(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)
In September, 1941 Lord Beaverbrook, then serving as Minister of Supply in Churchill’s National Unity Government, headed a mission to Moscow to discuss British aid to the Russians.
In Winston S. Churchill: Finest Hour, 1939-1941 historian Sir Martin Gilbert tells us:
On the evening of September 29 a telegram reached Downing Street from Moscow. It was clear that Stalin was going to drive a hard bargain. As Beaverbrook explained: “Moscow is asking for aircraft with cannon and I represent to you urgently that a good measure of Hispano [aircraft] production is desirable. Spitfires must be supplied before long in any circumstances.”A sense of humor never hurts, especially when the tough “missions” come our way in life.
Stalin, added Beaverbrook, “is dissatisfied with Tomahawks and critical of the performance, declaring that the aircraft is unsuited to the Germans on this front. He says that ammunition supply is not adequate, particularly no tracer. I recommend that this situation should be cleared up at the earliest possible moment.”
On reaching the Moscow “outer [defense] ring”, Beaverbrook added, the Mission’s aeroplane had been fired on by Soviet anti-aircraft at 600 feet, and was forced to dive "to tree-tops, fleeing at full speed brushing the autumn leaves away.”
Beaverbrook added: “We do not recommend any more anti-aircraft guns for Russia.” (pgs. 1206-1207)