Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Churchill Series - Mar. 6, 2008

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

One reason we know so much about Churchill's WW II leadership is because of a system he set up to record in written form his thoughts and actions.

According to Churchill's official biographer, Martin Gilbert :

The method used by Churchill and Mrs. Hill (his principal secretary), and by his two other principal typists ...was simple and effective. They would sit "still as a mouse" (in Mrs. Hill's words) wherever Churchill was, whether in Downing Street, at his country retreat at Chequers, traveling by car, on trains, onboard ships, even on planes, with a notepad ready or with a silent typewriter (specially designed by Remington), paper in place, to take down whatever he might say whenever he might say it.

He might be reading a newspaper and be prompted by something he read to dictate a Minute to a Cabinet Minister. He might be reading a clutch of diplomatic telegrams from ambassadors ...and have a thought, a point of criticism ...or a suggestion for action. As he began to speak, often in difficult mumble, the typist on duty would immediately take down his words and transcribe them.

So good were (the three typists that) all that remained was to hand (Churchill)the sheet of paper for his signature.
In addition to the three women, Churchill also used a male stenographer, Patrick Kenna.

Gilbert says Kenna was in Churchill's White House bedroom when President Roosevelt unexpectedly entered it just as Churchill emerged naked from his bath. Thus, Kenna was able to record for history the PM's memorable assurance, "You see, Mr. President, I have nothing to conceal from you."

And since I have nothing to conceal from you, dear readers, I'll dispense with the usual formal form of source citation, and simply say I drew the material for this post from Martin Gilbert’s Continue to Pester, Nag and Bite: Churchill's War Leadership.


Anonymous said...

You can always count on Americans to do the right thing- after they've tried everything else.

-Winston Churchill