Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Churchill Series - Dec. 11, 2008

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

It’s April, 1941.

There’s no Eastern front. Germany won’t attack Russia for another three months. France collapsed in June, 1940. The United States won’t enter the war until attacked by Japan on Dec. 7, 1941.

If you bought German government bonds that April, you’d get a very low interest rate. That was "the price" paid by serious investors who wanted to collect their principal at maturity.

British government bonds? Sure, you got a very high interest rate but the "smart people" in Wall Street would tell you you were buying in on "the losing side."

Still, Britain, the Commonwealth, and Empire fought on wherever they could.

On the home island, the fight involved a mostly defensive battle against German bombing raids. The Royal Air Force destroyed many attacking bombers but others got through and did their worst.

Bristol was hard hit during a nighttime raid that April.

The following morning, Churchill and Clementine left London for Bristol to view the damage and comfort victims. A small party accompanied them. It included an American, Averell Harriman, then in England as a representative of President Roosevelt.

Everyone was moved by the damage they witnessed and the "pluck" of the survivors.

That evening, Harriman arranged to make a large, anonymous donation to a relief fund for the bombing victims.

Clementine learned of his gesture. She sent him the following letter:

Tuesday, April the 15th. 1941

My dear Mr. Harriman:

I am sending your generous present to the Lord Mayor of Bristol & although I shall respect your wish that it shall be anonymous, I shall tell him how moved the giver was by the sufferings and bearing of the people of Bristol.

I feel it is the fervent hope and prayer of many of us that all this pain and grief, some of which we have perhaps deserved by our blindness and negligence, may bring our two countries permanently together & that they may grow to understand each other.

Anyhow, whatever happens we do not feel alone any more.

Yours very sincerely,

Clementine S. Churchill
We often forget that in Freedom's great struggle,there were two Churchills who used the English language to touch, sustain, and inspire.
Lady Churchill's letter was included in a Library of Congress exhibit:
Churchill and the Great Republic. A transcript of the letter may be viewed here.