Churchill on Class, Race, Empire & War
At the Tehran Conference in 1943, Churchill told Stalin and Roosevelt that history would be kind to him, as he would write that history. He set about doing this in the aftermath of World War II. Between both world wars, whilst being a politician, he made his living off of writing. As a paid writer of the bourgeoisie he created a powerful myth around himself. History has indeed been kind to Churchill, his name being more revered today than in his lifetime. In 2002 he topped a BBC poll as the "Greatest Briton." In the long history of Great Britain, no scientist, thinker, politician, or cultural icon could come close to Churchill.
This writer's task is to challenge dominant historical conceptions of Churchill. This will be done by looking at his key actions and attitudes, with specific attention paid to social classes, race, empire, and war. It will be shown that Churchill was no far-sighted anti-fascist and that he failed on his own terms many times over. He was a particularly poor war leader who managed to con history into thinking otherwise. His views on empire and race were not so far removed from those of the fascists he made his name seemingly opposing. Finally, as the "Greatest Briton," he was a man with a hatred of the vast majority of Britons, specifically the working class.
Suffice to say this piece is not intended as (nor could it be) an overview of the life of the man. However, his formative years do provide some insight into the material conditions which shaped his values. This should provide some added insight when analysing later events.
The son of Lord Randolph, Churchill was born into a life of privilege on November 30, 1874. His mother Jennie was the daughter of a wealthy American family. A descendant of the Duke of Marlborough, young Winston always believed he was destined for greatness and to return his family name to glory, following generations who achieved relatively little and were generally content to live a life of leisure spending the family fortune.
The Churchill family had been opposed to the marriage of Randolph and Jennie, believing that an American, no matter how wealthy, was beneath marrying a Churchill. Indeed the marriage was only allowed to occur after the personal intervention of the Prince of Wales and future King, Edward VII. Interestingly, it is worth remembering that Edward VII was the father of Edward VIII, the notorious Nazi king, who himself abdicated the throne after marrying the American divorcee Wallis Simpson. Winston Churchill would be Edward VIII's most loyal defender, having never forgotten his debt of gratitude to Edward's father. As Edward VIII himself told Lord Esher regarding Churchill, "If it had not been for me, that young man would not have been in existence."
The official historians paint a picture of a young boy who idolised his father (Randolph was a leading tory politician) and longed for his mother's approval and love. This was not forthcoming. Instead his closest relationship in his younger years was with the family nanny, Mrs. Everest, from whom he was indoctrinated with a visceral hatred of Roman Catholics at an early age—the "wicked men called fenians," she would tell him of (Morgan 1984: p28).
There can be no doubt that his father's politics and values were a huge influence on the young Winston. Randolph was once arrested and fined only 10 shillings for assaulting a police officer. During his 1874 election campaign he complained of having to mix with the "unwashed." He felt the working class were not to be trusted with the vote. After being heckled by a working man he was so angry that he wished he was an Ashanti king and could have the man summarily executed (Morgan 1984: p22). The idea of being above the people, and even above the law was not an alien notion to the young Winston. Randolph would meet his end whilst Winston was studying at Sandhurst. This was a result of long-term syphillis he likely contracted from relations with an elderly prostitute (Morgan 1984: p24).
His mother Jennie was a similarly negative influence. She was prone to bouts of overspending, something Winston would undoubtedly inherit. Whilst Randolph, like Winston had a thing for prostitutes, his mother was thought to be too attractive for Randolph and had over 200 lovers, a notable example was the Austrian Charles Kinsky, thought to be her true love. The relationship was known to Randolph, and bizarrely he and Kinsky were friends. The relationship became known as the Austrian alliance (Morgan 1984: p40). Jennie was also thought to have had an affair with Edward VII; such was her gratitude for his intervention in her marital affairs. From another extra-marital affairs, Jennie gave birth to a son called Jack, giving Winston a younger step-brother. Jack was noted to have been more cut out for school than his older brother.
When starting school Winston struggled massively, being ranked 4th bottom of his class. As his divisional master would say "he does not quite understand the meaning of hard work. The following year his school report would read: "Very bad - is a constant trouble to everybody and is always in some sort of scrape or other," (Morgan 1984: p33). Following this the family withdrew Winston and found him a new school. At the new school trouble miraculously followed the boy, with him starting a fight and taking a small stabbing to the chest with a pen knife. Jennie herself hoped this would serve as his lesson to grow up and behave. It was not.
When it came to moving to the elite school of Harrow, Churchill did not get one solitary question correct in his entrance exam. "But miracles happen, particularly to the sons of prominent men...and Winston (was) placed in the school's bottom class" (Morgan 1984: p45). The exact details of what occurred at Harrow are unknown, although rumours persist, with reason. However, it is known that illegal homosexual relations were rife among the rich boys of the school, and a former head teacher had resigned after being caught in an improper relation with a boy (Morgan 1984: p46).
Finding himself lagging behind again, this time in French class, he was sent by his father for a months trip to Paris. It seems that he was never able to pull himself up by the boot straps (as was the only option of a working class child), but always relied on the perks of being the son of the aristocracy. With every failure, another chance, another advantage, another helping hand was always to be had. Whilst in Paris he stayed with Lord Randolph's friend, a wealthy industrialist, Baron Hirsch. His attempts to get into Sandhurst were not going well, this must have grated with a youngster so self assured that he was destined for greatness.
"The boy was some sort of incompetent, not only could he not get into Oxford or Cambridge, he could not even get into the army, the dunces refuge" (Morgan 1984:p55)
Having twice failed his exams at Sandhurst he was sent to the elite school of Captain Walter H. James. This was basically the use of a private military tutor as a result of his failures to pass on merit. The Captain had this to say of Churchill:
"He is distinctly inclined to be inattentive and to think too much of his own abilities" (D'Este 2009: p35).
Clearly, Churchill was an unreliable witness. This was particularly true of events in which he was involved. He was quite unable and/or unwilling to provide any degree of impartiality in matters involving himself.
Perhaps nothing highlights this more than the events of 10th January 1893. At this time Churchill was now enrolled at Sandhurst and injured himself playing war games. In true Churchill fashion he told quite the lie, desperately wishing to glamorise what had happened. Having suffered minor injuries he could not resist claiming that he had ruptured a kidney and remained unconscious for 3 days. Had this actually happened, internal bleeding would have likely killed him within the hour. He would certainly have died. His own father had grown weary of his son's bouts of fantasy. This occasion proved to be a tipping point, he replied in a letter to Winston:
I no longer attach the slightest weight to anything you may say about your own...exploits (D'Este 2009: pp34-35).
Whilst Captain James tutoring had been enough to get Winston into Sandhurst, he was not quite a miracle worker. The aim of Churchill was to get an exam score high enough to gain entrance to the Infantry, but with his obvious intellectual limitations he was able to scrape into the Cavalry only. Although this would encourage his indulgences, being a polo enthusiast. Polo also allowed him to further another keen interest, spending money. Begging letters to his parents were a frequent thing, despite him being regularly sent large amounts of money from a variety of familial parties. His mother would remind him on multiple occasions that he had to learn to live within his means - of course this was a bout of hypocrisy. But the pleas fell on deaf ears and huge debts were built up, with much expense going on purchasing ponies - to such an extent that it took him 6 years to pay his tailors bill (Morgan 1984: p78).
Another noticeable incident occurred at Sandhurst and is relative to the rumours from Harrow. Second Lieutenant Alan Bruce of the 4th Hussars was to be Churchill's victim. Churchill schemed against Bruce, having him thrown out the military and arrested. He achieved this by luring Bruce to the officers mess where he was offered a drink by an officer friendly to Churchill. In 3 days time Bruce was arrested on trumped up charges of "improperly associating with non commissioned officers." Why? According to Bruce, he had knowledge of an illegal homosexual relationship involving Churchill and another student (Morgan 1984: pp81-83). His career was to be ruined, Churchill's was saved.
And so we have the picture of a boy of the landed gentry - steeped in glories of imperial decadence, raised from birth with a superiority complex - one which vastly outweighed his limited talents. He was of his time and his class. A patriot when it suited, he had total disregard for the law when it did not suit. His love of the nation did not mean love of the nation's people, particularly those of the working class and catholic persuasion. He was a bigot born to a family of bigots, but he was exceptional in being the bigot among bigots. He was of a privileged family, but even his privileged family tried to curb his excesses, excesses even relative to theirs.
Churchill: the class warrior
The so-called greatest ever Briton's soon-to-be explored hatred for the people of the colonies could only be rivalled by that for the domestic working class. His political career was not short of domestic controversies, usually involving violent attacks on the working class. The self-styled man of the people, cannot be viewed as anything other than a sworn enemy of the people by virtue of deed.
Firstly, whilst Home Secretary in 1911, it fell under his remit to deal with the Liverpool General Transport Strike. Desperate for better pay and conditions, as well as union recognition, 250,000 people went on strike that August. The 13th of the month became known as Bloody Sunday. Some 80,000 people marched to the city's St. George's Hall. An entirely unprovoked attack on the workers by police ensued. 96 arrests were made and 196 people hospitalised. The workers of Liverpool fought back in hand-to-hand combat with the police. Ever the opportunist, Churchill used this to give the working class a kicking. 3,500 troops were brought into Liverpool to quell the workers. He also took the measure of positioning the gunboat HMS Antrim in the Mersey. Two murders were reported at the hands of the army, and at least 3 others were shot. As workers across the country came out in support of the Liverpool strikers, Churchill mobilised over 50,000 troops. More shootings of workers were recorded in Llanelli (BBC News, 16 August 2011).
Churchill had previous for such actions. A year prior he had taken similar steps in Tonypandy. The Cambrian Combine (collection of local mining companies) opened a new mine seam in Penygraig. They ran a short test period using 70 miners in order to decide what the target extraction rate ought to be. The bosses were unhappy with the rate of extraction of the 70 test workers and accused them of taking it easy. This was a ridiculous accusation given that the men were paid based on extraction rather than an hourly rate (Garradice, BBC Blog, 3 November 2010). On Septemper 1st all 950 workers at the Ely Pit went to work, only to discover they had been locked out. By November only 1 of the Cambrian Combine pits remained open. On November 8th a miners demonstration was attacked by police. Once again the would-be warlord sent in the troops. Again there was one reported murder of a worker and over 500 casualties (BBC News 22 September 2010).
The story was repeated once more in 1919. This time Glasgow workers became acquainted with the brutal Home Secretary. After World War 1, workers returned home from conscription in the imperialist war with the hope of a better life. Having lived through the horrors of the front they returned to unemployment and poverty. The 40-hour strike was aimed at reducing workers hours in order to create more job openings and alleviate unemployment. By January 31st there were 60,000 workers on the streets of Glasgow and the red flag flew in George Square. 14 months following the Great October Revolution in Russia, the British ruling class now feared the power of the workers. The response was brutal suppression of the movement. There were a host of arrests including that of the gallant Willie Gallacher.
Government officials referred to the strike as a Bolshevik uprising and Churchill acted accordingly. He decided to send 10,000 troops to Glasgow to crush the workers. They were supported by tanks and armed with machine guns.
"Organised Labour challenging the authority of the state brought out in him the same spirit which the Russian revolution had aroused: once the barricades were erected, Churchill knew which side of them he was on" (Charmley 1993: p216).
The General Strike in 1926 gave Churchill a war to fight at home, the barricades were erected. The strike has been well covered by comrade Harpal Brar in the CPGB-ML pamphlet 'the 1926 British General Strike'. For a full account all readers are referred to this work. Narrowly looking at Churchill's role in the strike, on May 2nd workers refused to print the Daily Mail's anti-worker articles. This infuriated Churchill who decried that:
"A great organ of the press (has been) muzzled by strikers" (Charmley 1993: p217).
He said this to fellow ministers, and it was rather clear to them that Churchill was brimming with excitement for the battle ahead. A fight with the unions would give Churchill an avenue to pursue his fantasies, with an approach more related to Mussolini. The strike began the following day, and 2 days later a state propaganda newspaper 'the British Gazette' was launched with Churchill as editor. He was given the position by PM Stanley Baldwin apparently on the context of keeping him out of harms way as Baldwin confessed, he was:
"Terrified of what Winston is going to be like" (Charmley 1993: p218).
As well as being in charge of the state propaganda newspaper, he also co-opted the supply of the TUC's 'the British Worker'. Churchill was absolutely certain that no compromise could be made regarding the strikers. He arguably treated them with more contempt than the Germans during the war, or at the very least akin to the Nazi's. He furiously declared on May 7:
"We are at war" (Charmley 1993: p218).
This was a war started by Churchill and company. Soon-to-be editor of the 'New Statesman' Kingsley Martin explained:
"Churchill and other militants in the cabinet were eager for a strike, knowing that they had built a national organization in the six months grace won by the subsidy of the mining industry. Churchill himself told me...I asked Winston what he thought of the Samuel Coal Commission...when Winston said that the subsidy had been granted to enable the government to smash the unions...my picture of Winston was confirmed" (Knight 2008: p34).
Again he wanted to enlist the army against the workers and had to be talked down from publishing an article calling for such. During the strike he would refer to the workers as fire and the state as the fire brigade.
The only end he was willing to accept was the unconditional surrender of the TUC. Fortunately for him the TUC leadership were only to keen to roll over and have their bellies tickled. As the conservative historian John Charmley correctly says:
"To have written about the TUC leaders as though they were potential Lenin's....said more about the state of Churchill's imagination than it did about his judgement" (Charmley 1993: p219).
Regarding the attempt to strangle the Russian Revolution at birth, D'Este sums up:
"It was also Churchill who before the dead had been counted from the First World War, was advocating another war, against the Bolsheviks in Russia... seek to avoid war he preached, but should war be the last resort, then wage it vigorously and win, he failed to apply these principles to Russia" (D'Este 2009: p343).
We can explain this double standard with ease. Firstly, it is entirely fitting with his penchant for discrepancy between word and deed. Secondly, Soviet Russia was the ultimate manifestation of everything he hated and feared in the domestic working class. Bolshevism had paved the way to make Churchill's class history. The Russian Revolution was a living, breathing example to the working class of how to win political power. Never once did he attempt to strangle a fascist state at birth. But then fascism never represented a threat to his class interests. His aggression against the Soviet Union was an extension of his aggression against the domestic working class.
A final area where Churchill was a proven reactionary and marching against history was with regards to women. Whilst his position flip flopped according to political expediency, generally he stood against the right of women even to vote. At his most belligerent, he viewed women's political emancipation as a "ridiculous movement." Furthermore it ran:
"contrary to natural law and the practice of civilized states" (Rose 2009: p66).
When disturbed on an election campaign in Dundee he responded:
"Nothing would induce me to vote for giving votes to women" (Gristwood, Huffington Post, 30 September 2015).
After this, whilst Home Secretary, he oversaw 'Black Friday' in November 1910. A suffragette demo in Parliament Square was attacked by police. Battles ran for 6 hours and 200 people were arrested. 4 days later a disturbance at Downing Street involving protesters saw Churchill order the arrest of the "ringleader".
Finally, once women had the vote and could even become MP's, he could not help but register his discomfort. He felt they reduced the quality of parliament. He described seeing a woman in parliament as so:
"It was as embarrassing as if she burst into my bathroom when I had nothing on with which to defend myself" (BBC News, 6 February 1998).
Even after the war, the British working class did not accept Churchill. History may tell us differently, but in his own time the people despised him. There is no greater example of the disdain held for him than what transpired whilst campaigning for the 1945 general election in Walthamstow. The event is recalled in the BBC documentary 'When Britain said no'. Lionel King was a child in the assembled crowd that day. His family were among the tiny pro-Churchill contingency in the audience. He recalls:
"What stunned me: there were large numbers of people carrying posters proclaiming the merits of Soviet Russia. There were hammers and sickles on banners, and pictures of Stalin. The poor chap could hardly make himself heard".
Churchill's history tells us that he, almost single-handedly, was responsible for defeating Nazism. His far-sightedness and resoluteness saw our country and the world through those darkest hours. How it must have crushed the old man to see the symbols of the revolution he admittedly tried to strangle at birth, on display among his own electorate, with himself hated and Stalin loved by the British people. Working people of the time had lived through it and knew the truth. The heroic efforts of the Soviet leadership and people had won the day. Churchill's manoeuvring and refusal to open a second front could not be purged from the collective memory quite so quickly. Similarly, his crimes against the working class before the war were not forgotten. His name had passed down the generations as a brutal class warrior. The war had merely brought a ceasefire between him and the British working class. The ceasefire was now over. John Charmley describes it as:
"Walthamstow shows something we have forgot, which is there is a whole section of the electorate, particularly the working class, particularly the trade union electorate, that never had any time for Churchill. He thinks Walthamstow is a one off. It is not. It is a general expression of a working class revulsion for what Churchill stood for in terms of working class politics".
On the issue of race, it is fairly safe to say that Churchill held some fairly robust views. He saw society as a racial hierarchy. Unsurprisingly, as a white protestant himself, white protestants rested at the top of that hierarchy. He thought less of Catholics, and even less of brown people, and black even less again. Whilst history is indeed written by the victor, and has so been kind to Churchill, the reality is that our supposed saviour from fascism, held views not so dissimilar to the Nazis. The point of this section is to present an accurate representation of Churchill's views on the races, primarily by use of his own words.
Bourgeois historians have attempted en masse to absolve Churchill's clear racism. For them he was a man of his time, and a man of his class. To expect anything else is to think anachronistically. A typically weak defence is given by Richard Holmes who argues by race Churchill simply meant culture, and that critics are guilty of selective quoting. Furthermore, he claims it was only after Nazism that a change of vocabulary emerges (Holmes 2006: p14). Finally, in quite the contradiction, Churchill may have been prejudiced, but he was not a bigot (Holmes 2006: p15).
Such arguments fall down in multiple ways. Firstly, as the historian Richard Toye has said:
"We are being asked to believe two contradictory things simultaneously. On the one hand, it is suggested, the seemingly unpleasant aspects of his racial thinking can be excused on the grounds that he could not have been expected to escape from the mentality prevailing during his youth. On the other hand, we are told, he did escape it and is to be praised because he was actually unusually enlightened" (Toye 2010: pxv).
Progressives of his time certainly did not share his views on race or what Holmes calls culture. To find such an example one only needs to read Stalin's writing on the national question and/or races to see a progressive politics did exist at the time. For instance:
"National and racial chauvinism is a vestige of the misanthropic customs characteristic of the period of cannibalism" (Stalin, 1931).
The one truth this reveals in the general "defence" of the bourgeois historian, is Churchill was indeed a man of his class - and Stalin a man of his for that matter.
With all the sophistry typical of Churchill, he was clearly not averse to the Goebbels big lie. In the words of the racist PM:
"Stalin and the Soviet armies are developing the same prejudices against the chosen people as are so painfully evident in Germany" (Holmes 2006: p191).
In fact the reality of the situation was much different:
"Communists, as consistent internationalists, cannot but be irreconcilable, sworn enemies of anti-semitism. In the U.S.S.R. anti-semitism is punishable with the utmost severity of the law as a phenomenon deeply hostile to the Soviet system. Under U.S.S.R. law active anti-semites are liable to the death penalty" (Stalin, 1931).
In contrast, Churchill put Jewish refugees from the holocaust in camps, such as that in the Isle of Mann. Indeed Churchill's own secretary of state for India Leopold Amery revealed who was in fact more like Hitler. In his private diaries he wrote that:
"On the subject of India, Winston is not quite sane...(I do not) see much difference between (Churchill's) outlook and Hitler's" (Tharoor, 2015).
Any school history student would struggle to tell the difference between a Churchill or Hitler quote. With history having been so kind who would expect the world's seeming saviour of such atrocious words:
"Keep (insert country) white, is a good slogan" (Macmillan 2003: p382).
Of course these are the words of Winston Churchill, not Adolf Hitler. The country is England, not Germany. Similarly, the following is not an extract from Mein Kampf, but the words of Winston:
"The Aryan stock is bound to triumph" (Hari, 28 October 2010).
In common with Hitler, genocide was justifiable, if not outright morally imperative. Post-WW2 he may have presented himself as the saviour of the Jewish people, but ethnic cleansing and annihilation were far from objectionable to him. To the Palestine Royal Commission in 1937 he made this crystal clear.
"I do not admit... that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America, or the black people of Australia... by the fact that a stronger race, a higher grade race... has come in and taken its place" (Heyden, BBC News Magazine, 26 January 2015).
He thoroughly believed in the "Genius of the English race" (Edmonds 1991: p45). Furthermore:
"I cannot pretend to be impartial about the colours. I rejoice with the brilliant ones, and am genuinely sorry for the poor browns" (Churchill, Strand Magazine, Painting as a Pastime, 1921).
The best we can possibly say is, at least the latter is not quite hate-filled, just dismissive and entirely patronising. This is the calibre of person the greatest ever Briton was. Such was his world view and sense of justice.
A glimpse into the national chauvinism of the man is even given on another rare occasion of compassion. During the horrors of World War 1 he passionately told his fellow MP's:
"While we sit here....Nearly 1000 men - Englishmen, Britishers, men of our own race - are knocked into bundles and bloody rags" (D'Este 2009: pp333-334).
Even an apologist for Churchill's racism, Richard Holmes admits that:
"There is no denying that he mouthed the cliches of eugenics when he was young, that he regarded native peoples as inferior, or that he appealed to racial prejudices in his speeches against Indian self government" (Holmes 2006: p15).
What must be asked of the Churchill apologist mainstream historians, such as Holmes himself, is just how many times can one man have an "out of context" racist/xenophobic comment? Either he is ridiculously unlucky in managing to have words taken out of context to such an extent, or these words are very much in context and keeping with Churchill's character. Their position is quite untenable. It boils down to Churchill was no racist, he just said many racist things.
In contrast, the BBC's refreshing documentary 'When Britain said no', saw historians make much more honest appraisals of Churchill. These appraisals were entirely in line with the picture being presented here. Firstly, professor John Charmley stated:
"Churchill is not fighting a war against fascism. In fact, a lot of Churchill's views in the 1930's were rather sympathetic to fascism. He admired Mussolini. He admired Franco. And at least until 1938 he had said obliging things about Hitler as well".
Indeed, Churchill had openly said he admired Hitler's "patriotic achievements" and referred to him as an "indomitable champion", when writing in the Strand magazine in the 1930's. He gushed over Mussolini whom he told:
If I had been an Italian, I am sure I would have been entirely with you from the beginning to the end of your victorious struggle against the bestial appetites and passions of Leninism (Gilbert 1992).
In the same documentary Max Hastings challenges the false idea of Churchill as champion of democracy. He states the simple fact that people of colour were entirely excluded from Churchill's vision of freedom and human rights. This fact was displayed throughout his entire career, from the Bengal famine to boasting of killing 3 "savages " in the Sudan (Tharoor, 2015).
Of the bourgeoisie's now beloved Gandhi he said:
"He ought to be lain bound and foot at the gates of Dehli, and be trampled on by an enormous elephant with the new viceroy seated on his back" (Toye 2010: p172).
Furthermore in a speech to the West Essex Conservative Association:
"It is alarming and also nauseating to see Mr Gandhi, a seditious Middle Temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir...striding half-naked up the steps of the Vice-regal palace" (Toye 2010: p176).
It is interesting to note that not once did Churchill speak so passionately or with such contempt regarding even Hitler himself. Finally, Charmley summed him up as:
"The equivalent of Nigel Farage, and we forget because of the myth...someone so far to the right that the next stop was Oswald Mosley and the blackshirts".
In the 'Gathering Storm' Churchill made this observation on race and empire:
"Mussolini's designs upon Abyssinia were unsuited to the ethics of the twentieth century. They belonged to those dark ages when white men felt themselves entitled to conquer yellow, brown, black or red men, and subjugate them by their superior strength and weapons...such conduct was at once obsolete".
In this way, he had set about rewriting history for his own ends. Such words ran contrary to his entire career. Here was a man for whom rhetoric and deeds rarely coalesced. In fact, Sir Samuel Hoare was convinced that Churchill believed Britain was turning the way of fascism. Churchill saw himself as the man to be Britain's Mussolini who would rule India, as Mussolini did North Africa (Toye 2010: p183).
One rare piece of political evidence for the view of Churchill as the defender of democracy can be given, in the shape of the 1941 Atlantic Charter. This was produced in partnership with the United States. A key aspect was to respect the right of peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live (Jackson 2006: p55). The US people had their own illusions of freedom and democracy. For Roosevelt to enter what was viewed as a European war, he had to allay the fears of the domestic population. In a battle between the British and Nazi empires, the American population had to be convinced they had a reason to support one over the other. Many had bitter memories of US involvement in the last European war. Others had sympathies with the Nazi empire. The US had its own bloody history with British imperialism. The Atlantic Charter was designed to appeal to the moral majority of democratic minded people.
From the British view, the charter was pure diplomacy. It was a pragmatic statement designed to induce the US into the war by allaying the fears of the US people regarding the empire. What the statement meant for the British in general and the Prime Minister in particular, was that states conquered by the Nazis should have the right to live under the government of their choosing. It was never actually a commitment to democracy and the abolition of the empire. For instance, here are his views on Indian independence:
"We have no intention of casting away that most truly bright and precious jewel in the crown of the king, which constitutes the glory and strength of the British Empire. The loss of India would mark the consummate downfall of the British Empire. That great organism would pass at a stroke out of life into history, from such a catastrophe there could be no recovery" (Jackson 2006: p55).
Words are one thing, more important were his actions, to which we can test his democratic credentials. Firstly, in Africa the Atlantic Charter did not bring national liberation and self-government. Instead, exploitation was only increased. Throughout Africa, the British relied upon the power base of chiefly elites. They were used to mobilise for the British "war effort", supported by additional technocrats sent from Britain. The African people were compelled to provide an abundance of cheap labour. They were put to work in mines and farms at increased rates, providing British companies with raw materials and food. The war saw Africa's "dollar-earning potential" put to full use (Jackson 2006: pp177-178). In West Africa tin and rubber was taken en-masse and used in arms production. East Africa was rich in sisal, needed for textile production. In terms of manpower Africa provided the allies with a half-million troops. The exploitation of Congo (Britain controlled this after the defeat of Belgium), in particular, was of real significance. The country was rich in cobalt, radium and uranium. Indeed, the uranium used for the atomic bombs was taken from the Congo (Jackson 2006: p179). Such was the contribution of imperialism in Africa to the war effort. Moreover, the war gave Churchill a pretext to exploit Africa for outright economic reasons. The acquisition of the Congo allowed Britain to control three quarters of the globes diamond production. Unsurprisingly then, while in 1931 only 5% of Congolese exports went to Britain, the US and Rhodesia, by 1941 the number had surged to 85%.
His nasty fight against Indian sovereignty came to define his political career more than any other issue outside of World War 2. To the war effort India provided 2.5 million troops who fought with distinction. It was the long established jewel in the crown of the empire. Churchill's reward was not freedom or democracy. The Indian people were not to be granted the rights set out in the Atlantic Charter. Instead, in 1943, he intentionally starved at least 3 million men, women and children to death. Churchill had learned much about imperial history. He repeated the historic crimes committed against the Irish people, on the Indian people by diverting Indian-grown food to Britain and troops in the Mediterranean. Churchill blamed the famine on the Indian people for "breeding like rabbits", having previously referred to them as a "beastly people." Far from thank the people of India for their heroic efforts in the war, Churchill looked upon such efforts with scorn. Either deluded or lying he proclaimed that:
"No great portion of the world population was so effectively protected from the horror and perils of the world war as were the peoples of Hindustan. They were carried through the struggle on the strength of our small island...without suffering scrutiny on account we were being charged nearly a million pounds a day for defending India from the miseries of invasion of which so many other lands endured" (Churchill 1951: p181).
In his earlier career, as Secretary of State for War and Air, Churchill had shown little stomach for the Irish people to have the right to self-determination he later stated in the Atlantic Charter. He was personally responsible for the creation of the Black & Tans. When this British SS were bringing terror to the Irish working class, even the imperial Field Marshall Sir Henry Wilson baulked:
"I told Winston that I thought this was a scandal and Winston was very angry. He said these Black & Tans were honourable and gallant officers and talked much nonsense" (Knight 2008: p45).
When Wilson continued to challenge Churchill over the coming months, Churchill wrote of the kidnaps and executions happening in Ireland:
"I am prepared to support and defend in parliament a policy of reprisals".
On top of this Churchill wished to use air power in Ireland (Knight 2008: p45). As he would later do in Dresden, he proposed a policy of bombing campaigns. In modern times, one of the biggest crimes a leader can commit in the eyes of the bourgeois media is to "attack their own people". This was one pretext for war in Iraq in 2003. The trumped-up accusations against President Assad of Syria were also instrumental in attempts of the bourgeois media to drag us into an imperialist war in that country. Therefore, it is absolutely crucial to remember that in the eyes of the British establishment and Churchill himself, the Irish were technically "our own people" as unlike other imperial possessions it was incorporated into the British state and "represented in parliament". Therefore, had Churchill had his way he would have bombed his "own people". Such is the behaviour that leads one's country to "humanitarian intervention" in the modern world. Amidst the murder and terror he asserted:
"There are things worse than bloodshed, even on an extreme scale. An eclipse of the central Government of the British Empire would be worse" (Toye 2010: p138).
The bloodshed was in no small part down to Churchill. He had created the Black & Tans. He had supported the introduction of martial law, with the specific intent of taking hostages and summarily executing them (D'Este 2009: p334). Nanny Everest would have been proud no doubt, to see him take on the "wicked men called fenians".
The picture presented by his words and deeds is of a paranoid fantacist who believed in a conspiracy of Bolshevism, Sinn Fein, the Indian and other independence movements to overthrow the empire (Toye 2010: p137). His great fear was that the oppressed should come to oppress the oppressors. Reflecting on the Second Boer War, his anger was that Africans were firing on white men. In his own words, he was:
"Conscious of a feeling of irritation that Kaffirs should be allowed to fire on white men" (Toye 2010: p68).
World War 2 did little to change Churchill's world view despite his attempt to write history to the contrary. Perhaps no case highlights this further than that of Iran. Again he revealed the principles of the Atlantic Charter to have been nothing but a diplomatic ruse to bring the Americans into the war. In the build-up to World War 1, as First Lord of the Admiralty Churchill had been pivotal in securing a majority stake for the government in the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. This would secure oil supplies for the imperialist war effort. The company remained post-WW1 and then WW2, continuing to rob the Iranian people of their oil. The company was so significant to the empire that it represented Britain's biggest overseas investment. In 1951 Mohammed Mossadegh was elected as Iranian Prime-Minister. With good reason, he moved to nationalise the industry. Initially, the darling of British revisionism Clement Attlee planned to overthrow Mossadegh's government. They were only prevented in doing so by not coming to a deal with the US (Toye 2010: pp280-281). When Attlee was replaced by Churchill as Prime Minister, the latter was able to get the Americans on board. The coup ended with the rule of the puppet Shah and the arrest of Mossadegh, who remained imprisoned until his death.
All across Asia, Africa and the Middle-east are such stories repeated, with Churchill holding down the colonies in the post-war world. As Jackson suggests:
"He had not become the kings first minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire" (Jackson 2006: p26).
Churchill, War Hero?
Mainstream history tells us that not only did his bravery and genius save Britain, but also Europe and indeed, the entire free world. He was a champion of democracy who stood up relentlessly to Nazi tyranny. His foresight was such that he was the sole non-appeaser of Hitler. He was responsible for Britain's "finest hour". His military strategy drove the fascist hordes from wider-Europe and so we all owe a massive debt of gratitude. Such is the general conception of Churchill's role in World War 2.
The entire thrust of this section is to undermine this erroneous view, to present an accurate picture of his military contribution. It will be shown that not only were these contributions exaggerated, but that he was more often than not, a stumbling block to the defeat of Nazism. The case will be made that his overriding motive in the war was not the defeat of fascism, but the survival of the British Empire. He actively hindered the war effort by his refusal to open a second front in Europe, when a second front was the only correct military strategy - if one's objective was truly the defeat of fascism. This thereby left the USSR to fight alone in Europe.
Ultimately, the ambition of this section boils down to one thing, to show that despite how reactionary, racist and anti-working class Churchill was, that even if we were to ignore these facts, he still fails on his own terms: as a great war leader. As Chief of the Imperial Staff during WW2, General Alan Brooke wrote in his war diaries:
"Three quarters of the worlds population imagines this: Winston Churchill is one of the strategists of history, a second Marlborough, and the other quarter have no conception of what a public menace he is and has been throughout this war".
He had also been a military failure in WW1. The horrors of Galipolli with the death of some 50,000 odd allied troops happening on his watch, was a direct result of his plans. In the immediate aftermath, Galipolli had made Churchill the most hated politician in Britain. Many thought his career as a minister of war was over. It is no overstatement to say his reputation as a leading politician and military mind was at an all time low. But as is the way:
"A series of brilliant apologists, notably Sir Winston Churchill and General Sir Ian Hamilton, have loaded the odds on the side of one interpretation of this campaign, an imbalance in no way redressed by the official British historians" (Higgins 1963: pX, preface).
On November 3rd of 1914, under the orders of Churchill, the outer Dardanelles forts of Sedd-elBahr and Kum Kale were bombarded. The bombardment took place at 12,000 to 14,000 feet, with the British ships to retire before any Turkish retaliation. This was a dummy attack, a test run of sorts. The result was a disaster, and this could be known in foresight, as the strategy itself was half baked and illogical. On hearing the plans Admiral Arthur Henry Limpus protested to Churchill. Not only was an attack on the Dardanelles forts doomed without ground troops, but this doomed attack only tipped off the Turks and their German advisers to the potential of further attacks. Similarly, at a January 26th meeting with Victor Augagneur, the ex-French minister for the navy, the same concerns were raised with Churchill (Laffin 1989: pp20-24). The warnings were ignored. These facts doom the case of the official historians (of whom Churchill was one) who blame external forces from Kitchener to Fisher to the weather. Instead it was known well in advance that Gallipoli was destined to be a disaster.
The failed attack on the outer forts only served to alert the Turks to their own weaknesses. This would allow the Germans to remedy the highlighted problems by cleverly upgrading the defences. When the actual attack on Gallipoli was made in 1915 the Germans had developed a basic, yet ingenious defence system. Churchill's test-run of November 1914 meant the German-Turks would not allow themselves to be attacked at range again. To counter British gun range, the Germans laid precise minefields in way of the British fleet. To destroy the mines would put the British in range of Turkish artillery, and the artillery could not be struck without first destroying the mines. It was a triumph of pure logic over Churchillian rhetoric and sophistry.
The problems for the British and allied troops were compounded by Geman deception. Artillery had been moved since the 1914 naval attack. In the place of the old artillery were smoke-emitting dummies which gave the illusion of being the real artillery. As a result, the British shelled visible dummies and the real artillery went unscathed (Laffin 1989: p25). Turkish artillery was foolishly dismissed by Churchill as "merely an inconvenience" (Higgins 1963: p86). The situation was summed up nicely by Captain Richmond, Assistant Director of Naval Operation:
"Until the batteries covering the approaches where you want transports are destroyed, you have not got command of the sea...Also, until you have made navigation safe as regards both mines and sandbanks, you cannot bring the transports in. You cannot remove the mines except by sweeping, and you cannot sweep until the batteries are destroyed" (Higgins 1963: p90).
The allied troops were in a battle in which they had no chance of winning. Despite this, the British only supplied 2 hospital ships with a combined capacity of 700 for the wounded. Knowing this was woefully inadequate the information was suppressed. W.G Birrell was the serving Director of Medical Services, in order to get this vital information, he had to spend several days tracking it down from the secretive British state. By the time he received the news of the 700 capacity, it was too late. Birrell raised that the number was woefully inadequate, he had predicted around 10,000 casualties. He was crucially ignored (Laffin 1989: pp34&60).
Churchill himself admitted to parliament that he had shown "an utter disregard of life" Regardless, with typical bluster he announced "it was worthwhile to carry through with the utmost vigour and fury" (Laffin 1989: p160).
Only such a disregard for life could have possibly lead to the Gallipoli campaign. In the absence of such contempt for humanity, such adventurism would never have been possible. Only one so maniacal as Churchill could have dreamed up the hair-brained plan. For it was an attack doomed from the offset. There never was any chance of a successful mission. This was the view of military top-brass. A recurring theme of Churchill's political life emerges here, the contradiction between his amateurish adventurism and the actual military experts and prevailing military orthodoxy. Also noticeable is Churchill's desire to open new fronts, to run from the main theater of war, to leave the fighting that matters up to others. For this reason Admiral Sir Henry Jackson testified to the Dardanelles commission that a naval attack on the Dardanelles forts was "a mad thing to do". And according to Trumbull Higgins "both orthodox naval theory and repeated staff studies were in complete agreement with Jackson's testimony" (Higgins 1963: p81). Likewise, First Sea Lord Admiral Fisher wrote personally to Churchill with this message:
"You are just simply eaten up with the Dardanelles and cannot think of anything else! Damn the Dardanelles! They will be our graves!" (Higgins 1963: p129)
Admiral Henry WIlson was another who saw through Churchill's cowardice:
"The way to end this war is to kill Germans and not Turks. The place where we can kill the most Germans is here, and therefore every man and every round of ammunition we have got in the world ought to come here. All history shows operations in a secondary and ineffectual theatre have no bearing on major operations - except to weaken the force there emerged. History, no doubt, will repeat her lesson once more for our benefit" (Higgins 1963: pp130-131).
How astute Admiral Wilson was in this regard. But little could even he have known that this lesson would not only be repeated, but repeated via Churchill once again. World War 2 was to make this glaringly obvious, with Churchill embarking on another pointless Mediterranean campaign, rather than fighting the Germans in Europe, as was needed. Another contemporary, Lord Esher observed that Churchill:
"does not listen to the opposite side, and is impatient of opinions that do not coincide with his own. This is a fatal defect...If Winston is going to wield the armed force of the Empire, he should cure himself of this grave fault" (Higgins 1963: p31).
What these testimonies show is that Churchill was a failure on his own terms. He was no war leader and despite striving to save (and even grow) the British Empire, he was in essence, a danger to it. His actions in war were those of a mentally fragile tinpot Napolean. Fisher alludes to this fact in a letter to Admiral Jellicoe:
"The way the war is conducted both ashore and afloat is chaotic. We have a new plan every week" (Higgins 1963: p91).
The Gallipoli campaign can basically be summarised as so:
Churchill dreams up this side-show distraction in his wild imagination. The campaign was to be a purely naval attack on the Dardenelles' outer-forts. In November 1914 a virtual dummy naval attack is launched, thereby alerting the Turks of their defensive weakness, as well as to the possibility of future attacks. Churchill then plans a full naval assault of the forts. The naval assault plan evolves into one of a naval attack with army support, to one of an army attack with naval support. Eventually the navy abandons the army and the world class HMS Queen Elizabeth is evacuated from the straits. The army force were recruited primarily from Australia and New Zealand, with the ANZAC's one of the scapegoats attacked by Churchill apologists. These apologists would play off of jingoistic, xenophobic ideas of unruly, disorganised and insubordinate Aussies. Additionally, the ANZAC's were supported by Kitchener's 29th Division who arrive for the main assault of April 25th. The apologists also clung desperately to the notion that if only the 29th had been released earlier by Kitchener, all would have been fine. This is simply nonsense. Whilst Churchill was indeed furious with Kitchener for not sending the 29th sooner, the reality is that even if they had been released earlier the horrendous weather conditions meant that late April was the earliest feasible chance for an assault. Moreover, even if the weather had not been so, the 29th would still not have been able to fight due to the wait to be combat loaded by the navy.
It is also well worth bearing in mind that the 29th was formed and trained for combat in France against the Germans, they were not meant to be fighting the Turks at Gallipoli. Likewise, the decisive theatre in Europe was also stripped of 15 battleships and 32 other vessels. It is not only with hindsight with which the flaws of this military strategy become apparent. At the time, Kitchener opposed the use of the 29th, and Fisher opposed the stripping of the 47 ships which he felt would give Britain control of the seas and allow for pressure on the German rear, thereby speeding up their eventual defeat. It is also not hindsight which tells us that the bloodbath in France was one hitherto unrivalled in the history of conflict. This was an obvious fact to contemporaries of Churchill. The wider lesson this recurring theme continually gives is of Churchill being a failure on his own terms as grand imperial strategist.
Of course it was not for failing the empire that the conscripts wanted to see Churchill hanged. This was a result of his unique cruelty, his incompassionate nature, his disregard for human life, his treatment of them as a means to his own selfish ends of achieving personal glory. They wanted him dead because he was the kind of warped monster who gloated at an Admiralty dinner to colleagues that:
"I think a curse should rest on me - because I love this war - i know it's shattering and smashing the lives of thousands and yet - I can't help it - I enjoy every second of it" (James 2013: p112).
Such are the reasons that Colonel Fred Lawson reflected in a diary entry:
"I should very much like to have WInston tied to a pier here every morning at 9 o'clock when shelling commences, and watch him from the seclusion of my dugout" (James 2013: p104).
In the final analysis of the campaign Higgins sums it up as so:
"Whatever might be asserted to the contrary by Mr. Churchill's more innocent admirers, no effective combined operation could have been mounted before late April, long after the Turks had been alerted by a purely naval assault. Yet without the ever growing likelihood of a naval failure staring Kitchener in the face, by his own admission Churchill could never have exhorted the troops necessary for a successful combined operation. In other words, no matter how the Dardanelles-Gallipoli campaign is considered, it was not likely to have succeeded given any of the conditions actually available" (Higgins 1963: p112).
The basis of the Churchill as saviour account of the war is laid out by Churchill himself in 'the Second World War', a set of books which John Charmley has said of, that every single page breaks the official secrets act. The books themselves became the bedrock of education on the war, they were considered THE primary source. It is worth remembering that Churchill himself was the only British person with access to the necessary secrets to tell the story. This provided Churchill with gargantuan historical and ideological power. It meant that in this country he and he alone was in the position to set the historical agenda. He was entirely free to tell whatever he did or did not want to be known. Moreover, we should remember, of the other 2 allied leaders, Roosevelt dies and Stalin has a country to rebuild. After Churchill's election defeat in 1945, he was the one allied leader with the sufficient time on their hands to produce such a document.
Also worth remembering is that Churchill also received a healthy sum for his book. After the great depression he had frittered away most of his family's great wealth. He was a rich man with even richer tastes. Not only had he inherited his family's great wealth, he had inherited their itch to spend it. For writing the book (his assistants did most of the writing) he was paid a sum of $2.25 million. In today's money the sum is estimated to translate to around $50 million (This was estimated in 2005 and so would be even more now). The cash set him for the rest of his days, returning him to the lavish lifestyle he had once known. It represents the most sizeable sum paid for a (supposedly) non-fiction work in the US (Reynolds 2005: pxxii). With this in mind, let us turn to Engels:
"The bourgeoisie turns everything into a commodity; hence also the writing of history. It is a part of its being, of its condition for existence, to falsify all goods: it falsified the writing of history. And the best-paid historiography is that which is falsified for the purposes of the bourgeoisie". (Engels, Preparatory Material for the History of Ireland, 1870)
Churchill was paid handsomely by the bourgeoisie to write the history of the war, and write it in a way that was falsified for the purpose of the bourgeoisie.
Popular history tells us Churchill was a passionate enemy of fascism. Apparently he alone was aware of the Nazi threat in the 1930's. He tipped off the world of the Nazi intent and the world ignored him. The truth is much removed from the myth. We have already established his admiration of Mussolini and touched on his Hitler admiration. But there are more words to consider with regards to the Fuhrer. Writing in 'Strand Magazine' as late as 1937 - Hitler's 5th year in power, Churchill wrote:
"History is replete with examples of men who have risen to power by employing stern, grim, wicked and even frightful methods, but who, nevertheless, when their life is revealed as a whole, have been regarded as great figures whose lives have enriched the story of mankind. So may it be with Hitler.....We cannot tell whether Hitler will be the man who will once again let loose upon the world another war in which civilization will irretrievably succumb, or whether he will go down in history as the man who restored honour and peace of mind to the great Germanic nation.....Those who have met Herr Hitler face to face in public business or on social terms have found a highly competent, cool, well-informed functionary with an agreeable manner, a disarming smile, and few have been unaffected by a subtle personal magnetism....we may yet live to see Hitler a gentler figure in a happier age" (Churchill, Hitler and his Choice, 1937).
This is hardly the harsh warning the world needed. Hitler was "cool, well-informed". Such a position can only be described as one of ideological appeasement. Churchill may have been in favour of increased military funding (this was not always so), but politically and ideologically he was in-tune with Hitler. Neither saw each other as a natural enemy. Both had their sights set on the Soviet Union. At the time of writing the article Churchill would still have been much more keen to have an alliance with Nazism against Communism, rather than vice-versa. Only events forced a change in Churchill's view. Additionally, whilst Churchill did argue in favour of faster rearmament in the 1930's, he did this from the political wilderness. At this time he had no such political power. However, in the 1920's he did have such power, serving as a government minister. During this period, the Nazis were on the rise in Germany, Japanese militarism was rife and Mussolini had come to power. Enough had happened in the world for such a far-sighted anti-fascist to see a threat was around the corner. But Churchill did not take a stand at this time. Far from rearm, the government made military cuts. The point here is not to argue that Britain should or should not have rearmed, but to highlight that as rearmament was presented as proof of Churchill's far-sighted opposition to fascism, in reality this opposition was non-existent. So yet again he fails on his own terms. Far from being the anti-appeaser crusading against Nazism, between the world wars he was instead:
"The west's leading reactionary and anti-communist" (D'Este 2009: p347).
The Second Front
In the 'Second World War', the Second Front in Europe receives very little attention. Despite being one of the central issues of the war, Churchill ignored it as much as possible. Also relegated to a sideshow was the heroic role of the Soviet Union who had battered some 80-90% of the German army alone. Whilst the Soviets fought gallantly, Churchill wriggled out of the fight at every turn, refusing to fight the Nazis in western Europe. Whilst more Soviet people gave their life at Stalingrad alone than British and Americans combined in the entire war, any reader of 'the Second World War' would think it was the British and to a lesser extent, the Americans who had done the bulk of the fighting. Yet between the evacuation of Dunkirk in June 1940 and the Normandy landing of June 1944, Britain did not lift a finger to liberate Europe, instead the military were confined to the homeland when not off empire building.
Churchill's justifications for British inaction in the theatre of conflict was essentially that Britain was incapable of defeating Germany. Precisely, he continually argued with both Stalin and Roosevelt throughout 1941-1943 that Britain lacked the necessary landing craft and army divisions to launch an invasion of western Europe. In 1942 the pressure (and the necessity) to open a second front was at its peak. Churchill faced a trinity of pressures - these came from 1) Stalin, 2) Roosevelt and 3) the British public. In the case of the latter several grass-roots campaigns were founded by working class people. Organisations came together to provide aid to the USSR, such as the 'Russia Today Society'. The British people were all too aware that their fate was inextricably linked to the success of the Red Army. Our argument is one endorsed by Roosevelt no-less, in a memo to Churchill in April 1942 he warned:
"Your people and mine demand the establishment of a front to draw off pressure on the Russians, and these people are wise enough to see that the Russians are today killing more Germans and destroying more equipment than you (Britain) or I (the US) put together" (Churchill 1951: p281).
In the case of Stalin, pressure was applied with masterly wit and by poking at Churchill and the British ruling class' superiority complex, mocking Churchill's lack of bravery. Churchill recounts discussions with Stalin as so:
"We argued for about two hours, during which he said a great many disagreeable things, especially about our being too much afraid of fighting the Germans, and that if we tried it like the Russians we should find it not so bad" (Churchill 1951: pp437-438).
This was a stinging remark which shook Churchill. The truthfulness of the words hurt his pride (Knight 2008: p264). The second front was demanded by the British people, Roosevelt and Stalin in 1942. The title given to the proposed operation was Sledgehammer. Only one man stood in the way of its implementation. Great diplomatic effort was taken to bring Sledgehammer into full effect. Molotov flew in a dangerous death defying diplomatic mission to London. From here he would then fly onto Washington, and then back to London to tie things up. When he first arrived in London the meeting seemed to have been a success. He was able to meet the Americans armed with Churchill's word that a second front was needed in 1942 and certainly by 1943. Churchill recalled:
"In the course of our conversations full understanding was reached with regard to the urgent task of creating a Second Front in Europe" (Churchill 1951: p305).
Molotov's diplomatic mission was looking to bear fruit. But with the Americans ready to support the opening of the Second Front, Churchill changed his mind. He felt Sledgehammer "was a hazardous operation". Perhaps we are to infer then that Leningrad and Stalingrad were mere picnics. Furthermore, "it would bleed all other operations" (Churchill 1951: p309). This is clear evidence that other operations were considered of higher importance than the defeat of Hitler. These other operations were the defence of the Empire, the campaigns to hold on to the colonies in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
The first reason of substance given for Churchill not fighting the Nazis was that Britain lacked sufficient divisions. Secondly, neither did they have the necessary landing craft for an invasion. His position was that even if they had enough landing craft, their divisions would be so heavily outnumbered by the Germans that their army would be defeated before reinforcements could arrive. A third argument was that Britain lacked the credible intelligence to be capable of launching a cross-channel invasion.
With regards to intelligence, Churchill was revealed to have lied, long after his death. The idea that intelligence was an issue, was shot apart with the 1975 discovery that Britain had broken the German codes as early as 1940 (Dunn 1980: p185). This meant that Britain had acute knowledge of the strength and movements of the German army. Moreover, coupling this was Soviet intelligence gave an incredible advantage to the allies, with the Soviets having an agent codenamed "Lucy" within the German General Staff (Dunn 1980: p190). Soviet intelligence allowed Stalin to know when Churchill's fantasies were taking over and when he was being lied to. In Churchill's own words:
"He (Stalin) then said that there was not a single German division in France of any value, a statement which I contested. There were in France twenty-five German divisions , nine of which were of the first line. He shook his head".
Walter Scott Dunn assesses Churchill's credibility as so:
"What he told Stalin was not true...Churchill had distorted the facts for his own ends" (Dunn 1980: pp190-191).
Despite this, Churchill felt the need to repeat his lie for posterity again claiming in 'the Second World War' that Britain had 9 divisions to Germany's 25. (Churchill 1951: p310).
The reality was altogether different. Britain had 39 allied divisions at its disposal and ready for use, the bulk being British, but also including Canadian, Australian and others. The British army at this time stood at 2.25 million strong, with an additional 1.5 million home guard (Dunn 1980: pp217-218).
Churchill would also argue that Germany could reinforce its divisions more easily by withdrawing men from the fight against Russia. This further reveals Churchill's dark intentions. Quite simply, the entire idea of the Second Front was as Roosevelt said, to "draw off pressure on the Russians". But this excuse shows this was not the British PM's intent. Indeed, taking pressure off the Soviets was a reason not to open the Second Front, in Churchill's mind. It was also the case that with the Red Army starting to overturn early German advances, Germany would have little flexibility in terms of movement of divisions. Its highest quality divisions would have to remain east where the bulk of the fighting would continue regardless of the opening of the Second Front. Had plans for an invasion in early 1943 come to fruition the western Allies would have had 60 divisions available for the invasion. In contrast, the most the Germans would have mustered for the Second Front was 45. However, of these, only 6 were trained and mobile. Walter Scott Dunn says:
"The fact of clear Allied superiority in 1943 is unalterable. Even if the number of Germans had been doubled and their divisions had been equal to the Allies the odds were still in favour of the Allies... The Allies with thirty-eight divisions were to sweep to the Rhine against twenty-seven mobile German divisions that were reinforced by other elements to make a total of about thirty-five divisions to resist the invasion. If the risk was acceptable at odds of thirty-five to twenty-eight in June 1944, why were the odds of sixty to six considered impossible in May 1943" (Dunn 1980: pp227-228)?
The reason for the invasion eventually coming in 1944 will be further explored later. What must be stressed at this point is that, if not in 1942, then absolutely by 1943, the Allies had more than enough manpower to land a successful invasion, outnumbering the enemy 10 to 1.
With regards to the landing crafts required for invasion, Churchill produces a host of fanciful figures in 'the Second World War'. Here he grossly understates the landing craft available. His key argument was that Britain did not have enough crafts, although he also claimed there was a shortage of men trained to operate the boats. Both claims were false. For example in the 1944 invasion 72 Landing Ship Infantry were used. By 1943 Britain had 103 in use in the Mediterranean. Therefore, when Britain was claiming to have a shortage of LSI's, they actually had more than required already in use in the European theatre (Dunn 1980: p59). The issue was not having enough landing craft. The issue was allocation of landing craft. Churchill was sending them to low priority zones, thereby, leaving the Russians to fight on alone. Even more revealing is the statistic that by 1943 the United States had built 19,482 landing crafts of all types. Yet in D-Day the total landing craft used was only 2,943 (Dunn 1980: p63). Finally, there was an:
"oversupply of trained men....not being needed most of these men languished in the United States" (Dunn 1980: p69).
With these facts the refusal to not open the Second Front is exposed. It had nothing to do with the reasons given. With that in mind we have to search for another reason for the decision. Clues are found in Churchill's assertion that:
"We should not attempt Sledgehammer unless the Germans are demoralised by ill success" (Churchill 1951: p311).
In other words, once the Soviets start to win the war then Britain will get involved. This is cowardice in the extreme. Furthermore, he opportunistically stated in a November 24th 1942 telegram to Roosevelt that:
"In 1943 a chance may come. Should Stalin's offensive reach Rostov on-Don, which is his aim...widespread demoralization may set in among the Germans, and we must be ready to profit by any opportunity which offers" (Knight 2008: pp263-264).
Churchill had also promised Stalin that should Sledghammer not go ahead, that the following year an invasion would be made. In 'the Second World War' Churchill self-censors this fact (Reynolds 2005: p316). When Stalin would mock that fighting the Germans was not so bad, it is for this reason, the evasion of promised invasion. Churchill had promised a Second Front during Molotov's visit, and again when Churchill visited Stalin. But neither Sledgehammer nor Roundup (1943 invasion) occurred.
In his rewriting of history Churchill only wrote that he had been criticised unjustly by Stalin and that "no promise" had been made. This is now a known lie. Therefore, when searching for reasons for the delayed Second Front we must surely start with the idea that Churchill hoped the Soviets could win the war alone. This however can be dismissed as quickly as mentioned. Churchill had no desire for the Soviets to march to Berlin and beyond into western Europe eventually liberating France themselves. The notion of wishing the Soviets into western Europe is a non-starter.
It is worth mentioning the possibility that Churchill hoped for the Nazi's to defeat the Soviets. That in victory the Nazis be so be irreparably damaged, to thereby allow Britain to sign a separate peace on preferable terms. It is not beyond the realms of possibility and is certainly more plausible than the previous scenario. We ought to remember Churchill's earlier mentioned appreciation of both Hitler and Mussolini. Additionally, he had commented:
"I will not pretend that, if I had to choose between Communism and Nazism, I would choose Communism" (Heyden, BBC News Magazine, 26 January 2015).
Thirdly and most likely, he wished to hold onto imperial possessions whilst the Soviets fight the Nazis. Then once the Soviets gain an upper-hand, mobilise. This would allow for grabbing of spheres of influence with minimal effort, loss of British life or resources. This is how things transpired and so, what motive we attach to Churchill is inevitably of less significance than the outcome itself: defending the empire and grabbing new influence. Nevertheless as Dunn said:
"Politically, it was expedient that the Second Front be launched at a time that would provide the Western Allies with the best possible position at the conclusion of the war - with Germany destroyed and Russia weakened and confined to the smallest possible area" (Dunn 1980: p2).
Therefore, given the conditions of British military capabilities, landing craft and manpower available, as well as Churchill's opportunistic words, it is safe to judge that his motives were political rather than military. The truth is Germany could not survive a full-on two front war in Europe in 1942-43. She would have been quickly defeated (Dunn 1980: p7). In fact, by delaying the Second Front all that was achieved was to give Germany more time to rearm, a policy she pursued from 1943 onwards as defeats to the Red Army made Hitler rethink his plans and redouble production efforts. This was done by putting conquered peoples to labour within the German arms industry.
Churchill had a host of compromise plans, most notably an invasion of Sicily and the North African Campaign. Both of which leads us to an obvious question, if it is possible to invade Sicily or fight in North Africa, why not fight in France, the place of most strategic importance? Here we have the Dardanelles all over again. Now would be an apt point to recall Admiral Henry Wilson's words regarding Galippoli, which can be applied with equal validity:
"The way to end this war is to kill Germans... The place where we can kill the most Germans is here, and therefore every man and every round of ammunition we have got in the world ought to come here. All history shows operations in a secondary and ineffectual theatre have no bearing on major operations - except to weaken the force there emerged. History, no doubt, will repeat her lesson once more for our benefit".
Both the Soviets and Americans were, at best, displeased with the options of Sicily and North Africa, despite Churchill's best efforts to rewrite history to the contrary. What can be said is they felt that any campaign was better than no campaign. Whilst the Americans assisted, their hearts were not in either of these Churchill plans. They too, like Stalin, had been let down by him. In his diary the American Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson summed-up American frustration:
"As the British won't go through with what they agreed to, we will turn our backs on them and take up the war with Japan" (Dunn 1980: p18)
Similarly, General Eisenhower referred to British backtracking over the Second Front as "the blackest day in history" (Dunn 1980: p17). By the time the Second Front would come in 1944, the Soviets no longer required any help. The moment had passed.
The campaigns on offer were to take place in North Africa and the Mediterranean. A convenient bi-product (or rather intention) was that these would secure British colonies in Africa, as well as trade routes with India. Militarily, much like the folly 'whipped cream front' in Norway, these campaign were of little strategic military importance.
Regarding the Sicily Campaign, this was part of Churchill's idiotic and absurd idea of the "soft underbelly". He drew a crocodile over a map of Europe. The body covering the mainland, specifically Germany, the tail pointed to the Soviets, the head devouring Britain, and Italy was the soft underbelly of the crocodile at which to attack. Stalin correctly remarked that in reality the jaws were focussed firmly on the Soviet Union. With 80-90% of the German army fighting on the Eastern Front, the image was an insult to the heroic efforts of the Soviet people.
The campaign in Sicily went ahead. The invasion took place using 160,000 troops, 14,000 vehicles, 600 tanks, and 1,200 artillery. In contrast, when the Normandy landings would occur with 176,000 troops, 20,000 vehicles, 1,500 tanks and 3,000 artillery. Whilst slightly more were utilised at Normandy, these figures are very much in the same ball park, and there is no doubt that a good fist of defeating the Germans in France could have been made, with the resources used in Sicily (Dunn 1980: p72).
Rather than fight the Germans, he fought the weaker Italian forces, with German reinforcements. Not only was Sicily like Gallipoli with regards to fighting in a second theatre against forces other than the main enemy, another comparison point exists. For Churchill, if he can land a successful naval-lead invasion in the Mediterranean, this would prove (in his mind) that another such Mediterranean invasion (Galipolli) was not an impossibility - and this would right the wrong of public opinion against him. Of course this was typically crude thinking from Churchill. It ignored that one battle was fought with 1915 weaponry and strategy, the other with 1943 weaponry and strategy. It ignored the difference in calibre of troops faced between a strong German-Turkish force in the early days of war in 1915, to the battered and beleaguered Italians of 1943. To draw such wide conclusions as Churchill hoped was to clutch at straws.
With regards to North Africa, historian Nigel Knight says:
"The North African Campaign was another example of the war being taken to the Germans in an area of no strategic importance...Churchill was playing into Hitler's hands (Knight 2008: p68).....The events in North Africa were a sideshow to the war to liberate Germany-occupied Europe. However, while they were occurring, Churchill initiated a sideshow to the sideshow" (Knight 2008: p173).
The sideshow to the sideshow saw British troops sent into operations in Sudan, Abyssinia and French Somaliland. In Knight's words:
"This was a dispertionist policy of the highest order, were the limited forces at Britain's disposal were dispersed across disparate elements of the Italian empire with, at best, little strategic gain if they were successful" (Knight 2008: p173.
The benefits of the North African Campaign and Mediterranean Campaign were modest by comparison to what the Soviets were accomplishing. In North Africa the Western Allies held down about 25 German divisions while the Soviets were holding down 214 (Knight 2008: p190).
How events unfolded regarding the Second Front, provide clear evidence that the Allies won the war in spite of Churchill, rather than because of Churchill. Events in World War 2 show Churchill yet again, a failure in his own terms. He was on the victorious side in the war, but almost by chance. He had survived by way of the Red Army's assault on the German lines and subsequent liberation of Europe. Whilst British troops, when allowed to fight generally performed very well - Churchill was to prove a stumbling block to this occurring very often. His strategy in the war was all about safeguarding the British Empire and seeing either a victorious Nazi Germany or Soviet Union emerge vastly weakened. The reality of his deeds simply do not match the glorious name he managed to carve for himself in history.