Friday, May 25, 2007

The Churchill Series – May 25, 2007

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

Readers’ Note: Recently a few of you who will be visiting Normandy this summer asked if I’d post on any visits Churchill made to Normandy. I’ll do that next week.
Also, some have asked for some visitor information, particularly to the invasion beaches and the military cemeteries. I’ll post on those topics starting this weekend.


Yesterday’s post contained excerpts from William Manchester’s review of The Fringes of Power, Sir John (Jock) Colville’s book composed of entries from diaries he kept while serving as a private secretary to British prime ministers including, for most of WW II, Churchill.

Among the Manchester excerpts was this paragraph :

Americans, who knew little of Churchill until he began running the crusade against Hitler (running it from an office in the Admiralty; it took Chamberlain a month to move out of Downing Street) cannot understand why Englishmen were slow to grasp his greatness. As we watch him through the eyes of his private secretary, however, we see how his public's perception of him changed.
There’s some information I want to give you about Chamberlain’s staying on at Downing Street for a month. Then I want to say something about Manchester.

Remembering Churchill became PM on May 10, 1940 this from Their Finest Hour, volume two of Churchill’s “History of World War II” (Houghton Mifflin):
Early on the morning of May 11 I sent a message to Mr. Chamberlain: “No one changes houses for a month.” This avoided petty inconveniences during the crisis of the battle. I continued to live at Admiralty House and made its map room and the fine rooms downstairs my temporary headquarters. (pg. 10)
As far as I know, Churchill’s “no one changes houses” directive applied to all cabinet members of Chamberlain’s former government. It was very important not only for “avoiding inconveniences during the crisis of the battle,” but for showing regard for the feelings of outgoing cabinet members whose posts came with housing. That was a very important consideration at a time when Churchill was seeking to build a coalition national unity government.

Now to Manchester. Of course, he knew what I’ve just told you, but he still takes a jibe at Chamberlain for taking “a month to move.” I don’t know why he would do that but from time-to-time I come across similarly unnerving things Manchester does either by commission or omission.

That said, I still find his Churchill books great reads.

Along with remembering those who served, those serving and all their families, I hope you have a restful weekend.