TO UNDERSTAND Sir Winston Churchill would be as great a challenge… as to understand his enemies! Ever heard of Piers Morgan, the contemporary English writer, journalist and TV broadcaster? He is one of the extremely few British, mainstream media presenters. Morgan is acknowledged to have seen through the Iraq war ‘fictions’, from the very start of the brief war. Bless the Lord too, for his heated, and televised conversation with Ross Greer (the Scottish MP), that had brought Sir Winston Churchill back into current limelight. Greer had shockingly argued in live British TV debate that the revered British prime minister Churchill was really a ‘White supremacist’.
Sir Winston Churchill wrote the famous book Great Contemporaries in 1937. This was published two years after he had called Hitler’s achievements to be ‘among the most remarkable in the whole history of the world’. The popular leader wrote: ‘Those who have met Herr Hitler face to face, in public business or on social terms, have found him to be a highly competent, cool, well-informed functionary, with an agreeable manner, and a disarming smile… already, few have been unaffected by the Fuehrer’s subtle and personal magnetism.’
That controversial passage could not be removed from the book’s reprint in 1941. In May 1940, Churchill’s country and army had been militarily butchered. Totally depressed, he was all ready to give Gibraltar, Malta, Suez, and his colonies of Somaliland, Kenya and Uganda to Benito Mussolini. Once upon a time, he praised Mussolini as the ‘greatest living legislator’.
European history has been cruel sometimes to record all sorts of things about Churchill that had been simply ignored to suit the conveniences of the ongoing narrative of ‘war victory’. For instance, I can quote the unfortunate military debacle and mess-up at the campaign of Gallipoli, also the miners, the movement of Suffragettes and the British airmen’s refusal to bomb the railway lines to Auschwitz. In all faith, was his book a dishonest message that only served the purpose of writing his memoirs?
As student of Europe’s contemporary history, it was really hard for me to swallow the blunt truth about the Allied retreat and the consequent catastrophic humiliation met at Dunkirk. The other one had been the stigma, caused by another similar defeat at Singapore, for which Australians and New Zealanders have never forgiven Britain.
And who can forget the sinking of the RMS Lancastria, in the hands of Germany. The brave soldiers were left behind in France. Both the incidents are undisputed facts that are indicative of the sheer scale of his 1945 political defeat. However, the war in the Far East was still being fought when the Labour Party won half of his newly divided seat and an independent did very well in the other half after Labour and the Liberals had disgracefully refused to field candidates against him.
His deselection by his local conservative association was a tragic event in the closure of life just before he had died. And not the least, his carve-up of Eastern Europe with Stalin is so very reminiscent of the historic Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Sir Winston has borrowed the phrase ‘the Iron Curtain’ from the German propaganda minister Herr Goebbels and had used this to mean exactly what Goebbels had meant by it.
Heart-broken by the colossal defeat in the global war, the Soviet Union had neither the means nor the will to invade Western Europe, still less, to cross either the Atlantic or the Pacific.
Let us be clear though, in the aftermath, his electorate was under no illusions while he had still remained alive. Quite often, his image was booed and hissed when it appeared on newsreels. He led the Conservative Party into three general elections. He had lost the first two and he only returned to office on the third occasion with the support of the National Liberals, having lost his ‘popular vote bank’.
In the tenure of that parliament, he had been ill-fated enough to be removed by his own party. The Conservative Party had comfortably won the subsequent general election. Did we not forget the truth about him in the old mining areas of Britain? Nor the miners have forgotten the places that he had signed away to Stalin, including Poland… the country, for whose freedom, the second war has been fought (1939–1945).
It was Churchill who had jovially coined the nickname ‘Uncle Joe’ for Vladimir Stalin. Actually, the British prime minister desired to transport the Jews to Palestine since he saw them as not ‘really’ British citizens. He had presided over the tragedy of the famine in Bengal. His views on the mixed, dark-skinned Bengali ‘race’ had only shocked his younger colleagues… even in the Conservative Party of the 1950s.
The famous dipping of the cranes for his coffin had occurred only because the London dockers, who ‘despised’ him, had been paid to do it. These London dockers had been as heavily ‘blitzed’ and pounded with bombs as anyone, anywhere in modern history of air warfare!
Sir Winston Churchill has taken due credit for having ‘saved Britain’ during the incessant aerial bombardments, particularly upon the city of London. This resulted in heavy casualties and those damning days are also remembered as the days when the ‘Battle for Britain’ was fought for Britain’s very own existence.
It will be interesting to see whether anyone else in the political leadership could have held his nerves under the gravest challenges of the nation’s survival. Churchill had continued to hold a serious academic or journalistic position in a full decade and come out successfully with flying colours. His cult seems to have begun only after he died in January 1965.
At the time of his unfortunate demise, Sir Winston Churchill had aged to have really become so old. Very painfully so, one of the ‘greatest’ war time leaders in history had been deemed to be politically as good as dead. The tragedy of his death could never be translated into votes by his successors.
Britain has continued proudly to pay tributes to him, as the ‘Man of the Century’. His metaphors have also continued to ring in our ears — ‘Kites rise highest against the wind, not with it’.
Nazarul Islam is a former educator based in Chicago.
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