Morning Post on 15 October. 

It was apparent that even the Prime Minister was losing confidence in 
him. Although Mr. Asquith was still amused by the latter's highly original 
approach to matters, a derisory note was now creeping into his diary. 
Even so, it is difficult to suppress a smile when one reads the Prime 
Minister's account of an interview with Churchill shortly after his return 
from Belgium. 'I have had a long call from Winston who, after dilating in 
great detail on the actual situation, became suddenly very confidential 
and implored me not to take a conventional view of his future. 

'Having, as he says, tasted blood these last few days he is beginning like 
a tiger to raven for more and begs that sooner or later, and the sooner the 
better, he may be relieved of his present office and put in some kind of 
military command. I told him that he could not be spared from the 

1 Memories and Reflections: The Earl of Oxford and Asquith. 


Admiralty. He scoffed at that, alleging that 'the naval part of the business is 
practically over as our superiority will grow greater and greater every 

'His mouth waters at the thought of Kitchener's Armies. Are these 
glittering commands to be entrusted to dug-out trash, bred on the obso- 
lete tactics of twenty-five years ago, mediocrities who have led a sheltered 
life, mouldering in military routine? 

*For about an hour he poured forth a ceaseless invective and appeal and 
I much regretted that there was no shorthand writer within hearing as 
some of his unpremeditated phrases were quite priceless. He was, however, 
three parts serious and declared that a political career was nothing to him 
in comparison with military glory/ 1 

As the reader has seen, Churchill's prestige had declined sharply during 
the first three months of the war in which the events I have related took 
place. Much of the blame was unfair. The truth was that he had rendered 
valuable service to his country. His small but gallant Naval Air Force was 
busy scouting for enemy zeppelins; his Dunkirk Circus had fooled the 
Germans into believing that their flank was threatened by forty thousand 
men and finally stimulated a German retreat; the prolongation of the 
resistance of Antwerp delayed the enemy's movement towards Ypres and 
prevented the capture of Dunkirk. 

The mounting criticism against Churchill was almost entirely due to his 
self-assured manner. All his life he had irritated people by his belief in his 
own importance. But now that he was in a position of great power, his 
exuberance of spirit and his supreme self-confidence had become almost 
overwhelming, and he seemed to be indulging in a form of exhibitionism 
which his colleagues watched not only with annoyance but growing 
alarm. Many of them, including the Prime Minister, genuinely began to 
doubt his suitability as a Cabinet Minister. He seemed so rash and unstable. 
First there was the speech about 'digging the Germans out of their holes' 
the day before three British ships were sunk, then the spectacle of the First 
Lord rushing back and forth from Dunkirk like an excited schoolboy 
instead of leaving the direction of his Circus to someone else. 

Even at the Admiralty things were not going too well. It was felt that 
Churchill was wielding far too much authority over the Navy for a 
civilian, largely due to the indulgent attitude of the First Sea Lord, Prince 
Louis of Battenbcrg, father of the present Lord Mountbatten. Prince 
Louis, it was believed, lacked the necessary vigour and decision to control 

1 Memories and Reflections: The Earl of Oxford and Asquith. 


the dynamic politicians, and Churchill was now dubbed 'the amateur 

As the problems confronting the Navy increased, criticism mounted. 
The Emden and Konigsberg were sinking Allied ships in the Indian Ocean; 
the Goeben and Breslau had successfully slipped into the Sea of Marmora; 
and the Gneisenau and Scharnhorst were menacing Allied shipping off the 
west coast of Africa. 

Winston was hotly attacked and for the first time realized that his 
position at the Admiralty was far from secure. Besides this, criticism of 
Prince Louis was mounting; not, however, because of the latter's work as 
First Sea Lord, but for the cruel reason that he was of German origin. 

Winston knew that he could not defend Prince Louis much longer 
against the rising tide of anti-German feeling; he knew, also, that it was 
imperative to bolster his own position. He therefore sent for Lord Fisher. 
'Churchill co-opted Fisher to relieve pressure against himself,' wrote 
Lord Beaverbrook, 'but he had no intention of letting anyone else rule the 
roost. Here, then, were two strong men of incompatible temper both bent 
on autocracy. It only required a difference of opinion on policy to produce 
a dash, and this cause of dissension was not long wanting.' 1 

However, at first the Churchill-Fisher combination proved a distinct 
success. Within a few weeks of swinging into action it scored a notable 
victory. Lord Fisher took over as First Sea Lord just as the British Navy 
was sustaining a sharp defeat. A cruiser squadron was attacked in over- 
whelming force off the coast of Chile, by five German warships under the; command of Admiral von Spee. The British Admiralty was 
blamed for having sent as a reinforcement an old battleship capable of 
steaming only thirteen knots. 

Lord Fisher acted with characteristic force, dispatching the Invincible 
and the Inflexible to the scene of action although this meant seriously 
weakening the Grand Fleet. Some idea of Fisher's drive may be gathered 
from the fact that these two ships were undergoing repairs when their 
sailing orders arrived. Word came back to the First Sea Lord that the date 
of their departure would have to be delayed, to which the old Admiral 
replied that they could sail with the workmen if necessary, but sail they 

These two magnificent battle-cruisers went straight to the Falklands, 
and ran into von Spee by a brilliant stroke of luck. His famous squadron, 
including the Gneisenau and the Scharnhorst, was annihilated and von Spee 
and his two sons were killed. Fisher's triumph was complete. The country 
was ringing with his praise and Winston wrote to him: 'My dear, This 

1 Politicians, and the War: Lord Beaverbrook. 


was your show and your luck. I should have sent only one "Greyhound" 
and "Defence". These would have done the trick. But it was a great coup. 
Your flair was quite true. Let us have some more victories together and 
confound all our enemies abroad and (don't forget) at home.* 1 

At about this time Fisher wrote to a friend: 'I am working hard. ... It is 
long and arduous to get back to a good position with a consummate good 
player for an enemy. But Fm trying. Let him not that putteth his armour on 
boast himself like him that taketh it off.' 2 

Churchill and Fisher agreed not to take any action without each other's 
knowledge. They manned the Admiralty almost the twenty-four hours 
around, forming what they called a 'perpetual clock'. Fisher rose at four 
in the morning and finished his work in the early afternoon; Winston 
began in the late morning and worked through the night. Winston wrote 
his minutes in red ink, and Fisher in green, and both referred to them as 
the Port and Starboard Lights. 

Lord Fisher had strong ideas on strategy. He believed that the fighting 
in France would prove a fatal deadlock. The proper way to end the war, 
he argued, was to carry out a huge combined naval and military operation 
in the Baltic and pkce an army behind the enemy's lines. An enormous 
naval programme had been authorized by the Chancellor of the 
Exchequer. Fisher now extended it, and began to concentrate on the 
design of special ships for his Baltic plan. Churchill supported him and the 
two men agreed that the operation should take pkce some time in 1915. 

Thus, for the first two months, the old Admiral and the young politi- 
cian worked in dose harmony. Then suddenly a fly appeared in die oint- 
ment. Turkey had entered the war on Germany's side two months pre- 
viously. On 2 January, 1915, an urgent appeal was received from the 
Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia for the Allies to take some action in the 
Middle East that would draw off Turkish pressure from the Caucasus. 
Lord Kitchener pondered over the request but said that he could not spare 
troops from France. He wrote to Winston: C I do not see that we can do 
anything that will seriously help the Russians in the Caucasus. . . . The 
only place where a demonstration might have some effect on stopping re- 
inforcements going East would be the Dardanelles. We shall not be ready 
for anything big for some months.' 8 

Churchill at once seized upon the idea of forcing the fortresses that 
flanked the narrow Straits of die Dardanelles by a naval operation alone. 
This idea had been contemplated more than once in the past but had 

1 The Life of Lord Fisher: Admiral Sir R H. Bacon. 


1 The World Crisis: Winston S. Churchill. 


always been abandoned because it was considered too risky. Although 
Lord Fisher consented to the plan his instincts were against it and the 
quarrel that gradually developed between himself and Winston was the 
greatest political sensation of World War I. It brought Asquith's Liberal 
Government tumbling down; it ended Lord Fisher's naval career; and it 
resulted in the curt dismissal of Churchill from the Admiralty. 



THE FAILURE of the attack on the Dardanelles was the most tragic episode 
of the Hrst World War. And blame for the failure, fastened on Winston, 
pursued hire all the way to World War n. Shortly after he became Prime 
Minister in 1940, a Conservative politician who had fought at Gallipoli, 
remarked to me grimly: 'Whatever Winston does, he does on a colossal 
scale; he'll either pull us through in a colossal way, or we'll have a colossal 
muck-up like the Dardanelles.* 

What makes the failure seem even more tragic to-day is the fact that 
when the first war ended* and evidence from both sides was available, 
most experts came to the conclusion that if a combined military and naval 
attack had been launched against the Dardanelles it would have succeeded. 
As a result Turkey would have capitulated, Bulgaria would have been pre- 
vented from joining Germany, Russia would not have collapsed, and in all 
probability World War I would have ended in 191 5, saving millions oflives. 

What is the truth of this bitter, half-forgotten story? Was Churchill 
really responsible or merely the scapegoat for the mistakes of others? The 
root of the trouble ky in the haphazard, almost amateurish way in which 
high political decisions were reached in the opening period of the war. 
'During the first two months . . . there was no established War Council/ 1 
wrote Iloyd George in his Memoirs. 'There were sporadic and irregular 
consultations from time to time between the Secretary of State for War 
and the First Lord, between each of them individually and the Prime 
Minister and, now and again, between the two War Lords and the Prime 
Minister sitting together. The Foreign Secretary was occasionally brought 
in. I was not summoned to these conferences except when there were 
matters to be decided that directly affected finance/ 

This irregular method of consultation was remarkable enough; but 
even more remarkable was the feet that, although Churchill had encour- 
aged a spirit of co-operation with the War Office, there was no machinery 
for consultation between chiefs of staff of the two great services; no com- 
mittee of military and naval experts to study joint planning or review 
joint strategy. The two services operated, from a technical point of view, 

1 The War Council was not set up until 25 November, and it replaced the 
Committee of Imperial Defence, an Advisory body composed of the Prime 
Minister and five or six other Ministers. 



in water-tight compartments, while questions of strategy became an open 
tussle between all those who held strong views. In the autumn of 1914 
Winston was in favour of a combined attack on Turkey; Lord Fisher was 
pressing his plan for an amphibious attack in the Baltic; Lloyd George was 
loudly in favour of an offensive in the Balkans; and Lord Kitchener 
believed the decisive theatre was in France. 

Lord Kitchener dominated the scene. He was admired, feared, and 
respected. As a professional soldier raised to the office of Secretary of State 
for War, he was virtually a Commander-in-Chief and a Cabinet Minister 
rolled into one. Besides this, he had an immense following in the country. 
He was the hero of the British public and no government would have 
dared to oppose him and face his resignation. As a result, even when a 
War Council was set up by the Prime Minister, his voice predominated. 
Although the Council included such eminent men as Sir Edward Grey, 
the Foreign Secretary, Lloyd George, Chancellor of the Exchequer, 
Arthur Balfour, the Leader of the Conservative Opposition, and the 
Marquis of Crewe, Secretary of State for India, the only two members 
who could talk to Kitchener with authority were the Prime Minister, 
Mr. Asquith, and the First Lord of the Admiralty, Mr. Churchill. Thus the 
main responsibility for the war rested in effect with these three men. 

But despite the fact that Winston was on an equal political footing with 
Kitchener he was well aware that he lacked the War Minister's prestige 
and authority. Not only did the great soldier have the backing of the 
British public, but the fact that he was a famous general in Egypt when 
Churchill was an unknown subaltern gave him an automatic ascendancy. 
Kitchener remembered how young Winston Churchill had begged to 
join his army in 1898; how, as Commander-in-Chief, he had said 'no* and 
Winston had come anyway; and how when the campaign was over 
Winston had criticized him for 'desecrating the Mahdfs tomb'. But all 
these incidents were respectably buried in the past and both men now 
regarded each other with genuine good will and esteem. Nevertheless, 
Kitchener could not help Aitilritig of Winston as a subordinate and as a 
result did not encourage any real equality or intimacy. Besides, he was 
cold and reserved and did not make friends easily. Naturally silent, he dis- 
liked communicating his views to anyone save his own military staff. 
Winston on the other hand was a born talker, warm and volatile, bubbling 
over with political and strategic ideas which he liked to develop in con- 
versation. Neither an was attracted to the personality of the other, and 
the barrier of temperament added one more obstacle in the way of dose 
co-operation between the two fighting services. 

This was the background of the story that opened on 2 January, 1915, 


when the Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia asked for a diversion in the 
Middle East to ease Turkish pressure on Russian troops in the Caucasus. 
Kitchener wrote Churchill a memorandum suggesting a Naval 'demon- 
stration' at the Dardanelles. But Lord Fisher at once came forward with a 
plan for a combined operation which called for seventy-five thousand 
troops. This scheme was promptly rejected, for Kitchener repeated em- 
phatically that no divisions could be spared from the European theatre; 
every British soldier must be held in reserve in case of an early spring 

Winston began to study the possibilities of a purely naval assault. He 
had always believed that an attack on Turkey was the right strategy. But 
there seemed so little hope of persuading Kitchener to consider it that he 
had lately given his support to Lord Fisher's project for a combined 
offensive in the Baltic. Now it seemed as though events were playing into 
his hands, and he returned to the idea of an operation in the Middle East 
with high enthusiasm. 

Lord Fisher's discarded scheme for the Dardanelles had included a naval 
attack on the outer fortresses of the long, curving straits which led into 
the Sea of Marmora, on the far shores of which rose Constantinople, the 
Turkish capital. The strategic advantages of a successful assault at once 
became illuminated in Winston's mind. If the fleet could get past the many 
fortresses that dotted the steep banks of the Straits and force its way into 
the Sea of Marmora, Constantinople might capitulate, and the Allies 
would be able to join hands with their Russian Allies. Arms could be 
shipped in and wheat sent out. Besides, the whole Balkan area would be 
neutralized, leaving Germany and Austria fighting alone. 

The more Winston thought of the project the more enthusiastic he 
became. On 3 January he wired Admiral Garden, commanding at the 
Dardanelles: 'Do you think that it is a practicable operation to force the 
Dardanelles by the use of ships alone? It is assumed that older battleships 
would be employed, that they would be furnished with minesweepers and 
that they would be preceded by colliers or other merchant vessels as 
sweepers and bumpers. The importance of the results would justify severe 
loss. Let me know what your views are/ 1 Two days kter Garden replied: 
'I do not think that the Dardanelles can be rushed but they might be forced 
by extended operations with a large number of ships.' 2 This was not a 
particularly enthusiastic answer, but it was sufficiently encouraging for 
Churchill. He wired back asking the Admiral to draw up a plan of attack, 
which he received a week kter. 

1 Report of the Dardanelles Commission. 


Garden's outline was divided into four parts; first the destruction of the 
outer defences; second, the intermediary defences; third, the defences of 
the Narrows; and fourth, the sweeping of a clear channel through the 
minefields and into the Sea of Marmora. From this moment on, Winston 
was wholeheartedly in favour of an attack by ships alone, and set out 
determinedly to put the plan into operation. Mr. Lloyd George wrote 
in his Memoirs: 'Mr. Winston Churchill has been in constant touch with 
Lord Kitchener and when the former has a scheme agitating his powerful 
mind, as everyone who is acquainted with his method knows quite well, 
he is indefatigable in pressing it upon the acceptance of everyone who 
matters in the decision ... he was prepared to act without waiting for an 
immediate dispatch of troops. His proposal was a purely naval operation 
in its initial stages/ 

On 13 January the War Council met. Winston put forward his project 
and all the members, with the exception of Lloyd George, agreed to it. 
Lord Fisher and Admiral of the Fleet Sir Arthur Wilson were present and 
made no comment. The conclusions of the Ministers resulted in the 
following directive: 'The Admiralty should prepare for a naval expedition 
in February to bombard and take the Gallipoli Peninsula with Con- 
stantinople as its objective.' 

This meeting of the 1 3th is now famous for both the importance and 
the confusion of its decisions. At that time there was no Cabinet Secretary, 
and Cabinet Minutes were not taken. 1 As a result neither Lord Fisher nor 
Admiral Wilson was aware that any decision had been taken. * Very likely 
the Prime Minister went and wrote it down when the meeting was over,' 
Lord Fisher commented caustically some time later. 2 The Prime Minister, 
however, claimed that he read it out before the meeting adjourned, but 
that perhaps Lord Fisher and Admiral Wilson had already left. The next 
point of confusion was the fact that half the members of the Council were 
under the impression that the Navy had been ordered merely to prepare 
for an expedition, while the other half, including Mr. Churchill, assumed 
that definite approval had been given. The third point of confusion con- 
cerned the directive itself. The instructions given to the Admiralty to 
bombard and take the Gallipoli Peninsula with Constantinople as its objec- 
tive, 'were odd to the point of grotesqueness if a purely Naval expedition 
was envisaged ... it was obviously an impossible task for a fleet acting by 
itself/ comments Cruttwell in a standard History of the Great War. 3 

1 It was not until Lloyd George became Prime Minister that a Secretariat was 

1 Report of the Dardanelles Commission. 
8 A History oftlie Great War: C. R. M. F. Cruttwell. 


Winston, however, speculated that if the Fleet could force its way into 
the Sea of Marmora, the Greek Army might join the Allies; furthermore, 
that a revolution might take place in Constantinople. He told the War 
Cabinet that he believed victory could be won without military aid; the 
Army, he declared, would only come in to 'reap the fruits'. 

The Sea Lords, on the other hand, regarded the project in an entirely 
different light. In the Naval Staff conferences that were held at the Admir- 
alty between 3 and 13 January, not a single Naval expert favoured the 
attack by ships alone. All of them expressed a strong preference for a com- 
bined operation; and on the very day that Churchill first wired Garden, 
Admiral Sir Henry Jackson, a high authority at the Admiralty, wrote a 
memorandum in which he stated: 'Assuming the enemy squadrons 
destroyed and the batteries rushed, they would be open to the fire of field 
artillery and infantry and to torpedo attack at night, with no store ships 
with ammunition, and with no retreat without re-engaging the shore 
batteries, unless' these had been destroyed while forcing the passage. 
Though theyanight dominate the city and inflict enormous damage, their 
position would not be an enviable one, unless there were a large military 
force to occupy the town . . . J1 

How, then, did Winston persuade the Admirals to agree to the Naval 
operation? He swung them over on the grounds, first, that it was vital to 
take some action that would help the Russians; second, that the strength 
of the Grand Fleet would be unimpaired, for only old battleships unfit for 
service in the North Sea would be used; and third, and most important, 
that if the operation did not prove successful the Navy could withdraw at 
any time. On these conditions the Admirals consented, without enthusi- 
asm. But at the same time that Winston was assuring the Sea Lords that 
they could break off the bombardment whenever they wished, he sent the 
Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia a telegram (19 January) saying: It is our 
intention to press the matter to a conclusion/ Thus from the very begin- 
ning the politician and the Admirals were at cross purposes; and the rift 
made itself more and more apparent as each week passed. 

First of all, soon after the meeting on 13 January, Lord Fisher's luke- 
warm consent began to harden into opposition. He strongly urged Chur- 
chill not to proceed with the Naval plan unless the Army agreed to send 
troops and make it a joint operation. He could not say that the Naval 
bombardment would fail, but he had little faith in it: and now he began 
to fear that the expedition might interfere with his own pet project 
amphibious operations in the Baltic. He wrote to the Prime Minister that 
he did not want to attend any more War Councils, and in a private meet- 

1 Report of Ac Dardanelles Commission. 


ing with Asquith and Churchill on 28 January, he told them both that he 
was becoming increasingly opposed to the Dardanelles. Since he did not 
base his objections on the technical difficulties involved but on his prefer- 
ence for his Baltic operation, the two men finally persuaded him. to attend 
the War Council meeting which was being held the same morning. How- 
ever, when the old Sea Lord saw that the Dardanelles expedition was 
receiving its final blessing, he rose from the table and walked over to the 
window on the verge of resignation. Lord Kitchener followed him and 
persuaded him to remain at his post. That same afternoon Churchill and 
Fisher thrashed the subject out again, and the young politician finally 
secured the old sailor's support on the grounds, emphasized again, that the 
Navy could break off the operation when it liked. Thus the struggle 
between the two men continued, with one buoyant and confident and the 
other doubtful and disapproving. 

Two and a half weeks later Lord Kitchener made an announcement 
which changed the whole complexion of the operation. Early in February 
he told the War Council that the situation in France had altered and he felt 
he might be able to send troops to aid the Naval attack after all Lord 
Fisher at once took heart and weighed in eagerly with a letter to Winston. 
'I hope you were successful with Kitchener,' he wrote on the evening of 
16 February, 'in getting divisions sent to Lemnos to-morrowl Not a grain 
of wheat will come from the Black Sea unless there is military occupation 
of the Dardanelles, and it will be the wonder of the ages that no troops 
were sent to co-operate with the Fleet with half a million soldiers in Eng- 
land. The war of lost opportunities!!! Why did Antwerp fall? The Haslar 
boats might go at once to Lemnos, as somebody will land at Gallipoli some 
time or another/ 1 Churchill comments on this letter in The World Crisis: 
1 still adhered to the integrity of the Naval plan.' 

The rest of the story is well known. For a week Kitchener vacillated, 
then finally decided to commit troops to the operation, and on 24 February 
informed the War Council that 'if die Fleet did not get through the Army 
would see the business through. 9 The effect of a defeat in the Orient would 
be very serious, he added, and there could be no turning back; and this, of 
course, altered the whole basis on which the Admiralty had consented to 
the proposition. 

Kitchener sent General Birdwood and, a few weeks later, Sir Ian 
Hamilton, to the scene of action to report on developments. The Fleet had 
opened its bombardment of the fortresses on 19 February. For the first ten 
days all went well, the outer fortresses fell and the attention of the world 
became riveted on the action. Then suddenly progress stopped. The Turks 

1 Tlie World Crisis: Winston S. Churchill 


were putting up a much stiffer resistance and the mine-sweeping trawlers 
were unable to stand the fire. General Birdwood telegraphed to Kitchener: 
'I am very doubtful if the Navy can force the passage unassisted/ The 
following day he sent another telegram: 'I have already informed you that 
I consider the Admiral's forecast is too sanguine, and ... I doubt his ability 
to force the passage unaided.' 

However, on 18 March, Admiral de Robeck, who had assumed the 
Command of the Fleet from Admiral Garden, who was suddenly taken 
ill, massed all his ships for a decisive attempt. The forts were subjected to 
an intense bombardment which lasted nearly all day, and by 4 p.m. such 
damage had been inflicted the enemy had practically ceased firing. As the 
ships steamed forward victory seemed in sight, but suddenly the vessels 
struck a row of mines, three were sunk, and four put out of action. This 
meant that nearly half the Fleet was crippled. Admiral de Robeck wired 
the Admiralty that the plan of attack must be reconsidered and means 
found to deal with floating mines, but that he hoped to renew the opera- 
tions in a few days 9 time. 

But during the course of the next four days he changed his mind. At a 
conference on the 22nd he told General Sir Ian Hamilton that 'he was now 
quite clear' he could not get through without a large military force. 
In order to maintain communications when the Fleet penetrated the Sea 
of Marmora all gun positions guarding the Straits must be destroyed, and 
he had come to the conclusion that only a small percentage could be 
rendered useless by attack from ships. Hamilton had already formed a 
similar impression himself and wired Kitchener three days earlier, 'I am 
being most reluctantly driven to the conclusion that the Straits are not 
likely to be forced by battleships as at one time seemed probable . . .' 1 

Churchill received de Robeck's decision with consternation. He drew 
up a telegram ordering de Robeck to continue the attack but Lord Fisher 
and the other Admirals refused to send it, declaring that they were not 
willing to overrule the Commander on the spot. Naval operations were 
never resumed, and from then on the attack became a purely military 
af&ir. As everyone knows, it ended in heart-breaking failure. 

First of all, five long precious weeks were allowed to lapse between the 
breaking off of Naval operations and the initial assault of the Army; and 
during these weeks, while rumours spread that a military force was gather- 
ing, the Turks feverishly strengthened their defences. When troops finally 
stormed the Gallipoli beaches on 25 April the precious element of surprise 
was gone, and they were unable to capture vital key points. Then, a week 
or so later, German submarines began to appear in the Mediterranean, 

1 Gallipoli Diary: Sir Ian Hamilton. 


and the Admiralty ordered its most valuable and powerful battleship 
home. Gradually the Navy pulled out and left the whole task to the Army, 
which struggled on the rocky beaches, overlooked by high cliffs in the 
hands of the enemy, for eight desperate months with an ever-mounting 
death roll. In December 1915 Gallipoli was evacuated with a cost of a 
quarter of a million French and British casualties. 1 

But long before the final evacuation, the British public was aware that 
something was wrong. People saw the Naval attack had failed and assumed 
that the Army had been called in to pull the Navy's chestnuts out of the 
fire. If troops were available why hadn't they been sent earlier? Who 
was responsible for the whole blundering idea of an attack by ships 

Churchill makes a powerful case for himself in The World Crisis. This 
brilliant and fascinating book is half history and half autobiography. 
Sometimes the narrative sweeps forward on a tide of facts, sometimes on a 
long swell of argument and opinion. The book was written not only to 
present the events of the time, but to silence the author's critics and 
vindicate his statesmanship. 

Winston's account of the Dardanelles reaches an impressive climax, for 
after the war facts and figures were collected from the enemy, and it 
became known for certain that the Turkish gunners in the Dardanelles 
forts had only enough ammunition to fight one, or possibly two, more 
actions such as that on 18 March. 'The Turkish Commander in the Dar- 
danelles was weighed down by a premonition of defeat,' writes the official 
historian. 'More than half the ammunition had been expended, and it 
could not be replaced. The antiquated means of fire control had been 
seriously interrupted. The Turkish gun crews were demoralized and even 
the German officers present had, apparently, little hope of successful 
resistance if the Fleet attacked the next day ... A German journalist 
describes the great astonishment of the defenders of the coastal forts when 
the attack suddenly ceased. He records that the German Naval gunners 
who were manning the batteries at Chanak told him later that they had 
made up their minds that the Fleet would win, and that they themselves 
could not have held out much longer/ 2 

But even if the Fleet, or what was left of the Fleet, had forced the 
Straits and sailed into the Sea of Marmora, what would have happened 
then? Would Constantinople have fallen? Could the Navy have sustained 
its position? 

1 This figure includes sick. 

1 Military Operations Gallipoli: Compiled by Brig.-General C. F. Aspinwall- 


The greatest authority on the subject, General Liman von Sanders, the 
German Commander-in-Chief of the Dardanelles defence, who is 'usually 
quoted by the historians and whom Mr. Churchill himself quotes in other 
contexts, did not believe that a break-through would have been decisive. 
'In my opinion even if the Allied Fleet had been successful in breaking 
through die Dardanelles and victorious in a sea-fight in the Sea of Mar- 
mora, its position would have been scarcely tenable unless the entire shore 
of the Straits of the Dardanelles were strongly occupied by enemy forces. 
Should the Turkish troops be successful in holding their positions along 
the shores of the Straits, or should they be successful in recapturing these, 
then the necessary flow of supplies [NachschuV\ through ships and coaliers 
would be rendered impossible. Measures of defence taken rendered a land- 
ing by troops near Constantinople, who might have lived on the country, 
almost without prospect of success. 

'A decisive success could only be. gained by the enemy if a landing by 
troops upon a great scale occurred either simultaneously with the break- 
through by the Fleet or if it preceded this. A landing by troops following 
the break-through would have been obliged to renounce artillery support 
by the Fleet which would have had to occupy itself with other tasks.' 1 

However, the argument as to whether or not the ships could have got 
through, and if they had got through whether or not Constantinople 
would have fallen, must always remain in the realms of speculation. No 
one will ever know the answer. But this is not the main point. Experts 
agree that a combined operation against the Dardanelles would have 
succeeded. If Winston had not been captivated by the idea of a Naval 
attack alone, and had exercised more patience in working out the scheme, 
would a co-ordinated plan have emerged? 'I have asked myself in these 
later years, 9 he writes in The World Crisis, 'what would have happened if 
I had taken Lord Fisher's advice and refused point blank to take any action 
at the Dardanelles unless or until the-War Office produced on their respon- 
sibility an adequate army to storm the Gallipoli Peninsula? Should we by 
holding out in this way have secured a sufficient army and a good plan? 
Should we have had all the advantages of the Dardanelles policy without 
the mistakes and misfortunes for which we had to pay so dearly?' He goes 
on to say that although no one can probe this 'imaginary situation* he does 
not think that anything less than the 'oracular demonstration and practical 
proof of the strategic meaning of the Dardanelles' would have made men 
sufficiently conscious of the importance of an attack on Turkey, to agree 
to send troops. 

This, however, is a weak defence, for it must be remembered that on 
1 Five. Years in Turkey: Liman von Sanders. 


16 February, only two and a half weeks after the Naval operation had 
received sanction from the War Council, and three days before the bom- 
bardment actually began, Kitchener declared that the possibility of send- 
ing troops was opening up. If Winston had paused then, as both Lord 
Fisher and Sir Henry Jackson begged him to do, there is every reason to 
believe that a combined operation might have been planned and put into 

In 1916, Parliament authorized the setting up of a Royal Commission, 
composed often of the ablest and most distinguished men in public life, 
Tor the purposes of inquiring into the origin, inception, and conduct of 
operations of war in the Dardanelles and Gallipoli/ Lord Kitchener died 
before he could give evidence, but the Commissioners made it clear that 
the three most responsible members of the War Council were the Prime 
Minister, the War Minister and the First Lord of the Admiralty. They 
then went on to say: 'We do not think that the War Council were justi- 
fied in coming to a decision without much fuller investigation of the pro- 
position which had been suggested to them that "the Admiralty should 
. . . bombard and take Gallipoli Peninsula with Constantinople as its 
objective". We do not consider that the urgency was such as to preclude 
a short adjournment to enable the Naval and military advisers of the 
Government to make a thorough examination of the question. We hold 
that the possibility of making a surprise amphibious attack on the Gallipoli 
Peninsula offered such great military and political advantages that it was 
mistaken and ill-advised to sacrifice this possibility by hastily deciding to 
undertake a purely Naval attack which from its nature could not attain 
completely die object set out in the terms of the decision. 51 

The Royal Commission declared that Churchill had not been guilty of 
any 'incorrect' behaviour, and had always acted with the concurrence, 
unwilling though it may have been, of his naval advisers. Their final judg- 
ment was that although he bore a heavy responsibility he did not bear it 
alone. Asquith and Kitchener were just as much to blame. But the judg- 
ment of his colleagues in the House of Commons was more severe. They 
knew that Winston was the most dynamic member of the trio. They also 
knew that he possessed formidable powers of persuasion. This, coupled 
with his impetuosity, made him a danger to the country. He may not have 
been solely responsible, but without him, they argued, the whole disas- 
trous operation would never have taken place. As far as strategy was con- 
cerned, he was right. Tactically, he blundered. Thirty years later he wrote: 
1 was ruined for the time being over the Dardanelles, and a supreme 
enterprise was cast away, through my trying to carry out a major and 

1 Report of the Dardanelles Commission. 


cardinal operation of war from a subordinate position. Men are ill-advised 
to try such ventures.' 1 

Now we must return to the events that led to Lord Fisher's sensational 
resignation on 15 May which brought down the Government. Ten days 
previously the Army had stormed the rocky beaches on the Gallipoli 
Peninsula at a cost of twenty thousand men, and secured only a precarious 
foothold. Fisher regarded the situation with alarm. The combined opera- 
tion was taking place too late. The vital element of surprise was gone, the 
Turks had had time to fortify their defences, and it was obvious that 
military operations would be long and costly. 

In Naval circles two conflicting opinions were gathering strength. 
The first was that the Navy should once again attempt to force the Straits 
because of the severe losses the Army was sustaining; the second was that 
the Navy should on no account attempt an operation until the Army had 
effectively occupied the shores. Churchill stood between the two views. 
He was in favour of a limited operation. He wanted the Fleet to engage the 
forts of the Narrows and test their supposed shortage of ammunition. At 
the same time he believed that the minefields could be swept. 

Lord Fisher was adamant. He was strongly against Naval action until 
the Army had secured the shores, and he was determined, this time, that 
his view would prevail. He distrusted Winston's plan, for he felt that if 
the operation were successful the latter would insist on penetrating the 
Sea of Marmora. The old Admiral was under an added strain because of 
the increasing German submarine menace in home waters; and he also 
had received intelligence that these submarines would soon make their 
appearance in the Mediterranean. Then the Lusitania was sunk, which 
heightened his anxieties. 

Consequently, on 12 May Lord Fisher declared that he was no longer 
prepared to risk the Queen Elizabeth atthe Dardanelles and demanded her 
return to the Grand Fleet. Lord Kitchener was furious. In a stormy meet- 
ing he accused the Navy of deserting the Army. Lord Fisher announced 
flatly that 'either the Queen Elizabeth left the Dardanelles that afternoon 
or he left the Admiralty that night'. Lord Fisher won his point and was 
proved right; a dummy ship equipped to represent the Queen Elizabeth 
was left at the Dardanelles while the real vessel came home. Two weeks 
later the dummy was torpedoed and sunk. 

On the same day that Lord Fisher had his altercation with Kitchener 
he sent a memorandum to Winston and the Prime Minister stating his 

1 Their Finest Hour: Winston S. Churchill. 


reasons for refusing to allow a Naval attack to take place until the Army 
was in occupation of the shores. He enclosed the following covering letter 
to the Prime Minister: 

'My dear Prime Minister, 

'It will be within your recollection that you saw me and the First Lord 
of the Admiralty in your private room, prior to a meeting of the War 
Council (28 January, 1915), to consider my protest against the Dardanelles 
undertaking when it was first mooted. With extreme reluctance, and 
largely due to the earnest words spoken to me by Kitchener, I by not 
resigning (as I now see I should have done) remained a most unwilling 
beholder (and, indeed, a participator) of the gradual draining of our Naval 
resources from the decisive theatre of the war. The absence, especially at 
this moment, of destroyers, submarines, and mine-sweepers (which are 
now) at the Dardanelles most materially lessens our power of dealing with 
the submarine menace in home waters a menace daily becoming greater 
as foreshadowed in the print I submitted to you six months before the war. 

'I have sent the enclosed memorandum to the First Lord, and I ask for it 
to be circulated to the War Council.' 1 

Churchill and Lord Fisher talked things over that evening and as a 
result the latter seemed more content. But on the next day .the quarrel 
flared up again. Lord Fisher wrote the Prime Minister once more. 

'My dear Prime Minister, 

'Thank you for your letter of yesterday, in which you state that you 
had been given to understand that an arrangement had been come to 
between the First Lord and myself, and you kindly added that you were 
very glad. But I regret to say that within four hours of the pact being con- 
cluded, the First Lord said to Kitchener "that in the event of the Army's 
failure, the Fleet would endeavour to force its way through", or words to 
that effect. However, for the moment, with your kind assurance of no 
such action being permitted, I remain to do my best to help the Prime 
Minister in the very biggest task any Prime Minister ever had not 
excepting Pitt and his Austerlitz! Still, I desire to convey to you that I 
honestly feel that I cannot remain where I am much longer, as there is an 
inevitable drain daily (almost hourly) on the resources in the decisive 
theatre of the war. But that is not the worst. Instead of the whole rime of 
the whole of the Admiralty being concentrated on the daily increasing 
submarine menace in home waters, we are all diverted to the Dardanelles, 
and the unceasing activities of the First Lord, both by day and night, are 

1 The Life of Lord Fisher: Admiral Sir R. H. Bacon. 


engaged in ceaseless prodding of everyone in every department afloat and 
ashore in the interest of the Dardanelles Fleet, with the result of the huge 
Armada now there, whose size is sufficiently indicated by their having as 
many battleships out there as in the German High Seas Fleet! Therefore 
this purely private and personal letter, intended for your eye alone and not 
to be quoted, as there is no use threatening without acting, is to mention 
to one person who I feel ought to know that I feel that my time is short. 
13 May, 191 s/ 1 

The quarrel between the two men had now reached its climax. Each 
had has toes dug in. Churchill was determined that the Navy should 
continue to take part in the Dardanelles operation, and Fisher was deter- 
mined that it should not. Both were ready to get rid of the other if it 
proved necessary. On 14 May the War Council met and Fisher reiterated 
his views, declaring that he had been against the Dardanelles from the 
start. That afternoon Winston wrote to the Prime Minister: 

'I must ask you to take note of Fisher's statement to-day that he "was 
against the Dardanelles and had been all along" or words to that effect. 
The First Sea Lord has agreed in writing to every executive telegram on 
which the operations have been conducted; and had they been imme- 
diately successful, the credit would have been his. But I make no complaint 
of that. I am attached to the old boy and it is a great pleasure to me to 
work with him. I think he reciprocates these feelings. My point is that a 
moment will probably arise in these operations when the Admiral and 
General on the spot will wish and require to run a risk with the Fleet for a 
great and decisive effort. If I agree with them, I shall sanction it, and I 
cannot undertake to be paralysed by the veto of a friend who whatever 
the result will certainly say: "I was always against the Dardanelles." 

'You will see that in a matter of this kind someone has to take the respon- 
sibility. I will do so provided that my decision is the one that rules 
and not otherwise . . . 

'But I wish now to make it clear to you that a man who says, "I dis- 
claim responsibility for failure," cannot be the final arbiter of the measures 
which may be found to be vital to success. 

'This requires no answer and I am quite contented with the course of 
aflairs/ 2 

That evening Churchill and Fisher had another long interview, and 
once again appeared to have settled their differences. Fisher was adamant 

1 The Life of Lord Fisher: Admiral Sir R. H. Bacon. 
The World Crisis; Winston S. Churchill. 


that no more reinforcements should go to the Dardanelles, and Churchill 
apparently agreed. When the old Admiral returned to his room he called 
his Naval Assistant 'You need not pack up just yet/ he told him. He went 
on to say that the matter of reinforcements was not settled with the First 
Lord and added: 'But I suppose he will soon be at me again/ 

That night, however, Winston sent the Admiral a long minute. Para- 
graph 6 contained a fatal sentence. 'In view of the request of the Vice- 
Admiral, I consider that two more "E" boats should be sent to the 
Dardanelles/ When Churchill's secretary brought the minute to Fisher's 
Naval Assistant he asked, 'How do you think the old man will take it?* 
The Naval Assistant said that he had no doubt whatever that Lord Fisher 
would resign instantly if he received it. Churchill's secretary took it away, 
then came back and said that the First Lord was certain that Lord Fisher 
would not object to his proposals, but that, in any case, it was necessary 
that they should be made. Lord Fisher resigned his office of First Sea Lord 
the following morning. 1 

Lord Fisher's resignation caused a sensation. First he went to Lloyd George 
who was just leaving Downing Street for the week-end. 'I want to speak 
to you/ he said. 'I have resigned. I can stand it no longer. Our ships are 
being sunk, while we have a Fleet in the Dardanelles which is bigger than 
the German Navy. Both our Army and Navy are being bled for the 
benefit of the Dardanelles/ Then the old Admiral, smouldering and indig- 
nant, retired to his official residence which adjoined the Admiralty. He 
pulled down the blinds and refused to admit anyone. Mr. McKenna, who 
had preceded Churchill as First Lord, forced his way in and tried to argue 
with him, but Fisher was adamant. 

Winston now began to realize the political storm he would have to 
face if the First Sea Lord remained obdurate and he wrote him a long and 
persuasive letter, which gives some idea of the pressure Churchill was will- 
ing to apply. 'In order to bring you back to the Admiralty I took my 
political life in my hands as you well know,* the letter began. This 
assertion was something of an exaggeration, for Winston had brought 
Fisher back largely to fortify his own position. 'You then promised to 
stand by me and see me through,' he continued. 'If you now go at this 
bad moment and therefore let loose on me the spite and malice of those 
who are your enemies even more than-they are mine, it will be a melan- 
choly ending to our six months of successful war and administration. The 
discussions that will arise will strike a cruel blow at the fortunes of the 

1 See The Life of Lord Fisher: Admiral Sir R. H. Bacon. 


Army now struggling on the Gallipoli Peninsula and cannot fail to invest 
with an air of disaster a mighty enterprise which with patience can, and 
will, certainly be carried to success. 

'Many of the anxieties of the winter are past The harbours are pro- 
tected, the great flow of new construction is arriving. We are far stronger 
at home than we have ever been, and the great reinforcement is now at 

'I hope you will come and see me to-morrow afternoon. I have a pro- 
position to make to you, with the assent of the Prime Minister, which 
may remove some of the anxieties and difficulties which you feel about the 
measures necessary to support the Army at the Dardanelles. 

'Though I stand at my post until relieved, it will be a very great grief 
to me to part from you; and our rupture will be profoundly injurious to 
every public interest/ 1 

Lord Fisher wrote Winston the following reply: 


TURN YOU FROM n NOTHING. I know you so well I could give you no 
better proof of my desire to stand by you than my having remained by 
you in this Dardanelles business up to the last moment against the strongest 
conviction of my life. 

*YOU WILL REMAIN AND I SHALL GO it is better so. Your splendid stand 
on my behalf I can never forget when you took your political life in 
your hands, and I have really worked very hard for you in return my 
utmost; but there is a question beyond all personal obligations. I assure 
you it is only painful to have further conversations. I have told the Prime 
Minister I will not remain. I have absolutely decided to stick to that 
decision. Nothing will turn me from it. You say with much feeling that 
it will be a very great grief to you to part from me I am certain that you know 
in your heart no one has ever been more faithful to you than I have since 
I joined you last October. I have worked my very hardest. 9 * 

It is well known that people seldom see themselves as others see them. 
Winston knew that he had many political enemies but he did not seem to 
understand the intensity of the feeling against him. This was curious in 
view of the savage attack which the Tory Press had launched during the 
previous few weeks, largely inspired by high ranking Army officers in 
France who were violently opposed to what they called 'side-shows'. The 
Conservatives had been hostile ever since Antwerp, but now the Morning 
Post outdid itself. Almost daily they struck out at Winston under a series 

1 The World Crisis: Winston S. Churchill 

* The Life of. Lord Fisher: Admiral Sir R. H. Bacon. 


of headlines: 'The Amazing Amateur', 'The Amateur Admiral', 'Politician 
versus Expert', 'Too Much Churchill*. Some idea of the virulence of their 
campaign may be seen from an extract printed on 30 April: 'Mr. Churchill 
is still his own Party, and the chief of the partisans. He still sees himself as 
the only digit in the sum of things, all other men as mere cyphers, whose 
function it is to follow after and multiply his personal value a million-fold 
... He has not ceased to be the showman of a one-man show. He is 
none the less true to himself because, indulged by the larger opportunities 
of world-wide war, his instinct for the melodramatic has blossomed into 

Winston discounted these attacks as ordinary Tory propaganda. But he 
lived so much in a world of his own, the world of great and stirring events, 
that he made the mistake of forgetting he was a politician and, as such, 
dependent on the confidence of his Parliamentary colleagues. 

He attended the House of Commons infrequently and only as a matter 
of form. 'He failed in 1915,' wrote Lord Beaverbrook, 'because he showed 
himself too confident to be prudent. He neither tied the Liberals to him 
nor conciliated the Tories.' 1 

The day after Rsher's resignation Winston dined with the Prime 
Minister. He told the latter that Admiral Sir Arthur Wilson had agreed 
to serve under him as First Sea Lord, and showed him the list he had 
drawn up of the new Board of Admiralty. Asquith approved the names 
and assured Winston of his support. 

But in the meanwhile, other events were taking place. Bonar Law, the 
Leader of the Conservative Opposition, had learned of Lord Fisher's 
departure and at once went to see Lloyd George at n Downing Street. 
He told him bluntly that the Conservatives were not willing to continue 
to support the Government unless Churchill left the Admiralty. Lord 
Fisher was the darling of the Tory Party; Winston was its bete noire. Why 
should they allow a man they admired to be sacrificed for a man they 
utterly distrusted? He said flatly he would be unable to control the storm 
in the House of Commons. 'Of course,' replied Lloyd George, 'we must 
have a Coalition, for the alternative is impossible.' He took him by the 
arm and led him through the private passage to 10 Downing Street where 
they had an interview with Mr. AsquitL 

Winston was ignorant of these proceedings and on Monday appeared 
at the House ready to announce his new Board. The next forty-eight hours 
were filled with bitter disappointments for him. First of all, Asquith and 
Lloyd George informed him that a Coalition Government was being 
formed and that, as part of the bargain the Tories had demanded his 
1 Politicians and the War: Lord Beaverbrook. 


removal from the Admiralty. Just as they were breaking this news to him 
a message came asking him to return to his office at once on urgent 
business. He hurried back to learn that the German High Seas Fleet was 
emerging. Was the great battle in the North Sea at last to be fought? 
Churchill gave orders for every available ship to be dispatched to the 
scene of action. Perhaps he would return to the House to announce a 
great victory. If so, could they let Him go? One can imagine the anxious 
and tense hours he passed; but by morning it was dear that the Germans 
were not looking for a fight; they had returned to their bases. 

On Tuesday it was certain that nothing could save Churchill's position, 
yet he still dung to hope. Lord Beaverbrook called on him at the Admir- 
alty with F. E. Smith, and kter wrote: 'One felt rather as if one had been 
invited "to come and look at fallen Antony" . . . What a creature of 
strange moods he is always at the top of the whed of confidence or at 
the bottom of an intense depression . . . That Tuesday night he was cling- 
ing to the desire of retaining the Admiralty as though the salvation of 
England depended on it I believe he would even have made it up with 
Lord Fisher if that had been the price of remaining there. None the less, 
so litde did he realize the inwardness of the whole situation that he still 
hoped.' 1 

As well as hoping, he wrote a long and pleading letter to Bonar Law. 
This was a strange act, for Bonar Law was more implacable in his dislike 
and distrust of "Winston than almost any other Tory. A melancholy, hum- 
drum, unimaginative man, Law was utterly devoid of gaiety or exuber- 
ance. Winston's flamboyant personality was anathema to him. He regarded 
him as a boastful buccaneer upon whom no reliance could ever be pkced. 
Besides, he found it hard to forgive Winston's patronizing airs. Lord 
Beaverbrook, who, as Max Aitken, was Bonar Law's dosest friend and 
confidant, gives a sample of the interchanges that took place between the 
two men when Churchill was at the height of his power as First Lord and 
Law was merdy the Leader of the Opposition. 

'The words which you now tell me you employed,' wrote Churchill in 
a letter to Law, 'and which purport to be a paraphrase, if not an actual 
quotation, are separated by a small degree of inaccuracy and misrepresenta- 
tion from the inaccuracy and misrepresentation of the condensed report.' 
And on another occasion: 1 resist afl temptation to say, "I told you so!" ' 
Lord Beaverbrook goes on to say that he never heard Bonar Law use but 
one kind of language about Churchill: 1 consider Churchill a formidable 
antagonist. None the less, I would rather have him in opposition to me 
than on my side/ 
1 Politicians and the War: Lord Beaverbrook. 


It was obvious to everybody but Winston that Bonar Law was im- 
movable. Nevertheless, Winston sent him a letter containing the following 



17 May, 1915. 
'My dear Bonar Law, 

The rule to follow is what is best calculated to beat the enemy and not 
what is most likely to please the newspapers. The question of the Dardan- 
elles operations and my differences with Fisher ought to be settled by 
people who know the facts and not by those who cannot know them. 
Now you and your friends, except Mr. Balfour, do not know the facts. 
On our side only the Prime Minister knows them. The policy and conduct 
of the Dardanelles operations should be reviewed by the new Cabinet. 
Every fact should be laid before them. They should decide and on their 
decision the composition of the Board of the Admiralty should depend . . . 

'My lips are sealed in public, but in a few days all the facts can be placed 
before you and your friends under official secrecy. I am sure those with 
whom I hope to work as colleagues and comrades in this great struggle 
will not allow a newspaper campaign necessarily conducted in ignorance 
and not untinged with prejudice to be the deciding factor in matters of 
such terrible import. 

'Personal interests and sympathies ought to be strictly subordinated. It 
does not matter whether a Minister receives exact and meticulous justice. 
But what is vital is that from the outset of this new effort we are to make 
together we should be fearless of outside influences and straight with each 
other. We are coming together not to work on public opinion but to wage 
war: and by waging successful war we shall dominate public opinion. 

'I would like you to bring this letter to the notice of those with whom 
I expect soon to act: and I wish to add the following: I was sent to the 
Admiralty four years ago. I have always been supported by high pro- 
fessional advice; but partly through circumstances and partly no doubt 
through my own methods and inclinations, an exceptional burden has 
been borne by me~ I had to procure the money, the men, the ships and 
ammunition; to recase with expert advice the war plans; to complete in 
every detail that could be foreseen the organization of the Navy. . . . 

'Many Sea Lords have come and gone, but during all these four years 
(nearly) I have been according to my patent "solely responsible to Crown 
and Parliament" and have borne the blame for every failure; and now I 
present to you an absolutely secure Naval position; a Fleet constantly and 
rapidly growing in strength, and abundantly supplied with munitions of 


every kind, an organization working with perfect smoothness and 
efficiency, and the seas upon which no enemy's flag is flown. 

'Therefore I ask to be judged justly, deliberately and with knowledge. 
I do not ask for anything else.' 1 

Lord Beaverbrook tried to use his influence with Bonar Law on 
Churchill's behalf but to no purpose. The following reply came from the 
Conservative leader: 'My dear Churchill, I thank you for your letter 
which I shall show to my friends beginning with Austen Chamberlain; 
but, believe me, what I said to you last night is inevitable.' 2 

Once again Lloyd George proved a staunch friend. He begged Asquith 
to offer Winston an important office such as the Colonies or the India 
Office, but Asquith insisted that the Conservatives would not hear of any- 
thing but a minor post and that the Duchy of Lancaster was the best he 
could do. 'It was a cruel and unjust degradation,' wrote Lloyd George. 'It 
was quite unnecessary in order to propitiate them to fling him from the 
masthead whence he had been directing the fire, down to the lower deck 
to polish the brass/ 3 

Just before Winston moved out of the Admiralty Lord Riddell called 
on him and found him harassed and worn. 'I am the victim of a political 
intrigue. I am finished,' he said. Riddell replied: 'Not finished at forty, 
with your remarkable powers!' 'Yes,' he said. 'Finished in respect of all I 
care for the waging of war: the defeat of the Germans. I have had a 
high place offered to me a position which has been occupied by many 
distinguished men, and which carries with it a high salary. But all that 
goes for nothing. This is what I live for. I have prepared a statement of 
my case, but cannot use it.' Riddell then asked him if he thought Asquith 
had been weak in the conduct of the war. 'Terribly weak,' said Winston. 
'Supinely weak. His weakness will be the death of him.' 4 

Lord Fisher was not recalled as First Sea Lord. He might have been had 
he not made an astonishing mistake. While the Prime Minister was look- 
ing for a successor to Churchill Fisher suddenly took up his pen and wrote 
him an extraordinary memorandum: 'If the following six conditions are 
agreed to, I can guarantee the successful termination of the war, and the 
total abolition of the submarine/ Fisher then laid down a series of pre- 

1 Politicians and the War: Lord Beaverbrook. 

War Memoirs of David Lloyd George. 

* Lord RiddetTs War Diary. 


posterously dictatorial terms; that 'Winston Churchill is not in the Cabinet 
to be always circumventing me. Nor will I serve under Mr. Balfour'; that 
Sir Arthur Wilson left the Admiralty as 'his policy is totally opposed to 
mine, and he accepted the position of First Sea Lord in succession to 
me . . .'; that there should be a new Board of Admiralty and so forth. The 
memorandum ended with a P.S. 'The 60 per cent of my time and energy 
which I have exhausted on nine First Lords in the past I wish in the future 
to devote to the successful prosecution of the war. This is the sole reason 
for these six conditions. These six conditions must be published verbatim 
so the Fleet will know my position/ 1 

Needless to say Lord Fisher's resignation was accepted. And thus the 
quarrel between two brilliant, impulsive and autocratic men of genius 
came to its sorry end. 

Churchill accepted the sinecure office of the Duchy of Lancaster, which 
carried no departmental work, in order that he could remain a member 
of the War Council and press for the continuance of the Gallipoli cam- 
paign. He believed, and believed rightly, that Turkey was the key to the 
war, and he wanted the Government to persevere with courage. In 
November, however, the military losses were so heavy and hope of success 
so limited, the Council decided on a final evacuation. The tragic story had 
ended, and Churchill was not to be included in the new War Committee 
which was being formed to replace the War Council. He decided that he 
could no longer remain in 'well-paid inactivity* and that the time had 
come for him to join his regiment in France. He resigned his office and on 
15 November made a farewell speech to the House of Commons which 
filled twenty-two columns of Hansard. He began by telling his listeners 
that he was entering upon 'an alternative form of service to which no 
exception can be taken, and with which I am perfectly content*. Then he 
went on to offer a vindication of his record over the previous fourteen 
months, mainly centred on the Dardanelles. *I have gone through this 
story in detail in order to show and to convince the House that the Naval 
attack on the Dardanelles was a Naval plan, made by Naval authorities on 
the spot, approved by Naval experts in the Admiralty, assented to by the 
First Sea Lord, and executed on the spot by Admirals who at every stage 
believed in the operation ... I will not have it said that this was a civilian 
plan, foisted by a political amateur upon reluctant officers and experts/ 

The speech was warmly received and Churchill sat down amid a hub- 
bub of congratulations and 'Hear hears' that might almost be described as 

1 The Life of Lord Fisher: Admiral Sir R. H. Bacon. 


cheers. But as so often happens after dramatic occasions, a cool and critical 
reaction set in. As Members reflected on what he said their doubts came 
creeping back. They felt he had spoken the truth but not the whole truth, 
and a week later The Times ran a four-column letter by the foremost 
correspondent of the day, Ashmead Bardett, with the headline: 'Mr. 
Churchill's Defence A Criticism'. The letter pointed out a number of 
discrepancies in Winston's explanation, and restored to many readers the 
same opinions they had held before his vindication. 

Three days after the speech, on 18 November, 1915, Major Churchill 
of the Oxfordshire Yeomanry was on the eve of his departure for 
France. 'The whole household was upside down while the soldier- 
statesman was buckling on his sword,' wrote Lord Beaverbrook who had 
dropped in to pay his farewell respects. 'Downstairs Mr. "Eddie" Marsh 
his faithful secretary was in tears . . . Upstairs, Lady Randolph was in a 
state of despair at the thought of her brilliant son being relegated to the 
trenches. Mrs. Churchill seemed to be the only person who remained 
calm, collected, and efficient.' 1 

The next day Winston landed at Boulogne. 

1 Politicians and the War: Lord Bcaverbrook. 



THE NEXT twenty months stand out as the most disappointing, frustrat- 
ing, unproductive and unhappy period of Churchill's life. The Great War 
was raging; ^the future of die Empire was at stake; history was being 
made; and British statesmen were making it. Yet the creative, dynamic 
Winston, confident of his ability to lead his country to victory, was 
banished from the political scene. For him it was a tragedy. 

It required all the strength of character he possessed to turn his attention 
from high policy to the battlefields of France, which he believed was the 
only honourable course left to him. He plunged into his new life witfc 
determination and at first things went well. When he reached Boulogne 
he was told that Sir John French's car was waiting for Him, and he was 
whirled off to the Commandcr-in-Chief's headquarters near St. Omer. 
French was a loyal friend. He provided Churchill with an excellent dinner 
and accorded him the same ceremony and courtesy as though he were 
still First Lord of the Admiralty. The next morning he asked him what he 
would like to do. 'Whatever I am told,' replied Winston. Sir John then 
confided that his own position was far from secure and that he might soon 
be replaced by a new Commander-in-Chief. 'I am, as it were, riding at 
single anchor. But it still counts for something. Will you take a brigade?' 
A Brigade Commander had the rank of Brigadier-General and the control of 
four thousand men. Winston assented gladly, stipulated that he must first 
haveamonth'straining in trench warfare, andsuggestedthattheGuards Div- 
ision would give him the best experience. A few days later he was attached 
to one of the Grenadier Battalions due to move into the line at once. 

The Guards received Major Churchill with reserve. Why was this 
politician being foisted upon them? True, he had been a soldier once, but 
what did he know about modern conditions? The Grenadiers had a proud 
and exacting tradition; if Major Churchill thought he was to be accorded 
any special privileges because he had been a Cabinet Minister he was very 
much mistaken. The Colonel greeted him coldly, and after half an hour's 
silence, as the two men jogged along on their horses towards the front, 
he remarked: 'I think I ought to tell you we were not at all consulted in 
the matter of your coming to join us.' Winston was not offended. He 
understood the Colonel's feelings. 'Knowing the professional Army as 
I did and having led a variegated life, I was infinitely amused at die 


elaborate pains they took to put me in my pkce and to make me realize 
that nothing counted at the front except military rank and behaviour,' 
he wrote. 'It took about forty-eight hours to wear through their natural 
prejudice against "politicians" of all kinds, but particularly of the non- 
Conservative brands.' 1 Winston won the officers over by his good 
humour, his politeness, and above all, by his determination to lead a 
soldier's life and his ability to lead it well. 

Although the Guards did not undertake any major actions during the 
few weeks he was with them, the trenches were always disagreeable and 
dangerous. It was November and the weather alternated between driving 
rain and hard frost. There was an almost unceasing cannonade; bullets and 
shells whined and whistled across the faulty parapets, and at night men 
and officers went out together to mend the wire and strengthen the fortifi- 
cations. As a result the casualty list mounted steadily. Despite the mud and 
the noise Winston preferred the trenches to Battalion Headquarters, 
established in a ruined farm a short distance away. Headquarters was 
almost as uncomfortable as the line and with a further serious disadvan- 
tage: only tea was allowed. Winston asked to move forward. 

Major Churchill was subjected to a constant glare of mass scrutiny. He 
was a famous figure and the troops wrote home about him as their chief 
topic of news. Every action he took and almost every word he spoke was 
noted. The officers were nearly as vigilant as the men in their observations 
but their interest was more politely masked. However, on one occasion 
the curiosity of a general saved Winston's life. A week after he joined the 
Guards he received a message that the Corps Commander would like to 
see him and would send a car to fetch him at a certain crossroads that after- 
noon. This order obliged Churchill to walk three miles across muddy and 
dangerous fields. When he arrived at the rendezvous he found no one; 
after an hour's wait a staff officer appeared on foot and explained that the 
car had been sent to the wrong place and it was now too late for the 
General to see him. It was not important, the officer added airily. The 
General had merely wished to have a chat with him. Winston made his 
way back, angrily cursing the Corps Commander, but when he arrived 
his attitude changed. He was congratulated on his 'luck* and discovered 
that his dug-out had received a direct hit from a shell a few minutes after 
he had left, and had been completely demolished. 

Meanwhile rumours began to reach the House of Commons that 
Winston was to be given a brigade. It should be remembered that in 
1 Thoughts and Adventures: Winston S. Churchill. 


those days England was very much a land of privilege, and 'gentlemen* 
automatically became officers. Winston had spent a few years as a profes- 
sional soldier and Sir John French regarded it as perfectly reasonable to 
entrust him with a relatively important command. But in Parliament his 
Tory opponents were indignant, for they looked upon him as a dangerous 
fraud. They knew his adroitness at string-pulling and thrusting himself 
into central positions, so with a smugly patriotic air they decided it was 
their duty to thwart him. They attacked him on the ground of 'privilege' 
which they, as Conservatives, so gladly defended when it concerned them- 
selves. On 1 6 December a Tory M.P. asked a question in Parliament 
which was reported in The Times the following day: 'Major Sir C. Hunter 
(Bath, U.) asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether Major 
Winston Churchill had been promised the command of an infantry 
brigade; whether this officer had ever commanded a battalion of in- 
fantry; and for how many weeks he had served at the front as an infantry 

'Mr. Tennant: I have no knowledge myself and have not been able to 
obtain any, of a promise of command of an infantry brigade having been 
made to my right honourable and gallant Friend referred to in the ques- 
tion. On the second point I have consulted books of reference and other 
authentic sources of information, and the result of my investigations is that 
my right honourable and gallant Friend has never commanded a battalion 
of infantry. No report has been made to the War Office of the movements 
of Major the Right Honourable Winston L. S. Churchill since he pro- 
ceeded to France on 19 November. If he has been serving as an infantry 
officer between that date and to-day the answer to the last part of the 
question would be about four weeks/ (Laughter.) 

'Sir C. Hunter: Will the right honourable Gentleman let me know 
whether the right honourable and gallant Gentleman has been promised 
the command of an infantry battalion? (Cries of "Why not?") Sir C. 
Scott Robertson: Is not the question absurd on the face of it, Major 
Churchill being under sixty years of age? (Laughter.) Mr. E. Cecil: Is the 
right honourable Gentleman aware that if this appointment were made it 
would be thought by many persons inside the House and outside to be a 
grave scandal? (Cries of "Oh".)' 

At the same time that questions were being asked in Parliament,- Sir 
John French paid a visit to London. When he told the Prime Minister that 
he was giving Winston a brigade, Asquith protested strongly, saying that 
the House of Commons would not like it. He urged French not to offer 
him more than a battalion. French was not in a position to insist on having 
his own way for he knew his days were numbered; less than a month later 


he was succeeded as Commander-in-Chief by Sir Douglas Haig. As a 
result, Churchill was made a Lieutenant-Colonel, not a Brigadier-General, 
and given a battalion of the Sixth Royal Scots Fusiliers, not a brigade. 

He was bitterly disappointed and for many months nursed a deep 
grievance against Asquith. He felt that the Prime Minister had not de- 
fended him over the Dardanelles as he should have done, and now he was 
treacherously interfering with his military life. Although both Bonar Law 
and Lloyd George believed that Winston should not receive special 
favours, Lord Beaverbrook shared the latter's indignation. 'A Premier 
may have to throw a colleague overboard to save the ship,' he wrote, 'but 
surely he should not jerk from under him the hen-coop on which the 
victim is trying to sustain himself on the stormy ocean.' 1 

Winston swallowed his chagrin as best he could and turned his attention 
to his new job. The Scots Fusiliers were in a billeting area, preparing to 
move into the line near Armenti&res, at Ploegstreet Village, known to the 
British as 'Plugstreet'. Battalion Headquarters was in a squalid, filthy farm- 
house, half of which was still occupied by French peasants. Colonel 
Churchill summoned his officers to die orderly room and the peasants, 
who had got wind that a man of great importance had arrived, clustered 
around, peering through the door and exclaiming in loud whispers: 
'Monsieur It ministre? Ah, cest lui? C'est votre ministre?' 

The Scots Fusiliers were no more pleased than the Grenadiers to have a 
politician thrust upon them, but Winston won them over the following 
day when he gathered the officers together and announced solemnly: 
'War is declared, gentlemen, on the lice.' This was followed by an erudite 
and dramatic lecture on the origin, growth and nature of the louse, with 
particular emphasis on the decisive role it had played throughout history 
as a vital factor in war. The officers were not only amused but impressed; 
'Thus/ wrote one of them, 'did the great scion of the House of Marl- 
borough first address his Scottish captains assembled in council.' After 
that the ice was broken and the battalion set to work to 'delouse' itself 
with scrubbing brushes and hot irons. The result was completely 

Winston was hardworking, cheerful and bursting with new ideas. The 
spectacle of a great creative mind being focused full strength on the 
humble needs of a small battalion provided the officers with plenty of 
excitement. In an amusing little booklet With Churchill at the Front, 
Captain Gibb describes the period under Winston as his 'most treasured 
war-memory*. This was a high compliment, for Colonel Churchill be- 
lieved in keeping his men busy. When the battalion reached 'Plugstreet' 

1 Politicians and the War: Lord Beaverbrook. 


he set his men to filling sandbags and strengthening and repairing their 
trenches for hours on end. Yet he was so energetic himself no one could 
object. Early and late he was in the line. 'On an average he went around 
three times a day, which was no mean task in itself,' wrote Captain Gibb, 
'as he had plenty of other work to do. At least one of these visits was after 
dark, usually about i a.m. In wet weather he would appear in a complete 
outfit of waterproof stuff, including trousers or overalls, and with his 
French light-blue helmet he presented a remarkable and unusual figure. He 
was always in the closest touch with every piece of work that was going 
on, and, while at times his demands were a little extravagant, his kindliness 
and the humour that never failed to flash out made everybody only too 
keen to get on with the work, whether the ideal he pointed out to them 
was an unattainable one or not/ 

Winston not only took an interest in everything that was going on but 
gave his men long and learned dissertations on all sorts of subjects includ- 
ing bricklaying, the handling of sandbags and master masonry. But some 
of his ideas, wrote Gibb, were 'too recherches, too subtle to stand the 
practical test of everyday fighting*. For instance, he gave an order that 
when a parapet was hit it was not to be repaired before nightfall so that 
the enemy would not know what damage he had done. However, bullets 
came through the gaps, casualties resulted, and the order was ignored. 
Another time Churchill suddenly declared that all batmen must serve as 
bodyguards to their officers while they were in the line in order to protect 
the latter's precious lives; this too was utterly impractical and laughed out 
of court. On the other hand Churchill devised wondeful schemes for 
'shelters and scarps and counterscarps and dugouts and half-moons and 
ravelins' which made sleep far safer than ever before. 

Colonel Churchill believed that an officer should not live in discomfort 
because he happened to find himself in a trench, and took pains to 
acquire what amenities he could. He got hold of a tin bath which became 
the envy of the battalion, and stocked the mess with the best cigars and 
the best brandy he could find. But at the same time he was making himself 
comfortable he was also establishing a reputation for complete indifference 
to danger. Apparently he was a man entirely devoid of fear. "War is a 
game to be played with a smiling face,' he often announced, and to Win- 
ston the smiles seemed to come naturally. Captain Gibb describes an 
occasion when Churchill suggested that they look over the parapet to 
get a better view. They felt the sickening rush of air as shells whined 
overhead, and then he remembers Churchill saying dreamily: 'Do you like 
war?' 'At the moment/ wrote Gibb, 'I profoundly hated war. But at that 
and every moment I believe Winston Churchill revelled in it. There was 


no such thing as fear in him.* 1 Stories of Winston's bravery had already 
spread, and on 28 December, 1915, The Times printed an interview with 
Corporal "Walter Gilliland, of die Royal Irish Fusiliers, who said: 'Near 
here Mr. Winston Churchill is stationed and a cooler and braver officer 

never wore the King's uniform He moves about among the men in 

the most exposed positions just as though he was wandering in the lobbies 
of the House of Commons. During the Ulster business before the war 
there was no man more detested in Belfast, but after what we have seen of 
him here we are willing to let bygones be bygones and that is a big con- 
cession for Ulstermen to make. The other night his regiment came in for 
a rough time. . . . Bullets spluttered around him knocking over his men 
left and right but he seemed to bear a charmed life and never betrayed the 
least sign of nervousness. His coolness is the subject of much discussion 
among us, and everybody admires him.* 

And yet, despite his success at the front, Winston could not keep his 
mind on soldiering. At first he enjoyed himself. The danger, the fresh air 
and the physical exercise, all acted as a tonic after years of strenuous mental 
effort. But soon the novelty began to pall, and he found that he could not 
keep his thoughts from questions of high policy. Early in December, at the 
request of French, he wrote a paper entitled Variants of the Offensive in 
which, among other things, he urged the use of caterpillar tanks to lead 
and protect infantry assaults. Tanks were at last being produced but they 
had not yet been employed. Winston stressed that they must not be flung 
in piece-meal but kept back until they could be used in large numbers to 
secure both maximum strength and Tnayjimiitp surprise. He sent a copy of 
his paper to the Committee of Imperial Defence but, as the reader will see, 
his advice was not heeded. 

Meanwhile many distinguished visitors came to Winston's Battalion 
Headquarters including the regal Lord Curzon, the lion-hearted General 
Seely, and the indignant F. E. Smith, who was arrested en route by the 
military authorities for not having a pass. With these political friends 
Winston unburdened himself and talked far into the night; soon he found 
himself hankering after Westminster with increasing nostalgia. His 
buoyancy began to fade and he had long spells of deep dejection. As early 
as March, when he had only been in France four months, he wrote a letter 
to Lord Beaverbrook indicating that he was tTiinlring of abandoning his 
soldiering and returning to England in the hope of exerting some influence 
on events which he believed were being mishandled. It would be awk- 

1 With Churchill at the Front: Captain Gibb. 


ward: he had left the House of Commons with a flourish for 'an alter- 
native form of service to which no exception can be taken, and with which 
I am perfectly content*. It would not be easy to meet the natural criticism 
that would arise. 'The problem which now faces me is difficult/ he said in 
his letter. 'My work out here with all its risk and all its honour which I 
greatly value: on the other hand the increasingly grave situation of the 
war and the feeling of knowledge and power to help in mending matters 
which is strong within me: add to this dilemma the awkwardness of 
changing and the cause of my, I hope, unusual hesitations is obvious. In 
principle I have no doubts: but as to time and occasion I find very much 
greater difficulties/ 1 

Churchill could keep away from the political arena no longer, and in 
March he travelled to London to speak on the Naval Estimates. He made 
a long and critical speech on the conduct of the Naval war and urged 
Arthur Balfour, his successor at the Admiralty, to take more vigorous steps 
against the German U-boat campaign which was taking a heavy toll of 
merchant shipping. He ended his speech with the startling advice that Mr. 
Balfour, the First Lord, should 'vitalize and animate his Board by recalling 
Lord Fisher as First Sea Lord/ 2 This suggestion was characteristic of 
Winston's refusal to allow personal rancour to deflect him from a course 
he believed was right; but die House of Commons did not receive it in the 
same spirit. They refused to give him credit for magnanimity, suspecting 
him of some deep game. The following day the Daily Express political 
correspondent wrote: 'So far as one can gather in the lobby to-night, most 
members, irrespective of Party, are of the opinion that Colonel Churchill 
has done himself and the State no good. "What I think about the Churchill 
speech is this/' said a leading M.P. to-night. "I think he was merely out 
to strafe Balfour. It will have no effect." The general interpretation of the 
speech is "Lord Fisher and I can run the Admiralty fine; have us back." 
Here are a few representative statements made in lie lobby to-night by 
various Members. "It was a bid for the leadership"; "It was a good sign 
that the big blow at the enemy is coming off soon"; "It was an attempt to 
get back into the Cabinet"/ 8 

Despite this criticism Churchill began to receive overtures from various 
public men including Sir Edward Carson and Sir Arthur Markham, both 
Members of Parliament, and C. P. Scott, the Editor of the Manchester 
Guardian, pressing him to come back to England and take part in a 
patriotic Opposition. He made up his mind to follow their advice. In the 

1 Politicians and the War: Lord Beaverbrook. 

* Hansard: 7 March, 1916. 

1 Daily Express: 8 March, 1916. 


summer his battalion was amalgamated with another and he was without 
a command. By this time he could probably have had a brigade but he 
was now firm in the conviction that his duty lay at home. He wrote to 
the Secretary of State for War asking to be released from the Army. This 
placed the latter in a difficult position. If he allowed Winston to return, he 
would be accused of favouritism; if he refused him, he would be told he 
was trying to avoid opposition. He finally accepted his resignation on the 
understanding that he would not apply again for military service. 

Back in London in June 1916, Winston was not much happier than he 
had been in France. One of his friends described him as 'a character de- 
pressed beyond the limits of description. . . .When the Government was 
deprived of his guidance, he could see no hope anywhere/ He hung about 
Westminster trying to win back his fickle mistress, Power, like a love- 
lorn suitor. He grew pale and dispirited and complained to all his friends 
how badly and unjustly he was being treated. 'I am finished/ he told Lord 
Riddell once again. *I am banished from the scene of action/ 

Meanwhile the Conservatives had not softened towards him. The fact 
that he had thrown up his commission had not raised their estimate but 
merely confirmed their view of him as an opportunist. His friends, how- 
ever, believed that his avidity for office was due to his self-assurance and 
self-confidence. c He cared for the Empire profoundly, 9 wrote Lord 
Beaverbrook, 'and he was honestly convinced that only by his advice and 
methods it could be saved. His ambition was in essence disinterested. He 
suffered tortures when he thought that lesser men were mismanaging the 
business.* 1 

There was plenty to worry about in 1916. That was the year of the 
terrible Battle of the Somme in which the British Army was hurled, wave 
after wave, against the enemy's strongest defences. The conflict raged, 
off and on, for nearly five months, k cost Britain half a million of her 
finest soldiers, yet it did not alter the Allied position to any advantage. 
Winston was horrified by Sir Douglas Haig's strategy. Haig believed that 
France was the decisive theatre of war; that the only way to defeat the 
enemy was by frontal attack, or in plain language 'by killing Germans in 
a war of attrition*. Winston had always opposed this conception. From 
the first he was convinced that the Allies should open a new theatre and 
strike where the enemy's defences were weakest, not strongest; an offen- 
sive through Turkey, or the Balkans or even the Baltic, would give a 
better and quicker chance of victory than the bloodbath on the Western 

1 Politicians and the War: Lord Beaverbrook. 


Front. As early as June 1915 he had written to the Prime Minister: It is a 
fair general conclusion that the deadlock in the West will continue for 
some rime and the side which risks most to pierce the Knes of the other will 
put itself at a disadvantage.' 1 

Very few military men defend Sir Douglas Haig's strategy to-day; most 
experts acknowledge that Winston was right. Yet throughout 1916 he was 
forced to sit back, powerless, and watch the appalling slaughter. At the 
beginning of August, a month after the Battle of the Somme had opened, 
he wrote a memorandum which F. E. Smith circulated to the Cabinet, on 
the terrible futility of these offensives against the enemy's deeply en- 
trenched positions. Already in this one battle alone the British losses 
were a hundred and fifty thousand men and the German only sixty-five 
thousand. 'Leaving personnel and coming to ground gained, we have not 
conquered in a month's fighting as much ground as we were expected to 
gain in the first two hours. We have not advanced three miles in the direct 
line at any point. . . .' he wrote. 'In personnel the results have been disas- 
trous; in terrain they have been absolutely barren. And, although our brave 
troops on a portion of the front, mocking their losses and ready to make 
every sacrifice, are at the moment elated by the small advances made and 
the capture of prisoners and souvenirs, the ultimate moral effect will be 
very disappointing. From every point of view, therefore, the British 
offensive per se has been a great failure/ 2 A copy of this memorandum 
found its way to G.H.Q. in France where it was hody repudiated, and its 
author severely criticized; to-day no one would deny that the facts were 

A few months later another event occurred which caused Winston 
much distress. With the casualty list mounting by leaps and bounds, Haig 
decided to experiment with caterpillar tanks, now beginning to roll off 
the stocks. However, instead of using them in strength, in an attempt to 
achieve a complete break-through, only fifty were thrown in. Churchill 
pleaded with Asquith to prevent the generals from using the weapon pre- 
maturely, but the Prime Minister refused to overrule the military decision. 
The effect was startling and the enemy flabbergasted. The Times corres- 
pondent described the tanks as 'huge, shapeless bulks resembling nothing 
else that was ever seen on earth which wandered hither and thither like 
some vast antediluvian brutes which Nature had made and forgotten.' 
Unfortunately, just as Winston had warned, the tanks were too few in 
number to achieve a decisive result. 

* * * * 

1 The World Crisis: Winston S. Churchill 


It is strange to think that Churchill was out of office for twenty months, 
nearly half of the Great War. As his frustration grew, his thoughts began 
to centre more and more on himself. He wrote a long report vindicating 
all that he had done in connection with the Dardanelles operation, and was 
indignant when the Cabinet refused to allow him to publish it on the 
grounds of secrecy. He remarked dejectedly to Lord Riddell that it was 
hard to 'remain under a stigma'. 'Although we are at war,' he added, 
'there is no reason why injustice should be done to individuals/ 1 He wrote 
Asquith to this effect and the Prime Minister finally agreed to appoint a 
Royal Commission to gather evidence and make a report; but even this 
judgment was withheld from the public because it 'might give informa- 
tion to the enemy'; and Winston was more morose than ever. 

These were his darkest days. The public was still hostile, and the feeling 
against him in Conservative families still intense. When one reads over the 
press cuttings of the day, one is struck by the anger that runs through 
them. Here is an extract from The World* of 14 November, 19161 'Mr. 
Churchill, in his frantic effort to reinstate himself in public esteem, is en- 
listing the support of some powerful newspaper interests. . . . But if a 
serious attempt is being made to foist Winston once more on the British 

public the matter would assume a different aspect Winston Churchill 

was responsible for the op&ra boujfe Antwerp expedition which made the 

British nation ridiculous in the eyes of the world He was responsible 

for the disastrous Dardanelles expedition which ranks with Walcheren as 
one of the greatest military disasters of our time ' 

His chief consolation throughout this difficult period was his happy 
family life. By 1916 he had three children: Diana, age 7, Randolph, age 5, 
and Sarah, age 2. He had a house in Cromwell Road, London, and did a 
good deal of entertaining, mostly of a political nature. The mainspring of 
his existence was his wife. Mrs. Churchill used all her tact and resourceful- 
ness to take his mind away from his personal worries. She reassured him, 
gathered interesting people around him, backed up his political views and, 
above all, remained confident and cheerful. 

She encouraged him in his new hobby, painting. He had first begun to 
paint in the summer of 1915, soon after he left the Admiralty. One 
Sunday he picked up a box of children's water-colours and experimented 
with them. The next day he went out and bought an expensive set of oils. 

1 Lord Riddeffs War Diary. 

The World was a weekly Society journal which carried a widely read political 


He tells how he made a mark the size of a bean on a canvas, then stood 
back, brush poised in air, surveying the white expanse with trepidation. 
He heard a voice behind him. 'Painting? But what are you hesitating 
about?' It was Lady Lavery, the wife of the well-known artist Sir John 
Lavery, who had recently completed Winston's portrait 'Let me have the 
brush a big one/ she said. 1 Then she slashed the canvas with fierce, bold 
strokes. That was the end of Winston's inhibitions. He was living in a 
farmhouse in Surrey which he had rented for the summer and after that he 
was seen every day in a long cream-coloured smock which came to his 
knees; he set up his easel in the garden or along the country lanes, and when 
it was hot he stuck a huge umbrella in the ground beside him. He became 
fascinated by his pursuit and told Lord Riddell that painting was his 
greatest solace. On the rare occasions when he visited friends, he arrived 
with his painting equipment. Lord Beaverbrook describes such an occasion 
and tells how, as Winston arranged his easel, he announced that he could 
not paint and talk too. 'But I have not left you unprovided for/ he 
remarked, and unloaded from his dispatch case a huge manuscript his 
defence of the Dardanelles. 

In December 1916, the Asquith Government fell, and Lloyd George 
became Prime Minister. This was brought about by a manoeuvre, that 
could almost be described as a plot, in which Lord Beaverbrook played a 
leading part. There was growing dissatisfaction with Asquith's direction 
of the war. Despite his fine brain he secerned to lack the drive and decision 
necessary to harness a great effort, and was continually at the mercy of 
advisers who were often pulling in opposite directions. Lord Northcliffe, 
the great newspaper magnate who owned the most popular and the most 
influential papers in England, the Daily Mail and The Times, detested 
Asquith. He depicted him to the public as the man of 'Wait and See' and 
built up Lloyd George as the man of 'Push and Go*. 

However, it is not easy to get rid of a Prime Minister. A man in this 
position is always protected by the loyalty of those who enjoy his favour 
and fear that they will fall with him. In this situation Bonar Law, die Con- 
servative leader, was the key. No Coalition Government could be con- 
trolled by a Liberal Prime Minister who did not have the approval of the 
Conservatives. Here Lord Beaverbrook stepped into the picture. Beaver- 
brook was then Sir Max Aitken. He was a fascinating, speculative, even 
romantic figure, who had arrived from Canada when he was barely 
thirty, a self-made multi-millionaire. He was the son of a poor Methodist 

1 Thoughts and Adventures: Winston S. Churchill. 


parson and, according to gossip, had made his vast fortune as a company 
promoter. In 1913 he bought tie Daily Express which, in the post-war 
period, eventually rivalled in circulation and finally surpassed die Daily 

He was quick, amusing and provocative, and he possessed a rare talent; 
he could charm whoever he set out to capture. People have found it 
strange that the dour, humourless, unimaginative Bonar Law should have 
come under his spell, but the very difference between the two men ob- 
viously proved the attraction. Beaverbrook became Law's confidant; the 
latter asked his advice on every sort of matter, ranging from policy to 
people, and accepted it often enough for Beaverbrook to be treated with 
great respect. But besides winning Law's friendship Beaverbrook also 
became an intimate of Lloyd George, F. E. Smith and Winston Churchill. 
These men, each a genius in his own way, had much in common. They 
were all brilliant conversationalists; they were all individualists and adven- 
turers, with a zest for conflict and a marked indifference to convention. 
They were the most gifted group of friends in public life and all of them, 
separately and together, were distrusted and disliked by the average Con- 
servative 'gentleman'. 

Beaverbrook convinced Bonar Law that Asquith must be removed; 
and persuaded him to back Lloyd George as Prime Minister. But the up- 
heaval would require careful handling and was well rehearsed. Lloyd 
George delivered an ultimatum to Asquith designed to remove the direc- 
tion of the war from the latter's hands and place it with an Inner Cabinet. 
Asquith refused, as he was intended to do, and Lloyd George resigned. 
Asquith then was forced to resign himself as he could not continue to 
govern with his Party split in two. The King followed customary pro- 
cedure by sending for Bonar Law who declined the offer to form a 
Government, suggesting that His Majesty entrust the task to Lloyd George 

Thus a new Prime Minister took over the reins. Churchill's spirits 
soared as he thought his chance had come, but once again he was doomed 
to disappointment. Although Beaverbrook had succeeded in reconciling 
Bonar Law to Lloyd George's leadership he could not persuade him to 
accept Churchill. Law flatly refused to support any Government that 
included Winston. He recognized the latter's brilliance; indeed, he had 
declared in the House of Commons, on the eve of Churchill's departure 
for France, that 'in mental power and vital force he is one of the foremost 
men in the country*; yet he did not believe that brilliance was enough. 
Lloyd George used every argument he could summon to change his mind. 
'The question is, even though you distrust him, would you rather have 


him FOR you or AGAINST you? 9 he queried. 'I would rather have him 
against me every time/ Law replied obdurately. 1 

Winston had no idea of the difficulties Lloyd George was encountering 
on his behalf, and firmly expected to be a member of the new Govern- 
ment. He regarded office as a certainty when, at Lloyd George's request, 
F. E. Smith invited him to a small dinner party of close colleagues. But 
Lloyd George had extended the invitation impulsively and realizing 
almost at once that Winston's hopes might be raised falsely, asked Beaver- 
brook, who was also one of the guests, to drop a hint to him that it would 
not be possible to include him in the Administration at the present time. 
Lord Beaverbrook did as he was bid, and in the course of the dinner said 
to Churchill: 'The new Government will be very well disposed towards 
you. All your friends will be there. You will have a great field of common 
action with them.' 

'Something in the very restraint of my language,' wrote Beaverbrook, 
'carried conviction to Churchill's mind. He suddenly felt that he had been 
duped by his invitation to dinner, and he blazed into righteous anger. I 
have never known him address his great friend Birkenhead in any other 
way except as "Fred", or "F.E." On this occasion he said suddenly: 
"Smith, this man knows that I am not to be included in the new Govern- 
ment." With that Churchill walked out into the street carrying his coat 
and hat on his arm. Birkenhead pursued him, and endeavoured to per- 
suade him to return, but in vain.' 2 

Lloyd George finally smoothed things over by assuring Winston 
privately that he would do two things for him. First, he would release the 
Report of the Dardanelles Royal Commission; second, after publication, 
he would find him a job. He kept his word. The Report came out in 
March 1917, and although many people did not consider that its con- 
clusions exonerated Winston, they at least were forced to admit that both 
Asquith and Kitchener were equally to blame. Then, in May, Churchill 
made a passionate and moving speech in the House, delivered at a secret 
session, in which he once again attacked the principle of the war of attri- 
tion. 'I was listened to for an hour and a quarter with strained attention, 
at first silently but gradually with a growing measure of acceptance and at 
length approval,' he wrote. 'At the end there was quite a demonstration.' 3 
His argument was that Britain and France must not squander the remain- 
ing strength of their armies in costly and futile offensives, but wait until 
American power had made itself felt; in the meantime Britain must 

1 War Memoirs: David Lloyd George. 

1 Politicians and the War: Lord Beaverbrook. 

* Tlie World Crisis: Winston S. Churchill. 


concentrate on the anti-submarine war and keep its sea communications 
intact. His speech made a deep impression but when Lloyd George replied 
he refused to commit himself against a renewed offensive; Winston learned 
later that he did not feel able to overrule Haig and Robertson. 'He pro- 
ceeded to lead a captivated assembly over the whole scene of the war, 
gaining the sympathy and conviction of his hearers at every stage/ wrote 
Winston, 'When he sat down the position of the Government was 
stronger than it had been at any previous moment during his Adminis- 
tration/ 1 

Indeed Lloyd George's stock was so high he now felt strong enough to 
include Winston in his Government. In July 1917 he offered him the 
Ministry of Munitions. This did not include a seat in the War Cabinet, 
but at least it was the end of exile. The Prime Minister knew that he would 
have to take a barrage of criticism but he had no idea of its intensity. The 
publication of the Dardanelles Report and Winston's moving speeches 
had apparently done little to alky the hostility against him. For days the 
storm raged. Admiral Beresford told a large audience at Queen's Hall: 
'The P.M. has no right to make such appointments in opposition to public 
opinion/ 2 Furious letters appeared in tie Conservative newspapers: 'We 
cannot forget that his name is associated with disaster/ A formal protest 
was made by the Committee of Conservative Associations; and in the 
House of Commons an M.P., Mr. Evelyn Cecil, put down a question to 
Lloyd George: 'Whether, in view of die feeling which exists in many 
quarters in this House and in the country that the inclusion of Mr. 
Churchill in the Government and particularly at this time, as Minister of 
Munitions, is a national danger, he will give time for the discussion of the 
appointment?' 8 

This was not all. Lloyd George was inundated with angry letters from 
his Cabinet colleagues, and for a time the Government tottered. Why were 
they so bitter and implacable? Lloyd George attempted to answer this 
question in his Memoirs in a fascinating summary of tie feelings and pre- 
judices of Winston's adversaries. 'They admitted he was a man of dazzling 
talents, that he possessed a forceful and a fascinating personality. They 
recognized his courage and that he was an indefatigable worker. But they 
asked why, in spite of that, although he had more admirers, he had fewer 
followers than any prominent public man in Britain? They pointed to the 
fact that at the lowest ebb of their fortunes, Joseph Chamberlain in 
Birmingham and Campbell-Bannerman in Scotland could count on a 

1 The World Crisis: Winston S. Churchill. 

1 26 July, 1917. 

9 Hansard: 20 July, 1917. 


territorial loyalty which was unshakable in its devotion. On the other 
hand, Churchill had never attracted, he had certainly never retained, the 
affection of any section, province or town. His changes of Party were not 
entirely responsible for this. Some of the greatest figures in British political 
life had ended in a different Party from that in which they had com- 
menced their political career. That was therefore not an adequate explana- 
tion of his position in public confidence. They asked: What then was the 

'Here was their explanation. His mind was a powerful machine, but 
there lay hidden in its material or its make-up some obscure defect which 
prevented it from always running true. They could not tell what it was. 
When the mechanism went wrong, its very power made the action disas- 
trous, not only to himself but to the causes in which he was engaged and 
the men with whom he was co-operating. That was why the latter were 
nervous in his partnership. He had in their opinion revealed some tragic 
flaw in the metal This was urged by Churchill's critics as a reason for not 
utilizing his great abilities at this juncture. They thought of him not as a 
contribution to the common stock of activities and ideas in the hours of 
danger, but as a further danger to be guarded against. 

'I took a different view of his possibilities. I felt that his resourceful mind 
and tireless energy would be invaluable under supervision. ... I knew 
something of the feeling against him among his old Conservative friends, 
and that I would run great risks in promoting Churchill to any position 
in the Ministry; but the insensate fury they displayed when later on the 
rumour of my intention reached their ears surpassed all my apprehensions, 
and for some days it swelled to the dimensions of a grave Ministerial crisis 
which threatened the life of the "Government". 

Lloyd George went so far as to declare that 'some of them were xaore 

excited about his appointment than about the war It was interesting 

to observe in a concentrated form every phase of the distrust and trepida- 
tion with which mediocrity views genius at dose quarters. Unfortunately, 
genius always provides its critics with material for censure it always has 
and always will. Churchill is certainly no exception to this rule'. 

'Not allowed to make the plans,' wrote Winston, 'I was set to make the 
weapons.' Strictly speaking this was true, but Winston was not one to keep 
his fingers out of the policy-making pie for long. The Ministry of Muni- 
tions gave hi the opportunity to increase his exertions in favour of the 
one idea that gripped and dominated his mind: tanks. For many months 
he had watched the battle of attrition in France with increasing dislike. 


War was a great art, but how low it had fallen. Where was the skill, the 
ingenuity, the surprise? The only method the Allied commanders under- 
stood was the repeated hurling of flesh and blood against the strongest 
fortified positions, arguing that if they could slaughter more Germans than 
the Germans could slaughter in return they were bound to win in the end. 
Winston had wanted to leave France in its deadlock and strike through the 
back door of Turkey. If that was impossible, new methods must be 
developed to beat the trench, and the methods were obvious: a mechani- 
cal blow. But so far the tank had been badly misused. Not only had a mere 
handful been employed at the Battle of the Somrne, but at Passchendaele 
they had been kept back until all element of surprise had vanished, then 
'condemned to wallow in the crater fields under the first blast of German 

The War Cabinet could not understand the importance of the new 
weapon. Although Lloyd George, as Minister of Munitions, had ordered 
the manufacture of several hundred tanks, the military mind still regarded 
them with a marked lack of enthusiasm. Now Winston redoubled his 
efforts. On 21 October, 1917, he wrote a memorandum: 'Someone must 

stop the tiger It is becoming apparent that the "blasting power" of the 

artillery is only one of the factors required for a satisfactory method of the 
offensive. "Moving power" must be developed equally with "blasting 

power" When we see these great armies in the West spread out in thin 

lines hundreds of miles long and organized in depth only at a very few 
points, it is impossible to doubt that if one side discovered, developed and 
perfected a definite method of advancing continuously, albeit upon a 
fairly limited front, a decisive defeat would be inflicted upon the other. 
If, therefore, we could by organized mechanical processes and equipment 
impart this faculty to our armies in 1918 or in 1919, it would be an 
effective substitute for a great numerical preponderance in numbers. 
What other substitute can we look for? Where else is our superiority 
coming from?' 1 " 

Sir Douglas Haig was still unimpressed by the possibilities of tanks. 
Winston constantly had Passchendaele thrown in his face. 'They cannot 
cope with mud.' 'The Army doesn't want them any more.' 'General 
Headquarters does not rank them very high in its priorities.' However, 
on 20 November, only a few weeks after Churchill's memorandum, 
General Sir Julian Byng gave the Tank Corps its first great opportunity by 
employing the new weapon as it was designed to be used. No artillery 
barrage was laid down until the tanks were actually launched; and nearly 
five hundred were put into the field. 'The attack,' say the historians of the 

1 The World Crisis: Winston S. Churchill. 


Tank Corps, 'was a stupendous success. As the tanks moved forward with 
the infantry following dose behind, the enemy completely lost his 
balance, and those who did fly panic-stricken from the field surrendered 

with little or no resistance By 4 p.m. on 20 November one of the most 

astonishing battles in all history had been won and, as far as the Tank 
Corps was concerned, tactically finished, for no reserves existing it was 
not possible to do more.' 1 The German trench system had been penetrated 
to a depth of six miles; ten thousand prisoners and two hundred guns had 
been captured; and the British had lost only fifteen hundred men. 

'Moving power' now began to have its ardent supporters. Lloyd George 
stated that tank production must be rapidly increased; recruiting for the 
Tank Corps was redoubled; training establishments were expanded. Despite 
the urgency Winston met more obstacles. The Admiralty had first 
priority on steel plates. These were needed for ship-building but they 
were also needed for tanks. The only method by which Winston could 
secure any at all was to gorge the Admiralty until they held stocks far 
beyond their most excessive demands; then he took the remainder for his 

At last a programme was in operation that would transform the conflict, 
should it continue in 1919, into a mobile, mechanical war. Winston's 
victory was won. Had he been able to convince the Cabinet of the impor- 
tance of tanks in 1915, he believes the war would have ended in 1917. 
To-day most people agree with him. 

The Ministry of Munitions was a huge organization staffed by twelve 
thousand civil servants and divided into fifty departments. It was operat- 
ing smoothly when Winston took over, but he tightenedit up still further. 
He combined the fifty groups into less than a dozen new ones; he referred 
to each group by a letter F for finance, D for design, P for projectiles, 
X for explosives; he set up a Council of business men rather like the Board 
of Admiralty; and over the business men he established a small, powerful 
'damping committee'. The organization was a triumph. 'Instead of 
struggling through the jungle on foot I rode comfortably on an elephant, 
whose trunk could pick up a pin or uproot a tree with equal ease, and 
from whose back a wide scene lay open,' 2 he wrote. 

The Ministry of Munitions covered an enormous field. It was not only 
responsible for guns and shells, but for all sorts of moving and rolling 
stock, and for the design and production of aircraft as well. 'Owing to the 

1 The Tank Corps: Clough and A. Williams-Ellis. 
* The World Crisis: Winston S. Churchill 


energy which Mr. Winston Churchill threw into the production of muni- 
tions,* wrote Lloyd George in his Memoirs, 'between i March and I August 
the strength of die Tank Corps increased by twenty-seven per cent, and 
that of the Machine Gun Corps by forty-one per cent, while the number 
of aeroplanes in France rose by fort}' per cent/ 

On top of this effort came American demands. The United States had 
declared war in April 1917, three months before Churchill was brought 
back into the Government. The Americans planned to put forty-eight 
divisions in the line, which amounted to six armies each requiring twelve 
thousand guns. But owing to the difficulty of switching peace-time 
factories to war production they could only produce a small proportion 
of their needs. 

Winston accepted a contract for .100,000,000 to supply the American 
Army with all its medium artillery. This was done under a 'gentleman's 
agreement' by which the United Kingdom promised not to make a profit 
and the United States promised to make good a loss. The bargain worked 
to the complete satisfaction of both countries. Indeed, the'cordial relations 
which Winston established with his opposite number in Washington, Mr. 
Bernard Baruch, whom he had never met, grew into a warm friendship 
after the war and continues to-day. Mr. Baruch was influential in seeing 
that Churchill received the United States Distinguished Service Medal 
which was awarded him at the end of the war by General Pershing. 

The Ministry of Munitions had large establishments in France which gave 
Winston the opportunity of crossing the Channel whenever he wished. 
He seized the excuse to visit the front regularly and often appeared at Sir 
Douglas Haig's headquarters. Here he studied the flagged maps and talked 
strategy and tactics to his heart's content. Finally Sir Douglas Haig 
assigned him his own quarters in a French chateau near Verochocq, and he 
became almost a daily visitor. He found that he could work at the 
Ministry of Munitions in the morning, fly to Verochocq at lunchtime, 
and have a whole afternoon at the front. 1 managed to be present at nearly 
every important battle during the rest of the war,' he wrote with pride. 

These trips probably were not strictly essential to his work as a Minister, 
but he was blissfully happy. The fact that aeroplanes were uncertain 
quantities in those days seemed to add to his pleasure. Once when he was 
over the Channel on his return to London a valve burst, the engine 
spluttered and the plane descended towards the grey water. The pilot 
made a gesture indicating that there was nothing he could do, and it 
seemed as though the end had come. Then the engine coughed, the plane 


rose unsteadily, and the pilot headed back to France where he managed to 
land the machine without damage. On another occasion the same pilot 
had to make a forced landing on English soil. 'He side-slipped artistically 
between two tall elms, just missing the branches,' wrote Winston in 
Thoughts and Adventures; and later, when someone asked him whether he 
was not afraid at such moments he replied: 'No, I love life, but I don't fear 

Winston was at the front when the great and final offensive against the 
British opened in March 1918. He heard the enemy barrage begin and 
listened to the Allied guns thunder back in reply. This was Ludendorff's 
last hope of winning the war. Both Russia and Italy had collapsed and the 
Germans were free to concentrate most of their force in the West. Al- 
though the United States had been in the war for a year it had only two 
hundred thousand men in the line. Ludendorff knew the Americans would 
be arriving in strength throughout the summer, and decided to stake 
everything on a final, knock-out blow before that time. 

This offensive was the climax of the war. It lasted forty days and cost 
Britain three hundred thousand casualties. Everyone knows how the 
British lines recoiled with the terrific impact; how the French nearly 
broke contact with their Allies; how for the first time an electric whisper 
went through England: 'What if the Germans should win, after all?' 
Winston returned to London three days after the battle had begun and 
went to 10 Downing Street at once. Lloyd George asked him anxiously: 
'If we cannot hold the line we have fortified so carefully, why should we 
be able to hold positions farther back with troops already defeated?' 1 
Winston explained that an offensive was like throwing a bucket of Water 
over the floor; it lost its force as it proceeded. 

But during the next days an alarming rumour spread that the French 
regarded the defeat of the British armies as inevitable and, instead of send- 
ing reinforcements, were planning to break contact with them. Lloyd 
George summoned Winston and asked him to hurry to France and find 
out what was happening. 'Go and see everybody,' he said. *Use my 
authority. See Foch. See Clemenceau. Find out for yourself whether 
they are making a really big move or not.' 2 

The story of the trip has been recounted dramatically by Churchill him- 
self. /Clemenceau greeted him with the message: *Not only shall Mr. 
Winston Churchill see everything, but I will myself take him to-morrow 

1 Thoughts and Adventures: Winston S. Churchill 


to the battle and we will visit all the Commanders of Corps and Armies 
engaged/ 1 

The next day the two statesmen set forth, accompanied by high officials 
and staff officers, in a fleet of military cars decorated with satin tricolours. 
First, they visited Foch who gave them a brilliant exposition of the battle 
ending emotionally with the assurance that the enemy effort was nearly 
exhausted. 'Alors, General, ilfaut queje vous erribrasse? said Clemenceau, 
and the two Frenchmen clasped each other tightly. Next, they went to the 
headquarters of the British Fourth Army where they had lunch with Sir 
Douglas Haig. Clemenceau and Haig withdrew to an adjoining room. 
When they came out Winston noticed that Haig seemed content and the 
Tiger was smiling. 'It is all right,* he said, 'I have done what you wish. 
Never mind what was arranged before. If your men are tired and we have 
fresh men near at hand, our men shall come at once and help you. And 
now/ he added, *I shall claim my reward/ 

The reward was to see the battle. The Army commanders protested, 
but Clemenceau insisted on being driven as far forward as possible. Shells 
whistled overhead, and even Winston finally protested that he ought not 
to go under fire too often. 'CW mon grand plaisir, 9 replied the old 

As everyone knows the British lines held, and the British and French 
armies did not break contact. By the summer the Americans were pouring 
into France and the Germans no longer had a chance of victory. The war 
ended on n November, 1918. Winston was in his office in the Hotel 
Metropole when Big Ben struck the hour of eleven, the signal that the 
worst conflict in history had ended. Mrs. Churchill joined him and 
together they drove down to Whitehall to see the Prime Minister. 

1 Thoughts and Adventures: Winston S. Churchill 




THE TEN restless years between 1919 and 1929 did little to advance Mr. 
Churchill's reputation as a statesman. It was a turbulent decade of clashing 
colours and dark shadows; of booms and slumps, of Bolshevism and a 
League of Nations, of flappers, cocktail parties and Bright Young People. 
It was a decade of strikes, unemployment, of tKe rise of the Labour Party, 
of civil wars, of pacifism, of demoralization, of a half-hearted belief in 
collective security. It was a decade that was to usher in a new factor in 
world politics: the Common Man. 

When the First World War ended there was only one statesman in 
England who counted. That was Lloyd George. The prophecy made by 
John Morley that 'if thfere is a war Churchill will beat L.G. hollow* had 
proved utterly false. Winston was forced to stand in the wings of the 
political stage while Lloyd George took all the bows. Mr. Churchill had 
no following from any party or any group. The Liberals were suspicious 
of him, the Labour leaders opposed him, and the Conservatives disliked 
him. His only strength lay in his friendship with Lloyd George. 

The two men sat together on Armistice night and discussed the great 
problems that peace would bring. Winston was not a vindictive man, and 
now that the terrible conflict was over his instinct was to hold out the 
hand of friendship to Germany. It was essential to the future of Europe, 
he argued, that Germany should be brought into the democratic family as 
soon as possible, and he urged Lloyd George to send a dozen food ships 
to Hamburg. But public opinion was strongly hostile to the idea with the 
result that nothing was done until Plumer, in command in Germany, 
threatened to resign if food were not sent, and got his way. 

A month after the Armistice Lloyd George's Coalition Government 
went to the country in what was known as the 'Coupon* Election. All 
candidates supporting the Coalition, mainly Conservatives, received 
coupons guaranteeing their loyalty. They were opposed by Labour can- 
didates and Asquithian- Liberals over whom they scored a resounding 
victory, winning five hundred and twenty-six seats which gave them a 
clear majority of three hundred and fifty-seven over all other parties. But 
the election was fought on a swelling tide of public opinion symbolized 
by national slogans: 'Hang the Kaiser' and 'Make the Germans Pay*. No 
candidate was elected who tried to withstand the pressure. Even Winston 


was forced to knuckle under, and when the Government returned to 
Whitehall it found itself committed to a policy of reparations which many 
regarded with deep misgivings. 

A few weeks after the election Lloyd George appointed Winston 
Minister of War with the Air Ministry amalgamated under him. He 
wanted a strong man to iron out the demobilization tangle, which Chur- 
chill promptly did. Lloyd George recognized his colleague's brilliant 
qualities and he was also conscious of his headstrong and impetuous nature. 
He undoubtedly believed that while the War Office would absorb 
Winston's energies and interests, it also had the advantage of being a 'safe' 
post, for in peace time a Service Department was not likely to offer much 
scope for sensational action. Sir Henry Wilson, the Chief of the Imperial 
General Staff, evidently did not share this view, for when he heard of the 
appointment he wrote in his diary: 'Whew!'; and at his first meeting with 
his new boss he asked caustically why the Admiralty had not been thrown 
in as well. As things turned out the 'whew* was not unreasonable. The 
world was still in a troubled state, and most troubled of all was Russia, 
which was torn by civil war, and which still contained British troops. 

Russia became Winston's chief preoccupation; and since Lloyd George 
was fully absorbed by the Paris Peace Conference he had something of a 
free hand. The gigantic country was in an appalling state of disintegration. 
The Czar had been overthrown in 1917, and a few months kter the 
Bolsheviks had captured the Central Government. In the spring of 1918 
they had signed a separate peace with the Kaiser which had allowed 
Germany to release a million more men to fight the Allies on the Western 
Front. Britain had sent troops to Archangel, the Caucasus and Siberia to 
prevent oil supplies and Allied materials from falling into the enemy's 
hands. In the meantime White Russian counter-revolutionary forces many 
hundred of miles apart ^those in the South under the leadership of General 
Dcnikin, and those in the East under Admiral Kolchak had remained 
faithful to their commitments and continued the war as best they could. 
Now these forces were fighting the Bolsheviks and desperately begging 
England for help. Lord Mflner, Winston's predecessor at the War Office, 
had more or less promised aid. Was Britain to abandon them? All 
Winston's chivalrous instincts bade him send assistance. Besides this, look- 
ing at the picture objectively, it would not be in Britain's interests to allow 
Bolshevik leaders who believed in organized terror and who were preach- 
ing world-wide revolution to gain the final power. Germany lay prostrate. 
What would prevent Russia from overrunning the whole of Europe? 

This was the practical argument. But as far as Winston was concerned, 
the emotional argument was even stronger. He was disgusted by the 


Bolshevik atrocities. He understood wars between soldiers and nations, 
but he could not forgive wars between families, neighbours and classes, 
where thousands of civilians were murdered in the name of humanity. 
To him the Russian spectacle was sordid and evil. 'For all its horrors/ he 
wrote many years later, 'a glittering light plays over the scenes and actors 
of the French Revolution. The careers and personalities of Robespierre, 
of Danton, even of Marat, gleam luridly across a century. But the dull 
squalid figures of the Russian Bolsheviks are not redeemed in interest 
even by the magnitude of their crimes. All form and emphasis is lost in 
the vast process of Asiatic liquefaction. Even the slaughter of millions and 
the misery of scores of millions will not attract future generations to their 
uncouth lineaments and outlandish names/ 1 

It was characteristic of Churchill that when he took up a cause he fought 
for it wholeheartedly. All his vigour was concentrated on a campaign 
against the Bolsheviks. In the House of Commons and on the public plat- 
form he attacked the Reds in a flow of rich and merciless invective. On 
ii April, 1919, speaking at a luncheon at the Aldwych Club in London, 
he declared: *Of all the tyrannies in history, the Bolshevist tyranny is the 
worst, the most destructive, the most degrading. It is sheer humbug to 
pretend that it is not far worse than German militarism. The miseries of 
the Russian people under the Bolshevists far surpass anything they suffered 
even under die Czar. The atrocities of Lenin and Trotsky are incomparably 
more hideous, on a larger scale and more numerous than any for which the 
Kaiser is responsible. The Germans at any rate have stuck to their allies. 
They misled them, they exploited them, but they did not desert or betray 
them. It may have been honour among thieves, but it is better than dis- 
honour among murderers.' 

The next month Winston alluded to 'the foul baboonery of Bol- 
shevism* and came out openly in favour of sending arms and supplies to 
their adversaries. But there was no action he could take without the 
approval of the Supreme Council, a body which sat in Paris and repre- 
sented the five leading Allied powers. He went to France in February and 
talked to President Wilson who told him affably that he did not pretend 
to know the solution to the Russian problem. There were the gravest objec- 
tions to every course, and yet some course must be taken sooner or later. 

For three months the Allies vacillated. Winston pleaded his cause without 
ceasing. He argued with members of the British Cabinet, with foreign re- 
presentatives, with anyone who would listen. He sent a flow of memoranda 
to every influential quarter. Finally, in May, the Supreme Council came to 
a decision. It sent a note to Admiral Kolchak informing him that the object 

1 Great Contemporaries: Winston S. ChurchilL 


of Allied policy was 'to restore peace within Russia by enabling the Rus- 
sian people to resume control of their own affairs through the agent of a 
freely elected Constituent Assembly . . .' If Kolchak would agree to this, 
and certain other conditions, the Allies would assist him with munitions, sup- 
plies and food, to establish a Government of all Russia; at the same time 
the Allies made it clear that the time was approaching when they must with- 
draw their own troops e to avoid interference in the internal affairs ofRussia' . 

This note was obviously designed to have the best of two worlds. It was 
ambiguous and vague, yet Winston seized it eagerly. At last he had the 
authority to act. For the next eight months he poured ammunition and 
material worth many millions of pounds into Russia. He also made plans 
for the evacuation of the British forces. In order to cover the withdrawal 
it was necessary to stage a diversion; and for this he called for a volunteer 
army of eight thousand men. 

The British public stirred with alarm. They had not forgotten Winston's 
excursion to Antwerp and his impetuosity over the Dardanelles. Was he 
trying to plunge them into another war? Apart from this fear, there was a 
growing dislike of his attitude towards the Soviets. Most people in Eng- 
land believed that Britain should mind her own business and let the 
Russians settle their own affairs. As to the pros and cons of Bolshevism 
itself, the country was divided into two distinct camps, Left and Right. 
The Right shared Winston's dislike of the Reds, but die Left, which was 
composed of Radical liberals and Labour Party followers, cast sympathetic 
glances at the new 'social experiment 5 which was taking pkce. The Labour 
Party, backed by the Trade Unions, was particularly sympathetic for they 
had recently acquired a new constitution, drafted by Sidney Webb, which 
committed them to Socialism. True, British socialism was not Marxist, 
but Fabian, democratic and Christian. Nevertheless, the Labour leaders 
believed many of the Bolshevik slogans: that war was engineered by 
capitalist societies; that the ownership of the means of production and dis- 
tribution would automatically create a new Utopk. 

Lloyd George was far from being a Socialist, but his Radical instincts 
bade him look upon Russia with a tolerant eye. Alter all, the oppression 
and tyranny of the Czarist regime had brought about the revolution. One 
could not blame the people for trying to throw off the yoke. He believed 
that trade with Russia was economically important, and both he and 
President Wilson would have liked to recognize the Soviets and establish 
friendly relations with them but they knew they could not carry Parlia- 
ment and Congress with them. Lloyd George disliked Winston's passion- 
ate denunciations and some years later in his Memories of the Peace Confer- 
ence wrote acidly: 'The most formidable and irresponsible protagonist of 


an anti-Bolshevik war was Mr. Winston Churchill. He had no doubt a 
genuine dislike for Communism . . . His ducal blood revolted against the 
wholesale elimination of Grand Dukes in Russia.' 

A storm was gathering around Winston's head but in the end it never 
really broke. Although he was hody attacked by almost every Labour 
leader in England, as soon as the Allied forces had been withdrawn in the 
autumn of 1919 it became apparent that the White Russians were doomed 
to failure. They fought without conviction and hung on for only a few 
months. In the spring of 1920 they finally collapsed and Soviet authority 
was complete. Up to the very end Churchill sustained his attack on the 
Bolsheviks. In a speech at Sunderland on 3 January, 1921, he said: 'Was 
there ever a more awful spectacle in the whole history of the world than 
is unfolded by the agony of Russia? This vast country, this mighty branch 
of the human family, not only produced enough food for itself, but before 
the war it was one of the great granaries of the world, from which food 
was exported to every country. It is now reduced to famine of the most 
terrible kind, not because there is no food there is plenty of food but 
because the theories of Lenin and Trotsky have fatally, and it may be 
finally, ruptured the means of intercourse between man and man, between 
workman and peasant, between town and country; because they have 
shattered the systems of scientific communication by rail and river on 
which the life of great cities depends; because they have raised class against 
class and race against race in fratricidal war; because they have given vast 
regions which a little while ago were smiling villages and prosperous 
townships back to the wolves and the bears; because they have driven 
man from the civilization of the twentieth century into ar condition of 
barbarism worse than the Stone Age, and have left him the most awful 
and pitiable spectacle in human experience, devoured by vermin, racked 
by pestilence and deprived of hope. 

'And this is progress, this is liberty, this is Utopia! Tliis is what my 
friend in the gallery would call an interesting experiment in Social 
Regeneration (Laughter). What a monstrous absurdity and perversion of 
the truth it is, to represent the Communist theory as a form of progress, 
when, at every step and at every stage, it is simply marching back into the 
Dark Ages.' 

Winston not only supported the White Armies to the bitter end, but in 
the early months of 1920 when Poland attacked Russia, in a ridiculous act 
of aggression, he was instrumental in seeing that British arms were sent to 
their aid as well. The Russians drove the invaders out, then invaded 
Poland themselves, and for a few weeks Churchill had visions of his worst 
fears being realized with all Europe overrun. He sent a memorandum to 


Lloyd George pleading for the rehabilitation of Germany as the only hope 
of erecting a barrier against the Russian giant a line of argument which 
is again being used to-day* 

'Since the Armistice/ he wrote, 'my policy would have been "Peace 
with the German people, war on the Bolshevik tyranny". Willingly or un- 
avoidably, you have followed something very near the reverse. Knowing 
the difficulties, and also your great skill and personal force so much greater 
than mine I do not judge your policy and action as if I could have done 
better, or as if anyone could have done better. But we are face to face with 
the results. They are terrible. We may well be within measurable distance 
of universal collapse and anarchy throughout Europe and Asia. Russia has 
gone into ruin. What is left of her is in the power of these deadly snakes. 

'But Germany may perhaps still be saved You ought to tell France 

that we will make a defensive alliance with her against Germany if, and 
only if, she entirely alters her treatment of Germany and loyally accepts a 
British policy of help and friendship toward Germany.' 1 

The British Left vehemently opposed any aid being given to Poland, 
and the British Right seemed strangely uninterested. Indeed, many people 
were more concerned with Winston's activities than with Russia's. In 
May 1920 a sensation was caused by the publication of a memorandum 
which was alleged to have fallen into Soviet hands after the Allied with- 
drawal from Archangel, and was brought back to London by a Labour 
Party deputation. The note claimed to be an account of an interview which 
Colonel Golvin, a White Russian emissary, had had with Winston, in 
which the latter had promised the White Russians an indefinite postpone- 
ment of the evacuation of the British forces, and twelve thousand volun- 
teers to form a new garrison. Winston indignantly declared that the docu- 
ment was a complete travesty of the truth but it caused a Parliamentary 
storm. Labour Members even went so far as to draft a resolution for Mr. 
Churchill's arrest, on the grounds that he was using British military re- 
sources against the Soviet without the consent or knowledge of Parliament. 
The Civil War had come to an end; and Poland, in the inspired Battle 
of the Vistula, had managed to repel the Russian hordes. For the time 
being the urgency of the Bolshevik menace subsided. In January 1921 Lloyd 
George transferred Mr. Churchill from the War Office to the Colonial 
Office and Mr. Churchill transferred his attention from Europe to the East. 

Throughout his life Winston had never received any credit as a peace- 
maker, yet in the brief eighteen months he was at the Colonies he was 
1 The World Crisis: Winston S. Churchill. 


largely responsible for bringing about two vitally important and lasting 
peace settlements. The first was in the Middle East. This part of the world 
was in a state of ferment. Despite the bitter opposition of the Arabs, the 
Peace Conference had given the mandate of Syria to the French, who 
then threw out the Emir Feisal from Damascus. As a result Palestine and 
Egypt were smouldering with discontent, and a bloody uprising had been 
suppressed in Iraq. The British were obliged to keep forty thousand 
troops stationed in Iraq to preserve order, which was costing the Govern- 
ment ^30,000,000 a year. This was thought to be far too expensive and 
the Prime Minister asked Winston to see what he could do to restore 
harmony and save the British taxpayer some money. 

Winston set about the matter in his usual independent fashion. First he 
enlisted on his side that strange and romantic genius, 'Lawrence of 
Arabia.' This fascinating Englishman was the uncrowned king of the 
Arab world. He had lived and fought with them throughout the war and 
now lived and worked to secure them a just peace. He identified his 
interests with them so completely that he appeared in London and Paris 
in flowing Arab robes. He even refused a high decoration from the King 
in order to impress the public with the seriousness of his cause. 

Winston called a conference in Cairo, and with Lawrence as his chief 
adviser and all the experts and authorities of the Middle East at his service 
he worked out a plan. A month later he sent the following proposals to 
the Cabinet. First, that the British must repair the injury done to the 
Arabs by placing the Emir Feisal on the throne of Iraq as King, and trans- 
ferring to the hands of his brother, the Emir Abdulla, the Government of 
Transjordan. Secondly, that the troops must be withdrawn from Iraq, 
and order maintained by the Air Force rather than the Army, which 
would cut down the cost from .^30,000,000 to .5,000,000 a year. And 
third, that an adjustment must be made in Palestine between the Arabs 
and the Jews which would serve as a foundation for the future. 

It was a brilliant settlement As soon as the Cabinet accepted it tension 
in the Arab world subsided. When Lawrence wrote his great classic 
Seven Pillars of Wisdom he sent Winston a copy with the following in- 
scription: 'Winston Churchill who made a happy ending to this show 
. . . And eleven years after we set our hands to making an honest settle- 
ment, all our work still stands: the countries have gone forward, our 
interests having been saved, and nobody killed, either on one side or the 
other. To have planned for eleven years is statesmanship. I ought to have 
given you two copies of this work!' 1 

* * * * 

1 Great Contemporaries: Winston S. Churchill. 


During the time that Winston was negotiating a settlement in the Middle 
East he was also a member of the Cabinet Committee dealing with the 
problem of Ireland. Since the war, relations between the Irish and the 
Mother Country had deteriorated badly. In the 1918 'Coupon* Election 
the Irish Nationalists had been swept away and in their place had arisen a 
far more extremist group, the Sinn Fein Party (Ourselves Alone). The 
Sinn Feiners wanted to sever all connection with England and establish a 
republic, and they were prepared to use any methods to realize their aims. 
In 1919 they began to burn down houses and murder English officials. The 
British Government retaliated by sending a special police force manned 
by ex-officers from the wartime army, who wore dark caps and khgld 
uniforms and became known as the 'Black and Tans'. They were instructed 
to take severe reprisals, and as a result punished outrage by still further 
outrage. By the end of the year Ireland was gripped in a reign of terror. 

The situation was intensely complicated. The Northern and Protestant 
part of Ireland was loyal to the British Empire and determined to stay with- 
in it, while Southern and Catholic Ireland, which represented a majority 
of the population, was bent on gaining complete independence. Should 
the British crush the rebellion by overwhelming force, or should they par- 
tition the country and let the South have its freedom? Winston Churchill 
was in favour of doing both. He told his colleagues on the Cabinet 
Committee Lloyd George, F. E. Smith (later Lord Birkenhead), Austen 
Chamberlain, Sir Hamar Greenwood and Sir Laming Worthington- 
Evans that he believed it was essential to prove to the Irish that Britain 
was not giving way through weakness and fear; then when they had been 
soundly beaten he was in favour of granting them Dominion status which 
would make them independent and self-governing, yet at the same time 
would preserve a link with the Empire through loyalty to the Crown. 

About this time King George V went to Northern Ireland and delivered 
a speech which had been carefully prepared by his Ministers. In it was a 
reference to the South and a plea for reconciliation which met with a start- 
lingly large response from the Irish public itself. This started the ball roll- 
ing. The Government invited the Irish leaders to London to negotiate, and 
the leaders accepted. Thus negotiations started before Britain had proved 
herself the master, as Churchill and his colleagues would have liked. 

The tense, charged atmosphere and the protracted discussions which 
finally led to the signing of the Irish Treaty have provided the theme for 
many books. It would have been possible in i886/ wrote Winston, 'to 
have reached a solution on a basis infinitely less perilous both to Ireland 
and to Great Britain than that to which we were ultimately drawn.* 1 At 

1 Thoughts and Adventures: Winston S. Churchill 


that rime Mr. Gladstone was begging the House of Commons to pass his 
Home Rule Bill. 'Think, I beseech you think well, think wisely, think 
not for a moment but for the years that are to come, before you reject 
this Bill.' But the Bill was defeated and Winston's father was one of Glad- 
stone's most powerful opponents. Now the son was trying to find a 
solution to a problem grown fierce and strong on the mistakes of the 
older generation. 

Although Winston did not pky a major part in the Treaty negotiations 
he did much to smooth the relations between the two sides by friendliness 
alone. 'Our settlement with the Boers,' he wrote, 'with my own vivid 
experiences in it, was my greatest source of comfort and inspiration in 
this Irish business. Indeed it was a help to all. I remember one night Mr. 
Griffith and Mr. Collins [the leading Irish statesmen] came to my house to 
meet the Prime Minister. It was at a crisis, and the negotiations seemed to 
hang only by a thread. Griffith went upstairs to parley with Mr. Lloyd 
George alone. Lord Birkenhead and I were left with Michael Collins 
meanwhile. He was in his most difficult mood, full of reproaches and 
defiances, and it was very easy for everyone to lose his temper. 

' "You hunted me day and night!" he exclaimed. "You put a price on 
my head." 

' "Wait a minute," I said. "You are not the only one." And I took from 
my wall the framed copy of the reward offered for my recapture by the 
Boers. "At any rate it was a good price ^5,000. Look at me ^25 dead 
or alive. How would you like that?" ' l 

In the end Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith signed the Treaty which 
gave Ireland Dominion status. But when they returned to Dublin they 
found the Sinn Fein Party split in two. One half backed the Treaty, but 
the other half, led by de Valera, declared that Dominion status was not 
enough; nothing short of recognizing Ireland as a republic would suffice. 
Members of this faction became known as the Anti-Treatyites and worked 
fanatically to prevent Griffith and Collins carrying out the agreement made 
in London. They provoked acts of violence against Northern Ireland and 
soon began murdering the members of their own party who believed in 
the Treaty. Only nine months after Collins had put his signature to the 
document he was killed in an ambush. Before long Ireland was again in 
the grip of civil war. 

It was at this point that Winston Churchill became Colonial Secretary 
and, as such, Chairman of the Cabinet Committee on Irish affairs. His task 
was to help Griffith and Collins establish a Provisional Government, and 
at the same time to protect die integrity of Northern Ireland which had 

1 Thoughts and Adventures: Winston S. Churchill 


voted for a partition. The world seldom thinks of Churchill in the role of 
a conciliator and yet in this case he worked tirelessly, patiently and 
sagaciously to achieve his purpose. He handled innumerable situations 
with delicacy and tact, writing repeatedly to the various leaders, both 
North and South, smoothing away misunderstandings, emphasizing good 
will, minimizing foolish and petty actions, cajoling, praising, encouraging 
and suggesting. In the end the Treatyites won; the Provisional Govern- 
ment was established, and tragic Ireland settled down to peace, and finally 
to isolation. From that time on she gradually ceased to be an issue or to 
play a part in the internal affairs of Great Britain. 

Mr. Churchill's role as peace-maker was not long remembered. In the 
middle of 1922 trouble arose with Turkey, and events threw Churchill 
into the more familiar role of a belligerent 'man of action*. The seeds of 
the Turkish discord had been sown by Lloyd George. At the Peace Treaty 
the Prime Minister had come under the spell of the Greek statesman, 
M. Venizelos, and as a result had sanctioned a Greek occupation of a large 
part of Anatolia, Turkey's homeland, which was completely Turkish in 
population save for a few Greek coastal towns. France and Italy objected 
to this settlement; so did Britain's Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon; so did 
Winston Churchill; nevertheless Lloyd George pushed it through, signing 
the Treaty of Sfcvres which not only confirmed a Greek occupation of 
Smyrna but gave Greece most of Turkey's possessions in Europe as well. 

Fighting soon broke out. In 1921 the Greeks in an effort to enforce the 
Treaty advanced on Ankara, the Turkish capital, but were stopped by the 
Turks fifty miles away. They remained there for a year; then in the 
summer of 1922 Mustapha Kemal, the head of the Turkish Government, 
attacked them, routed their armies, and massacred most of the Greek 

The Western powers were alarmed. Was Kemal planning to recapture 
Turkey's European possessions? If so, he would have to cross the Straits 
which were under international protection, guarded by small contingents 
of British, French and Italian troop. The French and Italians saw trouble 
coining and immediately withdrew leaving only the British at Chanak on 
the Asiatic side of the Dardanelles. The situation was electric. Would 
Turkey move? And if she did, would this mean war with Britain? 

Haifa dozen men in the British Cabinet decided that firm action must 
be taken to stop Turkey. They were the same men who had sat together 
on the Committee for Irish affairs Lloyd George, Churchill, Birkenhead, 
Chamberlain, Balfour and WorthingtonrEvans. 'We made common 


cause,' declares Churchill in The Aftermath. 'The Government might break 
up, and we might be relieved of our burden. The nation might not sup- 
port us; they could find others to advise them. The Press might howl; the 
Allies might bolt. We intended to force the Turk to a negotiated peace 
before he set foot in Europe/ 

Winston then sat down and drafted a bold and determined communique 
calling on the British Dominions and the Balkan States to co-operate with 
Great Britain in resisting Turkish aggression, and announcing flatly: 'It 
is die intention of His Majesty's Government to reinforce immediately . . . 
the troops at the disposal of Sir Charles Harington, the Allied Commander- 
in-Chief at Constantinople, and orders have been given to the British 
Fleet in the Mediterranean to oppose by every means any infraction of the 
neutral zones by the Turks or any attempt by them to cross the European 

The uncompromising tone of this statement startled the British public. 
It also startled the Turk who changed his mind and ordered his troops 
away from Chanak. Two weeks later Mustapha Kemal signed an armistice. 
And a year later the grievance was removed by the Treaty of Lausanne 
which gave Turkey the Straits and Constantinople. 

But even though the incident ended peacefully, the public was still un- 
nerved. Anger quickly took the place of fear, and Conservatives and 
Socialists alike denounced diplomacy 'based on wild and reckless gambles 9 . 
Bonar Law declared that Britain could not police the world alone, and the 
Labour Party attacked Winston with the familiar charge that he was trying 
to 'dragoon the Empire into war'. 

Since that time his action has been appraised more favourably. 'To Mr. 
Lloyd George and above all to Mr. Churchill,' writes Harold Nicolson in 
a biography of Curzon, 'is due our gratitude for having at this juncture 
defied not the whole world merely, but the full hysterical force of British 
public opinion/ 1 Nevertheless, tie two men paid a high price. The 
Chanak incident brought down the Government. 

Lloyd George's Coalition Government was three-quarters Tory and one- 
quarter Liberal. The Tories decided that the wave of public enthusiasm 
which had given the Government its renewed lease of life at the end of 
the war had vanished. The inevitable disillusion which awaited any post- 
war government had at last set in, and the time had come for the Con- 
servatives to march ahead under their own banner. 

Besides, the Tories haiplenty of quarrels with the Government. When 

1 Curzon, the Last Phase: Harold Nicolson. 


the war ended Lloyd George had become so deeply involved in the Paris 
Peace Conference that he had practically withdrawn from the House of 
Commons, leaving Bonar Law to run it for him. Thus he fell into the 
habit of ignoring Parliament, surrounding himself with personal advisers, 
dealing with any matter that caught his fancy and deliberately by-passing 
Secretaries of State whenever it suited him. The Tories were highly 
critical of this state of affairs and declared that 'Cabinet responsibility' had 
become a joke. 

They were also critical of his handling of the Irish question. They felt it 
was nothing short of lunacy first to initiate a policy of severe reprisals then 
to turn around and give the Irish everything they wanted short of a 
republic. Finally, they were indignant over die Chanak communique. 
They not only disliked its bluntness but were shocked by the fact that the 
Foreign Secretary, Lord Curzon, was not even consulted, and that it had 
been issued to the press before the Dominions had received it. Bonar Law 
wrote a letter to The Times on this subject which was almost a vote of 

A few of the leading Conservative Ministers who held office under 
Lloyd George remained steadfastly loyal. Among these Lord Birkenhead 
and Austen Chamberlain were the most conspicuous. They did their best 
to dissuade their Tory colleagues from breaking up the Government but 
their arguments were unavailing. Largely through die organization of Mr. 
Leo Amery, who was then Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the 
Admiralty, a meeting was held at die Carlton Club on 17 October, 1922, 
which later became known as the 'Revolt of the Under-secretaries*. Bonar 
Law, who had resigned the Conservative Party leadership a year earlier on 
grounds of ill-health, made a strong and telling speech, believed to have 
been inspired by Lord Beaverbrook, which completely carried the 
assembly widi him. Then Stanley Baldwin, a figure almost unknown to 
the public but recendy appointed President of the Board of Trade by 
Iloyd George, introduced a resolution to end the Coalition. Baldwin told 
die meeting diat L.G. was a dynamic force but diat *a dynamic force is a 
very terrible diing'. His resolution was passed by 187 votes to 87. 

When Lloyd George heard of the vote he at once resigned and Bonar 
Law consented to form a Government. The new Prime Minister asked for 
the dissolution of Parliament and went to the country. The Conservatives 
scored a sweeping victory. Lloyd George never held office again. 

Winston Churchill fought die election at Dundee, the great Radical 
working-dass stronghold which had welcomed him joyously in 1908 


when he had been the formidable antagonist of Tory privilege. 'I stand as 
a Liberal and a Free Trader, but I make it quite clear that I am not going 
to desert Lloyd George . . .' he announced in his election address. 

But Dundee was not at all convinced that Winston really was a Liberal. 
Ever since he had become First Lord of the Admiralty he had shown 
practically no interest in domestic matters but concentrated exclusively on 
military and foreign affairs. During the previous eleven years he had been 
repeatedly the strongest advocate of Coalition government. On three 
occasions before the war-time Coalition came into being he had urged that 
Conservatives qnd Liberals merge their differences; and in the four years 
since the close of the war he had- floated publicly the idea of a Centre Party 
composed of moderates from both sides. 

Why was Winston so eager to end the traditional warfare between the 
two great parties? The Times ran a series of articles entitled 'Front Bench 
Figures' and on 15 November, 1920, summed up Mr. Churchill's position 
as follows: 'Some men hang themselves on their politics, others hang their 
politics on themselves, and these need to be stout pegs, well screwed into 
the scheme of things, as indeed Mr. Churchill is. He manages it very well. 
His first party will still have no good said of him, his second believes him 
to be hankering after his first love, and latterly he has been advertising for 
a new Centre Party which is to combine the charms of the other two. But 
even if this third match came off and then turned out ill, Mr. Churchill 
would not be greatly embarrassed, for wherever he is there is his party/ 

The truth was that Winston disliked wearing a party tag of any descrip- 
tion. He could not see that there was any longer a deep, dividing line 
between Liberals and Conservatives. How much more gratifying from 
his own personal point of view it would be to heal the old wounds be- 
tween himself and the Party which was his by birth and inheritance. How 
much more sensible to receive a mandate from the people to govern, and 
then to govern to the best of one's ability, untrammelled by stupid Party 
slogans. However, British politics do not operate in such a free and easy 
way. The Centre Party came to nothing and Winston was forced to pro- 
claim his colours. The Conservatives would not accept him and besides, 
he was not prepared to desert his leader. So he stood as a Lloyd George 

Was there any trace of the Radical left in Winston? In the years since the 
war had ended there had been much hardship in Britain. In 1922 there 
were a million and a half unemployed. Housing conditions were appalling 
and 'Homes fit for heroes' remained only an election slogan. During these 
four years of booms and slumps Winston had taken practically no interest 
in the conditions of the great mass of the wage earners. He had no new 


ideas to offer. His thinking was on conservative lines. The Times com- 
mented on this orthodox streak, in the article already quoted: 'One could 
imagine a r"*" of Mr. Churchill's great intellectual power carrying out 
reforms at the Admiralty that would have made the early Naval history of 
the war a very different thing, for the Navy was ready for war in every- 
thing but that which mattered most, the habit of independent and uncon- 
ventional thought, and this he might have supplied. At the War Office at 
the end of the war the same opportunity seemed to offer and again there 
was the same disappointment. There is tremendous efficiency and business 
ability, and feats of organization are accomplished, but of the man himself 
with his shea: intellectual power and his fertility of ideas there is no sign. 
It may be after all that the fabric of his thinking is conventional, and only 
its colours and expressions are original; or it may be that his mind does not 
gear readily to other minds, and that he must either think and act inde- 
pendently for himself, or when that is impossible tumefy the conven- 
tions. . . .' 

Winston fought the election tinder the most adverse conditions that could 
be imagined. Three days before the contest opened he was stricken with 
appendicitis and rushed off to the hospital for an operation. He was unable 
to appear in Dundee until two days before the poll, and even then was in 
pain and mounted the platform only with the aid of a walking stick. 

All over Britain it was apparent that there was a rising tide of opinion in 
favour of Conservatism. But it was not so in Dundee. Dundee's Radical 
heart was beating more strongly than ever. If Winston wished to retain 
his seat he had to convince the electors that he still retained his reforming 
zeal and was not leaning towards thtf Right. He had prepared his speech 
with great care. He told the audience how important it was to steer a 
middle course between the extremes of die-hard Toryism on the one hand 
and Socialism on the other. 'I do not think/ he said, 'that the country is 
in a fit condition to be torn and harried by savage domestic warfare. 
What we require now is not a period of turmoil but a period of stability 
and recuperation. Let us stand together and tread a middle way.' 1 

But in his election address, issued the week before, he had been careful 
to establish himself as a progressive. He talked about housing, larger unem- 
ployment benefits, and an improvement in the public services. He attacked 
the Tories as the retrograde party. 'Mr. Bonar Law has described his policy 
as one of negation. Such a message of negation will strike despair in the 
heart of every earnest social worker and of every striver after social justice. 

1 The Times: 13 November, 1922. 


It cannot be accepted by any generous-hearted man or woman. . . . Over 
the portals of 10 Downing Street the new Prime Minister has inscribed 
his words: "All hope abandon ye who enter here"/ 1 

But the Dundee electorate was not impressed. They felt that Winston's 
interest in domestic affairs and his concern with the condition of the 
working classes were only political opportunism. Besides this, they dis- 
approved of his attitude in foreign affairs. Winston, on the other hand, felt 
that he had never done so well politically as he had in the post-war years. 
'I had in two years,' he wrote, 'successfully conducted the settlement of 
our affairs in Palestine and Irak, and had carried through the extremely 
delicate and hazardous arrangements necessitated by the Irish Treaty. I 
think I may say that the session of 1922 was the most prosperous I have 
ever had as a Minister in the House of Commons.' 2 

But Dundee had forgotten Palestine and Iraq; and Winston's patient 
negotiations over the Irish question were overshadowed by the fact that 
hd had been Minister of War in a Government which had instituted the 
Black and Tans. Most of all they resented his interference in Russia and 
Poland. The Radicals had a firm belief that nations must be allowed to 
handle their own affairs and that all interference came under the hated 
head of Tory Imperialism. 

On the evening of 14 November, Winston attempted to address a mass 
meeting of nine thousand jpeople in the Drill Hall. The hall was packed 
with opponents, seething with emotion, discontent and ill-will. He was 
carried on to the platform in an invalid chair. 'I was struck by looks of 
passionate hatred on the faces of some of the younger men and women. 
Indeed but for my helpless condition I am sure they would have hit me.' 

He was unable to deliver his speech. Every time he started the audience 
burst into song, swelling the hall with the strains of: 'Tell me the old, old 
story.' And above the din were bitter, hysterical cries of: 'This time we'll 
do the same as Manchester/ 

When the poll was announced Winston and his National Liberal 
partner, Mr. D. J. MacDonald, were defeated by the two Left-wing 
candidates, both of whom emerged with the huge majorities of ten 
thousand each. For the first time since 1900 Winston was out of Parlia- 
ment. 'In the twinkling of an eye I found myself without an office, with- 
out a seat, without a party, and even without an appendix.' 3 

1 The Times: 7 November, 1922. 

* Tlwughts and Adventures: Winston S. Churchill. 

3 Ibid. 



AssooNasthe Dundee result of 1922 was known, Mr. and Mrs. Churchill 
left for the South of France. Winston was still weak from his appendicitis 
operation and the doctor agreeably recommended the sunshine and sea air 
of Cannes. Accompanied by a maid, a valet and a secretary, and equipped 
with plenty of foolscap and his painting kit, he cheerfully set off. Winston 
loved bright colours and since the dull English sky often prevented him 
from transmitting them to his canvas he made the most of the brilliant 
days that stretched out before him. Every afternoon he put up his easel on 
the beach or along the quiet country lanes and painted to his heart's con- 
tent. 'I agree with Ruskin,' he wrote, c in his denunciation of that school of 
painting who "eat slate-pencil and chalk, and assure everybody that jiey 
are nicer and purer than strawberries and plums". I cannot pretend to feel 
impartial about the colours. I rejoice with the brilliant ones, and am 
genuinely sorry for the poor browns. When I get to heaven I mean 
to spend a considerable portion of my first million years in painting, 
and so get to the bottom of the subject. But then I shall require a 
still gayer palette than I get here below. I expect orange and vermilion 
will be the darkest, dullest colours upon it, and beyond them will be a 
whole range of wonderful- new colours which will delight the celestial 
eye.' 1 

To Winston painting was a solace, a relaxation and an infinite pleasure. 
Although Augustus John found that he had 'extraordinary talent' and 
Orpen proclaimed that he was 'most promising' he did not attempt to 
enter the ranks of the professionals. In 1921, however, he exhibited five 
landscapes in Paris under the name of Charles Morin and sold four of them 
for ^30 each. Yet his head was not turned. He understood enough to 
appreciate the genius of the great artist and consequently was aware of his 
own limitations; but this in no way diminished his enjoyment. He found 
that painting opened out a fascinating new world. He was noticing 
shadows and lights and colours he had never been aware of before, and 
even his travels took on an added excitement. He began to fed sorry for 
the people who rushed around Europe searching for pleasure in 'mam* 
moth hotels', unaware of the priceless gifts they were missing. Once one 
was interested in painting, 'the vain racket of the tourist gives way to the 

1 Thoughts and Adventures: Winston S. Churchill 



calm enjoyment of the philosopher, intensified by an enthralling sense of 
action and endeavour.' 

But whereas painting was a pastime, writing was a business. In this field 
Winston was the true professional for in it he earned his living when 
politics failed, and took pride in the large sums his work commanded. 
Although he had not produced a book since the biography of his father 
appeared sixteen years earlier, when he was out of office in die war he had 
found no difficulty in providing for his family by newspaper and magazine 
articles. Now he no longer had to write for a living for in 1919 he in- 
herited a fortune under the will of his great-grandmother, the Marchioness 
of Londonderry, and he had an income in the region of .5,000 a year. Yet 
he still regarded the creation of books as his chief occupation after politics, 
and as soon as he reached the South of France he settled down to work. 

For some years he had been carefully filing letters, documents and 
memoranda for a book on the war. It was to be a major effort, published 
in four or five volumes and entitled The World Crisis. He had already 
outlined and prepared much of the first two volumes, one of which dealt 
with the years from 1911 to the outbreak of the war, and the second with 
the first year of the conflict and his part in the Dardanelles tragedy. The 
chapters on the Dardanelles had been written during the war and sub- 
mitted to the Royal Commission appointed to investigate the matter, as a 
justification of his actions. These went into the book almost as they stood. 

He worked every morning dictating to his secretary, often pacing up 
and down the room chewing a cigar. He could talk a book better than 
write one and he often got through three or four thousand words a day. 
The first volume of The World Crisis appeared in April 1923 and. the 
second in October of the same year. 

The book attracted wide attention. It was a brilliant effort, the argument 
was lucid and persuasive, the characters stood out boldly, the prose 
sparkled and flowed, the narrative was compelling, and the theme was 
presented in the grand manner worthy of a great drama. Yet it was not 
history. It lacked the purpose of the scholar eager to present his story with 
scrupulous objectivity, and revealed the purpose of the politician anxious 
to explain and justify his actions. It was carefully done, for it breathed an 
air of neutrality, yet by its skilful emphasis was strongly partisan. This was 
no reflection on Winston. The book was an artistic triumph and he had 
recorded events as he saw them. He was capable of great generosity, but 
not of impartiality. He believed in his own ideas and his own powers with 
such an intensity that he could rarely see the merits of an approach to a 
problem other than his own. 

The reviewers hailed the two volumes as an absorbing contribution, 


but they all fastened on its personal character. Professor Pollard, professor 
of English history at London University, reviewed the book in The Times 
under the heading: 'Apologia for the Admiralty First Class Material for 
History'. He described it as 'more brilliant and fascinating than the 
biography of his father', then went on to say: 'Wide vision and a vivid 
imagination lift alike his matter and his style far above the pedestrian scope 
of the mere chronicler of naval and military events or the retailer of official 
information. His book will therefore appeal to a vastly wider public than 
the more precise and impersonal histories of the naval and military opera- 
tions of the war. Serious students will not need, and others will not heed, 
the warning that an apologia may be first-class material for history but 
cannot be history itself.' 1 

Winston's friends could not refrain from being malicious at his expense. 
Lord Balfour told someone that he was immersed in Winston's brilliant 
autobiography disguised as a history of the universe, and another colleague 
commented: 'Winston has written an enormous book about himself and 
called it The World Crisis. 9 However, the books netted him ^20,000 
and he spent the money on buying his country house, Chartwell Manor. 

Despite his literary triumph, his new country house, his painting and his 
other countless activities, Winston was not happy. He was a creature of 
moods, and when he was out of office his pleasures were disturbed by a 
hankering for power which increased as the days passed. His thoughts 
were always on politics. It was some comfort to be able to reconstruct 
events as he saw them in a political book, but how much more exciting 
it was to create the events themselves. He followed every debate in the 
House of Commons, and every move the Government made; and when 
people came to dine with him he sat at the table until midnight discussing 
the personalities and questions of the day. The men in power were a 
mediocre lot; how much better he would handle things, he thought, if 
only he were given the chance. 

But at this point the future looked bleak, for the General Election of 
1922, at which he had been defeated, had returned the Conservatives with 
344 seats. It had left the Liberals weak, divided and impotent. The Lloyd 
George Liberals had won only 57 seats and the Asquith. Liberals 60. lie 
Labour Party had emerged as the official Opposition with its 142 Members, 
by far the most they had ever sent to the House of Commons. Did this 
mean that Liberalism was dead? If so, where did Winston fit in? The 
Conservatives would have nothing to do with him and he would have 

1 10 April, 1923. 


nothing to do with the Labour Party. Besides, Labour cordially detested 
him. There was only one answer: somehow he must make his peace with 
the Tories. 

Winston's friends regarded his future dubiously. Even Lloyd George 
and Lord Birkenhead, who appreciated his brilliant gifts, predicted that he 
would make a greater contribution to history as a writer than as a states- 
man. He was out on a political limb, and it seemed doubtful if he could 
ever climb back. 

It was apparent to anyone who took an interest in national affairs that an 
important change was taking place in English political life. For over a 
century the two great parties of the State, Liberal and Conservative, had 
fulfilled opposing but complementary functions- The duty of Con- 
servatives was to 'conserve'. Their hands were seldom off the brake. They 
defended the status quo and resisted most changes until they saw that 
change was absolutely inevitable, then accepted it with as good a grace as 
possible. The Liberals, on the other hand, constituted a reforming Party. 
William Ewart Gladstone summed up their outlook when he said: 'I will 
back the masses against the classes the world over.' The Liberal function 
was to spread democratic rights, many of which were enjoyed only by 
the privileged class. 

But whereas, to the bulk of the people, the struggle of the working man 
in the nineteenth century was mainly concerned with political freedoms 
such as the right to vote, and the right of Trade Unions to organize and 
expand, in the twentieth century the struggle took on a different aspect. 
Political freedom was clearly defined and dearly established. The working 
man was now concerned with economic freedom. Britain was the richest 
manufacturing country in the world and London the greatest capital city. 
Yet at the turn of the century in London itsdf thirty per cent of die popu- 
lation was suffering from malnutrition. Nowhere in the Western world 
were there greater extremes of riches and poverty. The wealth of the 
nation ky in the hands of a tiny minority. Even as late as 1936 it was 
estimated that only one per cent of the population owned fifty-five per 
cent of the nation's private property. 1 

Lloyd George understood and sympathized with the discontent of the 
working dasses. He made British history by using the budget as an instru- 
ment for re-distributing the national income. Taxation of the rich was 
made to pay for a whole system of social benefits and security. But 
Lloyd George's legislation was only a first step in satisfying the aspirations 

1 Public and Private Property in Great Britain: U. Campion. 


of the wage-earning population. During the war progress came to a halt, 
but when the conflict was over the demands were more pressing than ever. 
The working classes had been promised 'homes fit for heroes' and they 
were determined to get them. However, there was little reforming zeal 
about Lloyd George's Coalition Government, which was mainly domi- 
nated by Conservatives. And Lloyd George himself, preoccupied with the 
Paris Peace Treaty, seemed to have lost his Radical outlook. Up till this 
time the bulk of the working class had voted Liberal. Now they began to 
turn towards the Labour Party as their only hope. 

But the Labour Party itself had undergone a drastic change. When it 
was formed in 1900 the idea of- its leader, Keir Hardie, was to mould a 
political organization, backed by the Trade Unions, strong enough to 
send working men to Parliament to represent the interests of their own 
class. Hardie resented the fact that the Liberals, despite their progressive 
ideas, generally refused to accept miners or factory hands as their candi- 
dates. He was convinced that the case of the working man would never be 
placed forcibly before the country until the working man himself had 
the opportunity to state it. 

Until 1918 this remained the simple object of Keir Hardie's party. But 
when the war ended Labour broadened its aims. A new constitution was 
drafted by Sidney Webb, designed to end Labour's narrow class appeal by 
addressing itself to all those who 'produced by hand or brain*. It also 
adopted Socialism as its faith, but it was not the Socialism of Karl Marx. It 
was Christian Socialism which rejected revolutionary methods, basing 
itself firmly on democratic institutions and the theory of 'gradualism'. 
Its aim, it declared, was by these orthodox methods 'to secure for the 
producers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most 
equitable distribution thereof that may be possible, upon a. basis of com- 
mon ownership of the means of production and the best obtainable system 
of popular administration and control of each industry and service/ 

The widened appeal of the Labour Party attracted new recruits from all 
walks of life. Professional men from the middle classes and even aristocrats 
began to flock to its banner. Several leading Liberals such as Mr. Noel 
Buxton and Sir Charles Trevdyan joined its ranks. The historic division 
between the English Conservative and the English Radical was now becom- 
ing a division between wage earners backed by a large number of pro- 
fessional men and women, and property owners supported by a cross- 
section of all classes who believed that the well-to-do made the best rulers. 
The argument between the two parties was the age-old quarrel over 


If the Liberal Party was dead, and the struggle of the future lay between 
Labour and Conservatism, Winston had no difficulty in making his 
choice. Before the war Lloyd George's immense driving power had 
carried him along the path of Radicalism but now that that impetus had 
subsided, he reverted instinctively to his natural aristocratic background. 

He had a genuine desire to see a minimum standard of living established 
below which no one would be allowed to fall, and he vigorously held the 
opinion that compulsory insurance was the answer. But he never had any 
patience with the idea that the manual labourer, simply because he was in a 
majority in the country, should rule or dominate it. He felt that the 
nation's prosperity depended on brains and enterprise, and his Liberalism 
took the form of denouncing privilege in favour of 'the golden ideal* of 
"careers open to talent'. But that is as far as it went. If the working man 
wanted power and responsibility let him climb up the ladder; but he 
should not sit at the bottom and demand the prizes by virtue of number 
rather than ability. 

The problem for Winston, therefore, was not in making a choice be- 
tween the two parties, but in finding a way of installing himself in the 
good graces of die Conservatives. Only one bridge was possible: an issue 
that transcended the differences between Liberals and Conservatives and 
ranged them on the same side. Ever since the war Winston had been a 
relentless enemy of Bolshevism. If he could convince the electorate that 
the British Labour Party had an affinity with the tyrants of Russia, no 
one could blame him for deserting a weakened Liberal Party to lend his 
strength to the only force capable of real opposition. 

It is difficult to judge a man's motives fairly. They are often made up of 
an elaborate mixture of idealism and calculation. Winston may have had a 
genuine fear that the Labour Party would prove unconstitutional if it got 
into power. In those days the Movement contained a good many ex- 
tremists, and it was even rumoured that the Daily Herald was supported by 
Russian funds. Some of the extremists advocated a General Strike as a basic 
tenet of policy, and the Government took the threat so seriously that as 
early as the summer of 1920 preparations were begun to set up a volunteer 
organization to operate in case of an emergency. On the other hand many 
people considered these provisions hysterical, for the Labour Party leaders, 
who represented the majority of their followers, were deeply pledged to 
democratic methods and repeatedly and publicly had repudiated the 
'catastrophic' theories of the Marxists. 

Whenever Winston embraced a cause, however, it impressed itself upon 

hirp with iyigrraging fnrr? ati<^ ** * result, he treated the public to a. horrific 

picture of strife and upheaval in the event of Labour reaching fiill power. 


But most Liberals and even a large number of Conservatives did not share 
his belief that the Socialist leaders were such a sinister lot. Many of them 
were openly embarrassed by his extreme point of view, but this only 
strengthened his fervour. On 4 May, 1923, he addressed the Aldwych 
Club in London: 'We see developing a great, vehement, deliberate attack 

upon the foundations of society We see not only Liberals of the Left 

but Conservatives of the Right, assuring the country that there is no 
danger of Socialism or of a Socialist Government, that it is a mere bogey 
or bugbear not worthy of serious attention; that the Labour leaders are 
very sensible and honest men, who would never think of carrying out 
their pledges. Finally we are told that in any case we must not resist them 
or organize effectively against them, because it would not be democratic 
or modern-minded to oppose Labour. Thus all resistance to violent change 
is paralysed or reduced to feebleness and futility/ 

Winston was only happy when he was fighting a dangerous foe and as 
a result most of those attacks lost their effect through over-statement, and 
more than once he received a biting indictment from H. G. Wells. 'He 
believes quite naively,' Wells wrote, *that he belongs to a peculiarly gifted 
and privileged class of beings to whom the lives and affairs of common 
men are given over, the raw material of brilliant careers. His imagination 
is obsessed by dreams of exploits and a career. It is an imagination closely 
akin to the d'Annunzio type. In England, d'Annunzio would have been a 
Churchill; in Italy, Churchill would have been a d'Annunzio. He is a great 
student and collector of the literature of Napoleon I, that master adven- 
turer. Before all things he desires a dramatic world with villains and one 

When one reads these scathing vignettes one can only ponder on the 
narrow line between political failure and success. In those days it was the 
fashion to ridicule Churchill and if he had died before the age of sixty his 
obituary notice would not have praised him as a statesman. The political 
genius was there but the occasion was lacking. When it finally presented 
itself H. G. Wells, and millions of his countrymen, were thankful that 
Churchill was there to play the part. 

In 1923 an event occurred which proved advantageous for Mr. Churchill. 
Bonar Law, the Conservative Prime Minister and Winston's firm political 
enemy, resigned and soon afterwards died, and Stanley Baldwin, the 
Chancellor of the Exchequer, succeeded to the Premiership. Baldwin, a 
shrewd, kind, stolid Englishman, who liked the countryside, smoked 
pipes and was a cousin of Rudyard Kipling, was worried by the fact that 


unemployment still hovered at the million mark. He came to the con- 
clusion that the only way to cure this national disease was by introducing 
tariffs against foreign goods and thereby stimulating British trade. But in 
view of pledges given by Bonar Law in the 1922 election he did not feel 
that he could undertake such a drastic step without having a mandate 
from the country. Consequently a general election took place. 

Baldwin thus picked the only issue capable of uniting all Liberals in one 
battle-line. Asquith and Lloyd George at once joined forces on the subject 
of Free Trade. This put Winston in an awkward position. He had no wish 
to fight against a Conservative candidate when he was trying to re-enter 
the ranks of the Conservative Party. However, he found a way out of the 
dilemma. He stood as a Liberal Free Trader at West Leicester where his 
chief opponent in a three-cornered fight was not a Conservative but a 
Socialist, Mr. F. W. Pethick-Lawrence. 

Winston's campaign was noisy and excited. His violent attacks on the 
Labour Party raised the temperature to boiling point and drew packed 
meetings filled with irate hecklers. The Socialists flung up every accusation 
they could find. Winston's The World Crisis had revived the old con- 
troversy of Antwerp and the Dardanelles and these subjects were raised so 
consistently that General Sir Ian Hamilton finally sent a telegram pointing 
out to the public that the expedition had been 'triumphantly vindicated' 
at a meeting of the Senior Naval and Army Officers. Winston himself 
answered his opponents vigorously. 'The Dardanelles might have saved 
millions of lives. Don't imagine that I run away from the Dardanelles: 
I glory in it/ 

He was so bitterly hated by a large section of the working class, how- 
ever, that when he spoke in London, at Walthamstow, on 3 December, 
1923, the authorities were obliged to send both mounted and foot police 
to protect him. A brick was hurled at the window of his car, and a man 
who had shaken his fist in Churchill's face was hustled off to die police 
station. Winston gave an interview to the Evening News describing the 
hecklers as 'the worst crowd I have ever seen in England in twenty-five 
years of public life. They were more like Russian wolves than British 
workmen if they are British workmen howling, foaming and spitting, 
and generally behaving in a way absolutely foreign to the British working 
classes/ He was defeated by 13,000 votes to 9,000. 

The result of the general election was that Conservatives, Liberals and 
Labour were each returned in numbers that gave no single party a dear 
majority over the other two. The only way a Government could be 
carried on was by two parties forming a coalition. It was unthinkable at 
this period that Conservative and Labour could work together, and the 


fact that Conservatives and Liberals had opposed each other on the main 
issue of the election, Protection, made this second combination impossible. 
The only alternative was a Liberal-Labour Government. And since Labour 
had more seats than the Liberals it fell to them to form an Administration 
with Liberal backing. Thus Ramsay MacDonald became Prime Minister 
of England. 

It must have been apparent to Mr. Churchill, as it was to everyone else 
connected with politics, that a Labour Government held in power by 
Liberal support could not introduce any drastic changes. It must also have 
been apparent to him that the Labour leaders, Ramsay MacDonald, J. R. 
Clynes, Philip Snowden and Arthur Henderson, were not the sort of men 
for whom revolutionary tactics had any appeal whatsoever. Most of them 
were nonconformists and all of them were democrats; they were high- 
minded men whose main purpose was to alleviate the conditions of the 
poor. There was nothing in Ramsay MacDonald's philosophy that could 
have prevented him becoming a Liberal; indeed, only a short while pre- 
viously MacDonald had advocated the dropping of Socialism as a party 
label 'because there is a sort of bookish association about socialism'. 

However, Winston's only hope of a reconciliation with the Con- 
servatives was to keep the Socialist bogey alive and inflate it as much as 
possible. On 17 January, 1924, he wrote a letter to the press stating the 
following view: 'The currents of Party warfare are carrying us into 
dangerous waters. The enthronement in office of a Socialist Government 
will be a serious national misfortune such as has usually befallen great 
States only on the morrow of their defeat in war. It will delay the return 
of prosperity, it will open a period of increasing political confusion and 
disturbance, it will place both the Liberal and the Labour Parties in a 
thoroughly false position . . . The great central mass of the nation desires 
to see foreign affairs and social reform dealt with by the new Parliament 
on their merits without rancour- or prejudice, and in a sincere spirit of 
good-will. All such prospects will be destroyed by the accession to office 
of a minority party innately pledged to the fundamental subversion of the 
existing social and economic civilization and organized for that purpose 
and that purpose alone. Strife and tumults, deepening and darkening, will 
be the only consequence of minority Socialist rule/ 

A month later, in February, a Conservative seat fell vacant in the Abbey 
Division of Westminster. Winston at once set about trying to get himself 
adopted as the Conservative candidate. His Tory friends, Lord Birken- 
head, Austen Chamberlain and Lord Balfour, all used their influence on 
his behalf. On 24 March an article about Winston written by Lord Birken- 
head was spectacularly displayed in the Sunday Times. It dealt with Win- 


ston's early career and told how, in the writer's opinion, Winston would 
never have severed his connections with the Tory Party if the Tory Prime 
Minister, Arthur Balfour, had encouraged him by offering him a job. 
Winston had always been a Tory at heart. He was a 'restive young 
thoroughbred* and his defection had been one of the 'tragedies of modern 
polities' for no one believed in the 'stately continuity of English life* more 
thoroughly than he. Birkenhead then went on to say: 'To those who 
know him well it is very remarkable how complete is the public miscon- 
ception of the man. He is looked upon as reserved, insolent and even 
bullying. For these illusions his own demeanour is (unintentionally) much 
to blame. He has no small talk, and says everything which comes into his 
mind. Sometimes caustic and disagreeable things come into it though in 
private life this never happens ... He has indeed, in the intimacy of 
personal friendship, a quality which is almost feminine in its caressing 
charm. And he has never in all his life failed a friend, however embar- 
rassing the obligation which he felt it necessary to honour proved at the 

Despite the powerful intervention on his behalf the Conservative 
Association of Westminster turned down Winston's application in favour 
of Captain Otho Nicholson, a nephew of the retiring Member. Winston, 
however, was undaunted and on 10 March the press carried his announce- 
ment that he was standing as an 'independent and Anti-Socialist' candidate. 
'My candidature,' he explained, 'is in no way hostile to the Conservative 
Party or its leaders, on die contrary I recognize that the Party must now 
become the main rallying ground for the opponents of die Socialist 
Party. In the King's Speech of the late Government the Conservative 
leaders have announced a broad progressive policy in social matters and 
have made declarations which in their main outline might well have 
served as the King's Speech of a Liberal Government.' 

Winston's intervention almost comes under the heading of a schoolboy 
prank. He often had an irresistible urge to make the 'stuffier element' of 
the Tory Party sit up and take notice and die Westminster election pro- 
vided him with a golden opportunity. Conservatives in the House of 
Commons were divided into two groups; those who regarded his candida- 
ture as a glorious knock-about turn and those who decried it as a mon- 
strous act for a man who called himself an 'anti-Socialist'. Westminster 
was a Conservative seat. The only possible hope of Labour winning the 
contest ky in dividing die Tory vote, which easily might have been the 
result of Winston's entry. Several angry letters appeared in The Times. 
One by William Morris, a City Councillor, declared: 'Westminster Con- 
servatives have selected Mr. Nicholson as their anti-Socialist candidate. 


Mr. Churchill's intrusion is an attempt to spoil his chances where, there- 
fore, is Mr. Churchill's anti-Socialism?' 1 

Winston answered his critics with an extraordinary piece of political 
humbug. 'If I thought that the present Conservative candidate,' he said, 
'really represented the force of character of the constituency I should not 
have come forward as a candidate. An important public principle is 
involved. The days of family preserves and pocket boroughs ought not to 
be revived. It is not right that the Westminster Abbey Division should be 
passed on from hand to hand as if it were a piece of furniture handed on 
from father to son, or from uncle to nephew.' 2 

The by-election was an exciting affair and front page news. The Abbey 
Division was the most colourful seat in England; it included Buckingham 
Palace, the Houses of Parliament, Soho, Pimlico, the Strand, Covent 
Garden, a fashionable residential district, a slum area, and a slice of theatre- 
land. A Conservative M.P. lent Winston a luxurious house in Lord North 
Street, equipped with priceless Gainsborough pictures, as his headquarters. 
A bevy of beautiful Society ladies canvassed for him, and the chorus girls 
at Daly's sat up all night dispatching his election address. 

Winston fought the campaign almost entirely against the Socialists. 
His speeches were woven against a background of blood and thunder, 
against the ruin and shame that a Labour Government would bring to 
Britain. The fact that a Labour Government had been in office for three 
months and was conducting affairs in an orderly and dignified way did 
not dismay him. 'How well the Socialist Government is doing/ he jeered. 
'How moderate, how gentle they are. How patriotic Mr. Thomas's 
speeches. How lofty Mr. MacDonald's views of his functions. How pious 
is Mr. Henderson. How prudent is Mr. Snowden, how careful of the 
State. I say there is no correspondence between this glossy surface, and 
the turbulent currents that are flowing beneath. These leaders can never 
restrain their followers.' 3 

Winston soon had a spectacular machine working for him. He had 

1 ii March, 1924. 

1 In February 1944, when Mr. Churchill was Prime Minister, Lord Harrington, 
the Duke of Devonshire^ eldest son, stood as a Government candidate in the by- 
election at West Derbyshire, which had previously been represented by his uncle. 
Winston wrote him the following letter of support: *JMy dear Harrington, I see 
that they arc attacking you because your family has been identified for about three 
hundred years with the Parliamentary representation of West Derbyshire. It ought, 
on the contrary, to be a matter of pride to the constituency to have such a long 
tradition of such constancy and fidelity through so many changing scenes and 
circumstances . . .' 

* The Times: 12 March, 1924. 


gathered over thirty Conservative M.P.S and a glittering array of peers 
and peeresses to canvass for him. He also had the support of Lord Rother- 
mere's Daily Mail. Nevertheless he did not feel he had a chance unless he 
could persuade an important Tory political leader to back his cause. Lord 
Balfour agreed to support him but Baldwin would not consent unless 
some other Conservative leader came out in support of Nicholson. This 
not only seems an extraordinary attitude for a Party leader to adopt to- 
wards an official candidate, but the very fact that Baldwin himself delayed 
issuing an endorsement of Nicholson prompted Mr. Leo Amery to write 
a letter to The Times in his support. At once Balfour's letter was released 
and broadcast through the constituency. He informed Winston of his 
strong desire to see him once more in the House of Commons, 'once more 
able to use your brilliant gifts in the public discussion of the vital problems 
with which the country is evidently confronted.' 

However, the rank and file of the Tory Party had not yet accepted 
Winston. Many of them resented his intervention against the candidate 
their Association had adopted. Captain Nicholson plastered the con- 
stituency with posters. 'Dundee didn't. West Leicester laughed. West- 
minster won't.' And Captain Nicholson proved to be right. Despite all 
the great names, the glamour and glitter, Winston's forceful and spell- 
binding oratory, the unknown Nicholson defeated him by forty-three 
votes. 1 The following day The Times wrote acidly: 'The features of his 
kte campaign that attracted legitimate criticism were his ill-timed insist- 
ence on sheer anti-Socialism as the paramount claim on the electors at this 
moment, and the impulse that drove him, holding these views, to 
jeopardize a seat which without him was at least anti-Socialist. It is no 
new thing, after all, to discover that judgment is not the most con- 
spicuous of Mr. Churchill's remarkable gifts.' 2 

But Winston was far from downcast His path was now dear. He had 
severed his connection with the Liberals, he had a number of powerful 
Conservative friends, he had the good will of the Conservative leader, 
Mr. Baldwin, and every day he was establishing himself more securely as a 
Conservative champion against the forces of 'revolution'. Although none 
of his prophecies about the Labour Government were fulfilled and they 
remained a Party of restraint and moderation, Winston was determined 
not to let the public forget that they were there, and merely altered the 
line of his attack. On 8 May he said at Liverpool: 'The present Government 

1 The result was as follows: Captain Nicholson (Conservative) 8,187; Rt. Hon. 
Winston S. Churchill (Independent and Anti-Socialist) 8,144; Fenner Brockway 

ff* 1 \ .^ * ** *-*. T"v V /r *1 1 \ 

(Socialist) 6,165; Scott Duckers (Liberal) 291. 
* 21 March, 1924. 


is one vast movement of sham and humbug ... It has deserted with the 
utmost cynicism the whole of its Socialist principles so far as its present 
finance, legislation and administration is concerned. . . .' 

In the autumn of 1924, only nine months after the Labour Government 
had taken over, the Liberals withdrew their support and Ramsay Mac- 
Donald was forced to go to the country. The election is known in history 
as 'The Red Letter Election'. A few days before the poll the Foreign Office 
published a letter, purported to be from Zinovieff, head of the Bolshevik 
Third International, calling on the British Communist Party to organize 
an armed revolt in England. This was bitterly denounced by the Labour 
Government as a forgery, and to this day the truth of the matter is not 
known. But forgery or not, it secured the Conservatives a huge majority 
over all parties. 

The two years that Winston had been out of Parliament were to prove a 
turning point in English politics. They were to mark the end of the Liberal 
Party as a parliamentary power, and the rise of the Labour Party as the 
official opposition to Toryism; they were also to mark the advent of 
fifteen years of the most mediocre and incompetent Conservative rule the 
nation had experienced for a century. 

During this period Winston had fought and lost three contests, had 
severed his connections with the Liberals, and made his way once more 
back to the Conservative ranks. At the Red Letter Election, his fourth in 
two years, he stood for Epping as a 'constitutionalist' with Conservative 
support. This time he was successful. A few days after the result was 
known the country learned that Stanley Baldwin had appointed him 
Chancellor of the Exchequer. 



THE CONSERVATIVES were astonished by the news of Winston's 
appointment. The Chancellorship was a glittering prize to be awarded to 
a black sheep after nearly twenty years of wandering in heretical fields. 
Besides, it was only the year before that Winston had stood as an ardent 
Free Trader against the Tory policy of Protection. And lastly, what did he 
know of finance? He had no knowledge of economics and no business 
experience; indeed in the previous thirteen years he had taken less interest 
in domestic affairs than almost any other leading politician. 

Why had Stanley Baldwin made the appointment? Winston's bio- 
graphers explain unconvincingly that Baldwin was tired of mediocrity 
and had a particular liking for Winston's buoyant personality. Neither of 
these reasons was the real one. The truth was that Baldwin feared 
Churchill, and above all he feared the combination of Churchill and 
Lloyd George. If he did not include Winston in the Government he was 
afraid he might join forces again with Lloyd George in a Centre Party, 
and perhaps take his friend, Lord Birkenhead, along with him. Baldwin 
had no wish to find himself attacked by the three greatest orators of the 
day. His first move, therefore, was to detach Churchill from Lloyd 
George. And while he was doing the detaching he decided to put Winston 
in a position where Conservative pressure would force him to water down 
his views on Free Trade. It was a cleverly thought-out manoeuvre by an 
astute politician. 

If the Conservatives were astonished by Winston's appointment, he 
was apparently even more astonished himself. A story was soon circulat- 
ing that when Baldwin offered him the Chancellorship he nodded and 
asked pleasantly: 'Of the Duchy of Lancaster?' His fortunes had changed 
with a dazzling rapidity. The year before he had been a political outcast 
with a bleak future; now he was reinstated in the Tory Party and held 
the second most important position in the State. Once again he was in 
line for the Premiership. 

Winston was delighted by his new position for sentimental reasons as 
well as political When his father had resigned from the Chancellorship 
Lady Randolph Churchill had refused to hand on his robes to his 
successor, as was the custom in those days, but had packed them away in 
moth balls, declaring that one day Winston would need them. Although 


she was no longer alive to see her son's triumph Winston was immensely 
proud to think that her prophecy had come true. Yet the victory was soon 
to have a hollow ring for he was destined to preside over the Treasury for 
five years of depression, bitterness and strife, accentuated by the gravest 
industrial crisis the nation had ever known the General Strike. And 
many of the difficulties were to be the direct result of his own financial 
policy: the return to the Gold Standard at the pre-war parity of exchange. 

Churchill's first Budget, presented to the Commons on 28 April, 1925, 
was a masterly parliamentary performance. There were the usual crowds 
outside No. n Downing Street waiting to see the Chancellor come out, 
red dispatch box in hand, on his way to the House; there was the usual air 
of smiling secrecy; the crowded Chamber; the galleries filled with distin- 
guished visitors. But there was an atmosphere of added excitement for 
people expected a lively 'show' and Winston did not disappoint them. His 
long address was not the customary dry exposition but an artistic per- 
formance that sparkled and flowed and even managed to amuse. In the 
middle he broke off, filled a glass in front of him with excisable liquor, and 
lifting it commented cheerfully: 'It is imperative that I should fortify the 
revenue, and this I shall now, with the permission of the Commons, pro- 
ceed to do.* 

However, when the first effects of the Chancellor's speech had worn off 
and Members had had time to reflect upon it they found that it contained 
nothing very original. It was strait-laced, orthodox Tory finance. Indeed, 
when Stanley Baldwin congratulated the Chancellor he said that 'one of 
the reasons why my right honourable Friend's Budget commends itself 
particularly to me, and will commend itself to our Party as also, I 
believe, to the House, and, I am certain, to the country is because it 
follows the soundest lines of prudence and Conservative finance/ 

The Opposition based its attack on these same grounds. Philip Snow- 
den, the Labour ex-Chancellor, jeered at Churchill, the Free Trader, for 
the Protectionist duties he had placed on silk. Winston declared that they 
were not Protectionist but merely revenue duties. Snowden then twitted 
him for having changed his views on taxing silk imports. 'There is nothing 
wrong with change, if it is in the right direction,' retorted Churchill. 
'You are an authority on that,* said Snowden. 'To improve is to change,' 
recited Churchill blandly. 'To be perfect is to change often.* 

Snowden also attacked the Budget for its partiality. 'There is not one 
penny of relief for the wage-earning classes,* he declared. 'Shorn of all the 
glamour of the right honourable Gentleman's eloquence this is his Budget. 


No more of a rich man's Budget has ever been presented. ... I congratu- 
late the right honourable Gentleman. It will not take long for the glamour 
to disappear, and then the great toiling masses of this country will realize 
the true character of this Budget, and will realize, too, that the Tory 
Party is still more than ever what Lord George Hamilton declared many 
years ago: "A party that looks after its own friends, whether it be in office 
or out of office".' 1 

Churchill's Budget will be remembered in history, but not for its duties 
on silk nor its reduction in taxation for the rich. It is remembered as the 
Budget that announced Britain's return to the pre-war parity of gold. 
To-day most economic experts agree that this was a disastrous step. It 
accentuated the trade depression already in existence and indirectly 
brought about an industrial upheaval destined to have far-reaching con- 
sequences. As a result Churchill's critics like to claim that he was 'the worst 
Chancellor Britain has ever had' and even to-day remind him angrily of 
the responsibility he bore. In 1946 Ernest Bevin told the House of Com- 
mons: 'Directly the right honourable Gentleman (Baldwin) got into office 
they (the Government) started to contemplate our return to the Gold 
Standard. No sooner had the right honourable Gentleman, the Member 
for Woodford (Churchill) agreed to that course, than Sir Otto Niemeyer 
left the Treasury to go back to the Bank of England. That was very signi- 
ficant. We were brought back to pre-war parity of gold. No single trade 
union or industrialist in this country, outside the bank directors, was ever 
told. There was no notice in the Press that it had ever been discussed and 
like a bolt from the blue we were suddenly met with the complete upset 
of the wage structure in this country. . . ,' 2 

Bevin's statement implies that sensible people understood the full impli- 
cations of a return to gold at the pre-war rate, and that Winston's move 
was deliberately rash and precipitate. This was not the case. Business men 
and financiers were almost unanimous in their opinion that Britain should 
take the step in order to re-establish herself as the financial centre of the 
world, which they believed was essential to her future prosperity. A 
standing committee of experts appointed by the Lloyd George Govern- 
ment in 1918 to investigate the position, urged that the decision should be 
taken, and the majority of politicians of all parties accepted it in principle. 
Only one clear, emphatic voice was raised against it, and that was the 
voice of the brilliant young Cambridge don, J. M. Keynes, whose books 

1 Hansard: 29 April, 1925. 
1 Hansard: 13 February, 1946. 


on economic theory were later to revolutionize the economic thought of 
the Western world. 

The truth of the matter was that in 1925 Britain was midway between 
two economic concepts of society. The prevailing belief was in the school 
of 'hard facts' which insisted that wages and prices must be adjusted 
strictly by the laws of supply and demand. The other school, led by 
Keynes, preached the idea of a 'managed economy'. But in 1925 Keynes' 
theories were considered heretical. He had not yet fully developed his 
ideas and although he could point out the risks and consequences of a 
return to the Gold Standard, he had no convincing alternative to offer. 
He had a few disciples among the young Labour Party economists, but the 
leaders favoured the established view. As a result the Labour Party put 
down an amendment against the 'timing* of the motion, but not against 
the principle of it. The motion stated: 'That this House cannot at present 
assent to the Second Reading of a Bill, which, by providing a return to 
the Gold Standard with undue precipitancy, may aggravate the existing 
grave condition of unemployment and trade depression.' 

Philip Snowden, however, found even this motion hard to defend for 
only a few weeks previously he had an article in the Observer arguing 
in favour of a return to the Gold Standard. However, a young Socialist 
by the name of Hugh Dalton, who was one of Keynes' greatest admirers, 
and who was himself destined to become Chancellor of the Exchequer in 
1945, had no such cramping limitations. 'We on these benches will hold 
the Chancellor of the Exchequer strictly to account, and strictly respon- 
sible/ he told the House of Commons, 'if, as we fear, there should be a 
further aggravation of unemployment and of the present trade depression 
as a result of his action, and should it work out, that men who are em- 
ployed lose their jobs as a result of this deflation. Should that be so we will 
explain who is to blame.' 1 

After debating the amendment the Labour Opposition let the matter 
drop. It did not even press a division and the Gold Standard Bill passed 
through the House in two days. Only Keynes continued the attack. He 
wrote a series of articles for the Evening Standard which were published 
in a pamphlet entitled: The Economic Consequences of Mr. Churchill Why, 
he asked, had Mr. Churchill made such a silly mistake? 'Partly, perhaps, 
because he has no instinctive judgment to prevent him from making mis- 
takes; partly, because, lacking this instinctive judgment, he was deafened 
by the clamorous voice of conventional finance; and most of all, because 
he was gravely misled by his experts.' 

Keynes then went on to refer scathingly to the arguments of the experts 

1 Hansard: 4 May, 1925. 


as 'vague and jejune meditations'. In five brilliant paragraphs which 
proved a startlingly accurate prophecy, he stated what the experts, if they 
had any sense, should have told Mr. Churchill, 'Money-wages, the cost of 
living, and the prices which we are asking for our exports have not adjusted 
themselves to the improvement in the exchange, which the expectation 
of your restoring the Gold Standard, in accordance with your repeated 
declarations, has already brought about. They are about ten per cent too 
high. If, therefore, you fix the exchange at this gold parity, you must 
either gamble on a rise in gold prices abroad, which will induce foreigners 
to pay a higher gold price for our exports, or you are committing yourself 
to a policy of forcing down money wages and the cost of living to the 
necessary extent. 

'We must warn you that this latter policy is not easy. It is certain to in- 
volve unemployment and industrial disputes. If, as some people think, real 
wages were already too high a year ago, that is all the worse, because the 
amount of the necessary wage reduction in terms of money will be all the 

'The gamble on a rise in gold prices abroad may quite likely succeed. 
But it is by no means certain, and you must be prepared for the other 
contingency. If you think that the advantages of the Gold Standard are so 
significant and so urgent that you are prepared to risk great unpopularity 
and to take stern administrative action in order to secure them, the course 
of events will probably be as follows. 

'To begin with, there will be great depression in the export industries. 
This, in itself, will be helpful, since it will produce an atmosphere favour- 
able to the reduction of wages. The cost of living will fall somewhat. This 
will be helpful too, because it will give you a good argument in favour of 
reducing wages. Nevertheless, the cost of living will not fall sufficiently 
and, consequently, the export industries will not be able to reduce their 
prices sufficiently until wages have fallen in the sheltered industries. Now, 
wages will not fall in the sheltered industries, merely because there is un- 
employment in the unsheltered industries. Therefore, you will have to see 
to it that there is unemployment in the sheltered industries also. The way 
to do this will be by credit restriction. By means of the restriction of 
credit by the Bank of England, you can deliberately intensify unemploy- 
ment to any required degree, until wages do fall. When the process is 
complete the cost of living will have fallen too: and we shall then be, 
with luck, just where we were before we started. 

'We ought to warn you, though perhaps this is going a little outside our 
proper sphere, that it will not be safe politically to admit that you are inten- 
sifying unemployment deliberately in order to reduce wages. Thus you 


will have to ascribe what is happening to every conceivable cause except 
the true one. We estimate that about two years may elapse before it will 
be safe for you to utter in public one single word of truth. By that time 
you will either be out of office, or the adjustment, somehow or other, 
will have been carried through/ 

The just complaint against Churchill's tenure at the Treasury is that he 
was not a financial genius at a time when a financial genius was desper- 
ately needed; that for once in his life he was orthodox when orthodoxy 
should have been flung to the winds. Keynes' predictions came true and 
the coal mines were the first to feel the consequences of Churchill's policy. 
For some time the industry had been in an unhealthy state. By 1919 it 
was apparent that such a large amount of capital equipment was necessary 
to make the mines profitable that the Sankey Commission recommended 
their nationalization. This was not done and by 1925 British coal, faced 
with a German revival and burdened by an uneconomic organization, 
was scarcely a paying proposition. Then came the return to the Gold 
Standard which meant that British goods worth i8s. automatically cost 
the foreign buyer i. The coal owners were forced to lower their prices 
and consequently decided to lower the miners* wages. 

The reduction would have made mining one of the worst sweated in- 
dustries in the country. There was already a deep legacy of bitterness at the 
coal face for the tragic way the workers had been exploited during the past 
century. As a result the miners were the most politically conscious group 
in the country and possessed one of the strongest unions. A miner, Keir 
Hardie, was the founder of the Labour Party. 

The men protested vigorously at the threatened cuts and the Trade 
Union Congress and the Labour Party protested with them. The Union 
chiefs declared that if the reductions were put into operation and the 
miners struck, other unions would strike in sympathy with them. The 
Government realized that serious trouble lay ahead and Baldwin opened 
negotiations with the T.U.C. Two days before the cuts were to become 
effective he declared that the Treasury would subsidize the miners so that 
they could maintain the wage standard, until a Commission, under die 
chairmanship of Lord Samuel, could investigate the matter. 

The Commission took seven months to issue its report. During the 
interim period Keynes championed the cause of the miners and tried to 
make people see that they were the helpless victims of Winston's Gold 
Standard policy. "Why should coal miners suffer a lower standard of life 
than other classes of labour?' he asked. 'They may be lazy, good-for- 


nothing fellows who do not work so hard or so long as they should. But is 
there any evidence that they are more lazy or more good-for-nothing 
than other people? 

'On grounds of social justice no case can be made out for reducing the 
wages of the miners. They are the victims of the economic Juggernaut. 
They represent in the flesh the "fundamental adjustments" engineered by 
the Treasury and the Bank of England to satisfy the impatience of the 
City fathers to bridge the "moderate gap" between 4.40 and 4.86. They 
(and others to follow) are the "moderate sacrifice" still necessary to ensure 
die stability of the Gold Standard. The plight of the coal miners is the 
first, but not unless we are very lucky the last, of the Economic Con- 
sequences of Mr. Churchill/ 1 

The Samuel Report was issued on n March, which gave the two sides 
about six weeks to come to an agreement. It was generally felt that the 
Report was a sensible and liberal-minded document. It made a mass of 
practical suggestions for the improvement of the mines, which involved a 
very large expenditure on the part of the coal owners for re-equipment. 
But since the mines were not running as an economic proposition, and 
since the Government was not prepared to continue a subsidy, it was 
forced to the conclusion that during the period of reorganization the 
miners should accept a temporary reduction in wages. 

Short of nationalizing the mines, or of continuing a subsidy, the Samuel 
Report was the best compromise that could be hoped for. But instead of 
grasping it eagerly and urging it wholeheartedly upon the coal owners, 
Baldwin took no trouble to conceal his distaste for it, then announced 
unenthusiastically that if the parties to the dispute accepted it, the Govern- 
ment would do likewise. This attitude merely encouraged both sides to 
tear the recommendations to pieces and finally turn down the Report. 
The wage cuts were introduced and a coal stoppage began on 30 April. 

The next forty-eight hours are now a matter of history. A series of 
events took place which ended in misunderstanding and recrimination 
between the Government and the Trade Union leaders, and resulted in a 
General Strike. Since that time Ernest Bevin, who became the virtual 
leader of the strike, twice declared on public platforms that Winston 
Churchill was responsible for the breaking off of negotiations which made 
the strike inevitable, by a fateful last-minute intervention. What is the 
truth of the story? 

On i May, a day after the coal stoppage had begun, the Trade Union 

1 Tlie Economic Consequences of Mr. Churchill:]. M. Keyncs. 


General Council held a conference of the executives of its affiliated unions. 
By an almost unanimous vote the meeting decided to call a National Strike 
in support of the miners, which would begin at midnight on 3 May. At 
the same time they sent a letter to the Prime Minister informing him that 
all affiliated unions, including the miners, had handed over the conduct of 
the dispute to the General Council of the Congress, which would under- 
take negotiations and was willing to meet the Government at any time. 
That same evening, i May, Baldwin sent for the General Council. 
After a discussion lasting several hours the Prime Minister suggested that 
the Government might be willing to continue the coal subsidy for another 
two weeks so that talks could be reopened, if on their part the General 
Council was 'confident that a settlement could be reached on the basis of 
the Samuel Report*. Since this implied a reduction in the miners' wages, 
and since the miners had now developed a burning slogan 'Not a penny 
off the pay, not a minute on the day/ the General Council replied that it 
could not give an answer until the miners' leaders were consulted. So 
Baldwin left to put the proposition before the Cabinet, while the Council 
sought the miners. 

On Sunday morning, however, when the General Council summoned 
the miners they found that they were not in London, but had returned to 
their various districts. Telegrams were sent recalling them, but it was not 
until late Sunday night that they finally assembled in Downing Street. 

The General Council arrived at Downing Street first and immediately 
started discussions with Baldwin and Lord Birkenhead about the exact 
meaning and wording of the proposition that had been given to them. 
Lord Birkenhead then presented them with a precise formula drawn up in 
his own hand. 'We, the Trade Union Council, would urge the miners to 
authorize us to enter upon discussion with the understanding that they 
and we accept the Report as a basis of settlement, and we approach it with 
the knowledge that it may involve some reduction in wages/ 1 

While the Government and Trade Union leaders were discussing this 
formula, it was announced that the miners' representatives had finally 
arrived. It was now 11.15 p.m. The General Council immediately with- 
drew with the miners to a room in Downing Street to explain to them 
what had transpired and to try and secure their acceptance of the formula. 
Baldwin and Birkenhead meanwhile went to 1 1 Downing Street where the 
Cabinet was gathered to inform their colleagues of what was happening. 
About an hour later the Union leaders suddenly had a message that the 
Prime Minister would like to see them. The members of the General 
Council Negotiating Committee, Mr. J. H. Thomas and Mr. Arthur 
1 Hansard: p. 412, 5 May, 1926. 


Pugh, went down to his room. Mr. Thomas later gave the House of 
Commons an account of what happened. 'Lord Birkenhead and himself 
[Baldwin] were present. The right honourable Gentleman said, "Gentle- 
men, I am sorry to say that our efforts for peace are unavailing. I have a 
letter to give you, but I feel in honour bound, having regard to all our 
efforts, at least to say a word to you personally." He said, "Something has 
happened at the Daily Mail and the Cabinet has empowered me to hand 
you this letter," and he said and this is very important, because none of 
us knew what was in the letter he handed to us. We shook hands and he 
said, "Good-bye; this is the end".' 1 

The Union leaders then learned that the printers of the Daily Mail had 
refused to set up a leader entitled 'For King and Country*. Baldwin told 
the Commons that when the Cabinet heard of this action members felt 
that 'the first active overt move in the General Strike was being actually 
made, by trying to suppress the press. We felt that in those circumstances 
the whole situation was completely changed/ 2 

But since the Government knew that the General Council had nothing 
to do with the printers' move, 3 which was a spontaneous and impulsive 
action, why had they taken such a serious view of it? Ernest Bevin pkced 
the blame on Churchill. In 1929 he told his tin-plate workers in Swansea: 
'If Mr. Churchill had not come into the Cabinet room on that Sunday 
night [2 May] with the Daily Mail business, the peace terms would have 
been in the hands of the Prime Minister and there would have been no 
National Strike. The two sides were in another room in Downing Street, 
getting almost to the last clause for handing to the Prime Minister, when 
Mr. Churchill saw red, walked in and upset the Cabinet, and we had an 
ultimatum. That is a fact which can be corroborated.' 4 Bevin repeated this 
same accusation in 1946 in the House of Commons. 'On Sunday, 2 May, 
we were within five minutes of a settlement. . . . What happened? I am sorry 
that the right honourable Member for Woodford [Mr. Churchill] is not in 
his place. He dashed up to Downing Street, ordered a meeting of the Cabinet, 
rushed Baldwin off his feet if he was awake and in a few minutes the 
ultimatum was given to us and the country was thrown into this terrible 
turmoil, when within the same few minutes it might have been saved.* 5 

1 Hansard: p. 240, 5 May, 1926. 

1 Hansard: p. 345, 5 May, 1926. 

8 Baldwin admitted in the House of Commons on 5 May, 1926: "I think it is 
quite likely that he [Mr. Thomas] had no knowledge of the [Daily Mail] incident. 
But that does not affect the feck He may have repudiated it, but it showed that he 
had entirely lost control' 

4 Bevin: Trevor Evans. 

6 Hansard: 13 February, 1946. 


Mr. Churchill was in America when Bevin made this charge, and there- 
fore did not reply to it. But upon examining the facts there appears to be 
no foundation to the story whatsoever. First of all, because the Trade 
Unionists were meeting at 10 Downing Street, the Cabinet was held at n 
Downing Street, Mr. Churchill's residence. So there was no question of 
Winston Mashing up to Downing Street*. Secondly, according to Mr. 
Baldwin's statement in the House of Commons the Cabinet was already 
in session when news of the Daily Mail strike was received; thirdly, the 
news was not delivered by Mr. Churchill but came through by 
telephone.' 1 

Apart from this inaccuracy, what truth was there in Mr. Bevin's asser- 
tion that the two sides, miners and Union leaders, were within five 
minutes of agreement? Sir Arthur Pugh, Chairman of the Trade Union 
Congress in 1925-26, does not believe that this daim can be substantiated 
in the light of the events that followed. Arthur Pugh was present at Down- 
ing Street on the night of 2 May as a member of the Trade Union 
Negotiating Committee, and in his book Men of Steel makes the following 
comment: *In view, however, of the subsequent attitude of the miners' 
leaders, it is fairly certain they would have accepted no formula that would 
have given the necessary assurance that a return to the status quo would 
result in a settlement on the basis of the Samuel Commission Report, . . . 
The miners' leaders had committed their people to a slogan "Not a penny 
off the pay, not a minute on the day," and this ruled out from their stand- 
point any negotiations on the basis of compromise on the major questions 
at issue. The conception of the miners' leaders about the sympathetic 
strike appeared to be that it was the "big stick" which was to force the 
implementation of the terms of the slogan, and their mental reasoning 
that if the threat of the strike and an embargo on the movement of coal 
could produce a subsidy in 1925, its actual execution in 1926 could hardly 
fail to give a like reduction/ 2 

The trouble ky in the fact that although the miners had authorized the 
General Council to negotiate for them, they had not authorized the 
General Council to compromise for them. Since successful negotiations 
depended on concessions all round, including an acceptance by the miners 
of a temporary reduction in wages, it was a blunder for the General 
Council to accept a negotiating role without full powers to take a fi,n4 

1 Hansard: p. 34.5, 5 May, 1926. 

* Men of Steel is a chronicle of eighty-five years of Trade Unionism in the British 
Iron and Steel Industry. It was published in 1951 by the Iron and Steel Trades 


A second blunder on the part of the T.U.C. was its failure to instruct its 
affiliated unions to withhold all strike notices while discussions were tak- 
ing place. All day on Sunday, 2 May, individual unions were sending out 
precise instructions for the beginning of the strike. Sir Arthur Pugh states 
in his book that 'it would perhaps have been better tactics,' and placed the 
T.U.C. General Council in 'a stronger bargaining position' if die unions 
'had delayed the notices for a sympathetic strike for twenty-four hours or 
so, in order to see the outcome of the negotiations between the T.U.C. 
and the Government Committee.' 1 

However, the strike notices were not the cause of the breakdown. 
Although the letter which Baldwin handed to Thomas and Pugh at mid- 
night stated that negotiations could not be continued until the Union 
leaders repudiated the action of the Daily Mail printers and ordered their 
unions to withdraw their instructions for a General Strike, the Prime 
Minister knew early on Sunday afternoon that instructions were flowing 
out and yet was still ready to negotiate. 2 The notices, therefore, were 
merely used by the Government as a final argument to strengthen their 

It was impossible for the General Council to comply with the Govern- 
ment's request, for by Sunday evening, with coal pits closing down all 
over the country, feeling was running so high in the Unions there was 
little hope that such an order would have been obeyed. The Government 
obviously was aware of this, for as soon as the letter had been delivered 
the Cabinet adjourned and Baldwin went to bed. Proof that the General 
Council was desperately anxious to avoid a breakdown lies in the fact that 
they drew up a reply repudiating the Daily Mail incident and sent a depu- 
tation to the Prime Minister requesting him to discuss the matter of the 
strike notices. 'But when the deputation arrived at that room/ Ramsay 
MacDonald told the House of Commons, 'they found the door locked and 
the whole pkce in darkness.* 3 

As a result of these happenings the Conservatives have always insisted 
that the Trade Union General Council was not the true master of the 
situation; that the extremists had control and that there was no use in con- 
tinuing the discussions until the General Council wielded full authority. 
On the other hand, the Trade Union leaders have always believed that 
a majority of the Cabinet were not averse to 'teaching the Unions a 

Undoubtedly there is truth in both these assertions. Many Conserva- 

1 Men of Steel: Sir Arthur Pugh. 
1 See Hansard: p. 69, 3 May, 1926. 
Hansard: 5. May, 1926. 


tives were so preoccupied with the fear of Bolshevism they had come to 
regard the Trade Union leaders as revolutionaries who wished to destroy 
the parliamentary system. This was far from the truth but the fact that the 
secretary of the Miners' Federation, Mr. Cook, was a Communist, 
strengthened their arguments, and was used to discredit the national 
leaders. There had been the threat of a National Strike in support of the 
miners in 1921 and again in 1925. Tory opinion was hardening towards 
the view that it might be a good thing if the matter came to a Show- 

Although the Trade Union leaders made serious blunders, it is difficult 
to excuse the Conservative Government for their refusal to grapple with 
the problem of the mines much earlier. It was no secret that for the last 
century the coal and royalty owners had bled the industry by taking out 
huge profits instead of re-introducing the necessary capital equipment. 
Coal was Britain's basic industry. Quite apart from the fact that the 
Cabinet was pursuing a financial policy bound to depress the coal indus- 
try, it is difficult to understand how any Government, either in the 
interests of humanity or the nation itself, could drift along in such an 
irresponsible manner, refusing to interfere while the coal owners neglected 
the mines year after year, until the only solution involved forcing an 
inadequate standard of living upon the miners. 

The General Strike began on 4 May, 1926, and lasted for rine days. Every- 
where work came to a halt The press shut down, transport ceased, the gas 
and electricity works dosed, the iron and steel industry and many others 
came to a standstill But the Government was prepared. The organization, 
designed in 1920, was called into action. The country was divided into 
nine sections, each run by a central controller with semi-military appara- 
tus. The police were fully mobilized and in London Hyde Park became a 
military camp. The Home Secretary sent out appeals for volunteers and 
thousands of men and women, mostly from the middle and upper classes, 
came forward to drive trains, lorries and cabs. 

Ernest Bevin emerged as the leader of the General Strike, and once the 
strike had begun "Winston Churchill stood forth as his counterpart on the 
Government side. These two men who opposed each otter so strongly 
when the country was in a state of upheaval were destined to work 
together as colleagues and faithful friends when the nation was faced 
with a far greater danger in 1940. But in 1926 they were formidable 
antagonists. Winston Sung himself into the fight with all his energy. 
Since there were no newspapers he persuaded the proprietor of the 


Morning Post to lend him his plant, and with the help of several of Lord 
Beaverbrook's type-setters he^published a daily paper called the British 
Gazette.* The paper presented the struggle as a constitutional issue: the 
nation versus a group of revolutionary union leaders who, by trying to 
force a democratically elected Government to subsidize the miners' wages, 
were striking at the very roots of the democratic system. *For King and 
Country' became Winston's own battle-cry. 

Lloyd George looked askance at his old friend and former Liberal col- 
league. He did not approve of the General Strike but, with his deep, 
humane outlook, he sympathized with the reasons for it. The day before 
the strike started he defended the Union leaders in the House of Com- 
mons. *I know a great many of the people responsible. They are as little 
revolutionaries as any men in this House. They have fought the rebellious 
ones in their own Party. Therefore, I want to put this to the House of 
Commons in all earnestness, that this is not a threat by people using it 
merely for revolutionary propaganda/ 2 

To-day, most people in Britain, including a large section of the Labour 
Party, agree that the General Strike was unconstitutional and, as such, a 
reckless act. But that is a far cry from being *a sinister and revolutionary 
plot 9 . If Lloyd George had been in Churchill's shoes it is probable that the 
whole disaster would have been averted. Winston, on the other hand, flung 
himself into the fray with unconcealed relish. The British Gazette was a 
sensation. Labour Members attacked Winston in the House of Commons 
for falsifying the news, and Lloyd George accused him of deliberately 
suppressing an attempt by the Council to negotiate a settlement. But 
Winston gloried in the fight. Why shouldn't a Government put out 
Government propaganda? At the end of the week the Gazette had a 
circulation of over two millions. 

The General Strike collapsed on 13 May. Public opinion was strongly 
against the Unions, and the General Council realized that the Govern- 
ment's policy of attrition was bound to be successful The Trade Union 
Movement was treading the path to bankruptcy and in order to prevent 
its strength and morale from being permanently damaged in a hopeless 
struggle, the T.U.C capitulated. The miners' stoppage went on for an- 
other six months but in the end they were starved back to work on the 
owners* terms. 

1 The Times issued a one-page typewritten sheet on 5 May, the day the British 
Gazette made its appearance, and die next morning printed a four-page paper 
which it continued throughout the strike. The Trade Unions also put out a four- 
page paper, The British Worker. 

1 Hansard: 3 May, 1926. 


This whole period in Churchill's life seem? strangely out of tune with 
his character as a man. He will not be remembered in history as a humani- 
tarian, for his interests have led him to other fields; yet by nature he is 
warm-hearted and magnanimous. But throughout the nineteen-twenties 
his attitude towards the working class was hard, narrow and uncom- 
promising. His outlook was influenced by his fear and dislike of Bol- 
shevism, yet his policies and actions were so short-sighted that they did more 
to strengthen the British Socialist movement than any other single factor. 

The truth was that Churchill was out of joint with the times. He did 
not understand the changing economy, or the reasons why a changing 
economy was necessary. In two successive elections he had been defeated 
by the votes of working people in favour of a Labour candidate, facts 
which did not tend to increase his sympathy with the common man. 
Then he joined the Conservative Party, which widened the disaffection. 
For the first time in twenty years he was subjected to all the pressures and 
influences of die-hard Toryism and like all converts he went to extremes. 

At any period Mr. Churchill would have been a doubtful choice as a 
Chancellor of the Exchequer. Economic theories and industrial statistics 
bored him. 'He was basically uninterested in the problems of high 
finance,' writes Mr. Robert Boothby, who served as his Parliamentary 
Private Secretary at the Treasury. But to have him in charge of the 
Treasury at a time when his outlook towards the working class was 
peculiarly rigid and defiant was a calamity both for the nation and him- 
self. Unemployment and poverty, evils against which he championed so 
fervently under Lloyd George's inspiration, now seemed to awake no 
indignation in his heart. If he had had a burning desire to protect the 
lowest wage earners from further hardships it is difficult to believe that 
his brilliant brain would not have found a solution. It was the sympathy 
that was missing, not the ability. A single spark of his old-time Radicalism 
would have driven him to discover what powerful weapons the Chan- 
cellor of the Exchequer held in his hands. 

Instead, when the General Strike ended and the Prime Minister calmly 
left for his annual holiday at Aix-les-Bains, Churchill contented himself 
merely in trying to persuade the miners to accept the owners' terms, with 
some slight modifications, and go back to work. But by this time the 
owners, flushed with their triumph over the T.U.C., were more adamant 
than ever in resisting a compromise; the Prime Minister refused to inter- 
vene; and the Cabinet was busy preparing a Trade Disputes Act designed to 
curtail the powers of the Unions. Meanwhile the miners' strike continued. 

Mr. Boothby, a Conservative M.P., and at that time the 'baby' of the 
House, wrote Mr. Churchill a long and apprehensive letter. 'I told him 


that the impression was growing every day that the Government had 
now divested itself of all responsibility for the conduct of our national in- 
dustries in the interests of the country as a whole, that it had capitulated 
to the demands of one of the parties engaged in the mining industry, and 
was now preparing legislative action at their behest in order to compass 
the destruction of the other ... I asked how ... the Government, having 
placed the weapon [of longer hours] in the hands of the owners, could 
stand by and allow the miners to be bludgeoned and battered back district 
by district. "Bludgeoned and battered they will be," I continued, "in 
parts of Scotland at any rate. And the instruments? Longer legal hours, 
cold, and starvation If this is to be followed by legislative action cal- 
culated to convey the impression that the Conservative Party has utilized 
the power given to it by the electorate to plunder the funds of the prin- 
cipal Opposition party, and smash the trade unions, then in Scotland at 
least a fearful retribution awaits it at the polls"/ 1 

Winston showed this letter to the Cabinet; and invited Mr. Boothby to 
become his Parliamentary Private Secretary. Apart from that, he did very 
little. Although he declared privately that he thought the coal owners 
were a loathsome lot he was determined that 'not a shilling' of Govern- 
ment money should subsidise the miners' pay packets. He subscribed to the 
orthodox Tory view that the State must not interfere with the kws of 
supply and demand. As a result, the coal strike pursued its long, bitter and 
useless course and ended in the complete defeat of the miners. It cost the 
country 800,000,000, a sum which, as Mr. Boothby pointed out, 'could 
have settled it, at any time, on fair terms. It left a legacy of bitterness which 
continues to this day/ 

While the miners were still on strike Mr. Churchill followed the 
Prime Minister's example and went abroad on holiday. He took a trip to 
Egypt and Greece (where he painted the Pyramids and the Parthenon) 
and on the way home stopped in Italy to study Mussolini's new society. 
Before he departed he gave a statement to the Italian press which shows 
how far his dislike of Bolshevism had led him. "I could not help being 
charmed as so many other people have been by Signor Mussolini's 
gentle and simple bearing and by his calm detached poise in spite of so 
many burdens and dangers/ he began. 'If I had been an Italian I am sure 
that I should have been wholeheartedly with you from start to finish in 
your triumphant struggle against the bestial appetites and passions of 
Leninism. But in England we have not had to fight this danger in the same 
1 1 Fight to Live: Robert Boothby. 


deadly form. We have our way of doing things. But that we shall succeed 
in grappling with Communism and choking the life out of it of that I 
am absolutely sure. 

'I will, however, say a word on an international aspect of Fascism. 
Externally, your movement has rendered a service to the whole world. 
The great fear which has always beset every democratic leader or 
working-class leader has been that of being undermined or overbid by 
someone more extreme than he. It seems that continued progression to 
the Left, a sort of inevitable landslide into the abyss, was the characteristic 
of all revolutions. Italy has shown that there is a way of fighting the sub- 
versive forces which can rally the mass of the people, properly led, to 
value and wish to defend the honour and stability of civilized society. She 
has provided the necessary antidote to the Russian poison. Hereafter, no 
great nation will be unprovided with an ultimate means of protection 
against cancerous growths, and every responsible labour leader in the 
country ought to feel his feet more firmly planted in resisting levelling 
and reckless doctrines. . . ,' 1 

At first glance this statement strikes the reader as one of the most sur- 
prising deflections of Churchill's political career. Yet it is not inconsistent 
with his classic interpretation of foreign policy. As far as Britain was con- 
cerned he was a constitutionalist and a democrat; as far as Europe was con- 
cerned he was willing to hold out a hand of friendship to any country, 
regardless of its system of government, likely to align itself against 
Britain's maJ9r enemy. At that time he regarded Bolshevism as the 
greatest threat. Dictators who tried to export their wares were not to his 
liking. Mussolini, as well as Stalin, was soon to learn the truth of this. 

Winston seldom spent a week-end m away from his country house, 
Chartwell. His wife was a clever, sympathetic companion who took a 
keen interest in politics, as well as running the house to Winston's exact- 
ing satisfaction and enjoyment. 

Chartwell was dose enough to London for guests to motor down com- 
fortably for lunch and dinner and almost every Saturday and Sunday there 
were relays of people coining and going. Winston's favourite relaxation 
was good political talk which he always got from his dose friends, Lord 
Birkenhead, Lord Beaverbrook and Lloyd George. He liked to sit up late 
at night, and although he woke early in the morning, often did his work 
in bed, dictating to his secretary and puffing a cigar. 

His bedroom was a high, oak-beamed study equipped with a huge desk 

1 The Times: 21 January, 1927. 


which was usually covered with foolscap. On the walls were a picture of 
his nurse, Mrs. Everest, a contemporary print of the Duke of Marl- 
borough, and a cartoon of Lord Randolph Churchill. When Parliament 
was not sitting he applied himself to the task of finishing the last two 
volumes of The World Crisis. Often his morning work was interrupted 
by the shouts and cries of his four children, who ranged in age from eleven 
to one; and sometimes when the din was too great he put aside his work 
and joined them in the garden. 

They adored his company for Winston was still a good deal of a school- 
boy himself. He loved doing things. He put up a tree-top house, built a 
goldfish pond, and a bathing pool But best of all he showed them how to 
dam the lake and make miniature waterfalls. Frequently, like the children 
themselves, he got so wet he stood dripping outside the house while 
maids hurried to put newspapers on the floor. 

Winston never forgot how he himself longed for his father's confide 

and as a result spent many hours with his own boy talking to him as a 
grown-up and letting him share his interests. Once when he drove Ran- 
dolph back to Eton he remarked sadly: *I have talked to you more this 
holiday than my father talked to me in his whole life." 

Part of Winston's love of doing things sprang from the interest he took 
in applying a methodical and systematic-technique. Just as he enjoyed 
writing because he liked to fit the sentences neatly to one another and to 
build up paragraphs that in turn were carefully linked, so he enjoyed the 
constructional side of manual labour. Probably this is what attracted him 
to bricklaying. There was a cottage and a long wall to be built on the 
estate, so he worked with a professional bricklayer five or six hours a day 
until he could lay a brick a minute. Then in 1928 he joined the Amal- 
gamated Union of Building Trade Workers, at the invitation of Mr. 
Hicks, the General Secretary. He paid a fee of five shillings and was rated 
as an 'adult apprentice 9 . This drew forth a furious outcry. Winston was 
the bugbear of the T.U.C. and the Builders' Union immediately passed a 
public resolution denouncing Ms act as c a piece of humiliating and degrad- 
ing buffoonery', a 'nauseating situation', a 'good joke for Winston 
Churchill but a painful insult to members of the Union'. 

Nevertheless, Winston stuck to his ticket, although his five shillings 
was never paid into the Union funds; and during the next twelve years 
constructed with his own hands a large part of two cottages and a swim- 
ming pool. Often he urged his guests to come out and talk to him while he 
worked. Dressed in workman's overalls with a strange and comical hat 
on his head he liked to discuss the affairs of state. In 1935 when the inter- 
national situation was darkening and he was growing increasingly alarmed 


by Baldwin's placid indifference he muttered gloomily to William 
Deakin, a young Oxford don who was helping him with his life of Marl- 
borough and had been put to work on the cottage: 'I suppose these bricks 
will be excavated in 500 years as a relic of Stanley Baldwin's England/ 

Another of Churchill's interests at Chartwell was his animals. He loved his 
pet dogs, cats, goldfish, and was even sentimental about his chickens and 
geese. Once a young man who had been engaged to tutor Churchill's 
son was staying in the house. He remembers a Sunday lunch when a 
goose was brought in and placed in front of Mr. Churchill to carve. He 
plunged the knife in, then paused and said to his wife with deep emotion: 
'You carve him, Clemmy. He was a friend of mine.' 

The public had no opportunity to see this side of Winston. To them he 
was a pugnacious and formidable figure with an almost machine-like 
capacity for work, a brilliant mind, an unstable character and a driving 
ambition. It is understandable that organized labour regarded him as their 
arch-enemy throughout the five years of his Chancellorship, but al- 
though his ideas and sentiments at last fitted the pattern of ultra-Toryism, 
the Conservatives still found it difficult to accept him. He seemed far more 
eager to give a dazzling performance than to get at the core of a problem. 
The four budgets that followed his first were presented with a masterly 
touch but amounted to little more than ingenious arithmetical exercises 
designed to prevent the ^imposition of 6d. on the income tax, which he 
should never have taken off. The only constructive contribution he made 
was the introduction of the de-rating scheme for agriculture and industry 
in 1928 with the resounding slogan 'You should not tax the plant and took 
of production but only the profits arising from their use/ 

As the months passed Winston's following steadily decreased. This was 
partly due to the fact that a large section of the Tory Party, led by Mr. 
Amery, bitterly resented the way he dung to his Free Trade principles, 
refusing to give Protection to British industry which, they felt, was 
essential if unemployment, then at the million mark, was to be reduced. 
But probably it was due even more to the fact that his aggressive, over- 
powering personality and his concern with his own ideas annoyed them 
just as they had annoyed his Liberal colleagues in the days before the first 
World War. Lord Beaverbrook points out in his memoirs that Churchill 
*up* is quite a different proposition from Churchill 'down*. 'Churchill on 
top of the wave,' he comments, 'has in him the stuff of which tyrants are 

1 Potitidaus and tJie War: Lord Beaverbrook. 


This explains why the press comments about him at this time are harsh 
and disagreeable. 'If he changes his Party with the facility of partners at a 
dance, he has always been true to the only Party he really believes in that 
which is assembled under the hat of Mr. Winston Churchill,' wrote one 
newspaper man. 'His life is one long speech. He does not talk. He orates. 
He will address you at breakfast as though you were an audience at the 
Free Trade Hall, and at dinner you find the performance still running. If 
you meet him in the intervals he will give you more fragments of the dis- 
course, walking up and down the room with the absorbed self-engaged 
Napoleonic portentousness that makes his high seriousness tremble on the 
verge of the comic. He does not want to hear your views. He does not 
want to disturb the beautiful clarity of his thought by the tiresome re- 
minders of the other side. What has he to do with the other side when his 
side is the right side? He is not arguing with you: he is telling you.' 1 

Even Baldwin found Winston a difficult colleague. He began to tire of 
his overpowering energy and his dominating manner. He complained 
that 'a Cabinet meeting when Winston was present did not have the 
opportunity of considering its proper agenda for the reason that invariably 
it had to deal with some extremely clever memorandum submitted by him 
on the work of some department other than his own.' 2 

Baldwin's Government went to the country in 1929. Once again 
Labour emerged as the largest Party of the three and once again it assumed 
power with Liberal support. Baldwin confided to a friend that if he ever 
formed another Government he would not include Winston in it. His 
inability to fit himself into a team was a disadvantage that outweighed the 
contribution he had to offer, 

Baldwin kept his word, and successive Prime Ministers followed Bald- 
win's example. Winston was out of office for ten years. 

1 Certain People of Importance 1926; A. G. Gardiner. 

* Neville Chamberlain As He Was: Lord Camrose (Daily Telegraph, 15 Nov- 
ember, 1940). 



THE AGE of the Common Man had very little appeal for Mr. Churchill. 
He was proud of Britain's great and educated ruling class which had 
governed the nation for so many centuries and brought it safely through 
so many perils. This ruling class was no mean, tight, narrow-minded ring. 
It was the top layer of an intricate class system that automatically em- 
braced men and women with inherited wealth and aristocratic connec- 
tions, but also accepted newcomers whose energy and talents had lifted 
them to positions of eminence. In welcoming distinguished strangers the 
ruling class constantly refurbished itself with vigorous new blood, yet its 
impact was strong enough to unite its members in a common outlook 
towards the traditions and splendours of the nation. 

This paternal, benevolent and oligarchic Britain was the sort of Britain 
Winston had been brought up to love and revere. He resented the fact 
that ever since the Labour Party had become the largest Opposition in the 
House of Commons a note of 'class warfare' had resounded through the 
country which, he felt, was aimed at the very foundations of the British 
system. It was true'that Winston himself had once attacked the privileged 
classes, but that was long ago when he was very young and the privileged 
class was very safe; his actions could be classified as political wild oats and 

The class warfare of the post-war period was very different; it appeared 
to be undermining the common sense of the British working man and 
making him wonder whether he wished to continue being ruled by his 
betters. The working man had noticed that millions of pounds had been 
spent in war; why could not millions of pounds be spent in the peace to 
give him a better standard of living? He wanted security, higher wages, 
a better education, and a larger share in the nation's wealth. He also 
appeared to want a larger influence in the nation's industrial and political 
life. This last made no sense at all to Winston. Let the working map climb 
the ladder first; why should he demand the prizes while he still stood at the 

Winston considered the Labour leaders wholly responsible for the 
agitation that had sprung up and more than once referred to them con- 
temptuously as 'not fit to govern'. He did not blame the working m^n 
for being misled by false hopes and promises, nor did he blame Viir" for 


INDIA 277 

rebelling against the grave state of unemployment. For the previous four 
years the unemployment figure had hovered between one and two million 
men, which, counting the wives and children of the unemployed, directly 
affected some five million people. Politicians of all parties were bent on 
finding a cure for unemployment, some on humanitarian grounds, others 
on political ones. But the truth was that very few politicians were sure of 
the answer. Professor Keynes put forward a scheme of large borrowings 
for public works to relieve unemployment which Winston denounced as 
'camouflaged inflation'. Lloyd George supported Keynes and drew up 
proposals of his own along similar lines. But neither the Labour Govern- 
ment nor the Conservative Opposition were impressed by these heretical 
views. They believed that the cycle of booms and slumps was inevitable, 
and that the only method of dealing with it was to follow the prescription 
laid down by orthodox finance: to reduce wages and prices, to balance the 
budget, and to sit tight. 

In March 1930, Winston wrote a series of articles for the Daily Telegraph 
'On the Abuse of the Dole', in which he pointed out that many people 
who were switching from one job to another were claiming the com- 
pensation merely for a few weeks' unemployment. 'The minor vicissitudes 
of labouring men such as an occasional month out of work between satis- 
factory jobs, are borne in almost every other country in the world in 
silence,' he wrote reproachfully. 'They may cause some embarrassment or 
even distress to the individual but they do not emerge as a problem of the 

But none of this was to Winston's liking. He found economics a boring 
subject which he did not and could not understand. He had nothing new 
to offer. Yet economics dominated the whole atmosphere of Parliament. 
He inclined to the view of his Conservative colleagues that the only 
remedy lay in drastic deflation which would be deeply resented by the 
working class electorate. He complained to a friend that Parliament had 
sunk into a morass of figures and statistics and that politics had never 
before been so dull. There were no great personalities and no great issues 
that a politician could get his teeth into. Economics cast its particular 
blight on every subject that was discussed. 

But if Winston had no solution to the economic problem itself at least 
he had a solution for preventing economics from destroying the liveliness 
of the House of Commons. In June 1930 he delivered the Romanes lecture 
at Oxford University and made the surprising suggestion that economics 
should be isolated from politics. 'I see no reason why the political Parlia- 


ment should not choose in proportion to its Party groupings a subordinate 
Economic Parliament of say one-fifth of its numbers, and composed of 
persons of high technical and business qualifications. This idea has received 
much countenance in Germany. I see no reason why such an assembly 
should not debate in the open light of day and without caring a halfpenny 
who won the General Election, or who had the best slogans for curing 
unemployment, all the grave economic issues by which we are now con- 
fronted and afflicted. I see no reason why the Economic Parliament should 
not for the time being command a greater interest than the political 
Parliament; nor why the political Parliament should not assist it with its 
training and experience in methods of debate and procedure. What is 
required is a new personnel adapted to the task which has to be done, and 
pursuing that task day after day without the distractions of other affairs 
and without fear, favour or affection.' 

No one took much interest in Winston's Economic Parliament, so to 
relieve himself from the boredom of statistics, he took up his pen. First he 
wrote My Early Life, an amusing and charming autobiography which 
took him as far as the House of Commons and ended with the words: 
'I married and lived happily ever afterwards.' As far as the public was con- 
cerned the work was strangely out of character with the Winston they 
knew. It was wise and tolerant with a gende humour which he was not 
afraid of directing towards himself. It seemed much more the reflections 
of a calm and elderly philosopher than of a pugnacious politician. Next, 
Winston wrote the fifth volume of The World Crisis, The War on the 
Eastern Front, and a series of newspaper articles and essays ranging in 
subject from one on 'Moses' to 'Shall We All Commit Suicide?' These 
essays were later reprinted in a book called Thoughts and Adventures. 

But while he was occupied in his literary work a political issue emerged 
which aroused his emotions and galvanized his fighting spirit to action. 
Ever since the war India had been agitating for self-government. The urge 
for independence had been stimulated by Gandhi, the great Hindu religious 
leader who preached a policy of passive resistance. Millions of Indians 
regarded this strange man as a saint and were now quietly following his 
lead and slowly obstructing the wheeb of the British administration. 

The Viceroy, Lord Halifax (then Lord twin), was in favour of granting 
India the freedom she wanted; first, in drawing up a Federal Constitution; 
second, in extending self-government in the direction of Dominion status. 
He communicated his views to the Labour Government which received 
them favourably. The Liberals backed the Labour Government and the 

INDIA 279 

Tories, surprisingly enough, backed them both. For once there was an 
all-Party agreement on the policy Britain should follow. Undoubtedly 
the reason for this accord was die fact that public opinion had been 
sharply affected by the lesson of Ireland. India was merely asking for the 
same Dominion status that had been granted to Canada and Australia. 
There was no reason to believe that she would leave the Empire. If Eng- 
land could retain her good-will by granting concessions in time there was 
much to gain; if she tried to rule by repression as she had in Ireland there 
was even more to lose. 

Winston, however, did not see the matter in this light. He was horrified 
at the idea of relaxing control of any kind over India. He was willing to 
extend Indian self-government within the provinces, but not to grant a 
Federal Constitution and certainly not to promise them Dominion status. 
Had not Lord Randolph Churchill once described India as 'that most truly 
bright and precious gem in the crown of the Queen, the possession of 
which, more than that of all your Colonial dominions, has raised in power, 
in resource, wealth and authority, this small island home of ours far above 
the level of the majority of nations and states'? 

Winston was devoid of sympathy for an act of abdication which he not 
only regarded as foolish but as wholly unnecessary. All this talk of self- 
government had sprung up because the statesmen in London were pusil- 
lanimous and weak. He did not believe force was necessary to hold India; 
merely a firm resolve and some plain speaking. 

Since no one else was going to do the plain speaking Winston took it 
upon himself. He described the proposed concessions as a 'hideous act of 
self-mutilation astounding to every nation in the world 9 . In words similar 
to those his father had used he tried to rouse public opinion against casting 
away 'that most truly bright and precious jewel in the crown of the King, 
which more than all our other Dominions and Dependencies constituted 
the glory and strength of the British Empire. That great organism would 
pass at a stroke out of life into history. From such a catastrophe there could 
be no recovery/ 1 

He became the leading spirit of the Indian Empire Society, a group 
composed mainly of Conservatives organized to resist self-government. 
For the first time he found himself working with the Die-hards of the 
Tory Party, the same band which had poured contempt upon him for 
many years. 

Throughout his opposition Winston's main attack was against Gandhi, 
and as the weeks went by his shafts were hurled with increasing violence. 
On 12 December, 1930, he told a London audience: 'The truth is that 

1 Indian Empire Society: 12 December, 1930. 


Gandhi-ism and all it stands for will, sooner or later, have to be grappled 
with and finally crushed. It is no use trying to satisfy a tiger by feedisg it 
on cat's meat/ Two months later, on 23 February, 1931, he told the 
Council of the West Essex Conservative Association that it was 'alarming 
and also nauseating to see Mr. Gandhi, a seditious Middle Temple lawyer, 
now posing as a falHr of a type well-known in the East, striding half-naked 
up the steps of the Viceregal Palace, while he is still organizing and con- 
ducting a defiant campaign of civil disobedience, to parley on equal terms 
with jthe representative of the King-Emperor.' One month later, on 
1 8 March, he told a huge meeting at the Albert Hall: 'I am against this 
surrender to Gandhi. I am against these conversations and agreements 
between Lord Irwin and Mr. Gandhi. Gandhi stands for the expulsion of 
the British from India. Gandhi stands for the permanent expulsion of 
British trade from India. Gandhi stands for the substitution of Brahmin 
domination for British rule in India. You will never be able to come to 
terms with Gandhi.' 

In the course of his campaign Winston accused politicians of all parties 
who supported Lord Irwin's proposals, of defeatism and a lack of patriot- 
ism. This stung Sir Herbert Samuel, the Liberal, to deliver a scathing pro- 
nouncement. 'If indeed the truest patriot is a man who breathes hatred, 
who lays the seeds of war, and stirs up the greatest number of enemies 
against his country,* he said, 'then Mr. Churchill is a great patriot.* 

The Conservative Opposition was furious with Churchill. They told 
Baldwin that this was the result of putting his trust in a man like Winston, 
an ambitious schemer, who would never work for any team unless he 
called the tune. They went on to say that his chief aim was to split the 
Conservative Party and wrest the leadership from Baldwin. This was not 
altogether fair for although no one doubts that he would have liked to 
grasp the prize, and although he may have believed the Indian issue a 
likely way to do it, his sincerity about India has long since been proved by 
the consistency of his views. In January 1930 he resigned from the Tory 
'Shadow Cabinet' and three months later Baldwin relieved him of his 
position as Chairman of the Conservative Finance Group and appointed 
Neville Chamberlain in his stead* The breach was now complete. 

Although Winston's main concern was to rally Conservatives against the 
official Opposition, he still had time to launch an intermittent and powerful 
torpedo at the Labour Government. One of the most merciless attacks he 
ever made in the House of Commons was directed at Ramsay MacDonald 
in connection with the Trade Disputes Act. The Labour Party was deter- 

INDIA 28l 

mined to repeal the measure which had been introduced by the Tories 
after the General Strike to dip the wings of the Trade Unionists. Mr. Mac- 
Donald himself was believed to be only luke-warm on the subject, giving 
way half-heartedly to the Left-wing pressure in his own Party. 'What is 
the Prime Minister going to do about it?' Winston asked in the House of 
Commons. 'I spoke the other day, after he had been defeated in an im- 
portant division, about his wonderful skill in falling without hurting him- 
self. He falls, but up he comes again, smiling, a little dishevelled but still 
smiling. But this is a juncture, a situation which will try to the very fullest 
the particular arts in which he excels. 

1 remember when I was a child being taken to the celebrated Barnum's 
Circus which contained an exhibition of freaks and monstrosities, but the 
exhibit on the programme which I most desired to see was the one 
described as "The Boneless Wonder". My parents judged that the spec- 
tacle would be too revolting and demoralizing for my youthful eyes, and 
I have waked fifty years to see the Boneless Wonder sitting on the 
Treasury Bench/ 

Then Winston proceeded to give an imaginary conversation which had 
taken place between Ramsay MacDonald and Lloyd George. 'After the 
usual compliments, the Prime Minister said, "We have never been col- 
leagues, we have never been friends not what you would call holiday 
friends, but we have both been Prime Ministers and dog don't eat dog. 
Just look at the monstrous bill the Trade Unions and our wild fellows have 
foisted on me. Do me a favour and I will never forget it. Take it upstairs 
and cut its dirty throat/ 1 

Winston's speech was greeted with howls of appreciative laughter. 
Even the Labour benches could not suppress their smiles. But Ramsay 
MacDonald never forgave him. 

The Government of India Bill did not pass through its **! stage until 
193 5. It granted India Federal Constitution and gave a solemn pledge that 
she would be given Dominion status in the near future. Winston fought 
the Bill to the bitter end. 1 am told that I am alone among men who have 
held high office in this country in the view I take about Indian policy. . . . 
If I am alone I am going to receive shortly an ally a very powerful ally 
an ally whom I dread an ally with a sombre tide his tide is The March 
of Time/ 2 
But Winston was proved wrong. Indian independence, which finally 

1 Hansard: 28 January, 1931. 

* Constitutional dub: 26 March, 1931. 


became a reality in 1947, was not a catastrophe. It did not result in the 
severing of India's ties with the Commonwealth. It did not mark the 
end of the British Empire. The brightest jewel in the Imperial Crown 
has become one of the strongest partners in the British family of nations. 
The March of Time definitely has not turned out to be Winston's ally. 

When he made his final attack in the House of Commons and took his 
seat after a tremendous peroration, Leo Amery, his Harrow school-mate, 
spoiled the effect by rising and saying in solemn tones: 'Here endeth the 
last chapter of the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah/ The House roared with 
laughter. Members had ceased to take Winston seriously on the subject of 

In 1931 Ramsay MacDonald and Philip Snowden deserted their Labour 
colleagues and joined forces with the Conservatives in forming a National 
Government in order to deal with the financial crisis produced by the 
American crash. The National Government consisted of only a handful of 
Socialists and Liberals. It was predominantly Conservative, and although 
Ramsay MacDonald assumed the Premiership, Stanley Baldwin was the 
real master. Neither man would have Winston in the Government at any 




WINSTON CHURCHILL had always believed in his Destiny, He felt sure 
that he had been placed on earth to carry out some extraordinary and 
critical purpose. Part of this belief sprang from his awareness of the famous 
blood that flowed in his veins, part from his own throbbing energy and 
supreme confidence. But the belief also stemmed from pure superstition. 
When, as a young soldier, he narrowly escaped death several times, he 
dwelt on these experiences with fascination and awe. 'These hazards 
swoop on me out of a cloudless sky,' he wrote, *and that I have hitherto 
come unscathed through them, while it fills my heart with thankfulness to 
God for His mercies, makes me wonder why I must be so often thrust to 
the brink and then withdrawn ' 

Long after he had written these lines he had other dose escapes from 
destruction; once in the first War when his dugout was blown up by a shell 
a minute after he had left it; once when his aeroplane crashed; once when 
he had a collision in a New York taxi. 

The recurrent escapes confirmed his faith that his life was being guarded 
for some great public role, yet in 1931 the role was hard to see. Most 
politicians regarded his career as finished. His independent and reckless 
nature had led him into fierce disagreement with his last remaining col- 
leagues. He had quarrelled with all three parties. The Conservatives had 
reluctantly forgiven him once, and now that their misgivings had been 
realized they were not likely to forgive him again. The liberal Party 
was dead. The Labour Party was beyond the pale. Where was his 

It is curious that in 1931, at the very moment when his path had appar- 
ently ended in a quagmire from which there seemed to be no rescue, his 
fortunes were, in fact, at last moving on the upward swing which was to 
carry ki to world fame. The change was not discernible to the public for 
the initial turn of events did not stem from his efforts as a statesman but 
from his activities as an artist. In 193 1 he began writing the life of the first 
Duke of Marlborough. It was the work, thought and inspiration which 
he poured into this literary masterpiece, with its story of tyranny and salva- 
tion so strangely and strikingly parallel to the unknown story that ky 
ahead, that prepared him for the leadership of Britain in the second World 




* * * * 

Ever since Winston was a child he had read everything he could lay his 
hands on about his great ancestor, John Churchill. Here was a tale that 
contained every element of drama; the story of the unknown youth who 
rose from obscurity to become one of the greatest generals of all rime and 
who saved his country and half Europe from the tyranny of Louis XIV; 
the handsome youth who fascinated the King's mistress; the penniless 
youth who became the richest man in Europe; tie sought-after youth who 
loved his wife passionately for fifty years; the ambitious youth who not 
only won every battle he ever fought but by his brilliant diplomacy virtu- 
ally became the political master of England. There was nothing missing. 
Love, danger, intrigue, war, revolution and counter-revolution all 
threaded their way through his astonishing life. 

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

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

However, one day he visited his father's old friend, Lord Rosebery, 
who urged hi to take up the task, and here is the account he gives of the 
conversation. * "Surely," said Rosebery, "you must write Duke John [as 
he always called him] : he was a tremendous fellow." I said that I had from 
my childhood read everything I came across about hiir^ but that Mac- 
auky's story of the betrayal of the expedition against Brest was an obstacle 


I could not face. The aged and crippled statesman arose from the luncheon 
table, and, with great difficulty but sure knowledge, made his way along 
the passage of the Durdans to the exact nook in his capacious working 
library where Pagefs Examen reposed. "There," he said, taking down this 
unknown, out-of-print masterpiece, "is the answer to Macaulay!" * l 

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

Soon Winston was more engrossed in his life of Marlborough than in 
anything he had ever written before. He had always had strong sentimental 
attachments for Blenheim, the massive Palace that had been built for 
Marlborough in recognition of his services, for not only had Winston 
been born there, but he had also proposed to his wife there. Once he 
remarked to a friend: 'At Blenheim I took two very important decisions: 
to be born and to marry. I am happily content with the decisions I took 
on both occasions/ Now he flung himself into the task of clearing his 
ancestor's name with passionate concern. He singled out Lord Macaulay, 
the great historian, as the villain of the piece. Macaulay was only one of 
many historians who had painted John Churchill's character in black lines, 
but whereas the others were no longer widely read, Macaulay's wonderful 
sense of drama and lucid, flowing prose still commanded a large public. 
Besides, Winston felt a sense of personal grievance against Macaulay. As a 
boy he had been under the spell of the master; he had read and re-read his 
History of England, his essays, and had even learned by heart a great portion 
of The Lays of Ancient Rome. Macaulay had taught him more about style 
and construction than anyone else and now to come to the conclusion that 
the historian had deliberately sacrificed the truth, at the expense of a 
Churchill, to make his talc more dramatic, roused Winston to real anger. 

Throughout the first two volumes of Marlborough Winston conducts a 
duel with Macaulay in the wings. He flings up the historian's remarks and 
attempts to show that his interpretation was wholly false. 'Unhappily,* 
Macaulay had written, 'the splendid qualities of John Churchill were 
mingled with alloy of the most sordid kind. Some propensities which in 
youth arc singularly ungraceful, began very early to show themselves in 

1 Marlborough: Winston S. Churchill 


him. He was thrifty in his very vices, and levied ample contributions on 
ladies enriched by the spoils of more liberal lovers. He was, during a short 
time, the object of the violent but fickle fondness of the Duchess of Cleve- 
land. On one occasion he was caught with her by the King, and was 
forced to leap out of the window. She rewarded this hazardous feat of 
gallantry with a present of 5,000. With this sum the prudent young hero 
instantly bought an annuity of 500 a year, well secured on landed 
property. Already his private drawers contained heaps of broad pieces 
which, fifty years later, when he was a Duke, a Prince of the Empire, and 
the richest subject in Europe, remained untouched/ 1 

Macaulay returned to his theme again and again. "He subsisted upon the 
infamous wages bestowed upon him by the Duchess of Cleveland.' 'He 
was insatiable of riches.' He was 'one of the few who have in the bloom of 
youth loved lucre more than wine or women, and who have, at the height 
of greatness, loved lucre more than power or fame*. 'All the precious gifts 
which nature had lavished upon him he valued chiefly for what they 
would fetch/ 'At twenty he made money of his beauty and his vigour; at 
sixty he made money of his genius and his glory/ 

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

Winston did not only tilt at Macaulay; he delivered a formidable 
frontal attack: 'His [Macaulay 's] literary descendant, Professor Trevelyan, 
whose faithful, fair, and deeply informed writings are establishing a new 
view of these times and the men who made them, has offered the best 
defence in his power for the historical malversations of his great-uncle. 
He says (in effect) that Macaulay, with his sense of the dramatic, vilified 
Marlborough's early life in order by contrast to make the glories of his 
great period stand out more vividly. He had completed the black back- 
ground, but died before he could paint upon it "the scarlet coat and flashing 
eye of the victor of Blenheim". We need not reject this apologia nor the 
confession which it implies. But what a way tp write history! On this 
showing the best that can be provided Lord Macaulay stands convicted 
of deliberately falsifying facts and making the most revolting accusations 
upon evidence which he knew, and in other connections even admitted, 
was worthless, for the purpose of bringing more startling contrasts and 

1 History of England: Lord Macauky. 


colour into his imaginative picture and of making the crowds gape at it. 
Macaulay's life-work lay in the region of words, and few have been finer 
word spinners. Marlborough's life is only known by his deeds. The com- 
parison is unequal, because words are easy and many, while gr At deeds 
are difficult and rare. But there is no treachery or misconduct of which 
Macaulay's malice has accused Marlborough in the field of action which is 
not equalled, were it true, by his own behaviour in this domain of history 
and letters over which he has sought to reign ... It is beyond our hopes to 
overtake Lord Macaulay . The grandeur and sweep of his story-telling style 
carries him swiftly along, and with every generation he enters new fields. 
We can only hope that Truth will follow swiftly enough to fasten the 
label "liar" to his genteel coat-tails/ 1 

The attack on Macaulay drew a letter of protest from Professor 
Trevdyan which was published in The Times Literary Supplement on 
19 October, 1933. An extract reads as follows: 'I have stated elsewhere 
that I think Macauky was wrong in his reading of Marlborough. Indeed, 
I think it is the worst thing in his History, and I have no wonder that 
Mr. Churchill's family piety has aroused him to take revenge. All the 
same, he has no right to call Macauky a "liar". A "liar" is not a man who 
misreads another man's character, however badly, or who sometimes 
accepts inadequate evidence; if that were so, almost all historians would be 
"liars". A "liar" is a man who makes a statement that he knows to be 
false. Now, the facts that Macaulay states, barring the Camaret letter, are 
not very different from Mr. Churchill's facts. Mr. Churchill admits that 
he took for patron the man who kept his sister; that he himself took money 
from his own mistress and invested it well; that he deserted James while 
high in his military service; that he afterwards corresponded with the 
Jacobites. I agree with Mr. Churchill that his desertion of James was in 
the circumstances commendable, and die other three actions by the stan- 
dards of the times not unpardonable. But there is a surface case against 
Marlborough, and many people in his own day thought ill of him. An 
historian who, before the days of our modern research, was deceived by 
these phenomena into thfatr"g Marlborough a bad ma-n was not neces- 
sarily dishonest/ 

Winston's attack on Macauky was only one small aspect of his biography. 
It constituted the stepping stones by which he led Marlborough to the 
summit from which, he believed, posterity should view him. But the 
importance of the work lies not only in his central figure but in the skill 
with which he brings alive all the leading characters of the time. Sarah 
1 Marlborough: Winston S. Churchill. 


Jennings, Godolphin, Prince Eugene, Queen Anne, Bolingbroke, and 
many others walk confidently through his pages and their complicated 
relations with one another, developed with a true touch of genius, reveal 
a century of tumultuous history which slowly unrolls before the reader's 
fascinated gaze. As a history it is as dramatic as Lord Macaulay's own, 
written in the same grandly flowing prose. As a literary work it is on the 
same colossal scale as Tolstoy's War and Peace and handled with such tech- 
nical brilliance that one can admire it as an artistic achievement even 
though the characters are limited to a frame-work of fact. 

Yet what makes the Life of Marlborough truly distinctive is the feeling 
that no professional historian could have written it. The story of Marl- 
borough is the story of a struggle for power. Sometimes the struggle was 
in ruling circles in England, sometimes on the battlefields, sometimes at a 
foreign court, but throughout the book it is a strong and constant clash. 
This subject, the essence of history, had always interested Winston more 
than any other. He had spent many months of his life studying its causes 
and effects and he had witnessed it at first-hand in the years preceding the 
Great War and in the war itself. Besides, his long experience in Parliament 
had given him special knowledge of the rivalries and emotions, of the 
jostling for position behind the scenes, and he drew upon his rich know- 
ledge in interpreting the characters and the actions of a bygone day. His 
chapter on the Camaret Bay Letter is a masterpiece of evidence and argu- 
ment that could only have been written by a man who understood every 
current of political life. 

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

He wrote these words in the preface to his first volume which was 
published in 1933, the year that Hitler came to power in Germany. 


During the early thirties Marlborough became Winston's chief preoccu- 
pation. Although a National Government which was overwhelmingly 
Conservative in composition had replaced the Labour Government in 
193 1, he was not disappointed in being excluded from its counsels. He had 
not expected office. Indeed, he had announced publicly that he would not 
accept a position in a government that pursued a policy over India of 
which he disapproved, when the controversy was at its height. He took a 
lively interest in the parliamentary debates, but free of the responsibility 
of a Ministry he spent long week-ends and most of his parliamentary 
recesses at Chartwell, where he did his work. 

Writing was not the painstaking labour to Winston that it is to most 
people. When he was a young man of thirty he once addressed the 
Authors' Club in London and told his audience that 'no one could set him- 
self to the writing of a page of English composition without feeling a real 
pleasure in the medium in which he worked, the flexibility and the pro- 
foundness of his noble mother tongue. The man who could not say what 
he had to say in good English could not have very much to say that was 
worth listening to at all.' 1 

Winston had the ability to marshal his thoughts rapidly and words came 
easily. He liked being involved in a major work. 'Writing a long and sub- 
stantial book,* he explained recently, 'is like having a friend and com- 
panion at your side, to whom you can always turn for comfort and 
amusement, and whose society becomes more attractive as a new and 
widening field of interest is lighted in the mind.' 2 

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

He made one of these expeditions abroad in the summer of 1932, 
accompanied by his family and Professor Lindemann. They trav- 
elled slowly along the line of Marlborough's celebrated march in 
1705 from the Netherlands to the Danube. They spent a day on the 

1 Memories and Reflections: The Earl of Oxford and Asquith. 
1 The Gathering Storm: Winston S. Churchill. 


battlefield of Blenheim, then drove to Munich where they stayed a 

Winston soon discovered that the Germans were concerned with only 
one topic and that was the Hitler Movement which was gaining thousands 
of new recruits every day. He asked many questions about it, and was 
interested when a lively, talkative young man, who spoke perfect English, 
came up to him in the Regina Hotel introducing himself as Herr Hanf- 
staengl, and talked enthusiastically about the Fiihrer. Winston invited him 
to dine and the young man amused the company that evening by playing 
the piano and urging everyone to sing the old familiar songs. Winston 
learned that Hanfstaengl was on intimate terms with Hitler and often 
entertained him in a similar manner. During the course of the evening 
the German suggested that Winston should meet the Fiihrer who, he said, 
came to the hotel every day at five. 'I had no national prejudices against 
Hitler at this time,' wrote Winston. 'I knew little of his doctrine or record 
and nothing of his character. I admire men who stand up for their country 
in defeat, even though I am on the other side. He had a perfect right to be 
a patriotic German if he chose. I had always wanted England, Germany 
and France to be friends. However, in the course of conversation with 
Hanfstaengl, I happened to say, "Why is your chief so violent about the 
Jews? I can quite understand being angry with Jews who have done 
wrong or are against the country, and I understand resisting them if they 
try to monopolize power in any walk of life; but what is the sense of being 
against a man simply because of his birth? How can any man help how he 
is born?" He must have repeated this to Hitler, because about noon the 
next day he came round with rather a serious air and said that the appoint- 
ment he had made for me to meet Hider could not take place, as the 
Fiihrer would not be coming to the hotel that afternoon. This was the last 
I saw of "Putzi" for such was his pet name although we stayed several 
more days at the hotel Thus Hider lost his only chance of meeting me. 
Later on, when he was all-powerful, I was to receive several invitations 
from him. But by that time a lot had happened, and I excused myself/ 1 

It was at this point that die struggle for Europe in Marlborough's time 
began to identify itself in Winston's mind with the new struggle diat 
seemed to be emerging in his own day. He returned to Britain with deep 
apprehensions. The resurgence of a martial spirit which he had witnessed 
in Germany offered a sharp and disturbing contrast to die pacifist mood 
that gripped England. 
1 The Gathering Storm: Winston S. Churchill 


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

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

Churchill believed that Germany's grievances should be removed, but 
he did not think it wise to make concessions through weakness. In 
Germany he had heard whispers of 'British decadence' and had not failed 
to notice how much bolder the German demands were becoming as 
German strength increased. Shortly after Winston returned from Munich 
in the summer of 1932 she flatly demanded the right to rearm. The Times 
regarded the proposition favourably and spoke of 'the timely redress of 
inequality', but Winston warned members of the House of Commons not 
to 'delude themselves'. 'Do not let His Majesty's Government believe,' he 
continued, 'that all that Germany is asking for is equal status . . . That is 
not what Germany is seeking. All these bands of sturdy Teutonic youths, 
through the streets and roads of Germany, with the light of 

desire in their eyes to suffer for the Fatherland, are not looking for status. 
They are looking for weapons, and, when they have the weapons, believe 
me they will then ask for the return of their lost territories and lost 
colonies, and when the demand is made it cannot fail to shake and possibly 
shatter to their foundations every one of the countries I have mentioned. 
. . . The removal of the just grievances of the vanquished ought to precede 
the disarmament of the victors. To bring about anything like equality of 
armaments (between the vanquished and the victor nations) if it were in 
our power to do so, which it happily is not, while those grievances remain 
unredressed, would be almost to appoint the day for another European 


war to fix it as though it were a prize fight. It would be far safer to 
re-open questions like those of the Danzig Corridor and Transylvania, 
with all their delicacy and difficulty, in cold blood and in a calm atmo- 
sphere and while the victor nations still have ample superiority, than to 
wait and drift on, inch by inch and stage by stage, until once again vast 
combinations, equally matched, confront each other face to face.' 1 

Two months after Winston's speech, in January 1933, Hitler came to 
power. But the British Government took notice neither of Churchill nor 
Hider. In March 'The MacDonald Plan' was put forward urging further 
disarmament upon the French. Winston attacked it with all his force. 
'Thank God for the French Army,' he declared to the disgust of a large 
section of the House. 'When we read about Germany, when we watch 
with surprise and distress the tumultuous insurgcnce of ferocity and war 
spirit, the pitiless ill-treatment of minorities, the denial of the normal pro- 
tections of a civilized society to large numbers of individuals solely on the 
ground of race when we see that occurring in one of the most gifted, 
learned, scientific and formidable nations in the world, one cannot help 
feeling glad that the fierce passions that are raging in Germany have not 
found, as yet, any other oudet but upon Germans. At a moment like this, 
to ask France to halve her army while Germany doubles hers, to ask France 
to halve her air force while the German air force remains whatever it is, is 
a proposal likely to be considered by the French Government, at present 
at any rate, as somewhat unseasonable.' 2 

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

Winston watched these manifestations uneasily. He had no faith in 
disarmament. He believed that the only way to prevent war was through 
strength. He recognized the new Germany of Hider as a potential aggres- 
sor and he knew that Britain's duty must be to oppose the unlawful expan- 
sion of her power. He had a firm belief in the simple, old-fashioned 
formula which Britain had always followed, based on die maintenance of 
the Balance of Power. In writing his life of Marlborough he had reflected 

1 Hansard: 23 November, 1932. 
* Hansard: ^\ March, 1933. 


deeply on this principle, and reaffirmed his faith in it. In a speech to the 
Conservative Members Committee on Foreign Affairs in March 1936 he 
outlined his conception clearly and simply; and since this conception has 
always determined his attitude, and still determines it to-day, it is perhaps 
worth while to print in part what he said: 

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

Winston was convinced that the next war would be largely decided in the 
air, and uppermost in his mind was the thought of the swiftly growing 
German air force. The chief disadvantage of being out of office at this time 
was the fact that he had no official information to support his contentions. 
However, he was determined not to allow this difficulty to dip his wings, 
and at once set about creating an intelligence service of his own. He began 
to build up contacts both abroad and at home. He had dose friends at the 
War Office and the Foreign Office who now became frequent visitors to 
ChartwelL He renewed acquaintanceships in Ministerial circles in France, 
and began to establish new lines in Berlin. He gladly received any news- 
paper correspondent who he thought could tefl him anything and opened 
the doors of his house to Germans who disliked the Hider regime as much 


as he did. Chartwell became a little Foreign Office of its own with its 
stream of visitors supplying information, working out statistics, doing 
research, and analysing events through searching arguments and careful 
discussions. Refugees from Nazi Germany and, as time went on, from 
Austria and Czechoslovakia made their way to Winston's home. But 
probably the most important member of his 'inner cirde' was Frederick 
Lindemann, the Professor of Experimental Philosophy at Oxford, who 
had accompanied him abroad on his summer trip to Munich. Lindemann 
spent countless week-ends at Chartwell compiling statistics and advising 
Churchill on the latest technical and scientific developments which 
covered many fields, including radar and projected missiles. The two 
men often sat up discussing these subjects until two or three in the 

Winston's intelligence service was soon supplying him with valuable 
information which made his speeches to the House of Commons im- 
portant events. Although Germany had been forbidden a military air force 
under the Versailles Treaty he learned that her large civil aviation force 
and her national glider dubs had been organized and designed so that they 
could be expanded instantaneously for war. He warned the House that 
Britain was only the fifth air power in Europe while the Germans, 'those 
very gifted people, with their science and with their factories, with what 
they call their "Air Sport", are capable of devdoping with great rapidity 
a most powerful air force for all purposes, offensive and defensive, within 
a very short period of time.' 1 

Eight months later Winston had precise information on which to base 
his arguments. 'I assert first,' he told the House of Commons, 'that 
Germany already, at this moment, has a military air fores that is to say, 
military squadrons, with the necessary ground services, and the necessary 
reserves of trained personnd and material which only awaits an order to 
assemble in full open combination; and that this illegal air force is rapidly 
approaching equality with our own. Secondly, by this time next year, if 
Germany executes her existing programme without accderation, and if we 
execute our existing programme on the basis which now lies before us 
without slowing down, and carry out the increases announced to Parlia- 
ment in July last, the German military air force will this time next year 
be in fact at least as strong as our own, and it may be even stronger. 
Thirdly, on the same basis that is to say, fioth sides continuing with their 
existing programmes as at present arranged by the end of 1936, that is, 
one year farther on, and two years from now the German military air 
force will be nearly fifty per cent stronger, and in 1937 nearly double. All 
1 Hansard: 8 March, 1934. 


this is on the assumption, as I say, that there is no acceleration on the part 
of Germany, and no slowing-down on our part.' 1 

The House was startled by this information but Mr. Baldwin" allayed 
its fears by categorically denying Winston's figures. It is not the case that 
Germany is rapidly approaching equality with us Her real strength is 
not fifty per cent of our strength in Europe ... As for the position this 
time next year ... we estimate that we shall have a margin in Europe 
alone of nearly fifty per cent/ 2 

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

'I will repeat here that there is no occasion, in my view, in what we are 
doing, for panic. But I will say this deliberately, with all the knowledge I 
have of the situation, that I would not remain for one moment in any 
Government which took less determined steps than we are taking to-day. 
I think it is only due to say that there has been a great deal of criticism, 
both in the press and verbally, about the Air Ministry as though they were 
responsible for possibly an inadequate programme, for not having gone 
ahead faster, and for many other things. I only want to repeat that what- 
ever responsibility there may be and we are perfectly ready to meet 
criticisms that responsibility is not that of any single Minister; it is the 
responsibility of the Government as a whole, and we are all responsible, 
and we are all to blame.' 3 

Strangely enough, *Mr. Baldwin's Confession', as Winston soon dubbed 
it, did not have an adverse effect on his popularity. If anything, his popu- 
larity slightly increased, for the British public was deeply impressed by his 
honesty. They liked a man who could admit he was wrong. Winston had 
the dazzle and the eloquence but Stanley Baldwin was the man you could 
rely upon. At the General Election a few months later they showed their 
confidence by returning him with a handsome majority. 

1 Hansard: 28 November, 1934. 


9 Hansard: 22 May, 1935. 



WINSTON WAS angry and disappointed not to be included in Stanley 
Baldwin's new Government. The India issue was closed; his warnings 
about Germany were being fulfilled; and the Government had received a 
mandate to re-arm. It was widely forecast in the press that he would be 
asked to take over the Admiralty and he confidently expected the offer to 
be made. 'The growing German menace made me anxious to ky my 
hands upon our military machine/ he wrote. 'I could now feel very 
keenly what was coming. Distracted France and timid peace-loving 
Britain would soon be confronted with the challenge of the European 
Dictators. I was in sympathy with the changing temper of the Labour 
Party. Here was the chance of a true National Government. It was under- 
stood that the Admiralty would be vacant, and I wished very much to go 
there should the Conservatives be returned to power/ 1 

However, as soon as the election results were known Baldwin an- 
nounced through the Conservative Central Office that Churchill would 
not be asked to join the Government. Winston believes that his exclusion 
was a sop to the pacifist element in the House, but remembering that 
Baldwin had complained in the kte twenties that Churchill flooded the 
Government with memoranda and advice and that 'a Cabinet meeting 
when Winston was present did not have the opportunity of considering 
its proper agenda/ it seems more likely that he was merely adhering to 
his resolve never again to have him as a colleague. 

However, the Prime Minister was one of the shrewdest Party managers 
in the history of Conservatism and it stands to reason that he would have 
put his reservations aside if Winston had commanded any following in the 
country. But in 1935 Churchill had practically no support either in Parlia- 
ment or among the people. It was a curious situation. The public freely 
acknowledged his great gifts; they admired his courage; they read his 
books; they were impressed by his superb oratory. Yet they would not 
follow him. They believed kirn to be emotionally unsound. They had 
watched his career and listened to his wonderful eloquence for thirty-five 
years and formed the impression that his thirst for adventure always led 
him in search of heroic parts. He dramatized himself and the stage on 
which he performed. In his hands incidents swelled into large events. 

1 lite Gathering Storm: Winston S. Churchill 


They remembered the young Minister who had sent field guns to Sidney 
Street; the Home Secretary who had dispatched troops all over Britain 
in the railway strike of 1911 without waiting for the local authorities to 
ask for them; the First Lord of the Admiralty who had asked to take com- 
mand of the army defending Antwerp; the Minister for "War who had 
secured Allied intervention in the Russian revolution; the Minister for 
Colonial Affairs who drafted the Chanak communiqu. They remem- 
bered his warnings that the Labour Party would destroy the constitution 
of the country, and that self-rule for India would mark the downfall of 
the British Empire. He had exaggerated situations before. How could they 
know he was right this time? 

But personal misgiving was not the only reason for Winston's failure to 
command a following. The public felt that he was offering them little 
hope of a better world. They had no faith in power politics. The idea of a 
Grand Alliance, based on the balance of power, had been tried often before 
and had often failed. On looking back it is dear that the only hope of 
arousing the people of Britain and France lay in the League of Nations. 
Here was a great new concept; here was a concert of nations joined to- 
gether in a common desire to establish for the first time a reign of inter- 
national law; to substitute the principle of negotiation for the act of war. 

The detractors of the League argued that it had been hopelessly crippled, 
soon after birth, by the withdrawal of the United States. Nevertheless, the 
fact remains that throughout the twenties and most of the thirties Britain 
and France together, if they had had the will, could have enforced the 
League's authority. But could they have commanded public support? 
During the twenties the vast number of people who supported the League 
regarded it merely as a 'moral force'. The Disarmament Conferences were 
held under its aegis and helped to swell the impression that it was an instru- 
ment of pacifism rather than an authority for the maintenance of order. 

In the early thirties this conception gradually began to change. Europe 
was growing increasingly frightened of Germany and by the middle of 
1934 disarmament was abandoned. Many people said this spelt the death 
of the League. It had failed to deal either with the Chaco clashes in 1928, 
or with the Manchurian incident in 1931. Now that rearmament was 
beginning again, the last vestige of its peaceful purpose seemed to have 
been stripped from it. Churchill fought against this feeling of despair and 
told the House as early as 1932 that he deprecated "the kind of thought 
that, unless the League can force a general disarmament, unless it can com- 
pel powerful nations in remote regions to comply with its decisions, it is 
dead away with it/ 


Nevertheless it is a curious fact that even Winston Churchill did not 
understand the potential power of the League as a weapon for rallying 
public opinion. In the summer of 1935 it became apparent that Mussolini 
had designs on Abyssinia. The situation could scarcely have been more 
awkward. Italy was an ally of Britain and France and the three nations 
had pledged themselves to stand together against further aggression. On 
the other hand Abyssinia was a member of the League of Nations. If she 
was attacked what was the duty of Britain and France? 

Winston's attitude on this question was understandable. Almost alone 
among the leading British statesmen he realized the full gravity of the 
German menace. In his desperate and lonely efforts to build up a strong 
balance of power he had no wish to see Italy estranged from France and 
Britain. On n July, 1935, he expressed his uneasiness to Parliament and 
cautioned the Government to move slowly. * We seemed to have allowed 
the impression to be created that we were ourselves coining forward as a 
sort of bell-wether or fugleman to lead opinion in Europe against Italy's 
Abyssinian designs. It was even suggested that we would act individually 
and independently. I am glad to hear from the Foreign Secretary that there 
is no foundation for that. We must do our duty, but we must do it with 
other nations only in accordance with the obligations which others recog- 
nize as well. We are not strong enough to be the lawgiver and the spokes- 
man of the world. We will do our part, but we cannot be asked to do 
more than our part in these matters 

c As we stand to-day there is no doubt that a cloud has come over the old 
friendship between Great Britain and Italy, a cloud which, it seems to me, 
may very easily not pass away, although undoubtedly it is everyone's 
desire that it should. It is an old friendship, and we must not forget, what 
is a little-known fact, that at the time Italy entered into the Triple Alliance 
in the last century she stipulated particularly that in no circumstances 
would the obligations under the Alliance bring her into armed conflict 
with Great Britain.' 

A month later he was invited to the Foreign Office and asked how far 
he was prepared to go against Italian aggression in Abyssinia. He replied 
that he thought the Foreign Secretary was justified in going as far with the 
League of Nations against Italy as he could carry France/ but that he ought 
not 'to put any pressure upon France because of her military convention 
with Italy and her German preoccupations/ This, of course, was tanta- 
mount to doing nothing for as Churchill himself admitted: 'In the circum- 
stances I did not expect France would go very far/ 1 

Winston's point of view was understandable, nevertheless it was a 


serious mistake. Here was the man who had been asking his countrymen 
to take the lead against the treaty-breaking of Germany, now advising 
them to hang back over the flagrant aggression of Italy, knowing full well 
that unless Britain took the lead the act would be condoned. His attitude 
opened him to a charge of cynicism and expediency and revealed a com- 
plete misunderstanding of the drastic change that was taking place in 
British public opinion. There had been some indication of this evolution 
earlier in the year when the League of Nations Union sent out a question- 
naire under the heading of The Peace Ballot. The two most important 
questions were these: 'Do you consider that if a nation insists on attack- 
ing another, the other nations should combine to compel it to stop by: 
(a) economic and non-military measures? (b) if necessary military mea- 
sures?' Eleven million people answered (a) in the affirmative and nearly 
eight million answered (b) in the affirmative. 

Stanley Baldwin was conscious of which way the wind was blowing 
and he fought the election of October 1935 on a promise to uphold the 
League of Nations. This same month another significant event occurred. 
The Labour Party dismissed its pacifist leader George Lansbury (mainly 
due to the influence of Ernest Bevin who told a large audience that he 
was 'tired of having George Lansbury' s conscience carted about from con- 
ference to conference'), and put in his stead Major Clement Atdee, a 
Socialist who had been an infantry officer in the late war. 

The British Government went ahead and rallied the support of fifty 
nations in the laying down of economic sanctions against Italy. Once the 
step had been taken, once Italy had been estranged, Winston gave the 
League his unqualified support. In a strong and eloquent speech in the 
House he professed his hope that sanctions would prove a decisive stumb- 
ling block to Mussolini's conquest, and declared with emotion that the 
League of Nations had 'passed from shadow into substance, from theory 
into practice, from rhetoric into reality'. He announced courageously that 
if he were asked how far he would go in support of the League Covenant 
he would go 'the whole way with die whole lot'. 1 

But disillusion was soon to setin: for Winston Churchill, for the British 
people, for the whole world. Baldwin's sanctions were only sham 
sanctions. He was determined to prevent war at all costs although we 
know to-day that if the Royal Navy had taken action the matter would 
have been settled in a very few weeks. The Prime Minister was not pre- 
pared to impose the only sanction that really mattered oil sanctions. 
Furthermore, once the gesture had been made against Italy he did not 
rule out the idea of a settlement. In January the British and French 

1 Hansard: 24 October, 1935. 


Foreign Secretaries met by accident at Geneva and concocted a plan, 
known as the Hoare-Laval proposals, which gave Italy a fifth of Abyssinia 
in return for calling off the war. 

This cynical compromise profoundly shocked the British people and 
rocked the Government to its foundations. Stanley Baldwin was forced to 
withdraw the proposals and apologize to the House. Sir Samuel Hoare 
was forced to resign and Anthony Eden took his place. Sham sanctions 
continued and Italy went ahead and completed the conquest of Abyssinia. 
It was a dismal story. 

Winston was in Spain and North Africa during the Hoare-Laval crisis. If 
he had been in England he might have been able to exert enough pressure 
to force Baldwin to take him into the Cabinet, for the latter's prestige had 
sunk to its lowest level. However, he profited from the lesson. He per- 
ceived that a new force had come into being in England. He understood 
the deep urge of the people for a righteous stand and he saw that it was 
only by championing die League of Nations that he could rally the 
masses to his cause: the cause of maintaining a balance of power on the 
side of Britain. Two months later, in March 1936, he told the Conserva- 
tive Members Committee on Foreign Affairs: 'You must not underrate 
the force which these ideals [the League of Nations] exert upon the 
modern democracy. One does not know how these seeds are planted by 
the winds of the centuries in the hearts of the working people. They arc 
there, and just as strong as their love of liberty. We should not neglect 
them, because they are the essence of the genius of this island. Therefore, 
we believe that in the fostering and fortifying of the League of Nations 
will be found the best means of defending our island security, as well as 
maintaining grand universal causes with which we have very often found 
our own interests in natural accord.* He then outlined his three, simple 
contentions: 'First, that we must oppose the would-be dominator or 
potential aggressor. Secondly, that Germany under its present Nazi regime 
and its prodigious armaments, so swiftly developing,, fills unmistakably 
that part Thirdly, that the League of Nations rallies many countries, and 
unites our people here at home in the most effective way to control the 
would-be aggressor/ 

The old cry 'Disarmament and the League* was dead and in its place 
Winston tried to substitute the slogan 'Arms and the Covenant*. Through- 
out 1936 he commanded a growing following. Labour and Liberal 
leaders who, only a few years before, tad regarded him as an arch-enemy, 
were now marching behind his banner. Sir Walter Citrine, the great 


Trade Union figure and one of the leaders of the General Strike, oc- 
casionally sat on his platform. But although Churchill had the moral back- 
ing of the Labour Party he failed to win the practical support that was so 
vital to his cause. The Socialists voted repeatedly in favour of the League of 
Nations but at the same time they refusecl to back any increase in arma- 
ments. This fantastically muddled policy was put forward on the grounds 
that Labour did not trust the Tories to use weapons in defence of the 

Winston was also supported by a number of Conservative M.P.S but 
they were only a small splinter group, for the bulk of the Parliamentary 
Conservative Party was staunchly behind their leader, Stanley Baldwin. 
And Baldwin was still determined not to take any risk, no matter how 
minute, which might lead to war. In March 1936 Hitler electrified Europe 
by marching into the Rhineland, in direct contravention of all the treaties. 
France was paralysed with fear, and refused to move unless Britain moved 
with her. But Baldwin still would not commit himself and urged the 
French to take the matter to the League. As we know to-day, if the 
French Army had advanced they would have forced Germany to move 
back with scarcely a shot fired. Hitler had occupied the Rhineland against 
the advice of his military experts with only a handful of troops. It was a 
gigantic bluff. He was gambling on the inertia of the democracies and if 
his gamble had not succeeded it is more than likely his whole regime 
would have crumbled. Thus one more chance to avert war was lost. 

While France stood back trembling and undecided Winston tried to 
galvanize the world through collective action. 'If the League of Nations 
were able to enforce its decree upon one of the most powerful countries 
in the world found to be an aggressor/ he told the House of Commons on 
13 March, 'then the authority of the League would be set upon so majestic 
a pedestal that it must henceforth be the accepted sovereign authority by 
which all the quarrels of the people can be determined and controlled. 
Thus we might upon this occasion reach by one single bound the realiza- 
tion of our most cherished dreams.' 

The people of Great Britain were ready to make a stand but they were 
not given the chance to do so. The country's rulers were not prepared to 
risk anything, no matter how large the gain. Prominent men and leading 
newspapers began to play the crisis down. After all, at the same time that 
Hitler had invaded the Rhineland he had offered the democracies a non- 
aggression pact. The Times and the Daily Herald both expressed their faith 
in his offer. Such leading statesmen as Lloyd George and'Lord Lothian 
said, respectively, that they 'hoped we should keep our heads' and that 
'after all, they are only going into their own backgarden.' Winston 


pointed out that if Germany fortified the Rhindand, which she was bound 
to do, it would 'enable German troops to be economized on that line, and 
will enable the main forces to swing round through Belgium and Hol- 
land'. But those in responsible positions were not prepared to listen. 

Winston continued to hammer home his theme throughout the years 
and his following continued to grow. He castigated Baldwin for not ful- 
filling his promise that British air power would not be 'inferior to any 
country within striking distance of our shores', and turned the full force 
of his vehement and polished rhetoric upon him. 'The Government 
simply cannot make up their minds, or they cannot get the Prime 
Minister to make up his mind. So they go on in strange paradox, decided 
only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid 
for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent. So we go on preparing more 
months and years precious, perhaps vital, to the greatness of Britain 
for the locusts to eat/ 1 

Stanley Baldwin's stock once again was declining; Winston's stock once 
again rising. Once again he might have regained high office, but for the 
strange intervention of fate. An event occurred which tipped the scales 
heavily the other way *he Abdication Crisis. 

Everyone knows the deftness and skill with which Stanley Baldwin 
handled the Abdication Crisis. As Philip Guedalla put it, 'the King was 
handled with a firmer touch than the King's enemies'. He gave the 
Sovereign two dear choices: he could either renounce Mrs. Simpson and 
keep the throne, or wed Mrs. Simpson and abdicate. There was to be no 
morganatic marriage. The Prime Minister was treading on firm ground 
for public opinion was strongly behind him. He knew the British people 
would never accept a thrice married woman as their Queen. 

It was characteristic of Winston to take the King's side and plead the 
King's cause. He could not possibly have hoped to gain from it: indeed he 
had everything to lose. But he had a romantic nature and a sympathy 
with the monarch's wish to marry for love. More than this, he had a deep 
sense of loyalty. He had known Edward VIII since his childhood, and as 
Home Secretary had read out the proclamation creating hi Prince of 
Wales. The King sent for him on his own initiative to ask for advice and 
help. As Lord Birkenhead had once pointed out Winston 'never failed a 
friend no matter how embarrassing die obligation appeared at the time'. 
He felt it his duty to serve the King until the end. 

He drew his sword and attacked Baldwin for trying to rush the issue, 

1 Hansard: 12 November, 1936. 


and pleaded with the House of Commons for delay. Public sentiment was 
so strong, however, that a storm of wrath broke on his head. He was 
accused of lacking all principle and trying to make political capital of the 
matter. He was accused of trying to form a King's party and wreck the 
constitution. He was accused of his usual bad judgment. The tragedy was 
that the following he had gathered, so important for the life of Europe, 
began to melt away, while Stanley Baldwin, a discredited Prime Minister, 
was once again installed high in public favour. 'There were several 
moments when I seemed to be entirely alone against a wrathful House of 
Commons. I am not, when in action, unduly affected by hostile currents of 
feeling; but it was on more than one occasion almost physically impos- 
sible to make myself heard. All the forces I had gathered together on 
"Arms and the Covenant", of which I conceived myself to be the main- 
spring, were estranged or dissolved, and I was myself so smitten in public 
opinion that it was the almost universal view that my political life was at 
last ended/ 1 

The history of the thirties makes tragic reading. If even a small part of 
Winston Churchill's advice had been heeded the second great world 
catastrophe would never have taken place. He will be remembered in 
history as a man of war, but no statesman has ever tried more valiantly to 
save.the peace. 'My mind was obsessed by the impression of the terrific 
Germany I had seen and felt in action during the years of 1914 to 1918 
suddenly becoming again possessed of all her martial power/ he wrote, 
'while die Allies, who had so narrowly survived, gaped idle and be- 
wildered.' 2 Under Stanley Baldwin the Allies continued to gape; under 
Neville Chamberlain they moved forward but on the wrong road. 

The vacillation of the French and British and the blindness of the 
Americans during the kte thirties almost passes comprehension. Nearly 
every foreign correspondent in Europe was aware of the derision in which 
the dictators held the democracies, and the determination of the dictators 
to strike while the going was good. There is a mass of journalistic warn- 
ings on the subject. In 1937 Winston had a long conversation with the 
German Ambassador in London, Herr von Ribbentrop. The latter told 
him that Germany must have a free hand in Eastern Europe, and Winston 
replied that he was sure that the British Government would not agree to it. 
'In that case,' said von Ribbentrop, 'war is inevitable. There is no way out. 
The Fiihrer is resolved. Nothing will stop him and nothing will stop us/ 
This conversation was not unique. In Germany similar sentiments were 
expressed freely to anyone who would listen. Indeed it would be difficult 

1 The Catherine Storm: Winston S. Churchill. 


to find another period in history where the aggressive designs of a nation 
were so unconcealed. 

It is therefore even more remarkable that of all the statesmen in the 
Western world Winston Churchill alone perceived the danger from the 
start and consistently pointed out the only course to follow. He never, for 
one moment, took his eyes off the balance of power, and every action he 
urged was to strengthen the balance in favour of Britain and France. 
During the first half of the thirties he begged the democracies to build up 
their strength. 'If you wish to bring about a war, you bring about such an 
equipoise that both sides think they have a chance of winning. If you 
want to stop a war, you gather such an aggregation offeree on the side of 
peace that die aggressor, whoever he may be, will not dare to challenge.' 1 
This advice was not followed. During the second half of the thirties he 
begged the democracies to combine to uphold law and order. 'Why not 
make a stand while there is still a good company of united, very powerful 
countries that share our dangers and our aspirations? Why should we delay 
until we are confronted with a general landslide of those small countries 
passing over, because they have no other choice, to the overwhelming 
power of the Nazi regime?' 2 

But even more remarkable than his prescience was his unflagging 
courage. His boldness illuminates the darkness of the thirties and saves it 
from the scathing judgment of posterity. When in 1937, despite all his 
warnings and prophecies, he was shunned by his Party and ignored by 
Parliament, a lesser man might have turned from the House of Commons 
in despair and occupied himself with his own affairs. But Winston never 
faltered. Whether die tide was with him or not he sailed on. He was 
derided by his enemies, patronized by his friends, and mocked by the 
press, yet he continued to work feverishly to stave off the approaching 

Although Stanley Baldwin excluded Churchill from office, he offered 
him a sop. In 1935 he invited him to sit on the newly constituted Com- 
mittee of Air Defence Research. A man of smaller stature might have 
refused the offer, arguing that if his Party did not dwnlr highly enough of 
him to employ himina Ministerial capacity they would have to do with- 
out his services in minor spheres. But Winston was determined to serve, 
no matter how humble the capacity. He asked that Professor Lindemann 
should be placed on the Technical Sub-Committee so that they might 
work together. For the next five years he mastered every aspect of 
scientific air defence. He heard Professor Tizard make his report on 

x Hansards 13 July, 1934. 
1 Hansard: 14 March, 1938. 


radio-location, which resulted in the setting up of an experimental 
organization. In 1939 when the Air Committee held its final meeting 
twenty radar stations were in operation between Portsmouth and Scapa 
Flow and it was possible to detect aircraft from fifty to one hundred and 
twenty miles away flying above ten thousand feet. Winston was also given 
free access to the Admiralty and made it his business to acquaint himself 
with every detail of the new building programme, and the latest develop- 
ments in guns, armour and explosives. Thus when he became Prime 
Minister he had more knowledge of the technicalities of sea and air 
defence than any other statesman called to lead a nation in war. 

Winston's persistent and lonely efforts to save his country from war for 
nearly ten years, unsupported by any single political party in the House of 
Commons, are without parallel in English history. Many politicians have 
opposed the Government but they have usually had the backing of a 
Party. Winston stood alone. In 1920 an anonymous writer in the Daily 
News had written prophetically: 'Politics for Mr. Churchill, if they are to 
fulfil his promise, must be a religion. They must have nothing to do with 
Mr. Churchill. They must have everything to do with the salvation of 
mankind.' Winston had found his cause; and no one would argue to-day 
that it was not concerned with the salvation of mankind. 

The year 1937 was one of the most painful of Churchill's life. His influence 
had fallen to zero, partly because of his attitude over the Abdication Crisis, 
partly because Hitler and Mussolini remained quiet and people began to 
feel that perhaps there would not be a war after all. Churchill's stock 
remained at low ebb throughout the early months of 1938, and it was at 
this period that I first met him. His son, Randolph, took me to Chartwell 
one day for lunch. Mr. Churchill was down by the pond, in a torn coat 
and a battered hat, prodding the water with a stick, looking for his pet 
goldfish which seemed to have disappeared. He was in an expansive mood 
and at lunch the conversation centred, as it usually did, on politics. He 
expressed his fear that England would refuse to show her hand until it 
was not only too late to avoid war, but too late to win a war. 

As he talked one could not help being struck by the resdess energy and 
frustration of the man. In spite of his writing, his weekly contributions to 
the press, his long and masterly speeches in the Commons, one was aware 
that only a quarter of his resources were being used, and you felt that 
he was like a mighty torrent trying to burst its dams. 

The sense of frustration was not difficult to understand. Shortly after this 
luncheon, I heard him speak in the House of Commons, The date was 


24 March, 1938, two weeks after the German invasion of Austria. As I 
looked down from the gallery on the sea of black coats and white faces, 
he seemed only one man of many; but when he spoke his words rang 
through the House with terrible finality. He stood addressing the Speaker, 
his shoulders hunched, his head thrust forward, his hands in his waistcoat 
pockets. 'For five years I have talked to this House on these matters not 
with very great success. I have watched this famous island descending 
incontinently, fecklessly, the stairway which leads to a dark gulf. It is a 
fine broad stairway at the beginning, but after a bit the carpet ends. A 
little farther on there are only flagstones, and a little farther on still these 
break beneath your feet. Look back over the last five years. It is true that 
great mistakes were made in the years immediately after the war. But at 
Locarno we laid the foundations from which a great forward movement 
could have been made. Look back upon the last five years since, that is 
to say, Germany began to rearm in earnest and openly to seek revenge. 
If we study the history of Rome and Carthage we can understand what 
happened and why. It is not difficult to form an intelligent view about the 
three Punic Wars; but if mortal catastrophe should overtake the British 
Nation and the British Empire, historians a thousand years hence will still 
be baffled by the mystery of our affairs. They will never understand how it 
was that a victorious nation, with everything in hand, suffered themselves 
to be brought low, and to cast away all that they had gained by measure- 
less sacrifice and absolute victory gone with the wind! 

'Now the victors are vanquished, and those who threw down their 
arms in the field and sued for an armistice are striding on to world 
mastery. That is the position that is the terrible transformation that has 
taken place bit by bit. I rejoice to hear from the Prime Minister that a 
further supreme effort is to be made to place us in a position of security. 
Now is the time at last to rouse the nation. Perhaps it is the last time it can 
be roused with a chance of preventing war, or with a chance of coming 
through to victory should our efforts to prevent war fail. We should lay 
aside every hindrance and endeavour by uniting the whole force and spirit 
of our people to raise again a great British nation standing up before all 
the world; for such a nation, rising in its ancient vigour, can even at this 
hour save civilization/ 

When Mr. Churchill sat down there was a deep silence for a moment: 
then the show was over. The House broke into a hubbub of noise; Mem- 
bers rattled their papers and shuffled their way to the lobby. A prominent 
Conservative came up to the gallery to take me to tea. I was talking to a 
friend, and when we asked him what he thought of the speech he replied 
lighdy: 'Oh, the usual Churchillian filibuster; he likes to rattle the sabre 


and he does it jolly well, but you always have to take it with a grain of 
salt/ This was the general attitude of the House of Commons in those 
days. Many years later Churchill wrote: 'I had to be very careful not to 
lose my poise in the great discussions and debates which crowded upon 
us. ... I had to control my feelings and appear serene, indifferent, de- 
tached.* 1 In view of the circumstances, this was no small feat in itself. 

Unlike Stanley Baldwin, Neville Chamberlain had a positive policy. 
This policy was completely contrary to Winston's belief in the balance of 
power, and to the age-old formula which Britain had always followed in 
refusing to allow any single Power to dominate the Continent of Europe. 
Chamberlain believed that Britain and Germany could come to a peaceful 
understanding about spheres of interest Let Germany extend her influence 
on the Continent, let Britain look to her Navy and her Empire. 

Chamberlain had not been in office long before he set about putting 
these ill-fated theories into practice. He forgave the Nazi invasion of 
Austria and journeyed to Italy to try and establish friendly relations with 
Mussolini. This brought about the resignation of Anthony Eden, whose 
heart was in the right place, but who had never had the moral strength to 
dissociate himself from Baldwin's vacillating policies. 

Then came Munich. Chamberlain flew to Germany three times, and 
returned home with the famous agreement which gave Czechoslovakia's 
Sudetenland to the Germans. Winston cried out, 'One pound was 
demanded at the pistol point. When it was given, two pounds were 
demanded at the pistol point. Finally the Dictator consented to take 
ji 175. 6d. and the rest in promise of goodwill for the future/ 2 But 
Chamberlain enunciated his belief that it was 'peace with honour' and 
what is more 'peace in our time' and the whole world acclaimed him as a 
saviour. Never had he been so popular. But this dream was not to last for 
long. Only six months after Munich, after a solemn declaration from 
Hitler that he had no 'evil intentions towards Czechoslovakia*, the German 
army moved into Prague. At last the scales fell from the blind eyes of 
the British leader; at last he saw that Germany meant business. From that 
moment the policy of appeasement was over, and England and France 
slapped a guarantee on Poland. But the Germans had every form of 
military superiority. The British could never catch up. 

At this point Winston Churchill regarded war as inevitable. There was 
only one faint hope left, and that was an alliance with Russia. Although 

1 The Gathering Storm: Winston S. Churchill. 
1 Hansard: 5 October, 1938. 


Winston had been the Soviet Union's most hostile critic during the 
twenties, he welcomed Russia's entry into the League of Nations in 1934, 
for he saw it as an added reinforcement to the balance of power. A few 
months before the Munich Agreement he spoke out plainly, describing 
her as 'a country whose form of government I detest . . . but how impro- 
vidently foolish we should be when dangers are so great, to put needless 
barriers in the way of the general associations of the great Russian mass 
with resistance to an act of Nazi aggression.' 1 After Munich he spoke 
again, begging Chamberlain to accept the Soviet offer of a Triple 
Alliance which would bind Great Britain, France and Russia in a guaran- 
tee for the safety of the states in Central and Eastern Europe. But Poland 
feared Russia as much as Germany; Mr. Chamberlain hesitated: the 
alliance was never established. Instead, in the summer of 1939 Stalin did 
a deal with Hitler which burst upon the world as the Soviet-German 
Pact. Germany's hands were now free for other business. In September the 
second World War began. 

1 Free Trade Hall, Manchester, 9 May, 1939. 



WHEN THE Admiralty Board learned that Mr. Chamberlain had asked 
Churchill to take over the Navy, they signalled to the Fleet: 'Winston is 
back. 9 It was a dramatic return. Just twenty-five years previously Churchill 
had guided the Royal Navy through the opening months of the first World 
War. Then, as now, he was the most dominating figure in the Govern- 
ment; then, as now, he was spoken of as a probable war Prime Minister. 
But then he had stumbled; this time his step was firm and sure. 

From the first day he was the true leader of Britain. When Chamberlain 
broadcast to the nation on the morning of 3 September, 1939, he spoke as 
a broken-hearted man. 'Everything that I have worked for, everything 
that I have hoped for, everything that I have believed in during my public 
life has crashed into ruins! 9 This was true enough, but it was scarcely the 
way to rouse the nation. Chamberlain could not rid himself of the past, 
and as a result he was unable to regard the war as anything but a calamity. 
Winston on the other hand accepted it as a challenge, and not only dis- 
missed the past but buried all recrimination with it. 

I saw an amusing example of this for myself, for a few months after war 
began a member of the Churchill family invited me to lunch at Admiralty 
House. Conversation in the Churchill household was always political, and 
previously one could have been certain of a number of witty sallies at 
Mr. Chamberlain's expense. On this occasion, however, one of Mr. 
Churchill's children attempted a mild joke and I was astonished to see a 
scowl appear on the father's face. With enormous solemnity he said: 'If 
you are going to make offensive remarks about my chief you will have to 
leave the table. We are united in a great and common cause and I am not 
prepared to tolerate such language about the Prime Minister.' I honoured 
Mr. Churchill's sentiments, but having heard the same joke from his own 
lips a few months before, I found it difficult to suppress a smile. 

The first seven months of the war provided a strange hiatus. It was the 
long uneasy lull before the curtain lifted on the grand climax. The British 
people had been warned of the strength and ferocity of the German Air 
Force and had braced themselves for a rain of bombs on their towns and 
cities. Instead there was silence in the West while Hitler concentrated his 



attack on Poland and divided the spoils with Stalin according to a pre- 
arranged plan. Next, Stalin devoured the Baltic States, and invaded Fin- 
land; after an inauspicious start the Russian Bear finally smashed the small 
Finnish army and in March 1940 an armistice was signed. 

All this time Britain and France looked on helplessly. To-day the world 
knows how badly prepared they were for the conflict. The German Air 
Force was twice die strength of Britain's and the German Army was soon 
to demonstrate its might against the soldiers of France. The two demo- 
cracies were eager to help Finland, and the British hurriedly began to train 
divisions for an ice-bound war. The troops were not ready in time; but 
even if they had been, there was not an earthly chance of persuading 
Norway and Sweden, who were desperately clinging to their neutrality, 
to allow a passage through to Finland. 

As a result British soldiers began to sing about 'hanging out the washing 
on the Siegfried line* and Americans began to refer to 'the phoney war'. 
This last jibe was a miscalculation of the determination of England; never- 
theless it touched a chord that was real. In the early days of the war both 
Britain and France were wholly concentrated on defensive warfare. 
France had poured out her strength and money on the Maginot Line, and 
Britain had concentrated on fast fighters. When you asked military people 
how the war would be won they answered confidently that Germany 
would smash herself against the French fortifications and dissipate her air 
force against the English defences. 

The democracies had no plan for assuming the offensive; besides this 
there were strong subversive elements in the population, particularly in 
France. The extreme Left had taken its signal from Moscow and de- 
nounced the war as a capitalist-imperialist project. The extreme Right, on 
the other hand, still hankered for an understanding with Germany. Poland 
was gone. How could Britain and France revive her, they argued? Wasn't 
it better to have a strong Germany in Central Europe as a bulwark against 
Bolshevism than to smash the only barrier and open the way for the 
barbaric Slavs? Even in England one could hear this argument. In the 
winter of 1939 I remember talking to an Englishman who later became 
one of Churchill's most energetic and loyal colleagues. 'I would give 
everything I possess/ he said, 'if I could put an end to this senseless war. 
I would sign a peace with Germany now and stop the conflict before the 
whole of Europe is brought to ruin.' 

These were some of the sentiments of the phoney war. They were not 
widespread, but they existed. Winston lost no time in combating them 
no matter from what quarter they came. He referred to the 'thoughtless 
dilettanti or purblind worldlings who sometimes ask us: "What is it that 


Britain and France are fighting for?" To this I answer: "If we left off 
fighting you would soon find out." J1 He referred to Hitler as 'a haunted, 
morbid being, who, to their eternal shame, the German people in their 
bewilderment have worshipped as a god/ And he referred to the fright- 
ened neutral countries who were sitting on the fence, warning them that 
their plight was lamentable, 'and it will become worse. They bow humbly 
and in fear to German threats of violence, comforting themselves mean- 
while with the thought that the Allies will win. . . . Each one of them 
hopes that if he feeds the crocodile enough, the crocodile will eat him 
last ' 2 

At the same time that Winston was attacking the enemy, combating 
me defeatist elements on his own side, and trying to galvanize the neutrals 
intoaction, he was giving the people of Britain the firm clear lead they 
wantecCrlow we have begun; now we are going on; now with the help 
of God, and with the conviction that we are the defenders of Civilization 
and Freedom, we are going on, and we are going on to the end,' 

Hitler at once recognized his true enemy, and lost no time in singling 
out Winston as the villain of the piece. Early in October the German 
leader broadcast to the world employing the tactics that up until now had 
been so successful. There was no need, he said, for a war with the West. 
Poland was dead, it would never rise again. Why fight about it? 1 make 
this declaration only because I very naturally desire to spare my people 
suffering. But should the views of Churchill and his following prevail, 
then this declaration will be my last. We should then fight . . . Let those 
repulse my hand who regard war as the better solution! 9 

Winston gave him a plain answer in a broadcast on 12 November, 1939. 
'You may take it absolutely for certain that either all that Britain and 
France stand for in the modern world will go down, or that Hitler, the 
Nazi regime, and the recurring German and Prussian menace to Europe 
will be broken and destroyed. This is the way the matter lies, and every- 
body had better make up their minds to that solid, sombre fact.' 

Meanwhile Winston was not idle as First Lord of the Admiralty. The 
Royal Navy was the only strong force the British possessed and from the 
first day of the war the senior service was on the offensive. Winston 
worked an cighteen-hour day. Plans were drawn up for a blockade of 
Germany; convoy arrangements were made; mine-sweeping was organ- 
ized; ships were requisitioned; new building began; and, above all, enemy 

1 Broadcast, 30 March, 1940. 
1 Broadcast, 20 January, 1940. 


raiders and submarines were hunted down. By the end of 1939 Winston 
announced that the British had sunk half Germany's submarines. But he 
was wise enough to know that many great battles were coming. Ger- 
many's production in all fields was enormous; the war was only in its 

Chamberlain on the other hand did not appear to grasp the situation. 
On 5 April, 1940, he made an astonishing statement to the Conservative 
and Unionist Associations: 'After seven months of war I fed ten times as 
confident of victory as I did at the beginning. ... I fed that during the 
seven months our relative position towards the enemy has become a great 
deal stronger than it was/ He went on to elaborate the theme that the 
breathing space Hitler had afforded the Allies had made the whole differ- 
ence to the war; he could not seem to understand that during this period 
Germany, too, had been building up. * Whatever may be the reason,' he 
said, 'whether it was that Hider thought he might get away with what he 
had got without fighting for it, or whether it was that all the preparations 
were not sufficiently complete however, one thing is certain; he missed 
the bus.' Three days later Hider invaded Norway and Denmark 

The story of the Quisling 'Fifth Column* inside Norway, die landing of 
the British troops and their dismal wididrawal ending in a complete 
German victory is well known. The House of Commons was angered by 
the defeat and met on 7 and 8 May to debate the events. Admiral of the 
Fleet Sir Roger Keyes declared that if his countrymen had been bold 
enough to seize Trondheim, die key to central Norway, the German 
invasion could have been frustrated. He charged that die Navy had been 
let down by Whitehall 

It is ironic diat this accusation played a large part in the fall of the 
Government, as for once Chamberlain was not to blame. Churchill him- 
self, die First Lord of the Admiralty, had not welcomed the idea of a 
frontal attack on Trondheim. The assault was to have been a combined 
naval, military and air operation, and Winston fdt diat the risks which 
die Home Fleet would have run were far too great But when the plan 
was pressed forward strongly by all the Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary 
of State for War, he acquiesced. Arrangements went ahead but at the last 
moment the Chiefe of Staff devdoped cold feet and said diat on recon- 
sidering die situation they bdicved that the frontal attack was too perilous. 
Instead, they recommended a pincer movement on Trondheim from 
North and Soudi. Although Winston had never been enthusiastic about die 
first operation and people even whispered that 'the iron of the Dardanelles 


had entered his soul' and he had no longer the courage to strike boldly, he 
was indignant at such a late change of plan. Nevertheless, he again 
acquiesced. Chamberlain was also disappointed but in face of the oppo- 
sition of both the Chiefs of Staff and the Vice-Chiefs of Staff he felt he 
could not interfere. 

These were the facts and yet the blame for not attacking Trondheim 
settled on Chamberlain. So Hitler had missed the bus? Speaker after 
speaker flung the Prime Minister's unhappy remark in his face. 1 Winston 
tried to defend him, as he was bound to do, but told the House of Com* 
mons plainly that the defeat was not merely due to mistaken strategy, but 
to the failure of the Government to maintain air parity with the Germans. 

The House, however, was not in a mood for excuses. Although Mem- 
bers of Parliament had no one to blame but themselves for the state of 
British arms and equipment, they insisted on action and successful action 
at that. It may strike die onlooker as unreasonable, but democracies func- 
tion that way. All their wrath turned on Chamberlain for his bad advice 
and guidance. Mr. Leo Amcry, a staunch Conservative, attacked the 
Prime Minister and his colleagues in an impassioned speech ending with 
Oliver Cromwell's stinging words to the Rump of the Long Parliament: 
*You have sat here too long for any good you have been doing. Depart, 
I say, and let us have done with you! In the name of God, GO 1 / 

A vote of censure was put down against the Government and when 
Winston defended Chamberlain Lloyd George rose and advised him not 
to allow himself to be converted into an air raid shelter to keep the 
splinters from hitting his colleagues. Mr. Chamberlain called on his friends 
to save Mm from defeat and Lloyd George pointed out with deadly effect 
that it was not a question of who were the Prime Minister's friends. 'It is 
a far bigger issue. The Prime Minister must remember that he has met 
this formidable foe of ours in peace and war. He has always been worsted. 
He is not in a position to put it on the ground of friendship. He has 
appealed for sacrifice. The nation is prepared for every sacrifice so long as 
it has leadership. I say solemnly that the Prime Minister should give an 
example of sacrifice, because there is nothing which can contribute more 
to victory in this war than that he should sacrifice the seals of office.' 

The Members went through the lobby and although there was norm- 
ally a Conservative majority of nearly two hundred and fifty, Chamber- 
lain won by only eighty-one votes. He realized that his Government no 

1 When Winston first heard the news of the German invasion of Norway he, 
too, made a statement just as wide of the mark as Chamberlain's, He spoke 
joyously of 'the strategic blunder into which our mortal enemy has been pro- 
voked/ Fortunately this observation was overlooked. 


longer commanded the confidence of the House, and when he put out 
feelers to the Liberal and Labour followers for a coalition he was told that 
neither party would serve under him. He then offered the King his 

10 May was a momentous day. In the morning news came that the 
attack on the West had begun and that German troops were streaming 
across Holland; that night tie King sent for Winston Churchill and asked 
him to form a Government. 'As I went to bed at about 3 a.m./ he has 
recorded, 'I was conscious of a profound sense of relief. At last I had the 
authority to give directions over the whole scene/ 1 Even though the 
situation was grave Winston Churchill's spirits were far from low. 

Many books have been written about the second World War, chief of 
which are the six detailed volumes that Mr. Churchill himself has con- 
tributed. The story of the British war effort falls into two distinct parts: 
first, the struggle to survive, and second, the alliance with Russia and the 
United States in securing the victory and designing the peace. 

The struggle to survive covers the twelve months that Britain fought 
alone, from the fall of France in June 1940 to the German attack on Russia 
in June i94i.lThe high-lights of this grim year are still fresh in the minds 
of most people;] the partition of France; the formation of the Vichy 
Government; the air attack on Britain; the blitz on London; the Desert 
War; the defeat of Greece; the Commando raids along the Norwegian 
and French coasts. 

During this desperate period Winston Churchill became the most 
inspiring figure in the Western world. He symbolized the fierce spirit of 
liberty, and clothed Britain's determination to fight in words that no 
other Englishman could have summoned. In his account of the war he 
declares modestly that he was merely interpreting the strong mood that 
gripped the country. He cites as an example the fact that when Hitler 
made his final peace offer in the summer of 1940 the British Cabinet 
regarded it as so supremely foolish that not a single member even raised 
it for discussion. Nevertheless Winston's knowledge of military matters 
and his dose concern with all operational undertakings animated the 
British effort with a vigour and a boldness it had been lacking until then. 
And his interpretation of the Mother Country's cause not only thrilled 
millions of people all over the globe but raised British prestige to the 
highest level in history. 

The truth was that Winston had at last found his destiny. The world 

1 The Gathering Storm: Winston S. Churchill 


looked to hir for a lead and all the pent-up energy of the immense 
machine that throbbed in his heart and mind was brought into play. He 
no longer knew the frustration of ideas that could not be brought alive, 
vitality that could not be spent, ingenuity that could not be tested. The 
tremendous task that had fallen upon him equalled his stature as a man, 
and he grasped the supreme power of the State with eager hands. 

The whole of 10 Downing Street throbbed with an energy it had not 
seen since the days of Lloyd George, and perhaps hoped not to see again. 
The routine of Government was turned topsy-turvy. Churchill stayed in 
bed half the morning dictating and stayed up half the night talking. Every 
afternoon, after lunch, he had a nap. Chiefs of Staff, Ministers, civil 
servants, had to adapt themselves to this routine as best they could. Most 
of them had to be at work at nine or ten in the morning; even so, woe 
betide them if they were not men enough to come when he sent for them 
after dinner to stay up until the early hours of the morning. 

I do not mean to suggest that Churchill's leadership was not of the most 
precise, orderly kind. On the contrary, he was a master organizer and at 
once set about shaping a small, efficient machine that could take decisions 
swiftly and work with the maximum effect. First he organized a War 
Cabinet comprised of only four members besides himself: two were 
Labour leaders, Clement Atdee and Arthur Greenwood, and two were 
Conservatives, Mr. Chamberlain and Lord Halifax. 1 This War Cabinet 
met almost daily and took all the supreme decisions of the war. Besides 
this tiny, all-powerful, directing force there were sixty or seventy other 
Ministers of all Parties who formed the membership of the Coalition 
Government, but the latter were responsible only for their own depart- 
ments; as Winston pointed out it was only the members of the War 
Cabinet 'who had the right to have their heads cut off on Tower Hill if 
we did not win.' 

Needless to say Churchill was the over-riding figure in the War 
Cabinet. Never before in history has a Prime Minister exerted such wide 
powers; never before has a Prime Minister exercised so much control 
over the operational side of a conflict. He was not only the King's First 
Minister but Leader of the House of Commons and, even more im- 
portant, Minister of Defence as well. In this last capacity he initiated a new 
system which centred authority in his own hands. The Chiefs of Staff 
instead of reporting to their own Ministers, the men in charge of the War, 
Air and Admiralty departments, reported directly to him. He then asked 
the War Cabinet for permission to have the Joint Planning Committee, a 
body of professional staff officers of all three services, work under him as 

1 Membership of the War Cabinet grew to seven later in the war. 


Minister of Defence ratter than under the Chiefs of Staff. Thus, by per- 
mission of the War Cabinet, he became virtually a dictator. 

He revelled in both the immense power and responsibility of his task, 
and arranged his day with careful thought. He woke up at eight, sum- 
moned his secretaries, read all the telegrams and reports that had come 
through the night, then from his bed dictated a flow of minutes and 
memoranda, a large part of which was taken to the Chiefs of Staff at their 
morning meeting. Every afternoon he went to bed for an hour or longer, 
like a child, and slept soundly. This gave him the extra strength to remain 
at work until the early hours of the morning. 

The two links between himself and the military machine, and himself 
and the political authority, were General Ismay and Sir Edward Bridges. 
These men interpreted his wishes, carried out his orders, and smoothed his 
path in. every direction. The huge mass of instructions from the Prime 
Minister which flowed through their hands were always in writing for 
Churchill was a firm believer in the written word. He had had enough 
experience of Government to know how often verbal orders led to mis- 
understandings; besides, he had no wish to have his name used loosely. 
Soon after he became Prime Minister he issued the following directive to 
Ismay and Bridges: 'Let it be very clearly understood that all directives 
emanating from me are made in writing, . . . and that I do not accept 
any responsibility for matters relating to national defence on which I am 
alleged to have given decisions unless they are recorded in writing/ 1 
Altogether, Churchill's directives, memoranda, telegrams and minutes 
amounted throughout the war to nearly 1,000,000 words, enough to fill 
half a dozen good sized volumes, even though most of them were models 
of brevity and precision. A one-line minute which he penned to a high 
civil servant read as follows: 'Pray remember that the British people is no 
longer able to tolerate such lush disorganization/ 

No one can study Churchill's part in the war without being staggered by 
the scope of his interests and his colossal output.His contribution falls into 
distinct parts: first, his directives on military operations and second, his 
public leadership. In the first capacity one has only to study the minutes 
that are reproduced in his history to gather an idea of the enormous range 
he covered, and the powerful influence he had upon the course of the war. 
When Britain was alone, waiting for the full fury of the German attack to 
descend upon her, Churchill insisted that the nation should not merely sit 
back with brave endurance but should immediately take the initiative. 
1 Tfcff Ftmst Hoar: Winston S. Churchill. 


"The passive resistance war,' he wrote in a directive to General Ismay, 'in 
which we have acquitted ourselves so well, must come to an end. I look 
to the Joint Chiefs of the Staff to propose me measures for a vigorous, 
enterprising and ceaseless offensive against the whole German-occupied 
coastline. Tanks and A.F. V.s [Armoured Fighting Vehicles] must be made 
in flat-bottomed boats, out of which they can crawl ashore, do a deep raid 
inland, cutting a vital communication, and then back, leaving a trail of 
German corpses behind them.' 1 

Amphibious warfare had always fascinated Churchill, no doubt as a 
result of the ill-starred Dardanelles venture which had been his particular 
brain child, and which, if it had been truly amphibious, probably would 
have resulted in the defeat of Germany in 1915. In July 1940 he set up 
Combined Operations under Admiral Sir Roger Keyes, which initiated 
the daring commando raids that put Britain on the offensive. Time and 
again one finds him urging amphibious tactics. He repeatedly urged the 
commanders of the desert war to mount a surprise landing from the sea 
but this advice was never heeded. And later on, when the attack on Italy 
was in preparation one finds him anxious to employ the sea-borne land- 
ings boldly. 'Why crawl up the leg like a harvest bug from the ankle 
upwards? Let us rather strike at the knee!' 

Churchill's flat-bottomed boats were invented and not only played a 
major part in the commando raids, but became absolutely essential equip- 
ment for the final cross-Channel invasion of France. But undoubtedly his 
most important contribution was the idea of the great artificial harbours 
around which the D-day operation was built He had conceived this idea 
as far back as 1917 when he prepared a scheme for the capture of the two 
Frisian islands, Borkum and Sylt, which he submitted to Lloyd George. 
In this paper he suggested making an artificial island in the shallow waters 
of Horn RcefL 'A number of flat-bottomed barges or caissons, made not of steel, 
but of concrete, should be prepared. . . . These structures would be adapted 
to the depths in which they were to be sunk, according to a general plan. 
They would float when empty of water, and thus could be towed across to 
the site of the artificial island. On arrival at the buoys marking the island 
sea-cocks would be opened, and they would settle down on the bottom. 
They could subsequently be gradually filled with sand, as opportunity 
served, by suction dredgers. By this means a torpedo- and weather-proof 
harbotir, like an atoll, would be created in the open sea, with regular pens for the 
destroyers and submarines, and alighting-platforms for aeroplanes'* 

Churchill fortunately did not publish this document when he came to 

1 Their Finest Hour: Winston S. Churchill 


write The World Crisis and now he began toying with this particular brain 
child again. Frances Perkins quotes President Roosevelt as saying: 'You 
know, that was Churchill's idea. Just one of those brilliant ideas that he 
has. He has a hundred a day and about four of them are good.* But Roose- 
velt apparently was unaware that Winston had been mulling over the pro- 
ject for many years, for he continued: 'When he was up visiting me in 
Hyde Park he saw all those boats from the last war tied up in the Hudson 
River and in one of his bursts of imagination he said, "By George, we 
could take those ships and others like them that are good for nothing and 
sink them offshore to protect the landings." I thought well of it myself 
and we talked about it all afternoon. The military and naval authorities 
were startled out of a year's growth. But Winnie is right. Great fellow, 
that Churchill, if you can keep up with him/ 1 

XxJut it was not only in the field of amphibious war that Churchill made 
Ms contribution. He gave advice over the entire operational field. Scarcely 
an undertaking was formed that he did not submit to the Chiefs of Staff 
detailed and technical papers advising on how the plan should be executed. 
This was almost without parallel; no British political leader, with the 
possible exception of Pitt the Elder, had ever exerted such a powerful 
influence on strategy and tactics; not even Roosevelt, who by rights was 
Commander-in-Chief of the American Army, attempted to assume any 
like responsibility. 'During the war/ testified General Eisenhower, 
'Churchill maintained such dose contact with all operations as to make 
him a virtual member of the British Chiefs of Staff; I cannot remember 
any major discussion with them in which he did not participate/ 2 

Even Lloyd George's ascendancy in the first World War never reached 
the same scale. Lloyd George had been the inventor of the small, all- 
powerful War Cabinet which Winston copied. This Cabinet, like Chur- 
chill's, had supreme control as long as it had the support of Parliament. It 
had the authority to dictate strategy and insist that generals carried out its 
policies. But in the first War this right was never exercised, for public 
opinion was strongly averse to political interference in military matters, 
lie professional soldier was king. The design of a batde was a 
matter for generals, and generals alone. 

This had disastrous results. To-day very few experts would care to 
defend the strategy of tie first War, with its terrible and unnecessary 
slaughter. Lloyd George tells how strongly he opposed the futile holo- 
caust of Passchendade. He protested repeatedly bolt orally and in writing, 
but he was not strong enough to carry the Cabinet in reversing the com- 

1 The Roosevelt I Knew: Frances Perkins. 
* Crusade in Europe: Dwight D. Eisenhower. 


manders on the spot. In his memoirs he gives a vivid discourse on this 
subject. He denounces the generals who sent their armies rime and again 
to needless doom in scathing tones: 'Such highly gifted men as the British 
Army possessed were consigned to the mud by orders of men superior in 
rank but inferior in capacity, who themselves kept at a safe distance from 
the slime which they had chosen as the terrain where their plans were to 
operate/ Lloyd George makes the final summary: 'Looking back on this 
devastating war and surveying the part played in it by statesmen and 
soldiers respectively in its direction, I have .come definitely to the con- 
clusion that the former showed too much caution in exerting their auth- 
ority over the military leaders. They might have done so either by a direct 
and imperative order from the Government or by making representations 
followed, if those were not effective in answering that purpose, by a 
change in the military leadership.' 1 

Churchill took these lessons to heart. He was determined to dominate 
the military machine from the start. As with Lloyd George, his power was 
dependent on the War Cabinet, and the War Cabinet on the House of 
Commons. But in 1940 he was the leader of a completely united nation. 
The War Cabinet were inspired by him, and were content to tak the 
burden of home affairs off his shoulders and let him direct the military 
effort. But it must be remembered that his authority depended on this 
body. If, for example, the Chiefs of Staff had resented his advice or inter- 
ference, and had secured the backing of the War Cabinet, he would have 
been forced to give way. But the issue never arose. The War Cabinet gave 
him firm support throughout the struggle, and the only man who sat in 
it continuously from beginning to end, Clement Atdee, the leader of the 
Labour Party, never faltered in his loyalty. During the difficulties of 
January 1942 Churchill records that Atdee 'sustained the Government case 
with vigour and even fierceness.' 2 It is also worth emphasizing that no 
crisis ever took pkce between Churchill and his Chiefs of Staff; not one of 
them ever threatened to resign during the whole six years of conflict. 
This is some proof that the Prime Minister with his wide knowledge of 
military history, and his detailed study of tactics, was enough of a pro- 
fessional soldier to give advice that was useful and often brilliant. 'Dis- 
cussion with him,* writes Eisenhower, 'even on purely professional 
grounds, was never profitless.' 

Winston's suggestions for the conduct of the war covered a vast sphere. 
Sometimes he advised on the movement of ships; on coastal fortifications; 
on the strength and position of Air Force squadrons; the deployment of 

1 War Memoirs of David Lloyd George. 
* The Hinge of Fate: Winston S. Churchill 


troops; equipment of all kinds; the relative merit of different weapons; 
new inventions; scientific experiments; and hundreds of other subjects. 
On several occasions he pressed the Chiefs of Staff to over-rule com- 
manders on the spot who did not agree with directives sent them from 
London. Churchill directly influenced the decision not to evacuate Calais, 
and refused to accept General WavelTs advice to make terms with the 
Iraq Government over the Habbania incident. General Eisenhower was 
fascinated at the control he exerted. When he spent a week-end at Ditch- 
ley he saw for himself the extent of Churchill's influence. 'Operational 
messages arrived every few hours from London headquarters/ he wrote, 
'and Mr. Churchill always participated with the British Chiefs in the 
formation and despatch of instructions, even those that were strictly 
military, sometimes only tactical, in character.* 1 

Churchill's authority was very remarkable since, as he himself pointed 
out to Roosevelt and Stalin, he was the only one of the three who could 
be dismissed instantly at any time. Stalin was not an elected representative; 
and Roosevelt was secure for his four-year term. Harry Hopkins delivered 
a speech at Teheran in which he said that he had made 'a very long and 
thorough study of the British Constitution which is unwritten, and of the 
War Cabinet, whose authority and composition are not specifically 
defined.' As a result, he said: 'I have learned that the provisions of the 
British Constitution and the powers of the War Cabinet are just whatever 
Winston Churchill wants them to be.* 2 This was a tribute to Churchill's 
persuasiveness for the hard truth was that, imliln* the other two leaders, 
Winston exercised his authority only by permission of the War Cabinet; 
and the War Cabinet was willing and able to grant this authority only so 
long as he commanded the confidence of Parliament. 

Once or twice this confidence was in doubt. In the early months of 1942 
Churchill's position was seriously undermined. The previous six months 
had been grim and anxious. Greece and Crete had been over-run; Yugo- 
slavia was invaded; the British Army had suffered set-backs in North 
Africa; the British Navy had lost two battleships the Prince of Wales and 
the Repulse which were sunk by the Japanese at Singapore. The press was 
openly hostile and for the first time since he had taken office the Prime 
Minister was under fire. In some quarters there was even talk of his 
resignation, and the extreme Left exerted pressure to put Stafford Cripps 
in his place. Winston faced the storm and on 29 January, 1942, demanded 
a Vote of Confidence from the Commons. The result was surprising. 
Only the Independent Labour Party, numbering three members, refused 

1 Crusade in Europe: Dwight D. Eisenhower. 

* The WUteHouse Papers of 'Harry L. Hopkins: Robert E. Sherwood. 


to support him, and since two were tellers, only one vote was recorded 
against him. Less than six months later his leadership was again challenged. 
This time criticism was precipitated by the fall of Tobruk. A Conservative 
put down a Motion of Censure against him, but once more he had a 
sweeping victory. The vote was 475 to 25. Despite Hopkins* compliment, 
Churchill was always acutely conscious of the fact that his leadership was 
dependent on Parliament. 

However, it is not impossible to draw a parallel between Winston's 
leadership and that of his ancestor the soldier Duke of Marlborough. 
Professor Trevelyan writes that Marlborough 'acted as head of the State 
in war-time for all military and diplomatic affairs, but he left to his col- 
leagues the management of Parliament.' Winston left to his colleagues the 
management of home affairs. They both concentrated on war, diplomacy 
and foreign relations. Marlborough was a commander who assumed the 
role of statesman, while Churchill was a statesman who assumed the role 
of commander. 

All this was behind the scenes. The public saw tie Prime Minister as a 
fighting man who expressed in stirring language the emotions they felt 
but could not put into words. He lifted millions of men and women out 
of their humdrum lives and inspired them with a sense of mission; he 
emblazoned the British cause across the world as the defence of freedom 
and justice. He represented in his own person the spirit of indomitable 
England. When he accepted office in 1940 he told the House of Commons, 
'I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.' Whereupon, in a 
characteristic manner, the nation drew a deep breath of relief and took 
new heart. 

His fierce and moving speeches, sometimes filled with passion, some- 
times with humanity, made him the spokesman of all the democratic 
world. No one who was in the House of Commons on 4 June, 1940, when 
France was being over-run, will forget the thrill of emotion that went 
through the assembly when he said in his strange rough voice: * We shall 
go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and 
the oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing; strength 
in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall 
fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the Unjmg grounds, we shall fight 
in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the Mis; we shall never sur- 
render, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a 
large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the 
seas, armed and guarded by the British fleet, would carry on the struggle 


until, in God's good time, the new worlS, with all its power and might, 
steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.' 

No single man had worked harder to prevent the second World War than 
Winston, yet once the conflict had begun no leader enjoyed the excite- 
ment of the clash more tfon he. From youth his imagination had been 
stirred by the great battles that had decided the history of Europe, by the 
relentless struggle for power between men of different nations and differ- 
ent creeds. Churchill was a fighter and the stakes were high: for the first 
time in his life he had the opportunity of employing all his genius and 
energy in a cause in which he passionately believed. 'In my long political 
experience I had held most of the great offices of State/ he wrote, 'but I 
readily admit that the post which had now fallen to me [the Premiership] 
was the one I liked best. Power, for the sake of lording it over fellow- 
creatures or adding to personal pomp, is rightly judged base. But power 
in a national crisis, when a man believes he knows what orders should be 
given, is a blessing.' 1 

He had always been a fearless man and derived excitement from 
physical danger. During the London blitz it was with the greatest diffi- 
culty that he was persuaded not to sleep at 10 Downing Street, which was 
a natural target for German bombers, but to move to the shelter in a 
Government building by Storey's Gate, which came to be known as the 
'Annexe'. Often when there was the drone of enemy planes overhead, 
when the guns were thundering and flashing and there was the steady 
crash of bombs exploding, he insisted on going up on the roof to see the 
sights. On one of these occasions an air raid warden approached him 
timidly and said: If if you'll kindly excuse me, sir, would you mind 
moving?' 'Why?' growled Winston. 'Well, sir, you are sitting on the 
smoke vent, sir, and the building's full of smoke.' 

Throughout his life it had always been Winston's nature to dramatize 
whatever part he was called upon to pky and the war gave him a natural 
and an extensive scope. From childhood he believed he had been put on 
earth to perform a special service, and when the Premiership was offered 
to him at the very moment that German troops were streaming across 
France he was certain his mission was being realized. 'I felt as if I were 
walking with Destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation 
for this hour and for this trial* 2 

Conscious of his great position, Churchill was every inch a Prime 

1 Their Finest Hour: Winston S. ChurdbilL 
1 The Gathering Storm: Winston S. Churchill. 


Minister. Occasionally I had the honour of being invited to 10 Downing 
Street for lunch. A low-ceilinged room below the ground floor which, 
I believe, was once the servants' hall, had been turned into a dining-room, 
and there were seldom more than seven or eight guests. Winston usually 
came into the room in a blue siren suit looking remarkably like a teddy 
bear with an air as autocratic as a monarch. I used to watch the guests 
struggling between surprise at his comic appearance and awe at his dignity. 
The success of the lunch depended entirely on what sort of mood he was 
in; sometimes he ate in such sullen silence your heart sank as you imag- 
ined that the war had taken some grave turn for the worse; at other rimes 
he was buoyantly talkative and held the table with a brilliant monologue. 
But whatever the atmosphere, Mr. Churchill was always unquestionably 
the master. No one dared pursue a topic of conversation that did not meet 
with his approval; no one dared to ask any questions or take any liberties. 
Many guests would have found royalty easier to deal with. 

Winston was aware of the fact that he was making history and as a 
result he wrote his minutes and directives with care so that they would 
bear the scrutiny of posterity. He saw the great batde Britain was fighting 
in its true historical perspective and it is not at all surprising that on more 
than one occasion he compared his position with that of Marlborough. 
For example, in Their Finest Hour he comments on the dose relationship 
he maintained with the King and Queen. C I valued as a signal honour the 
gracious intimacy with which I, as First Minister, was treated, for which I 
suppose there has been no precedent since the days of Queen Anne and 
Marlborough during his years of power/ 

But the feet that Winston executed his task with pride, and even relish, 
does not mean that he had a cold heart On the contrary he was always 
deeply moved by suffering he saw with his own eyes. During the London 
blitz he often toured the Metropolis to inspect the damage, and on more 
than one occasion people saw him in tears. When he saw a small shop in 
ruins he was so upset, imagining the owner's distress at losing not only a 
home but a livelihood, and perhaps his savings as well, that he resolved 
then and there that compensation for all damaged property must be paid 
by the State. Thus the policy of war damage came into being. 

On another occasion General Eisenhower witnessed an example of 
Winston's emotionalism. *One day a British major-general happened to 
refer to soldiers, in the technical language of the British staff officer, as 
"bodies"/ writes the General. "The Prime Minister interrupted with an 
impassioned speech of condemnation he said it was inhuman to talk of 
soldiers in such cold-blooded fashion, and that it sounded as if they were 
merely freight or, worse, corpses! I must confess I always felt the same 


way about the expression, but on that occasion my sympathies were with 
the staff officer who, to his own obvious embarrassment, had innocently 
drawn on himself the displeasure of the Prime Minister/ 1 

Although Churchill carried the great burden of the war with zest, 
anyone who imagines that he never suffered from its weight is mistaken. 
More than once it seemed almost crushing. In his war memoirs he tells 
how in June 1941 he went to his home at Chartwell, alone, to await the 
news of General WavelTs final attempt to destroy Rommel's army; and 
how when he learned that the attack had failed he wandered about the 
valley disconsolately for some hours. On one or two occasions I also saw 
him deeply depressed. In the autumn of 1940 1 motored to Chequers for 
lunch. Mrs. Churchill was away and only his daughter Mary and daughter- 
in-law Pamela were there. Just before lunch was announced one of 
Churchill's private secretaries came into the room and handed Mm a 
message from the Foreign Office. He read it standing before the mantel- 
piece in the drawing-room. Then, unexpectedly, he handed it to me. The 
message was a report picked up from the Berlin wireless stating that Petain 
had agreed to turn over to the Germans all aerodromes and ports in un- 
occupied France. 

Churchill was plunged into a state of gloom. He came into the dining- 
room but ate very little and sat halfway through the meal with his elbows 
on the table holding his head in his hands. The secretary who had brought 
the news reminded him that it was only a report from Berlin and likely 
to be untrue, but the Prime Minister would not be consoled. 'If it is true, 
it is a bitter blow,' he said. 

At last lunch mercifully ended and Churchill went out for a walk. I left 
about four o'clock and before I went he came back into the drawing-room 
as vigorous and as lion-hearted as ever. He had received a message that the 
report was false. 

A few months later I went again to Chequers, this time to be the god- 
mother of Randolph Churchill's son, Winston junior. The christening 
took place in a small chapel about a mile from the house. Due to a break- 
down in my car I did not arrive until the ceremony had begun, and found 
a place reserved for me between Mr. Churchill and his son. I had always 
heard that the Prime Minister's emotions were easily stirred and at times 
he could be as sentimental as a woman, and on this occasion I had proof of 
it, for he sat throughout the ceremony with tears streaming down his 
cheeks. 'Poor infant,' he murmured, 'to be born into such a world as this.' 

After the christening we returned to Chequers for lunch. Only the 
family, Lord Rothermere, and the three godfathers, Lord Beaverbrook, 

1 CrusaJe in Europe: Dwight D. Eisenhower. 


Lord Brownlow and Brendan Bracken, were present Bcaverbrook rose 
and proposed a toast to the baby, then turned to Churchill whose birthday 
it had been the day before, and proposed a toast to him. Beaverbrook was 
eloquent and reminded us that we had the honour to be in the presence of 
a man who would be remembered as long as the civilized world existed. 
Once again I looked up to see Churchill weeping. When he was called 
upon to reply he rose, and in a voice unsteady with emotion, said: 'In these 
days I often think of Our Lord.' Then he sat down. I have never forgotten 
those simple words and if he enjoyed waging the war let it be remem- 
bered that he understood the anguish of it as well. 

But Churchill was enormously resilient. He never remained downcast for 
long. Indeed his moods could change so rapidly that frequently those who 
worked with him were uncertain how to handle hiim He often punctured 
his own indignation by a flashing witticism that completely altered the 
whole atmosphere. Once when he was fuming about his difficulties with 
General de Gaulle he said suddenly: 'Of all the crosses I have to bear, the 
cross of Lorraine is the heaviest/ On another occasion his cousin Clare 
Sheridan tells how she was working on a sculpture of him. She had been 
given permission to sit in his bedroom in the morning, and while he sat 
up in bed reading his reports and telegrams, to get on as best she could* 
She had finished the high forehead and determined mouth, and was 
moulding the jutting chin. Churchill who had been concentrating fiercely 
on his papers suddenly jumped out. of bed to take a look at what she had 
done. His forbidding expression melted into a warm smile. 'Forget 
Mussolini/ he said, 'and remember that I am the servant of the House of 



WHEN THE war ended the Russian Bear glowered over half of Europe. 
Stalin had emerged with all the spoils. He had enlarged the Soviet boun- 
daries by hundreds of miles; he had substituted Communism for political 
freedom in seven sovereign European states; he had extended his influence 
throughout the Far East It was not surprising that William Bullitt, a 
former American Ambassador to Moscow, wrote an article entitled: How 
We Won the War and Lost the Peace, for no one could pretend that the 
post-war world was what the democratic leaders had envisaged. 

When Churchill and Roosevelt met at Newfoundland in 1941, four 
months before the Japanese attack drew the United States into the con- 
flict, they had drawn up a remarkable document, the Atlantic Charter, 
setting forth the peace aims on which they both agreed. They wished to 
see the independence of small nations firmly established; the rights of man 
upheld; the free and democratic system of government spread as far and 
wide as possible. What happened to the vision? Did the democratic 
leaders blunder? What responsibility does Churchill bear? 

It was a peculiar twist of fate that ordained Churchill to be the first, and 
so far the only, British Prime Minister to visit Joseph Stalin. No English- 
man had fought against Bolshevism with greater passion. In 1919 he was 
largely responsible for the Allied military intervention against the Red 
Army; in the nineteen-twenties he preached the evils and dangers of the 
Marxist creed on a hundred platforms'; in 1937 he declared: 1 will not 
pretend that, if I had to choose between Communism and Nazism, I 
would choose Communism/ The dictatorship of the proletariat with its 
repressive and terrible regimentation, its slaughter of the bourgeoisie, its 
atheism, its elimination of all the refinements of life, outraged and repelled 
Churchill's sensibilities. Yet when Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet 
Union he did not hesitate to hold out his hand. 

On the evening of 21 June, 1941, he was walking on the croquet lawn 
at Chequers with his secretary Mr. Colville. He knew from intelligence 
reports that a German attack on Russia was only a matter of hours. He 
told Colville that if ffider believed he would rally the Right-wing forces 
in Britain he was mistaken, for England would fight on the side of the 



Soviet Union. Colville asked Churchill whether, in view of his position 
as an arch anti-Communist, this was not bowing down in the House of 
Rimmon. 'Not at all,' replied Winston. 1 have only one purpose, the 
destruction of Hitler, and my life is much simplified thereby. If Hitler 
invaded Hell I would make at least a favourable reference to the Devil in 
the House of Commons/ 1 

The next morning the news broke that Germany had opened her attack 
on Russia and that same evening Winston publicly cast his lot with the 
Soviets. 'No one has been a more consistent opponent of Communism 
than I have been for the last twenty-five years/ he told the British people 
in a broadcast 1 will unsay no word that I have spoken about it. But all 
this fades away before the spectacle which is now unfolding. The past 
with its crimes, its follies, and its tragedies, flashes away. I see die Russian 
soldiers standing on the threshold of their native land, guarding the fields 
which their fathers have tilled from time immemorial. . . . Can you doubt 
what our policy will be? We have but one aim and one single irrevocable 
purpose. We are resolved to destroy Hitler and every vestige of the Nazi 
regime. From this nothing will turn us nothing. We will never parley, 
we will never negotiate with Hitler or any of his gang. We shall fight him 
by land, we shall fight him by sea, we shall fight him in the air, until, with 
God's help, we have rid the earth of his shadow and liberated its peoples 
from his yoke. Any man or state who fights on against Nazidom will lave 

our aid. Any man or state who marches with Hitler is our foe That 

is our policy and that is our declaration. It follows therefore that we shall 
give whatever help we can to Russia and the Russian people/ 

This statement raised the curtain on the uneasy and temperamental 
partnership with the Soviet Union that dissolved so swiftly after the dose 
of the war. Churchill wrote Stalin a letter and the Dictator replied thank- 
ing the Prime Minister for his support. The relationship between the two 
men was bound to be dramatic, for each had long recognized the other as 
a formidable and implacable opponent. For years they had studied each 
other's moves with careful attention; they despised and feared each other's 
system of government; they upheld philosophies diametrically opposed. 
They could clasp hands on only one issue: survival against Germany. Yet 
their personalities were not altogether unlike. Both were dominating, blunt 
and practical, and neither left the other in any doubt as to his views. They 
enjoyed good food, good drink, and they both liked to sit up late talking. 
From the point of view of conviviality they had something in common. 
Churchill's first meeting with Stalin took place in Moscow in August 
1942, just fourteen months after the Soviet Union had been drawn into 
1 The Grand Alliance: Winston S. Churchill 


the war. Winston was received with appropriate ceremony, and driven to 
a luxurious country house on the outskirts of the city, which was known 
as State ViUa No. 7. In one of his first interviews with Stalin an amusing 
exchange took place which perhaps illustrates the difference of approach 
between the Eastern and Western mind. Winston was charmed to find, 
in the groupds of State Villa No. 7, a fountain and a tank full of goldfish. 
He assumed that Stalin had heard that goldfish were one of his hobbies and 
had ordered the tank to be especially installed. At one of his first interviews 
with the Russian dictator he told him how delighted he was with the fish, 
and thanked him for being so thoughtful Stalin looked slightly taken 
aback, for he probably did not even know the tank existed. But he in- 
structed the interpreter to tell the Prime Minister that he was gratified he 
liked the fish and would he care to take them back to London with him? 
This time it was Churchill's turn to be taken aback for he had no desire to 
carry a bowl of ordinary goldfish to England. He thanked the dictator 
but said he would have to refuse his offer as the fish would not travel well 
in a bomber. Stalin nodded and spoke to the interpreter who said: 'Since 
the Prime Minister is unable to take the fish with hi, would he care to 
have them for breakfast?' 

Churchill's dealings with Stalin were always difficult, and often un- 
pleasant. From the moment the German attack began, the British arranged 
to send the Russians millions of pounds' worth of supplies, induing 
rubber, oil, aluminium, doth, tanks, guns and planes. Some of the 
materials came from British factories, others from American firms ear- 
marked for England under Lend-Lease. Shipping these supplies to Russia 
entailed a great sacrifice for Churchill, as they were desperately needed by 
the British themselves to equip their armies in the Middle East and build 
up air supremacy over the Germans. Besides this, Britain had the difficult 
task of delivering the goods. The Royal Navy had to organize and operate 
convoys to Murmansk and Archangel through the dangerous Arctic 
passage, a performance which continued throughout the war. Yet Britain 
received very litde thanks for her effort, for the Russian dictator wanted 
only one thing: a second front. 

Stalin's demand for a second front came die month after the Germans 
launched their attack on him. It was not only an impossible request but, 
considering the circumstances, one of the most brazen ever made. After 
all, it was Stalin, by his pact of friendship with the Nazis in 1939, who had 
given Hitler the signal to begin the war. He had hdped the Germans to 
tear Poland to pieces, invaded Finland and occupied the Baltic States. Then 


he had sent Germany a flow of materials in order to expedite the attack on 
France. When the air assault on England began, Molotov had even gone 
so far as to meet von Ribbentrop in Berlin to discuss 'dividing up* the 
British Empire. Now, in 1941, having been caught unawares by his 
treacherous ally, Stalin imperiously and unashamedly demanded that the 
British should re-open the second front which he himself had helped to 
destroy only twelve months previously. 

Churchill explained to the Russian dictator that his demand was out of 
the question. An amphibious operation against strongly fortified positions 
demanded hundreds of landing craft and thousands of pounds of equip- 
ment which would take many months to accumulate. Nevertheless Stalin 
kept hammering this theme, and continued to hammer it, until the "in- 
vasion plans were completed two years later. At times the relations 
between Britain and Russia seemed near a breaking-point, for Stalin 
refused to see the operational difficulties involved. In September 1941 Mr. 
Maisky, the Soviet Ambassador, called on Churchill emphasizing the 
extreme gravity of the situation, and when Winston explained as he had 
done so often before the impossibility of a second front at that time, he 
began to threaten Viirn. *When I sensed an underlying air of menace in his 
appeal,' writes Churchill, 1 was angered. I said to the Ambassador, whom 
I kid known for many years, "Remember that only four months ago we 
in this island did not know whether you were not coming in against us on 
the German side. Indeed, we thought it quite likely that you would. Even 
then we felt sure we should win in the end. We never thought our sur- 
vival was dependent on your action either way. Whatever happens, and 
whatever you do, you of all people have no right to make reproaches to 
us." As I warmed to the topic the Ambassador exclaimed, "More calm, 
please, my dear Mr. Churchill," but thereafter his tone perceptibly 

Stalin's demands were not only confined to military matters. From the 
very beginning he kept his political objectives well in view. Seven months 
after his country was invaded he formally asked Britain and the United 
States to recognize Russia's 1940 frontiers; these, of course, included the 
great territorial gains he had seized, as Germany's ally, in Poland, Finland 
and the Baltic States. It was remarkable that he could remain calculating 
enough to make these requests at a time when his armies were being 
hurled back, and the very existence of his country was at stake. His timing 
was shrewd for it must not be forgotten that for two years the Allies 
laboured under the spasmodic fear that Russia might sign a separate peace. 

Churchill at first reacted strongly against Stalin's demand then, two 

1 The Grand Alliance: Winston S. Churchill 


months later, surprisingly enough, he acceded to it and tried to persuade 
Roosevelt to accept it. His argument was that the Russians had already 
liquidated so many people in the Baltic States that there was very little 
left to protect. The President, however, was adamant, insisting that the 
demands- were not in keeping with the Atlantic Charter. The reason 
Churchill gives in The Hinge of Fate for his sudden deviation is lame and 
unconvincing. He says he did not feel 'the moral position could be 
physically maintained' and that 'in a deadly struggle it is not right to 
assume more burdens than those who are fighting a great cause can main- 
tain/ This attitude is not at all in keeping with Winston's character and 
one can only regard his explanation as a poor excuse for one of the very 
few kpses of this type in his career. However, before the war was over it 
was Roosevelt, and not Churchill, who was paving the way for the fulfil- 
ment of Russia's political aims. 

The attitude of the Soviet Union in its dealings with Britain was 
haughty and often insulting. Churchill writes that they 'had the impres- 
sion that they were conferring a great favour on us by fighting in their 
own country for their own lives. The more they fought the heavier our 
debt became.' 1 British personnel stationed in Russia were invariably 
treated with cold hostility. Permits were withheld and information denied 
them, as though they were enemy aliens. Even the British sailors who ran 
the convoys to Murmansk and Archangel were so badly used that 
Churchill was forced to issue a series of vehement protests. 

Stalin sometimes ignored Winston's telegrams altogether, at other times 
delayed his replies for weeks at a time. Occasionally the tone of his mes- 
sage was friendly but more often it was laden with reproaches. Churchill 
declares that he bore them with a patient shrug for 'sufferance is the badge 
of all who have to deal with the Kremlin/ 

However, when the two leaders met face to face they did not get on 
badly. Although they disagreed on the issues involved they were fas- 
cinated by each other's reactions. At their first meeting Stalin teased 
Churchill for having taken a leading part in the Allied military interven- 
tion in Russia at the end of the first war. He declared that when Lady 
Astor visited the Soviet Union she had told him that Churchill had misled 
Lloyd George and was therefore entirely to blame. Then she went on to 
assure Hm that Churchill was finished. 'I am not so sure,' Stalin had 
replied. 'If a great crisis comes the English people might turn to the old 
war-horse.' Winston laughed at this recital. 'Have you forgiven me?' he 

1 The Grand Affiance: Winston S. Churchill 


asked. Stalin replied with a smile: 'All that is in the past and the past 
belongs to God/ 1 

The next night Churchill got a little of his own back on Stalin. The 
dictator invited him to dinner at his flat in the Kremlin. Only Molotov 
and an interpreter were present. Stalin's daughter waited on the table but 
she did not sit down. The Marshal uncorked rows of bottles and the three 
men sat talking from 8.30 until 2.30 in the morning. They carried on a 
light-hearted conversation but every now and then the vein became more 
serious. This time it was Churchill's turn to probe into the past, and he 
gives a fascinating account of it in his Second World War. * "Tell me," I 
asked, "have the stresses of this war been as bad to you personally as 
carrying through the policy of the Collective Farms?" . . . "Oh no," said 
Stalin, "the Collective Farm policy was a terrible struggle." "I thought 
you would have found it bad," said I, "because you were not dealing with 
a few score thousands of aristocrats or big landowners, but with millions 
of small men." "Ten millions," he said, holding up his hands. "It was 
fearful. Four years it lasted. It was absolutely necessary for Russia, if we 
were to avoid periodic famines, to plough the land with tractors. We must 
mechanize our agriculture. When we gave tractors to the peasants they 
were all spoiled in a few months. Only Collective Farms with workshops 
could handle tractors. We took the greatest trouble to explain it to the 
peasants. It was no use arguing with them. After you have said all you can 
to a peasant he says he must go home and consult his wife, and he must 
consult his herder. . . , After he has talked it over with them he always 
answers that he does not want the Collective Farm and he would rather 
do without the tractors." "These were what you call Kulaks?" I asked* 
"Yes," said Stalin. . . . "It was all very bad and difficult but necessary." * 
This appears to have been the most intimate conversation Churchill ever 
had with Stalin. 

Although the two men got on well personally, Churchill could never 
rid his mind of the terror that ky behind Stalin's rule. When he discussed 
the Collective Farm policy he could not escape the vision of the three 
million Kulaks who had been cruelly exterminated in the enforcement of 
the system. He found it difficult to put out of his mind the killing and the 
suffering, the concentration camps and the slave labour on which Stalin's 
absolute power rested. 

These feelings were sharpened in the spring of 1943 when the Polish 

1 The Hinge of Fate: Winston S. Churchill. 


Government accused the Russians of the massacre of fourteen thousand 
officers who had been taken prisoner by the Soviets when the latter in- 
vaded Poland. Sikorski claimed that he had proof that their bodies lay in 
mass graves in the Katyn Woods. The Soviets did not deny that they were 
dead but claimed that the slaughter was done by the Germans when they 
overran the region. Churchill was sickened by the crime and after prob- 
ing the evidence found it difficult to believe that the deed had been per- 
petrated by anyone but the Russians. When the war ended this evidence 
was strengthened still further by the fact that although many German war 
criminals were tried at Nuremberg, the Soviet Government did not 
attempt to dear its own name by proving them guilty of the atrocity. 
Instead, they avoided all mention of the Katyn murders. 

Churchill's abhorrence of the totalitarian disregard for human life 
evinced itself in a personal incident at Teheran. Stalin gave a dinner for 
Churchill^ Roosevelt and four or five of their closest advisers. In the course 
of the evening the dictator declared that when the war was over the 
German General Staff must be liquidated. The whole force of Hitler's 
armies, he claimed, depended on fifty thousand officers and technicians, 
and all these must be rounded up and Shot. Churchill was repelled by the 
idea of such coldblooded murder and said: 'The British Parliament- and 
public will never tolerate mass executions. Even if in war passion they 
allowed them to begin, they would turn violently against those responsible 
after the first butchery had taken place. The Soviets must be under no 
delusion on this point.' 1 

Stalin insisted on pursuing the subject, and repeated that fifty thousand 
must be shot. Churchill reddened with anger and declared that he would 
'rather be taken out in the garden here and now and be shot myself than 
sully my own and my country's honour by such infamy'. 2 The other 
members at the table were obviously embarrassed at the turn the conver- 
sation had taken and signalled to Winston that it was all a joke. Where- 
upon Elliot*- Roosevelt, the President's son, who had joined the party 
uninvited, rose from the end of the table and made a speech saying how 
whole-heartedly he agreed with Stalin, and how sure he was that the 
United States Army would support it. , This impertinent and fatuous 
intervention was more than Churchill could bear. He left the table and 
walked off into the other room. A few minutes later Stalin himself, grin- 
ning broadly, dapped a hand on his back and explained it was all in fun. 
Churchill was not convinced then, nor is he now, that the Marshal was 
joking. The incident is important, for Winston's refusal to lend himself 
1 Closing the Rmg: Winston S. Churchill 


even to a jest involving moral principles is some indication of how wide 
was the chasm between him and the Russian master. 

Churchill was always conscious of this division. He knew that when the 
war ended Russia would be the dominant power on the Continent. Why 
did he think that the Soviet Union with its system of absolute rule, the 
complete antithesis of political freedom, would be willing to sit back and 
watch Roosevelt and himself furthering the spread of Western democracy 
under the terms of the Atlantic Charter? 

The answer is that Churchill did not believe that Stalin would watch 
the process with favour, but he hoped that if the British and American 
partnership was dose and strong enough, he would be forced to acquiesce 
to it This was the whole basis of his post-war conception. In a letter to 
Held Marshal Smuts on 5 September, 1943, he said: 'I think it inevitable 
that Russia will be the greatest land Power in the world after this war, 
which will have rid her of the two military Powers, Japan and Germany, 
who in our lifetime have inflicted upon her such heavy defeats. I hope 
however that the "fraternal association" of the British Commonwealth 
and the United States, together with sea and air power, may put us on 
good terms and in a friendly balance with Russia at least for the period of 
rebuilding. Further than that I cannot see with mortal eye, and I am not as 
yet fully informed about the celestial telescopes/ 1 

Since Churchill's plans for the post-war world were based on the key- 
stone of a strong Anglo-American alliance, it is not surprising that he 
should have bent all his energies towards establishing a firm and intimate 
relationship with President Roosevelt. But it would be wrong to give 
the impression that Winston was motivated chiefly by self-interest. 
Logically the partnership seemed right; before the war Winston had 
developed this same theme in his History of the English-Speaking Peoples. 
But leaving logic aside, he had a profound, almost romantic, admiration 
for the United States which he liked to refer to as 'the great Republic*. 
Emotionally he was deeply stirred by the vision of Britain, with her age 
and wisdom, and America, with her youth and power, endowing the 
world with safety and peace. 

Churchill never failed to dramatize hiirigglf and since he was half- 
English and half-American by birth he felt he had been appointed by 
Destiny to bring the partnership about. He was especially conscious of 
this when he made his historic address to the Congress of the United 
States in December 1941. "the occasion was important,' he writes, 'for 

1 Closing the Ring: Winston S. Churchill 


what I was sure was the all-conquering alliance of the English-speaking 
peoples. I had never addressed a foreign Parliament before. Yet to me, 
who could trace unbroken male descent on my mother's side through five 
generations from a lieutenant who served in George Washington's army, 
it was possible to feel a blood-right to speak to the representatives of the 
great Republic in our common cause. It certainly was odd that it should 
all work out this way; and once again I had the feeling, for mentioning 
which I may be pardoned, of being used, however unworthy, in some 
appointed plan/ 1 

Churchill's friendship and affection for Roosevelt were certainly not 
manufactured. He had a deep, even fierce, loyalty to the President which 
sprang from Roosevelt's courageous help to Britain in her most desperate 
hour. Churchill never forgot how in January 1941 Harry Hopkins had 
appeared in London with a message from his chief. 'The President is deter- 
mined that we shall win the war together. Make no mistake about it. He 
has sent me here to tell you that at all costs and by all means he will carry 
you through, no matter what happens to him there is nothing that he 
will not do so far as he has human power/ 2 

This won Churchill's everlasting gratitude; even now when he relates 
the incident his eyes fill with tears. 'He is the greatest friend Britain has 
ever had/ he declared with emotion. And from then on, he allowed no 
Englishman to forget it. No one, not even a member of Winston's most 
intimate circle, has ever been permitted to make a disparaging remark 
about the President; and this rule still holds good to-day. 

But apart from Winston's indebtedness, he was charmed by Roosevelt's 
easy, friendly manner; he was also impressed by his ingenuity in moulding 
public opinion and his adroitness at winning elections talents which had 
never come easily to Churchill. Both men enjoyed the rough excitement 
of political life and both were always considerate of the domestic problems 
the other had to take into account. Their friendship began in 1939 when 
Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty and Roosevelt wrote hi a 
sympathetic letter. This started a long and intimate correspondence, un- 
precedented between the heads of two great Powers, which continued 
until Roosevelt's death. Since both men were capable of making up their 
minds and taking decisions on the spot they soon fell into the habit of 
by-passing their ambassadors and communicating directly on almost all 
important matters. Sometimes when affairs were pressing they rang each 
other up on the telephone. 

They met on ten separate occasions during the war. These discussions 

1 The Grand ASitmce: Winston S. Churchill 


took place on an average at six-monthly intervals. The first meeting was in 
Newfoundland in 1941. After that Churchill made four trips to Washing- 
ton; two to Quebec; one to Casablanca, one to Cairo and Teheran, and 
one, finally, to Yalta. 

But it was in Washington that the Churchill-Roosevelt friendship 
flowered best. The President welcomed Churchill at the White House as a 
member of the family. He was given a room across from Harry Hopkins' 
and the three invaded each other's bedrooms as unselfconsciously as 
schoolmates. Roosevelt liked to go to bed early but when Churchill was 
there he was so fascinated by the conversation that he stayed up far later 
than usual. Even so, Hopkins and Winston usually out-sat him and carried 
their talk into the early hours of the morning. The three men always 
lunched together, and although dinner was usually a more social affair, 
including members of the family, or of the President's inner circle, it still 
remained a small friendly group. Roosevelt liked to mix the cocktails 
and when he left the drawing-room Churchill always insisted on wheeling 
him to the lift. 

Some idea of the informality of the White House is revealed in Harry 
Hopkins' favourite story. He claims that one morning when the President 
was wheeled into Churchill's bedroom, the Prime Minister emerged from 
the bath stark naked. The President apologized and turned to go but 
Churchill bade him remain. 'The Prime Minister of Great Britain,' he 
said, 'has nothing to hide from the President of the United States.' 
Robert Sherwood asked Winston if this story was true and says the latter 
replied that it was nonsense, 'that he never received the President without 
at least a bath towel wrapped around him. And he said, "I could not 
possibly have made such a statement as that. The President himself would 
have been aware that it was not strictly true"/ 1 

As far as Churchill was concerned, no trace of jealousy ever marred his 
relationship with the President. It is one of Winston's characteristics that 
once he has formed a deep personal friendship he is completely faithful, 
never allowing selfish motives to influence him. He was loyal to Lloyd 
George when both were spoken of as potential Prime Ministers; now he 
was loyal to Roosevelt when both were world leaders. An interesting 
feature of his relationship with the President ky in the fact that whereas 
Winston was the head of a Government Roosevelt was the head of a 
State. Churchill never lost sight of this fact, and instead of resenting it, took 
great pleasure in showing Roosevelt a marked deference; this undoubtedly 
did much to keep relations between the two men running smoothly. 
Up until the end of 1943 Churchill was certainly the dominant figure 
1 The White House Papers of Harry L. Hopkins: Robert E. Sherwood. 


in the partnership. He not only had a far greater knowledge of military 
matters than Roosevelt, but until 1944 the British had more divisions in 
contact with the enemy in both the European and Japanese theatres of 
war than the Americans. The only areas where the Americans could 
speak with a commanding voice were in the Pacific and Australasia. In 
these circumstances Churchill had the right to speak in a commanding 
voice, which he did not hesitate to do. 

But all the time that the two men were concentrated on the military 
side of the war, Churchill never lost sight of his main objective: the bring- 
ing of Great Britain and the United States together in what he had termed 
to General Smuts, was 'a fraternal association'. His ideas on this subject 
were far from orthodox, and when he visited Washington in 1943 he 
explained them to Roosevelt and Vice-President Wallace. He told the 
latter that he would like the citizens of Great Britain and the United 
States, without losing their present nationality, 'to be able to come and 
settle and trade with freedom and equal rights in the territories of the 
other. There might be a common passport, or a special form of passport 
or visa. There might even be some common form of citizenship, under 
which the citizens of the United States and of the British Commonwealth 
might enjoy voting privileges after residential qualification and be eligible 
for public office in die territories of the other, subject of course to the 
kws and institutions there prevailing.' 1 

Winston developed this same theme in a speech to Harvard University 
on 6 September, when he said: 'This gift of a common tongue is a price- 
less inheritance, and it may well some day become the foundation of a 
common citizenship. I like to think of British and Americans moving 
freely over each other's wide estates with hardly a sense of being foreigners 
to one another/ 

President Roosevelt, however, did not share Churchill's conviction that 
the hope of the world lay in a .fraternal association between the English- 
speaking peoples. He respected British institutions, but like many other 
Americans he was suspicious of British Imperialism. These suspicions 
grew deeper as the war developed until they became almost an obsession 
with him. He saw the challenge to the Atlantic Charter coming not from 
totalitarian Russia but from the colonial possessions of his Allies. 'The 
colonial system means war,' he told his son, Elliott 'Exploit the resources 
of an India, a Burma, a Java; take all the wealth out of those countries, 
but never put anything back into them, things like education, decent stan- 
1 Closing the Ring: Winston S. ChurchilL 


dards of living, minimum health requirements all you're doing is stor- 
ing up the kind of trouble that leads to war.' 1 

This observation was not only a ridiculous travesty of the British 
colonial system, but even its conclusions were false. The two world wars 
of this century and the present threat to peace have not sprung from dis- 
contented colonies but from the armed might of dictators anxious to 
spread their totalitarian rule. It seems astonishing that Roosevelt could be 
more concerned with British colonial rule than the extension of Soviet 
authority which carried with it, as a matter of course, severe and brutal 
'liquidations'. Yet apparently this was the case, for at every major dis- 
cussion with Churchill it was not the problem of Russia but of Britain's 
overseas possessions that came up for discussion. More than once he urged 
England to give up Hong Kong as a gesture, and in the spring of 1942 he 
pressed Churchill to grant India her independence at once, suggesting in a 
paper which must rank as one of the most naive documents ever drafted 
by a head of state, that she model her provisional government along the 
lines of America's original thirteen states. 

Churchill stood his ground firmly. Glory in the British Empire was as 
much a part of him as his life's blood. Far from excusing England's over- 
lordship, he saw her rule as a great benefaction; was she not spreading the 
English tongue and with it all her light and learning and civilized institu- 
tions to the farthest corners of the earth? Besides, he argued with Roose- 
velt, if Britain withdrew she would leave a gap which undoubtedly would 
tempt some less civilized Power to assume her place. 

Churchill could not convince Roosevelt, and both men stubbornly 
held their ground. What Winston failed to grasp until the Teheran Con- 
ference, however, was the feet that ingrained American anti-colonialism 
was having a marked effect on Roosevelt's attitude towards Russia. 'Of 
one thing I am certain, Stalin is not an Imperialist,' the President remarked 
to the Polish leader, Mikolajczyk. This belief, based on instinct rather than 
logic, drew him away from Britain and towards the Russian camp. He 
apparently viewed Stalin in almost exactly the same light that Chamber- 
lain had viewed Hider ; if he could implant a feeling of trust in the dictator 
everything would turn out all right. 'I have a hunch,' he told William 
Bullitt, who had been the American Ambassador in Moscow, 'that Stalin 
doesn't want anything but security for his country, and I think that if I 
give hi everything I possibly can and ask nothing in return, ncblesse 
oblige, he won't try to annex anything and will work for a world of 
democracy and peace.' 2 

*As He Saw It: Elliott Roosevelt. 

*How We Wonthe War and Lost the Pe<w?: WiDiam C. Bullitt. 


One can only comment that a hunch was a strange basis for a nation's 
foreign policy. Although it can be argued that up until 1939 Russia had 
shown no imperialistic tendencies as far as her armies were concerned, her 
rule was being spread by Communist Parties all over the world which 
were often financed and controlled from Moscow. Far from being a static 
faith, Communism was a militant crusade, openly in conflict with the 
institutions of Western democracy. 

Roosevelt, however, was not the only American who had trust in 
Russia. Many leading officials, including Harry Hopkins and General 
Eisenhower, shared his beliefs. Eisenhower wrote that judging from the 
past relations of America and Russia there was no cause to regard the 
future with pessimism'; and Harry Hopkins, six months after the Yalta 
Conference, wrote glowingly: 'We know or believe that Russia's 
interests, so far as we can anticipate them, do not afford an opportunity 
for a major difference with us in foreign affairs. We believe we are 
mutually dependent upon each other for economic reasons. We find the 
Russians as individuals easy to deal with. The Russians undoubtedly like 
the American people. They like the United States. They trust the United 
States more than they trust any other power in the world . . . above all, 
they want to maintain friendly relations with us. ... They are a tenacious, 
determined people who tfonlr and act just like we do.' 1 

The American attitude towards Russia can only be described as appal- 
lingly ingenuous. The tragedy ky in the fact that although Churchill and 
Roosevelt were in accord about a world of free, independent nations, the 
President's failure to understand the nature of Soviet totalitarianism 
allowed Stalin to drive a wedge between the two democracies and walk 
off with the spoils. 

The turning point in the relations between Roosevelt and Churchill 
took place at Cairo and Teheran in December 1943. 

The Teheran Conference was the first meeting of 'The Big Three', and 
it was almost exclusively a military conference. The leaders decided on 
the programme which was to prove the grand climax of the war. Britain 
and America would launch a cross-Channel invasion in May; about the 
same time they would use the Allied force in Italy to strike at Southern 
France; and Russia would co-ordinate a large-scale offensive on the 
Eastern front. 

The Big Three were in full accord on this strategy. Much nonsense 
has been written about Churchill's reluctance to strike across the Channel 

1 The White House Papers of Harry L. Hopkins: Robert E. Sherwood. 


He believed that an invasion of France was right and inevitable, but his 
experience of the huge and useless blood-letting on the Western front in 
the first War cautioned him not to undertake it until the enemy had 
been sufficiently weakened by attacks in other theatres to ensure its 
success. At Teheran, however, Churchill was in agreement with Roose- 
velt and Stalin that the rime to invade was in the spring. He also was in 
favour of the joint operation in Southern France, although as an alterna- 
tive he would have preferred President Roosevelt's proposal that the 
Allied Army in Italy advance through the Ljubljana Gap to Vienna. How- 
ever, he had no fixed thoughts on this subject and when Stalin raised objec- 
tions and plumped in favour of Marseilles Churchill backed the project. 

There was only one point on which he did not see eye to eye with his 
two colleagues. Churchill believed that one-tenth of the Allied strength 
should be used in a third operation in the Eastern Mediterranean. He 
argued that there was an air force massed for the defence of Egypt standing 
idle; also that there were two or three divisions in the Middle East which 
-could not be used elsewhere because there was no available shipping to 
move them to the main theatre. Why not employ them? If, by a small 
effort, Rhodes could be captured, the whole Aegean would be dominated 
by the Allied Air Force and direct sea contact established with Turkey. 
This might bring Turkey into the war, which would open up the Black 
Sea, and with it, unlimited possibilities. Surely, he argued, such a huge 
prize was worth a minor effort which would not detract in any way from 
the other major undertakings. 

Roosevelt, however, was not only uninterested in the project but the 
fact that Winston pressed it so hard aroused his suspicions. Was Churchill 
seeking some selfish gain for Britain in the Balkans? At the end of the first 
day in Teheran he remarked to his son, Elliott, 1 see no reason for putting 
the lives of American soldiers in jeopardy in order to protect real or 
fancied British interests on the European continent. We are at war and 
our job is to win as far as possible, and without adventures.' 1 

Other American leaders shared Roosevelt's suspicions. Even General 
Eisenhower believed Winston had hidden motives for after the war he 
wrote: 1 could not escape a feeling that Mr. Churchill's views were un- 
consciously coloured by two considerations that lay outside the scope of 
the immediate military problem. . . . The first of them was his concern as 

a political leader for the future of the Balkans The other was an inner 

compulsion to vindicate his strategical concepts of World War I, in which 
he had been the principal exponent of the Gallipoli campaign.' 2 

1 As He Saw It: Elliott Roosevelt. 

1 Crusade in Europe: Dwight D. Eisenhower. 


Churchill has never been a devious, or for that matter, even a subtle 
man. He rarely leaves anyone in doubt as to what he thinks or what he 
wants. Yet the inclination to attribute concealed motives to his arguments 
on military strategy has become so widespread that many writers to-day 
state them as facts. For example, Chester Wilmot in his brilliant and 
authoritative book The Struggle for Europe asserts, 'During 1943 . . . 
Churchill became increasingly concerned about the necessity of restraining 
Stalin's ambitions. . . . The Prime Minister sought to devise a plan of 
campaign which would not only be a military success, but would ensure 
that victory did not leave the democratic cause politically weaker in any 

There was no foundation for this statement. The truth is that it was not 
until 1944, when the great invasion was only a matter of a few months, 
that Churchill seriously concerned himself with the design of the post-war 
world. Up until Teheran he had given surprisingly little thought to the 
blue-print. He had decided in his own mind that the only hope for a 
secure world lay in an Anglo-American alliance, far closer than anything 
that had evolved so far; and that this combination would deal with the 
problem of Russia when the time came. He had then turned all his 
thoughts and energies on securing the victory. 

Churchill himself makes it plain, in his fifth volume of memoirs, that at 
Teheran he was thinking in terms of military strategy only when he 
advanced his arguments about Turkey. He emphasizes that he was in 
complete agreement with the CToss-Channel invasion and the attack on the 
South of France; and that he merely wanted a third, and a very minor, 
operation in the Eastern Mediterranean at the same time in order to 
employ all available forces. 'This was the triple theme which I pressed 
upon the President and Stalin on every occasion,' he writes, 'not hesitating 
to repeat the arguments remorselessly. I could have gained Stalin, but 
the President was oppressed by the prejudices of his military advisers, and 
drifted to and fro in the argument, with the result that the whole of these 
subsidiary but gleaming opportunities were cast away. Our American 
friends were comforted in their obstinacy by the reflection that 'at any 
rate we have stopped Churchill entangling us in the Balkans'. No such 
idea had crossed my mind. I regard the failure to use otherwise unem- 
polyable forces to bring Turkey into the war and dominate the Aegean 
as an error of war direction which cannot be excused by the fact that in 
spite of it victory was won.' 1 

1 Closing th "Ring: Winston S. Churchill. 


However, it was not the military aspects of the Teheran Conference 
that upset Churchill. It was Roosevelt's aloof, almost hostile attitude. At 
Cairo, before the two leaders proceeded to Teheran, Roosevelt lectured 
Winston sharply about his outlook towards colonialism. The Prime 
Minister remarked that he thought Chiang Kai-Shek had designs on 
Indo-China. * Winston . . . you have four hundred years of acquisitive 
instinct in your blood and you just don't understand how a country might 
not want to acquire land somewhere if they can get it. A new period has 
opened in the world and you will have to adjust yourself to it.' 1 

Churchill arrived in Cairo hoping to hold preliminary and private talks 
with Roosevelt about the forthcoming invasion. But the President in- 
sisted on Chiang Kai-Shek being present, and he also invited Russian 
observers (who declined the invitation) despite Winston's protests. This 
gesture was undoubtedly made to show Churchill that Britain had no 
right to regard her relationship with the United States as either favoured 
or exclusive. 

At Teheran the President continued the same tactics. He refused blundy 
to meet Churchill alone on the grounds that 'the Russians wouldn't like 
it'. Yet at the same time he had several meetings with Stalin from which 
Winston was excluded. The latter was astonished and hurt by this 
behaviour which was contrary to his own code of friendship and loyalty. 
But Roosevelt went even further. When, after three days at Teheran, he 
felt he had not made as much progress with Stalin as he would have liked, 
he tried to ingratiate himself with the Russian dictator by making fun of 
Churchill. *I began almost as soon as we got into the conference room,' he 
told Frances Perkins. 1 said, lifting my hand to cover a whisper (which 
of course had to be interpreted), "Winston is cranky this morning, he got 
up on the wrong side of die bed". A vague smile passed over Stalin's eyes, 
and I decided I was on the right track ... I began to tease Churchill about 
his Britishness, about John Bull, about his cigars, about his habits. It 
began to register with Stalin. Winston got red and scowled, and the more 
he did so, the more Stalin smiled. Finally Stalin broke out in a deep, hearty 
guffaw, and for the first time in three days I saw light. I kept it up until 
Stalin was laughing with me, and it was then that I called him "Uncle 
Joe". He would have thought me fresh the day before, but that day he 
laughed and came over and shook my hand.' 2 John Gunther, the American 
journalist, asked someone wlio was there if lie incident had really taken 
place. 'Yes,' replied the official, 'and it wasn't fenny either.' It was cer- 
tainly not Churchill's idea of humour, nor, for that matter, of statesman- 

1 Roosevelt and the Russians: Edward Stettinius. . 
1 The Roosevelt I Knew: Frances Petkms. 


ship. It turned The Big Three into The Eternal Triangle, with Roosevelt 
the female, almost feline, character, and Stalin and Churchill, both 
aggressively male, the respective villain and hero of the piece. 

Churchill pondered the lessons of Teheran deeply. Roosevelt's actions 
made it plain that he was not only unwilling to regard Britain as a 
favoured partner, but that he was prepared to put as much trust and faith, 
and perhaps even more, in totalitarian Russia than in democratic Britain. 
This came as a profound shock to Winston. His whole foreign policy was 
based on the concept of an English-speaking authority. If the foundations 
were faulty there was only one alternative: to act on his own and try to 
safeguard Britain against the consequences of a Soviet domination of 

Five months later, in the spring of 1944, these new and pressing worries 
began to manifest themselves. On 4 May, he sent a minute to the Foreign 
Office: *A paper should be drafted for the Cabinet, and possibly for the 
Imperial Conference, setting forth shortly ... the brute issues which are 
developing in Italy, in Roumania, in Bulgaria, in Yugoslavia, and above 

all in Greece Broadly speaking, the issue is, Are we going to acquiesce 

in the Communization of die Balkans and perhaps of Italy. . . . ? I am of 
the opinion on the whole that we ought to come to a definite conclusion 
about it, and that if our conclusion is that we resist the Communist in- 
fusion and invasion, we should put it to them pretty plainly at the best 
moment that military events permit. We should of course have to consult 
the United States first/ 1 

A month later, in June, I was invited to 10 Downing Street for lunch. 
It was the day after the great invasion had begun and the papers were filled 
with little else. Mr. Churchill appeared in a blue siren suit and he seemed 
worried and preoccupied. He scarcely referred to the invasion, but in the 
middle of lunch launched forth into an angry discourse on foreign affairs. 
'When this war is over,' he growled, 'England will need every ally she 
can get to protect herself against Russia. I'm sick of these parlour pinks, 
always critidaing the internal regimes of countries. I don't care a whit 
what people do inside their own countries so long as they don't try to 
export their ideas, and as long as their relations with Britain are friendly. 
Spain is ready to make her peace with Britain and I am ready to accept it; 
the Italian Monarchy is friendly to Britain and I would like to see it pre- 
served. The idea of running foreign affairs on personal prqudices is 
criminal folly.' 

* * * * 

1 Closing the Ring: Winston S. Churchill. 


The Red Army had not, at this date, made any serious inroads into the 
Balkans, but Churchill knew that time was short. If any part of Eastern 
Europe was to be saved from domination, someone must act and act 
quickly. Without consulting Roosevelt he wrote Stalin suggesting that 
Russia grant Britain a free hand in Greece and Yugoslavia in return for 
the controlling interest in Bulgaria and Roumania. When the American 
Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, learned of this proposal he angrily de- 
nounced it as an attempt to 'carve up the Balkans'. Churchill, however, 
was undeterred and during his visit to Moscow in October 1944 worked 
out in actual percentages both nations' respective spheres of interest. The 
State Department branded the agreement as 'Churdbiavellian' but 
Winston insisted that it was his only hope of preventing Stalin from gain- 
ing control of the whole area. 

Meanwhile Churchill had not been idle nearer home. For the first time 
he began to think of military strategy in terms of political aims. It was 
apparent in July, a month after cross-Channel invasion had begun, that the 
Southern France operation was no longer strictly necessary. Originally the 
Allies had considered the port of Marseilles vitally important to handle the 
flood of troops and supplies scheduled for the main assault. But now the 
invaders possessed ports in Brittany which, Winston argued, would do 
just as well. If instead of sending the Anglo-American Army from Italy to 
Marseilles he could persuade the Americans to advance towards Vienna, 
much of Central Europe might be saved from the Soviet influence. Since 
Eisenhower wielded supreme authority it was on him that Churchill 
turned all his persuasive powers, resulting in what the General has 
described as 'the longest-sustained argument I had with Prime Minister 
Churchill during the war*. But Eisenhower was still suspicious. 'I felt that 
the Prime Minister's real concern,' he wrote, 'was possibly of a political 
rather than a military nature. He may have thought that a post-war situa- 
tion which would see the Western Allies posted in great strength in the 
Balkans would be more effective in producing a stable post-hostilities 
world than if the Russian armies should be the ones to occupy that 
region. I told him that if this were his reason for advocating the campaign 
into the Balkans he should go instantly to the President and lay the facts 
on the table. . . . But I did insist that as long as he argued the matter 
on military grounds alone I could not concede validity to his argu- 
ments.' 1 

This time Eisenhower's surmise was right, but his advice to Winston 
to approach the President was gratuitous. Winston had already argued out 
the matter with Roosevelt but the latter had insisted that in view of the 

1 Crusade in Europe: Dwight D. Eisenhower. 


Teheran agreement he could not 'agree without Stalin's approval to any 
use offeree or equipment elsewhere/ 

This setback did not diminish Winston's resolve. He was more deter- 
mined than ever to play every card in his hand to protect British interests 
regardless of American opinion; and he did not have long to wait. Before 
the end of the year grave situations arose in Italy and Greece. Both these 
countries were battlefields; both had an Allied army which was pre- 
dominantly British; and both recognized the necessity of preserving law 
and order. The Italian crisis was provoked by the resignation of the 
Bonomi Coalition Government. Carlo Sforza, an anti-Fascist who had 
lived many years in the United States, flew to Rome and tried to establish 
himself as the leading Republican spokesman. He was violently opposed 
to the monarchy and it became apparent to Churchill that if post-war 
politics were allowed to flare up while the country was in a state of up- 
heaval the large Communist Party already in existence might manage to 
install itself. Winston did not like or trust Sforza; he felt he was being 
foisted on Italy by an unthinking American public opinion, and he was 
determined not to allow the country to slip into extremism by mis- 
management. He therefore made it clear that Britain would not look with 
any favour upon an Italian Government which included Sforza as Prime 
Minister or Foreign Secretary. This caused a storm of protest in the 
United States. In a public statement on 5 December Stettinius, the 
American Secretary of State, rapped Churchill over the knuckles for his 
suspected interference in Italian affairs. Churchill sent a furious cable to 
Roosevelt and in the House of Commons on 8 December, 1944, said 
bitterly: 'Poor old England! (Perhaps I ought to say, "Poor old Britain!") 
We have to assume the burden of die most thankless tasks, and in under- 
taking them to be scoffed at, criticized and opposed from every quarter; 
but at least we know where we are making for, know the end of the road, 

know what is our objective We have not attempted to put our veto 

on the appointment of Count Sforza. If to-morrow the Italians were to 
make him Prime Minister or Foreign Secretary, we have no power to Stop 
it, except with the agreement of the Allies. All that we should have to say 
about it is that we do not trust the man, we do not thinlr he is a true and 
trustworthy man, nor do we put the slightest confidence in any Govern- 
ment of which he is a dominating member. I thmlr we should have to put 
a great deal of responsibility for what might happen on those who called 
him to power/ 

Churchill won the battle, for Sforza failed to establish himself as a 
leader, but the relations between London and Washington were dis- 
tinctly cool. Then came the Greek trouble. For some time three elements 


in Greece had been struggling for power; the royalist faction which 
centred around George II; the anti-Communist faction, centred around 
Colonel Zirvas; and the Communist-led resistance force known as 
E.L.A.S. and E.A.M. This last group had been active in the fight against 
Germany, but now they were busy trying to grasp the power of Govern- 
ment by terrorist methods. British troops were called in to maintain order 
and blood was shed. The American public did not know much about the 
partisans except that they were violently anti-Nazi, and once again 
opinion flared up against the British. It rose so high that Admiral King, 
the United States Naval Chief of Staff, ordered Admiral Hewitt, the 
American Commander in the Mediterranean, not to allow any American 
L.S.T.S to carry supplies into Greece. Hopkins intervened and the order 
was countermanded, but not before Churchill had sent angry protests. 
The Prime Minister then took unexpected action by flying to Athens on 
Christmas Day. He succeeded in bringing hostilities to an end by estab- 
lishing a temporary regency under Archbishop Damaskinos and obtaining 
from King George of Greece the assurance that he would not attempt to 
return to Greece 'unless summoned by a free and fair expression of the 
national will/ Temporarily, at least, the crisis subsided; nevertheless the 
atmosphere of the Yalta Conference, which was held a few weeks later 
and which proved to be the last meeting between Roosevelt, Churchill 
and Stalin, was not as happy as it might have been. 

Most of the troubles of the post-war world have been bkmed on 
Yalta. But the truth is that this conference took very few new decisions, for 
the pattern of Europe had been moulded over the previous two years. 
Only one Yalta decision can be severely criticized and that is the large 
concession which Roosevelt made to Stalin throughout the Far East in 
return for the dictator's promise to enter the war against Japan. This con- 
cession made Stalin the virtual master of Manchuria and, in effect, the 
master of North China. Many members of the British delegation were 
strongly opposed to the plan, and Eden begged Churchill not to put his 
signature to it. The Prime Minister replied 'that the whole position of the 
British Empire in the Far East was at stake* and if he refused to sign he 
might find himself excluded from any further say in these affairs. 

As far as Europe was concerned, however, the Russians made no new 
gains on paper. The frontiers of Poland were thrashed out; German 
reparations were discussed; the design of the United Nations was sketched; 
the three-power occupation of Germany, which had been agreed upon in 
principle by the Foreign Ministers in October 1943, was extended to 


include France. The most important and hopeful event in the eyes of 
Britain and America was the fact that the Soviet Union reiterated its 
promise to uphold the Atlantic Charter which was firmly pledged to the 
freedom and independence of the small states of Europe. If Russia meant 
what she said, peace was assured. 

Should the democratic leaders have placed an implicit faith in Russia, 
or should they have attempted to safeguard their interests wherever they 
had a right to do so? Roosevelt believed the first and Churchill the second, 
which led to severe altercations between the two Governments in the 
months to follow. 

Since the Russians had promised to allow free elections in Central and 
Eastern Europe, Roosevelt was confident that democracy would establish 
itself as soon as the Nazi grip was broken. But he felt strongly that the 
only way to keep Russia to her bargain was to accept her word as her 
bond. Any outward suspicion or ill-will on the part of the democracies, 
he believed, would bring down the structure in ruins. Consequently 
American policy recognized only one objective: to destroy the German 
Army. Once that was accomplished it was believed that Europe would 
right itself of its own accord. 

Churchill was highly sceptical of this thinking. Although he agreed with 
the President that post-war policy must be based on the assumption that 
Russia would honour her pledges, he saw no reason why, at the same time, 
the Allies should not grasp the initiative when they could, and guard their 
interests against any possible contingency. After all, Stalin was still insist- 
ing that the Lublin Committee, which was a Moscow-controlled body, 
should become the rulers of Poland. And only a few weeks after Yalta he 
had summoned the King of Roumania and ordered him to install a 
Communist Prime Minister. Was this the furtherance of democracy? 
What did the Russians mean by the word anyway? 

Churchill felt strongly that the Allies should fashion their military 
strategy in accordance with certain obvious political aims. The Western 
Powers should liberate key cities and territories whenever the oppor- 
tunity presented itself. This was important not only from the point of 
view of psychology and prestige but for hard-headed, practical reasons as 
well. Their advance would not be in contravention of any agreements 
they had made with the Russians; yet it would place them in a position 
to see that the pledges Stalin had given on free elections were really 

Czechoslovakia became one of the major points of issue. In April, as the 
Allied Army moved towards its frontiers, the British Chiefs of Staff made 
it dear that they felt great advantage would be derived from liberating 


Prague. General Marshall passed this information on to Eisenhower with 
the comment: 'Personally, and aside from all logistic, tactical, or strategic 
implications, I would be loath to hazard American lives for purely 
political purposes/ 1 

Eisenhower agreed with Marshall; and since he did not feel that an ad- 
vance into Czechoslovakia would have any bearing on his sole aim, the 
destruction of the enemy's armed forces, he halted his troops on the 
frontier. Although he received frantic appeals for help from Prague which 
was being subjected to a severe German attack he remained stationary; 
and when, on 4 May, the Russians asked him formally not to move for- 
ward any further, he agreed. Three days later he received a wire from 
Churchill begging him to proceed to Prague, but, instead, he instructed 
the Czechs to refer their requests for aid to Moscow. The following week 
Czechoslovakia was liberated by the Russians. 

Berlin raised an even more heated issue. General Montgomery became 
convinced in September 1944 that if the Allies made a 'powerful and full- 
blooded thrust' into Germany, they could capture the Ruhr and liberate 
the German capital. But although Berlin had been listed by SHAEF in a 
pre-D-Day plan as the Allies' ultimate goal, in the months that followed 
Eisenhower had come to regard it as increasingly unimportant. From a 
military point of view he decided it was better to move forward more 
slowly on a broad front rather than concentrate his forces in a single thrust. 

Churchill felt passionately on the subject of the German capital. Berlin 
was not only a great prize but he believed it would give the Allies an 
invaluable bargaining point. Although they would be obliged to move 
back into the zones of occupation that had been agreed upon by the 
Russians, it would provide them with an opportunity, and their only 
opportunity, to see that Stalin carried out his treaties as well. On 3 April, 
five weeks before the war ended, he took up the matter with Roosevelt: 
'If they [the Russians] also take Berlin will not their impression that they 
have been the overwhelming contributor to the common victory be un- 
duly printed in their minds, and may this not lead them into a mood 
which will raise grave and formidable difficulties in the future'? But 
Roosevelt's reply was curt. He said that he 'regretted at the moment of a 
great victory we should become involved in such unfortunate reactions/ 2 
A few days later, on 7 April, Eisenhower informed the Combined Chiefs 
of Staff: 'I regard it as militarily unsound at this stage of the proceedings 

1 Why Eisenhower's Forces Stopped at the Elbe: Forrest Pogue. This article was 
printed in World Politics, April 1952, published by the Princeton University Press. 
The extract is from an official paper, ^.-74256 28 April, 1945, Shaef Cable Log. 



to make Berlin a major objective, particularly in view of the fact that it 
is only thirty-five miles from the Russian lines.' 1 

Churchill continued to urge his point of view with desperate insistence. 
When Truman succeeded Roosevelt a week later, he turned his fire on 
him. But the new President merely replied that 'the tactical deployment of 
American troops is a military one.' And the American Army was adamant. 
General Omar Bradley sums up the situation in his book A Soldier 9 s Story. 
'I could see no advantage accruing from the capture of Berlin that would 
offset the need for quick destruction of the German army on our front. 
As soldiers we looked naively on this British inclination [the desire to go 
to Berlin] to complicate the war with political foresight and non-military 
objectives/ Consequently, Churchill lost his battle, and the Russians 
liberated Berlin as well as Prague. 

To-day the results are apparent for all to see. Within three years 
Czechoslovakia was a Communist country; the Russian sector of Ger- 
many was decapitated from the rest, despite Soviet assurances at Potsdam 
that trade would flow freely between the Eastern and Western zones; and 
the whole of Eastern and Central Europe was paralysed into subservience 
to Moscow. In many cases the Russians not only broke their treaties but 
they did not even try to honour them. 

What differences would it have made if Churchill had gained his way 
and Eisenhower had secured control of Germany? Remembering the rise 
of Left-wing opinion all over the world at the end of the war, could the 
Allies have dealt with Russia with a firm hand or would public pressure 
have been too strong against them? No one can answer these questions, 
and it may be argued that it was necessary for the democracies to learn 
by bitter experience; otherwise the dose entente which exists between the 
English-speaking world might not have come into being. 

But whatever conclusions one draws it is difficult to see how the costly 
innocence of the American leaders, with their failure to understand that 
all wars have political objectives and carry with them political responsi- 
bilities, can escape severe condemnation. When all is said and done, 
Communism and not Democracy has been the victor over a large part 
of the world. 




MR. CHURCHILL'S overwhelming defeat at the General Election of 
1945, held only a few weeks after the surrender of Germany, was regarded 
as astonishing news, even by his own countrymen. For Winston it was a 
stunning and ironic reverse, first because he was at the very summit of his 
power and fame, and second, because no statesman emphasized the 
superior qualities of the British people more forcibly than he. During the 
war, when someone congratulated him on a broadcast, saying: 'You are 
giving the people the courage they need,' he replied quickly: 'You are 
mistaken. They already have the courage. I only focus it/ To have been 
rejected by a people towards whom he felt such pride and possessiveness 
was a bitter blow. 

During the first years of his Premiership Churchill had declared privately 
that he would not commit the same mistake Lloyd George had made in 
seeking to retain power once hostilities had ended. He remembered how, 
in the difficult months that followed the war, L.G.'s prestige had gradually 
dwindled until in 1922 he was dismissed from office never to return again. 
However, when Churchill took over the leadership of the Conservative 
Party in 1940 many people were sceptical about his sticking to his resolve. 
His action was criticized at the time by those who considered that as head 
of a great coalition government he should remain above Party politics; 
and even his friends warned him that it might be a mistake to commit 
himself so far in advance. 

But it was not Winston's nature to play the role of a detached Elder 
Statesman; and it would have taken a man of far less sanguine disposition 
to refuse to offer himself to the electorate when all the world was acclaim- 
ing him. Leading Conservatives were aware that a new wind of social 
consciousness was blowing through England, but they believed that 
Churchill's fame could keep them in power; and Churchill believed this 
too. Although from time to time he had been pressed to make some 
positive statement on peace-time domestic policy, he was so absorbed by 
the problems of the war that except for one or two occasions he refused to 
put his mind on internal affairs. Besides, he was confident that when the 
time came the British people, who had followed him so loyally through- 
out the conflict, would heed what he had to say about the days to come. 

This was a severe miscalculation for the British people has never pledged 


itself to a single m*m except in times of extreme emergency. Nowhere in 
the world is the Party system so highly developed as in England. The 
electorate was not looking for a personality, but for a programme; and the 
only programme that was forthcoming was that put forward by the 
Labour Party with its emphasis on social reform and a long over-due 
redistribution of the national income. The working classes remembered 
the hard times they had had between the wars; first the soaring prices and 
the bad housing, then the long years of unemployment. And they also 
remembered that except for two short spells the Conservative Party had 
dominated the parliamentary scene for most of the twenty-one years. 
Besides, had not Mr. Churchill fought the Tories throughout the thirties 
and accused them of allowing the country to drift into war? Why had he 
attached himself to them anyway? 

Churchill himself did not add to his own chances. If the public needed a 
reminder that he had always been rejected as a peace-time leader on the 
grounds of bad judgment and instability, they had it, to use a figure of 
speech, straight from the horse's mouth. Overnight the statesman vanished 
and in his place appeared an irresponsible politician hurling invective at his 
opponents and offering few proposals of his own. He sounded the first gun 
in a radio broadcast telling the country that Socialism would result in 
'a Gestapo*. It was a childish blunder to attack Labour leaders like Attlee, 
Morrison, Bevin and Cripps, who had won the respect and admiration of 
the public for their loyal service in Winston's Coalition Government. I 
heard die broadcast at Lord Rothermerc's house and I remember the 
silence when he had finished. 'If he continues like that,' said our host, 'the 
election is as good as lost.' 

But Winston did not change his tactics. Next, he turned his fire on the 
Chairman of the Labour Party Executive, Professor Laski, insisting that 
the latter would be the 'boss* of any Labour Government that got into 
power. Since the Party Chairman is only an annual appointment this was 
patently nonsense. The Times tried to play down Winston's attacks but 
Churchill, buoyantly confident, and with an old-fashioned tendency to 
regard an election as something of a lark, insisted on reviving his charges 
at every opportunity. 

There is no doubt that the electorate was greatly shaken by his cam- 
paign. People were in a serious mood and wanted facts, not political stunts. 
Although the Conservatives put forward a Rve Year Plan under the 
guidance of Lord Woolton, it contained few constructive ideas. The result 
was that the Conservatives fought the battle equipped with litde more 


than Churchill's photograph while the Socialists went into action with a 
carefully planned programme. This seemed to confirm the suspicions of 
the working class that the Prime Minister took little interest in domestic 
matters. In one speech Winston referred to milk for babies, and the com- 
ments of the people in the village where I was staying were: 'What's 'e 
know or care about babies' milk? Guns is 'is speciality and any rime there's 
a war we're glad to let 'im run it but when 'e talks about babies' milk we 
know someone's put 'im up to it and it's not 'im speaking at all/ 

Although it was obvious that opinion was hardening against him even 
the pessimists believed he would win, a majority of thirty seats. The result 
of the Gallup Poll published in the News-Chronicle showed a landslide 
which proved to be accurate within one per cent, but Britain was not 
'poll-conscious' and few people paid any attention to the figures. Two 
days before polling day I heard Churchill address an enormous gathering 
at Walthamstow Stadium on the outskirts of London and was amazed at 
the amount of opposition and heckling he received. He was interrupted so 
often he could scarcely get through his speech. When he had finished, his 
daughter Sarah invited me to a private room to have beer and sandwiches 
with them before he went on to his next engagement. As a war corre- 
spondent for the previous eight years I had seen a number of countries 
invaded and overrun by the enemy and when Churchill saw me he ex- 
claimed: ' What a bad omen ! For the first time I have my doubt about this 
election. You only appear when the established regime is crashing to the 

Neither he nor I had any idea how prophetic his words were to prove. 
Up until the last he was confident of victory. He even arranged a small 
dinner party in advance to celebrate the results. One of the guests told me 
afterwards that she had never sat through a more depressing meal. 
Churchill's daughters were in tears and the old man himself sat immobile 
as though too stunned to speak. 

Defeat burned deep into Churchill's soul. He felt he had been badly 
treated by an ungrateful population, and when he wrote his first volume 
on the second World War he allowed himself the bitter comment: 'Thus, 
then, on the night of the tenth of May, at the outset of this mighty battle, 
I acquired the chief power in the State, which henceforth I wielded in 
ever-growing measure for five years and three months of world war, at 
the end of which time, all our enemies having surrendered uncondition- 
ally or being about to do so, I was immediately dismissed by the British 
electorate from all further conduct of their affairs/ 


This resentment was unlike Winston, for throughout his long political 
life no man had taken greater care to hide his disappointments from public 
view. He had always made a point of treating an election as a good healthy 
English game with winners and losers shaking hands amiably in the tradi- 
tional sporting fashion. But in this case the shock and humiliation were too 
great and it took him many months to overcome a feeling of deep 

However, as far as Parliament was concerned his manners were dis- 
tinguished. He refused to allow vindictiveness to creep into his speeches 
and faced the House with a courage and aplomb which aroused general 
admiration. His peculiarly disarming quality of forgive and forget was 
expressed when he had bronze plaques made, adorned with the oak and 
the acorn, which he sent to all those who had served in his war-time 
Government. Socialists whom he had branded as future Gestapo leaders 
were surprised to receive these souvenirs with their names inscribed bear- 
ing the words: 'Salute the Great Coalition, 1940-1945*. 

Churchill also managed to retain his sense of humour. When an 
acquaintance suggested that he should tour England so that the thousands 
of his own countrymen who had never seen him could have a chance to 
honour him he growled: C I refuse to be exhibited like a prize bull whose 
chief attraction is its past prowess/ 

Many of Churchill's friends urged Mm to leave Parliament and devote 
himself to writing a history of the war. The Labour Government had a 
huge majority and was bound to run its full course; and it was always 
possible that it would be re-elected for another five years after that. Con- 
sidering the heavy responsibility that Churchill had carried, and in view 
of his unique position as the greatest living statesman in the world, they 
felt it was undignified for him to occupy himself in day to day altercations 
in the House; he should reserve himself for the big occasions 'the Test 
Matches*, as one of them put it, *not village cricket*. But Winston insisted 
that he 'liked* village cricket, and as for leaving Parliament, that was un- 
thinkable. 1 am a child of the House of Commons,' he announced 
solemnly. His friends then argued that even if he remained in Parliament 
he at least should give up the Leadership of the Opposition. It was an 
exacting job, and undignified for one who could command world atten- 
tion whenever he chose. 

But Winston had no intention of retiring from this position cither. He 
knew that the leadership of the Conservative Party was the only course 
that might take him bade to No. 10 Downing Street again, and die truth 
was that a few months after his defeat he resolved to become Prime 
Minister again. He had had enough experience of the back benches to 


know that real political power only lies in high office. Although he realized 
that another election probably would not come before he^vas seventy-five 
he still felt full of vigour; more important still, the conviction that he 
could manage things much better than anyone else, which he had carried 
with him all his life, still burned strongly within him, 'It would be easy for 
me to retire gracefully in an odour of civic freedoms,' he told a Con- 
servative Party Conference on 5 October, 1945, 'and the plan crossed my 
mind frequently some months ago. I feel now, however, that the situation 
is so serious and what may have to come so grave, that I am resolved to go 
forward carrying the flag so long as I have the necessary strength and 
energy and so long as I have your confidence/ 

So to those friends who urged his resignation from the Party leadership 
he replied firmly: 'My horse may not be a very good one, but at least it's 
better than being in the infantry/ 

As Leader of the Opposition it was Mr. Churchill's duty to oppose, and 
he plunged into the attack against the Labour Government with obvious 
relish. On 28 November, 1945, he told a large Conservative Party audi- 
ence that the verdict of the country at the polls was 'a hideous kpse and 
error in domestic affairs'. 'I hope you will believe/ he said, 'that it is with 
no personal bias, soreness or conceit that I declare that the vote of the 
nation at the General Election was one of the greatest disasters that has 
smitten us in our long and chequered history/ These were strong words, 
and annoying words too, for the electorate does not like being told it is a 
fool. However, Winston went on to develop the two main themes which 
were to be his battle-cries for the next five years; first, that the Labour 
Government by its misguided and spiteful economic policies would lead 
the country to industrial ruin, and second, because of their doctrinaire and 
unpatriotic theories they would carry the country towards totalitarianism. 
Neither of these prophecies was fulfilled; in fact, the direct opposite 
proved true. Although die Labour Government took over a nation which 
had exhausted her wealth and resources in a gigantic war effort and was 
literally facing bankruptcy, five years later, almost to the month, it was in 
a position to announce that Britain was the first country in Europe able 
to stand on her own feet and pay her own way. And fax from flirting with 
totalitarianism, under the leadership of Ernest Bcvin the Labour Govern- 
ment not only established itself as a formidable foe of Communism but 
was playing a leading role in spreading the democratic faith throughout 
the world. 'Ours is a philosophy ia its own right,' explained Prime 
Minister Atdee in a broadcast in January 1948. 'Our task is to work out a 


system of a new and challenging kind which combines individual freedom 
with a planned economy; democracy with social justice. The task which 
faces not only ourselves but all the Western democracies required a 
Government inspired by a new conception of society with a dynamic 
policy in accord with the needs of a new situation. It could not be accom- 
plished by any of the old Parries, nor by a totalitarian Party, whether 
Fascist or Communist.' 

The Labour majority of 1945 undoubtedly will take its place alongside 
the Liberal sweep of 1906 as one of the great reforming Parliaments of 
British history. But the programme that it carried through, like that of its 
forerunner, has been so largely accepted by the country as a whole that 
even from the short perspective of to-day it is difficult to see what all the 
fiiss was about. A large amount of social legislation was passed which now 
has the support of most Conservatives; a number of basic industries were 
nationalized, almost all of which were in need of vast sums of capital 
equipment, and which to-day only a few of the most rabid Tories would 
like to see back in private hands. 

Why, then, the reader may ask, was Churchill's opposition so violent? 
Did he really believe in the disaster he predicted, or was it merely part of 
his fight to regain power? There is litde doubt that in the first years of the 
Parliament Winston viewed the future with dire apprehension. But it 
should not be forgotten that home affairs opened up a field of thought for 
him which had been closed for nearly a generation. During the ten years 
before the war he had been wholly absorbed by foreign relations; and 
during the five years of his Premiership he had been so occupied with 
military matters that he had delegated the country's domestic problems to 
his Labour colleagues. Aside from this, his long political life had not been 
distinguished for his judgment or understanding of internal issues. Prob- 
ably die least satisfactory period of his career was the five years between 
1924 and 1929 in which he had served as Chancellor of the Exchequer. 

The cold science of economics had never held the slightest attraction for 
him. He had a few simple, fundamental views on finance which had been 
instilled in him as a youth and from which he had never deviated. 1 was 
brought up to believe that taxation was a bad thing, 9 he told the House of 
Commons on 27 October, 1949, 'but the consuming power of the people 

was a good thing I was brought up to believe that trade should be 

regulated mainly by the kws of supply and demand and that, apart from 
basic necessaries in great emergencies, the price mechanism should adjust 
and correct undue spending at home, as it does, apart from gifts and sub- 
sidies, control spending abroad ... I still hold to these general principles.' 

What Winston failed to understand in those grim days after tie war was 


that Britain was actually facing starvation. It would have been impossible 
for any Government, whether Conservative or Socialist, to let the laws of 
supply and demand work freely. The country was desperately in need of 
cars, textiles, china, kitchen utensils, in fact everything one could mention; 
yet unless Britain starved her home markets she could not export enough 
goods to feed herself, for she had to buy the raw materials with which to 
manufacture, and many of these raw materials were in short supply. This 
meant that the strictest control on industry was absolutely necessary in 
order to ensure that the key industries received necessary materials. 

Winston did not understand these theories. They were contrary to all 
he had been taught, and he refused to open his eyes to the fact that the 
situation itself was quite unlike any other that the country had faced. 
'Whoever thought of starving the home trade as a peacetime measure of 
stimulating exports?' he told a Conservative Party meeting in November 
1945. 'Sir Stafford Cripps is under the profound delusion that he can build 
up an immense, profitable export trade while keeping everything at the 
minimum here at home. Look what he is doing to die motor car industry. 
... He is a great advocate of "Strength through Misery"/ 

Winston decided that all the controls and restrictions imposed by the 
Socialists were merely part of a spiteful ideology. The Government's 
decision to continue high taxation on the largest incomes, in order to be 
able to ask the wage earners not to press for larger wages, was construed 
by him as pure malice; and the principle of maintaining a rationing system 
while goods were in short supply was interpreted as bureaucracy gone 
mad. 'The Socialist belief,' he told a Conservative Rally at Blenheim 
Palace on 4 August, 1947, 'is that nothing matters so long as miseries are 
equally shared and certainly they have acted in accordance with their 
faith.' In October of the same year he told the House of Commons: 'The 
reason why we are not able to earn our living and make our way in the 
world as a vast, complex, civilized country is because we are not allowed 
to do so. The whole enterprise, initiative, contrivance, and genius, of the 
British nation is being increasingly paralysed by the restrictions which are 
imposed upon it in the name of a mistaken political philosophy and a 
largely obsolete mode of thought 1 am sure that this policy of equaliz- 
ing misery and organizing scarcity, instead of allowing diligence, self- 
interest and ingenuity, to produce abundance, has only to be prolonged to 
kill this British Island stone dead.' 

During the next five years Churchill painted a horrific picture of what 
was happening in Britain. He claimed that the Labour Government was a 
disaster almost as great as the second World War; he declared that the 
country was 'hag-ridden by Socialist doctrines', that it was 'torn by feud 


and faction, and strangled by incompetence and folly'. He accused the 
Labour leaders of 'squalid Party motives', of 'cheap and bitter abuse', of 
'crazy theories and personal incompetence', and of a 'dismal and evil reign'. 

These polemics were characteristic of Churchill when he was fighting a 
battle. He always saw an issue as a stirring and vital challenge. Fierce 
partisanship was the very essence of his nature, and this time, with a glitter- 
ing prize awaiting the victor, he threw himself into the fray with increased 
ardour. A large section of Conservative support, however, was embar- 
rassed by his invective, and felt that perhaps he was conjuring up a savage 
dragon in order to continue in the role of Britain's saviour. Even in the 
Conservative Parliamentary Party there began to be discontent. Winston 
was so unpredictable, they complained. He only made sporadic appear- 
ances in the House, and instead of trying to organize the Opposition as a 
team, he often made speeches without even consulting his shadow Cabinet. 
The Conservatives had not won a single by-election; it was obvious, said 
their back-benchers, that they must produce a policy, yet Winston refused 
stubbornly to commit himself to any programme. It was rumoured that 
he had never even bothered to read die Tory Industrial Charter which 
R. A. Butler had produced so painstakingly. Perhaps things would be 
better, they whispered, if Winston resigned and Eden took his place. At 
this point, in 1949, Picture Post ran an article entitled: 'Is Churchill a 
Liability to the Tories?' and Lord Beaverbrook's Sunday Express stoutly 
replied: 'When Mr. Churchill is in his scat, the Opposition breathes fire. 
When he is not, the Tory front bench has the venom of a bunch of 

Although the discontent of the Tory back bench continued, the 
Members found that it was not easy to remove a leader, and far less easy 
to remove a leader of Churchill's determination. Although the latter was 
well aware of tie agitation in favour of Eden he clung firmly to his saddle 
and remained unperturbed. 'When I want to tease Anthony,' he remarked 
slyly to a friend, 'I remind him that Gladstone formed his last administra- 
tion at the age of eighty-four.' 

Winston was right to remain unruffled for when the results of the 1950 
General Election were known Conservative criticism abruptly ceased. The 
Tories had cut down Labour's majority to only six; this made another 
election in the very near future inevitable, and if the swing continued 
against the Government, which it was likely to do as long as Britain was 
undergoing hardships, Churchill was certain to become Prime Minister 

He now began to change his tactics. It was wise to do so for in June 1950, 
five months after the election had taken place, his prophecies of industrial 


disaster had been proved completely false; Britain was able to forgo 
Marshall Aid, two years earlier than even the Americans had expected, 
and to pay her own way. However, a month later the war in Korea broke 
out and before the year was over Attlee had pledged the country to a 
large defence programme. Rearmament and stockpiling began to send up 
prices of raw materials all over the world, and England, which had hoped 
for easier days, found herself confronted with new economic worries. The 
cost of living was rising and the terms of trade were moving against her; 
these were the issues on which Churchill concentrated. 

When one looks through the press cuttings between the years 1945-51 
one is staggered that even a man of Churchill's capacity could have poured 
out such an avalanche of passion, energy, and work. He wrote five 
volumes of the history of the second World War; he exhibited new 
paintings at the Royal Academy; he made important speeches in America 
and half the capitals of Europe; he was the most celebrated figure at all the 
great functions of the day; he received honorary degrees from the Univer- 
sities and civic freedoms from countless cities; he awarded medals, signed 
souvenirs, addressed rallies and was accorded tumultuous ovations when- 
ever he went abroad. 

At home, he acquired five hundred acres of land near Chartwell and 
plunged into farming; he loved animals, and was as pleased as a child with 
the marmalade kitten his wife gave him and the French poodle sent to 
him by a friend; he delighted in his goldfish, hung a drawing of his pet cat 
in an honoured position and watched after his beautiful black Australian 
swans with tender solicitude. When a fox killed the mother swan leaving 
behind an enraged father and six three-week-old cygnets he telephoned 
the superintendent of the Zoo for advice, and a man was sent out to 
remove the young ones to safety. But Winston's interest in animals did 
not stop here. In 1949 he took out the chocolate and pink racing colours 
that both his father and grandfather had used, and bought a colt which 
soon became famous on the turf as Colonist II. In 1950 he entered this 
horse in the Winston Churchill Stakes at Hurst Park in the hope of break- 
ing the run of successes of French owners, who had triumphed every year 
since the race started in 1946. As a tribute to Churchill the clerk of the 
course printed on the programme the memorable words starting with, 

'Let us, therefore, brace ourselves to our duties * Colonist n did not 

win, but he came in second. 

Churchill's work on his history of the second World War was a major 
operation. But he still held to his theory that it was foolish to indulge in 


detailed work that others could do for him. His first step, therefore, was 
to assemble a large and competent staff to check facts, sort material, pro- 
duce memoranda, collect information, and give advice. He gathered 
around him naval, military and air experts, scientists, historians and 
classical scholars, not to mention a competent team of secretaries who 
worked day and night on eight hbur shifts. Winston did all his writing 
by dictation, sometimes turning out eight or nine thousand words a day. 
As the work progressed he began to receive offers for the serial rights from 
editors all over the world. Tm not writing a book,' Winston commented 
to a friend, Tm developing a property.' Life magazine bought the serial 
rights for a sum that was said to be near two million dollars. 

Five volumes of the book have now been published and literary critics, 
soldiers and historians have hailed it as one of the classics of all time. It 
stands in a category of its own, for no other great statesman has ever had 
the ability to write as a great historian; and no great historian has ever been 
provided with more dramatic material. 'When before, through all the 
centuries of this island's history, has such a theme matched such a pen?' 
commented the Spectator. 

For recreation, while he was writing his book, Churchill turned back to 
his old love, painting. During the war he had been forced to abandon this 
pastime, but now he re-embraced it with enthusiasm, and according to 
the art critics, painted better pictures than he had ever done before. In 
1947, for the first time, he exhibited pictures at the Royal Academy; and 
when, a few years later, he was asked to contribute a painting to a society 
of amateur artists he announced that he was 'a professional'. 

An amusing account of Winston, as an artist, was given by Sir John 
Rothenstein, an eminent critic and Director of the Tate Gallery. In Feb- 
ruary 1949 Churchill invited Rothenstein to lunch at Chartwell and told 
him that he would be grateful for any criticisms of his paintings he would 
care to make. 'Speak, I pray, with absolute frankness,' he said, as he led his 
guest into lunch. 'As soon as we sat down,' wrote Rothenstein, 'he began 
to talk about Sickert. "He came to stay here," said Mr. Churchill, "and in 
a fortnight he imparted to me all his considered wisdom about painting. 
He had a room specially darkened to work in, but I wasn't an apt pupil, 
for I rejoice in the highest lights and the brightest colours." ' Mr. Churchill 
spoke with appreciation of Sickert's knowledge of music-halls, and he 
sang a nineteenth-century ballad Sickert had taught him not just a line 
or two but to the end. 

' "I think," he went on, "the person who taught me most about paint- 


ing was William Nicholson. I noticed you looking, I thought with 
admiration, at those drawings he made of my beloved cat" 

'Back in the studio,' continued Rothenstein, 'fortified by a bottle of 
champagne, I found his invitation to give my opinion of his work without 
reserve much less alarming. Mr. Churchill was so exhilarating and so 
genial a companion that, before I had been with him a few hours, the 
notion of speaking with absolute frankness seemed as natural as it had 
earlier seemed temerarious. 

'My first detailed criticism of one of his paintings had an unexpected, 
indeed a startling, result. I offered the opinion, with regard to a landscape 
a wood on the margin of a lake that the shore was too shallow, too 
lightly modelled and too pale in tone to support the weight of the heavy 
trees with their dense, dark foliage, so that, instead of growing up out of 
the earth, they weighted it down. "Oh," Mr. Churchill said, "but I can 
put that right at once; it would take less than a quarter of an hour," and 
he began to look out the brushes and colours. "But surely this painting," 
I said, "must be among your earliest." "I did it about twenty years ago." 
"Well then," I objected, "surely it is impossible for you to recapture the 
mood in which you painted it or indeed your whole outlook of those 
days." "You are really persuaded of that?" he grumbled, abandoning with 
evident reluctance the notion of repainting.' 1 

Sir John Rothenstein's verdict on Mr. Churchill's work was that 'he is 
able to paint pictures of real merit which bear a direct and intimate rela- 
tion to his outlook on life. In these pictures there comes bubbling irre- 
pressibly up his sheer enjoyment of the simple beauties of nature. . . .' 
The highest peaks of his achievement, in Rothenstein's opinion, are 'The 
Goldfish Pool at ChartweU' (1948), 'The Loup River, Alpes Maritimes' 
(1947), 'Chartwell under Snow' (1947), and 'Cannes Harbour, Evening' 
(1923). These and twenty other paintings have been exhibited at the 
Royal Academy. 

Although Mr. Churchill's work as a Party leader paved the way for his 
return to No. 10 Downing Street, it was the least important and least dis- 
tinguished of his activities during his six years in opposition. From a 
political point of view, his most valuable contribution came in the old, 
familiar fidd of foreign affairs. On home subjects he was the party 
politician, but on world problems he never failed to fulfil his part as the 
great world statesman. 

As far as foreign policy was concerned there was no break or defection 
in the course Churchill had pursued for the last forty years. He still believed 

1 Mr. Churchill: The Artist: Sir John Rothenstein (Sunday Times, 7january, 1951)- 


it vitally necessary to build up a strong balance of power against any 
nation which threatened to dominate the European continent; but now 
no balance could be decisive without commitments from the United 
States. Winston's foreign policy was dear-cut and simple; first, the 
fraternal association with America which he had preached to Roosevelt 
without success; and second, a Western Europe united against aggression 
to which America and Britain would pledge their mutual aid. This was 
exactly the same policy that Churchill had advocated against the German 
threat in the thirties, but in those days most of the countries of Europe 
preferred to act independently, and the United States insisted on remain- 
ing aloof. 

In view of the consistency of Churchill's thought, it seems surprising 
that his speech, delivered in Fulton, Missouri, on 5 March, 1946, should 
have caused such a sensation. But the war had ended only eight months 
previously and many Americans still clung to Roosevelt's belief that there 
was a special affinity between the Russian and American people; and that 
good will and co-operation were bound to blossom with mutual trust. 
Churchill made it dear to his audience that he considered this a senti- 
mental daydream and pointed harshly to the facts. '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 The Communist Parties, which were very 

small in all these Eastern States of Europe, have been raised to pre- 
eminence and power far beyond their numbers and are seeking every- 
where to obtain totalitarian control Police government is prevailing in 
nearly every case, and so far, except in Czechoslovakia, there is no true 

This speech was of historic importance. It marked die end of Roose- 
velt's policy of blind trust towards the Soviet Union, and marked the 
beginning of Churchill's policy of peace through strength, based on the 
'fraternal association of the English-speaking peoples'. 1 will venture to be 
precise,* he told his listeners. 'Fraternal association requires not only the 
growing friendship and mutual understanding between our two vast but 
kindred systems of society, but the continuance of the intimate relation- 
ship between our military advisers, leading to common study of potential 
dangers, the similarity of weapons and manuals of instruction, and to the 
interchange of officers and cadets at technical colleges.' To-day, this dose 
association is no longer a dream but the chief factor in maintaining the 
peace in Europe. 


Churchill's second goal, a united Europe, was far less clearly defined in 
his mind than his relationship with America. What part was Britain to 
play? Was she to encourage continental Europe to form a federal bloc, but 
to stand aloof herself retaining a position as the third point of the triangle 
between United Europe and the United States? Or was she to consider 
herself not only part of Europe, but the leader and organizer of Europe, 
and, as such, to head a powerful union which could talk to the United 
States on equal terms with equal power behind it? 

At first it is clear that Winston favoured this second course. The vision 
of Europe as a single entity had been the dream of conquerors for cen- 
turies past; now with a leader of Winston's stature its realization seemed 
to move into the realms of possibility by good will and mutual desire 
alone. There was such an upsurge of feeling for the idea that Churchill 
had no difficulty in forming an all-party European Movement to promote 
the aim of ultimate unification. In a speech at the Albert Hall in London on 
14 May, 1947, he started the ball rolling but he was careful not to commit 
himself to any definite action. It is not for us at this stage to attempt to 
define or prescribe the structure of constitutions. We ourselves are con- 
tent, in the first instance, to present the idea of United Europe, in which 
our country will play a decisive part, as a moral, cultural and spiritual 
conception to which we can all rally without being disturbed by diverg- 
ences about structure. It is for the responsible statesmen, who have the 
conduct of affairs in their hands and the power of executive action, to 
shape and fashion the structure. It is for us to ky the foundation, to create 
the atmosphere and give the driving impulsion.' 

The European Movement began to gather followers all over the Con- 
tinent and almost exactly a year later, in May 1948, a momentous 'Con- 
gress of Europe* representing a dozen nations assembled at The Hague. 
Churchill made a stirring speech calling on the Governments of Western 
Europe to authorize a European Assembly which would enable its voice 
'to make itself continuously heard and we' trust with every growing 
acceptance through all the free countries of the Continent*. And this time 
he went further toward the federal idea. 'The Movement for European 
Unity must be a positive force, deriving its strength from our sense of 
common spiritual values. ... It is impossible to separate economics and 
defence from the general political structure. Mutual aid in the economic 
field and joint military defence must inevitably be accompanied step by 
step with a parallel policy of closer politicaLunity. It is said with truth that 
this involves some sacrifice or merger of national sovereignty/ 

As a result of the Hague Conference twelve Governments including the 
Labour Government of Britain authorized the setting up of a Council of 


Europe. The first meeting of the historic assembly took place in Stras- 
bourg in the summer of 1949. 1 attended this meeting and arrived to find 
the whole city in an atmosphere of celebration. The green and white flags 
of United Europe fluttered from all the buildings, the restaurants were 
garlanded and festooned, and cameramen and reporters from all over the 
world arrived to record the proceedings. Winston Churchill was given a 
luxurious villa and provided with one of the best cooks in France. United 
Europe would be born with all the refinements that civilization could 

But Churchill's speech, which was regarded as the highlight of the 
conference, came as a startling douche of cold water. Once so warm and 
enthusiastic about United Europe, he shocked and chilled the assembly by 
his sudden indifference. He made it clear that he was not in favour of an 
overall authority and talked in terms that were so vague as to be almost 
meaningless. *I am not myself committed to a federal or any other par- 
ticular solution at this stage. We must thoroughly explore all the various 
possibilities, and a committee, working coolly and without haste, should, 
in a few months, be able to show the practical steps which would be most 
helpful to us. ... To take a homely and familiar test, we may just as well 
see what the girl looks like before we marry her.' 

What happened to Churchill in the twelve months since the Hague 
Conference? Why had he changed his mind about the part Britain should 
play? The most obvious answer was the fact that in Britain itself there was 
practically no support for the federal idea. Although Winston had col- 
lected a handful of English intellectuals and politicians, most of the 
enthusiasm for United Europe came from the Continent and not from 
England. Both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party were dead 
against any commitment which might impair British sovereignty. And 
since politics is the art of what is possible and a General Election was only 
a few months off, it is dear that Winston felt impelled to heed public 

Apart from this, however, Churchill himself was cooling off on the idea 
of a supreme political authority. The more he studied the implications of a 
United Europe with Britain as a member state the less he liked it. After 
all, Britain was the most heavily developed industrial power in Europe 
with a standard of living far Hghcr than her neighbours. Federation 
eventually must mean a common currency and a common finanrial 
budget. Foreigners did not pay their taxes, and some of their civil services 
were notoriously corrupt. Did this mean the British public would find 
itself financing its neighbours? And because of the lower standard of living 
on the Continent would foreign goods swamp the British markets and 


cause unemployment? And would it be wise to allow foreign legislatures, 
some of them riddled with Communism, to control British coal and steel 
on which the very survival of the nation depended? 

The more Churchill examined the economic consequences of Union the 
less he liked it; and the more he studied British reactions the less he was 
convinced that his proud and insular countrymen would ever give their 
sanction to such a course. One neecfs only to recall the national reaction in 
1940, when the Continent was overrun and England stood alone, to 
realize how difficult such a step would have been. In those days English 
people received the news of the fall of France and the return of the British 
Army with open relief. 'Now we're together again,' they sighed. 'Now 
everything will be all right.' 

The Federalists on the Continent were bitterly disappointed by Chur- 
chill's change of heart During the war he had offered France common 
citizenship, and had talked the same language to the United States. A great 
vision glowed in his mind which still burned brightly in the first years of 
the post-war era. He talked of a "transformation of the Western world' and 
referred to a 'Federal Constitution for Europe', saying, 'I hope this maybe 
eventually achieved.' 1 

Now he had come round to the view of Mr. Ernest Bevin, the Foreign 
Secretary, that the only possibility as far as Great Britain was concerned 
was 'inter-governmental' co-operation. This was a crushing blow to the 
Continental Unionists, for it meant the end of any hope of a Parliament of 
all Europe. As M. Schuman, the French Foreign Minister, announced in 
November 1949, 'Without Britain there can be no Europe.' He might 
also have added, 'Without Churchill there can be no complete European 
Union,' for it is dear that no other man save Winston could have aroused 
the enthusiasm or commanded the world-wide following that would have 
made the transformation possible. 

Without Churchill's support the grand design of United Europe 
perished; but in its stead have come the beginnings of a smaller federation 
between six of the Continental countries and a closer understanding be- 
tween all nations of the West, economically, militarily and spiritually, than 
ever before. Another age may see the whole dream fulfilled. 

1 Albert Hall, London, 14 May, 1947. 



CHURCHILL COMPLAINED that the 1950 General Election was 
'positively demure/ He had no such criticism of the contest that 
followed twenty-one months later. The General Election of October 
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. This, said the 
Tories, was the fault of weakness and indecision on the part of the 
Socialists. The Labour Party retaliated by reminding the public of 
Mr. Churchill's impulsiveness, and warning voters that precipitous 
acts were capable of landing Britain in another war. Churchill angrily 
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. 1 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. 

A month later he attended the Lord Mayor's banquet at the Guild- 
hall 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 con- 
vincing/ He smiled. '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/ 2 

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 

1 Mr. 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. 
Churchill's costs and to make a contribution to a charity named by him. 

2 The Times: November 10, 1951. 



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. 

At seventy-seven he seemed strong and vigorous, still towering over 
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 
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, this was unexpected enough coming as it did from the 
most pugnacious statesman the century had produced. At home he was 
determined to put an end to the class war which had been mounting 
during the Socialists' tenure of office, and to lower the tension be- 
tween the two parties which he believed had become unnecessarily 
bitter. 'We are met together here/ he told Parliament in his first 
speech as Prime Minister, '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/ l 

Churchill appointed Mr. R. A. Butler, one of his 'left-wing' con- 
servatives to take over the chancellorship of the Treasury, and the 
British economy moved forward with surprisingly few changes. For 
example, surtax, which many business men claimed was destroying 
incentive, remained as high as ever. 

Nevertheless the emphasis was different; Winston 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 Govern- 
ment de-nationalized steel, and separated road haulage from the con- 
trol of the nationalized railways. The terms of 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 owners of television sets alone; in 1951, 
1 Hansard: Novemer 7, 1951. 


1,181,126 licenses were issued by the Post Office; in 1955, owners* 
numbered 5,400,083. 

Churchill's real interest, however, lay in affairs abroad. 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 re-enter 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. 'I am an optimist/ he 
said. f lt does not seem to be of much use being anything else. . . ,' 
He felt that if the great powers would consent to talk with the Rus- 
sians 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/ 1 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 Malen- 
kov 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 Churchill was doomed to dis- 
appointment. Just as it looked possible to arrange a meeting, the 
1 The Times: November 10, 1954. 


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 con- 
ference 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 in- 
vite 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 Eisen- 
hower 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. . . . 

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 im- 
portant decisions frequently were being delayed. In April 1955 sev- 
eral 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; 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 

1 Hansard: March 2, 1955. 


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. 

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 drab- 
ness; 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, Churchill had been the object of many 
stirring occasions. In 1953 the new Queen, Elizabeth II, had bestowed 
the Garter upon her First Minister and he became known to the world 
as Sir Winston. Later, that same year the Royal Swedish Academy an- 
nounced that the British Premier had been awarded the Nobel Prize 
for Literature. In a speech of acceptance Sir Winston said, 'I am very 
proud indeed to receive an honor which is international. I have re- 
ceived several which are national, but this is the first that is interna- 
tional 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.' 1 

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. Churchill described it as the great- 
est honor that had ever been accorded him. The members of both 
Houses, and all parties, gathered in Westminster Hall on the morn- 
ing of November 30 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 

1 The Times: October 16, 1953. 


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 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. 
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 pho- 
tograph of the painting a short while before the Birday- 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 hi years and perhaps 
at his failing perceptibilities. He was assured that the artist had not 
intended it so; nevertheless, his anger rankled. 

Word of Churchill's reaction began to get around, and people 
waited nervously for the presentation to take place. By this time, how- 
ever, 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 un- 
disturbed. That afternoon the painting was sent to 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. 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.' l 

Then he referred to the generous words of the Leader of the Op- 
position. '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/ 2 

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, 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 phono- 
graph. 'If I had another life to live,' he remarked to a friend, 'I 
would like to conduct a great orchestra; 1 and here he gave an im- 
pressive demonstration. 

Today, as Churchill nears the end of his journey, his life is peace- 
ful and his days crowded. He loves his farm, his fish, his dogs, his 
horses, his painting and writing. And he still follows the trend of 
foreign affairs. 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 

1 The Times: December 1, 1954. 


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/ l 

And, a few weeks later, on May 10, when he went to Germany to 
receive the Charlemagne Prize, he sowed an idea which inspired 
world-wide 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. 

Five years ago, on December 20, 1951, a London Sunday news- 
paper, the Observer, printed a profile of the Prime Minister which 
said: 'Any consideration of 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 politi- 
cal 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 

This is a superficial and unjust judgment. Leaving aside the fact 
that the writer has compared Churchill to statesmen who, with the 
exception of Chatham, created unity out of civil war and disorder 
within their own countries, the suggestion that Churchill's life 
presents no theme or no definite achievement is absurd. Now that his 
political work is nearly ended, the pattern stands out boldly: a fierce 
belief that the freedom of man, and of 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 Mr. 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 

1 The Times: April 14, 1956. 


fulfillment of Mr. Churchill's heart's desire. Never before in peace- 
time 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 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 con- 
tinues to be a foundation stone 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 
between nations, Mr. 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 Leonardo da 
Vinci, and no doubt the world will have to wait as long again to see 
his like reborn. 

Yet although his accomplishments place him apart as a giant, stu- 
dents of the future may find his character the most unusual subject of 
all. For over fifty years 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. With Churchill it is possible 
to see selfishness flash into generosity; mischievousness retreat before 
a stria code of Victorian morality; impulsiveness melt into wisdom; 
dejection surge into wit; flouts and jeers dissolve into a warm and 
loyal friendship. And shining through all the contradictions of his 
mercurial temperament is a burning courage, and a deep faith in the 
power for good within the human race. He will be remembered as a 
statesman, but he will be cherished as a man. 



Abyssinia, 300-302 

Aftermath, The, 239 

Agadir, 151-153 

Amery, Leopold S., 34-35, 60, 240, 255, 

Anatolia, 238 
Ankara, 238 

Antwerp, 178-182, 216, 232, 251, 299 
Archangel, 330, 332 
Asquith, Herbert .see Oxford and As- 

quith, Earl of 
Asquith, Margot, 103 
Astor, Lady, 332 
Athens, 347 
Atkins, J.B., 58-60, 87 
Atdee, Clement R., 8. 301, 317, 321, 

354, 357-358, 361 


Baldwin, Stanley, Earl Baldwin of 
Bewdley: Becomes Premier, 250- 
251; appoints C to Exchequer, 256, 
257; his astuteness, 257; and General 
Strike, 264-267; finds C. a difficult 
colleague, 275, 298; real master of 
National Government, 282; backs 
disarmament, 293; confession about 
German air power, 297, 304; excludes 
C. from office, 298, 306; will not risk 
sanctions, 301-302; and occupation of 
Rhineland, 303-304; and Abdication, 
304-305; mentioned, 240, 255, 258, 

Balfour, Arthur James, ist Earl: Com- 
ments on C., 5, 56, 102, 105, 147, 
246; supposed plan to rid of leader- 
ship, 90-91; and Free Trade, 95-96, 
98; excludes C. from office, 96, 103, 

133, 253; C/s attacks on, 98, 100, 
104-105, 126, 131; and plan for Boer 
Republics, in, 113; succeeds C. at 
Admiralty, 213 ; supports C. at West- 
minster by-election, 252, 255; men- 

tioned, 38, 68, 77, 89, 114, 127? 135, 

Balfour of Burleigh, Lord, 77 

Balfour, Gerald, 77 

Balkans, the, 187-201, 341-342, 344- 


Baltic States, 312, 331, 332 
Bangalore, 45-4? 
Barnes, Reginald, 43-45 
Bardett, Ashmead, 206 
Baruch, Bernard, 224 
Battenberg, Prince Louis of, 182-183 
Beaconsfield, Lord see Disraeli 
Beatty, David, ist Earl, 52, 162-163 
Beaverbrook, Lord, 172, 176, 177, 183, 

201, 202, 204, 206, 210, 212, 214, 

217-219, 240, 272, 274, 32<$-327 
Beckett, Ernest, 90 
Beerbohm, Sir Max, 121 
Belfast, 168 

Beresford, Lord Charles, 158, 220 
Berlin, 349-350 

Berwick, James Fitzjames, Duke of, 17 
Berwick and Alba, Duke of, ijn. 
Bevan, Aneurin, 8 
Bevin, Ernest, 8, 259, 265-266, 268, 

301, 354, 357, 3*7 

Birdwood, Field-Marshal Sir William, 

Birkenhead, ist Earl of, 10, 96, 108, 
135-136, 169, 171, 172, 202, 212, 215, 
218, 219, 236, 237, 238, 240, 247, 
252-253, 257, 264, 272, 304 

Birrell, Augustine, 114, 125 


Black Sea,' 34i 

Blandford, Lord (later 8th Duke of 

Marlborough), 20, 22, 31 
Blenheim, 292 
Blenheim Palace, 4, 15-16, 18-19, 20, 

Blood, General Sir Bindon, 47, 48 
Blunt, Wilfrid Scawen, 97, 124, 127, 


Boer War, 57-67, 78-81, 99, in, 237 
Booth, Charles, 73, 122 
Boothby, Robert, 139, 270-271 
Bosnia, 152 
Botha, Louis, 112 
Bournemouth, 31, 37 
Bowles, Gibson, 85, 94 
Bracken, Viscount, 10, 327 
Bradford, 90, 169 
Bradley, General Omar, 350 
Brentford, Viscount (William Joynson- 

Hicks), 116-117 
Bridges, Sir Edward, 318 
Brighton, 30, 32 
Brockie, Sergeant, 62-63, 65-66 
Brockway, Fenner, 25511. 
Brodrick, William St. John, ist Earl of 

Middleton, 84, <K>, 92 
Brownlow, Lord, 327 
Buller, General Sir Redvers, 57, 66 
Bullitt, William .C, 328, 339 
Burns, John, 114 
Buxton, Charles R., 248 
Byng, General Sir Julian, 222 


CAIRO, 235, 337, 343 

CampbeU-Bannerman, Sir Henry, 91, 
95, in, 114, 115, 220 

Cannes, 244 

Garden, Admiral Sir Sackville Hamil- 
ton, 188-189, 190, 192 

Carson, Edward, Lord, 38, 168-169, 


Casablanca, 337 
Cassel, Sir Ernest, 141 
Cecil, Evelyn, 133, 209, 220 

Cecil, Lord Hugh (ktcr Baron Quicks- 
wood), 77, 90, 93, 94, 137 

Cecil, Lord Robert (later Viscount 
Cecil of Chelwood), 77 

Chamberlain, Sir Austen, 100, 133, 137, 
204, 236, 238, 240, 252 

Chamberlain, Joseph, 25, 38, 57, 67, 68, 
77. 80, 90, 94-97. 98-99, 103, 137, 

Chamberlain, Neville, 6, 9, 305, 309, 
310, 3", 3H-3I6, 317, 339 

Chanak, 238, 239, 240, 299 

Chant, Mrs. Ormiston, 39 

Chartwell, 9-10, 41, 246, 272-274, 291, 
295-296, 307, 326, 361, 362-363 

Chequers, 11, 326-327, 328 

Cherwell, Lord see Lindemann, Pro- 

Chiang Kai-Shek, 343 

Churchill, Arabella, 17 

Churchill, Diana, 216 

Churchill, Admiral George, 17 

Churchill, John, 29, 31, 32, 37, 66, 91 

Churchill, Mary, 326, 355 

Churchill, Lord Randolph: Early life, 
20-21; courtship and marriage, 21- 
22; elected for Woodstock, 21-22, 
25 ; displeases Prince of Wales, 22-23 ; 
in Ireland, 23, 28; in Tory opposition, 
23-26, 167; his Fourth Party, 23, 94; 
and Tory Democracy', 24-25, 93; 
popularity of, 25-26, 32; in office, 26, 
257; sensational resignation, 26-27, 
84, 86-87, 88; illness and death, 27, 
38, 40, 102; reserve towards son, 33, 
38-39, 40-41; disappointed in him, 
33> 36-37; C. fascinated by his career, 
50, 58, 59> 75^76, 88, 89; C.'s life of, 
89, 109-111; C. compared with, 97, 
99, 104; C. regards him as saviour of 
Tories, 109-110, 121; on Irish Home 
Rule, 167-168, 237; on India, 279; 
mentioned, 4, 15, 16, 18-19, 43, 77, 
81, 83, 91, 94, 96, 273 

Churchill, Lady Randolph, 15-16, 18- 

19, 20-22, 23, 25, 28-29, 3<>, 31. 37. 
41, 42, 43, 45, 48, 51, <5<5, 112, 206, 

Churchill, Randolph, 9, 216, 273, 307, 


Churchill, Sarah, 216, 355 
Churchill, Mrs. Winston S., 3, 10, 136- 

138, 168, 206, 216, 226, 244, 272, 


Churchill, Sir Winston, 16-17 
Citrine, Sir Walter, 302 
Clemenceau, Georges, 225-226 
Closing the Ring, 334, 335, 338, 342, 344 
Clynes, J. R., 252 
Collins, Michael, 237 
Colville, John, 328-329 
Constantinople, 188, 189, 190, 193, 194, 


Cranbornc, Lord (later 4th Marquess of 
Salisbury), 77 

Crewe, Marquis of, 187 

Cripps, Sir Stafford, 322, 354, 359 

Cuba, 43-45, 58 

Curzon of Kcdlcston, George, Mar- 
quess, 212, 238, 240 

Czechoslovakia, 309, 348-349 


Dalton, Hugh, 260 

Damascus, 235 

Damaskinos, Archbishop, 347 

Dardanelles, 184, 186-201, 216, 219, 

220, 232, 238, 245, 251, 314, 319 
Davis, Richard Harding, 40 
De Valera, Eamonn, 237 
Dcakin, Colonel F. W., 274 
Denikin, General, 230 
Denmark, 314 
Dewsnap, Mr., 65, 67 
Dilke, Sir Charles, 122 
Disraeli, Benjamin, 21, 22, 23, 72 
Ditchley, 322 

Drummond-Wolff, Sir Henry, 43 
Dublin, 28-29 
Duckcrs, Scott, 2550. 

INDEX 379 

Dundee: 1908 by-election at, 117-119, 
136; 1922 election at, 240, 242-243, 


Dunkirk, 175, 176-177, 178, 182 
Durban, 59, 66 

East Fulham: 1933 by-election at, 294 
Eden, Anthony, 309, 347, 3o 
Edinburgh, 130 

Edward VII, 22-23, 49, 7 1 , 74, 78, 134 
Edward VIII, 304-305 
Egyp^ 50-54, 56, 58, 235, 271 
Eisenhower, General Dwight D., 320, 
321, 322, 325, 340, 341, 345, 349-350 
Elgin, pth Earl of, in 
Elliott, Maxine, 10 
Epping, 256 
Estcourt, 59-60 
Everest, Mrs., 28, 29, 32, 3<*> 4i, 273 


Fergusson, Sir James, 94 

Finland, 312, 331 

Fisher, John, ist Baron, 158-159, 162- 
164, 171, 183-185, 187, 188-191, 192, 
194, 196-201, 204-205,' 213 

Foch, Marshal, 226 

French, Sir John, 174, 178, 207, 209-210 

Frewen, Mrs., 31 

Frewen, Clare see Sheridan, Clare 

Frewen, Hugh, 31 

Frewen, Oswald, 31 

Fulton, 364 

GALLIPOLI, 186, 189, 191-196, 200, 


Gandhi, Mahatma, 278, 279-280 
Gardiner, A. G., 119-120, 147 
Gathering Storm, The, 291, 292, 298, 

300, 305, 309, 3i6, 324 
Gaulle, General de, 327 
General Elections: (1873) 21; (1885) 

72; (1886) 26, 72; (1900 'khaki') 

67-68, 96; (1906) 105, 358; (1910) 

380 INDEX 

168; (1918 'coupon') 229-230, 236; 

(1920) 240-243; (1922) 246, 251; 

(1923) 251; (1924 'Red Letter') 

256; (1929) 275; (1935) 297, 30i; 

(i945) 7, 353, 358; (1950) 141, 3<5o; 

(1951) 368 

General Strike, 258, 263-270, 281, 303 
George V, 134, 135, 170, 218, 236 
George VI, 316,325 
George II of Greece, 347 
Gibb, Captain, 211-212 
Gibbon, Edward, 41, 46, 59 
Gilliland, Corporal Walter, 212 
Gkdstone, W. E., 20, 22, 23, 25-26, 38, 

72, 167, 237, 247, 300 
Glasgow, 113, 160-161 
Golvin, Colonel, 234 
Gough, Sir Hubert de la Poer, 169, 170 
Grand Alliance, The, 329, 331, 332, 336 
Granville, 2nd Earl, 24 
Great Contemporaries, 135, 156, 231, 235 
Greece, 238-239, 271, 346-347 
Greenwood, Arthur, 317 
Greenwood, Sir Hamar, 236 
Grey of Fallodon, Viscount, 77, 103, 

in, 125, 152, 153, 154, 155, 156, 160, 

171, 178, 187 
Griffith, Arthur, 237 
Guedalla, Philip, 304 
Guest, Frederick, 94 
Guest, Ivor, 94 
Gunther, John, 343 . 


Hague, The, 365 

Haig, Douglas, ist Earl, 210, 214, 215, 

220, 222, 224, 226 
Haldane, Viscount, 77, 142, 155-157, 

160, 161, 162, 169 
Haldane, General Sir Aylmer, 48-49, 


Halcvy, Elie, 73, 107, 145, 169 

Halifax, Lord, 278, 317 
Hallaway, Sergeant-Major, 55 

Hamilton, Lord George, 90, 259 
Hamilton, General Sir Ian, 48, 59, 108, 

191, 192, 251 

Harcourt, Sir William, 38 
Hardie, Keir, 73, 133, I42n., 143-144, 

248, 262 

Harington, Sir Charles, 239 
Harrow, 33-37, 119 
Harrington, Lord, 254n. 
Henderson, Arthur, 252, 254 
Hess, Rudolf, n 
Hinge of Fate, The, 321, 332, 333 
Hider, 290, 292, 294, 297, 303, 307, 

309-310, 311, 313, 3H, 3i6, 330 
Hoare, Sir Samuel (later Viscount 

Templcwood), 302 
Hong Kong, 339 
Hopkins, Harry L., 322, 336, 337, 340, 


Howard, Mr. John, 65 
Howell, (Manchester councillor), 

Hozier, Clementine see Churchill, 

Mrs. "Winston S. 
Hull, Cordell, 345 
Hunter, Sir C., 209 

INDIA, 45-49, 56, 278-280, 281-282, 

299, 339 

Iraq, 235, 243, 322 
Ireland, 23, 26, 28-29, 167-170, 236- 

238, 243 
Ismay, General, 318 



James n, 286, 288, 289 
JelHcoe, ist Earl, 162 
Jerome, Jeanette-r see Churchill, Lady 

Jof&e, Marshal, 176 
Johannesburg, 67 
John, Augustus, 244 
Joynson-Hicks, William (later Viscount 

Brentford), 116-117 

KATYN, 334 

Kemal, Mustapha, 238-239 

Keyes, Sir Roger, 314, 319 

Keynes, J. M. (later Baron), 259-263, 

Kitchener, Lord, 50-52, 56, 90, 163 ,' 
172, 174, 176, 178, 180-181, 184, 
187-188, 191, 192, 195, 196, 197, 219 

Kolchak, Admiral, 230, 231 

Korda, Sir Alexander, n 

Kruger, Paul, 57 

LADYSMITH, 59, 67 

Lansbury, George, 301 

Lansdowne, 5th Marquis of, ill, 126, 

Laski, Harold J., 354 

Laval, Pierre, 302 

Lavery, Lady, 217 

Law, Bonar, 168, 172, 201, 202-204, 
210, 217, 218-219, 239, 240, 242, 250, 

Lawrence, T. E., 235 

Lee of Fareham, Lord, 88 

Leicester, 131; election at, 251, 255 

Leslie, Lady, I5n., 31 

Leslie, Norman, 31 

Leslie, Sir Shane, I5n., 21, 22, 31, 32 

Liberalism and the Social Problem, 114, 

Lindemann, Professor (later Lord Cher- 
well), 10, 291, 296, 306 

Liverpool, 145 

Uoyd George, David (kter Earl Lloyd 
George of Dwyfor): opposes Boer 
War, 79, 80; introduced to C, 82; 
leads Radical group, 103, 106-108; 
becomes Chancellor of Exchequer, 
115, 125; relations with C., 121, 122, 
138-141, 164-167, 204, 210, 229; 
reforming measures, 122; his 1909 
Budget, 126-129, 134; opposes in- 
crease in Navy, 126, 152, 166; hatred 
of landowners, 128-129, 132, 165; 
ends railway strike, 145; and Agadir 

INDEX 381 

incident, 153, 164; and efforts to 
placate Germany, 160; his National 
Health Insurance Act, 165; deadlock 
with C. over Naval Estimates, 166- 
167; opposes Dardanelles scheme, 
189; becomes Prime Minister, 217- 
219; on C.'s opponents, 220-221; 
orders tanks, 222, 223; holds 
'Coupon* Election, 229-230; toler- 
ance of Russia, 232; responsible for 
Turkish discord, 238-239; forced to 
resign, 240, 353; and General Strike, 
269; urges Chamberlain to resign, 
315; and first World War Cabinet, 
320-321; mentioned, 10, 78, 100, 124, 
156, 169, 173, 186*, 187, 199, 201, 224, 
225, 234, 236, 237, 247-248, 251, 257, 

Lloyd George, Megan, 10 

Lockhart, Sir William, 48, 58, 60 

Lord Randolph Churchill, 21, 22, 24, 25, 
38, 39, no 

Lothian, Lord, 303 

Ludendorff, General, 225 

Ludlow by-election, 98 

Lyttelton, Hon. Alfred, 133 

MACAULAY, LORD, 17, 34, 46, 287- 

MacDonald, D. J., 243 

MacDonald, Ramsay, 145, 167, 252, 
254, 256, 267, 280-281, 282 

McKenna, Reginald, 126, 155, 158, 

Macready, General Sir Nevil, 142-144 

Maisky, Ivan, 331 

Malakand Held Force, 47-49, 58 

Manchester, Northeast: 1904 by-elec- 
tion, 102 

Manchester, Northwest: 1908 by-elec- 
tion, 115-117 

Markham, Sir Arthur, 133, 213 

Marlborough, John Churchill, istDuke 
of, 15, 16, 17-18, 31, 43, 273, 285- 
291, 295, 323, 325 

382 INDEX 

Marlborough, Sarah Jennings, Duchess 

of, 18, 288 
Marlborough, 7th Duke of, 20, 21, 22, 

Marlborough, 8th Duke of, 31. See also 

Blandford, Lord 
Marlborough, loth Duke of, 15, 16, 

138, 141 
Marlborough: His Life and Times, 17, 

285-291, 294 
Marmora, Sea of, 188, 190, 192-194, 


Marseilles, 341, 345 
Marsh, Sir Edward, 206 
Marshall, General George C, 349 
Martin, Hugh, 146 
Massingham, H. W., 88, 115-116 
Masterman, Charles, 121-122, 125, 

Masterman, Mrs. Lucy, 121, 125, 139- 

141, 165 

Milbanke,Jack, 36 

Milncr, Alfred, Viscount, 81, in, 230 
Molotov, V. M., 331, 333 
Montgomery, Reid-Marshal Viscount, 


Moore, Miss Vera, 30 
Morlcy, John, Viscount, 38, 77, 78, 103, 

117, 229 

Morocco, 152-153 
Moscow, 329-333, 345 
Mowatt, Sir Francis, 76, 84, 92, 95 
Munich, 292, 296, 309 
Murmansk, 330, 332 
Mussolini, 271, 272, 300, 301, 307, 309 
My Early Life, 30, 34, 41, 42, 46, 52, 

53, 63, 68, 75, 84, 112, 124, 278 

NAPLES, 163 

New York, 68, 137, 285 

Newfoundland, 328, 337 

Nicholas, Grand Duke, 184, 1 8 8, 190 

Nicholson, Captain Otho, 253, 255 

Nicholson, Sir William, 363 

Nicolson, Harold, 239 

Norris, Private, 54 
Northcliffe, Lord, 217 
Northcote, Sir Stafford, 24, 104 
Norway, 312, 3H 
Norwich, 130 

OLDHAM, 65; 1899 by-election at, 56; 
1900 election at, 67-68 

Oliver, Vic, II 

Omdurman, 51, 52, 53, 58, 163 

Orpen, Sir William, 244 

Oxford and Asquith, Earl of: Becomes 
Prime Minister, 115; and reform of 
Upper House, 135; offers C. the 
Admiralty, 155-157; and Irish Home 
Rule, 169, 170; his doubts of C., 176, 
181; and Antwerp failure, 177-179, 
180-182; share of blame for Dar- 
danelles, 195, 219; Fisher's letter to, 
197-198; and Coalition, 201; C.'s 
verdict on, 204; C.'s grievance 
against, 210; and premature use of 
tanks, 215; fall of, 217-218; men- 
tioned, 38, 77, 103, in, 123, 125, 
138, 163, 166, 167, 173, 185, 187, 
191, 209, 216, 251 

PALESTINE, 235, 243 
Pankhurst, Christabel, 116 
Passchendaele, 222, 320 
Pefkins, Frances, 320, 343 
'Peter the Painter', 146 
Pethick-Lawrence, F. W. (later Baron), 


Ploegstreet Village, 210-212 
Plumer, Viscount, 229 
Poland, 233-234, 243, 331, 348 
Pollard, Professor A. F., 246 
Pontypridd, 142 
Potsdam, 350 
Prague, 349 
Pretoria, 61-64, 65, 67 
Pugh, Sir Arthur, 265, 266, 267 

QUEBEC, 337 



Quickswood, Baron see Cecil, Lord 

Rhineland, 303304 
Rhodes, Cecil, 89, 90 
Ribbentrop, Joachim von, 365, 331 
Richards, Brinsley, 20 
Riddell, Lord, 166, 204, 214, 216, 217 
River War, Tfie, 56, 57, 68, 83 
Robcck, Admiral de, 192 
Robertson, Sir C. Scott, 209 
Robertson, General Sir William R., 


Roosevelt, Elliott, 334, 338, 341 
Roosevelt, Franklin D., 320, 322, 328, 

332, 334-350, 3<54, 369 
Rosebery, 5th Earl of, 38, 89, 103, 286 
Rothenstein, Sir John, 10, 362-363 
Rothermere, Lord, 255, 326, 354 
Rothschild, ist Baron, 41, 128-129 

St. Omer, 207 
St, Oswald, 2nd Baro