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AndyHollinger

Winston S Churchill

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AndyHollinger

Having just returned from a week-long symposium on WSC - I found American Historical thought on him to be increasingly laudetory. The blame for Dardenells / Golipoli (sp) is laid at the hesitating, indeed grudging, compliance by the Top Command. His chief failure seemed to be keeping and listening to Jackie Fisher ...

Let's just say there is an awful lot of belief in the Haig / Donkey theory. Every presenter alluded to the "stupidity" of a Western Front Victory theory - though none were WWI specialists.

My analysis is that Americans are/were totally awed by his WWII leadership and forget about his political management at other times. There was also a lecture on why he is the Ultra-darling of the Neo-cons of today.

Myself I thought his appointment of Jellicoe splendid and his support of Beatty problematical ... He sought and never found a "soft underbelly" in either war.

But - what is the feeling here about WSC?

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BeppoSapone

Andy

It has been discussed here before. There was a thread about this around the time of the 40th anniv. of his death.

Funnily enough, I have been looking for information about Victor Grayson - see my Victor Grayson thread. I have 'googled' and found something that says that the ex socialist MP Grayson was Winston Churchill's 'secret' brother:

http://thomasslemen.tripod.com/royals.html

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salesie

Speaking for myself, and I should imagine the majority of Britons; I firmly believe that Winston Churchill is beyond doubt the greatest Briton that ever lived.

Oh, he had his faults, making him far from perfect, but his good points far outweighed his bad ones - it's a pity the same can't be said for eveyone. His mistakes as a young politician, in my opinion, were brought about by a certain naivety on his part, and he carried the can when doing the honourable thing and resigning as First Sea Lord. But remember, before embarking on a successful campaign to clear his reputation he actually commanded an infantry battalion on the western front for a short period; if nothing else, we have to laud his bottle.

I would ask - Without his earlier mistakes, would he have been able to become a great wartime leader? Without making mistakes from which to learn from, would he have acquired the ability to become our greatest ever leader and empower his people in their most perilous moment?

Cheers - salesie.

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Steven Broomfield

I agree - a great man. The Gallipoli campaign was a disaster, but one which might have succeeded, had the War Office and Admiralty had belief in it, and had we had a commander who was more able to 'push' than to allow his subordinates to dictate affairs.

As for his stewardship of the Admiralty, one only has to consider the feeling when he returned to the post on the outbreak of WW2 "Winston's back" to believe that the Navy held him in esteem.

We could do with him in these times......

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PhilB

How do you account for the fact that the nation preferred Attlee after the war, when WSC should have been at his most popular? Phil B

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BeppoSapone
I agree - a great man.  The Gallipoli campaign was a disaster, but one which might have succeeded, had the War Office and Admiralty had belief in it, and had we had a commander who was more able to 'push' than to allow his subordinates to dictate affairs.

As for his stewardship of the Admiralty, one only has to consider the feeling when he returned to the post on the outbreak of WW2 "Winston's back" to believe that the Navy held him in esteem.

We could do with him in these times......

We have another warmonger in charge instead.

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armourersergeant
I would ask - Without his earlier mistakes, would he have been able to become a great wartime leader? Without making mistakes from which to learn from, would he have acquired the ability to become our greatest ever leader and empower his people in their most perilous moment? 

Cheers - salesie.

How do you account for the fact that the nation preferred Attlee after the war, when WSC should have been at his most popular?  Phil B

I would add that his time in charge in WW2 was tempered expertly by Lord Allanbrooke. That said he was an inspiration to a nation.

He was not voted in because he was a conservative leader and the electorate went for something different that was not connected to the old ways that had led them into war. it was i think something Churchill saw as hard to swollow that he had led them to victory and then thye turned him aside, but such is the political world.

A great man not necesserily my greatest man but up there with them.

regards

Arm

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salesie
How do you account for the fact that the nation preferred Attlee after the war, when WSC should have been at his most popular?  Phil B

The theories as to why Attlee and the labour party won the 1945 general election are well documented and wide ranging in both scope and depth, and, as far as I recall, all commentators have struggled to find a simplistic explanation - it has flummaxed the experts precisely because Churchill was so popular.

What's your theory, Phil?

Cheers - salesie.

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truthergw
Having just returned from a week-long symposium on WSC - I found American Historical thought on him to be increasingly laudetory.  The blame for Dardenells / Golipoli (sp) is laid at the hesitating, indeed grudging, compliance by the Top Command.  His chief failure seemed to be keeping and listening to Jackie Fisher ...

Let's just say there is an awful lot of belief in the Haig / Donkey theory.  Every presenter alluded to the "stupidity" of a Western Front Victory theory - though none were WWI specialists.

My analysis is that Americans are/were totally awed by his WWII leadership and forget about his political management at other times.  There was also a lecture on why he is the Ultra-darling of the Neo-cons of today.

Myself I thought his appointment of Jellicoe splendid and his support of Beatty problematical ... He sought and never found a "soft underbelly" in either war.

But - what is the feeling here about WSC?

Although I think it unfair to blame Churchil for the failure, the landing was inept to say the least, I've often wondered what the strategic aim was at Gallipoli. If the allies had managed to get off the beaches, what then?. Politically, he was identified with brutal repression in the Welsh coal strike. I can remember him being booed in a cinema in Dundee just after WW2. ( Yes, they took their cinema seriously then, they used to applaud the good bits.)

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salesie
We have another warmonger in charge instead.

From your statement, I assume you mean that Churchill was a warmonger and that Blair is now? If so, history will be Blair's judge. As for Churchill being a warmonger; in my opinion, it was the failure to totally defeat the German army and/or negotiate a just treaty in 1919 which sowed the seeds that made WW2 a distinct possibility. But it was the appeasers, those high-minded but silly men who failed to listen to Churchill's warnings, as well as the intelligence presented to them, who made it inevitable.

Cheers - salesie.

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Paul Hodges
The theories as to why Attlee and the labour party won the 1945 general election are well documented and wide ranging in both scope and depth, and, as far as I recall, all commentators have struggled to find a simplistic explanation - it has flummaxed the experts precisely because Churchill was so popular.

My own pet theory is that, unlike these days of presidential-style government, people voted locally on local issues, fed up of the international scene dominating for so long - and Labour had better on offer - free health care, improved unemployment cover and so on.

Churchill - many faults but his brilliance in 1940-1 overrides all other considerations.

How would we regard him if he had died in 1939 - a Cassandra proved right concerning appeasement but grouped with the 'donkeys' (and a political not military one at that) for WWI and as a sub-Baden-Powell for his SA exploits; for little else I guess.

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CROONAERT
he actually commanded an infantry battalion on the western front for a short period;

And was probably unaware as to how close he came to being killed in this role!

(In the memoirs of a Sgt (name escapes me for the moment) who was later to win the DCM, who served under him, mention is made of a particular trench raid in which Churchill was planning to take part before being ordered from "on high" not to. He shows his popularity in the Sgt's writing by the mention of the fact that if he was to accompany the raid, then the Sgt and several others were going to make damned sure that he didn't return!)

Dave.

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BeppoSapone
From your statement, I assume you mean that Churchill was a warmonger and that Blair is now? If so, history will be Blair's judge. As for Churchill being a warmonger; in my opinion, it was the failure to totally defeat the German army and/or negotiate a just treaty in 1919 which sowed the seeds that made WW2 a distinct possibility. But it was the appeasers, those high-minded but silly men who failed to listen to Churchill's warnings, as well as the intelligence presented to them, who made it inevitable.

Cheers - salesie.

Salesie

We are not really allowed to get into modern politics.

However, it was not "Tory Plan B" (Tony Blair) I had in mind. I was thinking of his puppet master, 'Dubbya' the 'leader of the free world'.

You are quite right, history will be the judge.

Do you really think that Churchill was right and the vast majority of the population "high-minded but silly"?

IIRC WC was speaking out in favour of Mussolini in the 1920s and would have agreed with Hitler on Russia and keeping organised Labour in its place. The "high-minded but silly" men probably also had a better idea of the reality of the trenches than Churchill who only went to the front as a Lt Col when in political disgrace.

Despite his faults, which were legion and varied, Churchill was the right man in the right place after Norway. Churchill made amends for all his faults in one year spread over 1940 and 1941.

However, people who knew him first hand, rather than out of history books, very quickly got rid of him and voted for the "Welfare State" in 1945. Funny that.

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AndyHollinger

Of all the basic concepts is he was a many of energy and ideas - some good - some bad ... but he believed in himself and in Great Britain. His belief in the Empire was rooted in 19th C concepts as his work against Dominion status for India and his WWII preference for CIB theater at the expense of the Australian front shows.

Remember the 1945 Campaign poster "Cheer Churchilll, Votre Labor" ... that is the essense ... the Torys had nothing to offer but him and he was a war leader (as shown by his catagorization of Atlee as a Nazi Gestapo type of guy (???) )

But, in the end, The BN was ready and Jellicoe was there to command ... he was one of the few guys making decisions who had faced fire ... and he kept trying to find a more reasonable way out of the war beyond the meat grinder ...

A further question for you ... While he was right about Hitler and WW2 .... what if Roosevelt hadn't bailed the UK out in the battle of the Atlantic?

Any comparison between WSC and GW - though we had one presenter who continually tried to make it work - is beyond me ...

I can tell you this ... as a little boy I remember my father (WWII vet) listening to him speak on 78 records with tears running down his cheeks. Neither universally good or bad, right or wrong ... he was Great.

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salesie
Salesie

We are not really allowed to get into modern politics.

However, it was not "Tory Plan B" (Tony Blair) I had in mind.  I was thinking of his puppet master, 'Dubbya' the 'leader of the free world'.

You are quite right, history will be the judge.

Do you really think that Churchill was right and the vast majority of the population "high-minded but silly"?

IIRC WC was speaking out in favour of Mussolini in the 1920s and would have agreed with Hitler on Russia and keeping organised Labour in its place. The  "high-minded but silly" men probably also had a better idea of the reality of the trenches than Churchill who only went to the front as a Lt Col when in political disgrace.

Despite his faults, which were legion and varied, Churchill was the right man in the right place after Norway. Churchill made amends for all his faults in one year spread over 1940 and 1941.

However, people who knew him first hand, rather than out of history books, very quickly got rid of him and voted for the "Welfare State" in 1945. Funny that.

It is history that has proven Churchill right, Beppo, and condemned those in power at the time as high-minded but misguided. Even as late as August 1939 the high-minded were still at it. I quote:

Full text can be found here here Guardian Unlimited The Guardian Lord Aberconway.htm

Lord Aberconway - One of seven British businessmen sent secretly to Germany to offer a 'second Munich', he revealed the truth just three years ago

Andrew Roth

Thursday February 6, 2003

The Guardian

"The industrialist Lord Aberconway, longtime chairman of both John Brown, the Clydeside shipbuilding firm, and English China Clays, and also a master-gardener, has died aged 89. Three years ago, he belatedly unburdened himself of a 60-year-old guilty secret.

He told the Tory historian Andrew Roberts that, as a 26-year-old, he had been one of seven British businessmen dispatched secretly by Neville Chamberlain's pro-appeasement government to try to stop an Anglo-German war over Poland. Three weeks before the war the seven made their separate ways to the island of Sylt off the German coast, to meet Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering. Their purpose was to offer a "second Munich" - a four-power agreement involving Britain, Germany, France and Italy - to make further concessions to German demands for lebensraum, on condition that the Nazis did not invade Poland.

This offer, authorised by the leading appeaser, Chamberlain's Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax, came as a shock to Halifax's biographer Roberts, who had not found any reference to this last-minute offer in either Foreign Office documents or Halifax's private papers. Aberconway backed his claims by showing Roberts 38 pages of documents. The result of this secret meeeting was to encourage the Nazis to invade Poland, in the belief that Britain would not fight."

You say, Beppo, that Churchill agreed with Hitler about Russia - I also agree with Hitler about the Soviet Union (as much as I dislike saying it), and history has also proven Churchill to be right about that evil empire.

You intimate, that the high-minded but silly men knew more about the horrors of the trenches than Churchill? I quote:

Full text available here http://www.winstonchurchill.org/i4a/pages/....cfm?pageid=182

"On 1 July, the British army launched a full-scale attack north of the Somme River, despite Churchill's warning that victory would not be gained "simply by throwing in masses of men on the western front." On the first day the British suffered eighty thousand casualties, including twenty thousand dead. Although Churchill was an admirer and friend of the British commander, Sir Douglas Haig, he was sickened and revolted by the carnage. Later he compared Haig to a competent and confident, but distanced, surgeon who would not reproach himself if the patient died."

As for it being funny that he was voted out in 1945; I've already given an answer to this conundrum in an ealier post, but would ask you, how funny was it that the very same electorate voted him back five years later?

Churchill was flawed, he was human after all - but history itself has proven him right at the very time our nation faced its darkest hour. I'm happy to let history defend this greatest of all Britons (warts and all).

Cheers - salesie.

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BeppoSapone
It is history that has proven Churchill right, Beppo, and condemned those in power at the time as high-minded but misguided. Even as late as August 1939 the high-minded were still at it. I quote:

Full text can be found here here Guardian Unlimited  The Guardian  Lord Aberconway.htm

Lord Aberconway - One of seven British businessmen sent secretly to Germany to offer a 'second Munich', he revealed the truth just three years ago

Andrew Roth

Thursday February 6, 2003

The Guardian

"The industrialist Lord Aberconway, longtime chairman of both John Brown, the Clydeside shipbuilding firm, and English China Clays, and also a master-gardener, has died aged 89. Three years ago, he belatedly unburdened himself of a 60-year-old guilty secret.

He told the Tory historian Andrew Roberts that, as a 26-year-old, he had been one of seven British businessmen dispatched secretly by Neville Chamberlain's pro-appeasement government to try to stop an Anglo-German war over Poland. Three weeks before the war the seven made their separate ways to the island of Sylt off the German coast, to meet Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering. Their purpose was to offer a "second Munich" - a four-power agreement involving Britain, Germany, France and Italy - to make further concessions to German demands for lebensraum, on condition that the Nazis did not invade Poland.

This offer, authorised by the leading appeaser, Chamberlain's Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax, came as a shock to Halifax's biographer Roberts, who had not found any reference to this last-minute offer in either Foreign Office documents or Halifax's private papers. Aberconway backed his claims by showing Roberts 38 pages of documents. The result of this secret meeeting was to encourage the Nazis to invade Poland, in the belief that Britain would not fight."

You say, Beppo, that Churchill agreed with Hitler about Russia - I also agree with Hitler about the Soviet Union (as much as I dislike saying it), and history has also proven Churchill to be right about that evil empire.

You intimate, that the high-minded but silly men knew more about the horrors of the trenches than Churchill? I quote:

Full text available here http://www.winstonchurchill.org/i4a/pages/....cfm?pageid=182

"On 1 July, the British army launched a full-scale attack north of the Somme River, despite Churchill's warning that victory would not be gained "simply by throwing in masses of men on the western front." On the first day the British suffered eighty thousand casualties, including twenty thousand dead. Although Churchill was an admirer and friend of the British commander, Sir Douglas Haig, he was sickened and revolted by the carnage. Later he compared Haig to a competent and confident, but distanced, surgeon who would not reproach himself if the patient died."

As for it being funny that he was voted out in 1945; I've already given an answer to this conundrum in an ealier post, but would ask you, how funny was it that the very same electorate voted him back five years later?

Churchill was flawed, he was human after all - but history itself has proven him right at the very time our nation faced its darkest hour. I'm happy to let history defend this greatest of all Britons (warts and all).

Cheers - salesie.

Salesie

I think that we are just going to have to agree to differ on Churchill. If you look at the last Churchill thread you will see that I wrote quite a bit on Churchill, but I don't have the time to do it now.

The year between Munich and the start of WW2 was when Britain was re-arming so I don't think that the people in charge were all that high-minded or silly. So too with secret talks to avoid war. Is avoiding war such bad thing?

I agree with you that Churchill was the right man for the job in 1940, but as for history proving him right: "History will be kind to me for I intend to write it." - Sir Winston Churchill.

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Guest

My personal view is that Churchill's role in the summer of 1940 was crucial in ensuring that Britain did not throw in the towel and that this continued into 1941. Frankly, one the USA entered WWII, he became very much the junior member of the "big" three after Roosevelt and Stalin. By 1945, he was irrelevant.

As far as WWI is concerned, what aspect do you want to consider? First Lord, infantry battalion commander, or Minister of Munitions in Lloyd George's government?

I think he does have to carry the can over the Dardanelles for the crass stupidity of imagining that it could be done by naval forces alone without troops landing.

I am not a Churchill fan. I do regard him as being responsible for Welsh miners being shot down in the street when he was Home Secretary before WWI, for following the wrong policies while Chancellor of the Exchequer in the 1920s and for being an out and out racist in relation to the Empire, notably India.

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michaeldr

I don’t think that Churchill has to shoulder too much blame for the Dardanelles/Gallipoli campaign. It was a good idea whose execution was flawed, but not primarily by WSC.

It is often forgotten that the Tories took revenge on him for his having defected to the Liberals and it was they who demanded his exclusion from significant office in the coalition government. WSC was kicked out of the Admiralty to (I think) the Chancelorship of the Duchy of Lancaster in mid-May1915, when the Gallipoli campaign was certainly underway, but not necessarily irrevocably lost.

Regards

Michael D.R.

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Guest
I don’t think that Churchill has to shoulder too much blame for the Dardanelles/Gallipoli campaign. It was a good idea whose execution was flawed, but not primarily by WSC.

I don't see it as a Dardanelles/Gallipoli campaign. There was a flawed Dardanelles campaign followed by a flawed Gallipoli campaign.

The Dardanelles campaign was restricted to naval forces only precisely because Kitchener would not commit troops, yet it is ludicrous to imagine that the Turkish batteries could be silenced just by naval gunfire, or that ships could prevent Turkish minelaying. It required troops to be landed in sufficient strength to take and hold ground.

I think that Churchill carries full responsibility for the Dardanelles campaign.

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AndyHollinger

Please remember that I am very moved by Churchillian prose. I also believe that if one man were responsible for mobilizing England/UK to fight, then it is him. Also I truly believe that the UK's defiance in 1940 was the human race's finest hour and that the US was shameful in it's isolationism.

Okay, emotion aside. Without the US on the allied side, the war, simply would not have progressed as it did and the Battle of the Atlantic might, or quite possibly would have been lost. No British offensive could have been maintained without US aid, etc. etc. So British politicians, not as sure of American involvement might have been doing the best thing by trying to buy more time.

I judge him as perhaps the epitome of a British Empire Man. He was everything the 19th C sought to be - but sadly coming at its end.

If history is Biography - then his is wonderful stuff.

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Gibbo

A couple of posters have referred to Churchill's role in repressing a Welsh coal strike before WW1. Troops were undoubtedly sent to Tonypandy but is there any evidence that they fired on strikers? I assumed for many years that they did because that seemed to be the accepted version but Roy Jenkins' biography of Churchill says that the army "never engaged with the strikers............There were no serious casualties, apart from the one man who died before either the Metropolitan [London] Police or the military reinforcements arrived." The BBC's web site also says that only one person died, by a police truncheon rather than an army bullet.

BBC web site

The following web site is very critical of Churchill but says:

"The left has kept the memory of Tonypandy alive, quite properly, though some on the left have crapped up by exaggerated talk about ‘massacres’ which allows smooth-talking Tories to dismiss those claims and ignore the substantive issue."

Churchill attacked

On a different point, I wonder what neo-con fans of Sir Winston would make of his role in a (for the time) radical Liberal govt. before WW1. He completed a move started by Lloyd George to impose an maximum 8 hour day for miners, set up trade boards to fix minimum wages for "sweated labour", introduced labour exchanges in order to fight unemployment & carried out prison reform. This govt. imposed taxes that were, again by the standards of the day, very high. He was seen as a close ally of the radical Chancellor of the Exchequer David Lloyd George.

My opinion is that he made a lot of mistakes but was the right man for the right time in 1940 & hence deserves fulsome praise. I think that he was the sort of person where you have to take the whole package & couldn't have the good (anti-appeasement & WW2) without the bad (Dardanelles & his performance as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the 1920s).

On his defeat in the 1945 General Election, I think that many people voted against the Conservatives & the economic policies of the 1930s & for the Welfare State rather than against Churchill. Remember that he'd been a Liberal, a maverick backbencher & the leader of a Coalition govt. for much of his Parliamentary career so wasn't closely associated with the party that he was leading in 1945. It's also often been said that Churchill ran the war whilst Attlee ran the country so it could be argued that electing Attlee as the peacetime premier was closer to maintaing the status quo than electing Churchill.

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BeppoSapone

You could be right about it being the police, rather than the army. who brutalised the striking workers, and their kin, at Tonypandy.

However, Churchill was no friend of Labour:

"In the Dock Strike of 1911, again Churchill threatened to use 25,000 troops in defence of the employers. Asquith was forced to intervene "least Mr Churchill's habit of calling in the military to settle industrial disputes should bring open warfare in the streets." (Francis Williams). In the rail strike of the same year, Churchill nevertheless mobilised 50,000 troops to crush the strike. In Liverpool and Llanelli, troops opened fire on strikers."

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salesie
Salesie

I think that we are just going to have to agree to differ on Churchill. If you look at the last Churchill thread you will see that I wrote quite a bit on Churchill, but I don't have the time to do it now.

The year between Munich and the start of WW2 was when Britain was re-arming so I don't think that the people in charge were all that high-minded or silly. So too with secret talks to avoid war. Is avoiding war such bad thing?

I agree with you that Churchill was the right man for the job in 1940, but as for history proving him right:  "History will be kind to me for I intend to write it." - Sir Winston Churchill.

Beppo, as I said earlier, I'm happy to let history defend the great man, but I must answer your question; Is avoiding war a bad thing?

The true warmongers are those who believe that everyone else is just like them; those men and women, who, in times of dire threat, believe that their own virtues of honesty, integrity, and high-minded morals are shared by those who oppose them and that rational, open and fair argument will win their enemies over and persuade them to lay down their arms. Those out and out appeasers who refuse to listen even when rational warnings are accompanied by firm and plentiful intelligence.

The real tragedy of the meeting in August 1939 was not that they tried to stop war and failed, but that they only succeeded in further convincing our enemies that we were weak and irrelevant. Getting the balance right is not for the faint hearted - just a cursory look at all of Churchill's speeches will show that he was not a warmonger, but neither was he an appeaser. He was simply a man who understand the true nature of mankind - understood that sometimes those we need try to live with are deceitful, immoral villains who see our fundamental values as our weakness, thus making us ripe for the plucking.

Avoiding war is not a bad thing, but having that mantra to the exclusion of all others certainly is - for that singular doctrine, historically, has only ever lead to even greater conflict, even more lives lost, even greater suffering. Who are the true warmongers? I would say, the out and out appeasers just as much as the bellicose demagogues.

Cheers - salesie.

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Guest

Never mind what he did before August 1914 (except maybe as First Lord) or after November 1918, what about his performance in the Great War?

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BeppoSapone
The real tragedy of the meeting in August 1939 was not that they tried to stop war and failed, but that they only succeeded in further convincing our enemies that we were weak and irrelevant. Getting the balance right is not for the faint hearted - just a cursory look at all of Churchill's speeches will show that he was not a warmonger, but neither was he an appeaser. He was simply a man who understand the true nature of mankind - understood that sometimes those we need try to live with are deceitful, immoral villains who see our fundamental values as our weakness, thus making us ripe for the plucking.

Cheers - salesie.

Salesie

Do you have any evidence that they were not simply playing for more time? We had begun to re-arm after Munich. An extra year or two might have helped. So, it went wrong. Life is like that.

If you are happy with your neo-Con view of Churchill, so be it. I have said that he was the right man for the job in 1940. I shudder when I think of what would have happened if Lord Halifax had had his way.

However, when all said and done, IMHO Churchill had just one good year in his life. In making a stand he allowed the British people to save humanity, but he was still a deeply flawed individual.

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