(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)
One of Churchill’s private secretaries during WW II, Sir John Peck, gave historian Martin Gilbert the following account of Churchill’s wartime speech-making which Gilbert reported in In Search of Churchill: A Historian’s Journey :
There would be a big speech coming up. For days he would go broody. He wouldn’t touch the work in his box. You had to jam things down his throat.I’ll just leave things as Peck and Gilbert shared them with us.
After dinner he would say to his Private Secretary, “I shall need two women tonight.” This was usually Mrs. Hill and Miss Layton. Mrs. Hill would come first. He would then sit down and dictate for one or two hours. He’d break off at about half time and start with the second woman, while the first one went away and typed out what he had already dictated.
His own amendments tended to be minimal. He obviously had it all in his mind.
Different sections would be sent off to the ministers concerned with a deadline put to the minister’s Private Secretary: “Phone in your comments by ….”
There was often a damned short deadline, as Winston had left it so late.
A Private Secretary would ring up to say that his minister wanted such-and-such changed. We’d either say, “All right, we’ll write it in” or “Quite frankly, the Old Man isn’t going to wear that. How strongly does your minister feel? Well, if he feels that strongly, he’s going to have to fight for it himself.”
You wouldn’t make a change unless there was a good reason. We would add or change the passages that seemed to need it, from the various ministerial points of view.
Then he would pronounce himself satisfied. Then we would send it back to Mrs. Hill, to be typed in “speech form. (pgs. 187-188)
I hope you’re back tomorrow.