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       Visions of Glory, 1874-1932, p.1

           William Manchester
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Visions of Glory, 1874-1932


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  Table of Contents

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  Copyright Page

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  To

  MARY

  and

  CHARTWELL

  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best, if he wins, knows the thrills of high achievement, and, if he fails, at least fails daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

  —JOHN F. KENNEDY on Theodore Roosevelt New York City, December 5, 1961

  Lieutenant Winston S. Churchill, Subaltern of Horse, Fourth Hussars, 1896

  ILLUSTRATIONS

  Lieutenant Winston S. Churchill, 1896

  Churchill among the ruins of the House of Commons

  Churchill family genealogy

  Lord Randolph Churchill at the time of his marriage

  Lord Randolph in his prime

  Invitation to a shipboard dance

  Mrs. Jerome and her daughters

  Jennie as drawn by John Singer Sargent

  Blenheim Palace

  Jennie in Ireland

  Mrs. Everest

  Two of Winston’s first letters

  Winston at Harrow

  Lord Randolph in later years

  Jennie and two of her lovers

  Lieutenant Winston Churchill in India

  Jennie in her prime

  Churchill in Cairo, 1898

  Pamela Plowden

  Churchill in his first campaign for Parliament

  The armored-train ambush

  From Churchill’s later version of the escape

  Reward notice

  Churchill addressing the crowd at Durban

  Spy cartoon

  Joseph Chamberlain

  Arthur Balfour

  Churchill in 1904

  Clementine Hozier

  Churchill and David Lloyd George

  Winston and Jennie, 1912

  Churchill and Kaiser Wilhelm

  Churchill at British army maneuvers

  Churchill and Lord Fisher

  Churchill and Asquith

  Churchill in pilot’s gear

  A morning ride

  F. E. Smith

  Churchill at Antwerp

  “Winston’s Folly”

  Roger Keyes, John de Robeck, and Ian Hamilton

  Lieutenant Colonel Churchill, 1916

  Churchill in the summer of 1916

  Sir Douglas Haig

  Churchill in Egypt with T. E. Lawrence

  Eamon de Valera and Arthur Griffith

  Michael Collins

  Churchill and Sir Henry Wilson

  Austen Chamberlain, Stanley Baldwin, and Churchill

  Churchill playing polo with the Prince of Wales

  Churchill with the Duke of Sutherland at Deauville

  Winston having fun at the beach

  Churchill with Mary at Chartwell

  Two views of Chartwell

  Churchill building a wall

  Churchill building a snowman

  Churchill in the garden at Chartwell

  Work: In London

  Play: At Chartwell

  Churchill visits with Charlie Chaplin

  Churchill entering the political wilderness

  Adolf Hitler

  Churchill leaving Lenox Hill Hospital

  MAPS

  The British Empire at Its Peak

  Egypt and the Sudan, 1898

  South Africa, 1899

  Churchill’s Escape Route, 1899

  Europe, 1914

  The Western Front, August 25 to September 1, 1914

  The Turkish Theater, 1915

  Naval Attack on the Dardanelles, March 18, 1915

  The Western Front, Late 1915

  The Western Front, June 1916

  The Western Front, July 1917

  The Western Front, 1918

  Europe, November 11, 1918

  Anti-Bolshevik-Occupied Territories, 1919 and 1920

  The Palestine Mandate

  Ireland after Partition

  The Indian Empire, 1929

  Europe, 1931

  CHRONOLOGY

  1874 WSC born November 30 at Blenheim

  1886 His father becomes chancellor of the Exchequer

  His mother is now a great Victorian courtesan

  1888 WSC enters Harrow; gets lowest marks in school

  1893 Admitted to Sandhurst on third try

  1894 Commissioned cavalry subaltern, Fourth Hussars

  1895 His father dies

  WSC covers the guerrilla warfare in Cuba

  1896 Educates himself in India; discovers Macaulay and Gibbon

  Writes first book

  1897 Sees heavy fighting in Khyber Pass

  1898 Omdurman: WSC in the last cavalry charge

  1899 WSC runs for Parliament; loses

  Captured in the Boer War

  His sensational escape

  1900 Recommended for VC

  Elected to Parliament

  Tours United States, Canada

  1901 Queen Victoria dies

  WSC’s maiden speech

  1904 Quits Tories for Liberals

  1905 Becomes colonial under secretary

  1907 Tours East Africa

  1908 Promoted to cabinet

  Marries Clementine Hozier

  His alliance with Lloyd George

  They declare war on House of Lords

  1910 WSC becomes home secretary

  His welfare-state programs

  1911 Battle of Sidney Street

  WSC becomes first lord of the Admiralty

  Father of the tank

  1912–14 Irish Home Rule crisis

  1913 WSC learns to fly, founds Royal Naval Flying Corps

  1914 Outbreak of the Great War

  WSC commands defense of Antwerp

  1915 The Dardanelles tragedy

  WSC dismissed from the Admiralty

  Learns to paint

  Commissioned and sent to the front

  1916 As a lieutenant colonel, leads a battalion in trenches

  1917 Cleared by the Dardanelles Commission

  Rejoins cabinet

  His tanks in action on the western front

  1918 WSC in the trenches again

  Germany surrenders

  1919 WSC becomes secretary for war and air

  Chief supporter of Russian anti-Bolsheviks

  1920 Black and Tans in Ireland

  1921 WSC becomes colonial secretary

  Lawrence of Arabia his adviser

  Founds Jordan, Iraq

  Supports Jewish homeland

  The Chanak crisis

  WSC founds Irish Free State

  Death of Marigold Churchill

  1922 WSC buys Chartwell

  1922–24 Loses three elections

  Turns Tory, wins

  Becomes chancellor of the Exchequer

  1924 Warns of danger in Germany

  1925 Returns Britain to the gold standard

  1926 General strike

  WSC publishes British Gazette

  1929 Tours United States

  Loses fortun
e in Wall Street

  1931 Quits Tory leadership over India

  Manhattan auto accident

  WSC sounds alarm over Nazis

  1932 Enters the political wilderness

  PREAMBLE

  THE LION AT BAY

  THE French had collapsed. The Dutch had been overwhelmed. The Belgians had surrendered. The British army, trapped, fought free and fell back toward the Channel ports, converging on a fishing town whose name was then spelled Dunkerque.

  Behind them lay the sea.

  It was England’s greatest crisis since the Norman conquest, vaster than those precipitated by Philip II’s Spanish Armada, Louis XIV’s triumphant armies, or Napoleon’s invasion barges massed at Boulogne. This time Britain stood alone. If the Germans crossed the Channel and established uncontested beachheads, all would be lost, for it is a peculiarity of England’s island that its southern weald is indefensible against disciplined troops. In A.D. 61, Queen Boudicca of the Iceni rallied the tribes of East Anglia and routed the Romans at Colchester, Saint Albans, and London (then Londinium), cutting the Ninth Legion to pieces and killing seventy thousand. But because the nature of the southern terrain was unsuitable for the construction of strongpoints, new legions under Paulinus, arriving from Gaul, crushed the revolt, leaving the grief-stricken queen to die by her own hand.

  Now the 220,000 Tommies at Dunkirk, Britain’s only hope, seemed doomed. On the Flanders beaches they stood around in angular, existential attitudes, like dim purgatorial souls awaiting disposition. There appeared to be no way to bring more than a handful of them home. The Royal Navy’s vessels were inadequate. King George VI has been told that they would be lucky to save 17,000. The House of Commons was warned to prepare for “hard and heavy tidings.”1 Then, from the streams and estuaries of Kent and Dover, a strange fleet appeared: trawlers and tugs, scows and fishing sloops, lifeboats and pleasure craft, smacks and coasters; the island ferry Gracie Fields; Tom Sopwith’s America’s Cup challenger Endeavour; even the London fire brigade’s fire-float Massey Shaw—all of them manned by civilian volunteers: English fathers, sailing to rescue England’s exhausted, bleeding sons.

  Even today what followed seems miraculous. Not only were Britain’s soldiers delivered; so were French support troops: a total of 338,682 men. But wars are not won by fleeing from the enemy. And British morale was still unequal to the imminent challenge. These were the same people who, less than a year earlier, had rejoiced in the fake peace bought by the betrayal of Czechoslovakia at Munich. Most of their leaders and most of the press remained craven. It had been over a thousand years since Alfred the Great had made himself and his countrymen one and sent them into battle transformed. Now in this new exigency, confronted by the mightiest conqueror Europe had ever known, England looked for another Alfred, a figure cast in a mold which, by the time of the Dunkirk deliverance, seemed to have been forever lost.

  England’s new leader, were he to prevail, would have to stand for everything England’s decent, civilized Establishment had rejected. They viewed Adolf Hitler as the product of complex social and historical forces. Their successor would have to be a passionate Manichaean who saw the world as a medieval struggle to the death between the powers of good and the powers of evil, who held that individuals are responsible for their actions and that the German dictator was therefore wicked. A believer in martial glory was required, one who saw splendor in the ancient parades of victorious legions through Persepolis and could rally the nation to brave the coming German fury. An embodiment of fading Victorian standards was wanted: a tribune for honor, loyalty, duty, and the supreme virtue of action; one who would never compromise with iniquity, who could create a sublime mood and thus give men heroic visions of what they were and might become. Like Adolf Hitler he would have to be a leader of intuitive genius, a born demagogue in the original sense of the word, a believer in the supremacy of his race and his national destiny, an artist who knew how to gather the blazing light of history into his prism and then distort it to his ends, an embodiment of inflexible resolution who could impose his will and his imagination on his people—a great tragedian who understood the appeal of martyrdom and could tell his followers the worst, hurling it to them like great hunks of bleeding meat, persuading them that the year of Dunkirk would be one in which it was “equally good to live or to die”—who could if necessary be just as cruel, just as cunning, and just as ruthless as Hitler but who could win victories without enslaving populations, or preaching supernaturalism, or foisting off myths of his infallibility, or destroying, or even warping, the libertarian institutions he had sworn to preserve. Such a man, if he existed, would be England’s last chance.2

  In London there was such a man.

  Now at last, at last, his hour had struck. He had been waiting in Parliament for forty years, had grown bald and gray in his nation’s service, had endured slander and calumny only to be summoned when the situation seemed hopeless to everyone except him. His youngest daughter, seventeen-year-old “Mary the Mouse”—her family nickname—had been sunning herself at Chartwell, their country home in Kent, during the first hours of the German breakthrough, when the music on her portable radio had been interrupted by a BBC bulletin: “His Majesty the King has sent for Mr. Winston Churchill and asked him to form a government.” Mary, who adored her father, prayed for him and assumed that he would save England. So, of course, did he. But among those who fully grasped the country’s plight, that was a minority view. The Conservative party leadership, the men of Munich, still controlled the government—Lord Halifax, Sir Horace Wilson, Sir Kingsley Wood, Sir John Simon, Sir Samuel Hoare, and, of course, Churchill’s predecessor as prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, who detested him and everything he represented. Even George VI hadn’t wanted Chamberlain to quit No. 10 Downing Street; he thought his treatment had been “grossly unfair.” The King suggested Halifax as his successor. Labour’s erratic Stafford Cripps had already come out for Halifax. That suited the Tory hierarchy, but only a coalition could govern the nation, and the National Executive of the Labour party, meeting in a basement room of the Highcliff Hotel in Bournemouth, sent word that they would serve under no Conservative except Churchill. So Chamberlain persuaded the reluctant King to choose the man neither wanted.3

  Not that it seemed to matter much. Churchill had said that “the Germans are always either at your throat or at your feet,” and as a hot May melted into a hotter June it appeared that their stranglehold was now unbreakable. Hitler was master of Europe. No one, not even Caesar, had stood so securely upon so glittering a pinnacle. The Führer told Göring: “The war is finished. I’ll come to an understanding with England.” On May 28, the first day of the Dunkirk evacuation, Halifax, speaking for the Conservative leadership, had told Churchill that a negotiated peace was England’s only alternative. Now, as the new prime minister’s foreign secretary and a member of his War Cabinet, the Yorkshire nobleman was quoted by the United Press as inviting “Chancellor Hitler to make a new and more generous peace offer.” It was, he said, the only reasonable course, the only decision a stable man of sound judgment could reach.4

  He was quite right. But Winston Churchill was not a reasonable man. He was about as sound as the Maid of Orleans, a comparison he himself once made—“It’s when I’m Joan of Arc that I get excited.” Even more was he an Elijah, an Isaiah; a prophet. Deep insight, not stability, was his forte. To the War Cabinet he said, “I have thought carefully in these last days whether it was part of my duty to consider entering into negotiations with that man,” and concluded: “If this long island story of ours is to end at last, let it end only when each one of us lies choking in his own blood upon the ground.” He spoke to them, to the House, and then to the English people as no one had before or ever would again. He said: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.” Another politician might have told them: “Our policy is to continue the struggle; all our forces and resources will be mobilized.” This is what Churchill said:

 
; Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous states have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and 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 landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

  “Behind us,” he said, “… gather a group of shattered states and bludgeoned races: the Czechs, the Poles, the Danes, the Norwegians, the Belgians, the Dutch—upon all of whom a long night of barbarism will descend, unbroken even by a star of hope, unless we conquer, as conquer we must, as conquer we shall.” That was the language of the Elizabethans, and of a particular Elizabethan, the greatest poet in history: “This England never did, nor never shall, / Lie at the proud foot of a conqueror.”5

  Now, fired by the conviction which could only belong to one who had faced down inner despair, Churchill defied the “celestial grins” of Britain’s enemies, said peace feelers would “be viewed with the greatest disfavor by me,” and said he contemplated the future “with stern and tranquil gaze.” Free Englishmen, he told his people, would be more than a match for the “deadly, drilled, docile, brutish mass of the Hun soldiery plodding on like a swarm of crawling locusts.” But he warned his family to prepare for invaders. His son’s bride Pamela protested: “But Papa, what can I do?” He growled: “You can always get a carving knife from the kitchen and take one with you, can’t you?” To the demoralized French he declared: “Whatever you may do, we shall fight on forever and ever and ever.” General Maxime Weygand replied by asking what would happen if a hundred Nazi divisions landed at Dover. Churchill told him: “Nous les frapperons sur la tête”—they would be hit on the head as they crawled ashore. Visiting Harrow, he heard the boys sing an old school song rewritten in his honor:

  Not less we praise in darker days

  The Leader of our Nation,

  And Churchill’s name shall win acclaim

 

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