By Bryan Caskey
Today in 1874, Winston Churchill was born in at his family’s ancestral home, Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. Considered by some historians to be the greatest man to occupy 10 Downing Street, he was the larger than life man who guided Great Britain through WWII. After Dunkirk, he gave one of his most famous speeches. He was a skilled craftsman with the English language. Here’s the soaring conclusion:
I have, myself, full confidence that if all do their duty, if nothing is neglected, and if the best arrangements are made, as they are being made, we shall prove ourselves once again able to defend our Island home, to ride out the storm of war, and to outlive the menace of tyranny, if necessary for years, if necessary alone. At any rate, that is what we are going to try to do. That is the resolve of His Majesty’s Government-every man of them. That is the will of Parliament and the nation. The British Empire and the French Republic, linked together in their cause and in their need, will defend to the death their native soil, aiding each other like good comrades to the utmost of their strength. Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.
Little known fact: His mother was an American.
Great men, men of destiny rise up during dark and critical times. Churchill was one of the greatest and most celebrated for his faith and resolve to resist at all costs the advance of the German army as it marched across Europe and Africa. A leader for his time.
What I find to be a universal truth or what once was is the way the right leaders rise to the occasion and perform brilliantly and gallantly. Churchill, Mongomery, Eisenhower, Patton, Roosevelt, Bradley, MacArthur, and the armies of men and women who stepped forward and moved across oceans to fight against the tyranny and horror of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.
Churchill’s American mother’s blood ran through his veins and heart. He quoted Sir Edward Gray who said, “The United States is like a gigantic boiler. Once the fire is lighted under it there is no limit to the power it can generate.” Churchill understood and knew that the perception of America in the UK and Europe was wrong and he used the Civil War as an example of who we are or were at one time. He described the Civil War as a conflict which was, “fought out to the last desperate inch”.
I don’t know the exact quote but according to what I have read in the past, Churchill said after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and brought America into the war that he slept well for the first time in a long time that night because he knew then the war was already won.
Thanks for the remembrance of his birthday. He has always been one of my favorite figures in history.
How’bout Jonathan Swift or Shirley Chisholm or, yeah, maybe Mark Twain ?
No need for them to shuffle around in Churchill’s shadow.
Twain would have also been a good choice. Would you say he’s the best American writer ever?
I don’t go in much for “best” or “greatest” ever categories. Because there are always too many — including many who often get overlooked. What’s “best” to me is all that interests me. And that may change over time or even from one day to the next.
That being said, the best American novel as far as I’m concerned is Melville’s Moby Dick.
“That being said, the best American novel as far as I’m concerned is Melville’s Moby Dick.”
Absolutely, Moby Dick is really something.
Is it a novel? A quick Google search seems to confirm it is viewed as such; I never thought of the book in that limiting way, however. It is unlike any other. Still.
Bart’s curlishness here aside, this blog has always been a place of interesting detours and side conversations. Besides, when Montgomery is included as a pillar of the Allies success, eyes must roll.
“churlishness”, you’re welcome.
Guess I missed Montgomery’s contribution somewhere along the way. El Alamein strike a familiar chord with you? After all, it was the turning point of the war against Germany. Granted, he was a total conceited and self-serving jerk, but El Alamein was a critical victory, and he was the one in charge. His post El Alamein screw-ups are historic but so were so many of the leaders in WWII.
Montgomery was like a pre-Grant US civil war general. Lucky in circumstances once, maybe, but otherwise risen above his competence.
El Alamein is a perfect example. Just a dithering troop slayer. Churchill I am inclined to be much more charitable towards, for obvious reasons.
Really? What is this crap? The article was about Churchill and his birthday. Is it simply too damn much to just acknowledge Churchill and let it go at that? But then one would have to actually stop and compare what the ones listed contributed to or added to the success of the Allies defeating Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and Fascist Italy in WWII.
Have a good day, if you are capable.
Oh, let me get a pen, I want to write that one down. (credit to MST3000)
I wasn’t aware that Winston Churchill has a monopoly on the March 30th birthday slot.
“How’bout Jonathan Swift or Shirley Chisholm or, yeah, maybe Mark Twain ?
No need for them to shuffle around in Churchill’s shadow.”
It is not that Churchill has a monopoly on the November 30th birthday slot, but it was the condescending tone of the reply that prompted my “churlish” reply.
Maybe something more along this line:
November 30th is also the birthday of others and in their own right, contributed to the betterment of art, literature, and politics. To name a few, Jonathan Swift, Shirley Chisholm, and Mark Twain.
But why bother to reply to pretentious comments? Steven E. Clark provides a perfect retort. “An ounce of pretension is worth a pound of manure.” Churlish but accurate.
“One should not confuse clarity with condescension.”
– Steven Pinker
Thanks for your self-examination and posting the appropriate analysis of Ken. You should try it sometime, clarity without condescension.
The problem with veneration of figures like Churchill is that it tends to cherry-pick the greatest moments and leave all the rest aside. Churchill had an active political career that spanned from 1901 through 1955, more than a half a century. Which means he left behind a very long record – a record of both accomplishments as well as mistakes. He was particular backward during his second premiership in the 1950s (when, just by-the-by, he won office without garnering the majority of the popular vote.) He was wrong about the proposed European Defense Community. He was wrong about holding onto British interests in the Middle East. And he was wrong about maintaining the Empire. None of these were minor matters. While he was clearly an inspiration to many, both in Britain and the US, during the Second World War, after the war there were a lot of Brits ready to see the back of the old sod. A man of enormous ego, Churchill resented their rejection and became smaller as a result.
I was just trying to put up what I thought was a pretty non-controversial post. Oh well, serves me right.
Sorry, but that’s what cherry-picking from history will get you.
Thanks for setting us straight, Ken.
The post about Churchill was or should have been non-controversial. For myself and others who admired Churchill for the leader he was during the blitz and the subsequent actions and decisions for England and how the nation stood against Hitler understood that after his war time leadership, he was not an effective leader. The positives about Churchill are noteworthy and should be celebrated for his stand during a time when England and Europe could have come under Nazi domination.
Sometimes we just need to view accomplishments in the proper light and assignment to history for leaders like Churchill. His post WWII history was not the subject of your post celebrating his birthday, but it was his actions during WWII certainly were. If others cannot simply see this for what it is and just leave it be, then any negative reaction should not be a surprise especially in light of the way it was presented. “….No need for them to shuffle around in Churchill’s shadow.” could have been omitted and the ensuing replies avoided.
Anyway, thanks for the post.
“it was his actions during WWII certainly were. ”
The entire post in a nutshell.
It demonstrates the pitfalls of “greatest” lists I previously mentioned. They tend to cherry pick. And they tend to deliver up unexamined received “wisdom.” Which means they supply banalities. I would venture to guess that anybody who knows anything at all about Churchill would be familiar with the quote provided. I think I had it memorized by the time I was 14. Far better, then, to lend a little attention to those people and things that HAVEN’T received so much notoriety. Which is what I tried to do.
Which then ran smack into pushback from the Churchill Adoration Society.
Churchill was hardly a paragon of virtue. Except for a few decent and sometimes plagiarized speeches during WW2 Churchill wasn’t a particularly impressive man.
In his book World Orders Old and New, Noam Chomsky claimed that Churchill was particularly keen on chemical weapons, suggesting they be used “against recalcitrant Arabs as an experiment”. Churchill dismissed objections to the use of chemical weapons as “unreasonable” and stated: “I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes”.