Hi Michael. Yes he certainly looks the part, ‘apparently’ a likable chap, renowned for his wit, who actually photographed quite well. However the truth is he was a miserable wretch. I won’t bore you but beyond the PR spin there are many unsavoury facts. For example:
As First Lord of the Admiralty, a post he held into WWI, he earned the title “Butcher of Gallipoli” for being the architect of the disastrous Gallipoli campaign on the Dardanelles, a disgrace that lead to his being eventually dropped from the government, and the decimation of the Australasian male population. In 1915 he engineered the U-boat sinking of the Lusitania by packing it illegally with munitions and removing its escort at a critical moment. He hoped this would lure the U.S. into the war but failed.
After the war concerning uprisings in the British mandated territories of the former Ottoman Empire, Churchill wrote: “I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes.”
Number two: Nick, you are one of those extremely irritating people who make a habit of wandering around web sites and stuffing the “really bad facts” about any decent historical figure right in the face of everyone who happens along.
It’s tedious and it reveals only a mind unweaned from Wikipedia. It might make you feel good to preen and strut your “knowledge,” but trust me it only reveals that deep down you’re shallow.
Now go away and let the adults admire a truly admirable man who, unlike you, lived in a different era than the one that’s been coddling you for far too long.
It goes without saying that Churchill was an immensely complicated figure that cannot be categorized as either “good” or “bad”. He had both positive and negative attributes and certainly made gross errors in judgment; still, he was undoubtedly an interesting and compelling character. Read The Last Lion, Richard Manchester’s marvelous (but incomplete — Manchester died before completing the third volume ) biography of Churchill and judge for yourself.
@ Nick Gill: Spouting off the patently false nu-Labor party line, eh Nick? Churchill was the architect of the naval operation at Gallipoli, but he little to do with the land invasion. Kitchener managed to botch that one up nicely all on his own. And let’s not forget that whole thing was premised on bad intelligence as to Ottoman troop strength. In short, it was war.
As for your other crackpot conspiracy theories, I can only say that I pity you.
History has shown, that the ones who got out of war victorious always will be glorified and the ones who where defeated, will be punished for centuries to come.
I think Nick Gill made a big mistake, by writing the truth about Churchill and expecting ALL readers of the formidable blog, to be free-minded enough, to even consider, that their hero action figure has a few blemishes after all. Since some of them refer to the Germans as Huns, I stopped wondering. I just hope, that there are enough critical-minded individuals out there, who haven’t participated in this little topic yet.
Michael, For a less romantic more balanced look at Churchill, check out “Churchill’s Empire” by Richard Toye reviewed in the New York Times Book review this Sunday. Love the vintage clothing and style searches. Cheers
Excellent post Michael.
And a reality check for those always looking at the “neutral” view: At a time when not a single leader in the world dared look at true evil in the face (in WWII and after that), he did. Who cares that in his long standing political career he made his share of misjudgments? When a man teaches the world the definition of morale courage, human dignity and redefines what true western values are, you’re indebted to him.
Paul Johnson wrote a great biography for those interested in passing an objective judgement on Churchill.
Jen swimmingly says, “History has shown, that the ones who got out of war victorious always will be glorified and the ones who where defeated, will be punished for centuries to come.”
Excuse me, but the only history that shows that is the kind of moral relativistic pap jammed into the softened brains of those too limited to actually read and think for themselves.
Case. In. Point:
Churchill v. Hitler.
Jen, please present the case that the Hitler regime is only “to be punished” because it lost. Please present that case. Please tell us exactly why both sides in that struggle were actually equal in evil or in good.
I would really like to hear that. Really.
As the American editor of the first paperback collection of Winston Churchill’s 6 volume history, The Second World War, I can promise you I’ll play close attention.
vanderleun, you probably missed the point.
My comment was on the reactions, Nick Gill got for his post- That a few readers cannot allow Churchill to have any blemishes at all- AND, I was referring to the generations decades after the war and how they teach, learn and understand the history of events. There was good versus evil, but are we accepting Churchill to be good in all aspects, or do we admit he did, what was nessesary to fight off the enemy- Whis is my point.
I take it, that you read my post (thank you) a little to emotional, getting personal over it “moral relativistic pap jammed into the softened brains”, not beeing really detached, to look at other aspects. I hope you edit the works of other people more carefull than reading my post.
In reference to the first comment: I’d have to say that I admire all the knee-jerk reactions to my knee-jerk reaction. In as much as it belies the conviction to which people are willing to assert their feelings about that most tempestuous of topics, political history. Thanks again to ACL for doing what it does best, offer provocative and reflective imagery with a passion for aesthetic. Now how about that stationary (@ted), and has anyone seen Stanley Kubrick’s bespoke stationary? I’ve only seen a little on the excellent UK documentary ‘Kubrick’s Boxes’.
Churchill was very witty, charismatic, and charming. He was a brilliant leader when Britain, and Europe, needed him most. But let’s not airbrush the historical record, the man had some glaring character flaws and held some disgraceful views that cannot be excused by historical relativity. For instance, even after the Nuremberg trials, in 1951, he ordered thousands of Kenyans to be locked up in concentration camps during the Mau Mau uprising (see “Imperial Reckoning”). Oh, also, in 1955, he lobbied his cabinet to adopt “Keep England White” as the official Tory slogan for the 1955 election. I would think twice before I called him “a true gentlemen”.
Nick, Churchill wanted the Navy to press forward at Gallipoli, but Kitchener overruled him. Had the Navy pressed forward, Britain would have taken Constantinople and possibly had a back-door to Germany and ended WWI a lot faster. Read “A Peace to End All Peace”.
As for Churchill himself, I have mixed feelings about the guy. Everything positive I’ve heard about him has been his leadership during WW2, of which I haven’t studied further than his “don’t give up” speech. Everything negative I’ve heard about him, the racism in the 50′s, the Mau Mau uprising, his imperialist attitude with regard to Iran.
Overall, I see no problem or no controversy in knowing the truth about highly regarded historical figures. I don’t see it as tainting an image of a hero. I see it as knowing the truth. You can still hold someone in high regard for an accomplishment, but know the truth about the person. Washington owned slaves, but show amazing courage and audacity against the British during the American Revolution. I don’t understand why some people, mainly the American right-wing, have such a problem with knowing the truth about a person?
Jen, thank you for your response. I do not think that I misread the statement: ““History has shown, that the ones who got out of war victorious always will be glorified and the ones who where defeated, will be punished for centuries to come.”
It really is a very clear statement. The problem I have with it is that it is wrong. It is merely a restating, in a slightly more prolix way, the old saw, “History is written by the winners.” This is manifestly not true since, while lunch is short, history is long. A tiptoe through Gibbons is instructive in this regard.
If, as you suggest, you meant to praise Churchill faintly with phrases such as “their hero action figure has a few blemishes” perhaps you do need to rethinking the meaning of praise even when faint.
In addition you might contemplate the depth of snide condescension present in “I think Nick Gill made a big mistake, by writing the truth about Churchill and expecting ALL readers of the formidable blog, to be free-minded…” as something to eschew in one’s quest to be seen as erudite.
Implicit in that portentous sentence is the assumption that 1)Gill wrote truth when he was merely riding his hobby-horse, and 2) ALL those who might call him on his jerk of the knee were lesser because not “free minded.” Free mindedness is about as airy an intellectual state as can be imagined, not something to be pursued.
You are absolutely right and I have to excuse myself for that historic knee jerk reaction, that caused Churchill to get blemishes while fighting the Huns in an airy and intellectual state! I shall therefore no more pursue prolix ways over lunch, thinking of victoriously written history contemplated by dutch late immigrants.