Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Churchill Series - Oct. 22, 2008

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

In yesterday's post I noted when Churchill took command of a battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers on the Western Front during the winter of 1915/16, he was initially resented and ridiculed by his men as a failed politician. But he soon earned their respect and affectation. Some became close friends.

One such friend was Archibald Sinclair who served as the battalion's second-in- command. Their friendship lasted until Churchill’s death in 1965; Sinclair survived for another five years.

In Winston Churchill and His Inner Circle John Colville, Churchill’s Private Secretary during both his premierships, writes about the two friends:

Sinclair had an air of distinction. With his fine features, black hair and swarthy complexion he resembled a Spanish grandee rather than the Highland chieftain that he was.

His delivery as a speaker was slow. He had a stammer which attracted attention and lent emphasis. His oratory was not of the first order, but his words were carefully chosen and he has a gift for imagery and allusion. …

He was more a nineteenth-century Whig, like Churchill himself, than a twentieth-century Liberal. Starting his career in the fashionable Second Life Guards, he became in due course second-in-command of the battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers that Churchill commanded in the trenches during the winter of 1915-1916. For both of them this brotherhood in arms, short thought it was in time, was an unbreakable link, forged in war but maintained in peace.

Sinclair followed Churchill first to the War Office and then to the Colonial Office as his military private secretary in the years following the Armistice of 1918. He accompanied him on his travels to the Arab countries and elsewhere. Then he went into politics himself.

The two friends were briefly of the same party, for Sinclair was elected Liberal M. P. for his own county of Caithness in 1922; but Churchill soon crossed the floor, back to the Conservative benches where his parliamentary career had begun. They parted at political crossways, their personal relationship remaining undisturbed.(pgs. 219-220)
During the thirties they both opposed appeasement with Sinclair, if anything, a more passionate anti-appeaser than Churchill, if such a person is possible.

In 1940 when Churchill became Prime Minister, he asked Sinclair to serve as Secretary of State for Air which Sinclair did until 1945.

If you like to read more about Sinclair, Wikipedia has what looks to me to be a reliable Sinclair bio entry.