Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Churchill Series - Mar. 3, 2009

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

Kathleen Hill, Marian Holmes, Elizabeth Layton, Peter Kinna and some others like them receive little, if any, attention in the history books. But we owe them a great deal.

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)

A lengthy policy paper from the Foreign Office? Churchill called out questions and made comments as he read through it. When he reached the end of the document, a first draft of his responses to the F.O. paper was ready for review.

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