Extract from The Father of the Bride: A Memoir, Robert Willart, (HarperCollins, 2019):
“Father, look what I discovered today!”
It was Emily, who was writing an assignment for her university course.
She handed me two photocopies. The first was of a news report in The Times of June 16, 1937. I started reading.
Mr. Churchill announces retirement
Mr. Winston Churchill has announced his retirement from the House of Commons, thus bringing to a close a long and colourful political career. The Prime Minister, Mr. Neville Chamberlain, and the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Clement Attlee, led the tributes to his services in a variety of ministerial posts, the last being Chancellor of the Exchequer. Mr. Churchill’s valedictory speech was received warmly by members on both sides. He recounted the extraordinary changes over the 37 years since he first entered the House of Commons. He spoke emotionally of his love of the Commons and in light vein recalled the many jousts with opponents amidst much good natured laughter.
The second photocopy was of the Times’ editorial published the same day.
“It’s believed that this editorial was written personally by the editor, a Mr. Geoffrey Dawson,” Emily announced.
A colourful career ends
Mr. Winston Churchill’s announcement yesterday came as a surprise to many of his colleagues, for although he is sixty two, his energy and combative style seem undiminished. However, Mr. Chamberlain did not include him in his new cabinet and rumours that he has received a generous offer from the City and has been invited to undertake yet another speaking tour of the United States have been around for some time.
Mr. Churchill has had a colourful life and written some interesting books. At one time his political career seemed full of promise, but his enthusiasms sometimes led him astray, with his championing of the Gallipoli disaster being just one major example.
Although blessed with a gift for oratory, it must be conceded that Mr. Churchill is erratic, lacks balance and is rightly seen as a political anachronism. His less than successful record as Chancellor of the Exchequer, his quixotic campaign against the Government of India Act and his denunciations of Mr. Baldwin did not go down well in the country or with most of his colleagues, with many privately suggesting that he should accept the new realities in Europe and go back to Chartwell to concentrate on writing history.
Mr. Churchill has recently railed against what he alleges to be the darkening clouds over Europe. His departure signals that he has now abandoned what has become an essentially futile and self indulgent campaign, and we look forward to a more sober and considered approach to these issues by those with sounder ideas and steadier hands, such as Lord Halifax, Sir Samuel Hoare and Sir John Simon.
Despite his faults, Mr. Churchill added energy and colour to Parliament. He will be missed and we wish him and his family well in his retirement.
I finished reading and passed the copy back to Emily. The tribute seemed balanced and had an air of sound judgement. My knowledge of the times was not extensive, but I knew that Lord Halifax had an honoured place in history. But who was this Mr. Churchill? All these events occurred some years before I was even born and I confessed I’d never heard of him.
“Oh,” said Emily, “he was one of the old reactionaries who opposed the unification of Europe by Germany in the 1940s. He was much criticised by Sir Oswald Mosley, who was a true prophet of his times, as well as other people who had more realistic views. But I thought it would be interesting to look at someone like Churchill for my assignment and show what could have happened to the world if his views had been allowed to prevail.”
I found myself thinking how mature my daughter had become and what clarity of thought she displayed. One day she would certainly become a fine mother to a new generation of Australians.
I was pleased with her success in her first year of university. She had passed all the compulsory requirements with flying colours and was now proficient in German, and I thought she had made some good choices for her second year of university study. I felt grateful for the excellent grounding she had received from her secondary education at Abbotsleigh. Her favourite mistress there had been Fraulein Helga Schmidt, an exchange teacher from the Gertrud Scholtz-Klink Academy for Girls in Bebenhausen, a few kilometres from Tübingen in Germany, This excellent teacher had inspired an interest in late 20th century history and when reviewing the university handbook, two courses in particular had caught her eye. One covered the growth and success of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere to our North and the other, the origins of Fascist-Nazi cooperation with the United Kingdom in the 1970s. She had decided the latter looked more interesting.
“Dad, here’s an extract from what I’ve written so far.”
She passed over some sheets of paper and I started reading.
Andrew Roberts’ recent biography of Winston Churchill, The Angry Contrarian, gives further insights into the life of this early 20th century English politician who would otherwise be little known to anyone today.
We learn that after he left Parliament, a number of people urged his return to meet the alleged gathering crisis. One politician, Brendan Bracken, persistently promoted his cause, but he was a strange character and not fully accepted by the establishment. Churchill would write articles but found it increasingly difficult to get them published. For example, Geoffrey Dawson issued specific instructions that in the interests of both domestic and international harmony, The Times would not publish any articles from Churchill or report on his activities. The BBC had similar instructions from Lord Reith.
The disaster caused by Neville Chamberlain’s ill considered declaration of war in 1939 was rectified when Lord Halifax took over the premiership at the time of the retreat to Dunkirk and negotiated an excellent peace agreement with Germany, for which he was later to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. David Day’s book, The Unnecessary War, gives an interesting account of that period.
Later, as we all know, German success led to the formation of an united Europe, with Germania as its capital, and for whose stability the world is greatly indebted to Reinhard Heydrich, who succeeded Adolf Hitler when the latter was killed in an air crash in 1952.
In his review of Andrew Roberts’ book, Murphy McTaoibitch, the Alfred Rosenberg Professor of Nazi Philosophy at the University of Sydney, noted:
The United States is known for publishing works that in more advanced Europe would be considered beneath the proper concerns of its citizens, with Andrew Robert’s book just the latest example.
Churchill’s career may have started with promise but it ended in failure. He may have fancied himself as an historian, but he failed to read the great currents of history, to understand the iron laws of race, soil and hard work. We are fortunate that with the Nazi victory in Europe, the IRA was able to realise its aim of an united Ireland and Ba’ath parties were able to win power in a number of countries in the Middle East.
“I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m getting there,” she announced. “Professor McTaoibitch is a fine source of information. He’s very keen that we should get the history right. Here’s something I’ve marked in his latest book.”
She passed over a fat volume already open at a particular page for me to read.
When they were still able to pollute Europe’s intellectual life, the Jews alleged that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion were a forgery concocted by the Czarist secret police, but fortunately millions in the Arab world now know better. We know Gavin Menzies is entirely correct in his assertion that the Chinese discovered the world in 1421. We know that the Book of Mormon presents an entirely accurate account of a migration from Jerusalem to the Americas in 600 BC. We know that whoever killed Kennedy, it couldn’t possibly have been Lee Harvey Oswald. And we all know that 9/11 was an inside job concocted by the CIA.
“Darling, I see you’re in good hands. It’s getting late and your mother and I must get to bed. Don’t stay up too late. Good night dear.”
“Good night dad.”
Here are some background notes on people and events that are mentioned to give plausibility to the narrative.
- Geoffrey Dawson was the editor of The Times and an arch appeaser, on occasion censoring reports from Germany when they didn’t suit his predilections.
- Sir Oswald Mosley, the 6th baronet of that name, formed the British Union of Fascists in 1932. He was interned in 1940 for the duration the war.
- Lord Halifax, a devoutly religious Anglo-Catholic, was Foreign Secretary from 1938 to 1940 and advocated reaching a negotiated settlement with the Germans. When Chamberlain resigned, many in the Conservative Party thought he should take over the leadership. He wrote in his diary at one point “Winston talked the most frightful rot”, but deferred to Churchill saying that he, Halifax, was not the right person to take over the leadership at that time.
- Sir Samuel Hoare, Home Secretary, and Sir John Simon, Chancellor of the Exchequer, were both appeasers.
- Gertrud Scholtz-Klink was the head of the NS-Frauenschaft, the Nazi Women’s League. She died 1999 in Bebenhausen, Germany, a fervent Nazi to the end.
- Andrew Roberts is a British historian who has written a number of books on the period, including a biography of Lord Halifax. Our invented biography of Churchill was written and published in the US on the grounds that the US would have a more robust attitude to free speech than Britain.
- Brendan Bracken was a strong supporter of Churchill from the 1920s onward. There was a rumour that he was Churchill’s son, which was not true, but Bracken would be the last person to deny it as he enjoyed cultivating a little mystery. Bracken succeeded Duff Cooper as Minister of Information during the war.
- Lord Reith, the head of the BBC, was an authoritarian character who had a long-standing feud with Churchill. His daughter later claimed that he was a Nazi sympathiser and disliked Jews.
- David Day is an Australian historian who wrote a book entitled Menzies and Churchill at War in which he alleged that Menzies sought to replace Churchill as Britain’s war leader, a ridiculous claim that took Menzies’ biographer, Allan Martin, only a few lines to debunk in volume 1 of his biography of Menzies. An insight into his thinking can be found in an article published in The Australian of December 22, 2004:
Sometimes, of course, denying defeat can buy time for an apparently vanquished nation during which the situation might be turned around. Thus the British denied defeat following the collapse of their forces in France in 1940. Instead of agreeing to a compromise peace with Germany, the intervening English Channel allowed them to adopt a defiant stance when a cool assessment of the opposing forces might have dictated otherwise. Eighteen months later, the balance of forces shifted in Britain’s favour and the defeat of Dunkirk was gradually transformed into eventual victory, although at the cost of many millions of lives that might otherwise have been saved.
- Reinhard Heydrich was a rising star in the SS who chaired the Wannsee Conference in January 1942 which gave the official imprimatur to the deportation and extermination of the Jews. Utterly ruthless, amoral and highly intelligent, he was effective in governing occupied Bohemia and Moravia, but was assassinated in Prague with the assistance of the British Special Operations Executive in May 1942. Heydrich was Hitler’s heir-apparent in the novel Fatherland, by Robert Harris.
- Professor Murphy McTaoibitch is a total invention although his name may remind some readers of the little-known fact that the Taoiseach, or Prime Minister of Ireland, Éamon de Valera, offered his condolences on behalf of the Irish people to the German Minister in Dublin on the death of Hitler in 1945.
- Alfred Rosenberg is considered to be one the main authors of Nazi ideology which included persecution of the Jews, racial theory and “Lebensraum”. He was also a proponent of “Positive Christianity” which would displace Christianity in favour of a new Nazi faith. For crimes against humanity during the war, he was condemned to death at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials and hanged in 1946.
- Germania was the name Adolf Hitler gave to the projected renewal of the German capital Berlin. It was to be the Welthauptstadt (World Capital) after the planned victory in World War 2. Albert Speer, “the first architect of the Third Reich”, produced many of the plans for the rebuilt city, only a small portion of which was realized before World War II.
All this shows the critical importance of key people in history. Without Winston Churchill, it is highly likely that Britain would not have continued the war and this would have given Germany a clear run in the East. If Germany had won the war, it would not have been surprising to see schools of Nazi philosophy springing up in universities all over the English speaking world.