“All Babies Look Like Me”

Churchill on babies


British Prime Minister Winston Churchill at 10 Downing Street, London, in 1940.

(photograph by Cecil Beaton, courtesy of the Imperial War Museum via the BBC)

I often say to people that all babies look like Winston Churchill. Naturally, I should have known the great man beat me to this conclusion decades ago.

Churchill was taking a walk with an infant grandson (presumably accompanied by a nanny who was holding the infant). A friend stopped Churchill and remarked how much alike Churchill and the baby appeared. To which the great man responded:

“All babies look like me. But then, I look like all babies.”


Churchill said so many memorable things that even things he never said which sound like him are attributed. Nonetheless, if you ever find yourself in a position where you are called upon to say a few words and all you can think of is a serious quote you once heard which you can elaborate on then you are usually on safe ground attributing that quote to Churchill, Shakespeare, of the Bible.

While Churchill uttered many quips, his magnificent speeches which inspired his countrymen and the world to resist Hitler were meticulously dictated by him to one of the secretaries on duty around the clock. He honed these speeches until they gleamed like a diamond. Most of them took him many, many hours.

Churchill also practiced these speeches before he gave them, putting in the dramatic pauses. He was not only a great speech writer but a great speaker and he wrote his speeches using techniques of classical rhetoric which used to mean elegant and well-constructed speech instead of hot air.


While a popular myth, no actors ever gave Churchill’s speeches on the BBC after he gave them in Parliament which didn’t allow radio coverage. He broadcast all of them himself. After retiring from Parliament, he recorded his most famous speeches for several record companies.

source: https://www.nationalchurchillmuseum.org/wit-wisdom-quotes.html

Royal Navy Sank the Bismarck This Day in 1941




HMS King George V, flagship of Admiral of the Fleet Sir John Tovey as he maneuvered the units of the Royal Navy to sink the Bismarck



A RAF Coastal Command Catalina (AH545 WQ-Z of 209 Squadron) located the German battleship Bismarck on 26 May 1941 which led to the sinking of the Bismarck. The sighting was made by the co-pilot, American US Navy Ensign Leonard “Tuck” Smith, but was credited to the pilot, British Flying Officer Dennis Briggs of the RAF, because the United States was supposed to be neutral.







Admiral Dudley Pound Wouldn’t Take His Own Advice



iwn pound and SC

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound and the Prime Minister on the deck of the SS Queen Mary. (Photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)


Early in his tenure as First Sea Lord, Admiral of the Fleet Dudley Pound wrote to a close friend in the navy and said, “why have Commanders-in-Chiefs and do their work for them? If they are not capable of doing it they must make way for someone who can.” 1

Unique amongst the respective British service commands, the Admiralty had command, organizational and administrative responsibilities of a standard service ministry but also had operational control over the fleets.

Unfortunately, Dudley Pound didn’t take his own advice during the war since he often went over the heads of his C-in-Cs and gave orders to formations under their command.

During the disastrous campaign in Norway beginning in early April 1940, Pound went over the head of both the senior Royal Navy officer on the scene (Admiral Jock Whitworth) as well over the head Whitworth’s C.O., the Commander in Chief, Home Fleet. Pound even sent orders to individual ships. This caused immense confusion as you might imagine.

While many of the orders sent to RN ships fighting in the Norwegian campaign by Dudley Pound were thought to have originated with then First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, many other times during the war Pound needed no prodding from Churchill to interfere in fleet dispositions during action with the enemy.

This could cause serious problems and occasionally disaster such as the infamous scattering order issue to convoy PQ17.

As an aside, the Chief of Naval Operations in the US, has no operational authority over US naval ships. He, or she, is responsible for everything concerning the navy but he doesn’t exercise command over fleets or ships. This has always been the case in the modern history of the US Navy.

In World War Two, Franklin Roosevelt picked Admiral Ernest King out of  a dead-end post which Admirals took a few years before retirement and made him Chief of Naval Operations. However, this gave King little power over the dispositions of the actual naval ships themselves since those were in fleets or other units under the authority of Commander in Chief US Fleet. This title had the unfortunate acronym of CINCUS.

After a spell, this did not suit Roosevelt who wanted one person in charge so he elevated King to the position of Commander in Chief US Fleet while allowing him to also keep the office of Chief of Naval Operations. This gave King immense authority over the entire US Navy. (And he sometimes went over the heads of his commanders such as Nimitz, not to change any of their fleet dispositions but to fire some of their subordinates).

Upon assuming the position of Commander in Chief, US Fleet, Admiral King immediately changed the acronym to COMINCH. King is the only man ever to have held the position of Chief of Naval Operations and Commander in Chief US Fleet simultaneously.

1 Roskill, Stephen “The War at Sea”




As I turned over and twisted in bed the full horror of the news sank in upon me.

Churchill aboard POW IWM

Churchill aboard HMS Prince of Wales on his way to meet with US President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the Atlantic Conference in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland.

“In all the war I never received a more direct shock.”

Prime Minister Churchill on learning HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse had been sunk.



Admiral Tom Phillips (right) commanding Force Z. A desk admiral, ignorant of modern naval warfare of the time, Phillips refused to listen to advice from experienced naval combat commanders.


Rear Admiral Arthur Palliser (left) deputy of Admiral Sir Tom Phillips (right), commander of Force Z,  on the quayside at Singapore naval base, 2 December 1941. Palliser was a nonentity and a man who was ‘bone from the neck up.’ Phillips was a “desk admiral” who had spent 8 or the previous 11 years on staff appointments.

Admiral Tom Phillips, commanding what had been designated Force Z, was completely ignorant of the danger enemy aircraft posed to ships.

Despite first hand reports of the extreme danger from the air,  especially dive bombers and torpedo bombers, Phillips continued to smugly wallow in his preconceptions. Not only was he ignorant, he refused to listen to the younger officers who had been on convoy duty in the English Channel and who had been involved in the Norwegian Campaign. German aircraft had pounded Royal Navy in these battles. In 1940 alone more than 18 destroyers were lost from air attack. As Vice Chief of the Naval Staff, Phillips would have been well aware of this.


 In the Highest Traditions of the Royal Navy, a thoroughly research biography of Captain John Leach, author Matthew B. Wills gives us this sketch of the Admiral commanding Force Z:

“Admiral Phillips had no recent sea experience and had never been on a ship that had to defend herself from attack by enemy aircraft.” 

This was deeply unfortunate.