Talk:Winston Churchill

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Former good article Winston Churchill was one of the History good articles, but it has been removed from the list. There are suggestions below for improving the article to meet the good article criteria. Once these issues have been addressed, the article can be renominated. Editors may also seek a reassessment of the decision if they believe there was a mistake.
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"Making peace with the Germans in the Spring of 1917?"[edit]

I have excised the following (from the "Artist, historian, and writer" section of all places)

Churchill observed in 1936:

America should have minded her own business and stayed out of the World War. If you hadn’t entered the war the Allies would have made peace with Germany in the spring of 1917. Had we made peace then there would have been no collapse in Russia followed by Communism, no breakdown in Italy followed by Fascism, and Germany would not have signed the Versailles Treaty, which has enthroned Nazism in Germany.[1]

This is not impossible by any means, and may need to be reinstated if we can find confirmation that the statement was made. (along with important details like where and exactly when, and to whom!) On the other hand there are numerous reasons for considering it to be highly unlikely.

  • Could (would) the Allies and Germany really have made peace in Spring 1917? It could only have been a peace largely on Germany's terms - no chance of France regaining Alsace or Lorraine, Germany would have kept her fleet, Italy have been denied her territorial demands, Britain would have had to return German colonies already seized in Africa and the Pacific - and one could go on! More to the point would Churchill have considered this very likely, and would he, writing nineteen years later, at a time when he was vigorously promoting strongly anti-Hitler (if not actually anti-German) policies, have expressed this sentiment in quite those words. And why, assumng he was on the record as saying things of this kind in 1936, did his words not come back to bite him four years later when he was desparate for the U.S. to enter the Second World War? It just doesn't ring true at all - we really do need an unimpeachable source.
  • Would what would have amounted to a German victory in 1917 have really resulted in a more peaceful world than the Allied victory of 1918? Might Britain and/or France (or both) have gone fascist instead of (or as well as) Germany and Italy? Would this not have been clear to Churchill in 1936?
  • The author of the article from which the quote is cited (Doug Bandow) is NOT a professional historian - and it shows in his writing, which while it shows wide reading and a good general (if superficial) grasp of history includes a good deal of journalistic hyperbole and simplisticity. He lists himself (among other things) as a "former advisor to President Reagan". I would not class "Forbes" as a very reliable source either. Well a source of interesting and stimulating comment on current affairs - but not necessarily for historical articles in an encyclopedia.

Finally, the quote is NOT referenced by Bandow - we have no idea where he got it and can't check its veracity. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 07:42, 31 August 2014 (UTC)

Wikiquote has examined this. The editor of New York Enquirer says Churchill said it in an interview with him. Churchill denies that he said it. (Hohum @) 12:05, 31 August 2014 (UTC)
This looks conclusive to me - utter BS and I did the right thing cutting it out. I can well believe an American isolationist saying this in 1936-42 but it is simply NOT Churchill. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 14:47, 31 August 2014 (UTC)
Churchill did actually make that remark in private. Most people would agree that it would have been far better for the entire world if the Central Powers had won World War I. Then there would have been no Treaty of Versailles, no World War II, no Soviet Russia, no Holocaust etc. ( (talk) 17:14, 1 September 2014 (UTC))
I don't think I've ever met anyone who would agree that it would have been better if the Central Powers had won. DuncanHill (talk) 21:53, 8 September 2014 (UTC)
The evidence is that he did no such thing, and that the alleged "interview" in a strongly partisan (isolationist, if not pro-nazi) publication was a journalistic fabrication. (see the link in wikiquotes referred to above) Churchill himself certainly denied making the remarks, which are totally out of character, as well as being arrant nonsense. We can't include it here, in any case. -Soundofmusicals (talk) 22:15, 1 September 2014 (UTC)
Churchill said many times that the United States should never have entered World War I, as there would have been no World War II if Britain and France had been forced to negotiate with the victorious Central Powers after the collapse of Russia in 1917. ( (talk) 21:27, 8 September 2014 (UTC))
Have never seen anything along these lines attributed to Churchill. It would be good if our anonymous colleagues could come up with reliable sources for their assertions. DuncanHill (talk) 21:33, 8 September 2014 (UTC)
Colville recorded these sentiments several times. Of course the UK should never have joined World War I in the first place. ( (talk) 21:54, 8 September 2014 (UTC))
Where? When? Give us citations. I'll ignore the second part of your comment. Doesn't belong here. DuncanHill (talk) 21:59, 8 September 2014 (UTC)
Colville's diaries. If the UK had remained neutral in 1914 there would have been no war in 1939, which was Churchill's point. ( (talk) 22:29, 8 September 2014 (UTC))
Dates? Editions and page numbers? Exact quotations with context? DuncanHill (talk) 22:31, 8 September 2014 (UTC)

The idea that the First World War (or its aftermath) actually "caused" the Second is an interesting one (although far from an "of course") but it is in any case totally irrelevant to this article. The point is that we have perfectly good references that Churchill very specifically denied saying anything of the kind, at any time - and the question of his (presumably in retrospect) doubting the wisdom of Britain entering the First World War in 1914 is in any case very different from a suggestion that the United States should not have entered in 1917. It would have been totally out of character for him to have made either remark. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 23:11, 10 September 2014 (UTC)

The Treaty of Versailles caused World War II. ( (talk) 20:42, 11 September 2014 (UTC))
The great depression had a lot to do with it too. Plus there was that nasty fellow, what was his name? Point is, Churchill never claimed it was down to the Yanks entering WWI!! --Soundofmusicals (talk) 21:37, 11 September 2014 (UTC)
If the Allies had made peace with Germany then it most likely would have been in Spring or Summer 1917 - the U-Boat menace was at its height then, France was going through a period of political and military crisis after the failure of Nivelle's Offensive, which lasted until Clemenceau came to power at the end of the year. Germany would have had to be allowed to keep her conquests in the Balkans and Eastern Europe, perhaps in the west as well. Russia had toppled the Tsar by then but had not yet gone Bolshevik. The argument that US entry to the war prevented a compromise peace was much aired by right-wing writers in the inter-war period, e.g. J.F.C. Fuller in Decisive Battles of the Western World, one of the first grown up history books I ever read in my early teens. However, that does not mean that Churchill necessarily said any such thing.Paulturtle (talk) 23:40, 25 October 2014 (UTC)
We are starting to go in circles here - speculation about what would have happened in Germany had effectively "won" WWI in 1917, and even if this would have been a likely event if the Americans had not entered the war at just the right moment (remembering that American participation really didn't make much difference for a year or more) is perfectly legitimate, but in another place. There is no credible evidence that Churchill ever said anything of the kind, in fact he seems to have categorically denied saying it, and the man, for all his faults, was not one to change his mind lightly (or at all) or to fail to live up to the "courage of his convictions". Denying something he had said, or believed, was not his style. As has been said several times above the question here is not the rather doubtful "what if" of the comment, but the pretty much complete certain fact that it is misattributed to Churchill (in plain English, he never said it!) Hence we have no reason to mention it here at all. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 23:51, 26 October 2014 (UTC)
My comments, before you took it upon yourself to move them, were aimed specifically at the first of the three bullet points above, and were heavily indented to make that clear. If the Allies had given up, spring or summer 1917 would most likely have been the time. And as for your comment that "American participation really didn't make much difference for a year or more", that is true in purely military terms, but "hanging on until the Americans arrived" was one of the things which kept the French, and to some extent the British, going until then. They also played an important role in the U-Boat war, which the Allies were winning from summer 1917 onwards.Paulturtle (talk) 21:02, 27 October 2014 (UTC)

I don't know whether the quote is genuine or not, but peace in 1917 would not "have amounted to a German victory". Germany was clearly losing the war in 1917, mainly because of the naval blockade. The situation at the battlefront was largely irrelevant. (Even when the war ended in 1918, the front was on Allied territory in Belgium and France.) Sayitclearly (talk) 07:35, 15 February 2015 (UTC)

"Not necessarily" to all that (and the relative contributions of blockade and fighting at the front to Germany's eventual implosion have always been a matter of debate). The issue in 1917 was whether the Allies would outlast the Germans, and if they hadn't Germany would have been left in control of chunks of central and eastern Europe. Churchill was a politician and journalist, and said and wrote lots of different things at different times, but we don't (yet) have any evidence that he gave vent to this particular opinion.Paulturtle (talk) 00:06, 21 February 2015 (UTC)
Hear hear! --Soundofmusicals (talk) 04:07, 21 February 2015 (UTC)
OK, I’ve tracked this one down to a reputable book at last. He is supposed to have said it in August 1936. The story appeared on 22 October 1942. Churchill admitted the interview, but denied having said any such thing. William Griffin of the New York Inquirer tried to sue him for the then vast sum of $1m, but the lawsuit was dismissed. Irrespective of who was telling the truth, I dare say they had zero chance of winning in the political climate of 1942. See Langworth 2008, p571.
One should not be too quick to assume that Churchill didn’t say these words, or something similar to them – it seems unlikely that the newspaper would have threatened a lawsuit (or according to wikiquote made a sworn statement in front of Congress) if there was not at least some substance, real or perceived, to their position. Politicians say all kinds of things to friendly journalists off the record (“Chatham House Rules” so they can speak freely) or “on lobby terms” (which can be printed as “we are led to believe by sources close to the Minister that he privately thinks X”) which are not quite the same as their carefully worded public “position” on an issue – and indeed they are as prone to “venting” as any of the rest of us, perhaps more so in those days when journalists were a bit more deferential and inclined to ask “may I quote you on that, sir?” rather than just leaking the tape like they would nowadays. Churchill’s public position was always that the USA and UK were best buddies, not divided by so much as a cigarette paper, and that US entry into both World Wars was a Good Thing, with no nuances of opinion permitted.
In the “The World Crisis” Churchill writes at length about how France might well have made peace in the spring or summer of 1917 had the US not come in when they did. He is unequivocal that this is a Good Thing, and indeed berates Woodrow Wilson for not coming in and ending the war sooner in 1915 after the Lusitania sinking. All well and good, but although "The World Crisis" is a substantial work of history one can see how Churchill is pushing an agenda here. US public opinion was nowhere near as inflamed about the U-Boats in 1915 as it would be by Spring 1917, and Wilson never actually had much time for the Allies: he eventually “associated” with them rather than joining; indeed, I don’t think Churchill mentions another of the reasons why US entry in 1917 was vital – Wilson was furious about the British naval blockade and had turned off the financial taps late in 1916 in a bid to force the Allies to let him broker a compromise peace, and by summer 1917 the Allies would have had serious trouble rolling over their loans – see "The Deluge", Adam Tooze’s recent study of the financial history of WW1. Funnily enough, though, academic commentators like Robin Prior have pointed out that Churchill exaggerates the role which the Admiralty (under his management) played in defeating the First U-Boat War in 1915 and plays down the effect which Wilson’s protests after the Lusitania sinking had in causing the Germans to back off.
Churchill’s private view of the USA wasn’t always one of unqualified adoration: during the cruiser crisis around the time of the Geneva Naval Talks of 1927, his view was the same as the other leading members of the British Cabinet, namely that the Americans were behaving insufferably in the run-up to the 1928 elections and that if they continued to do so war would no longer be an entirely impossible contingency. An oft-forgotten nadir of Anglo-American relations, that one. As for the summer of 1936, when these comments were supposed to have been made, I’ve found no evidence that the USA was much on Churchill’s mind (it wouldn’t be until early 1938 that the USA would have the faintest involvement in European politics), but he was writing a series of articles about the Spanish Civil War, which had just broken out. On that topic Churchill was very far from the anti-Fascist crusader whom the uninformed might assume him to have been: publicly he strongly supported Eden’s policy of non-intervention (and exchanged warm letters with Eden on the topic), whilst privately he thought Largo Caballero “the Lenin of Spain” and favoured Franco as the lesser evil. He later changed his mind about Franco after a visit by his son-in-law Duncan Sandys, and by 1939 he deplored Franco’s victory, but by then Hitler was on the march and gobbling up adjacent sovereign states in a way he hadn’t been in 1936. Will add WSC's views on the Spanish Civil War to the article when I get a sec.
Churchill certainly did think that an unfortunate side-effect of WW1 had been the instability caused by the independence of Poland and the disintegration of Austria-Hungary into petty states – he wrote as much in his summer 1930 article advocating European Union (inspired by his recent trip round the USA in autumn 1929, where he met the isolationist press baron Randolph Hearst at his mansion San Simeon, and by the ideas floated by Aristide Briand – this was the article in which he wrote of Britain being “with Europe but not of her”). But of course he doesn’t mention the instability (which lingers to this day) caused by the disintegration of another Empire whose dismemberment had also been a major Allied War Aim, namely the Ottoman Empire. Hardly surprising, given his role in British land grab in the Middle East.
As might be inferred from my comments above, I suspect Churchill’s private opinion might have been a little more nuanced than he was willing to admit in 1942, and it’s actually perfectly possible that in the summer of 1936 he might have had an off-the-record whinge to a journalist about the “isms” sweeping the continent, but that can’t go in the article unless I come across an historian who writes along those lines.Paulturtle (talk) 21:55, 21 March 2015 (UTC)

Destroyed the UK[edit]


Surprised to see no mention of his beloved poodles, Rufus I and Rufus II: [1]. This archive letter collection was recently featured by The Daily Mail and his love of animals in general was covered by The Express. It even inspired a picture book and the poodles have their own blog. Jeremy Paxman even claims that Churchill himself wished to be cremated and have his ashes sprinkled over the graves of his two dogs. Martinevans123 (talk) 19:27, 23 January 2015 (UTC)

{{sofixit}}? Rcsprinter123 (shout) @ 21:10, 28 January 2015 (UTC)
Ah, thanks for that sensitive in-depth analysis of how this fits in with our view of Winston as national hero and archetypal Englishman. I never realised the picture was so complex. Martinevans123 (talk) 21:23, 28 January 2015 (UTC)
I never knew! Just checked up on the article 7 years after helping get it to GA status. Since delisted of course. No doubt it was because of the lack of inclusion of his poodles! Who knew! LordHarris 23:12, 29 March 2015 (UTC)

"Leader of the opposition" inaccuracies[edit]

"Churchill also argued strongly for British independence from the European Coal and Steel Community, which he saw as a Franco-German project. He saw Britain's place as separate from the continent, much more in-line with the countries of the Commonwealth and the Empire, and with the United States, the so-called Anglosphere."

I strongly disagree with this statement, Churchill is considered one of the actual Founding Fathers of the European Union, and if you read these articles you'll see why:

Because the article is semi-protected I can't add this there, but in any case I believe the statement currently is highly incorrect and biased. I request editing of this and the addition of the EU links to Churchill, and the 2 links above added as well. Thank you. (talk) 01:35, 26 January 2015 (UTC)

Thank you for posting those links - they are certainly food for thought. Neither source is a "reliable source" - the first is a personal blog, and while it is certainly more thoughtful and well written than most, it is certainly not unbiased in the Wikipedia sense of the word! The little European Commission leaflet makes no pretense of being a comprehensive and balanced account either, and has a (perfectly understandable) bias!
Having had a look at the passage (in our Winston Churchill article) that you object to - the whole subject of European Union (not a simple one) is dealt with in one sentence - reading Danzig brings home (if nothing else) that Churchill seems to have been ambivalent about European Union - his opinions seem to have changed with time (his late forties speeches give a different impression than later ones), as well as being ambivalent. Is this even the heading under which the subject should be raised? It was something that he remained interested in, from one side or the other, well into the fifties and the period of his second premiership? --Soundofmusicals (talk) 20:56, 26 January 2015 (UTC)
Churchill called for a United States of Europe. He was also consistent that Britain should sponsor it but not join it. Lachrie (talk) 16:54, 27 January 2015 (UTC)

Lachrie is correct. European Federalists - including Danzig - tend to be a bit cheeky in quoting selectively and omitting to mention that Churchill thought Britain was too big to get involved in these petty Continental federal dreams. In that respect Churchill was little different from most other British leaders of the time. Most of the differences between his late 1940s rhetoric and his actions as PM in the early 1950s are more apparent than real - in the late 1940s he was in opposition, and able to give vent to windy rhetoric and score points off the Government of the day. Have expanded the section considerably though.Paulturtle (talk) 02:47, 22 March 2015 (UTC) The other thing which tends to be poorly understood is that Churchill was instrumental in setting up the Council of Europe, a wider pan-European body distinct from the Federal EEC (as it was then called) which grew out of the Coal and Steel Community. The European Convention of Human Rights (and the Court at Strasbourg which administers it) is, contrary to popular myth, nothing to do with the EU. Britain was "present at the creation" although the ECHR was not incorporated into English Law until 1998.Paulturtle (talk) 02:56, 22 March 2015 (UTC)

"Return from exile" subsection heading[edit]

The subsection dealing with his return to ministerial office in 1939 needs a less potentially confusing heading. To many native English speakers 'exile' may be accustomed metaphoric parlance for being out of government office - "wilderness" has been another metaphor much used about the period. However it may be confusing to readers who only know English as a foreign language and may understand it only in its literal sense. During the 1930s Churchill remained a resident British citizen, he was not banished or deprived of his passport, and he continuously served in parliament.Cloptonson (talk) 06:49, 29 January 2015 (UTC)

Personally I feel that if someone gets a wrong impression from a superficial reading of text then the cure is not for some kind soul to translate everything into "basic English" (regardless of loss of information), but for the reader to read the text that has been giving him problems more closely and get the proper gist. Imagine if we asked the editors of the French edition of wiki to write it down to the level of people with high school French! On the other hand I am a mean grumpy old "anglo" and the idea of watering down wikipedia for the ignorant and those who can't speak English very well is anathema. In other words on this particular question I am very prejudiced indeed. Is there anyone to speak on the other side? --Soundofmusicals (talk) 00:36, 31 January 2015 (UTC)

Army or Navy?[edit]

Churchill wasn't an officer in the British Army, he was an officer in the royal Navy and he was a First Lord of the admiralty the highest rank you can become in the royal British Navy. SOURCE::: Mancls 19:49, 30 January 2015 (UTC)

Not done - Sorry but he was in the British Army as well as First Lord of the Admiralty, which doesn't make him a naval officer either as it was normally a political position rather than a military one. MilborneOne (talk) 20:02, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
I concur with the latter point. First Lord was a political position by the 19th century and was invariably so in Churchill's own lifetime, with the result that many First Lords were not even ex-servicemen. It was the post of First Sea Lord that was the supreme naval office in the Admiralty. Churchill's service career was in both the regular and Territorial wings of the British Army, but he had an interest in naval affairs that had an outlet in his Admiralty office.Cloptonson (talk) 20:39, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
Good heavens. Is it not totally clear, from the second paragraph of the lede and the whole of the Military service section that he was a very distinguished British Army officer? This is like suggesting that Lord Nelson wasn't in the Navy, but only messed around in the bath. Martinevans123 (talk) 21:13, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
Not really that "distinguished" an army officer really. He left the army quite early on for a career in journalism and politics - then rejoined the army after basically getting the sack from the Admiralty over the Gallipoli disaster (it's all in the article!!!) @Martin, nearly missed that pun about the bath - quite witty. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 00:24, 31 January 2015 (UTC)
"His actions during the ambush of the train led to speculation that he would be awarded the Victoria Cross, Britain's highest award to members of the armed forces for gallantry in the face of the enemy, but this was not possible, as he was a civilian." But then in later life, apparently, he was some kind of building inspector, enjoyed fried chicken and had some interesting legwear. Martinevans123 (talk) 10:45, 31 January 2015 (UTC)

Semi-protected edit request on 30 January 2015[edit]

It is wrong to describe the Labour government of 1945 as a "caretaker government". This disagrees with the wikipedia page that describes these. The government was elected by means of a normal General Election.

Icebear917 (talk) 20:47, 30 January 2015 (UTC)

Tend to agree. It was landslide victory for Labour: "This was the first election in which Labour gained a majority of seats, and also the first time it won a plurality of votes." And it lasted a full five years. Martinevans123 (talk) 21:06, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
Red question icon with gradient background.svg Not done: it's not clear what changes you want to be made. Please mention the specific changes in a "change X to Y" format. — {{U|Technical 13}} (etc) 16:52, 1 February 2015 (UTC)
The sentence in dispute seems to be this one:
"After the general election of October 1951, Churchill again became prime minister, and his third government—after the wartime national government and the brief caretaker government of 1945—lasted until his resignation in April 1955."
What is this supposed to mean? Was he Prime Minister three times? Martinevans123 (talk) 17:03, 1 February 2015 (UTC)
I read this as referring to the caretaker government that ran things in the brief interval between the wartime parliament being dissolved and the general election for the first postwar parliament. This is the normal routine for a British style parliament - Churchill would have been "caretaker Prime Minister" until the first meeting of the new parliament. During this period he may not introduce any new policy or propose any new legislation, but continues to hold the office, basically just to preserve continuity. This is obviously the butt end of his previous term - not a new one. What confuses me is why the "caretaker government" even needs to be mentioned at all - since the reference is obviously causing confusion, and doesn't impart any real information. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 13:31, 2 February 2015 (UTC)
Agree. Martinevans123 (talk) 13:43, 2 February 2015 (UTC)
Avva butcher's 'guvnor, I've bin and gorn and dunnit! --Soundofmusicals (talk) 14:07, 2 February 2015 (UTC)
Cor blimey, me ol' china. Looks Robin 'ood to me, mate. Martinevans123 (talk) 14:33, 2 February 2015 (UTC)

Not correct, I’m afraid. The caretaker government of 1945 was a separate government, containing the Tories and National Liberals (and a few other people like the former civil servant Sir John Anderson). It was a Tory Government in all but name but fought the 1945 election under the “National” title (i.e. as a continuation of the 1930s Tory-dominated Coalition of that name) in the belief that this would be an electoral asset. It did not, however, contain the official Liberals (Archibald Sinclair) or the Labour ministers (Attlee, Bevin, Morrison etc), who departed – and insisted on a General Election, as there hadn’t been one for almost ten years - as soon as the European War was over. I don’t normally recommend getting one’s information from Wikipedia but this is actually discussed correctly on the list of British Prime Ministers.

There wasn’t much change in the top jobs (Eden remained Foreign Secretary, Anderson Chancellor of the Exchequer, Simon Lord Chancellor) but somebody called Sir Donald Somervell replaced Morrison as Home Secretary. Macmillan became Secretary for Air having previously been Minister Resident in the Mediterranean. Had Churchill won the 1945 election the “National” Government would have continued in office, but that didn’t happen.

There is no such thing as a “caretaker Prime Minister”, other than in loose and inaccurate parlance, in the UK. Prime Ministers are (in principle, at any rate) appointed or dismissed by the monarch, and in practice a Prime Minister who has lost an election normally just resigns the next day, unless there is a hung Parliament and he chooses to hang on for a few days and make a fool of himself attempting to negotiate a coalition (Heath in Feb 74, Brown in 2010). The custom of “meeting the new Parliament” and waiting to be defeated in a No Confidence vote died out in the late nineteenth century iirc – although I think the last PM to do so was Baldwin under the very odd circumstances of Jan 1924.

In 1945 the election results took a long time to be known as the votes of men fighting in the Far East needed to be counted.Paulturtle (talk) 01:43, 3 February 2015 (UTC)

It may well be the case that in other countries with a "Westminster system" the government waits to meet the new Parliament before resigning, but this has long ceased to be the case in the UK.Paulturtle (talk) 02:32, 3 February 2015 (UTC)

Notwithstanding, it was not a separate term for Churchill as Prime Minister. Nobody calls the "caretaker government" (what it actually is, regardless of what it is called) in this kind of case a "separate" and distinct government. Prime ministers often change the members of their cabinets etc. during the term of a government, ministers resign or change their portfolios and so on. Parties (and individual members of a government) may well leave a ruling coalition during the course of a parliament without a "new" government being formed. This is not generally done after the parliament is dissolved, but of course this was a special case. As you point out, the wartime "national unity" government was not strictly standing for re-election, Churchill and his colleagues were specifically standing as Conservatives, and expected, if successful, to form a normal "Conservative" government, with a formal opposition formed by the members of the other parties. Being Churchill, our hero was quite capable of going a little past the normal very restrictive mandate of the interim period (the famous flexibility of the British constitution leaves this pretty open). On the other hand we still can't talk about a Conservative interim government - constitutionally, it only held office due to the confidence of the previous (now dissolved) House of Commons, so that it was in a real sense a continuation of the Government of National Unity. Likewise Churchill remained Prime Minister until the new house met- regardless of whether he went through the (surely empty and unnecessary) formality of seeking the confidence of a house in which he knew very well his political opponents held the majority of seats. In this situation any sane Premier obviously resigns, and the sovereign invites the leader of the largest party in the house to form a government (at least it is officially that way round, he or she normally does not take the initiative at this point). In a way this may seem a quibble - but this is the way the interim period is usually described, either specifically or by implication. The text I edited was so ambiguous one editor saw the "caretaker" government as the Labour Party government!
Even if we were to count the interim government as a distinct Conservative administration (and I don't think we can) This rather unconventional interpretation at the very least needs to be clearly and unambiguously expressed, which it currently isn't. Since this article is about the life of Winston Churchill I think relatively obscure matters of constitutional law are really best ignored, unless they can be clearly and succinctly expressed, and are definitely relevant to the subject. And our authority needs to be the best authority we can muster on British constitutional law! We can't argue this out between ourselves here, even if we are constitutional lawyers! --Soundofmusicals (talk) 05:17, 3 February 2015 (UTC)
Ever thought of writing an article about it? Yes, it appears as a small text note in the table at List of Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom, but does that make Churchill PM three times? Martinevans123 (talk) 08:57, 3 February 2015 (UTC)

Strictly speaking he was Prime Minister three times, although he is seldom listed as such (same as Harold Wilson was usually listed as being Prime Minister twice, not four times, although nowadays a custom seems to be arising of describing Thatcher or Blair as having been PM three times). WSC certainly headed three separate governments, and certainly is usually listed as such. It doesn’t need a whole article, it just needs a brief para, which I have now added, and which I trust will not be subjected to further ill-informed edit-warring. To be honest the term “Caretaker Government” – I don’t think Martin Gilbert uses it at all – just serves to sow confusion, not least in SoundofMusicals’ mind. The brief government of May-July 1945 was – partly at Churchill’s own insistence - as valid and distinct a government as any other, even if it made little impression on the sands of time. It would obviously not be known by that inaccurate name if – as almost everyone expected - it had been reelected in July 1945.

SoundofMusicals is completely wrong about this (take this gem: we still can't talk about a Conservative interim government - constitutionally, it only held office due to the confidence of the previous (now dissolved (sic)) House of Commons, so that it was in a real sense a continuation of the Government of National Unity – each of the three clauses in that sentence is plain wrong). In May 1945 Churchill was the previous Prime Minister, forming a new government, (similar to May 1915 or late summer 1931), which then – as a fully constituted government - sought re-election (as in 1931, successfully in that case). Governments in the UK exist from when they are formed or resign (strictly speaking, when the PM is appointed or otherwise by the Monarch), not when they win or lose general elections or confidence votes in the House. Indeed, it used to be perfectly common in the nineteenth century for a completely new government to be formed at the fag end of a Parliament (1858-9, 1866-8, 1885, or more recently December 1905). This is a completely distinct situation from an existing government carrying on, with a few ministerial changes. If the existing text seems “ambiguous” to the ill-informed, that is a reason to improve it, not to delete correct information because somebody doesn’t understand it (as per your own comments about the phrase “political wilderness” elsewhere on this page).

In a situation like this it’s usually best to check the books rather than revert other people’s edits (inflammatory behaviour at the best of times), sling words like “nonsense” in edit summaries, invite them to get their information from other crap Wikipedia pages (I mentioned that the Wikipedia list of PMs was basically correct in this regard, which is a different matter – and in fairness this one is correct as well), and then waste your own time and everybody else’s with idle speculation about what “nobody” thinks and about what you imagine constitutional practice to be.

Page numbers from Volume 8 of Martin Gilbert (by definition, the most detailed account). Notes in italics are mine.

VE Day was 8 May. After some days of bickering, as to whether Labour would remain in the Coalition until the defeat of Japan, the matter was settled by a vote at the Labour Conference on 19 May. Labour pulled out of the coalition on 21 May, and on 22 May Churchill obtained the King’s “permission” for an election …

P22-3 On 23 May Churchill resigned as Prime Minister. He drove to Buckingham Palace and resigned, and then there was “a pause” as Churchill observed the convention that the Monarch was free to appoint anyone he chose as Prime Minister, and he returned to Number Ten. He then returned to the Palace later in the afternoon and accepted the King’s invitation to form a new government {Note1: appointing or in extremis sacking a Prime Minister is a “personal prerogative” of the Monarch, part of his role as Head of State and on which ministerial advice is not necessarily binding, not to be confused with “Royal Prerogative”, which means that most of “HM Government”’s functions are conducted in the Monarch’s name under “ministerial advice” even though the monarch’s day-to-day involvement in government gradually dwindled to legal fiction in the 150 years or so after 1688 – contrary to popular myth, very few Crown functions, apart from the important ones like raising taxes or keeping a standing army, legally require prior Parliamentary approval under the 1688 settlement}.

Churchill then spent three days, assisted by Eden and the Chief Whip, forming his new government (until 26 May) {note2: in practice this would have meant appointing MPs, many of them unknown to the PM, to junior ministerial posts – hence the involvement of the whips, who are often left to get on with this for a few days longer}.

P27 On 28 May Churchill kissed hands and was formally reappointed as Prime Minister. {Note3: I think nowadays a Prime Minister is just appointed/reappointed on the spot by the Monarch, and left to get on with the job of appointing his ministers; this hiatus of five or six days in May 1945 may have been a feature of the pre-1900 practice in which a new PM was still “first among equals” and might sometimes have to “form a government” by negotiation with other leading figures (Queen Victoria still had a bit of latitude about whom to ask before she had to grit her teeth and send for Mr Gladstone again). Would have to check though.} {Note4: although the little-known Conservative-dominated government of May-July 1945 is sometimes and inaccurately described as the “Caretaker Government”, this period between 23 and 28 May does appear to have seen Churchill acting as a “caretaker” Prime Minister in the sense that SoundofMusicals means it – he continued in the job, and in this time had meetings about the Potsdam Conference with US Ambassador Joseph Davies and exchanged a telegram with President Truman. Again, it may well be that this was common in the days before Prime Ministers were “instantly” reappointed, or more likely it may be that as the same Prime Minister was continuing, albeit heading a different government, he left his formal reappointment a little later than usual. With an election looming, an increasing amount of his time was taken up by party business, though.}

Gilbert is totally clear throughout this that a new government was being formed (as is Charmley - I don't have any other heavyweight biogs (e.g. Roy Jenkins) immediately to hand).

P43 On 29 May the House of Commons met again with Labour (and the Official Liberals) in opposition. Churchill answered Prime Minister’s Questions on behalf of his new government.

On 14 June Churchill spoke in the House of Commons. This is the last mention of him doing so in Gilbert, although I can’t find a date for when Parliament was formally dissolved. {Note5: iirc nowadays the House of Commons often meets one final time after the election date has been announced. Again, would have to research further, and life is too short.}

P57 Polling day was 5 July

P107-9 The election results became known on 26 July. For what it’s worth Churchill, in a filthy temper, initially wanted to “meet the new House of Commons” but was strongly advised against doing so by Eden on the telephone (Eden was at his own seat in the Midlands, near Warwick iirc). By that evening Churchill had calmed down and wrote a letter of congratulation to Attlee. He resigned (to the King, as is usual) as Prime Minister that evening; Attlee was presumably invited to form a Labour Government then or the next day.

P117 New parliament met 1 August.

Churchill sometimes referred to the War Coalition as the “National Government” but it’s best to avoid confusion in this regard as that name was also used for the Conservative-dominated 1931-40 coalition, which Churchill briefly resurrected in 1945. At other times he referred to the War Coalition as the “Grand Coalition” as it had everybody apart from Aneurin Bevan in it.Paulturtle (talk) 01:59, 4 February 2015 (UTC)

OK - suppose I should have read this before reverting you. On the grounds the the King accepted Churchill's resignation and then re appointed him. Most unusual.. still think its a bit of a quibble, to call it a third premiership, given that this is not really a specialist political dictionary but a general encyclopedia... --Soundofmusicals (talk) 07:16, 4 February 2015 (UTC)

Best to consult books rather than relying on supposition, and an encyclopaedia needs to contain correct information. The important point is not that Churchill resigned and was reappointed as Prime Minister – I’d have to check whether Asquith (May 1915) and MacDonald (August 1931) resigned and were reappointed when their party governments dissolved and they formed a new coalition government. The important point is that a completely separate government was in office between May and July 1945, even if it is little remembered because it lost the election. If Churchill had won that election, as most commentators expected him to do, it would be a point of political history trivia that the Conservative Government of 1945-50 took office a few weeks before its election victory, like the Liberal Government of 1905.

British Governments do not derive their legal authority from Parliaments or from elections – many of their functions, like deploying troops and declaring war, are carried out under Royal Prerogative (i.e. exercising powers which were still the King’s in 1688 and which in legal theory still are), on which Parliament is asked simply as a courtesy and in which the courts were reluctant to get involved until the last few decades. In practice, it is the hardest of all conventions that the Monarch appoints a Prime Minister who can command a majority in the House of Commons, because the government would not be able to raise supply otherwise, but that it is another matter. Unlike in a lot of “Westminster system” Parliaments (i.e. Parliaments created by Britain in imitation of Westminster), governments are not “voted in” by the new House of Commons.

As for the nickname by which this brief government is known, the only person I’ve come across calling it “a caretaker government” is Anthony Eden in his long and turgid memoirs, and as discussed above it’s not a legally meaningful concept in the UK – a government is a government. Most other writers – AJP Taylor, Henry Pelling, John Charmley, Roy Jenkins, use it as a proper name, sometimes with and sometimes without inverted commas. Churchill himself (in his “History of the Second World War”) mentions twice that this government came to be known as the “Caretaker” Government, i.e. that it was a nickname which he found a bit irritating. Again, the name stuck because the government was so short-lived, like the “Who Who” Ministry of 1852.Paulturtle (talk) 14:36, 20 February 2015 (UTC)

"You were given the choice between war and dishonour"[edit]

I'm dubious about this being a speech to the House of Commons. No mention in Hansard — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:03, 31 January 2015 (UTC)

I am always chary about attributions to Churchill - quite a lot of things he's supposed to have said or written he either didn't say at all, or quoted (consciously or otherwise) from something someone else said - perhaps many years before. I just wasted a merry half hour with that Hansard tool (great fun, isn't it?) and I can't find him listed as saying it there either - although since the remark at least borders on "un-parliamentary" language it may well have been struck from Hansard or not recorded there in the first place. Wouldn't have stopped it being reported in the press, or even, Churchill being Churchill officially or semi-officially released to the press. All the same, I share your doubts. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 00:54, 31 January 2015 (UTC)
I had a look in the London Times around this time but no mention of Churchill making comment, similar comments and arguments are made by a number of people at the time but no attributed to Churchill. A web search find quote repeated but so far cant find a reliable reference for when or where he said. MilborneOne (talk) 10:18, 31 January 2015 (UTC)

It's a misquote of a comment he made in some private letters in the run-up to Munich to Lloyd George and Lord Moyne. Churchill's public comments - about the leaders of his own party - were a lot more circumspect until at least the end of 1938, and I dare say until Hitler marched into Prague, at which point official policy changed anyway. Publicly, he talked about whether or not time would prove Mr Chamberlain's policy to been right. He was a politician, not a character in an epic myth, and hedged his bets like all politicians.Paulturtle (talk) 13:10, 20 February 2015 (UTC)


I am surprised that, to find his dates of birth and death, I had to scroll down three poages of infobox. It was a searching excercise. Hope other those readers succeeded too. -DePiep (talk) 08:49, 31 January 2015 (UTC)

Most dont really need to scroll down because as with all wikipedia biographies it is on the the first line of the article. MilborneOne (talk) 09:46, 31 January 2015 (UTC)
Ah, the "search somewhere else" search answer. I actually wanted to know his age at death. -DePiep (talk) 10:28, 31 January 2015 (UTC)
And was the information on the first line of the article adequate for you to work that out - or do you need some help?--Soundofmusicals (talk) 11:16, 31 January 2015 (UTC)
Joking aside, not QUITE as silly as he looks - the "personal details" in the infobox for a statesman goes UNDER the list of offices and thingees he held (look at the corresponding infobox for his nemesis for instance - Churchill's list is long because, well he did have a particularly long and active political career! BUT is there a valid point here - do we need to change the format for a statesman's infobox? Or perhaps make exceptions and put the personal details first for Churchill and other politicians with a very long list? --Soundofmusicals (talk) 11:45, 31 January 2015 (UTC)
re1: yeah, work it out yourself (again: be careful to blame bad search result on the one searching. First response should be: the searcher is right).
re2: Of course I understood (had to) that his offices are more important, eg being Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in 1915. But of course not his Military service. And under "personal life" also is his party membership - sure. -DePiep (talk) 13:13, 31 January 2015 (UTC)
So what would you like changed? The format of the lead? The format of the infobox? Hve you an actual constructive suggestion for the improvement of either? In what way was your search result "bad"? In what way has anyone "blamed" you for anything? Do you now have the information you were seeking? You are every bit as entitled to point out anything in the way Wikipedia articles are organised that you don't like as anyone else (and probably better qualified than most of us to do just that!!) - but sarcastic carping about a particular article that actually follows the currently agreed pattern may just not be the right way to do it? As you, of all people, must surely be aware? --Soundofmusicals (talk) 13:44, 2 February 2015 (UTC)

Saluting cranes[edit]

As mentioned by a respectfully unshaven Paxo, the saluting cranes were arranged, but not without some difficulty. Only six months into a Labour government, feelings among the dockers were running high. But am having difficulty finding any reliable written source for the near dispute. But maybe it would warrant only a footnote, here or at Later life of Winston Churchill. Martinevans123 (talk) 12:34, 31 January 2015 (UTC)

Dont see anything particularly notable about this, as usual for the time the operators were paid for the time on a Saturday despite any possible dispute they may have had. MilborneOne (talk) 12:47, 31 January 2015 (UTC)
True. Perhaps it was the expectation that those who respected Churchill would not want to be paid, while those who did not would not be expected to make the gesture at all. Quite a divisive situation. Martinevans123 (talk) 13:05, 31 January 2015 (UTC)

It was put about (although I'd struggle to find a source for when and by whom) for many years that this had been a spontaneous and deeply moving gesture by the dock workers, a claim which I am ashamed to confess I believed. It now appears that the dockers were rather cross about it. That is where the notability lies.Paulturtle (talk) 01:52, 3 February 2015 (UTC)

Yes, I agree. Written sources may be hard to find. Wikipedia does not seem to like TV documentary sources, even if they involve first-hand witness accounts by people who were there at the time. Martinevans123 (talk) 16:10, 13 February 2015 (UTC)

Bombing Germany[edit]

Shouldn't the article mention that Churchill had already bombed German cities including Cologne from 15th May 1940, nearly four months before Hitler ordered the London Blitz on 7th September 1940? (HarryLogwood (talk) 19:34, 12 February 2015 (UTC))

Wasnt the 15/16 May 1940 attacks against industrial targets in the Ruhr? MilborneOne (talk) 15:59, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
Dortmund was one target. See Rotterdam Blitz#Aftermath. See also Bombing of Cologne in World War II. Martinevans123 (talk) 16:15, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
Cologne was bombed on 18th May 1940. The RAF had already bombed Wilhelmshaven on 3rd/4th September 1939. The article needs to mention the fact that the Blitz was in direct response to the bombing of Germany. (HarryLogwood (talk) 18:46, 13 February 2015 (UTC))
It might need to be mentioned, if it's a view held by a reputable historian and reported in a WP:RS. Martinevans123 (talk) 18:49, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
"The Daily Telegraph" says the official records show the first intentional area bombing of civilians was ordered by Churchill at Monchengladbach on 11th May 1940: (HarryLogwood (talk) 19:06, 13 February 2015 (UTC))
I don't doubt that is a fact. I'm sure Dominic Selwood is an excellent writer. The bit I was wondering about was "the fact" that the Blitz was in direct response to the bombing of Germany. And, more to the point, how relevant this is to the life of Churchill. It seems quite relevant to me, but I'm not a reputable WP:RS historian. Martinevans123 (talk) 19:13, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
Hitler ordered the Blitz in direct response to the bombing of German cities by the RAF. We paid a very heavy price for bombing Germany first in 1939. (HarryLogwood (talk) 19:17, 13 February 2015 (UTC))
That may well be true. But we need a reliable source. And for it to appear in this particular article a cogent argument, from an expert, that Churchill, and not just the Government, was "directly responsible". Martinevans123 (talk) 19:21, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
The blitz was a direct attempt to terror bomb the British population into panic and insurrection, which backfired badly on the Germans in the coming years. The puny pinpricks that BC inflicted were just a propagandist excuse on the part of the Nazi leadership for mass area bombing. The september raids expressly targeted naval installations, as did the Luftwaffe with their attacks on the Firth of Forth. This cause and effect argument I find simplistic. Irondome (talk) 19:56, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
My word, we're awash with scholarly sources here (?). Martinevans123 (talk) 20:00, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
The German bombing of British cities was actually far smaller than the British bombing of German cities in 1940. (HarryLogwood (talk) 20:43, 13 February 2015 (UTC))
All of the above can be sourced perfectly well, but I can't be arsed frankly. I'm amazed that anyone responds to this stuff. A similar editor using very similar wording has just had his "contribution" hatted on the Bombing of Dresden in World War II talk article. WP:NOT FORUM Irondome (talk) 20:13, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
The Blitz was reluctantly ordered by Hitler in retaliation for the bombing of German cities by the RAF. Germany was fighting a defensive war against an empire in 1914 and 1939. (HarryLogwood (talk) 20:12, 13 February 2015 (UTC))
See what I mean Martin? Chuckle. Irondome (talk) 20:20, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
Poor old Adolf, eh? Martinevans123 (talk) 20:25, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
Basically. Suggest hatting if it continues. Irondome (talk) 20:29, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
"See that homburg, that's your Mum, that is." Martinevans123 (talk) 20:37, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
I loved that. I hope you are not referring to the Bombing of Homburg? Shame on you Irondome (talk) 20:44, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
It was Britain that was occupying a quarter of the world, holding onto India and Burma by force. The fact is that we broke our pact with Poland and then bombed Germany first - just as we had in 1914. The only good thing about World War II is that it completely destroyed the UK as a world power. (HarryLogwood (talk) 20:40, 13 February 2015 (UTC))
And do you still have the uniform, Harry? Martinevans123 (talk) 20:46, 13 February 2015 (UTC)

To be honest this is of only peripheral relevance to Churchill, but needs to be discussed better in the relevant articles - battle articles tend, in my experience, to be written by MilHist enthusiasts who are more comfortable with military details than with the political context. It is true that, contrary to myth, deliberate terror bombing of civilians was started by the Allies in May 1940 (the bombing of Warsaw and Rotterdam, although made much of by Allied propaganda, seem to have been aimed at military targets and in the latter case was more cockup than conspiracy), and was part and parcel with the Allied blockade in WW1, which the Germans and others regarded as a dreadful war crime (but they lost the war, so they didn't get to write the history). However, it's too simplistic to blame the Blitz just on retaliation: it was part of a three-pronged strategy (along with U-Boats and the half-hearted invasion plans) designed to bully Britain into suing for peace (and Hitler's blunder of diverting bombers from RAF airfields to London seems to have been made in the mistaken belief that the RAF was beaten, not because he was mad and angry). The final session of the Blitz in Spring 1941 (including the bombing of Liverpool) seems to have been a bluff designed to persuade the Soviets that Hitler was still intending to invade Britain, and it worked. Richard Overy (The Bombing War, recently out in paperback) discusses all this in detail.Paulturtle (talk) 03:14, 22 March 2015 (UTC)

That the Bombing of Warsaw in World War II was not terror bombing seems a remarkable claim. I am talking about the 1939 attacks. Indiscriminate artillery fire does not help this claim either. Deliberate terror bombing was started by the Axis forces, who graded their targets on racial lines. Pesky Slavs and Jews. Indeed they fought the entire war in that grotesque fashion. Does the well attested machine gunning and bombing of refugee columns by the Luftwaffe in both the Polish and Western campaigns not count as terror bombing? The idea that "terror bombing" was initiated by the Allies is pretty weak stuff. Irondome (talk) 01:11, 23 March 2015 (UTC)

"Terror bombing" was poor choice of words on my part. The important point is not that civilians were bombed or were terrified, but rather that bombing took place divorced from ground operations and with a major or even sole aim of killing civilians for the sake of killing civilians, the very thing that everybody had signed pious agreements not to do. The attacks on Warsaw and Rotterdam do not strictly speaking fall within this definition, although the Germans couldn't resist boasting about the power of the Luftwaffe and these attacks were used by the British to ease their qualms about launching a strategic bombing campaign. As far as the Germans were concerned, strategic bombing was, like the blockade of WW1 (which had increased mortality rates amongst children and the elderly long before it had any real impact on Germany's war-making capacity) yet more schrecklichkeit from the hypocritical British. We all like to demonise our enemies. But, as I said, retaliation wasn't the sole reason for the Blitz - Hitler was to some extent trying to "bomb Britain back to the conference table", to use the Nixon/Kissinger phrase. More on this anon, as Churchill's role in strategic bombing obviously needs better treatment.Paulturtle (talk) 00:14, 30 March 2015 (UTC)

Churchill's "black dog"[edit]

I think that the treatment of this subject in the sections 'First term as prime minister' and 'Retirement and death' ought to better register the balance of biographical evidence and authorial opinion on the nature, incidence and severity of Churchill's psychological difficulties. I imply below that these sections should include a summary indication of difficulties at least as likely characterised by 'worry' and 'anxiety' as by 'depression' in some clinical sense of the word. Moreover, I shall allude to the case for replacing the words following the comma in a sentence found in the second of the two sections, namely, the sentence: "As his mental and physical faculties decayed, he began to lose the battle he had fought for so long against the 'black dog' of depression."

The submission I make here inevitably draws on my paper 'Churchill's Black Dog at the Home Office, 1910-1911: The Evidential Reliability of Psychiatric Inference', published in the July 2013 issue of History, and on my academic monograph published in November 2014 by Palgrave Macmillan, 'Churchill and the "Black Dog" of Depression: Reassessing the Biographical Evidence of Psychological Disorder'. My approach is perhaps not consonant with the previously published opinions of many Churchill scholars, although it is consistent with the judgements of Roy Jenkins, Geoffrey Best, Elizabeth Longford, Jock Colville, Anthony Montague Browne, Paul Reid, Wyn Beasley, and also of Churchill's official biographer Martin Gilbert - I allude here to what Gilbert has to say in his book 'In Search of Churchill' in support of his understanding from the archives, and from interviews with Churchill's colleagues, that in much of what had been written about him since his death "... [Churchill's] depression seemed much exaggerated, and yet much repeated (and embellished)...".

The reference quoted above to Churchill's supposedly beginning "to lose the battle he had fought for so long against the 'black dog' of depression" unmistakably echoes the seminal interpretation of Lord Moran's black dog revelations made by Dr Anthony Storr several years after the publication of Moran's so called 'diaries'. In drawing so heavily on Moran for what he took to be the latter's first-hand clinical evidence of Churchill's lifelong struggle with "prolonged and recurrent depression" and its associated "despair", Storr produced a seemingly authoritative and persuasive diagnostic essay that, in the words of John Ramsden, "strongly influenced all later accounts." Storr was not aware that, as Moran's biographer Professor Richard Lovell has shown, Moran had no diary in the dictionary sense of the word of his years as Churchill's doctor; nor was Storr aware that Moran's book as published was a much rewritten account which mixed together some contemporaneous jottings of his with later material acquired from other sources. As I show in my academic monograph, the key black dog 'diary' entry for 14 August 1944 was an arbitrarily-dated pastiche in which the explicit reference to black dog - the first of the few in the book (with an associated footnote definition of the term) - was taken, not from anything Churchill had said to Moran, but from much later claims made to Moran by Brendan Bracken (a non-clinician, of course) in 1958. As I also show in my academic monograph, Moran later on in his book abandons his suspicion that, by the end of the Second World War, Churchill was succumbing to "the inborn melancholia of the Churchill blood"; in his final chapter, Moran states that Churchill, before the start of the First World War, "had managed to extirpate bouts of depression from his system".

Despite the difficulties with Moran's book, the many illustrations it provides of a Churchill understandably plunged into temporary low moods by military defeats and other severely adverse developments constitute a compelling portrait of a great man reacting to, but not toppled by, worry and overstrain, a compelling portrait that is entirely consistent with the portraits of others who worked closely with Churchill, for example those to be found in: 'Action This Day' edited by Sir John Wheeler-Bennett; the Colville Diaries; Lord Ismay's memoir; and Averell Harriman's memoir, written in collaboration with Elie Abel. Moreover, it can be readily deduced from Moran's book that Churchill did not receive medication for depression - the amphetamine that Moran prescribed for special occasions, especially for big speeches from the autumn of 1953 onwards, was to combat the effects of Churchill's stroke of that year (see my academic monograph referred to above).

Churchill himself seems, in a long life, to have written about black dog on one occasion only: the reference, a backward-looking one, occurs in a private handwritten letter to Clementine Churchill dated July 1911 which reports the successful treatment of a relative's depression by a doctor in Germany. His ministerial circumstances at that date, the very limited treatments available for serious depression pre-1911, the fact of the relative's being "complete cured", and, not least, the evident deep interest Churchill took in the fact of the complete cure, are shown in my book to point to Churchill's pre-1911 black dog depression's having been a form of mild (i.e. non-psychotic) anxiety-depression, as that termed is defined by Professor Edward Shorter in 'How Everyone Became Depressed'.

Perhaps it will be agreed that enough has been said in the preceding paragraphs to raise a serious doubt about the reliability of the evidential foundations of the dominant, essentially Storrian, perception that Churchill's mental health was an open-and-shut case of clinical depression. Moran himself leaned strongly in the direction of his patient's being "by nature very apprehensive"; close associates of Churchill have disputed the idea that apprehension was a defining feature of Churchill's temperament, although they readily concede that he was noticeably worried and anxious about some matters, especially in the build up to important speeches in the House of Commons and elsewhere. And Churchill himself all but openly acknowledges in his book 'Painting as a Pastime' that he was prey to the "worry and mental overstrain [experienced] by persons who, over prolonged periods, have to bear exceptional responsibilities and discharge duties upon a very large scale". The fact that he found a remedy in painting and bricklaying is a strong indicator that the condition as he defined it did not amount to 'clinical depression', certainly not as that term was understood during the lifetimes of himself and Lord Moran.

Should the foregoing meet with a favourable response, I would be happy to submit brief, referenced revisions to the sections specified for further consideration.

Since posting the foregoing, I have made the edits envisaged, and look forward to any comments that might be forthcoming.Wattenborough (talk) 22:51, 29 March 2015 (UTC)

Wattenborough (talk) 22:45, 28 March 2015 (UTC)

I was vaguely aware that Moran was accused of sensationalising some of his diary (I’d have to refresh my memory of the details), but the fact that it was written up after the event is not necessarily a reason to discount it altogether – this is true of lots of diaries and “eyewitness accounts”, which is why they need to be read with a sceptical eye and cross-checked against one another and against other evidence. World religions have been based on less, one might add if one were a mischievous person.
I remember reading Anthony Storr’s seminal essay “Churchill’s Black Dog” about 25 years ago. My recollection is that Churchill liked to talk melodramatically about his urge to commit suicide etc. when he was young, and did go through a period of black despair after the Dardanelles when his career appeared to be over, which presumably lasted until he came back from the Front and resumed active politics in mid-1916. Other than that I’m inclined to agree with you that a bit too much has been read into these things. What we know for certain is that Churchill was a pugnacious, domineering character who liked to keep busy and who had a penchant for attention-seeking grand gestures throughout his career – not that he was a clinical depressive.
My advice is that it’s probably best to reference other people’s work rather than your own. It might be best to pull this out into a separate section at some stage, along with an analysis of how little evidence there actually is that he suffered from anything resembling “clinical depression”. It’s the sort of thing which people may come looking for, along with discussion of his personal eccentricities, drinking habits etc.
Martin Gilbert (in Volume 8 of his day-by-day account of WSC’s life) does mention Churchill being rather depressed (or whatever word one chooses to use) in extreme old age, when his relations with his children and his elderly and overstrained wife were less than perfect, and he had lost his mobility and his ability to work or to enjoy his hobbies. But then that’s probably true of a lot of people at that stage of life. Will be doing some more work on his later life over the next few weeks when time allows.Paulturtle (talk) 23:51, 29 March 2015 (UTC)

Anyone who knows anything about psychology who has read anything about Churchill would probably form the view that he displayed classic signs of narcissistic personality disorder; his depression when the world wasn't doing his bidding was the least of his problems, and his alcoholism probably not the worst. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:30, 23 April 2015 (UTC)

The "35th Sikhs" incident[edit]

This appears, on the face of it and "assuming good faith" to be well referenced, and yet a "cn" tag was added right in the middle of the account. A citation at the end of a sentence, or the end of a paragraph, or the end of a short connected narrative should logically be taken to refer to the whole sentence, paragraph, or narrative concerned. Even if this doesn't form part of official policy, the opposite idea, that every sentence describing a single incident (or otherwise very closely connected or part of the same thought) needs to have a separate citation (particularly to the same source!) is an ugly and timewasting misapplication of the "citation needed" tag. If the description of the incident itself is at variance with what is in the sources, then the "cure" is obviously to change what is said - not to tag an errant sentence, but either eliminate it altogether or to rewrite it so that it agrees with the source rather than contradicting it. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 09:44, 8 April 2015 (UTC)

And with an explanation, please, so we know what's going on! --Soundofmusicals (talk) 09:51, 8 April 2015 (UTC)

Ploegsteert: "Quiet sector" or "most active [sector]"?[edit]

The “Western Front” section states: “During his period of command, Ploegsteert was a “quiet sector,” and the battalion did not take part in any set battle.”

The “First World War and the Post-War Coalition" states: “While in command he personally made 36 forays into no man's land, and his section of the front at Ploegsteert became one of the most active.”

These two statements appear to be at odds with each other ("quiet sector" versus "most active"). If the source materials have differing opinions, the author should explain this to the reader. If the source materials agree with each other, then the narrative should be adjusted to reflect a consistent characterization of the activity at Ploegsteert. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:12, 8 April 2015 (UTC)

Depends what you mean by "quiet" really, and I assume those sentences were written by different people at different times. In the relevant chapter of Vol III of Martin Gilbert, he mentions how the BEF was not engaged in any major offensive at that time (Loos had been the previous autumn, but now the BEF were gearing up for the Somme which kicked off on 1 July); however, he also implies that Plugstreet was a relatively dangerous part of the front, where British troops would come under fire as they moved up to the front line. At all times, well-run battalions were expected to conduct regular patrols to assert "control" over No Mans Land and even conduct raids into enemy trenches to spread fear and capture prisoners - otherwise things easily degenerated into a "live and let live" system of letting off a few shells at the same time every day. Churchill's shortcomings as a grand strategist are notorious, but by all accounts he was rather a good battalion commander. However, there is nothing in Gilbert's detailed account to suggest that Churchill's level of activity was any more than was expected of a high-calibre officer, or that if there was any increase in the level of activity that it was anything to do with Churchill.Paulturtle (talk) 04:02, 10 April 2015 (UTC)
I am assuming that this means that C as a Lt.Colonel was personally leading patrols and raids. Or at the very least overseeing wirelaying parties and outpost visits. This appears an extremely high number for such a relatively senior officer and in such a short period of command. I will dig out Roy Jenkins' excellent single volume bio. I seem to recall it mentions something of his mental state at the time. A death wish? Irondome (talk) 22:07, 10 April 2015 (UTC)
I think the figure of “36 forays” may be an exaggeration (or a misquote of the source, but as it’s quoting from a dead website it’s impossible to verify). I reckon he was in or near the front for about three months (give or take). No mention in Gilbert of him leading raids, just a quote from somebody called “Hakewill Smith” about how he “often” went into No Mans Land, (which may well include patrols) and often stood on the firestep, etc, displaying indifference to enemy fire. I don’t really see any evidence that he was actually courting a martyr’s death, just exerting hands-on leadership to the best of his abilities and leaving things in the hands of the Gods. He was lower on the ladder than he would have liked - originally he had been promised a brigade pending a division (!) by Asquith, and was incensed when Asquith backed off after Tory rumblings (Asquith was in severe trouble over conscription and other matters and was hardly going to stick his neck out for Churchill), just leaving him with a battalion. He was then passed over for a brigade command at least once. If there was any “death wish” it would have been very early in the year. There was press talk from Garvin of the Observer (which he discounted) early in the year about how he should be put in charge of the RFC. He returned to Parliament for a bit in March and made a fool of himself calling for Fisher’s return, and from that moment on he seems to have been set on a return to politics as soon as possible; he asked to be relieved of command after his March speech, but thought better of it and went back to the front for another month or so. He probably could have had a brigade by the end of April when he had served his time.Paulturtle (talk) 00:18, 11 April 2015 (UTC)
Agreed. I've dug out my Jenkins and that appears to be the sequence of events. C seems to have got the battalion up to scratch and was well regarded. The lure of parliament vied with the lure of battle and Westminster seems to have won out. After his return and the initial Fisher speech spoke constantly in the house, often making good points. A very confused period in C's career basically. The Deedes quote in mainspace about going to the front because of better booze prospects sounds like waspish crap. In any event his battalion was not Guards so that seems dubious as a source in terms of relevance, so I would question it's utility in mainspace. From his letters home he was getting 4 bottles of spirits every 10 days. To get back to the original point, I think we can say that he got a battalion into shape in a nominally "quiet" sector. Just some tweaking of wording. I see no major discrepancies. Irondome (talk) 00:39, 11 April 2015 (UTC)
He did spend some time, as a Major, with 2nd Battn Grenadier Guards in November (already in the article), having already been promised command of 56th Brigade by Sir John French just before the latter's enforced "resignation". It was done specifically to give him up-to-date front line experience. It's true that they drank tea & condensed milk at their HQ (near the front), but I don't find any account of him moving closer to the front so that he could quaff spirits. Whether Deedes misremembered the details of the story or somebody has misquoted it, I couldn't say.Paulturtle (talk) 05:33, 11 April 2015 (UTC)

"les absents sont toujours tort"[edit]

In section 5.3 European Unity : The right sentence in french should be "les absents ont toujours tort" and not "les absents sont toujours tort". The auxiliary used in this case is not the same, in french, "to have" is employed instead of "to be" in english : "you are wrong" -> "vous avez tort". Leo033 (talk) 13:00, 15 April 2015 (UTC)

Quite right, and it's right in Boris' original. An error on my part transcribing it.Paulturtle (talk) 18:04, 15 April 2015 (UTC)


"...The Churchills' children were entrusted to a French nursery governess in Kent named Mlle."

I believe Mlle should point to Mademoiselle_(title). I've very little knowledge of history but it also seems odd to say she was named "Mlle." I apologize if this note doesn't follow guidelines which I'm striving to understand.