Friday, July 27, 2007

The Churchill Series - July 27, 2007

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

The previous three series posts dealt with Churchill response to the problems the Germans' use of delayed-fuse bombs created,and the extraordinary courage of the people, all volunteers, who worked to diffuse the bombs, frequently at the cost of "life and limb."

Three such people who worked as a U. X. B.(unexploded bomb) team were, as Churchill described them, "the Earl of Suffolk, his lady private secretary, and his rather aged chauffeur. They called themselves 'the Holy Trinity' and diffused thirty-four bombs before the thirty-fifth claimed its forfeit. Up went the Earl of Suffolk in his Holy Trinity. But we may be sure that, as for Mr. Valiant-for-Truth, 'all the trumpets sounded for them on the other side.' "

In addition to great courage and sacrifice, "the Holy Trinity" embodied two other things that were essential to Britain's winning the war.

The first was a drastic change in British social practices, particularly class distinctions and privileges. The King and Queen went to their subjects to comfort them after they'd been bombed. "We're all in this together." In the tubes, the Lord would move a bit to make some extra room for the man who clerked at the Home Office. And a seaman just arrived from a dangerous Atlantic crossing had his first tea on land served by the lady who owned the manor house.

The other change was the increased role of women in jobs previously reserved for men. Women worked as ironmongers, drove trams, and took charge of ack-ack batteries (one of those was Churchill's youngest daughter, Mary, now Lady Soames, alert and spry at 87).

Of course, a certain amount of class distinction and gender bias survived the war and exist in Britain now as they do in every society. But they are greatly reduced from pre-war levels and some barriers have been completely destroyed.

At the war's end, few would've believed that within a generation one of Britain's major political parties would, for the first time in the country's history, be led by a woman; or that a few years later she'd become Britain's first woman to serve as Prime Minister. But Margaret Thatcher became PM in 1979.

I hope you all have a nice weekend.

In addition to Winston Churchill's Their Finest Hour (Riverside Press, 1949) (pgs. 360 - 363) information for this post was drawn from Wikipedia's Margaret Thatcher entry and Peter Ziegler's London at War: 1939-1945(Mandarin, 1996)