At the forefront of politics for 50yrs, the Right Honorable Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill has died at the age of 90 in his London home at Hyde Park Gate, exactly 70yrs to the day after the death of his father Lord Randolph Churchill. Sir Winston suffered a stroke 15 days ago & gradually slipped into a deep sleep from which he never awakened. During his illness, there had been crowds anxiously waiting for news outside the quiet Kensington estate but when the announcement finally came of his passing there was only a handful of journalists in the street. News of his death was announced on the BBC shortly after 8AM and within half-an-hour, crowds began to gather near his home to pay homage to Britain's greatest wartime leader who guided the country & the Allies through the crisis of WWII. When he fell gravely ill 2 weeks ago, he was visited by one of the country's leading neurologists, Lord Brain, who advised on his treatment & since then, regular medical bulletins had been issued by Sir Winston's own doctor, Lord Moran. Churchill had spent the past few days lying in an unconscious state in the downstairs room he converted to a bedroom after a fall 4yrs ago in Jun 1962 in which he broke his hip & injured his back. His wife Lady Clementine Churchill, the couple's eldest surviving daughter Mary Soames & other members of the family (2 more children - son Randolph & actress daughter Lady Sarah Audley, both with their own children) were summoned to his bedside at 7AM. Lady Churchill & Mary had been with him throughout his illness. Many television & radio programmes have been cancelled or re-scheduled to make way for incoming tributes to Sir Winston. By decree of the Queen, he will lie in state in Westminster Hall - an honour not accorded any English statesman since 4-time Prime Minister William Gladstone in May 1898. His body will remain there for 3 days before the funeral at St Paul's Cathedral on Saturday Jan 30.
45yrs ago today, Churchill died widely regarded as being among the most influential, inspirational & decorated persons in history. He was the first statesman to be given a state funeral in the 20th century. Some 321,360 filed past the body of the deceased in Westminster Hall (where later in 1965 an engraved memorial plaque was placed) & huge silent crowds lined the streets to watch the gun carriage bearing his coffin leave as the clock tower chimes of Big Ben struck. The procession travelled through central London to St. Paul's Cathedral where among the mourners, were representatives of 112 countries (one of the largest assemblages ever of gathered world leaders) packed into the church for the service. Unusually, the Queen had attended the ceremony & when the coffin was bagpiped aboard a passenger vessel that passed up the Thames River, dockers lowered their cranes in a salute during the voyage. The Royal Artillery fired a 19-gun salute and the RAF staged a 16-fighter fly-over before the coffin was taken to Waterloo railway station to board a specially prepared & painted train carriage. In the fields along the route & through passing wayside stations, thousands stood in silence to pay their last respects and at many soccer matches, a 2-minute silence was observed. Churchill's final journey was to be laid to rest in the Oxfordshire parish just outside the Blenheim estate where he was born.
A noted orator, officer in the British Army, politician, newspaper correspondent, historian and an acclaimed prolific writer & accomplished artist, Churchill lived through plenty of remarkable highs & regretful lows, all passing through a multitude of memorable (and equally tumultuous) events ---
Is born into the aristocratic family of the Dukes of Marlborough on Nov 30, 1874. From age 2-6 lived in Dublin,Ireland. He lived a lonely, desolate childhood which was spent in boarding schools and he was close to his nursemaid & deeply saddened when she died. In 1893, he enrolled in The Royal Military College at Sandhurst & in Nov 1895, he travelled to Cuba to observe the country's guerillas fight the Spanish (and acquired his taste for Havana cigars). His illustrious miltary service resulted in him seeing action in India (Anglo-Afghan war) & the Sudan (Egypt) having distinguished himself several times in battle. In Oct 1899 while fighting in the 2nd Boer War, he was captured but escaped from a concentration camp travelling almost 300 miles to safety & freedom. For a time he was a minor national hero.
Upon his return home from South Africa he resigned his commission & re-entered politics, seeking office for the 2nd time in Oldham as a Conservative MP where this time he won his seat (having previously impressed the first time around as a rookie with his vigorous campaigning). He embarked on a speaking tour where he visited the USA & Canada for the first time. Disaffected with his party, in 1904 he crossed the floor & joined the Liberals. In Apr 1908 he became the President of the Board of Trade (until Feb 1910 when he was promoted to Home Secretary) & that Sept, he married. By Nov 1910, his reputation in Wales & in Labour circles took a hit and never recovered after crtiicism n' rumors of ordering troops to help police attack coal miners in what became known as the Tonypandy Riot. (As the troops had already been sent, he infact allowed them to go only so far as Swindon & Cardiff until blocking their deployment). He helped to draft the first unemployment pension legislation, the 'National Insurance Act' & proposed a referendum on the growing issue of the women's suffragette movement. In Jan 1911, he was side-by-side among the spectators witnessing the Siege of Sidney Street police battle in East London. That Oct, he became the First Lord of the Admiralty advocating naval aviation (having taken flying lessons himself), building new n' larger dreadnaught warships, developing tanks & switching from coal to oil for fuel. In 1913, he was a supporter of eugenics, participating in the drafting of the 'Mental Deficiency Act' & preferring a method to sterilize the feeble-minded instead of their confinement to institutions. In Oct 1914, by the outbreak of WWI, he went to Belgium's capital of Antwerp as that country was proposing to evacuate it's government. When Belgium fell to the Germans, he was blamed for squandering resources (as opposed to more likely prolonging resistance).
As one of the engineers of the disastrous Gallipoli landings in the Dardanelles, he took much of the blame for the fiasco & was essentially forced to resign from the Admiralty in May 1915. He then volunteered to command an infantry battalion in France where he served briefly on the Western Front. In Mar 1916, he returned to England & returned to pilotics in 1917 where in Jul, he was appointed Minister of Munitions. In Jan 1919, he became Secretary of State for War and Secretary of State for Air. During the Russian Civil War, he advocated foreign intervention (with British forces withdrawn in 1920) & had arms sent to the Poles when they invaded the Ukraine. In 1921, he became Secretary of State for the Colonies & was a signatory of the Anglo-Irish Treaty which established the Irish Free State. That Aug, he & his wife endured the death of their ingant daughter Marigold. During the Kurdish rebellions in Iraq, he advocated the use of tear gas & chemical weapons as an "experiment" on "recalcitrant Arab" Kurd tribesmen (which wasn't used). In 1923 he acted as a paid consultant for Burmah Oil (now BP) to lobby the British govt for exclusive rights to Persian (Iranian) oil resources which were successfully granted. In 1924 he switched sides again & rejoined the Conservatives and that Nov, was appointed (much to his surprise) Chancellor of the Exchequer (holding the post until Nov 1929) where in 1925, he oversaw the country's disastrous return to the pre-war monetary system 'Gold Standard' (from the pound sterling) which resulted in deflation, unemployment & a miner's strike that led to the General Strike of may 1926 (in which he reportedly suggested that machineguns be used on striking miners). While he held several cabinet positions in Parliament, he polarized many of his colleagues when he claimed the fascism of Italy's Benito Mussolini "rendered a service to the whole world." Perceiving the dictator's regime to be a bulwark against communism, he then called him "the Roman genius... the greatest lawgiver among men." (He would continue to praise Mussolini right up until 1937). When the Conservative govt was defeated in the 1929 General Election, he became estranged from the leadership & for the next decade would be out of office. This miserably low period in his career became known as 'the wilderness years'.
He spent much of the next few years painting & concentrating on writing (becoming one of the best paid writers of his time) and beginning in 1930-31 was a vehement opponent of Mahatma Gandhi's peaceful disobediencerevolts & staunchly against India's increasing push for Home Rule. It was believed he favored letting Gandhi (whom he considered a "seditious middle temple lawyer... with phoney principles of Western liberalism") die if ever on a hunger strike. He also once refered to the man as "a half-naked, urine-drinking crank" and in later years, he welcomed news of the emerging conflict n' violence between differing Indian factions that threatened to derail their achievement of national Independence. While at first ambiguous of the strongmen, beginning in 1932, he began - as an isolated voice - issuing unheeded warnings about japanese & German rearmament and their militarist aggressive-expansionist aims. In Feb 1934, his first major speech on defence stressed the need to rebuild the RAF & create a Ministry of Defence. By Jul, he urged a renewed role of the League of Nations. In 1935, he was a founding member of 'The Focus' group - united in seeking freedom n' peace which led to the formation of the much wider 'Arms and the Covenant Movement'. He was further alarmed by the steady belligerence of Joesph Stalin ("the dark menace of Soviet Russia") & Francisco Franco during the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War. In Mar 1936 when he was passed over for the post of Minster for Coordination of Defence (which went to the Attorney General), a historian called the snubbing decision, "an appointment rightly described as the most extraordinary since Caligula made his horse a Consul." By that Jun, he was initially resistant to the abdication crisis of King Edward VIII - a looming scandal on the throne involving the impending marriage of a Royal to the commoner (and divorcée, the butt-ugly) Wallis Simpson - but by Dec (perhaps out of sympathy), he publicly gave his support to the lovers and faced scornful hostility in the House of Commons which badly damaged his reputation in Parliament & England. Having been given much access to privileged information (mainly by disillusioned civil servants) & being consulted on many Govt matters, his return form political exile had really picked up & gathered steam by 1938 after Germany's annexation of Austria and the Sudetenland Crisis in Czechoslovakia which led to Munich Conference that Sept. With war clouds now over Europe, he was a fierce critic of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of Adolf Hitler. In a speech to the House of Commons, he said to him - bluntly & prophetically - "You were given the choice between war & dishonour. You chose dishonour & you will have war." With Hitler threatening to invade Poland, he (along with France) pledged to fight alongside the Poles & with the outbreak of Britain's declaration of war on Germany on Sept 3, 1939, he was again appointed First Lord of the Admiralty as well as a member of the War Cabinet - just as he had been during WWI. When the Board of the Admiralty was informed, they signalled to the Fleet, "Winston is back". 3 weeks later & overwhelmed by blitzkrieg, a crushed Poland surrendered to the Germans. The British & French had done nothing to aid the Poles during their desperate fight.
Having lost a great deal of money due to the economic crash that brought on the Great Depression, Churchill kept himself afloat writing books, newspaper columns & undertaking numerous well-paid lecture tours in the USA. In one way, he was a freak show as people enjoyed hearing him come out with outrageous & slightly crazy ideas but he was already speaking about a need for America and britain to unite in alliance. While on a trip in New York, he was almost killed by a car in the street; a second earlier or later & history would have turned out very different. When he spoke in Parliament in support of King Edward, he was howled down. He had totally misjudged the flow of events & it was said that in 3 minutes of speaking, he dug his political grave. His friends in Parliament shrunk to just 7. As he had been the King's political advisor, he had also written the abdication speech. By attacking foreign policy under Prime Minster Chamberlain, Churchill's condemnation of appeasement after the Munich Conference saw him virtually alone as his negative reaction to the deal struck with Hitler was met with outrage & his dire warnings of coming war were deemed as nonsense. As a consequence, Churchill faced a no-confidence vote by his local constituency party & survived by only 100 votes to 40. Just 30 small town political activists could have changed history for had these 30 people voted the other way against him, he would have been honor-bound to resign from Parliament. And in the climate of late 1938, he would not have been re-elected & would have been out of politics perhaps for good (likely permanently) - never to be Prime Minister. Events however would quickly prove he had been right...
As one of the highest-profile ministers during the so-called 'Phoney War' when the only noticeable action was fought at sea, he truly came into his own when he became Prime Minister on May 10, 1940 following the no-confidence vote & subsequent resignation of the ineffectual Chamberlain. Also creating & taking the addtional position of Minister of Defence, his steadfast refusal to consider defeat, surrender or a compromise peace helped inspire British resistance & the entire nation especially during the difficult early days of the war when Britain stood alone against Hitler the enemy. Under heavy aerial bombardment (not letting up until May 1941 when to the relief of the English, the German air attacks were called off) from the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain, he became the stubborn symbol of defiant resolute resistance to the Nazis. With his seemingly ceaseless energy & relentless drive, he thus became the towering iconic figure of a leader of the free world, in particular with his famous speeches & radio broadcasts of hardened rhetoric that (psycholoically through unwavering determination & unflinching belief) promised an eventual ensured victory over the Axis powers. After the fall of France in Jun 1940, he strengthened his ties with the USA resulting in 'Lend-Lease' to obtain weaponry & ships to protect North Atlantic shipping routes and several meetings (a few in Quebec) with President FDR covering the Atlantic Charter. After Germany's invasion of Russia in Jun 1941, he stated, "If Hitler invaded Hell, I would atleast make a favorable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons" regarding his policy to Stalin and he saw to it that Britain serve as a platform for the supply of the Soviet Union & the liberation of Western Europe. That Dec after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, his first thought was to say We have won the war!" (It would be revealed in later years that he had been listening to secret cables - from Intelligence having cracked the Japanese codes - of the enemy plans to assault the Pacific and claims made that he had deliberately withheld the advanced forewarned knowledge from FDR, knowing the destructive ambush would finally draw the neutral Americans into the war at last). He initiated the SOE & then the Commandos thus laying the foundations for covert, subversive & partisan combat which further established patterns for most of the world's Special Forces. In Jan 1943, he travelled to Casablanca,Morocco for a meeting with the Allied powers which announced unconditional surrender to be imposed on the Axis. (Also discussed was Poland's borders but boundary disputes would be viewed as a bitter betrayal by the Poles during the post-war years). During the final stages of the preparation for the 1944 D-Day Normandy landings to open up a massive 2nd front (which had been on the agendas of both the Nov 1943 Cairo & then Tehran Conferences - each also discussing the Middle East & Asia), he was said to have been absolutely determined to go ashore with British soldiers. Apparently, when he wouldn't listen to the pleading & begging of those close to him to remain in England out of danger while the invasion got underway, it took the intervention of the King to strictly forbid him not to go. The landings on the French coast were a huge success & that Oct, he met Stalin at the Kremlin to discuss the Balkans. In Feb 1945, he attended the Yalta Conference in the Crimea to discuss the re-establishment of the war-torn nations of Europe. (One of its conclusions would have deep consequences n' repercussions as an agreement was made by the Allies to return all Soviet citizens found in Allied zones after the war - including liberated Russian POW's - back to the Soviet Union. The move would decide the fate & condemn nearly 2 million Eastern European refugees fleeing Stalin). That same month, in one of the most controversial acts in the entire war, the German city of Dresden (crowded with wounded civilians & refugees) was being pounded by British & American bombers. After the war, he was held responsible & heavily criticized for allowing the air attacks to occur which resulted in an estimated 35,000 deaths. Many amounted the actions to a war crime & while Dresedn was more than likely designed to expedite Germany's defeat, debate would rage for decades as to the moral purpose or equivalence to other devastating raids. On May 8, 1945 VE Day (the day after Germany's surrender) he broadcast the joyous news to an elated nation & afterwards told a huge celebrating crowd in Whitehall (while also appearing on an overlooking balcony with members of the Royal Family), "This is your victory." He then asserted in another speech the defeat of Japan in the coming months (with their surrender coming in Aug after the dropping of the 2 atomic bombs). After 6yrs of the world in utter peril, he had travelled over 100,000 miles to meet other national leaders. In Jul, he attended the Potsdam Conference in occupied Germany (albeit in more of a background capacity) to help administer punishment to the defeated Nazis and to establish post-war order & peace treaty issues. And then came stunning news: while awaiting results from the General Election back home, he was informed that he was astonishingly voted out of power as the Labour Party was brought to govt. An amazing role-reversal just 10 weeks after German defeat, he became the Leader of the Opposition for the next 6yrs continuing to have an impact on world affairs.
During his Mar 1946 trip to the USA & speaking in Missouri, he gave his famous 'Iron Curtain' speech (which contrary to popular belief, was a term he did not coin - the dubious honor goes to Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels in a Feb 1945 alarmist speech relating a frightening vision of Russian domination over Europe in the event of German defeat) warning about Russia's creation of the Eastern Bloc which forecasted the already emerging Cold War. He also argued strongly for British independence from the European Coal & Steel Community (which he denounced as a Franco-German project) and saw England as seperate from the rest of the continent, instead having more in line with the Commonwealth & Empire countries and the USA - the so-called 'Anglosphere' as he would devote much of his upcoming time to Anglo-American relations. In 1949, he held the office of Deputy Lieutenant of Kent. That summer, he suffered a mild stroke while on holiday in southern France (his earliest having been in Dec 1941 at the White House & again in Dec 1943 after he contracted pneumonia. In the Oct 1951 General Election, he again returned for his 2nd & final stint as Prime Minister at the age of 77 (along with again holding the office of Minister of Defence until Jan 1952). As well that Oct, he used direct military action against Communist rebellion in Malaya (which had been in progress since 1948). In Oct 1952, he dispatched troops to Kenya to deal with the insurgent Mau Mau rebellion & it was becoming clear from indigenous uprisings that British colonial rule was no longer sustainable. In 1953, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature for numerous published works, his 6-volume WWII historical study & his political speeches. He was also knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. In Jun, he had a severe stroke at the PM's quarters of 10 Downing Street which left him paralyzed down his left side. The truth was held from the public & Parliament, who were told that he was suffering from exhaustion. He went to his country home of Chartwell to recuperate from the effects which had impaired his speech & ability to walk. In Aug, he along with US President Eisenhower backed a coup d'etat in Iran (former US President Truman had been reluctant because of the war in Korea) with a purpose of retaining control of oil (the democratically elected Mohammed Mossadegh - deemed a "lunatic" - had rejected a 50/50 profit sharing arrangement & his determined push for economic nationalization resulted in his overthrow). In domestic affairs, he had introduced various reforms such as the 'Mines & Quarries Act' of 1954 and the 'Housing Repairs & Rent Act' of 1955 - both to deal with youth employment, safety, health & welfare. In addition, he raised tax allowances, saw to the accelerated construction of council housing and he increased pensions & national assistance benefits. He controversially introduced charges for presecription medicines which was met with great disdain.
The final decade of his life was described as a "long sunset". Aware that he was slowing down both physically & mentally, failing health forced him to step down as PM in Apr 1955 (but he continued as a backbencher in Parliament until 1964). The Queen had offered to create him Duke of London but it was declined due to the objections of his son Randolph. In Dec 1956, with his faculties decaying (and losing the battle against what he called "the black dog" of depression), he suffered another mild stroke. In 1958, Churchill College in Cambridge was founded to memorialize him. In the 1959 General Election, his majority fell amongst many young voters in his constituency who didn't want to support the now 85yr old who could only enter the House of Commons in a wheelchair. He continued however to be respected as he was showered with prestigious awards, feted with titles & had statues erected for his grand deeds and he enjoyed the last of 4 final visits to the White House. In Apr 1963, US President JFK through an act of Congress proclaimed him the first-ever Honorary Citizen of the United States in recognition of his American ties (his mother Jeanette Jerome was an American socialite) but he was unable to attend the White House ceremony. That Oct, he endured another family tragedy when his eldest daughter Diana - having suffered from several nervous breakdowns - committed suicide. He spent most of his retirement at Chartwell & his London home in Hyde Park Gate where he died on Jan 24, 1965 at age 90. In Jan 2000, a BBC survey voted him the greatest British Prime Minister of the 20th century & in Nov 2002, another BBC poll voted him the 'Greatest Briton of them all'.
(WHAT WINSTON REALLY WANTED reprinted from The Literary Review by Piers Brendon)
In 1957 Sir Winston Churchill, who had visited East Africa 50yrs earlier as a junior minister in the Colonial Office, provided a short prologue to a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film about the Mau Mau revolt entitled Something of Value, starring Rock Hudson & Sidney Poitier. Churchill's message, that Kenya's current problems were the problems of the world, was innocuous. But he himself did not go down well at MGM, where a studio executive said: "You have got to get rid of this fucking Englishman." The director asked if he was referring to Sir Winston Churchill, the greatest statesman in the world. The director's reply: "'Whoever the fuck he is, I don't care! Out of the movie!" This was crass even by the standards of Hollywood. Churchill had been famous on both sides of the Atlantic for most of his adult life - when he left on his 1907 safari, the satirical Punch magazine asked who was going to govern England? And if he was best known in America for his opposition to fascism & communism, he was notorious for his defence of imperialism. He had memorably pronounced in 1942: "We mean to hold our own. I have not become the King's First Minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire." The Empire indeed, was the main bone of contention between Churchill & Roosevelt during the war. The President found it hard to believe that they were fighting Axis tyranny but not working to free people all over the world from colonial oppression. He openly disagreed with Churchill's assertion that the promises of self-government in the Atlantic Charter did not apply to the British Empire. The Prime Minister thought it was "pretty good cheek" for the Americans, who had blood on their hands in the Philippines, to try "to school-marm us into proper behaviour" in the Empire. And with the Empire behind him, he felt able to stand up to the Great Republic. According to FDR advisor Harry Hopkins, Roosevelt's plea that India should be allowed to rule itself wrung from Churchill a "string of cuss words & torrent of profanity [that] lasted for 2hrs in the middle of the night."
Young Winston had vowed to devote his life to the maintenance of the British Empire. As warlord during the struggle against Hitler, he fought to preserve it even though that meant testing the Anglo-American alliance which he also championed. As an old man he lamented that his life had been for nothing, saying: "The Empire I believed in has gone." In view of all that however, it is remarkable that no substantial scholarly work on this subject has hitherto appeared. There have been essays & a couple of partial studies, and the topic has been aired in some of the many volumes about Churchill published since the opening & electronic cataloguing of his papers but Churchill's Empire is the first book to cover all the ground. It does so in a masterly fashion, drawing on much fresh evidence, teasing out the nuances of Churchill's attitudes & providing a marvellously illuminating appraisal. Lord Beaverbrook of Canada (aka William 'Max' Aitken, an influential Press Baron, politician & business tycoon) once said that Churchill had held every opinion on every subject & what author Richard Toye demonstrates above all is that his opinions on the British Empire were anything but simple or consistent. Of course, Churchill was a Victorian - especially during the 1930s, when Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin said that he had reverted to being a subaltern of hussars (which he had joined in 1895). But many Victorians were more liberal than Churchill, particularly regarding racial prejudice & military mercilessness. Churchill was 'anti-black', hated 'people with slit eyes & pigtails' and damned Hindus as a foul race 'protected by their mere pullulation (fiercely rapid breeding) from the doom that is their due'. He defended 'punitive devastation' against the Pashtuns (ethnic Afghans). In South Africa he justified harsh measures against the Boers, including farm burnings & concentration camps. In Iraq he urged the use of mustard gas against 'uncivilised tribes'. In Ireland he favoured machine-gunning Sinn Fein meetings from the air. He was said to have believed in a worldwide Jewish conspiracy (stemming from a newspaper article he wrote in Feb 1920). And he hoped for 'bitter & bloody' communal violence in India to make the white Raj (rule) seem essential, and he reacted (at best, indifferent and at worst, callous & complicit) to the 1943 Bengal famine which resulted in some 2.5 million deaths.
On the other hand, Churchill genuinely believed that British rule - benevolent, humane & just - would bring progress, commerce and civilisation to backward countries. He condemned abuses: the killing of wounded Dervishes at Omdurman; the exploitation of Africans by European settlers; and 'the disgusting butchery of natives' in Natal (a South African province), which he dubbed "the hooligan of the Empire". He warned that the gap between conquest & dominion was being filled by "the greedy trader, the inopportune missionary, the ambitious soldier & the lying speculator." He appeased the Boers, conciliated the Irish & denounced the horrendous Indian Amritsar massacre. He sometimes opposed imperial expansion but moreover, he issued a caveat of profound contemporary relevance: the North-West Frontier was ideal guerrilla territory since regular troops were sitting ducks & could not "catch or kill an impalpable cloud of skirmishers." Paradoxically, Churchill's fight to save the Empire led to its loss. As Toye shows, he was as pragmatic & as contradictory about the imperial sunset as about the high noon. After WWII, he acknowledged that India 'must go' and did not oppose its going; but he occasionally condemned the "cowardly abandonment of our duties." He showed surprising sympathy for Mau Mau rebels & criticised the "execution of men who fight to defend their native land"; but he disliked Prime Minster Harold Macmillan's 'wind of change' speech in reference to growing anti-apartheid sentiment regarding South Africa. He embraced the Commonwealth, though without marked enthusiasm. He was ambivalent about Egypt but he became reconciled to Ireland & to India, which he surprisingly called "The Light of Asia." Toye traces Churchill's shifts & velleities (desires) with impressive skill and erudition, using a vast range of contemporary newspapers to particularly good effect. He might perhaps have dwelt on the rhetorical & psychological importance of the Empire to Churchill. The great man's real tyrant, as Sir Robert Menzies said, was the glittering phrase; and the greatest Empire in history not only inspired him to flights of oratory but gave him the opportunity to declaim on a global stage. Vitally, too, the Empire helped to invest him with the copper-bottomed confidence & armour-plated toughness he needed to combat the evil Third Reich. Nevertheless, Richard Toye deserves all credit for producing such an important & original book.
Towards WWII's nearing end, Churchill opposed plans for an Allied war crimes trial but earlier during the fighting, he had felt that Germans who fell into British hands should be treated as outlaws subject to a summary death penalty & that German POW's should be shot in instant retaliation should Germany begin doing the same to British prisoners. At one point he wanted to promptly shoot the Nazi leadership but later when Stalin had aired a desire to shoot 50,000 German officers AFTER holding show trials, he was purportedly outraged, saying the British public would be appalled & never accepting of such an act of arbitrary barbarity. Such temepred glimpses of Churchill's humanity contrasted sharply with his own propensity for views depicting an unflinching ruthlessness: He felt that Hitler should be sent to the electric chair (despite the fact it was never used in the UK before the final abolition of capital punishment in 1965) & had favoured "bumping off" Heinrich Himmler. Against the advice of cabinet, he was supposedly willing to "wipe out" defenseless German villages as retribution for Nazi atrocities in Czechoslovakia stemming from the infamous Lidice village incident in Jun 1942 where an SS/Gestapo extermination-operation murdered about 340 people of the village & razed it to the ground. 13,000 people were arrested & imprisoned and a total of 1300 were killed -- all in German reprisal for the May 1942 assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in Prague. Heydrich (nicknamed 'The Hangman' and 'The Blonde Beast' for his notorious ice-veined cruelty) was the fearsome, high-ranking security head of the secret service, member of the party elite & an architect of the Holocaust who was ambushed by 2 British-sent Czech commandos and after the duo escaped, Lidice was falsely implicated in their assistance & shelter.