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Is Winston Churchill grossly overrated?

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Is Winston Churchill grossly overrated?

Post by Ivan on Mon Dec 12, 2011 12:35 am

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In a BBC poll a few years ago, Churchill was voted the greatest ever Briton, but I wonder if Churchill’s contribution to Britain has been overrated. Spare me the froth of indignation, I know the standard interpretation as well as anyone. Churchill is supposed to be the man who won the war for us, an inspiration, someone who impressed the ladies by making remarks such as “it will be long, it will be hard and there will be no withdrawal”.
Embarassed

Churchill was a dunce at school, and a political turncoat who switched from Conservative to Liberal and back to Conservative again, swaying with the prevailing wind whenever it suited his career prospects. As he explained: "anyone can rat, but it takes a certain ingenuity to re-rat”. In 1910, while still a Liberal, he was made Home Secretary and used troops to maintain law and order during a miners’ strike in South Wales. He also used a detachment of Scots Guards to assist police during a house siege in Sidney Street in East London in January 1911. He used the military against private citizens, when it would normally have been something for the police to sort out.

At the start of the First World War, Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty and was the chief proponent of the invasion of Turkey, now known as the Gallipoli campaign. The idea was to create a southern link to England and France's eastern ally, Russia, and provide the struggling Russians with material assistance. It was a total failure. Although not solely responsible for the tactical defeat on the ground, the campaign was nevertheless, Churchill’s baby, and it cost the lives of 44,092 Allied troops, including 21,255 from the UK. Over 86,000 enemy soldiers also died. Churchill was forced to leave the War Cabinet after this debacle.

Churchill became Colonial Secretary in January 1921, which meant he was in charge of drawing the map of much of the Middle East, from which the Turks had been forced to pull out. Churchill made yet more mistakes, of which the most enduring was his failure to establish Kurdistan, a state for the Kurds, among the other new nations.

By the time Churchill became Prime Minister at the age of 65, his career had largely been a disaster. During the Second World War, his poor judgement continued. Churchill was responsible (at least in part) for the decision to occupy Norway. The invasion of Norway (or perhaps "military occupation" is a better term) was challenged and defeated by the Germans. Perhaps the main reason for this failure was the defeat of British naval surface power by German air power. Just like Gallipoli, it could be said of Norway that it was "a nice idea but it didn't work".

As Prime Minister, Churchill must take some of the responsibility for the foolish raid on the heavily fortified port of Dieppe in 1942, which incurred heavy Allied casualties. Churchill was also a proponent of the invasion of Italy, hoping to reach the German Reich via the southern route, through "Europe's soft underbelly" as he said. Thanks to the German Army under Albert Kesselring, and the natural defensive terrain, Italy turned out to be, as American soldiers fighting there put it, a "tough old gut".

During the Second World War, Wladyslaw Sikorski took command of the Polish army in France and thereafter became the head of the Polish government in exile in London. He died mysteriously in a plane crash in July 1943, while he was returning to London from the Middle East where he had been inspecting Polish troops who were about to join the allies. British investigations in the aftermath of his death concluded that it was an accident. New investigations in 1992 revealed, however, that, at the height and speed at which it was travelling, the plane could technically not have crashed. Some claimed that the pilot had deliberately brought the plane down. The mystery of Sikorski’s death remains and has since been subject to various theories: a murder planned by the Soviet Union or by the British government. One theory is that the murder was ordered by Churchill in an effort to maintain good relations with Stalin, at a time of increasing tension between Poland and the Soviet Union.

By 1944, the saturation bombing of dormitory towns in Germany had given up any pretence of choosing military targets. This always happens with long drawn-out bombing campaigns (compare the end of the Kosovo war), but in 1944 we went further and began attempting massacres. We only really succeeded at Dresden, but not for want of trying.

The later years of the war were years of Soviet and American ascendancy. The strategy for the final conquest of Germany was largely decided by these powers. It could reasonably be argued that the USA and the Soviet Union won the Second World War, with British support. Ostensibly, Britain had gone to war to try to save Poland from being taken over by Germany. At the end of the war, Churchill promptly handed over Poland to the Russians.

Churchill was unscrupulous enough to campaign in the 1945 general election using the smear that, if elected, Labour would “set up a Gestapo”, an appalling thing to say at any time, but especially so close to the end of the war. It didn’t do him much good. However, an electoral quirk in the 1951 general election (Labour won the most votes but the Tories won more seats), returned Churchill to Downing Street at the age of almost 77, where he had a stroke, but with customary deception, the Tories hid that from public knowledge. He was eventually eased out of office in 1955 (to be replaced by the disastrous Eden), but he stayed on as an MP until three months before his death in January 1965 at the age of 90.

Britain survived the Second World War, and was on the winning side, not because of the platitudes of Churchill, but because of those brave people in small boats who went to Dunkirk, those heroic Spitfire pilots, and the many servicemen, anonymous to most apart from their families and friends, who gave their lives to preserve our freedom from Nazi tyranny. Don't you think they were the great Britons who deserved accolades, not Churchill?
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Re: Is Winston Churchill grossly overrated?

Post by oftenwrong on Fri May 04, 2012 5:23 pm

Forgive me, but it was not a happy experience for anyone that was involved in the bombing of British cities, and as a child I may have seen almost as many corpses in the rubble of British buildings as my Dad would have encountered in the front line a couple of years later. The detail is readily available elsewhere for those who wish to dwell upon it. The pity is that it's a scenario that has been re-played many, many times since 1945 all over the world.


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Re: Is Winston Churchill grossly overrated?

Post by ROB on Fri May 04, 2012 6:45 pm


Often Wrong,

No asking for forgiveness is necessary. You’ve earned the right to say or not say whatever you choose to say about an experience about which I can only read and listen.

During the summer of 1972, I spent two or three hours per day four days per week (Mon-Thu) in the periodical section of a university library reading back issues of five magazines in chronological order. The magazines were Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report, all weeklies, Life, and Look, both monthlies. The time period was January 1936 through December 1945.

I read every article that in any way pertained to WWII. I traced the aggressions of Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, and Tojo’s Empire of Japan throughout the period leading up to full scale war, went on through the Battle of Britain, the Battle of the Atlantic, the conflicts in North Africa, Sicily, Europe, the South and Central Pacific, SE Asia, China, whatever was printed. I saw the photo of Neville Chamberlain waving that piece of paper over his head his return from Berlin. I saw photos of US soldiers as they deployed to Iceland prior to US official involvement. I tried my best to “live” through the experience as if I had actually been there.

Since then, particularly since the advent of The Military Channel, The History Channel and The History International Channel (now History 2), the Military History Channel, and the like, I’ve taken in as much as I could access of and about that time and those events.

I mention this because, throughout this now forty-year-long quest for understanding, the few details you’ve provided are new and fresh information to me. It never occurred to me that a child in England could see what you’ve described. Any further details you may choose to tell me will be appreciated more than I can express in words.

Hindsight sometimes is better than 20/20. If Goering had possessed the foresight to see the importance of radar, Chain Home would have been among the Luftwaffe’s highest priority targets.
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Re: Is Winston Churchill grossly overrated?

Post by oftenwrong on Fri May 04, 2012 8:02 pm

It's an English joke to say we're going to write a book entitled, "HITLER - MY PART IN HIS DOWNFALL!" but it took an Irishman, Spike Milligan, to get it published. Radar probably saved Britain from invasion, but it was America that defeated the common enemy. In the build-up to the assault on the Normandy coast of France, thousands of American GI's were flown into Southern England together with their weapons materiel, and were accommodated in the manorial houses left vacant when the English middle-classes scarpered to Africa or the Bahamas in 1940. Resort towns Hotels were requisitioned, the ones with the sea views going to Officers, naturally. Stately Homes were taken over for Commanding Headquarters, and DC Comics became the currency of the schoolroom. 1944 and 1945 were exciting times for a boy, but I do remember newspaper accounts of conflict between White and Black soldiers in the blacked-out English lanes that defied belief, at a time when we all faced a common foe.
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Re: Is Winston Churchill grossly overrated?

Post by ROB on Fri May 04, 2012 9:17 pm

oftenwrong wrote:
1944 and 1945 were exciting times for a boy, but I do remember newspaper accounts of conflict between White and Black soldiers in the blacked-out English lanes that defied belief, at a time when we all faced a common foe.

I would appreciate hearing more about this.

My uncle was a captain (O3) in the United States Army in WWII. During operations in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy as a chaplain with a Negro transportation unit, he received a Purple Heart and Silver Star. At Anzio, in harm’s way with his troops, he saved one soldier from German 88 artillery fire and was wounded trying to save another soldier. His story was recorded on old, thick 78 rpm records and sent to radio stations across the USA to be played during War Bond drives. My aunt, his wife, received a copy of the record and played it for me on an old Hi-Fi sometime in the late 1950s. My uncle never talked about it; he mourned the death of the soldier my uncle was injured trying to save.

Few people have the honor and privilege of knowing a true hero. Yet, solely because of skin color, my uncle was intentionally disrespected by his own countrymen even when in uniform. One evening in late 1945, my uncle, in uniform, captain’s bars visible on his collar, was walking with his brother on a downtown street. Two white (lowercase intentional) enlisted soldiers, in uniform, walked past without so much as a glance at my uncle. His brother told me what happened next.

My uncle said in a commanding voice, “Hup! Back up, soldiers!’ The two white soldiers backed up. My uncle pointed to the captain’s bars. “What do you see?” They answered “Captain’s bars.” The two soldiers then saluted and tried to walk off. My uncle called them back, commanded them to salute again, and mad them hold the salute until he was satisfied. He then returned the salute and said “Carry on.”

While the drama unfolded, angry white men gathered round. My uncle’s brother told me that he was getting a bit anxious, but my uncle never acknowledged the angry bystanders’ presence.

I’ve said to you before, “I’ve been told.” Whenever I say that, the person or persons who’ve told me are/were persons with first hand knowledge of the events. Your stories and the details thereof will be amongst those things of which I’ll say “I’ve been told.”


Last edited by RockOnBrother on Sat May 05, 2012 12:21 am; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Is Winston Churchill grossly overrated?

Post by Shirina on Fri May 04, 2012 10:37 pm

but I do remember newspaper accounts of conflict between White and Black soldiers in the blacked-out English lanes that defied belief, at a time when we all faced a common foe.
One of the more shameful events in WWII history occurred here in the States. The city of Philadelphia was one of the most important - if not THE most important - city for the war effort. Most of the workers arrived to work using street cars and trains. The problem was that there was a labor shortage as more men were being shipped off to war. So the company that owned the public transportation network in Philadelphia decided to give certain positions - such as conductors and drivers - to black men. Well ... many of the workers threw a fit that eventually led to a strike. With the public transportation network shut down, so too did Philadelphia's industry.

This was a direct threat to the war effort, something FDR knew too well, so he sent in troops to deal with it. At first the troops simply worked the jobs left vacant by the strikers, but eventually FDR had had enough and the strike was put down and people went back to work.

But it is extraordinarily shameful that, even during a crisis like WWII, racial hatred was more important than supporting our troops fighting Hitler and Tojo. I mean, where was our patriotism? Is hatred for blacks more important than our love for our country ... and our troops fighting and dying overseas? I mean, racial hatred is ignorant all by itself, but when people are so consumed by it that they are willing to put the entire war in jeopardy just to keep blacks from working in white jobs, well ... I personally think every one of those strikers should have been charged with treason and giving aid and comfort to the enemy. If I had been president, that's exactly what I would have done. Then I would have given all of those jobs to women since there weren't enough men.
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Is Winston Churchill overrated?

Post by bobby on Sat Jan 31, 2015 11:51 am

Had Churchill had his way just before the war, the likelihood is that "we would have lost.
When a purpose built fighter plane was needed in the build up to the war, of all the designs looked at, Churchill wanted the RAF to purchase the Bristol Beaufighter, a twin engine Fighter/bomber and the Boulton Paul Defiant a single engined
fighter with a gun turret behind the pilot. Thanks to Air Chief Marshall and Lord Nuffield (of Austin Motors), wanted the Supermarine Spitfire and the Hawker Hurricane.
Had we have entered the war and fought the Battle of Britain with the planes of Churchill's choice, there is absolutely no way RAF fighter command would have defeated the Luftwaffe, and operation Sea Lion would have been a reality as opposed to a plan, England could no way defend against such an attack at this time and the war would have been lost.
Hugh Dowding's thanks was to be sacked/gotten rid of by Churchill for no other reason that he went against Churchill's wishes and stood by the Spitfire and Hurricane. This is how Churchill thanked the man who IMHO saved us from certain defeat, As Ivan pointed out Churchill made many cock ups and cost many lives unnecessarily. The man was driven by ambition not patriotism and heaven help anyone who stood in his way.








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Re: Is Winston Churchill grossly overrated?

Post by boatlady on Sat Jan 31, 2015 4:41 pm

Seems to me he was a typical Tory - a dilettante, with only the interests of his own social class and their 'superiors' at heart.

Played at government, played at writing, played at art - universally 'admired' for being a bully and a snob
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Re: Is Winston Churchill grossly overrated?

Post by oftenwrong on Sat Jan 31, 2015 5:47 pm

Churchill was no friend of socialism, but without his oratory throughout WW2 we might now be conducting this exchange in the German language.

Suitably censored, of course.
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Re: Is Winston Churchill grossly overrated?

Post by Ivan on Sat Jan 31, 2015 7:10 pm

Does oratory win battles, or is that achieved by the bravery of Spitfire pilots and tens of thousands of foot soldiers?

Did the UK win the Second World War, or did the Russians and Americans (with our support) win it? (In a similar vein, would we have been on the winning side in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 without the Prussian army led by Gebhard von Blücher? I wonder how many Brits have even heard of him?)

But yes, if the Nazis had won the war the UK would have been a very different place. Corporations would probably have been running the country, trade unions would have been emasculated, the sick and disabled would have been persecuted, followers of a minority religion would no doubt have been used as scapegoats for the country's ills, and the media would have supported the government as it pursued these policies. Weren't we lucky that none of that transpired?
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Re: Is Winston Churchill grossly overrated?

Post by boatlady on Sat Jan 31, 2015 8:04 pm

afraid lol! put like that ----
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Re: Is Winston Churchill grossly overrated?

Post by bobby on Sat Jan 31, 2015 10:48 pm

oftenwrong said:  "Churchill was no friend of socialism, but without his oratory throughout WW2 we might now be conducting this exchange in the German language"
Churchill's oratory may have worked wonders for those at home, but it was those in the air, sea and fighting on the land who made the difference and would have made that same difference if Churchill kept his mouth firmly closed.
My Dad who spent six and a half years overseas had absolutely no time for Churchill, and he didn't know too many of his mates who did.
When the troops returned at the end of hostilities. at the first opportunity they voted against Churchill, certainly not the act of a military that held him in any esteem.
Anyway as I said in my earlier post had Churchill had his way re-aircraft choice, it would have been his oratory that would have been in a different language.
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Re: Is Winston Churchill grossly overrated?

Post by boatlady on Sun Feb 01, 2015 11:50 am

There was a TV programme some years ago with Sue Perkins and someone else whose name I should remember but don't.

The premise of the programme was that they would spend a week living on the diet of a particular period of history.

On the week they did WW2, she lived on the normal rationed diet, while his diet was based on the one Churchill enjoyed throughout the war.

She had Woolton Pie and the National loaf - he had roast grouse, fresh cream, smoked salmon wine, spirits, cigars, products at the time that had to be brought into the country at the risk of many lives - said it all, for me.

Consoling thing was, after the week - her weight had dropped and general fitness improved - he had put on several pounds and had some liver and heart concerns - needed to go on a strict diet
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Re: Is Winston Churchill grossly overrated?

Post by oftenwrong on Sun Feb 01, 2015 5:36 pm

Churchill was not a likeable man, and certainly had no sympathy whatever with notions of a welfare state. He was born here:



which might have tended to a certain set of beliefs, including the key one of always being confident that one was right. At the start of WW2 by no means everyone in Britain thought it was worth fighting. Numbers of the establishment, including royalty, believed we should have settled with Herr Hitler. The bulldog Churchill thought otherwise, and was determined to oppose the fascist Nazi dictatorship.

Ultimately it could not have been done without Empire and Commonwealth contributions plus the clout of the USA, but Churchill's eloquence enabled the essential "Home Front" to remain onside despite considerable personal discomfort for the non-combatant population. He was hero of the hour, and thoroughly deserved whatever favourable comments have been made about his conduct of the war. Though I would never have voted for someone like him at any time during my life.

Perhaps you have to have been there, in order to feel grateful.
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Re: Is Winston Churchill grossly overrated?

Post by boatlady on Sun Feb 01, 2015 5:54 pm

I wonder how a socialist PM would have handled it?

We'll never know of course, but it is an interesting question
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Re: Is Winston Churchill grossly overrated?

Post by oftenwrong on Sun Feb 01, 2015 10:38 pm

There was a (coalition) Government of National Unity throughout WW2. Socialist members included Attlee, Morrison and Bevin.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_Morrison
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Re: Is Winston Churchill grossly overrated?

Post by Mel on Mon Feb 02, 2015 6:47 pm

Hitler was desperate for Germany and Great Britain to remain as friends. If we had not declaired war on Germany at the invasion of Poland and the war had been diverted against Russia, could we have ended up with a better less greedy world that we now have to endure? Perhaps the extermination of the Jews would not have taken place for one thing and millons of fighters would not have died along with all those civillians.
Don't get me wrong, I am no supporter of the Nazis, nor Hitler.
By the same token, I had little time for Churchill, because he was and had always been an avid war monger. As it happens, there is no doubt that the wonderful orater, held this nation together, but IMO that's about it.
Thatcher and Cameron both good orators and look where that's got us.

Perhaps my learnrd friend would care to put a slant on my question.
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Re: Is Winston Churchill grossly overrated?

Post by oftenwrong on Mon Feb 02, 2015 10:53 pm

I suppose the answer lies in the question, "Yeah, sure, but what have the Romans ever done for us?"
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Re: Is Winston Churchill grossly overrated?

Post by Ivan on Sun Apr 09, 2017 11:49 pm

This is from an article written in 2013, just after the first use of chemical weapons in Syria.

Winston Churchill's shocking use of chemical weapons

As a long-term advocate of chemical warfare, Churchill, was determined to use them against the Russian Bolsheviks. In the summer of 1919, when he was secretary of state for war, he planned and executed a sustained chemical attack on northern Russia.

The British were no strangers to the use of chemical weapons. During the third battle of Gaza in 1917, General Edmund Allenby had fired 10,000 cans of asphyxiating gas at enemy positions.


https://www.theguardian.com/world/shortcuts/2013/sep/01/winston-churchill-shocking-use-chemical-weapons
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Re: Is Winston Churchill grossly overrated?

Post by oftenwrong on Mon Apr 10, 2017 12:29 pm

Ten more weapons are available here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-29701767

I think somebody once said something along the lines of, "Show me a man who's never done wrong, and that's probably because he's never done anything."
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Re: Is Winston Churchill grossly overrated?

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