Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Churchill Sereis – Oct.. 21, 2008

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

Yesterday I promised some comments about Churchill’s correspondence with Clementine during WW I when he served for a time in the trenches. What follows are impressions formed after reading many of their letters and some biographies of Churchill.

As many of you know Churchill went to the battlefield with his political career in ruins after the collapse of the Dardanelles expedition which he’d strongly backed. Had the expedition succeeded in capturing the Ottoman capital of Constantinople, the Allies would've been able to strengthen the Russians and keep them in the fight. They would also have outflanked the Germans.

Churchill received heavy, disproportionate and, according to many historians today, unfair blame for the expedition’s failure. Most people, including it seems Churchill at least for a time, thought his political career was over.

Churchill joined the active fighting for a complex of reasons. He felt he had a duty to contribute to the war effort. He recognized he had no influence at the time on decisions affecting the war. So by going into the trenches he was making his contribution. And being Winston Churchill, he could no more imagine himself standing by when his country was at war than we can.

Churchill, of course, was a graduate of the Royal Military College, had served as an officer under three sovereigns, fought in the Empire’s war on three continents, had often been shot at, twice had horses shot out form underneath him, and been taking a prisoner of war and escaped.

Churchill by temperament in 1915 wanted to serve his country; and since he could do that nowhere else but at the front, he was on his way to France.

When he got there he was received with resentment at first by the troops who viewed him as a failed politician. But he was a most unusual politician for he was also a trained, smart, experienced, battle-hardened and brave warrior.

The man who served under him soon learned that and came to respect and like him. Some even became lifetime friends.

Time is pressing. I’ll continue this tomorrow with a look at another reason Churchill want to the front: he thought service there might help him recover politically and once more be a force in government.


Anonymous said...

That was then this is now.