Did Winston Churchill Have a “Dark Side”?

Author Alleges Collaboration With "Mad Scientist"

Most people know Sir Winston Churchill as an exceptionally charismatic and effective wartime leader whose presence was vital to ensuring the success of Britain, the U.S., and the other Allies during World War II. Although we look back on the war as though the Allies’ eventual victory was a foregone conclusion, it by no means seemed this way for the people who actually lived through the conflict.At the Stevens Institute of Technology, a recent lecture by author Madhursee Mukerjee suggests a darker side to the wartime leader. According to Mukerjee, Churchill’s relation with the scientific branch of his government was a strange one. The author claims that Sir Winston frequently used the advice of the Statistics Branch or “S-Branch,” which he created, to justify his policy positions from a “scientific” standpoint.

Delving deeper into the character of the S-Branch and its leader, Frederick Alexander Lindemann, Mukerjee claims to discover that Lindemann was behind a proposal to target working class areas of German cities as a major part of the RAF bombing campaign against Berlin and other major industrial areas. Mukerjee claims that this single action resulted in the loss of many British pilots and had no palpable effect on Germany.

Of course, it is important to take the claims of a single author in context -- any time anyone refers to a “mad scientist,” it is helpful to look at their background, their motives, and the quality of their research. However, we know that Sir Winston was a complex man and that some of the decisions taken in the War, even by the Allies, are not those we might choose today. Mukerjee’s book is Churchill’s Secret War.

Reflecting on Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” Speech

Anniversary of Historic Speech is This Month

You may not know it, but one of the phrases that helped define public policy and international relations for decades after World War II was first uttered by Sir Winston Churchill himself. March 5th, 1946 -- well after the conclusion of the War  to End All Wars -- was when Sir Winston’s famous oration gave rise to the phrase “Iron Curtain.” That makes this March the 66th anniversary of the phrase -- and many of those sixty six years were defined by the conflict those words represent.

When Churchill gave that speech, he was not in the United Kingdom, but actually here in the central United States -- at Westminster College, located in Fulton, MO. Until that time, the most famous thing about Westminster College (named for its British counterpart) was the fact that Sir Winston chose to speak there. Nobody knew that the former prime minister, who had lost an election only a few months after V-E Day, would contribute to history one of the longest lasting speeches of his career.

When Churchill visited in 1946, he was particularly interested in cementing the special relationship that had developed between Great Britain and the United States during the war, so that they could confront the territorial ambitions of their former Soviet ally. The famous phrase in question, as reproduced at the link above, goes like this:

“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.”

At first, these remarks caused a stir. Naturally, Joseph Stalin himself spoke out against them. But in the end, they marked what could be called the onset of the western alliance against Soviet-style communism, which would not culminate until many decades later.

Image by Kseferovic @ Wikipedia

Churchill's Leadership Used to Teach Britain's Youth About Speechcraft

New Pilot Program Uses Churchill's Wit and Major Museums

Any student of World War II history knows that one of the traits that was crucial to Winston Churchill’s leadership of the British during one of the most challenging times in their history was his incredible oratory skills. Now, British educators and politicians -- including Randolph Churchill -- are joining together to use Sir Winston’s example as a way to teach young schoolchildren how to speak with confidence.

Sound too good to be true? It’s for real!

The program is a pilot effort that involves a whole bunch of talented people from around the United Kingdom, including members of the House of Lords -- Lord Michael Howard and Lord Michael Dobbs -- speaking coach Mo Shapiro, and the staffs of Chartwell House, Blenheim Palace, and the Churchill War Rooms.

Students from Charles Darwin School and their peers from Oxted School were invited to participate in the new program, which included a speech from Randolph Churchill discussing the power of Sir Winston’s oratory, and lessons from the pair of lords on delivering a speech. I’m willing to bet that this was a great way to raise the kids’ confidence, and taught them a lot about history, too!

This is a completely new experiment in the right way to teach kids about the practical and political art of rhetoric. It sounds like something that’s great for the youngsters, and I hope to hear that it continues in coming years! In fact, an American equivalent featuring the speeches of FDR wouldn’t go amiss, either. What do you think?

Churchill Beats Out Alexander the Great, Napoleon as Most Important Figure

Churchill Beats Out Alexander the Great, Napoleon as Most Important Figure

It would be unusual, to say the least, for a proud people like those of the Russian Federation to name someone who has no connection to their land as the most important figure in history. But Winston Churchill came very close in this exercise in Russia, which was intended to ensure that the country is completely prepared for the logistics involved in their upcoming election. Voters were asked to appear at twelve polling stations around the city of Moscow and cast their vote for the “maker of world destinies,” a made-up title indicating the most important historical figure of all time.

Churchill faced stiff competition against a line-up including Peter the Great, Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, and Napoleon. Voters were able to acquaint themselves with the candidates’ biographies and achievements before casting their vote, so it was not necessary to be a skilled historian before getting started. Despite Russia’s great pride and vibrant history, Russian emperor Peter the Great won by a relatively slim margin against Sir Winston, who came out the second out of the five contenders. This may go to show that Russia still prizes its vital role defeating the Nazi regime in the Second World War.

Although this may sound like a fun diversion, it is actually a very important part of preparing the country for its upcoming election. In the election, webcams will be used at each polling station so that -- for the first time in Russia, and perhaps for the first time anywhere -- anyone with internet access will be able to personally monitor the democratic process. Let’s hope that the outcome of the real election is just as favorable to genuine leadership.

South Africa’s Sunday Times Readers Decode Mystery of Churchill Photo

Newly Revealed Photo Was to Be Sold at Auction

The Sunday Times is reporting on the curious case of a recently discovered Churchill photograph dating back to the time of Churchill’s service in the Boer War. The photo was found among the items to be put up at a London auction. Needless to say, the photo was pulled from the auction items, but the mystery remained. The photo is of a young Winston Churchill mounted on horseback and dressed smartly in a suit. There were few clues about the photo’s origin except for the note: “Winston Churchill after escape.”

From viewing the photograph, a series of readers was able to come forward to offer more information, including descendants of the original photographer. The photo was most likely taken on the second day of 1900 at Chieveley. Chieveley was a British camp located in the northern part of South Africa’s coastal KwaZulu-Natal province. Churchill was captured by Boers during an engagement and taken to Pretoria. However, he escaped and made his way fifteen miles to the south, where he was greeted by the British consul.

After a very swift recovery, Churchill returned to the front at Chieveley. In his new role as an assistant adjutant attached to the Light Horse Regiment, he was able to continue his work as a war correspondent for the Morning Post. There are conflicting reports about exactly how Churchill managed to get away from the prison camp at Pretoria. One reader claims that, given Churchill’s position as a nobleman and journalist, he was allowed to travel the camp freely based on his word of honor -- a fact he may have used to make his escape.

Churchill’s Great-Grandson Speaks in Richmond

Noted Speaker is Top Expert on Famous Great-Grandfather

In today’s world, very few people have a verifiable connection to history. One of the lucky ones who does is Jonathan Churchill Sandys, great-grandson to the famed prime minister, who spoke at a gathering in Historic Downtown Richmond Texas this Saturday, February 11th. Churchill Sandys, who appeared at Richmond’s Masonic Lodge, is a noted speaker who wants to bring more depth to our understanding of Churchill -- going beyond the classic historical character to shed a little more light on the man himself.

Quoted above, Churchill Sandys spoke as follows about his great-grandfather:

“My great grandfather was a brilliant man. His leadership skills, his quotes, his service to his country continue to be a hot topic even today. Most any time you turn on the television, you will hear someone quoting my great-grandfather. But what a lot of people do not know, is that he had a wicked sense of humor and was also an artist.”

Churchill Sandys himself, aged 35, has enjoyed international attention as one of the most renowned speakers on the subject of Winston Churchill. He focuses on the war-time leader's message of “never giving up,” while drawing our attention to historical tidbits that most fans of Churchill may not know. For example, the future prime minister faced a great deal of adversity in his early years as a confirmed dyslexic.

According to the report above, Churchill Sandys himself now lives mainly in the state of Texas. He first visited there after receiving an invitation to speak from then-First Lady Barbara Bush.

A Quick Fact Check on Alleged “Churchill” Emails

Quip Attributed to Churchill is Likely Fraudulent

In the wake of the recent Costa Concordia disaster, where a cruise ship capsized and sank allegedly after a dangerous maneuver authorized by the captain, people are paying more attention than ever to cruise ships and their safety. Surprisingly, this scrutiny has turned up in the form of a quote attributed to Winston Churchill which is making its way around the internet in the form of a chain email. The most common version is reproduced below, courtesy of The Florida Times Union.

“After his retirement, [Churchill] took a cruise on an Italian liner, the email says, and was asked by a journalist why he preferred traveling on an Italian ship rather than on the British liner Queen Elizabeth: “There are three things I like about Italian ships. First, their cuisine, which is unsurpassed. Second, their service, which is quite superb. And then — in time of emergency — there is none of this nonsense about women and children first.”

This quote has been attributed to Churchill by historians on numerous occasions, as the link above describes. Even historians have claimed he said it. But, as you can also read there, the home port of the ship has also changed many times. Plus, the exact same quote has also been attributed to others, including Noel Coward and W. Somerset Maugham.

Overall, this is almost certainly not a real Winston Churchill quote. Of course, there are many other real Churchill quotes that are every bit as interesting and even more entertaining -- just be careful not to believe everything you read!

Starting a Churchill Reading List: The Best Churchill Bio

Britain's Wartime Prime Minister Has Become One of the Biggest Subjects for Historians

The era of World War II is one of the most fruitful grounds for historical research in all time. Viewed as a historical event, it has everything that perplexes and challenges us about the human condition: monstrous injustice, heroic sacrifice, and international politics that’s by turns vicious and awe-inspiring. Since Churchill is among the most important figures of this time, it’s no surprise that there are literally thousands of Churchill bios. They run the gamut from the lightest “popular prose” to the densest academic history -- the kind of stuff you can’t even find outside research libraries.

Historian John Keegan stands out as a writer who can provide thought-provoking history in a way that’s readable and engaging. Keegan, a specialist in the time of World War II, is the most widely read historian on the matter both in Europe and the United States. His Winston Churchill: A Life takes a huge amount of information on the life and times of Winston Churchill and blends it into a tale of wartime strategy and political intrigue that will satisfy serious history buffs. Also of interest from the link above is the fact more and more books are being written about Churchill: 129 new books between 2000 and 2008.

No one book can really give you a complete picture of a complex figure like Winston Churchill. But Winston Churchill: A Life comes as close as possible and is a great intro to some of the more specialized tomes on the prime minister. What’s your favorite Churchill work? We want to hear from you here on Winston Churchill Talk!

Churchill War Rooms: Great for the Authentic Churchill Experience

One of England's Proudest Museums is a Testament to Churchill

We all know that Winston Churchill is one of the greatest leaders in modern politics and war. One of the most amazing things about Churchill and about the London of his time is the fact that the city was literally under siege. He led London through sustained German aerial bombing known as the Blitz and managed to get the country safely through some of the most devastating attacks of the war. During this time, the country maintained many different air raid shelters. The bombings were a fact of life, and all of civil community had a part in ensuring smooth evacuation and operations during the attacks.

Because of the danger, a great deal of government business was also conducted under the ground. Churchill often worked and spoke from the Cabinet War Rooms, deep below the city. The war rooms served well during the Blitz, and protected Churchill and the rest of the senior government until the end of the war. Today, they’ve been converted into a truly amazing museum. When you enter the War Rooms, you feel as if you’ve been transported back in time. Thinking about all Churchill managed to achieve in these rooms is an amazing and humbling experience. The English clearly take pride in them as well, since the War Rooms and Churchill Museum are open to all, free of admissions fees.

Have you ever had the chance to travel to the war rooms? What was your favorite part of seeing them? Are there any other great Churchill events, displays, books, or films that you want to recommend? Talk to our community with a comment below.