Churchill Loved His Uniforms

Having begun his adult life as a soldier, Churchill remained keen on uniforms for the remainder of his life and often wore them in the Second World War. He only wore uniforms he was entitled to and his ranks at that point were honorary.

 

Prime Minister Winston Churchill Crosses the River Rhine, Germany 1945
The Prime Minister Winston Churchill crosses the River Rhine to the east bank, south of Wesel, in an American Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel (or Higgins boat) with Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery, Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke and US General William Simpson on 25 March 1945. (photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum).

Churchill is wearing the uniform of a Colonel of the 4th Hussars. He was made an honorary colonel of the regiment in 1941. This is the regiment Churchill joined when he passed out of Sandhurst in 1894 and first entered the army.  He entered as a second lieutenant. (Some accounts claim he entered as a cornet, the equivalent rank in the cavalry to 2nd Lieutenant but that rank had been abolished some years before during a series of reforms in the British Army).

 

An exceptionally handsome and slender nineteen-year-old 2nd Lieutenant Winston Churchill of the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars in 1895. (IWM)

Winston Churchill was the first Prime Minister of Great Britain to have served in combat and killed the enemy since the Duke of Wellington, who served as Prime Minister from 1828 to 1830.

 

THE VISIT OF THE PRIME MINISTER, WINSTON CHURCHILL TO CAEN, NORMANDY, 22 JULY 1944 (TR 2050) The Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Winston Churchill, MP, with the Commander of the British 2nd Army, Lieutenant General Sir Miles Dempsey (right) and the Commander of the 21st Army Group, General Sir Bernard Montgomery. Copyright: © IWM.

Churchill is wearing one of his favorite uniforms, that of an Elder Brother of Trinity House. This organization, which recently celebrated its 500th anniversary, is responsible for harbour pilots in the UK and aids to navigation.

When he became First Lord of the Admiralty in 1911, Churchill was made an honorary elder brother of Trinity House, the Elder Brothers being the governing board of the organization.

At the beginning of World War One, Churchill was in France on behalf of the government and was wearing the uniform of an Elder Brother of Trinity House. One of the French officers asked a British officer with Churchill what the uniform signified. In mangled French, the British officer replied that Churchill was a member of the Trinity.

 

Churchill in uniform as honorary Air Commodore.

In 1939 Churchill was appointment by King George VI as an honorary Air Commodore. His wings were later granted as another by the Royal Air Force. Churchill had become a pilot before the Great War and was one of the first licensed airplane pilots in Great Britain.

 


Featured image:

Prime Minister, Mr Winston Churchill  (he is wearing the uniform of an Elder Brother of Trinity House).in conversation with two seated dockers. The conversation took place during Mr Churchill’s tour of the dock area of Liverpool in late September 1941. It was reported that the Prime Minister saw the two workmen having their dinner and, alluding to their well-filled plates, asked: ‘Are you managing to get plenty of food?’ ‘Aye Sir!, we are doing grand, thank you’, was the reply. (Photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)

Chamberlain Betrays Czechs & Countdown to War Begins

“You were given the choice between war and dishonour. You chose dishonour and you will have war.”
WInston Churchill to Chamberlain in 1938 on the munich agreement.
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“…a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing.”

Chamberlain (centre, hat, and umbrella in hands) walks with German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop (right) as the Prime Minister leaves for home after the Berchtesgaden meeting, 16 September 1938. On the left is Alexander von Dörnberg, German diplomat, and SS officer, Chief of Protocol Foreign Office of Nazi Germany. (German National Archive)

 

From left to right, Chamberlain, Daladier, Hitler, Mussolini and Italian Foreign Minister Count Ciano as they prepare to sign the Munich Agreement. German National Archive.

This agreement was then forced on the Czechs by Britain and France.

[Ciano was Mussolini’s son-in-law who later played in role in overthrowing him. There are several versions of how Ciano came to be shot. This is my favorite although apocryphal:  Hitler told Mussolini to have Ciano shot. Musso said Ciano was the father of his grandchildren. He could not have him shot. Hitler replied that Musso was not tough enough to be a dictator. “I will have him shot.” Shortly thereafter the SS in the Salo Republic shot Ciano.]

In the fall of 1938, Hitler had made a fool of Prime Minister Chamberlain through his sham negotiating in Berchtesgaden. The PM had returned to England after betraying the Czechs and forcing both them and the Skoda Works, the finest armament works in Europe, into the hands of a madman.

“I believe it is peace for our time.”

Commentary from the Imperial War Museum: “Neville Chamberlain holding the paper containing the resolution to commit to peaceful methods signed by both Hitler and himself on his return from Munich. He is showing the piece of paper to a crowd at Heston Aerodrome on 30 September 1938.

He said: “…the settlement of the Czechoslovakian problem, which has now been achieved is, in my view, only the prelude to a larger settlement in which all Europe may find peace.

This morning I had another talk with the German Chancellor, Herr Hitler, and here is the paper which bears his name upon it as well as mine…

….(waves paper to the crowd – receiving loud cheers and “Hear Hears”). Some of you, perhaps, have already heard what it contains but I would just like to read it to you …”.

Later that day he stood outside Number 10 Downing Street and again read from the document and concluded: ‘”My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time.” (Photo and caption courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)

Charles McCain: Except, of course, it wasn’t.

Hitler was hardly going to keep his word and anyone who had observed him for a time knew that. The Czechs had been betrayed by Chamberlain.

Said Chamberlain in a radio broadcast, “How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas-masks here because of a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing.” 

Chamberlain (left) and Hitler leave the Bad Godesberg meeting, 23 September 1938. German National Archive)

Czechs had been supplying steel of the highest quality to the Royal Navy

Yet many in Great Britain did know something about Czechoslovakia including this most critical fact: the Czechs had been supplying steel of the highest quality to the Royal Navy, steel of the quality required for warships no longer cast in sufficient amounts in Great Britain. *

The Admiralty knew this. Men of industry and finance knew. Chamberlain and the cabinet knew–but persisted in lying to the people of Great Britain as well as deluding themselves. They continued to live in what Aristophanes referred to as “Cloud-cuckoo-land”

*(Source: “Engage the Enemy More Closely: the Royal Navy in te Second World War” by Correlli Barnett)

Lord Halifax revealed as guilty of high treason–tried to negotiate peace with the Nazis without disclosure to war cabinet.

Neville Chamberlain, Benito Mussolini, Lord Halifax, and Count Ciano at an opera in Rome, Jan 1939

Daily Telegraph of London, 2008:

“Lord Halifax, Britain’s Foreign Secretary at the outbreak of the Second World War, secretly met with an Old Etonian who tried to broker a peace deal with the Nazis, according to newly-declassified security files.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/2650832/Lord-Halifax-tried-to-negotiate-peace-with-the-Nazis.html

Charles McCain: A sordid spectacle. History has rightly judged  Chamberlain harshly along with his crony, the leading appeaser of Hitler next to Chamberlain, Foreign Secretary, the arch-schemer, Lord Halifax. Documents released in last 10 years prove Halifax committed treason by carrying on peace negotiations through dubious second parties without informing the war cabinet.

In November of 1937, while Lord President of the Council (a cabinet position), Halifax paid a private visit to Herman Goering, the obese kleptomaniac and drug addled C-in-C of the Luftwaffe. Since Halifax was a member of the Cabinet, the Germans thought of this as an “unofficial” official visit. This was done with Prime Minister Chamberlain’s knowledge and approval.

Lord Halifax with Hermann Göring at Schorfheide, Germany, 20 November 1937 (German National Archive)

Although Halifax was not then Foreign Secretary, he informed Adolf Hitler and “the evil gang who work your wicked will” * that the British government did not oppose Nazi Germany’s stated policy to incorporate Austria, half of Czechoslovakia and several former Imperial German provinces of Poland into the Third Reich.  However, the honourable gentleman, Lord Halifax, loftily said this must be done peacefully.

(*Churchill in a speech during World War Two describing Hitler’s murderous and evil myrmidons.

Lord Halifax with Hitler on 19 November 1937

This interference in foreign affairs by Chamberlain and his trusted fellow appeaser, the noble Lord Halifax, led to the resignation of Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden. Would Halifax take the position? Certainly, if the Prime Minister asked him then naturally it would be his duty to accept the position which he did.

A deeply religious man was Halifax. Hence, a good man said his acolytes. Not one to dirty his hands with common politics or common people. (As a peer of the realm, he was a member of the House of Lords). There were few among the elite who attended divine service on a more frequent basis then Lord Halifax. Presumably, God was on his side, it was said.  Many who knew him referred to him behind his back as the “Holy Fox.”  It wasn’t a compliment.

CHURCHILL STATES THE TRUTH

Only a few both saw and were willing to state the truth. One of those was Winston Churchill, roundly condemned for what he said in Parliament after Chamberlain returned from Munich waving the piece of paper signed by Hitler which meant “peace in our time.”

Adolf Hitler and Neville Chamberlain reviewing German troops during Chamberlain’s visit to sign the Munich Agreement.

Winston Churchill on chamberlain’s capitulation in Munich to Hitler, house of commons, 5 October 1938.

I will, therefore, begin by saying the most unpopular and most unwelcome thing. I will begin by saying what everybody would like to ignore or forget but which must nevertheless be stated, namely, that we have sustained a total and unmitigated defeat, and that France has suffered even more than we have.

The utmost my right hon. friend the Prime Minister… has been able to gain for Czechoslovakia in the matters which were in dispute has been that the German dictator, instead of snatching the victuals from the table, has been content to have them served to him course by course…”

He was heckled by other Conservative members of Parliament during this speech. Churchill’s judgment on Chamberlain after the signing of the Munich agreement:  “You were given the choice between war and dishonour. You chose dishonour and you will have war.”

Chamberlain having a sincere handshake with Adolf Hitler.

You can read Churchill’s entire speech to Parliament on the Munich agreement here:       winstonchurchill.org/resources/speeches/the-munich-agreement

 

3 September 1939, Great Britain and France declared war on Nazi Germany for attacking Poland, whose territorial integrity had been hastily guaranteed by those two countries. After the craven conduct of the British on Austria and Czechoslovakia, Hitler was stunned. He turned to his vacuous Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, who had assured him the British and the French would do nothing, and said, “now what?”

Ribbentrop was an opportunistic, immoral, evil toad of man along with being stupid. At the Nuremberg Tribunal, an American interrogator asked him several questions about German foreign policy during the Third Reich. Ribbentrop said he did not know the answers. Are you telling me, the American interrogator said, that as Foreign Minister of Nazi Germany you did not know what the foreign policy was? “I am sorry but I must say ‘yes'” (As in ‘yes he did not know). him on four counts: crimes against peace, deliberately planning a war of aggression, war crimes, and crimes against humanity

He was rightfully convicted of crimes against peace, deliberately planning a war of aggression, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, and hanged 16 October 1946.

This iconic photograph of Churchill was taken by famed photographer Yousuf Karsh on 30 December 1941 immediately after a speech Churchill had given to the Canadian Parliament. This photo came to represent Great Britain’s defiance of the Nazis.

On 10 May 1940, Germany attacked France who surrendered within six weeks. On that same day, 10 May 1940, two days after Chamberlain had suffered a humiliating defeat in Parliament, his majority dropping from 280 votes to 80 in a vote of confidence, Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of Great Britain and led the British Empire to victory over the Nazis.

His speeches as Prime Minister rang with defiance against the Nazis and continue to inspire those who value individual freedom.

“He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle to steady his fellow countrymen and hearten those Europeans upon whom the long dark night of tyranny had descended.” 

Edward R. Murrow on Churchill in 1954.

 

Death of a Battleship

Lest We Forget

25 November 1941

HMS Barham, torpedoed and sunk with the loss of 55 officers and 806 ratings.

This vid clip is one minute and eleven seconds long. In these 71 seconds, the Royal Navy battleship, HMS Barham, rolled over on her beam ends, explodes, and then sinks. At the end of the vid clip, the ship is gone, disappeared beneath the sea.

In the time it takes to watch it, fifty-five officers and eight hundred six ratings died–men who were fighting against “a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime,” as the Nazis were so aptly described in their evil by Prime Minister Winston Churchill on 13 May 1940 in his first speech to Parliament as Prime Minister.

Incredibly, the sinking and explosion was caught on film by a news reel cameraman from Gaumont News. The cameraman who caught the sinking and explosion, John Turner, was standing on the deck of the nearby Royal Navy battleship, HMS Valiant, which was on station close to Barham.

You can read accounts by the crew members who survived here:

http://www.hmsbarham.com/ship/accounts.php

HMS Barham in the Royal Navy fleet anchorage of Scapa Flow circa 1917. (US Navy photograph)

Churchill Right on Dardanelles

Minister of Munitions Winston Churchill meets women war workers at Georgetown’s filling works near Glasgow during a visit on 9 October 1918. Churchill came into Lloyd George’s cabinet, known as the Second Coalition, as Minister of Munitions. 

Churchill was forced out of the cabinet by H.H. Asquith since the Conservatives would not come into a coalition with the his Liberal Party if Churchill remained in the Cabinet. This was painful, to say the least, for both men. Asquith is actually responsible for the launch of Churchill’s career. He appointed him to a series of powerful cabinet posts from Home Secretary to President of the Board of Trade to First Lord of the Admiralty.

Although the decision to force the Dardanelles was made by the entire cabinet under the leadership of Prime Minister H.H. Asquith, Winston Churchill is somehow given the entire blame for what became a disaster. In spite of their later denials, the First Sea Lord, Admiral Jackie Fisher, and the Secretary of State for War, Field Marshal Kitchener, were in favour of this plan. After the war, a Royal Commission cleared Churchill of blame for the Dardanelles/Gallipoli campaign.

As you can see from the map above, Churchill’s plan was for the Royal Navy to use old battleships to force their was from the Aegean through the Dardanelles into the Sea of Marmara. From there they would have easily taken Istanbul and opened up the Black Sea to maritime traffic. The Turkish Navy was too small to have stopped them although at that point all Turkish warships were being commanded by German naval officers. (Clash of Fleets: Naval Battles of the Great War, by Vincent O’Hara).

The best and shortest explanation of why this was a sound idea and what it was could have achieved is given by Violet Bonham Carter, Baroness Asquith. Violet Asquith was the daughter of Prime Minister H.H. Asquith and in spite of her youth, he often discussed complex matters of state with her because of her brilliance and keen understanding of British politics. She was one of the most extraordinary women of her time.

Portrait of the brilliant and perceptive British politician and author Violet Bonham-Carter, neé Asquith, 1915.   In December 1964, she was elevated to the peerage in her own right as Baroness Asquith of Yarnbury (15 April 1887 – 19 February 1969).

She met Winston Churchill when she was 18 and they remained friends for rest of their lives. In the last several years of his life, she was one of the few people who would be invited to sit with him and  her presence cheered him. She herself was an extraordinary woman and the only female friend he had. The last telegram Churchill sent in his life was one congratulating Violet on her elevation to the peerage. She was brilliant, thought by many to be almost as good a speaker as Churchill and had a personality of steel. All of this appealed to Churchill.

“Winston Churchill As I Knew Him” is her memoir about the early years of friendship between them from 1906 until 1915.  She describes the rationale behind the campaign. “Once the fleet had broken through the Straits (the Dardanelles) into the Sea of Marmora the Greeks and the Bulgarians, hungry for spoils, might join us in attacking Turkey (at that time allied with Imperial Germany); Italy might be weaned from her neutrality; Rumania would not stand alone. The Balkan States might form a united front to sweep the Turks from Europe. But what mattered most was to help Russia in her desperate need. When Constantinople (now Istanbul) fell we could release her shipping bottled up in the Black Sea. She could export her grain to us ad we could send her arms and ammunition.”

It was a bold plan. But for the lack of will of the British Admiral commanding the task force of old battleships assembled to run the Dardanelles, it probably would have worked and would have changed history. Certainly Baroness Asquith believed this to her dying day. She thought this was the worst mistake made in the 20th century.

No question that Admiral David Beatty would have successfully forced the Dardanelles. At this point there were no Turkish soldiers on the small spit of land known as Gallipoli. Unfortunately, it didn’t work because the Royal Navy’s fighting instinct had atrophied over a century of ruling the waves without challenge.

I am convinced that Admiral, the Earl Beatty of the North Sea, would have forced the Dardanelles had he been in command. In spite of his errors in command in his many engagements with the Germans, he certainly never lost his nerve. In fact, if anything, he went at the Germans too quickly without waiting for his other ships to come up in support.