Monday, April 21, 2008

The Churchill Series - Apr. 21, 2008

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

Kathleen Hill, Marian Holmes, Elizabeth Layton and Peter Kinna don’t get much mention in the history books, but we owe them a lot.

During World War II one or another of them was almost always within a few feet of Churchill during the times he worked alone on state matters.

The women would sit with fingers poised over a typewriter keyboard ready to record anything Churchill wished to dictate; Kinna would sit with steno pad and pencil in hand.

Churchill could be working in bed or on a train, ship, or plane. Something in a newspaper story would catch his eye and he’d want to ask a cabinet minister about it. He had only to name the minister and ask the question. It was all recorded and typed.

In a minute or two Churchill could review a nicely typed minute he'd just dictated. (I hope you’ll pardon how I put that. – JinC)

And when he read a lengthy policy paper, say, from the Foreign Office?

Churchill called out questions and made comments as he read. By the time he reached the end of the document, a first draft of his responses to the F.O. paper was ready for his review.

The system, which Churchill devised, of always having someone at the ready to record his thinking, questions and directives; and then to send them in written form to the appropriate parties, had a great deal to do with Churchill’s success in leading the British war effort.

It enabled him and the government to keep to a minimum the bureaucratic confusions and conflicts inherent in verbal communication with all its after the fact "but as I remember it, you said she said he said the PM said."
Martin Gilbert, Continue to Pester, Nag and Bite. (pgs. 10-12); and Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill: Finest Hour, 1939-1941. (See index for Kathleen Hill, Marion Holmes, Elizabeth Layton, and Peter Kinna)


Anonymous said...

John: I just picked up an advance reading copy of "Churchill's Triumph" by Michael Dobbs. It's a novel based on the Yalta Conference in 1945. Have you had a chance to read it? Wonder what is your reaction?
Tarheel Hawkeye

JWM said...

To TH,

I've not read it but will in the next month or so.

In the meantime, do you or others have a comment?


Anonymous said...

John: I won't get to it for another two weeks or so, but when I do, I'll comment on it. Historical novels can be very entertaining, and some can even be revealing. There was so much maneuvering by the Yalta participants and it would seem that Churchill was the only allied leader who understood what was at stake. TH